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.
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!
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!
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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for questions.
30 Years ago we made our way to France. We were looking for wineries that gave as much importance to craft and organic farming as we did. Because good wine is created in our eyes with nature, not against nature. Luckily we found what we were looking for, so on our trip home we had a small selection of French wine in our luggage. So it happened that in 1988 we founded a small wine trade called “VivoLoVin” in Bremen.
Three decades later, the small wine trade has become a versatile wine importer and wholesale specialist for organic wines, and the small assortment has become one with 500 wines from all over Europe.
VivoLoVin, the Quinta do Romeu winery (since 1874 in the Douro Valley) and Fairtransport, a company that transports goods across the oceans with zero-emission sailing ships, have joined forces for the project “Westerlies – sailed Wein”.
Fairtransport is committed to emission-free transport. Andreas Lackner, one of the three founders, describes their idea as follows: “For 5,000 years merchandise was transported by sailing ships and then in the 19th century the engine was invented and thwarted the whole concept of sailing ship traffic. We wanted to use the environmentally friendly effect of transporting goods only with wind power without oil-powered engines. All we had to do was find a way to make it profitable again. ”
Most of the freights are organic or naturally produced, traditionally produced and / or fairly produced – such as olive oil, wine and rum from small craft businesses. Emission-free transport makes sense and is consistent. In addition, Fairtransport aims to raise awareness of sustainable goods traffic, especially in the modern shipping industry.
We have been working closely together with João Menéres, the winemaker of Quinta do Romeu, since 2015.
We already implemented the “sailed Wine” project in 2017.
The idea of Fair Transport is supported by Vivolovin and the Quinta do Romeu. Why? VivoLoVin stands for: sustainable and ecologically produced wines, fair and partnership-based trade relations with winemakers. Quinta do Romeu, in turn, operates a certified organic farm. The Menéres family has been working organic since 1997, has been fully certified since 2000 and and since 2012 in biodynamic farming. In addition to the deliberate renunciation of ‘chemical aids’ João Menéres follows a holistic, social and fair idea in dealing with inside and outside the company.
With our project “Westerlies – sailed Wine” we transport again on an old route wine emission-free to Bremen. Quinta Do Romeu and VivoLoVin want to set an example for sustainable goods Trading. A return to old transport routes and the fact that the Hanseatic city of Bremen has been a traditional wine capital for many centuries.
How did this idea of working with Fairtransport come together? „I got to Fairtransport making friends, which is the best way to get anywhere.First I met Anton Mann (wine importer and mentor of the project Port O’Bristol) through a winemaker and good friend who was my table neighbor at a natural wine tasting in Porto.
Anton, his wife Lela and I became good friends in the meanwhile. They have a very free spirit and are very active members of the Sail Cargo Alliance. Their moto is “MADE BY REBELS, SHIPPED BY PIRATES, DRUNK BY HEROES”, although we all know Fairtransport are the exact opposite of pirates I guess many “land people” imagines them having a kind of “piratyish” atmosphere on the sea and like to see themselves as the heroes in the end.
Anton was the first one who asked me to sail my products and shortly after I was loading my first cargo of olive oil and wine to the Nordlys to go to Bristol.
The Nordlys and Tres Hombres (sister boat of Nordlys that sails across the Atlantic) are coming to Porto every year and that’s how I met first Captain Andreas Lackner and afterwards Captain Lammert Osinga, from the Nordlys. I started to hang out with Lammert and his crew when she was moored in Porto and a friendship has started from there. Lammert also came and stayed with us at Quinta do Romeu, experiencing in loco the flavors, human warmth and nature with his six senses.
I got contagious with the sailing spirit and, realizing how it is a real change, created the Westerlies to bring to the bottle wines that reflect this natural, wild and energetic character of the sea. We never sold a single bottle of Westerlies that didn’t go aboard a sailing boat.
It didn’t take me long to realize that I had to talk about this with VivoLoVin and Kai Schamar, who I knew to be a sailor himself, a hunter of characterful wines and very conscious of the impact of human behavior on the fragile balance of nature and the world’s sustainability.
The personal relationship and knowing and trusting well the others’ work, plays a very important role in this partnership with Fairtransport and VivoLoVin. It makes all the difference and, by getting back to basics, marks a departure from the rhythm dictated by trendsetters and high finance that is often followed by most modern production and trading activities.” João Menéres.
The arrival of the “sailed wine” is planned for the end of October. This year we not only ship red Westerlies, but also a small edition of white Westerlies, as well as olive oil in small bottles as well as in 3 l tins and Portwein Quinta do Trovisca. All wines and olive oil come from the Quinta do Romeu, are naturaly handcrafed and organically grown. The only product that does not come from the Quinta do Romeu is the Portwein. Of course, this product is made just as much under the biological aspects.
The goods are shipped with the “Nordlys”, the oldest cargo ship in the world to the “Gläserne Werft” of the Schiffergilde e.V. in the “Neuer Haven” to Bremerhaven. Westerlies are the prevailing winds blowing from the west in the the north of the Atlantic Ocean, the driving force for sailing ships on their way across the Atlantic to Europe. Even the “Nordlys”, without any engine aboard, relies on this wind power. The “Nordlys” and the sister ship the “Tres Hombres” are operated by the Dutch shipping company Fairtransport.
This year, we do not just want to transport more wine and olive oil, but we will transport the goods from Bremerhaven with the historic Weser ferry “Franzius” to Bremen and from there, so it is planned, with cargo bikes to individual retail customers and restaurateurs – Bikes will be also carrying the wines to our main warehouse at Bremen Neustadt.
By sea transport, the transport with the traditional Weserkahn and the use of cargo bikes in Bremen, we want to make Bremen, in a joint action with the various actors involved, Bremen’s trade, port and shipping history come alive. At the same time, the project is an exemplary reference to the risks and solutions of current challenges. As a port, logistics and trading city, Bremen was and is dependent on being able to react flexibly to any change. No matter if the environmental conditions change radically or if technical or regional and international coordinates change. The Weserkahn, Bremerhaven, the Lower Weser and the city Bremen ports represent this adaptability of Bremen. Wine and olive oil are traditional Bremian merchandise, which established the reputation of the city and continues to this day.
Thus, the project “sailed Wine” combines central themes of the Bremen harbor and commercial history with the current challenges of progressive climate change and the necessary reorientation of urban logistics and mobility concepts.
When you choose to do business with Fairtransport Shipping Company, you are not just moving your cargo; you are investing in the idea of clean shipping and you are investing in the future and yourself. Shipping with Fairtransport reduces your carbon emissions during transportation by 90%. Move your cargo today! Learn more: https://fairtransport.eu/shipping/ or email email@example.com
While we are sailing close hauled in the English Channel, making a nice course in East North Easterly direction, my thoughts wander off again to the early history of our fine vessel, “Tres Hombres”. In an earlier weblog, I wrote already something about her former life as a navy ship (of the KFK type), for the German Kriegs Marine. And afterwards her transition to a fishing vessel operating from Kiel. Now a bit more about how the story continues:
She used to fish for years, under the name of “Seeadler” in the Baltic, until somewhere in the seventies, she must have became to small or run down, to be profitable. Or maybe there was some European program in place to transfer her fishing quota, and she was, together with many other ships, laid up, in Kiel. This was when an Irish shipowner or businessman, was looking for a new vessel to continue and establish a passenger and cargo line off the West coast of Ireland, between the mainland and the Aran islands. For a few years she brought farmers, townfolk, and tourists, livestock, peat, building materials and drystores to and from the Aran Islands. Then she followed the same fate as she had met previously, and was replaced by a larger vessel to be laid up somewhere in the corner of a rural fishing port. This is where she was found, in 1984, by two Dutch students. They fell in love with her lines, and first dreamed about restoring her to a sailing vessel.
So it comes, somewhere halfway the eighties, the “Tres hombres”, back then still under her Irish name “Baidin”, which means: small blue boat, was towed by a Dutch fisherman to the Netherlands. Towed, because her original engine had been damaged past repair, due to the vessel being partly sunk in harbor, because the pumps must not have been looked after properly. Years later when, we where busy refitting, this fisherman even came by, to tell us the stories about this towing trip. And even then, he explained how beautifully and effortlessly the “Baidin”, while being towed, was going through waves and water. After the ship had arrived in the Netherlands, first a period of rigorous breaking began. The wheelhouse, the accommodation, the spray hood and foredeck, where demolished. From there on refitting started: several steel bulkheads and steel hatches where placed, deck planks and some hull planks, where renewed and a new modern system of caulking was introduced. The old broken engine had to go, and was replaced by an even older, but perfectly sound “Hundested” two cylinder air started engine. The two new owners, invested a huge amount of work, money and love in the ship. First they docked her for years in the museum harbor in Rotterdam, then they moved her to a small harbor in Delft. Here I first saw her, when growing up, and would secretly, together with my father, peak under her tent and dream about sailing a ship like that…
In her 75 years of life, Tres Hombres, has had many different occupations. Starting as a navy vessel for the German Kriegsmarine, being used a a fishing vessel, a package and passenger ferry in Ireland, being laid up at several occasions, and finally becoming an ambassador for the revival of the sailing cargo industry.
Seeadler, was her name when still under German registry. I can not recall if she was built under this name, but what I do know is that her keel was laid in 1943, somewhere in a Northern German shipyard. She was part of a program of the creation of a fleet of KFK”s, about 800 or 900 ships of this type where built. In two or three different diversities of design. The original KFK prototype was designed by an Austrian firm in the thirties. They took a series of hull types of Baltic fishing vessels, assumable sailing vessel hulls, and did one of the first tank tests with them. Through combining these tests, they where able to design a hull with a very small resistance through the water. Great seakeeping capabilities. And the advantage of being able to be effectively maneuvered and propelled, with the smallest amount of propulsion power.
The abbreviation of KFK stands for Kriegs Fischerei Kutter, meaning a vessel designed to be used as a patrol or small army vessel. With the added advantage of the possibility of being utilized as a fishing vessel, after her war duties would be fulfilled. For what exact missions our Tres Hombres served, will probably never be revealed. The story does go, that, after the second world war, she helped to clear the Baltic of mines. And, that during this operation, she even sunk in the Oslo fjord. What we know for sure, is that she picked up her peaceful intentions a few years after the war, and started a fishing career from the port of Kiel.
Till now we took down the main mast, we cut a big hole in the deck to remove the tanks in the officers/ library compartment. We dismantled the chartroom, the lazarette storage, the bosuns locker, the captains cabin, the library and the officers cabins, the dry store, the forepeak and some of the f’ocsle. There is also a nicely organised workshop container!
We also treated the whole hull from the insideand needle scaled all frames from the library aft.
Tomorrow we will start painting them. The tanks in the library are being rebuild and the black water tank modified.
The main mast chainplates are removed and some of the frames underneath replaced.
Outside we are changing around 20 planks and a third of the ship is already recaulked.
This is only possible because of our amazing volunteers from all over the world. I think the one travelled furthest is our Mexican dentist! Anyways, no differences made – literally everybody is doing all they can do and they invest all their energy in this lovely barge. Thank you!!
If you want to learn something new, if you want to improve your skills, if you have been a caulking mallet yourself for years, if you are any type of crafts(wo)man, if you are eager to help and knock a heavy mallet on your already sore knuckles, posh things up or play the flute to keep the spirits up or if you “just” want to help in Den Helder, Netherlands – please contact firstname.lastname@example.org Learn more: https://fairtransport.eu/tres-hombres-refit-2018-come-and-join/
Sailing cargo with the Nordlys.
A happy crew on a happy ship.
We sail from the Netherlands to Portugal and England,
from France to Germany and Denmark.
Sometimes storm, sometimes calm, sometimes sun, sometimes rain.
“Une grande ballet” on the oceans waves.
The flow of air which makes us move.
As we are dancing away from and towards the land.
The sun and stars are shining above us in the sky.
As we dance this handcrafted wooden ship,
The natural wines, olive oil and flowers, are dancing with us overseas.
Products from the earth, natural grown and cared with love.
“Une grande ballet” of quality and taste.
As we farm the land, as we sail the ship.
Producers, transporters and consumers meet.
We are dancing the melodies of life,
during this precious time here on earth.
Thriving like a grapevine, an olive tree or a flower of life.
The planet earth is meant to thrive.
Let us follow her tunes and dance her melody,
and she will be prosperous for every soul.