When you hear Dirk and Louise coming around the corner with the good old tug Gar. Plof-plof, plof-plof, plof-plof…in a rhythm which immediately makes your hips shake and think about a jungle party…but no, they come to get us. Get us out of here! 3 months of a full ships refit, 12 hours a day, 6 days a week in any Den Helder weather condition left some marks on the faces of this amazing crew, who completed it just in time. At the planned date of departure, 5th of November, all sails were bent up and furled snug, ready for setting and catching the right breeze to bring the old lady south again, back into her beloved Atlantic Ocean. More later about sailing, now just one thing: thanks Chad, Marco, Daniel, Jeroen x 2, Eva, Piers, Klaas, Hannah, Martin, Whoopy, Nici, Woody, Tim, Tom x 2, Bram, Renee, Jules, Rene, Andrew, Adam, Francois, Wolfgang, Elin, Ambrose, Paul, Wiebe, Soraia, Shimra, Laura, Arie, Vincent, Peter, Nico, Evert, Serge, Colin, Giulia, Jake, Rosa, Joel, Jean-Se, Team Tirol, John, Juliette, Lida, Mike, Miranda, Klaske and whoever I did not mention but was here gets a chocolate and a glass of rum the next time! Fantastic work has been done!
The old lady needs that treatment. All on her is used to the limit, 20.000 miles of racing on open water every year, all under sail, cold and warm water, sun or hail, 100kg seadogs hauling away ropes or 50kg rig artists sliding down backstays. More stainless creations join the ship every year to save paint which would mainly end up in the ocean anyway. More watertight seams everywhere! Pumping every morning becomes a routine done for the sake of the routine. 3 pumps for the whole ship is enough to keep her belly dry from inside. Still the most important are the hands doing all this, living together on small spaces and putting all their energy towards the goal of change. Showing alternatives, proof their viability, live them.
This is not about transport. Would be too a big effort for a bit of coffee, rum or chocolate. It’s about waking up and not let you tell that the intoxicating shit you buy in the supermarket is normal. That unfair trade is normal. That roundup and glyphosate are normal. That 400m motor ships are normal. That artificial intelligence, electric cars, hillsides and beaches full of windmills and solar panels are normal. It is an excrescence of evolution, but still cannot be the norm, not for the globalist, not for the farmer, for nobody.
Evolution started who knows how long ago, took a right when totalitarian agriculture started 10.000 years ago and accelerated with the use of ships, about 6000 years ago. Now we perfected the art of sailing, ok, lets say until 200 years ago. The kind of sailing, with a purpose (cargo) in a sustainable way (with the wind) on a flattering ship. Nothing modern I mean. So it’s not only about transport, but we had to choose a main topic and we loved sailing! And what can combine and realize the components like adventure, love for nature, building communities better than a ship! You have to brave the elements you like, you get to work and live with people you don’t know, and you bring home the best rum in the world.
Back to our brave crew, who swallowed out their souls on the way south through the North Sea. A stiff north westerly breeze shook the new rigging as the lee rail went all under but at 12 knots we had to start shortening sail. A very few hands were left to keep her steady and jump up the yards, thus as Captain & Cook Francois was baking bread during the gale, I had to practice stormfurling of royal, t’gallant and course while Paul kept her going south at the point. A fine breeze from the east relieved us from the North Sea, make us glide through the Strait with 10kn and more, while the crew inhaled sunrays and re-strengthened with Soraias great food coming out of the famous Tres Hombres galley with ocean view on every leeside.
Arrival in Dieppe was organized like common coastal trade, no delays, locks open 2 hours before high tide, we received the friendly tug 300m before the harbor entrance, got clipped in and put in place within half an hour, French mariners are right there! After mooring and furling, degustation started immediately and did not end yet! Thanks to the great partnership with Francois and Raphael, Les Frers de la Cote, the French part of the international cargo sailing community. We had nothing short in the cold winter night under a small deck tent, enjoying each other’s stories in the open air. Now the hold is half full with Armagnac barrels and French biodynamic wine.
Allright my hearties, some food is calling from the galley, enough PR for now, stay tuned for Biskaya and what follows, and please, stay in reality..
We’re currently surfing on long ocean waves, flying through the north Biscay with a 20 knots downwind wind, 2 reefs in the mainsail and all foresails set. With 7 knots speed, dolphins are jumping around us and we are enjoying to finally have some sunshine on board after 2 days of heavy rain, low pressure, and gale-force wind. Our clothes are drying in the wind and we can finally take the time to rest our bones, take in the sunshine and reflect on the past week at sea – the first week of a 2 months journey.
Already on our second day at sea, we were facing our first SW gale. As if Poseidon was greeting us with a cold hand kiss and a hard slap in the face, this turned out to be the first of four gales with or without a calm break in between, delaying our progress through the channel.
We spent 7 rough and beautiful days in the North Sea and the English channel struggling to make height fighting the tides and strong winds while getting to know the ship, the rhythms, the watches, the days, the nights and each other, transcending into the sailing way of life. A simple life where sleeping in a wet bunk doesn’t seem like much of a problem, where we get up only to put on out moist sailing clothes and sail through the night under the red over green lantern. A rhythm where our lives are all about making the ship work as a whole: trimming the sails to perfection, maintaining the ship and our own bodies, caring for each other, reading the clouds and the sky, hunting for the right winds and weather using all our senses to be at the right place at the right time with ship, crew, and weather in symbiosis.
With simple living conditions we enjoy life with the luxuries and wonders of nature:
Sailing on a fluorescent ocean where the deck lights up like a magic dance floor when the ship is heeling.
Watching shootings stars and a saw how a real meteorite exploded and burned up in the atmosphere during a morning watch (!), watching fluorescent dolphins play underwater in the dark night and enjoying the crisp waves and seabirds flying as we fly southbound for Santander.
This morning, Nordlys passed the Strait of Dover on her way to Santander. It took us 4 days to cross the North Sea from Den Helder, all full and by.
The south of England was waiting for us with a warm blue sky and a nice thermical wind which pushed our old lady up to 9 kts along the coast on a flat sea, beating up a modern fiberglass yacht on the way. The wind dropped in the afternoon and allowed us to do some maintenance on the ship. Tonight we’ll let Greenwich meridian behind us. We’ll be on ‘My Ocean’ soon, where the trade wind will blow us to Spain.
Wish you have good days like we have on board Fairtransport’s fleet, fellow readers. Greetings from a happy captain!
A group of international volunteers carries the restoration works despite harsh winter conditions, making it possible for Nordlys to sail again. In the last days of November, when mornings already called in with a frost, Nordlys returned from her final voyage of 2018.
The refit – a repair or re-equipping – was scheduled to start in January 2019. In comparison with her sister ship Tres Hombres, the sailing season of Nordlys is the other way around. While Tres Hombres follows the trade winds across the Atlantic in November, Nordlys sails through Spring to Autumn, delivering cargo at the European coast. With winter being dedicated to the repairs and preparations for the next sailing season.
Through January to April, there is a group of approximately 10 international volunteers at a time, working at the required tasks. Some people remain throughout the whole period. Others would come to give hand for a weekend, several days or even weeks, whatever their situation permits. The timing leaves this group of volunteers exposed to rather harsh conditions. Well, Netherlands is not Siberia, but still, winter can be cold and you feel it when working outside in the shipyard all day.
But don’t get me wrong. Despite the fog covered, wintery melancholic setting & rather smaller introvert event, the fun is not missing! There is laughter and jokes and stories being shared with rather interesting people, who came here from all walks of life, various countries and some of whom sailed the Seven Seas and travel the world. There is music and dancing at (and sometimes directly on) the Pirate Bar. And sometimes, but not always, there is the excellent Tres Hombres rum.
But don’t get me wrong again. Even with all the fun included, this is a serious business. All these people gathered here to work with a clear mission: To make Nordlys ship-shaped for the upcoming sailing season.
To those amateurs among us (me included): What does this actually means? What does it take to make a historic wooden vessel prepared for North Sea conditions? Jake Copperthite, experienced American boat builder, sailor and one of the refit supervisors provided me with the following list of tasks, which had been accomplished during the 2019 Nordlys refit. For part of the refit, Nordlys had been taken out of the water at Teerenstra Shipyard in Den Helder and the jobs that have been done included:
– identification and repairs of leaks
– replacement of planks that exceed their life span
– reinforcement of the steering gear unite
– overhauling of the spars & standing rigging
– renewal of covering board on the port side
– replacement of damaged deck and hull planks
– overhauling of the anchor gear – renovation of the galley
– re-caulking all problem areas –
– And of course, plenty of sanding, panting and all these jobs, that every ship needs among other tasks.
Jake explains further: “Some of these jobs sound simple, but they are in fact very complex. Exchanging a plank sounds like something you manage in the afternoon, but to exchange a hull plank, for example, that’s a job which takes around two weeks.”
And talking of traditional shipbuilding job’s complexity, we are touching another important point: The refit provides an absolutely unique educational opportunity for those who wish to learn traditional shipbuilding skills. Or for those who even just want to try. No matter their skills and experience, anyone can help with one task or the other. And those who wish to learn can do so from those who are masters of their trade.
You learn here in an informal, friendly setting, yet with great responsibility for the task, you took, whatever small. As this is not a training site, this is an actual 146 years old ship that will be, in a short while, sailing the Seas. And most likely with your friends or you on board.
When I worked on site, no matter how basic were the jobs I did, I couldn’t stop thinking: Here I’m. One from the line of all these people, some long gone, who’s hands had built and continuously repaired the ship. People, who made her to last more than one human lifetime. Who were they, these boat builders and sailors? What were their stories? Whom did they love? What were they dreaming of?
They are gone. That’s all gone, unknown to us. But Nordlys is still here, 146 years of a story written in planks and tar and steal. And Here I’m – a little part of this story, which hopefully will last much longer than my lifetime. An incredible experience that can hardly be found elsewhere.
Fair Winds Nordlys!
My heart dropped when Remi told us, due to swell at the Duoro river mouth, we would spend at least another 48 hours tacking around outside of Porto. I thought we would be extremely bored and things might start to get funky amongst the crew but boy was I wrong! The journey so far had been pretty rough through the Bay of Biscay with high winds and swell for almost a week, but we were out the other side and had a beautiful day becalmed followed by some nice chilled sailing the rest of the way to Porto. It was too easy, a perfect time to reach port for a nice glass of Porto and a hot shower but then I had almost forgotten perfect timing and easy are not often in Tres Hombres vocabulary (dubbed Tres Hombrish). I was crazy to think it could be dull on board that magical beast. In reality the two following days turned out to be some of the most exciting and educational sailing I have done so far.
We were tacking regularly, usually one or two per watch. Its perfect to keep warm and keeps the crew from falling asleep during night watch. On any other day the goal is to harness the elements to propel the boat to our destination at the maximum speed possible without breaking anything. But this is thrown out the porthole when you don’t want to go anywhere. Sometimes autopilot took over the brain and yells we’re heard from Duarte in the chart house, “Laura! You’re going too fast!”. It was a new way of thinking. No one teaches you how to sail terribly at sailing school!
After tacking away from the coast we hove to and drifted back. This manoeuvre has plenty of applications but is usually for heavy weather when you need to get some rest. We braced around the topsail so it was working in reverse, kept the rest in the normal direction and threw the helm hard into the wind so the boat is working against itself and drifts. The trick is to get the right amount of sails to counter balance each other.
Then we were treated to one of the best sleeps on board so far. The boat pauses itself and moves gently with the waves. Luckily too since we were in for a pretty hectic watch next.
Within the first hour after change of watch we were treated to a hail storm with pellets of ice hurled at the deck the size of marbles then once that had calmed down the beginnings of a wet willy (water spout or tiny tornado over water which starts to suck the water up) was spotted off the starboard beam. Our cool calm collected captain could be seen by the cook sipping his cuppa coffee regarding the scene and decided it was the right time to quit drifting and get back to sailing. For the rest of the watch we were sailing from squall to squall constantly keeping a keen eye on the clouds because when they approached it often meant a sharp wind change, sometimes 40 or 50 degrees in an instant. We had a couple of intentional tacks and one accidental but we got through it all with no incident.
After these days of intensive sail training we were ready for anything. I was so proud of what came next. In normal Tres Hombres style plans changed again and we were going back where we came from under a northerly heading, aiming for the small town of Baiona, Galicia. We sailed into the anchorage in a small bay, it was delightful to have the full crew on deck for once and it ran like a well oiled machine. I will never forget the feeling, every person on board in position ready for commands sharp as anything and completely silent as we passed the mountains and rocky islands, the lights of town looking like warm little safe havens. What a buzz to get to shore and have a beer with such a wonderful crew. So proud of these crazy cats. Everyday brings us many magic moments and this roller coaster has only just begun!
Till the next time
Biscay was awesomely rough, the hurricane in the north Atlantic made his presence definitely felt by our nutshell. How deep those oceanic valleys and how small we are! Wild waters, crowded of sea life… Dolphins and whales, one even appearing at few meters from our stern. What a bless to see such creatures free in their own environment.
This crossing was Unforgettable and exciting, powerful and challenging, true sailing and olympic extreme cooking on the rolling stove of mygalley. Best learning school for a ship cook!
Now, after three days of tacking back and forward in front of Porto, our destination and port of cargo operations,dreaming of hot shower and sunny terraces with port wine, the harbour master finally denied the possibility to get into the Douro river and rest by its shore. We are so obliged to change plans and in order to escape from a SW gale, we hoist full sails and fly over the waves at 8knots to go back to Galicia and anchor in Baiona under a beautiful full moon…
We’ll stay there few days,show up if you’re in Northern Spain!
#doyouwannamakeGodslaugh? Tell them about your plans or sail engineless!
Giulia Cosi, Cook
I caught it again this year, as we slipped our mooring in Willemsoord, Den Helder, and headed out for Den Helder lock and the open sea; that leaving feeling. It must be similar to what seafarers felt in the old days, pre-globalization and pre-internet, when leaving for an eight month’s voyage meant likely no news from home for the whole trip, no contact with the familiar ways and people and places. It’s like the wind over the ocean, that feeling, bracing and exhilerating and a little bit frightening. Awe-inspiring. It’s knowing that you don’t know what’s about to happen, but knowing that you’ll do your best to face it bravely. It’s like the moment before you jump from a high place into water. You take your courage as you find it and leap with all your heart, because a half-hearted leap is only a stumble.
Unlike those old sailors, I will have news from my friends and family for the next eight months, I will exchange emails and pictures and phone calls, keep up with what’s going on in my hometown, what changes and what remains the same. But I have cast off my lines from my land life, and headed out into the unknown, under bright stars and sun, through foggy days and rain-filled nights. I go with my whole heart, I hope, and all my courage, and whatever new horizon tomorrow brings I will keep my eyes as open as I can to see it. The lines are off. The ship is free. Who can say what will happen next?
Sail along with the Tres Hombres from rum destination to rum destination. Taste the delicious Tres Hombres Rum before it arrives in Europe next summer.
Cross the ocean and enjoy the wildlife of the Atlantic Ocean.
Jump into this great adventure … a once in a lifetime experience!
Sign on: 16th of December in Santa Cruz de la Palma to Barbados, 2460nm. Only two spots available for the quick decision makers.
For more info: https://fairtransport.eu/sail-along/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org
I have been sailing since before I can remember. When I was a little boy I grew up with my brother and my parents on a small wooden sloop sailing off the coasts of Africa, South America and the Caribbean sea. I did many other things in my life since then but I continued sailing on small leisure sailboats, mostly in the French Brittany and the English Channel.
Six years ago, the 10th of November 2012, I stepped on board Tres Hombres for the first time. It was in Cascais, near Lisbon in Portugal. I was signing on as a Trainee for a three month voyage that would bring me to the Island of Barbados, from where I was going to hitchhike boats to South America and start backpacking towards the pacific. I was looking for something to do with my life that would be more exciting and useful than sitting behind that keyboard for the rest of my career.
By the time we arrived in Barbados, I was feeling more useful on the ship than I had ever felt anywhere on land and my plan to go backpacking suddenly turned into sailing Tres Hombres back across the Ocean and bring her home with her belly full of rum and cacao.
Six years later, after more than 45 000 nautical miles at sea, 10 Ocean crossings and so many encounters, It is time for us to set sails one more time for another long voyage over the Ocean to the Caribbean and back. This time I will be the Captain of the proud ship and a wonderful crew of salty and hungry sailors.
Captain of the Tres Hombres.
Sail aboard our ships Nordlys or Tres Hombres as a trainee. Aboard you will learn all aspects of sailing cargo while you gain the necessary sea miles to start the journey towards becoming a professional master mariner. Learn more: https://fairtransport.eu/sail-along/ or email email@example.com for questions.