Tres Hombres weblog: Sinterklaas on a ship…

It is a strange day for the Sint this year.
He started working with all his gear:
Pieten, pepernoten, presents and horse,
Making the same route on the regular course.
But in the house of van Assem something was wrong.
There was one person not playing along.
She appeared to be on a sailing ship,
On a eight month Fairtransport cargo trip.
So no Sinterklaas for her this time,
In stead a weblog story in rhyme.
Sint sent Piet to have a look at this boat,
But he couldn’t quite get there on only the road.
At this time they were already at the Atlatic seas,
Almost halfway through there storage of cheese.
Piet visited on a quiet day,
And immediately he felt that he wanted to stay.
The sea was a smooth silky blanket all around,
The quiet only disturbed by peaceful boat sound.
Anne-Flore always looking always sails trimming,
The water so clear that you could see the fish swimming.
The just-not-caught dorado is driving us crazy.
The fish is too smart or maybe too lazy.
With their bright colours and their grumpy look,
We can see them swim beside the hook.
We thought we found the perfect purpose,
For all these cans we have in surplus.
They do swim around with their mouth open wide,
But the pieces of cat food they leave on the side.
Then two weeks later the moment is finally there:
Two bright fish for us, not more then fair.
From La Palma on to where we are now,
Was supposed to take us three days Genau.
Instead we’re out here already for more then two weeks,
Down to our very last pumpkins and leeks.
We’ll be at sea for quite a while longer,
But don’t worry it’ll only make us stronger.
We have to be stricter on water and food,
In three weeks fresh stuff will taste ever so good.
We brought enough supplies to spare,
And Waka-Waka has 30 pairs of underwear!
German speakers and Americans are well represented,
But despite that fact we’re all still contented.
The miracle of nature shows us fish that can fly!
It’s really true, I’m not telling a lie.
Lots of dolphins we see all the time,
You would not believe how it still is sublime.
A little word from the cook to let the family know,
About daily life, about how things go:
From the galley comes an amazing smell,
I handle the hungry and talking mouths quite well.
And while the oven doesn’t want to stay lit,
I’m learning to live with the nickname peach pit…
I’m using bananas every meal,
Don’t waste a thing, that is the deal.
If you eat five per day,
The sixth is for free to take away.
What we didn’t bring with us, it’s sad but it’s true,
Is still laying around in 72…
If you lose track of us and don’t see us no more,
Then follow the banana peel track, back to the shore.
The routine at sea, no land in sight,
Nothing is left us then to grow more tight.
I know everyone’s taste, what they put on their bread,
What they wear, what they read or what they do instead.
Thanks to Lis who helped me rhyme not in Dutch,
Writing, shushing the teapot, O this woman knows so much.
Piet thanks the crew for his wonderful stay,
He’ll tell Sint everything right away.
I hope at home you’re all squeezed together,
On mam’s red couch hiding from the weather.
All the grandchildren on grandma’s lap,
Little Mingus might be having his nap.
Leaves me nothing more than wishing you all,
A loving Sinterklaasfeest this fall (eh.. winter).

Judith, cook.

Tres Hombres blog: “Good morning foc’sle, it’s time to wake up!”

“Good morning foc’sle, it’s time to wake up!”

But is it? Is it really? I groan internally. Firstly, I dispute this assertion that it is morning. It is actually 11.45pm. Secondly, I only went to sleep less than three and a half hours ago and my body is telling me it is surely anything but time to wake up.

But, I suppose, it is time for my watch. So I better had pull some clothes on and clamber out the foc’sle. But for the love of Neptune, please don’t turn that light on right above my head. That’s just too far.

The watch system we stand on the Tres Hombres runs as follows; two watches, port and starboard, each comprised of either the first or second mate, one deckhand, and four trainees. Watch on, watch off from midnight-4am, 4am-8am, 8am-2pm, 2pm-8pm and 8pm-midnight, ie. three 4 hour watches during the night, and two 6 hour watches during the day. Captain, cook and bosun are on day watch.

The debate frequently rolls around the galley table as to the faults and merits of this old Swedish watch system. Merits include that in any given 48 hour period, we get to see all hours of the day and night; sunrise, sunset, moon and stars and whatever the day may bring. I can tell you about dolphins leaving bio-luminescent trails in the bowsprit waves, jellyfish glowing brightly beneath the swell, even plankton lighting up the toilet bowl as it flushes.  I can now find Taurus, the Pliades and Cassiopia in the stars and I know lots about the many different shades of darkness (and not so darkness) one might experience on deck at night. And when it comes to those sunrises and sunsets, where do I start? Oh yes, purple rain. The other morning the sunrise turned falling rain on the horizon purple.

But there is a downside. Namely, never getting longer than six hours off watch. Given that at night, it’s only four hours, when you factor in meals, fifteen minutes for wake-up’s and time to fall asleep in the first place, plus maybe some waking time to oneself during the day, you are looking at sleep in generally three to four hour bursts at a time. (With the glorious exception of holiday watch, which rotates through each member of the watch during night watch’s, sailing conditions permitting. Eight whole glorious hours off in row. Viva la holiday watch!). Developing a rhythm for your body clock is basically a non-possibility and it cannot be sugar coated, the crew often looks a tad fatigued.

The other element of the watch system debate falls to practicalities – size of the crew, number of hands needed on watch, the merits of having the Captain and Bosun on day watch…

Given that it is the only system I have yet experienced, I shall refrain from forming any sweeping judgments. As we settle into the second week of our Atlantic crossing, I am feeling more adjusted and my energy levels are generally higher. I am even now finding time off watch for daily ukulele and Spanish practise, and relatively frequent, refreshing salt water bucket showers.
And when all is said and done, I am sure I can look forward to telling my tales of the mad, exhausting life at sea and the many sights of the night and day which stretch out upon these vast horizons.

Rebecca, supertrainee

Tres Hombres blog: A must read from the ocean

“There are still a few old sailing vessels laid up in various odd corners of the world, but most of them have been idle for a long time with their gear rapidly deteriorating. It is not likely that they will ever be recommissioned to stave off the inevitable day when the beautiful sailing ship, for trading purposes, is a thing of the past and only a memory to those who suffered many hardships and discomforts but loved her just the same.”

This I found in a book entrusted to us in Brixham. Toni, skipper and artist (and Brixham legend), told us that it would provide hours of reading, on the long night watches of the crossing, and he was right. “Shipping Wonders of the World, Volume 2,” now sits among our pilot books in the charthouse, and I think every one of us has at one point or another picked it up to flip through. Or, really, set it down to flip through–the book is huge. The article I found that quote in was all about the last great sailing cargo ships, and the decline of sail cargo as engines took over. Of course, the author’s glumly romantic prediction has not, in fact, come to pass, and reading it aboard the Tres Hombres is particularly ironic. “It is not likely,” he says, that cargo sail will ever be resurrected, and that it is inevitable that the beautiful sailing ships will become “a thing of the past.” I look up from this sentence to go trim the foresail sheets, passing by our cargo hatch on the way.

But what thrills we get from that phrase, “a thing of the past!” The dying out of greatness, the passing away of some beautiful thing, they fill us with a sense of melancholy longing for a past most of us never knew, and may not have ever existed. We raven the romance of the lost hope, the dying star. Our books and movies are full of this sweet remembrance, like the flowers we send to a funeral instead of attending ourselves.

What is it about watching or hearing about the end of something that satisfies us so? It is romantic–utterly romantic to feel the ebb tug at our heartstrings of something ending. It sweeps our minds away into pleasant fantasies of what the past was like–how much better it was, how much simpler, or grander, or more beautiful. “A time when men were men!” for example. Bittersweet, we call it, as though the sweet would not be so sweet without the bitter.

But I can’t help but feel that there is something insidious in our love of this kind of romance. A kind of laziness, perhaps, that creeps in around the corners and says “Ah, at last. That was hard work that now we can safely say is over. We can lay those burdens down and go back to sleep, to dream maybe of past glories, but never to do the hard work again.” Perhaps this is part of what is so satisfying to us about stories of the Last Great this or Final Stand of that. We have all the pleasure of contemplating those great acts or noble things, and none of the daily grind of maintaining them.

Because sail cargo, while utterly romantic and still a dead notion to most people (if they think of it at all), is in actual practice a lot of work. It’s a grind, tacking from the Canaries to the Cape Verdes, searching for the trade winds we hope will appear, “sometime before the food runs out,” we joke. It’s wearing to the senses and the spirit to drift, windless, north over ground we fought so hard for every degree south on. And even when the wind is good, and the rigging is humming and the wind turbines are whirring away happily, there is little romance in leaving your soft bed at four in the morning to stand your turn at the wheel, fighting a nasty cross swell and watching the squall you know will drench you creep up from behind. There’s nothing pleasant or noble about spilling dirty dishwater down your pants, or getting tar in your hair for the third consecutive day. The railing must be scrubbed again, though your back aches still from the time before, and the fresh paint of yesterday was ruined by the waves under the railing in the night. But you get up and scrub and sand and paint again, because the boat has got to be held together, however you do it. You put chafe gear on the foreshrouds for the third time this trip, hoping that this time it will hold longer. You do what must be done, because giving up, giving in, is to surrender to the insidious romance of “things of the past.”

Give me instead the romance of the plain quotidian! The daily washing of cups and pumping of the bilge, the constant upkeep of the rigging as we wear through miles of marlin and gallons of tar, inch by inch, and drop by drop. Give me the coffee break daily, that someone must remember and prepare, though it is not a grand deed, and far from exciting. Give me the small words and smiles that build frienships, the late-night conversations and learning to work together with all different personalities. When considered from up close, there is little romance in these things, in the actual maintenance of a true sailing cargo ship. But it is, in the end, far better I think to keep going than to give up, no matter how nice and restful the giving up would be. Just because something is hard or ignoble doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. And the beauty of sail cargo is not lessened by the fact that it has not fulfilled the prediction of Clarence Winchester, writing just after World War II. It has not passed away with other glorious things we remember with a sweet ache–our childhoods, the old-growth forests of the world, life before advertising. Instead we cling doggedly to life, and others now come alongside Fairtransport to help shoulder the burden. Perhaps even some of those ships Clarence talked about, mouldering away in shipyards in various corners of the world, will soon be refit and put once more to use, carrying goods across the oceans on wings of canvas, not clouds of pollution. That is romance enough for me.

Deckhand, Elisabeth, Nov 27, 2017

Tres Hombres blog: 15 humans, a giraffe and a sheep are going to St Martin…

When we arrived near La Palma after 5 days of fast sailing the sea was remembering 20 knots of steady wind a bit choppy. We hove to a couple of hours to prepare the ship to be moored in port, we’ve seen the dance of cruise ships and ferry going out. At 17h00, quite hidden by the pier we dropped stern and bow anchor to stay 5 m away from the quay for 2 days.
We were glad to spend the first evening together on board. The sprays against the quay wall due to the rest of the swell was touching the course yard. Well, we ran the dinghy and the next days had to move the ship 3 times because cargo, cruise ships and ferries are much bigger than us. Nice maneuvers at night on our own or with the pilot boat. We slowly made friends again because 5 years ago a cleat on their deck broke when they towed us, since that they were not open to work together. Captain Remi did a lot of communication to arrange all facilities and make a nice connection because he is just a simple appreciative and competent seaman.

Life on board was sweet for all of us. 14 barrels of precious rum have been loaded and stored for 7 month at sea. For that we had to move cans and cans of animals food on top and take good care of soft tins and bags.
The crew visited the rum distillery, bananas cultures, a little farm, forests and went to restaurants for local food. Also 2 hammocks are full of green bananas in the cargo hold and the drystore shows a firework of colors.

Now at sea, Canary Islands at our back, the new trainees discovering the entire clear starie sky like never before and the bio luminescence in the water when Tres Hombres is cutting the salt water fluid. And then seriously, Eye of the Wind left Tenerife the same day as us,so let’s trim the sails and play with the ship.

To me, after many years as a sailor, I realized that I don’t get used to leaving good friends on land. They set in me a sort of balance in my heart and in my mind. It’s what the life at sea is building, stories to share, emotions to share, know ledges and feedback.
Departure, to say goodbye are essential. This splits my heart, but I know I will meet you later with more sincere love.
You, sailors bloody men that I met in last few years in many places on planet Earth, Mother nature still brings my body and my soul over the oceans and you are a part of myself, print in my blue blood gene. Sailing with you on my shoulder like angels. Thankfull for that what I learned and given the freedom of doing and growing in confidence.

Good bye Captain Remi, respect and good luck for the lovely weather in Netherlands. For the school, here we know already your ability to manage a ship and crew. We are doubtful of your talent particularly in making lists!(the crew is going to hate me )
Welcome to the new Captain Fabian who is sharing his knowledge of cargo on board Kwai and others, also his happiness.
Goodbye Ewan and welcome Alan (born the same day) who have swapped on deckhand position a couple of times without meeting each other before La Palma.
Welcome trainees who came aboard with open and shiny eyes.
I don’t forget crew and trainees who have been aboard since Den Helder¦ JUST AWESOME !

..15 humans, a giraffe and a sheep are going to St Martin.

PS: We went to Brixham instead of Douarnenez, later we went to Porto instead of Madeira but don’t worry about St Martin…

Anne Flore, 1st mate

Nordlys blog: Mannen met moed en vakmanschap. En het waren niet alleen de mannen…

In de haven

Nordlys ligt vredig afgemeerd aan de houten steiger in Willemsoord, Den Helder. Omringd door zeezeilschepen, stoomslepers, enkele botters, een voormalig lichtschip en een paar tjalken, is dit een mooi schouwspel dat zich voor mijn ogen voltrekt. Het schip en de bemanning zijn weer veilig in de thuishaven aangekomen. We hebben afgelopen zomer fabuleuze reizen gemaakt met de Nordlys langs de Europese kusten. Eerst Noord en daarna Zuid. In elke haven waar we kwamen hebben we fantastische mensen ontmoet. De Nordlys is ons welgezind en het vrachtruim steeds meer gevuld met heerlijke producten. Nog moeten we een tocht varen naar Bremerhaven deze maand. Daarna is er periode van rust voor het schip en kan er enkel onderhoud gedaan worden.

De zon schijnt meestal tussen enkele korte felle buien die even snel langstrekken als dat ze aankomen . Er waait een frisse vlagerige Noordwester over de Noordzee en hier over de Noordfriese kust. Terwijl een vissoep boven het vuurtje staat te pruttelen zit ik aan dek, kijk om me heen en geniet van een wijntje. Als ik een pijp had gehad, had ik hem gerookt. Het is rustig aan boord, de gehele bemanning is aan land. Ik sla het boek van Hylke Speerstra open, Schippers van de Zee, en begin te lezen.

“ Eeuwenlang werd in Europa kustvaart bedreven. De schepen waren betrekkelijk klein, schippers waren ondernemende zeelieden. Mannen met moed en vakmanschap. En het waren niet alleen de mannen…
Hun vlakgaande kustvaartschepen waren geschikt om de lading uit de havens in het binnenland te halen en naar toe te brengen. Maar schipper en schip bezaten ook de eigenschappen de zee te trotseren. Door deze tweezijdigheid ontstond een vorm van handelsvaart die gedurende een periode van naar schatting twintig eeuwen onuitroeibaar bleek.
Toch hebben perioden van grote bloei en crises ook in deze tak van scheepsvaart elkaar afgewisseld. Oorlogen, die handel tussen de landen vrijwel verlamden, deden de varensmannen en hun gezinnen soms grote armoe lijden. Gedurende die tijden overwoekerde het gras de scheepshellingen. Maar zodra er weer een opleving kwam, bleken er schippers en scheepsbouwers overgebleven te zijn. En met hen was het vakmanschap bewaard gebleven. Steeds opnieuw kwam de kustvaart tot bloei.”

Ik kijk op, overpeins, geniet een moment van rust en vervolg.

Kapitein Lammert

Tres Hombres blog: The crew dropped the tow and set the full complement of sails

Today is our first full day underway since leaving Brixham harbour yesterday afternoon.  After a week in port, the crew is feeling well rested, a little broke, satiated by gallons of beer and the good times enjoyed ashore.  Rearing to go, the lines were cast off and the ship towed out of harbor under the power of her yawlboat and that of a friendly local skipper, Brixham native Tony Knight.

Brixham was a fine place to spend a week while the ‘Irish hurricane’ Ophelia and her companions blew past turning the Channel and Irish sea into maelstroms.  The natural shelter provided by the tall headlands kept our ship out of the winds.  During the downtime we were able to make some repairs to important ship’s equipment, refresh our provisions and eat what are perhaps the best fish and chips in the world.

A few days in, our sister ship the Nordlys arrived to wait out the weather and for some days we were able to share meals, stories and good times with our other half.  At our favorite pub, musicians and revelers alike from both ships staged a foc’s’le music takeover and the barman kindly indulged us to play our music and carry on until closing.

With the weather past and all hands rearing to go, the crew dropped the tow and set the full complement of sails in a few minutes while the ship bobbed off the breakwater during a calm sunny afternoon.  After a tack or two in Tor Bay to keep off the shore, the wind filled in very favorably from the south and enabled the Tres Hombres to slip out of the bay and into deeper water.  Later in the evening, as if on cue, the wind switched around to the south west and we began to progress towards the English Channel and our route towards Brittany.

Connor McGowan
Second Mate

 Be the change you want to see! – By captain Lammert

Fairtransport is like a spark. It started a fire, which is getting bigger and starts spreading around. The old way and the natural way of transporting is part of a bigger movement in the modern time. More and more the agriculture is taking a step backwards and a lot of farmers are producing natural again. More and more people start using of local products again. More and more recycling is going on. More and more people are taking care of their energy use, and so forth. Altogether more and more care for “mother earth” ; Our habitat!
Unfortunately there is still a stubborn group of people who still believe in capitalistic way of living and following the rules of the free market economy; Ruining the earth by doing so.
And a big group of people who are not really aware and just live the spoiled way of the western society.
There is momentarily however, a growing amount of protest against this way of living. We don’t want to eat gen-food, We don’t want our forests to be chopped away, We don’t want to stand in traffic-jams every day, We don’t want to breath polluted air and so forth.

We, the people, should demand back our freedoms and the more natural way of living. Protest alone doesn’t help;   “Be the change you want to see”. Giving the example and inspire the people around you. I believe this is the best you can do. One moment we will reach the critical mass.
Since I started to work with Fairtransport, I saw the amount of cargo growing, after Tres Hombres came Nordlys and also others started transporting goods with their sailingships. A group of people with an ideal and a goal. A truly greener world; Our origin,our source.

If you search for the meaning of the word “economy”, you will find words like “thrift” and “providence”, also “careful management of available resources” and “sparing or careful use of something”.
So lets start to live a healthy economy together.
Change is not easy and doesn’t happen in one day. Stimulate this slow revolution and live more with nature again. We are trying and doing the best we can with Fairtransport;
Cargo by wind and sail!

Captain Lammert Osinga

Nordlys blog: The cargo-hold will be completely filled

Nordlys had finished the Baltic voyage earlier this year. The ship was loaded with natural wine from France for Copenhagen, Bornholm and Rostock. From there we made a stop in Den Helder and prepared for a southern cargo trip. On our way to Porto we made a stop in Devon, a region on the southern coast of England.

Brixham is a little historic harbor in the Torbay. This is a good bay to shelter for the westerly storms.
Over here we waited till the first autumn storms passed by. Sorlandet,(a Norwegian Tallship) also bounded south,
was at anchor outside in the bay. She was taking shelter, just like us.
While being here, we could do little maintenance on the ship. Caulking, pitching, rigging work and so forth.
Brixham is the home port for several Sailing Trawlers like Nordlys. They do charter-sailing their goal is to bring the people out of the cities and take them into nature.
It was a beautiful view to see Nordlys moored together with these similar traditional sailing ships. With their crews we were able to exchange knowledge about Sailing Trawlers and spending a good time together. Our good friend Tony Knights, skipper of the Leader, was also around and of great help. We had a useful stop and a good time with the sailors from Brixham.

Last Thursday morning we set sail again, since the forecasts showed a good weather window to cross the Bay of Biskay.
Jeroen is the cook on board and providing us every day with delicious food. He supplied our stock with beautiful seasonal products from local farmers and producers. It takes a bit more time, but it is so much better than the supermarketfood. Good food which stays longer fresh, are stored in the galley now. The taste of this vegetables and fruits are just fantastic.

At the moment we are sailing southwards in the Biskay and making a good progress. Next port of call is Porto. This old town is situated on the mouth of the river Douro. Porto and the Douro were of great value in the era of sail concerning in- and export of goods for the country. We will be moored in the Douro estuary and going to charge a well amount of precious goods from Portugal.
We have Olive-oil, Almond-oil, Salt, Natural Wine and Port Wine, to fill our cargo-hold with. These wares are bound for the more northern parts of the European continent, like France, England, Germany and the Netherlands.
We will be able to tell everybody the story of the producers and their way of working.
Fairtransport completes the tale, by the way these products are being transported. The cargo-hold of Nordlys will be completely filled; Almost thirty tons of beautiful products from Portugal we have to move by wind and sail. More and more cargo-owners like to see their goods being transported overseas by sail. They are also willing to pay a little more, for a better cause

Captain Lammert Osinga

Nordlys is setting sail back to Den Helder. – by Cap. Lammert

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After a short stop in Brixham, to unload the cider, the forecast is good to continue our voyage back home.
We have visited the Brixham museum. They have a lot of pictures of the fishing trawlers working in the old days.
It is interesting to know more about the history of these times, because those days Nordlys was fishing under sail in these waters as well.
We met Peter Hunt, who is a ship photographer. He makes beautiful calendars with pictures of traditional working boats.
Today is Sunday the thirteenth of December;A nice day to set sail.
Den Helder, we are on our way.

capt. Lammert

 

Pictures by Peter Hunt

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Klaar voor vertrek in Douarnenez – by first officer Wiebe

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Na twee weken in Douarnenez geweest te zijn is het tijd verder te trekken. De vaten wijn zijn geladen, de stagen geteerd, de kaarten bijgewerkt, de kisten vastgesjord, de pizza en stokbroden gegeten, de cider gedronken, de stormzeilen uitgeprobeerd, het vrachtruim en zelfs het schijthuis geverft, vriendschappen gemaakt, de muziek gespeeld, het land is geroken. Tijd om de zilte lucht weer in te ademen, zo diep als je kan.

Het is tijd om terug te keren naar die oneindige oceaan. De Oceaan die vele gezichten heeft. De oceaan waar al zo veel over geschreven is, de oceaan die je moet beleven om erover te kunnen praten. De sterrenhemels zijn zo adembenemend dat zelfs de grootste stadslandrot even z’n mond houdt en alleen maar kan staren in de grootsheid.

Er komt wind aan. Je kunt het voelen in de avondlucht. Je kunt het horen aan het geritsel van de herfstbomen rond de baai, ook al versta je de franse taal niet, je kunt het horen aan de toon van het gemompel in de bar aan de haven. Nog maar een dubbele ronde door het vrachtruim en de rest. Alles goed vastgesjord maatje, tijd voor een laatste stokbrood. Kijken over de haven naar de bladeren, we zullen pas weer terug komen als de bomen een lichte groene waas hebben in het voorjaar.

Dag Frankrijk, en hallo oceaan, daar zijn we weer. Rollende over jouw golven, wacht in en wacht uit. Laat de winden ons in La Palma brengen waar de rum al ligt te wachten om door ons meegenomen te worden. Ahoy we komen er aan.

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