My name is Barry Macdonald and I am a documentary photographer from London. I joined the Nordlys in Blankenberge, Belgium where she was unloading wine and olive oil from Portugal to make a photo essay about her work.
The crew of 8 consisted of their Dutch Captain Lammert, First Mate (Belgium), Cook (Belgium), 3 Deckhands (2 French, 1 Belgium) 1 passenger (A lovely lady from Belgium who wanted an adventurous holiday, so had paid to sail for 12 days) and myself. Everyone is bi or tri lingual and English is the common language of the ship. 9 is the maximum and 7 is the minimum crew to sail.
We had to wait an extra day for a storm to pass and then were pulled out at 14:00 by the local rescue boat, tug boats are hard to find when every sailing ship has an engine to come in and out with. Leaving the harbour is the time of most action, with all hands on deck, the sails need to go up in the right order, at the right time, so we sail straight past the dangerous shallow sand banks. When a rope or a sail is stuck there is a quick sharp dialogue between Captain and crew, always factual and to the point, and never once with any temper and then fast action to form a resolution.
The Captain and First Mate are in charge of the two watches. We work 6 hour shifts in the day and 4 hours at night. So it’s 08:00-14:00; 14:00-20:00; 20:00-24:00; 24:00-04:00; 04:00-08:00. Each watch is therefore woken up 5 times in 48 hours, (7:15, 13:15, 19:15, 23:45, 03:45). The cook is the only person excluded from the watch system, he has to cook the 3 meals a day to fuel the crew.
My first watch is at 20:00 so the captain sends us to bed at 18:00. The captain has his own cabin in the aft (back), the rest of us sleep in the fox hole in the bow (front) of the boat. A narrow ladder drops you into this small wonky triangle of 8 bunks. The space is dark and musty, a mixture of old socks and salty rain gear soaked into the wood. Your bunk provides you just enough space to sleep flat, and you have a small wooden chest for your clothes. Spare rope, the ships anchor chain and dry food all are stored here under the floor as well. When the ship is sailing your bunk is constantly moving with the bow cutting through the waves, sleeping below the waterline means there is a constant noise of the sea swirling around, it’s a bit like sleeping in a washing machine at first.
We are woken at 19:15 for dinner before the shift, a mist descends on the boat and we sail through the darkness of the Channel only being able to see about 150 feet away from the boat. We keep our eyes and ears open for any ships or buoys, your eyes play lots of tricks on you at first, I even thought I saw an iceberg at one point! A huge ship is sounding its fog horn at 2 minute intervals, but we can’t see it, the computer tells us our courses will not meet.
We wake the next watch at 23:45 and make tea and coffee for them, we swap watches by the wheel at the aft and Captain Lammert gives a status update, it’s always positive, no matter how much we have moved. My watch sleeps at 24:00 and is woken at 03:45. I still haven’t slept at this point because of the noisy fox hole, the wind is incredibly cold if you are not wearing enough of the appropriate layers. I cannot understand why the crew endures such hardship. It’s hard manual work for every rope, a total lack of privacy or free time while at sea, sleeping is hard in the fox hole, the toilet is in a small cupboard on the back of the boat, and hard shift patterns mean you are lucky to get 5 hours of sleep. Working the watches makes 2 days feel like 4 or 5.
The longer we sail I start to understand why these sailors endure these difficult conditions, for pay that is below what they could earn on engine powered cargo ships, for much less work. The power of the ship when all 5 of her sails are raised is a phenomenal experience, the sailors are tuned into the wind direction, the current and tides. As the wind changes they let the sails in or out to always harness as much power as possible, they all glance up occasionally checking the sails are full and taught. All of the people on board come from different backgrounds and have a wide spectrum of personalities, but they are all linked by a love of “real” sailing and a concern for the environment. The crew has to spend a lot of time together, and all rely on each other for their safety when they are alone in the middle of the ocean. It takes a flexible, unselfish and pleasant person to be a successful crew member.
We wake the cook at 06:30 to start breakfast and we wake the watch at 07:15, they eat and we swap watches on deck, then we eat breakfast and go to sleep. I sleep a few hours, but am ripped out of a dream at 13:15 for lunch. We eat, swap watches, they eat and sleep, I am finally getting used to the rhythm of the boat. The voyage was smooth with a good wind behind us so for the most part, they had little work to do apart from minor adjustments to the sails. At one point the Captain emerges from the navigation room with a big smile, and shouts across to the massive cargo ship half a mile off our port side, that we are doing 11 knots and nearly matching their 12. When we are going so fast the ship is heeling (leaning) with the power of the wind at what at first feels like an extreme angle, the waves slosh onto the deck every now and then. Sometimes when the wind drops and the current is against us we might drop to 4 knots, but everyone is always happy as long as we are moving forwards.
We are crossing the world’s busiest shipping lanes, and there are huge cargo ships and car ferries dotted all around. We see lots of floating plastic, even some birthday balloons that floated away and now bob between England and France forgotten about.
I do my first dog watch at 24:00, this is everyone’s least favourite, as there is no sunset or sunrise, just darkness, but tonight is fairly clear and we have an amazing starscape to wonder at. The captain stops referring to the compass and starts aiming for stars instead. Eventually we spot a lighthouse we need to pass, so the last hours of the watch are spent slowly edging towards this growing light. I knead the dough and put it in the oven to rise, the next watch will turn the oven on and there will be bread for breakfast, everyone has to help out with preparing tea & coffee and cleaning the galley. I gain a greater appreciation for the cook who hand pumps the freshwater and cooks amazing meals, while his kitchen lurches from side to side.
We sleep from 04:00 to 07:15 and when we wake up there is a beautiful sunrise and we are near the coast of England. We eat a quick breakfast and swap watches. The Captain informs the previous watch that they won’t be going to bed, but they will take the sails down once they have eaten. We drop the sails in reverse order, and slow down as the work boat comes out to meet us and tow us into Torquay harbour.
We dock easily with all hands on deck pulling the ship to the quay. I was questioning my decision to sail along 40 hours ago and now I am sad to be back on land and miss the feeling of the sails being filled with wind, and the boat moving. We are early so the unloading will happen on Monday, giving the crew some time off, but first the ropes and sails need to be packed carefully, the deck washed, bilges pumped and rescue suits aired and dried. We are finally finished sometime after 11:30, the previous watch has been working since 04:00, no one goes to bed and we share lunch and a bottle of wine to celebrate a safe voyage. Lots of people come by to the visit the Nordlys intrigued by the ship who is at least 100 years older than the other ships in the harbour, and amazed when they are told she is a working cargo ship.
After a weekend of odd jobs on the boat, exploring the coastal paths and catching up on sleep the unloading starts early on Monday morning, taking advantage of the high tide that leaves the boat closer to the quay. 20 tons of cargo are unloaded by hand or using the 2 masts to winch heavy barrels just like the sails are moved. We are met by 3 sets of traders who take wine, olive oil, olives and sea salt to be sold in the UK. The Captain is the face of the company working with the traders in person and visiting local organic farms to meet the owners and view the production methods.
The next day the Nordlys is made ready for sea and sets sail for Douarnenez in France to deliver and collect her next cargo.
We envision a world where instead of 90 % of our everyday purchases coming from across the world on ‘super-ships’, we will consume 90 % less. And of what we consume, more comes from our backyards, from our friends, neighbors, and our communities. And that what we cannot produce ourselves, those luxuries that make our everyday existence more enjoyable, items that bring our communities together, commodities like chocolate, coffee and rum, will be ethically sourced, and ethically shipped, creating a more fair and balanced global society.
Tres Hombres rounded the Atlantic for the tenth time, this means we also unloaded our cargo hold for the tenth time surrounded by friends, (former) crew, shareholders, cargo owners and (former) trainees. We are grateful that we have been able to share this special day with so many people. Thanks for everyone who make this possible and believe in us!
In the beginning it all looked ridiculously simple; we all one way or the other found out about this barge and clicked our way towards this voyage.
The mathematician may classify your first click as a hypercube of zero dimensions within the Euclidian space. It resembles an infinitely small spatial point without width, length, height, edges, faces, volume, area or cells.
Exploring the first dimension
Then things started to become a wee bit more serious; you remembered past trips or you were gathering all information you could get about sailing and you were making way towards the ship from all corners of the world.
If you stretch the zero-dimensional object into one direction, you create a one-dimensional shape.
The mathematician may classify this reach as a hypercube of the dimension 1 within the Euclidian space. A reach consists of an endless number of zerodimensional points which connect two end-points. It has infinitesimal width, height and no volume.
Exploring the second dimension
Sailing over the sea is closest to moving in a two dimensional space. There are no mountains to be possibly crossed or too much infrastructure to follow; you are just leaving the keelwater behind
If you stretch an onedimensional reach in another direction than the one it is leading at, you get a twodimensional rectangle, a hypercube of the dimension 2 in the Euclidian space. Rectangles have a length, a width, four corner-points, four edges and a space but no volume. If you widen the square to the infinite it covers the complete two-dimensional space.
Exploring the third dimension
Not only the ship moves over the sea but also the emotional ups and downs become more intense as you keep travelling and learning.
By moving a twodimensional square perpendicularly a threedimensinal cube is formed; a hypercube of the dimension 3 in the Euclidian space. As threedimensional object it has width, length, height, 8 cornerpoints, 12 sides, 6 areas and a cell. If you widen a cube infinitely, it will cover the whole threedimensional space
Exploring the fourth dimension
Travelling starts to change you, physically and emotionally; your old friends seem to become less open-minded than they were before because they do not have the same world-view you have gained within the last few months. You become brighter and shinier within yourself – some show it, some hide it
If you stretch a three-dimensional cube in a vertical direction you create a tesseract or a hypercube of the dimension 4. Tesseracts have 16 knots, 32 edges, 24 areas, 8 cubes and a four-dimensional cell; they have length, width and height plus an extra space-coordinate in the Euclidian space or as well a time-coordinate in the Minkowski-space (this space is necessary to measure changes in our universe which acts according to Einstein’s laws and is essential for example for GPS technology and air navigation)
If the tesseract expands infinitely it fills the complete four-dimensional space – a simplified explanation is all the space you reach when you travel perpendicularly away from the three-dimensional space
Exploring the n-th dimension
The more you travelled, the more you try to find answers to things and the more you see that this is impossible as everything is a matter of perspective. You start to accept yourself and others. You give up searching to a point and sigh and start your trip home.
If you stretch an n-dimensional hypercube in a new direction you get a (n+1)-dimensional hypercube. Which ‘space’ you want to use depends on your own intentions.
The three-dimensional space is great for carpenters, the Minkowski space for parts of astronomy but you can use any number of n to discuss about gravity or the age of the universe. String-theories need ten or eleven dimensions and quantum mechanics need an infinite space.
A 10-n-deceract hypercube has 1024 knots, 5120 edges, 11520 areas, 15360 cells, 13440 4-D-cells, 960 7-D-cells, 180 8-D-cells, 20 9-D-cells and one 10-D-cell.
I had to give you some last wise-arseing here, sorry the idea came from Christopher Many, Left beyond the horizon.
But, honest, keep all your edges, knots, areas and all your n-dimensional cells you discovered and found out on this trip!! Don’t let them take away from you ever, not from routine, not from accidents, not from partners. It is all yours and you deserve it.
I love you all and wish you all the best in the future; hope to stay in contact and to be sailing with you again!!
Hugs and kisses
“No matter how much I wanted all those things that I needed money to buy, there was some devilish current pushing me off in another direction — toward anarchy and poverty and craziness. That maddening delusion that a man can lead a decent life without hiring himself out as a Judas Goat.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary
For days now, we have been tacking up and down the English Channel, floating around with just steerage way in the Dover Straits, and discussing our options of reaching the North sea. True this last leg of our Atlantic round trip the winds have not been in our favor. But really, if that would be our biggest problem, I would accept it with open arms, and be a happy man! What really does bother me here, in reaching Europe, is the obvious work of what is called “civilization”. We encounter more and more floating plastic, lately especially balloons, perhaps blown away from a fair in one of the channel ports. The shipping lanes look more like a highway, with ship after ship steaming along, one even bigger than the previous. On days without wind, a thick layer of yellow smog surrounds our engineless vessel.
I believe since 2015 a rule was passed that these motor ships need to switch from HFO (Heavy Fuel Oil) to MDO (Marine Diesel Oil), whenever they are approaching the shores, or entering the North sea or the Baltic. This HFO consists of a heavy tarry substance, mixed with chemical waste from any industry who likes to get rid of it. To pump it towards the monstrous engines of these ships, it first needs to be heated to make it fluid. The MDO is like the Diesel we use in our cars, but then with 500 times as much polluting particles. Every time we pass one of these motor ships, a sickening smell of burning oil emissions covers our humble vessel. The crews of these motor ships, might not even smell it anymore or are looking for shelter in their air conditioned wheelhouse’s, accommodation towers and floating factories. Annually 60.000 of their colleagues, dockworker’s and other people living close to the shipping routes die of cancer and lung illnesses caused by the emissions of this shipping industry. Amongst these seaman, who passed away of cancer, at least three where good acquaintances of me…
Yet, what do we do? We look the other way, and accept this hellish game. So, we can buy balloons and plastic crap for our kids, the latest smart phone, cheap T-shirts, solar panels, paint, orange juice, and what more for stuff we do not really need. We accept, so the tar of our roads can be brought over sea. We whine about the price of a product brought by sail. We call and talk with the sailors on these ships, to ask them for our right of way. We are happy and thankful when they change course again. We are afraid to cross the TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme) in the wrong way, to slow down the wheel of commerce and might be fined, by some national coast guard department or agency. To hell with all those motor ships, to hell with the machine which plunders our wonderful planet, and makes them sail!
Capt. Jorne Langelaan
DATE CHANGE: Despite the hard work of our captain and crew the wind decided different. Tres Hombres won’t be in time in Amsterdam for unloading on Saturday the 2nd. We are happy to welcome you on the 9th of June 1PM
Ahoy friends! After seven months and several thousand miles Tres Hombres is almost back in Amsterdam.
Our engineless sailing cargo ship rounded the Atlantic for the 10th time. Her belly full with cacao beans, coffee and barrels of our finest Tres Hombres Rum.
On the 9th of June at 1PM we are going to unload our brigantine. Come and join us. Visit the ship, meet the captain and crew and of course taste the sailshipped Rum, Coffee and Chocolate!
Tres Hombres will be moored near the Aambeeldstraat 10 in Amsterdam Noord. If you have any questions please contact email@example.com
TRES HOMBRES RUM MASTERCLASS
You are invited to taste the flavours of the new world in a very special ambience, the cargo hold of the sailing ship Tres Hombres.
In the company of Captain Andreas Lackner, you will be entertained with stories of sailing the seas, while you enjoy the taste of the celebrated Tres Hombres Rum Collection and the ships cook spoils you with exotic delights.
Please reservate your spot by sending us an email with your 1) Name 2) phone number 3) how many people 4) and date to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The masterclass is from 20.00 – 22.00PM on 4th and 5th of June in Amsterdam Noord.
The night includes several exquisite rums and some bites at €39 p.p.
Check out this link for more information about Tres Hombres Rum: http://treshombres-rum.com/
LAST MINUTE CARGO EXPEDITION
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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, welcome on board, and bon voyage!
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 email@example.com
What? The coffee from where? Sailing to where? Okay, let’s start from the beginning…
More than 20 years ago, the environmental organization Serraniagua was born in the Colombian high-mountain village of El Cairo. Since then, it has worked tirelessly for the local rural, indigenous, Afro-Colombian and other-than-human communities. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean Serraniagua has a committed ally in the Austrian NGO, ‘Climate Alliance Vorarlberg’ which is collaborating with social and environmental organizations in Colombia’s Chocó region for more than two decades. In 2016 this partnership started to support the environmental and coffee-production programs of the local ‘Young Campesino Network’. The aim is to strengthen shade-coffee farmers who adopt low-impact, biodiversity-friendly farming methods and practices to mitigate the impact of climate change on the production and quality of their crops.
This transatlantic alliance is now trying to establish better income for Serraniagua’s COMAM (COMunidad AMbientalista) coffee producers by forging a direct connection between producers and consumers. Disconnected from speculations of the international stock exchange, they will pay a fair price including significant premiums for forest protection and organic production.
But for what all this effort for environmental issues if then the exportation would be operated by the same extremely polluting carrying business as any other coffee? Couldn’t this long-distance transport be driven mainly by renewable energies?
The idea sounded a little crazy at first. But today we can proudly confirm that the COMAM coffee, produced in the farms of Don Carlos and Don Cesar in El Cairo is crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the hold of an old sailing ship. Far from crazy, given the tremendous impact of international cargo shipping and aviation in terms of climate change and other toxic emissions, the sailing ship “Tres Hombres” from the Dutch company Fairtransport represents one of numerous positive alternatives to change practices and make the world a better place to live. And, in early June, when the COMAM coffee arrives in Europe, five volunteers will carry it from Holland to Austria by another wonderful, low-impact transportation method – cargo bicycles!
It’s a beautiful transatlantic labor between tireless actors working for a better future. Thanks to Fairtransport and the whole Tres Hombres crew for making this story come true!
You can follow the tour of COMAM coffee on Facebook and Twitter @Klimabohne on Tour
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 https://fairtransport.eu/sail-along/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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.