Tres Hombres blog: let go and haul!

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.
Andreas
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

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Tres Hombres blog: Bye bye Boca Chica

Exactly one week we stayed in the port of Boca Chica, to load our main cargo: 200 bags of cacao for the Amsterdam Chocolatemakers, 5 bags of cacao for Chokolade from Denmark, 2 barrels of rum for a customer in Zwitserland, a barrel of rum for Paula Luiz on the Azores and a mix of many barrels of rum, cacao, coco oil and melasse for Fairtransport itself. To distribute further to a variety of partners within Europe. All loaded by hand or block and tackle, by our own crew, under the skilled supervision of our Chief officer. Combined with the coffee and other products, we had already in the hold, it is a very nice diverse and high quality cargo. A cargo well worth sailing for.

Organizing the entry, the loading, the storing, the daily life on board, and the departure out of Boca Chica is always a bit of a challenge. The bureaucracy, the rithm of the Caribbean beat (full volume), the heat, the loading operations, the waiting, the gate of the commercial port, and the overwhelming complexity of Dominican Republic life, have gained a legendary reputation amongst the Tres Hombres crew. Fortunately the ship has visited this port many times, meaning there is a wide network of people who are helping out crew and ship. Amongst them there is Forrest, the very friendly owner of the Nautical store with the same name. Victor, our agent who helped us every day, with a smile, smoothing out the relationship with the port and customs officials, arranging drinking water, helping us with getting stores, talking with the office of the commercial port and keeping the relationship with the pilots in good order. Than there was Chris, a dutchman, sourcing a quantity of cacao plants, and helping us with storing parts. Apart from them, there was a wide range of different people making our visit possible again: the producers and traders of our cargo: Belarmino, Jasser and Yamir, the nice ladies and gentlemen from the harbor office, the gatekeepers, the drivers of the motorbike taxi’s, the stevedores and many more. Off course there was also a lot of help from our headoffice in Den Helder: Hans, Sabine, Andreas, Daan, and also here without doubt many more. Thank you very much!

And now, back at sea we are. After a nice maneuver of sailing out of the harbor, in between the reefs through the buoyed fairway, while setting our entire complement of sails, including royal and course. We are loaded on design draft, hatches are battened down and all cargo and gear lashed and stowed. An hour after departure, we where logging already more than 7.5 knots, and currently we are hugging the coast to try to keep some North in the wind, caused by the land effect. Anchors and chains have been ocean stowed, safety lines and nets rigged. It is still all hands, but after lunch, we will have a muster and the watches will be divided. We are ready for the ocean crossing, the weather forecast looks promising, so Azores here we come.

Truly yours,
Capt. Jorne Langelaan

Tres Hombres blog: It’s not entirely the ship which defines seaworthiness

Preparing to go to sea..

So while we are at sea again, I would like to explain a little bit about preparing a ship to go to sea. As you have read in the previous weblog, we have been at anchor for two weeks. I write: we, with that I really mean the ship and her crew, because personally I only joined the ship two days before setting sail. So really most preparations found place under the command of my predecessor, captain Fabian Klenner. So what does it entail? To explain in short: crew, ship and gear has to be ready for sea.

Most crewmembers have been for quite a few months on board. The core crew: mate, cook, deckhands and one of the trainees, has been on board since her departure from Den Helder last year. Of the core crew, most of them sailed before that on Tres Hombres, and of the other crewmembers some of them have. This means there is quite a bit of experience on board to built on. And under the command of Fabian, several safety drills where carried out to keep the crew up to high standards of seamanship. For me off course, being the one new on board, I had to familiarize myself with the capabilities of the crew. Because really, on a sailing vessel like this, it is not entirely the ship which defines her seaworthiness but it is more the crew itself which brings safety, continuity and comfortable sailing. To do this, I had a personal interview with each crewmember, to understand their previous experiences on board, find out about their capabilities and discuss ideas and wishes for the coming trip. Apart from that I had a lot of conversations with Fabian to discuss the management on board and learn about the things, he found out, which worked or did not work.

The ship has proved herself throughout the past ten years under the flag of Fairtransport, and many decades in all different roles under previous owners. This does not mean there is nothing to prepare on her. You can compare a traditional wooden square rigged sailing vessel, with her millions of parts, who are all subject to change, because of weather conditions, wear and tear and maintenance, almost to a living creature. Like any living being, she needs to breath (ventilation), drink (paint, linseed oil, tar) and eat (wood, steel, oakum, pitch, rope and wire) to survive. To make this possible every year she gets a thorough refit, mostly during a period of about a month, this past year it was three months. And also her crew is constantly supporting the life of their vessel with maintenance. Some things are more obvious than others. The standing rigging needs tarring, greasing and tuning. The running rigging, attention to protection for wear and tear, and constant replacing of her parts. The hull needs pumping, re caulking and painting. Here was one of the reasons to be anchored the previous weeks. Because on the voyage from Columbia, back to the Dominican republic, her hull had received quite a beating, which made her more leaky than considered wanted to continue. So repairs where carried out, with the final filling up of seams with a special putty I had taken along from Europe.

Then the gear, which is usually looked upon as the main focus to prepare a ship. All spares, tools, charts, nautical books, stores, drinking water and fuel needs to be on board or brought on board. Gear, like machinery, instruments and safety gear needs to be in working order. And everything, including cargo, needs to be stowed and lashed properly and in a seamanlike fashion. For all of this, on Tres Hombres, we make use of a pre-departure checklist. So again, before proceeding, our fine vessel was deemed healthy again to go to sea.

Ahoy,
Capt. Jorne Langelaan

Tres Hombres blog: And the case of the missing olive

A weblog every other day is the assignment they give us. That seems to be a lot for a place with so little external factors that can influence what happens on board. And yet there is enough to write about. Because the ship is a little village where we have to live together.
I like to see all those people, coming from so many different places and lives, bringing their own story. The one might be on board, only for the crossing. Being astonished by the ships life, not used to the lack of comfort and privacy. But still they come here with a personal challenge to get to know themselves better. The other might be a born sailor, not even noticing we’re already at sea for so long. But in a way I think everyone can smell the land coming closer now (and the land can smell us coming closer I suppose…). And in all the different states of mind we pass, punchyness (meligheid) is one of them.
By running out of trainees to teach the ropes to, Alan is doing a pinrail tour with a wirebrush. Thibaut and Conor keep shaking up flexseeds in water to look at them spinning around. The desperate smokers start roling pipe tabacco in sigarette papers. Well, you see it’s a small world wherein little things can become a big problem or a great pleasure.
Almost four weeks now we are out here at sea. Steady in a routine, but also busy in our minds. Because as wide as the ocean around us is, the ship is only a couple of steps long and we can not leave it. I came to the discovery that this can drive me a bit crazy. As far ‘of the ship’ and away from the people I can get for now is sitting on the little chair on the bowsprit. Which comes with a nice bath if we’re dipping far enough into the waves.

This morning only 250 NM to go! So I think it’s finally time to say we’re almost there. Bets are being made about our estimated time of arrival. We dream about all the things we want to consume we don’t have on board. Although I’m also curious about Sint Maarten: How destroid will it still be? What has happened in the month that we didn’t receive any news from the world? It must be a strange realisation to expend our world again to the scale of the world that has been around us all the time.
So are we actually ready to go on land? I think so, but it will be as much as an adaptation as it was to be at sea.

In small things on board I find my joy. Taking a shower in the dark evening when it’s finally cool enough to stay cool. And to curl up in my camping spot underneath the stairs like Harry Potter, instead of in my stuffy bunk. Most of the time I also enjoy the people and I’m glad I can still make them happy with food.
Showers visit us also by the way. After a day of steaming hot, we could dance in the rain and wash our hair in saltless water from the sky.
Even though they won’t admit it, the boys-watch is getting better and better in making the bread. And even though an unvoluntarily sourdough slaughter took place this morning, a real catastrophy could be prevented. And for everyone who thinks we’re not dealing with any serious problems in this little world of ours, I can confirm that from the 24 olives on the focaccia, 23 could have been saved, and only one went missing.

Judith, cook.

Tres Hombres blog: Four weeks already at sea….

For the first time since La Palma there is music from a speaker on deck. He’s spreading in the atmospher a taste of romantic country music where we can see O brothers running in the wheat fields under a burning sun and Jack Kerouac jumping on board this ship as a slow merchant train crossing the blue country full of ideas to built or rebuilt this world weared of a bag pack & unapropriate Espadrille. Clamour of poetry in the radio to throw a new look on details.

Well, despite a few worried members aboard about being somewhere ( on land) for Christmas, everything is going sweet here. « Not so much things to complain » said captain. And then cuban music blows her cosy voices flow on deck, gold sunset sky becomes darker and stars are taking over the space. It’s not blues  but your feeling is on the border. Yes four weeks already at sea far away without news from your lovers, parents, children. Is that feeling of missing brings you more in reality, more alive, more true ? blablabla but yes ours bodies are talking to us and that is a lovely great creation.

Since a week, instead of the swedish, the captain decided to set a new watches readim system: 4 hours each watches, 3 watches of 4 or 5 peoples. That brings more peoples on deck during daylight, the maintenance goes forward faster because those 8 hours of rest at night and we are meeting eachothers.( So , sorry for the tres hombres tradition but it works well for the crossing. If the loyals of the company has any request about this, feel free to explain your opinion, I wouldn’t bring the bad luck here like to move the giraff outdoor with a full cargo !!). Can you beleave, we were sailing full and by for a day , trade winds are not strong but the lady keeps on going half of the wind speed.

Shower on deck, 1 hour of rain today (11/12/2017). Soap & shampoo !

ps: we got rid of 2 hammocks of bananas.

Anne-Flore, first mate

Tres Hombres blog: I am trying to dance with the wind

I am trying to dance with the wind. At the helm, it is the middle of the night, and though I have the light of a moon just past the full, it is getting dark. Clouds are rolling in. They might mean a shift in the wind, backing or veering, and an increase in speed, and I am standing with my neck craned all the way back, peering up at the barely-visible flag, trying to judge if the wind is changing, and where I should steer to keep the sails full.

There’s one way of looking at sailing, the way I too often fall into, which is that the ship is a series of clever mechanisms for turning wind into propulsion–purchase blocks, ropes, sails trimmed with exactitude to airplane-wing shape. And that there is one right heading and trimming of sails which will produce the best results, given any defined set of wind and swell conditions. This is treating sailing like a math problem.

But sailing is not math, not regular or predictable, no more than life is. Like astronavigation, there is math involved, but the basis, the foundation is all guesswork, pretending the earth is flat, and having a good feeling about the sextant reading you just took. The first mate, Anne-Flore, talks to me about trying to find the rhythm of each maneuver, the flow of how people move about the deck, meshing with the movement of the wind as we bring the ship through the wind on a tack, for example. It’s a dance, I can see. Each of us moves like the wind, unpredictably but with a certain grace, and the trick to being a good leader, as the trick to being a good sailor, is to work with that energy, and catch it at the most graceful moment. This is sailing–the ship is a thing of muscles and breath and wings. To pay attention to the maneuver in this way is to be where I am, to live where I find myself.

How wonderful, to feel that the world is real, and that I belong to it! I am a part of the place where I am, just as much as the wind and the waves, the stars and the clouds. I too often block the world around me, filter it through a screen which sits on a desk and, in the words of Wendell Berry, « obscures the place where it is. » I place barriers between myself and the real world, of computer screen or even book page, instead of living where I am, in my surroundings. I am trying to learn to dance with the wind instead, to feel it on my face and lean into it, to watch the swell and feel it move me as I sway with it. To listen to the ship, how she reacts to the wind, rudder, or waves. I will not truly learn sailing from a book or a screen, no matter how much they can teach me, for all they do is obscure the place they are in, this place, the place where I am, out here smack in the middle of the Atlantic with my sailwings and rainclouds and moonlight. Dancing.

Liz, deckhand

Tres Hombres blog: The smoothness of heaven

While I’m not particularly attached to a certain religion where a god is involved, and while I
don’t particularly believe in something, I apparently do have a certain idea of the feeling of
heaven.
Of course heaven can just refer to anyone’s ultimate dream so in that case it doesn’t
matter if you’re religious or not. But anyways, this morning I was wondering if heaven would
feel something like this. A complete serene surrounding, all this water kept itself so quiet and
almost dissolved in the sky. And then the sunrise came. A forest of clouds being on fire on the horizon.
Sea and skycovered in copper glaze.

While we humans are out there in society, running around, talking, working, worrying, this is
just here all the time. Everyday the sun rises to give us another day over and over again.
Even if we don’t look at it, it’s there. This is of course an idea philosophers have been
questioning, but at least it was the feeling it gave me: This is just here all the time, so
big and endless. It is no one’s property and we have the privilege to look at it.

Then the sun was completely visible and that was when the intensity and brightness of the
light that was all around us, made me wonder about heaven. It’s not that this is my ultimate
dream in the sense that I never want to leave again. Because if we stay drifting around here
like we do, we will run out of food at some point and we will end up eating banana peals with
marmite and we’ll never reach the other side of the ocean.
But if my heaven could have this
serenity, endlessness and peace, that would be a great basis to spend the rest of eternity.

Judith
Cook

Tres Hombres blog: I advice you to throw it over board

50 miles in the northeast Cabo Verde, steady trade winds.

1st fish : small dorada coryphene. Since few days nights are quite. Sounds of little waves, sails flaps sometimes downwind, windmills turning, barometer tic tac, banging pan in the galley. The moon is very bright now, she shines the rigging, what a beautiful picture: black, white & grey, straits lines, curves & shadow, green red lights. Photographers an drawers could be charmed by the scenery. Close your eyes face toward the sky, let the 24 degrees cool breeze sweep gently your hair as a caress. Your legs are now following the movement of the ship naturally and you know already about a breakfast with banana bread. Yes it’s official, unlimited consumption of the gold’s treasure.

Inspired by an awful book in the open sea.

On the way of travel I met few vagabonds with luggage plenty of anecdotes. I am remembering those, ripples marks on the face as an alive stone which you can find, by chance, on the beach away of any civilisation. You look at the outlines of this part of the rock revealing details, stories in peace, doesn’t matter how deep or big are the scares. You listen to them attentively, you stave wide-eyed in front of humbles story-tellers on a sailing vessel deck. Theirs blows are like an infinity poem flow and we are becoming a tall ship wearing many open sails, gliding over the whisper of the foam.
They are somewhere far away at sea or hidden in an old stone house on a mountain, you are not running after them, never. Gipsies are not this kind of people you are planning to meet. Just a warm dreaming restless wave.

So, about this awful book. I advice you to throw it over board ( as I did yesterday) any books who’s talking about the worst sadness, scared, heavy weight of family tradition… If you want to use your holiday watch as a proper rest and quite sleep (for the focs’tle people), it’s useless to bring it in your stuff. I kept only the last page because she’s the only one ( in 436 pages) positive & full of hope. Well, the past is already done and we can inspire ours life from that, the present is now: the wheel is waiting the next watch team and tomorrow is a new dawn, is a new day, a new life and I’m feeling good ( dixit Nina Simone).

first mate Anne-Flore

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: 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