Sounds of the Sea (Martin Zenzes/Deckhand)

We are crossing the Atlantic Ocean from east to west in the moment, which means we are sailing more or less downwind in the Trades, just north of the equator. Stun sails are up, tropical nights the norm and we have at least 3 weeks to find our rhythm. The mood in the crew could not be better, we are deep in the performing phase of group dynamics. The inevitable nitty gritty conflicts bubbling up when living in a community get solved in some way or the other. Last midnight we all watched « Rounding Cape Hoorn » by Irving Johnson, together on top of the chart room during the gained extra hour due to crossing time zones. Pure awe, we are just children playing with a toy compared to the sailors of yore! But enough of that, just be assured: life is great and here nobody cares about Trump. I wanted to write a bit about the Sounds of the Sea.
We are travelling in an engine less ship. Trivial as it is: that means there is no engine, no internal combustion happening to move along. In the modern world we are very used to the constant background noise from fans, equipment or machines — our brain successfully blends them out. So at first you don’t really notice the absence of an engine, but as soon as our generator is running (a regularly necessary evil to power the ships computer and radio) you appreciate the sweet sweet silence. In Santa Cruz de La Palma we visited the Alexander von Humboldt II while she was moored next to us. Beautiful ship, impressive rigging and modern interior. But multiple decks and modern living standards also result in a continuous ventilation humming along. The need for electricity means her engine room is always noisy and her steel hull carries the slight vibrations caused by active machinery as a sign of being alive.
The sounds of sailing on the Tres Hombres are very different and diverse, surely depending on the situation, wind and swell. It ranges from the mighty bellowing of the Mainsail, when big swell and low wind causes it to flap. On the other end of the spectrum you find for example the faint metal clicking of the Forestaysail sheet tackle, located on the Foredeck directly above the Foxhole. There is the regular whirring of the tow generator when it is tailing behind the ship and the swishing of the windmills which in concert with the mute solar panels try to magic up enough electricity so that we do not have to endure the generator too often. Waves rushing along the ship or the ship crashing into waves, the wind howling in the rigging. Crew yelling in excitement when dolphins play under the bowsprit and flying fish suiciding on deck with a confused splash. The *pluuumpscht-ratratratrat* of dropping the anchor, the *prrrrrrrr* of turning the steering wheel or the *chrrrrruut* of a successfully doused Mainstay sail. The chaotically mad symphony of the pots and pans swinging around in the galley, conducted by the ship itself. The sweetest sound of them all is the food-o-clock bell while the sad burbling of an empty coffeepot can ruin the start of your watch.
Wear and tear is the biggest enemy on the ocean, and some chafing also creates a noticeable sound. So it is always good to have a sharp ear to the small and tiny sounds that were not present last night. Try to mentally locate every muttering of the ship while staring up into the night sky. And not to be underestimated is the effect of the low pitched but regular banging and bashing onto the sleep of the other watch below deck. When you lay awake in bunk the tiniest sound from above is amplified by the wooden structure, and can easily rob you of your sleep. You might know where a specific sound is coming from, you might even know which tracing line has to be adjusted in order to silence the damn thing. But finding your headlamp and getting up to fix it yourself is something else. Deck rounds in the night additionally keep you occupied, help passing the time 😉
Sounds I do not miss in the slightest: Lonely TV’s running in the background of a café. The metal-on-metal screeching of the Tram passing by on a busy four lane main road. The nagging *pling* of an incoming Whats App message, begging for attention. I will hear them again, but for now the sounds of silence have to suffice.

Martin Zenzes. Tres Hombres. 2020.

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