From trainee to captain of the Tres Hombres

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.

Remi Lavergne,
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: http://fairtransport.eu/sail-along/ or email booking@fairtransport.nl for questions.

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

Is your mind filled with the glorious majesty of the white winged masts of the Age of Sail? Or are you longing to master the arts of the traditional seaman? Then sign on, sailing on a cargo vessel is a unique way to discover the world and learn the art of real square rig seamansship. Price varies by voyage. The longer you sign on for, the less you pay per day. Visit http://fairtransport.eu/sail-along/ for the latest schedule and pricing or email booking@fairtransport.nl
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Tres Hombres blog: Signing on, for working sail

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 booking@fairtransport.nl, welcome on board, and bon voyage!

Truly yours,

Capt. Jorne Langelaan

Tres Hombres blog: Sailing is our only option!

Or the inconvenient truth, about the consequences of not switching back to world transport, by Sail power alone?
(Written from the sea without reference material about statistics, so details might differ slightly from the actual situation, however the general facts stay intact).

90% of the day to day products we use in the Western world (USA, Europe etcetera) have been imported, mostly over sea. We are not only talking about exotic goods, like coffee, tea and spices, but we are talking about basic products like: grain, beans, wood, fuel and off course our consumer goods: the endless mountain of electrical apparatus, plastic, clothes and everything you can think of.

The reason it is this way, is that shipping has become so efficient, with economics of scale, containerization and online logistic systems, that shipping costs are virtually eliminated. This makes it possible for every entrepreneur, to source the countries of the earth for the cheapest and least regulated production facilities. By doing this the costs of products drop, below any local producer, and make it more economically feasible to prefer paying a cheaper price for the same product, which has been produced abroad. The local product will soon be priced out of the market and its industry will cease to exist. This whole system, is a perfect storm of the combined forces of capitalistic and global economy. With as a result, the lowest possible price, and the highest possible consumption.

I have not talked about the emissions of these 100.000 motor ships of the world yet. And although 16 of the biggest motor ships emit as much sulfur as all cars of the world together. And the shipping emissions are deemed responsible for, annually, 50.000 deaths of cancer and other illnesses. The real problem of this system of logistics is not that, but the unbelievable rise of consumerism and the demise of sustainable self sufficient local economies, and all damage to our ecosystems, climate and social relationships it brings along.

The re-introduction of sail power, and the abolition of transport by mechanical means, would mean the costs of shipping would become fair again, not only fair for the current generation of consumers, but fair for the unborn, hopefully, many generations to come. It would mean an unbelievable revolution in transport, and actually the only morally responsible course of development in this field. It would give human (and non-human) societies a change to be not wiped out by ecological disaster, caused by our own poisonous economical system. And yes, it would mean a re-awakening, most people would not be ready for…

Truly yours,
Capt. Jorne Langelaan

P.S. Entrepreneurs are welcomed to take their responsibility, and ship their cargoes with Fairtransport. For more information sent an email to shipping@fairtransport.nl

Tres Hombres blog: Hard tack, limejuice and old horse

The cook on board a sailing vessel, has the most important job. She is the one keeping the crew in great shape, be it physically or emotionally. By storing, keeping, cooking, timing and serving the right quality and quantities of food. Providing a warm and welcoming place of refuge in the galley. And having a listening ear, to every crew members: stories, doubts, fears and dreams.

Back in the days, when sailing ships ruled the waves, the food on ships was very distinctive. Instead of bread there was “hard tack”, a biscuit made of white flower a pinch of salt and water, double or triple baked and kept in tins, to be edible indefinitely. But still… one could recognize a sailorman by his manners, of constantly knocking with his biscuit on the table, this would be to knock out the weevils. When it became clear that scurvy could be prevented by vitamin C, British shipowner’s would start supplying a lime a day to all their crews. From this the nickname, limejuicer or limey, for the British got established. Porridge, peas, sauerkraut, salted fish, salted meat and canned meat or “old horse” where common foods on the deepsea vessels.

Even nowadays, we choose to safe energy, and not have a refrigerator on board. Yet, every night, our deckhands, bake fresh bread. And our cook has brought it to an art, to supply us with the nicest food three times, or more often, a day. As an example this morning she made us bacon, eggs and toast, during coffee time home baked cookies, and with lunch a nice soup with bread and cheese. Every day meals are different. For breakfast: porridge with fruit, pancakes, or fish with rice. For lunch: a salad, soup, or pasta. At night a wide variety of dinners like: vegetable pie, curry, chick peas or another delicacy. Tonight, because of the Sunday, we will even have a glass of wine. Being the cook on board is not only the most important job, it is also the hardest. Ever tried to prepare a perfect meal, for 15 people, during a continuous earthquake, and without having a tap with running water, and that 3 times a day, for over half a year in a row? Judith thank you very much!

Truly yours,
Capt. Jorne Langelaan

The need for wine from Rioja and the Bordeaux region sends our good ship Tres Hombres on a voyage in June and July from Amsterdam to Royan, Douarnenez and back this summer.
If you want to experience a coastal cargo voyage on a square rigger without engine with captain Andreas Lackner, then come and join in!
Landlubbers will get sea legs, and old salts wil get a glimpse of how it was in the good days and how it will be!
For more info http://fairtransport.eu/sail-along/ or email booking@fairtransport.nl

Tres Hombres blog: The leaving of Horta

Yesterday it was all hands making the ship ready for sea again. Filling up the tanks with drinking water, lashing all gear, studying the weather, doing the last safety drills. Taking in stores and food, for 15 persons, for the entire month, and a bit more to be sure. Taking our last shower, writing the last postcard and saying goodbye to our old and new made friends. Finally we got the entire crew together for a muster, and I explained the expected weather and the expected maneuver to leave the harbor.

This morning, as it turned out, the entire situation, with the wind, was different. Meaning the whole maneuver turned out different, really for the better. I had expected we would have needed to be towed free of a leequay for a bit, make sail, and tack out of the harbor. Kind of in a similar way as I remembered having left the last time (in 2012). This meant something like 8 times of tacking in close quarters. But really, when coming on deck, there was no wind at all. But after breakfast, when all our sailors went aloft to unfurl the sails, and I was gonna go ashore to enquire about the tugboat. A very slight favorable breeze appeared.

We only needed a short time to think things through, and I decided to forget about the tugboat. The rigging of the towrope was canceled. And we set all squaresails, while still alongside. Now we just needed a little bracing, casting off of the lines, and we started moving, very slowly, in the direction of the breakwater. A crowd had been gathered ashore and with shouts, waving of goodbyes, ships horns and even a canonshot, graciously Tres Hombres made her way out. Before leaving the harbor all sails where set, and while jibing around the pierhead, we blasted our “Norwegian fog horn” as a final greet…

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 Rayon, Douarnenez and back this summer.
If you want to experience a coastal cargo voyage on a square rigger without engine with captain Andreas Lackner, then come and join in!
Landlubbers will get sea legs, and old salts wil get a glimpse of how it was in the good days and how it will be!
For more info http://fairtransport.eu/sail-along/ or email booking@fairtransport.nl

Truly yours,
Capt. Jorne Langelaan

Tres Hombres blog: A sailing ship port

After a three weeks ocean crossing it is always nice to sail into port. Especially when this port is Horta, on the island of Fayal, of the Azores archipel. This port is one of the few ports in the world, which is still totally orientated towards sailing vessels. And even nicer, more and more, sailing cargo vessels are visiting this port again. The week before we where here, it was the famous cargo schooner Avontuur, for a short visit. Then we came in, and a few days later it is the schooner Gallant, who recently changed owners and was converted for sail cargo purposes. I still have to meet her Captain and owners, but am very excited to have more fellow cargo sailors in port.

Radio interview with captain Jorne Langelaan (start halfway): Radio Azores

To return to the port of Horta itself, this place breaths the old traditions of the squarerigged era, and traditional sealore of whaling and fishing. It is the only port I know of, still with a small tugboat, offered free of charge, to assist sailing vessels with their manouvring in. There is the famous Peter Sport bar, where all sailors who crossed the ocean and ended up on Fayal, have raised the glass to celebrate their arrival. Above this bar, there is the room with the most amazing Scrimshaw artwork. The ancient art of carving and enscribing, with a sail needle, the bones and teeth of Whales. Then there is the people, an amazing friendly community awaits the ships coming in. Farmers, fishermen, shopkeepers, officials, agents and bystanders are all as welcoming and friendly as you dream off, when spotting the first sight of land. Especially Paula, and her friends, our longstanding and nicely (un)”official” agent, is helping the ship and crew, with sourcing cargo, stores, excursions, transport etcetera, in an amazing way.

And not to forget the practical reasons of stopping here. We land a fine cargo of rum here. Re-provision the ship with the best canned fish, wines and locally grown tea, fruit and vegetables. And we have a minor crew change, and have the staying crew stretch their legs, to make ready for the final run, back to Europe.

Truly yours,
Capt. Jorne Langelaan

Tres Hombres blog: Preparing for landfall

After a voyage of 3 weeks across the North Atlantic ocean, the entire crew is excited to make landfall again. In the galley we fantasize about: fresh fruit, butter, raw milk and yoghurt. Certain deckhands already arranged, to not have dinner on board tomorrow, because of their desire for a big steak in cafe Sport. On deck we dream about a hot shower, with a clean, soft and dry towel, or a full night of rest, without being waken up halfway, to steer the ship trough a dark night. And of course their is talk of the smell of trees and flowers, or an uninterrupted walk, over firm soil, for more than 25 meters.

The officers are busy calculating the estimated time of arrival, the local tides and currents. Or are walking the decks trimming sails, to get that extra half a knot out of the ship. I made contact with our agent in Horta, Paula, to enquire about the possible quay space and towing assistance. During our two o clock muster, I told something about the history of the Azores, about the coming week in port, and what to expect, with port watches, maintenance, loading, discharging, new crew arriving and possible excursions. Most importantly, we talked about the harbor maneuver, to enter Horta, and what is expected from everybody on which stations.

In the afternoon the Starboard side watch is employed with getting the anchor chains on deck, flaking the desired amount in front of our windlass, and connecting them to the anchors. Horta here we come, land ahoy, for tomorrow morning!

Truly yours,
Capt. Jorne Langelaan

Tres Hombres blog: A stormy night

After making use of the Westerlies, for a few days, with nice daily and hourly speeds. A falling glass of the barometer. And swells building to five meter heights. It was bound to happen, that the faster moving depression would overtake us. With this, the tail of the depression: a cold front, with its furious squalls, occasional rain, and thunder, would present itself.

I woke up just after midnight, and felt the movements of the ship in my bunk. Not the flexible movement of the ship working herself speedily up and down the swells. No, this was a different movement, a movement of the ship on one ear not going over the swells but working violently through them, hanging on a steady angle without the flexibility of righting herself. I decided to stretch my legs, and take into account how my crew on deck was faring. Passing the chartroom a quick look in the logbook revealed that: the main topmast staysails had been doused, and the fore course, which had been only set again, a few hours before, was clewed and bunted up in her gear. On deck, the second mate was on the wheel working laboriously to keep the ship on course. Topsail, topgallant, foretopmast staysail, innerjib, mainstaysail and reefed main where still set. It was clear that we where in the middle of a coldfront. We had a chat, about the weather, how the ship was doing, and how the steering was. He had seen lightning flashes before, and squalls later and following each other. I relieved him at the wheel for a bit, and decided to hold off in the squalls. Also I invited the two deckhands, each for a while on the wheel, while I was carefully watching their steering technique, here and there giving a small comment or order.

The second mate took the wheel again, after having had a bite in the galley. I took a stroll over the decks. Shining with my flashlight, checking all the different sails. Their sheets, tight as a violin string. Their bellies filled with gusts of up to 8 Beaufort. In the meantime trying to escape from the violent bashing of the spray coming over the bows, or the knee deep of green water collecting under or over the lee pinrails. I decided it was time to reduce some sail, instead of dousing the mainsail I choose the mainstaysail, for ease of handling and to keep a bit more balance in the ship, if we wanted to head up more. Back on the poopdeck, I took the wheel, and ordered the mainstaysail down. When steering too close to the wind, we where clipping more through than over the large swells, and at times I was reading 11.5 knots on the log. In the squalls the crests of the waves where breaking, and entire valleys of water in between them, turned into streaks of white foam. There was nothing else to do here, then, bearing off and keeping the ship before the wind reducing stress, by subtracting our speed from the windspeed as we went. This dance, of wind, waves and ship continued for a few hours, until the new and fresh watch came on deck, and a slight rising of the barometer became obvious. I retreated to lay down for a bit in the chartroom. After a while, when I realized the worst was over, I wished the watch on deck a good night and went down below.

Now, a few hours later, the sun is climbing, we shook out the reef, and all sails are set again. Bound for Horta, we are making use of any wind, which is given to us…

Truly yours,
Capt. Jorne Langelaan

Tres Hombres blog: The wind, waves, stars, sun and the moon

There is something funny about the question: “when do we leave port, when do we set sail?” which most new crewmembers ask. We, the deckhands, tell them: “Wednesday or Thursday”. Then Thursday awakens and we are not ready, or the cargo did not arrive. Which in the Caribbean countries is quite normal. Tranquilo, you know. So then the new crewmember asks:”when do we leave port, when do we set sail?”. “Tomorrow the cargo will arrive, tomorrow we will go”. Tomorrow awakens, cargo planned at 10 in the morning, 10 in the morning, no cargo. They ask: “Where is the cargo” we answer “tranquilo you know”. Now the evening, no cargo, but beer and rum. The new crewmember asks: “When will we leave?” The drunken sailor smiles and tells him how it is: “We leave when the last mooring rope is cast off from the quay”. Confused they look at me, nothing more to say.

Now we are at sea, the mighty Atlantic ocean, with the waves, stars, sun and the moon. The greenhorn, is amazed by it all. Not in their wildest dreams could they imagine, its power and beauty. We jokingly make a bet, which day we will arrive, it is just a gamble for the crew. Nobody can tell what the wind, waves, stars, sun and the moon have in store for us. A week goes by, two weeks go by, then the new crewmember asks the deckhand the question: “When will we be there?”. “Next Thursday or Friday” I answer. One or two days go by, a few hours of no wind and a flat ocean, time is ticking away. “When will we be there?”. “Friday I am sure, beers and portwine in the bar, I will pay” I tell them with a smile.

Now, Monday awakens, “when will we be there?”. I look at him and say with a smile on my face: “The wind does what the wind wants, nobody can predict the waves, stars, sun and the moon. We will be there when the first mooring line hits the bollard”…

Greetings,
Deckhand, Daniel Jim Eijnthoven,

P.S. of the Captain. I totally see where this story is based upon, and can agree with the message, within its context. On the other hand, I also would like to explain that we are constantly making estimations about what time the ship arrives. And really amongst our Fairtransport shipping department and my fellow Captains we became quite skilled in estimating our voyages. I reckon, the past 10 years in about 90% of the cases the sailing schedule has been not more then 10% off.