Take a good look at her!
The curves. The canvas. The tempting lines.
The salt, whispering from the crevasses in the weathered wood. The wind, the memory of which is trapped into the folds of the harbour
She is Tres Hombres, Tres for the crew. Trusty, steady, free.
What most might not realize is that she is so much more than an engine-free sailing cargo ship. Sure,
carrying rum, wine, gin, chocolate, and coffee, Tres sounds badass enough.
Her true power, however, lies in bending time and transforming space.
She navigates dimensions and realities with the same grace and ease that she does the waves.
Those stepping aboard soon feel the simultaneous pull of the gravity in one direction, and complete
freedom from it in another. Like surfing a wave on a humongous windsurf board.
In the one sense, the seeming downgrade in lifestyle conveniences common in what
we agree to call the developed world comes crashing down like saltwater splashing
you from behind while you’re scrubbing the pan after the dinner, in the dark, in the cold seawater,
while the world around you rocks back and forth.
Never stable, never entirely clean, all the while clad in layers of slightly damp “warm” clothes.
You know, The Reality.
The Reality of realizing that no other life form we know has showers with hot water switched
on with a turn of a valve. Or a bed that could fit six people, but only one sleeps in it.
The Reality of weightlessness in space and time, head up, gaze tracing the neuro-net
between the stars, back to the immediacy of compass and steering,
when the line between where the ship ends and you begin, blurs, like the horizon
stitching the ocean and the sky. The ship becomes the means through which
you become a complete, inseparable part of the entire world, galaxy, universe.
It is indeed, a transporting vessel, true that.
The Reality that despite our nature and nurture, we are all more similar
than we are different, that deep down we all crave love, understanding, and belonging.
Tres is capable of doing just that. It doesn’t matter where you step on and off.
Remember, she bends time and space. Where and when doesn’t matter.
Sixteen of us started this journey together in Den Helder, four stepping off in Douarnenez,
more joining in Baiona, and so on. Already it feels like parting with family.
Speaking of which, a few days in, with the watch routine setting in, the friendly bickering
between the crew sparkled here and there, adding to the whole family vibe,
no less than grinding more coffee beans than needed (and with a hand grinder no less!)
so that the other watch doesn’t have to do it;
or taking the load off the cook’s shoulders for a day, or taking one for the team scrubbing the toilet,
or rushing to cast off the correct line when in the heat of the moment
a less experienced one mixes them. That’s love and respect.
When you trust someone else – a complete stranger in the case of Tres – to have your back,
to keep watch while you sleep, bake the sourdough bread that you kneaded and put into the pans,
you cede the sole control of the situation, thus becoming part of something larger than yourself.
That’s your belonging.
When you and your crew member dangle bent over a swaying yard, folding the unyielding sail
desperately and fruitlessly trying to convince it to furl
(“Argh – for satan!” – a classic Danish sail coaxing spell),
hear the same response from the sail: “I’m just not meant to furl, hon”, that’s understanding.
And there you have it.
On a grey, Sunday afternoon our good ship Tres Hombres and her happy crew set sail and cast off lines to head where the fishes fly and the sun shines bright: the Caribbean paradise!
The refit is finally over, but a new chapter begins now for the sailing crew who hold in their hands a blank new page: they’ll write their own story of their sail cargo adventure because every voyage is unique and unrepeatable. As much as these papers wait to be filled in with memories, the cargo hold longs to welcome once again barrels of spirits and bags of beans.
There is always some sort of epicness blowing in the wind when this annual event comes! A surreal excitement vibrates in all the people present, on land, on the tug, on board. You can definitely feel it, almost touch it. So much work has been done and we were all looking forward to this moment to come: the ship is ready for her 13th voyage around the Atlantic!
This was made possible by all the commitment, dedication and hard work of us all. Well done, everyone! We did it together!
The land and refit crew, together with friends and family members, gathered on the quay in front of our headquarters in Willemsoord to wave their goodbyes and send their good wishes for the winds to be fair and the journey to be safe. Tres was looking dazzling after all the care she received in the past two months and the light that was sparkling in the eyes of the sailing crew was stunning.
Our loyal tugboat, the GAR, a historical vessel that celebrated its 100 years of activity on the water this year, came alongside to fast the lines. As tradition Capt. Dirk and his wife Louise towed the ship out of the locks into the North Sea while people onshore followed her way from the canal, the walls of the lock till the dike. Fair Winds Black Lady, see you when the winter ends!
The first encounter at sea has been with a massive oil rig platform, an image that strongly contrasts with the beauty of this wooden brigantine sailing by, remembering us why we do all this.
The last line went off and the topsail got raised first. Tres Hombres was finally free to do what she knows best: sailing the oceans powered only by the winds!
An unexpected twist happened just as we all thought that was it. A last-minute accident delayed the actual departure of a night: a crew member injured himself, lightly. For safety reasons, Captain Francois decided to drop anchor and as a precaution evacuate him with the rescue boat of the coast guard of Den Helder in order to bring him as quickly as possible to the hospital to be checked. You don’t go out at sea unless you’re totally sure that your crew is fully able! After confirming that it was only a minor injury, the crew member got back on board with a second ride of the tugboat and at dawn, they heaved up the anchor and headed off with the first morning lights. A final rush of stress for us all but that’s life: not always smooth as we wish but a constant surprising challenge and learning opportunity. The crewmate is now doing well and happily sailing along.
A challenging first leg awaits them now, a passage that will take them over the cold North Sea waters before passing the white cliffs of the Dover Straits which marks the entrance of the jam-packed English Channel, crowded with container ships, fishing vessels and windmill farms, sailing between the tides and the currents, by unstable winds and along and across the treacherous TSS (Traffic Separation Schemes). This is possibly one of the most technical legs of the whole journey, where weather and navigation require high levels of seamanship. Crossing the Atlantic is nothing compared to crossing the English Channel engineless!
Their first port of call is Douarnenez, an historical fishing port located in the most western part of the legendary Celtic region of Brittany, in France. There, empty barrels and cargo will be loaded, together with good amounts of salted butter, apple juice and cider for the happiness of the crew.
Our brave sailors are out at sea now while we write and read, pushed by favourable winds while they slowly realize their dream is becoming true: they’re sailing the ocean engineless on the one and only Tres Hombres!
How do we get back home? Tacking!
Down the flying jib and the gaff tops’l, ease the topping lift, cast off tricing lines, staysailboom midships, coils of braces and headsail sheets on deck. Ready on the foredeck? READY! Ready about! About ship, helms a-lee! Mainsheet tight, ease the headsail sheets….there she comes, helm back midships, ease mainsheet, tack the jibs and… Let Go and Haul! Cast off tack and sheet of course, haul away lee course brace as you might, change boom lift, ease mainstays’l boom, tack the bob’s, all hands (or the windlass) on the tack and pull it down together with the lee-topping lift. Tack down! Course sheet home! Trim the yards, set the gaff tops’l, set the flying jib and then coil up and clear the deck!
15 minutes of the mariners full concentration is vital for the ship to make her way up against wind and current, not to loose ground against the ever blowing Northeasterlies in the Channel.
3 weeks ago all those lines were mere mystery to the most hands aboard Tres Hombres, now, at the command of prepare for tacking, everyone is whizzling over the deck, finding the right line to cast off, haul tight or stand by! No more discussions, commands are understood and taken out with pleasure and power. At force 5, instead of life lines the flying jib is put up and the helmsman is smiling pleasantly, feeling the acceleration of the ship and her leaning over in comfort!
Good food and good company as a power ressource, one common mission: living live in a natural way!One tool: the most beautiful sailing vessel on the seas, currently hunting after De Gallant, where early sailing memories with Captain Hendrik make me think of the old days as a deckhand without any concerns, without any limits.
Now we are passing on those good times, the tools and the experience to find a way in your life, it’s your choice.
P.S. : with some unexpected SW wind we are right now passing Dover, gybing the stunsails with boom and all to use the last heap of this rare wind, pushing us into the North Sea, where the next blow of NE will await us…see you soon in Amsterdam
Captain Andreas Lackner
Is your mind filled with the glorious majesty of the white winged masts of the Age of Sail? Or are you longing to master the arts of the traditional seaman? Then sign on, sailing on a cargo vessel is a unique way to discover the world and learn the art of real square rig seamansship. Price varies by voyage. The longer you sign on for, the less you pay per day. Visit http://fairtransport.eu/sail-along/ for the latest schedule and pricing or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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Eskerrik Asko Getaria!
What a moment, when we had to call out: let go stern line, let go bowline! All our friends, from whom we have known not one a week ago, were standing on the pier. Ruurd, Jon, Jesus, their families, the mayor of the village, the harbor master, the fishermen who just gave us 4 bonito’s for the voyage and even an official from the Basque government.
But the crew had no time to wave goodbye, as we had to pull the ship off the lee shore with a long rope and giving her some initial speed before setting the squares and making way to the harbor entrance and head out to sea again… a beautiful maneuver after a great visit of this magic place, Getaria!
Special thanks to Ruurd, who had us ordered to this place, in order to load organic Txacoli, a young, fresh wine grown just around here, some cider and a lot of biodynamic bottles from La Rioja and the Douro valleys. He also arranged a fantastic meeting with the wine makers, the crew and the great women of the village, who prepared a meal we will not forget! And that’s how it went on…
In between the loading of the cargo and some maintenance we enjoyed the great weather which came with us, after 6 months of rain here. If there was no party or interview planned, we went to the farmer Jon to plant the Dahlias we brought from Holland, took a swim at the local beach, where the Atlantic rollers would come in smoothly or climb around on a vertical mountain . A seaman’s life can be very hard sometimes.
This port was one of the most welcoming ones we experienced and as a refuge harbor also a suitable one for a ship like ours, coming in and out without help. At arrival, we did not have all lines fast yet, a beautiful lady jumped onboard, asking for an interview with the captain, which he could not refuse at all, while another man made a little film about Tres Hombres throughout the process of harbor furling. A dentist was ready to receive a patient, showers were made available as well as power and water, cider and Txakoli…
We also had the chance of visiting the impressive Albaola shipyard near Donostia, where a replica of a whaling galleon is being build. They might need some crew in future who know how to sail a ship without motor…
Now, back at sea, we await the 5th fish meal in a row, as the precious tuna is being prepared in yet another way by the cook, not wasting a spine of it.
All in all it was a great stay in Getaria and hereabout seaman’s life is worth a break in it, before the wind will blow away all thoughts and dusts of the land again.
Captain Andreas Lackner
At sea again, I am looking back at the last port stay In Douarnenez. Douarnenez is, like Horta, a great sailingship port. From this town there are currently three larger size (for the industry) sailing cargo ships operating: Grayhound, Lune II and Gallant. Also it is the town of origin of one of the French sailing cargo ship shipbrokers: Towt, with as her dedicated director Guillaume Le Grand. Of course, apart from visiting the different crews, I had to visit him, and his partner Diana. The real reason we stopped here, was for a crew change. Old sailors, who had just crossed the Atlantic ocean signed off. New sailors, signed on to join the ship, for a voyage through the English channel. This is the final leg of the: Tres hombres Atlantic roundtrip of this year, and brings our clipper brigantine to the discharge docks in Amsterdam.
So, how does this, signing on, go? There are three different options to sign on: joining as a professional crewmember, this is, if you have enough experience on squareriggers, applied for a position, and where selected by one of our Captains. Second, being on the right spot at the right time, really meaning applying for a position directly on the ship, while taking part of a refit or visiting the ship, and having the luck, that there is a position available. Third, the most straight forward way, of checking the sailing schedule on the website, and applying for a trainee position in exchange for paying the trainee fee.
Back in the days, the real signing on, would be done on board or in a port office. Here the ships articles would be read to the crew, and everybody would put a signature under it. Nowadays, you get your contract by email, sign it, scan it and email it back. After that the nice task of preparing yourself for sea begins. You can regularly check the ship, to see if she comes already nearer to your port of signing on. You have to gather your gear, for everybody this will be different, but you do receive a list of suggested gear. Finally some people, read a selection of Maritime literature, to mentally prepare for the life at sea in working sail.
If you are interested to sign on, short term, you can still sign on for a cargo voyage for this summer. Joining the ship, in Amsterdam, the first week of June to sail across the North sea, the English Channel and into the bay of Biscay, for a French port nearby Bordeaux. Here a fine cargo of wine will be taken in, to bring back to Amsterdam again. A great voyage for the beginner, for a first introduction to sail. Or for the seasoned sailor, a voyage to finally experience maneuvering a squarerigger in coastal waters! Also there is the possibility to join for an crossing of the Atlantic ocean, but then you have to wait, with joining, until the 1st of November. Finally, for those, who would really like to encounter the tough life at sea, of “Iron man on wooden ships” one should sign on to the other ship of our fleet, the entirely wooden Nordlys. Nordlys, built in 1873, is most likely the oldest cargo vessel still operational. Joining her, is an experience with the guarantee that you will never forget it. So: sign on email email@example.com, welcome on board, and bon voyage!
Capt. Jorne Langelaan
Last night the second mate, Alan, and I where studying the charts, weather and shipping. When he brought up, where Nordlys, the other sailing cargo ship of Fairtransport would be? We knew they had been discharging a cargo of wine and olive oil in Brixham, England, and where bound for Douarnenez, France, after that. This, to pick up wine for Copenhagen and Bornholm in the Baltic. So theoretically she would be somewhere in between Brixham and Douarnenez, and we where too. For the heck of it, I put the cursor on one of the ships on our AIS (Automatic Identification System), and really a chance of one in a million, but it was Nordlys!
Next moment I was on the radio: “Nordlys, Nordlys, Tres Hombres”… A few seconds later the familiar voice of the Master of Nordlys, Captain Lammert Osinga, could be heard: “Tres Hombres, Nordlys”. We changed to a working channel, and had a nice chat about our voyages and the available cargoes. We where pretty much on opposite courses, so we both only had to alter a bit to starboard to meet each other. So we agreed to arrange a meeting on the high seas, in a few hours.
Around an hour after midnight we saw the bright navigation lights, red above green, and the silhouette of Nordlys became apparent. Captain Lammert and I, discussed matters over the radio, and decided that the safest maneuver would be, that Tres Hombres would go hove too by bracing the foretop aback, and Nordlys would approach under reduced sail. Then we would lower our boat, as part of a man-overboard exercise, and sent over a delegation of our crew, with a drink and a cigar. As described happened. It was really the most impressive sight to see the Nordlys, gliding effortlessly through the mirror like see, only partly visible due to the moonlight. When our boarding team returned, with an exchange of gifts, everybody was over excited. Like a wild bunch of privateer’s we echoed our greetings and wishes, our Austrian deckhands shared their flasks of rum to celebrate the occasion. Then, accompanied by the timeless sound of Nordlys their Japanese foghorn, and Tres Hombres her Norwegian foghorn, Nordlys disappeared into the darkness again…
Capt. Jorne Langelaan
LAST MINUTE OFFER: The need for wine from Rioja and the Bordeaux region sends our good ship Tres Hombres on a unexpected voyage in June and July from Amsterdam to Royan, Douarnenez and back this summer.
If you want to experience a coastal cargo voyage on a square rigger without engine with co-founder and captain Andreas Lackner, then come and join in!
Landlubbers will get sea legs, and old salts wil get a glimpse of how it was in the good days and how it will be!
For more info sail along or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Sleep. Refreshing, delightful sleep from which you wake up naturally, fully rested. Heaven. However,this is not how it works on board a working ship. On Tres Hombres, 2 watches take turns on deck in a 48-hour cycle where the days are organized as follows: 08:00-14:00; 14h00-20:00; 20:00-00:00; 00:00-04:00; 04:00-08:00. Each watch is therefore woken up 5 times in 48 hours, at unnatural hours(7:15, 13:15, 19:15, 23:45, 03:44).
It is the responsibility of the outgoing watch to wake up the incoming watch.
You would think it’s an easy thing to do, but it’s not that simple. The way you wake people up can have a great positive or negative impact on people’s mood, and therefore on life on board.
It is important, when waking people up,to remember that the people you wake up are the same people who will wake you up in a couple of hours.
The most popular wake-up is gentle but audible, and includes information about the weather conditions on deck, so that the “wakee” knows if he should go out in full rain gear or shorts and sun scream. If the wake up is before a meal,mentioning food can also help. This is the standard sort of wake up. But again, it’s not that simple. You have to adapt to the different types of sleepers:
– the light sleepers
– the standard sleepers
– the heavy-weight, back-from-the-dead sleepers
– For the light sleepers, “Good morning” or sometimes just ” Good mo…” is enough. They can get on deck at supernatural speed.
-For the standard sleepers, see standard wake-up speech above.
-Now, the “back from the dead” sleepers”. There’s a challenge. They need, and sometimes prefer, a rougher wake-up. So you start by calling their name, crescendo, 4 or 5 times. Or 12. Or 20. Should this fail, they need to be shaken awake. Should this fail (but fortunately we have never had to resort to such extremities yet), you might want to consider trying a bucket of water or the foghorn.
Be aware that if you interrupt a dream involving pizza you might get bitten.
The best wake-up screw-ups so far:
-accidentally waking up people 1 hour early
– turning up on deck 40 minutes early because you dreamt someone had woken you up
-(almost) going back to sleep because you were woken up but thought it was a dream.
Good night, sweet dreams,
The need for wine from Rioja and the Bordeaux region sends our good ship Tres Hombres on a voyage in June and July from Amsterdam to Royan, Douarnenez and back this summer.
If you want to experience a coastal cargo voyage on a square rigger without engine with captain Andreas Lackner, then come and join in!
Landlubbers will get sea legs, and old salts wil get a glimpse of how it was in the good days and how it will be!
For more info http://fairtransport.eu/sail-along/ or email email@example.com
Secrets of the night and feeding the hungry beast.
In Holland there are holiday days happening I didn’t even think of in this time of year. Of course it’s May and we’re sailing towards European summer and all that, but we’re putting on our winter clothes and for a while my tanned knee peeking through the hole in my jeans was the only sign to remember we came from the warm Caribbean. I’m writing this blog in the chart house next to a box with electrical supplies which is marked ‘not really necessary’. We race the ‘Gallant’ all the way from Horta to Douarnenez. They turn on the engine (or not?), we set the stun sails. No news from the office for a week, the industrial civilization might finally have collapsed, I’m not really keeping track anymore.
I’m the cook on board this fine vessel as you might know by now or not and this results in quite a different experience from this trip then being on a watch. I’m feeding the always hungry beast, it is an endless process. Even if there is plenty of food, people come in an hour after a meal to eat again. Sailing makes hungry. Preparing a meal might take hours, in half an hour it’s all gone again and what’s left turns into leftovers like news turns into old news after reading the newspaper.
If a huge wave is coming, you see it approaching when you’re standing on deck. You brace yourself and if you’re unprepared and unlucky you get water in your shoe, the ship adjusts itself to the wave. In the galley I feel the impact of the water hitting the hull. I have to brace myself and all the stuff that I’m working with. This one unfitting lid falls on the ground again and if I’m unlucky or unprepared, there is a lot more that can spill on the stove or fly around and end up in various places.
It’s a nice sport to have every meal ready on the minute and in rough weather cooking in the galley demands a lot of focus and energy. It’s a different life with different struggles. The watches stand in rain and cold wind for hours. I’m boiling away, holding five things, getting occasionally seasick from the smells. We don’t know the fun, the secrets and the sorrows of each others function.
I like to feed the always hungry beast. Nothing so satisfying as a warm meal after a cold watch. To provide this is nice, and meanwhile I get to know the people with their habits and preferences. Sometimes though, I don’t have to cook and someone from the watch takes over. Besides that It’s nice not to make three meals in a row for a time, it makes me appreciate my own job more because now I can experience how nice it is that there is someone who prepares you food. And it gives other people the opportunity to feel what it’s like to cook on a rolling ship which without an exception always results in the command that their respect for the job increased. I on the other hand recently joined some night watches and with that I was introduced in the secrets of the night. All these months I was on day watch but the sailing never stops and there is this whole nightlife going on in which I’m not included. Night in night out the watches watch and for them it’s the most normal thing. For me it felt special to enter this world with its impressive sky full of stars, the moonrise, hot tea and stories. There is a more intimate sphere then during the day and although I know all the lines, handling them without really seeing them is something else.
During the crossing we had a birthday of our first mate and we organized a party for her. There was music and a fender dressed up as disco ball so that our sparkling dress also came in handy again. We went crazy with half a cup of wine and we danced under the blanket of thousand stars, holding on to the safety lines in order not to fall over while the ship was clipping along through the waves. By far the most special party I ever went to.
We often get a visit from dolphins. They’re curious and they like to play at the bow of our boat. They also show up at night and they slide incredibly fast through the fluorescent water, leaving a trail of shining bubbles. I was woken up to witness this miracle so there I stood with bare legs and a sleepy face to shiver on the foredeck until it was too cold to look at them anymore. I went back to bed and the next day I was not sure if this actually really happened or that I just dreamed about fairy dolphins.
Eight months in the trip, the end is almost in sight and there are still things to discover. Who knows, do I need another eight months to get to know the night as well as the day?
I’m a happy cook.
Judith, Ships cook,
We are navigating our way from Den Helder to the southern peninsula of Europe.
When you are sailing the North Atlantic waters in the early months of the year, the weather conditions might be sometimes a bit rough.
Fortunately there are nowadays good weather forecasts for the first days to come. The depressions developing on the Atlantic Ocean are moving northeast over the continent and bring us the southwesterly gales. Keeping a good eye on the forecast can be life saving. With this in mind we had to make a stop in Brixham and another one in Douarnenez.
While we were there and waiting for fair weather, we were able to do maintenance on the ship, we tested our new anchor winch and worked on sail training. Provisions for the ship came from local farmers.
Fellow sailors, shipwrights, local merchants and friends came by on the Nordlys. Creating a stable market and expanding ideas for the Fairtransport enterprise.
We departed from Douarnenez on a shiny sunday morning and tacked our way towards the Atlantic Ocean. The Bay of Biscay is well known for its rough seas and has to be avoided in the certain weather conditions.
With a ship like Nordlys you will need about four or five days of fair winds to cross this bay. This brings us to were we are right now. We are sailing southwards on the Atlantic swell about 150 nautical miles from Porto.
On board we are nine crew, so eighteen hands to handle the sails, ropes and rudder, preparing food and so forth..
As a team in the rhythm of the sea.
Porto will be our first harbor where we charge cargo of all kind. The hold will be filled with organic products from the Douro region. We will bring these products by wind and sail to the northern countries of the continent.
Transport makes it possible to eat delicious olives, taste an excellent olive oil,use Atlantic sea salt for your meals and enjoy a natural wine, in for example England, Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark and so forth. Products which are not only produced in a nature friendly way, but also transported so. Sometimes the work on the land is slightly harder, sometimes the transport takes a bit longer… The taste of it all is definitely better! Respect the laws of nature. And nature gives it back.
captain Lammert Osinga
Nordlys underway, heading for Porto.
This year we had an early start. As Dirk and Annelies came along with their tugboat “Gar”, on the 19th of March, there was still some ice in the canals of Den Helder. We sailed out of Marsdiep with a fair and cold Northeasterly wind.
Supposedly we should have departed a week earlier. Due to the wintery weeks before, there was a little delay on some deck repairs.
A tough crew of seven people handling and navigating Nordlys over the North Sea in the wintery weather. Warm clothes and a lot of blankets kept us warm since there is no heating system on the ship.
Fair winds brought us quickly in the English Channel, where the westerly winds appeared. Tacking our way trough the Channel with her strong tidal currents, especially with spring tide, made us progress a bit slower.
Sailing our way westward, my idea was to make a stop in Falmouth. You need a good weather window to cross the Biscay. It can be very rough in stormy weather. Due to our slow progress westward, beating our way against the waves and wind, I decided to make a stop in Brixham. Here we have some time to work on the crew and ship. We could also unload a barrel of organic wine. Anton, the wine importer, was happy to receive his goods earlier then expected.
There is nothing changing as quickly as the weather. The rhythm of nature is our engine. To sail a ship by wind means to respect the rhythm.
Soon we set sail for Porto. Again we will fill the hold with beautiful Portugese products for the northern European market.
Captain Lammert Osinga
photo ©Martin Sinnock