For more than 10 years Tres Hombres is carrying cocoa beans from the Dominican Republic back to Amsterdam.
On Thursday, the 24th of February the Tres crew went on a field trip to the backland of the island to meet the farmers of the cooperative Conacado. The inner backland is the agricultural centre of the country. On the 3 hours bus trip to San Francisco, we saw large plantations of rice and banana passing along the street. The cooperative is a local enterprise that hosts 10.000 cocoa farmers. The annual production is approximately 80.000 tons of cocoa. The small farms are up to a size of 20ha to avoid a monoculture in the area.
Cosme Guerrero, the operational manager, explained the mission of Conacado. Farmers get support from specialists to plant organic cocoa to the highest sustainability standards to increase the crop. They are also shareholders and decision-makers in the annual assembly. This mission results in a higher resilience and independence of the farmer. It also improves the price stability of cocoa and increases the social-political impact of these communities.
Cosme gave us a tour around the modern factory. They produce cocoa powder, oil and butter. In the labs, samples are tested to receive the quality requirement of the licenses. In the factory, the shell of the cocoa bean is separated to be used as a natural fertilizer. In another step, the beans got roasted and ground before becoming the final products. Everything is automated and controlled by computer programs. Solar power is covering 20% of the energy consumption of processing cocoa from 4,2-4,6 Mwh. At the end of our tour, we have got a delicious hot chocolate from their own production. In exchange, we brought some of the chocolate that gets produced in Amsterdam with their beans.
After a local meal with local food, we drove to the village Comedero to visit one of the plantations of organic cocoa. First, the cocoa beans are fermented for 6 days, the process of fermentation increases the flavour of the cocoa. Many customers, like the Europeans, prefer a stronger cacao flavour. On the site, there are greenhouses to dry the cocoa beans. For eight days the beans have to be dried and turned every 45 min with a wooden rake.
On the plantation, the cocoa trees there are up to 80 years old and grow happily in a humid warm climate. The harvest time is between February and May when the fruits are turning yellow and orange. All fruits are harvested by hand. Manuel, one of the farmers who was showing us the plantation emphasized there is a change due to the global warming effect in the last years. Longer dry periods and longer wet periods put the plants under stress with the result of a lower crop and shorter lifespan.
In the late afternoon, we went back by bus passing picturesque villages and landscapes and arrived at our ship at 8 pm. It was a very inspiring trip for all of us.
We gained a deeper understanding and relationship of the farming and processing of cocoa and we were impressed by the strong social mission of the cooperation Conacado. The next day we received 10 tons of cocoa beans in bags of 70kg for the Chocolate Makers in Amsterdam. Their fermented aroma will guide us on our way back to Amsterdam.
We are now 21 days at sea. First, we tacked our way out of the Caribbean sea through the Mona Passage.
Squalls and sailing full-on by through the first ocean waves. After we sailed close-hauled all the way to the hight of Bermuda. We did see the lights of the lighthouses in the distance and heard Bermuda Radio inform the ships around that if you wanted to visit the islands you had to go into quarantine. We have our own small happy healthy quarantine on board here, in the middle of the ocean.
We are surfing over the ocean and keeping our heads clear: instead of watching tv and internet, we are watching the waves and ocean skies.
Instead of buying toilet papers, we are trimming the sails to go as fast as possible forward: destination Horta.
Till a few days ago: Pedro from Peter Sports café informed that the harbour of Horta was open but crew is not allowed to go on land. We can get provisioning and water to the ship and berth on a special quarantine pier: that’s it. So no playing rock n roll and dancing on the tables in Peter Sport, no Tres Hombres painting 2020 or writing my name on the Captains painting by Jorne, no way of getting my mail from the special seaman post office.
And since we have favourable winds, for now, I decided we are going to do this crossing without stopping in the Acores. We have enough food/water and gas on board for another four weeks. We are now homebound: for crew and ship, it’s better to stay in the rhythm of the ocean and have Amsterdam as a destination. Boca Chica to Amsterdam around 5000 sea miles, it will be a crossing to remember.
From today on we will steer North to sail around high pressure in the Biscay and Acores and as soon we have the good hight, we will try to get west first to first reach Land’s End and Lizard Point, after we hope to have good winds to get through the channel and the North Sea. For now, we are enjoining the ocean, this time even without airplane pollution.
All the best from the Tres Hombres
Captain Wiebe Radstake
On the 16th of February in Santa Marta, Colombia I stepped into a whole new world called sailing. Everything was new to me. Living with people you don’t know on a boat, ropes, sails, climbing, sailing terms.
After preparing the boat we went to Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. In these 9 days, I was getting a little used to all this stuff. But new stuff came up.
Getting dressed and undressed on a constantly moving floor, seeing your bowl of food sliding on the table, walking like a drunk man on deck. Going to the top of the mast is also a whole different ballgame in the waves.
Getting used to the watches. Pulling ropes when it has to be done quickly. In Boca Chica, we prepared ourselves for a long journey, probably (we know for sure now) not stopping in Horta, Azores but directly going to Amsterdam, Holland. After loading the barrels of rum and putting bags of cacao in every corner of the boat and putting love into the boat that has to bring us safely to the other side of the ocean, we left. Again a whole new thing for me, the big relentless Atlantic Ocean. The first days were a good introduction to the ocean. Banging into the waves. Getting almost lifted up from the bed while sleeping. Seeing the 25-meter long mast and her sails moving like grass in the wind while the moon is shining on the sea, gave me such a happy feeling. The boat moving up and down in 5 meter big waves, made me feel like a child again. Climbing in top of the mast while getting swung around, makes me feel alive. Even doing dishes is an adventure. Taking care of all parts of the boat, makes you realize how much things are going on. Countless meters of ropes, blocks, sails and so much more. The good food, laughing, stories under the stars every night, living so close together with 13 other people, the whole idea of a cargo ship without an engine, the sunrises and sunsets, the fight against the elements all the time and the fact that you can’t go anywhere makes the Tres Hombres such a special place to be. After almost 3 weeks on the open sea, I think I understand why people saying this is a life-changing experience and I am more than happy to have this experience!
After 2 weeks of loading in the port of Andres, Boca Chica Dominican Republic it’s time to sail out again. Exactly 2 weeks ago we sailed into the harbour with sail and hand power only, A perfect manoeuvre around the reefs, into the sheltered old harbour, throwing mooring lines to the harbour workers and stop the ship just in time.
We loaded many tons of Cacao for Amsterdam all by hand, it has been long days! Around 150 bags of 70 kgs each were stacked on top of the sixteen barrels of rum we loaded earlier that day. It sounds like this is all doable in one day but the Dominican Republic is a place where nothing happens in a fast way. You need to talk to a lot of officials and see a lot of nice offices from the inside to get the cargo on board.
The cargo hold is completely filled up, we filled up the aft compartment and even built an additional floor over the bags of cacao. It’s a very big operation to get everything in a good place and use every space we could. Thanks for the team for working together these long days in the warmth of Dominican Republic.
During the loading process and the process of getting the ship ready to cross the ocean again, more and more information about some virus in Europe was coming to us. After getting all the information about closed harbours, borders etc. I made the final decision: we can’t wait here, we have to sail, we have to bring the ship back to Europe.
So tomorrow we will sail out of the harbour of Boca Chica with the early morning winds. From then on we don’t have internet, no phones etc. We are living in our own world, a world without rumours about viruses etc. I think the ocean is for my crew and our ship the best place to go to at this moment.
Our office onshore will send us updates about where we can and where we can’t go. In the logbook, we will write down Horta as our destination. We will see in a few weeks if we can go in there or not. Till that time it’s us and the sea and I wish you all the best on the land!
Captain Wiebe Radstake
Now, normally I would only echo these commands to help make sure everyone on position knew exactly what was happening and that the ship now was committed to the upcoming tack but now it happens to be me standing at that helm that is going Alee and I am not the echo but the instigator as I quickly spin the wheel.
“Ease the foresails!”
As the helm comes to a stop I turn to grab the Main sheet and haul away to bring the main into the middle to give more pressure onto the aft to make sure the bow will pass through the wind. A quick glance over my shoulder before I make fast to look at the flag, make fast and then that moment.
As everything goes quiet, Will she pass through with her big belly full of rum?…
There it is, that tell tail in her sails and that first gentle sway to the other bow.
“Let go and Haul!” “Tack the Fore Sails!” Spin the helm to the middle and I’m easing out the main on the new tack as on deck the deckhand starts calling out which brace is fast and for the opposite side to “Slack out make fast”.
Someone is already changing the topping lifts and the mid stays also get tacked by whoever is finished with his or her station first.
And as I correct my oversteer the Tres is slowly making speed again and setting herself into the motion of the sea and the energy level that comes with tacking a square rig sailing vessel with only 6 people is slowly easing off as her deck get squared.
Damn this is cool.
Two years ago I would have never thought I would be in this position on the helm in charge of my own watch steering the ship towards Boca Chica where this particular adventure of mine all started.
Two years ago when I first stepped onto this fine and taught vessel to sail with my friend Jorne as an interesting way to go back to Europe after having been hiking for quite some time in the wilderness of New Zealand and the States.
Two years ago something rekindled that what initially only had been intended as a fun way to revisit the old passion for traditional sailing with the man that had started that for me 20 years earlier.
Two awesome years of adventure, stories, beautiful pictures, new friends, amazing opportunities and new places to visit.
And I am very aware of the opportunities I have been given in this company, from volunteer to deckhand and from deckhand to mate (with a little extreme crash course re-education in the middle, Thank you Enkhuizen :])
I am very grateful for the chance to work on these fine ships and the trust I feel from the people already having been involved many years before I came around.
I’m going back on deck now so we can set more sails, so I’ll finish with this…
Two years have gone by since I fell in love with an amazing woman with salty blood that lights up my life, 2 black-hulled beauties, a company, a mission and I guess a career… and that’s way more than I had ever hoped to dream for when I first stepped onto these planks.
Can’t wait to find out what’s next.
Lenno Visser, 2nd Mate.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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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…
Capt. Jorne Langelaan
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”…
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.
If you followed this blog, you have been reading about many aspects of life on board of our small squarerigged cargo ship. But I have not really introduced you to one aspect, which is the most important one, to keep the ship together and keep her moving in the right direction. Of course it is her crew, fourteen persons, of all different corners of society. So here I will introduce you to all of them, one by one, and try to lift the veil on what connects them individually with this way of life. But, it is only in all of them working together as a team, that is making our great sailing ship crew.
Anne Flore is our Chief officer, even before she joined Tres Hombres, in 2012 for the first time, she had had a fair share of experience crossing the ocean, and sailing the seas, on traditional wooden boats. Next to an experienced mariner she is a first class sailmaker.
Alan, leads our Starboard watch in the rank of Second officer. He has had a wide experience sailing Tres Hombres, under almost all of her former Masters.
Judith, is our Cook, to keep our crew going, the most important person on board. She joined the ship last year, and had not been a seacook before that. However you would not notice, because she has a wide experience in restaurant and of farm life. Which apparently shows to be a great background for a seacook.
Thibaut, joined Fairtransport for the refit of our other ship: Nordlys. He worked hard to get Nordlys ready for sea, and then instead of joining Nordlys, somehow found himself on board Tres Hombres. Bound for foreign lands across the ocean. An able Deckhand, who knows the ship from bilge to royal.
Elisabeth, came on board two years ago as a trainee before the mast. And although still proudly living in the focsle, she went up the ranks to sail as a Deckhand. She is as able to hand, reef and steer, as any Cape horn sailor. Currently she is teaching the new trainees, about astronomical navigation with the age old device of the sextant.
Daniel, another Deckhand, has sailed for many years on Tres Hombres, his stories about this, became already mythical amongst our crew. Apart from sailing he joined the refits of Tres Hombres and Nordlys from the entire beginning, and mastered the art of caulking and making planks for hull and deck.
Muriel, joined this voyage last year, in Martinique, but before that she had logged many miles on different voyages on board Tres Hombres. Apart from sailing, she worked on refits of both ships. And next to acquiring her Masters ticket for commercial sailing vessels in the coastal trade, went to the Enkhuizen bosun school.
Mikael, has been a silent mountain of strength, from the time he first appeared on board, during the refit last year and onwards. Since that time he has reformed his cowboy and hunting skills, into the skills of a natural sailorman.
Lenno, for the first time on board in Boca chica, he brought his experience of sailing for years on the schooners, klippers and tjalken, of the Dutch inshore waters. Always ready to make a joke or tell a ghost story at night time.
Beate, started sailing on traditional ships about 35 years ago, and might well be the person on board with the oldest experience of sailing these wooden ships. She is great at the helm, and always ready to exchange a few nice words.
Guido, although not a professional sailor, his profession of doctor is definitely a well respected and welcome specialization on board. He signed on, to cross the ocean in working sail, and is absorbing all the experiences and information of practical and theoretical knowledge, to the maximum.
Susan, did sign on for a summer voyage on Tres Hombres before. Now she has put her focus onto crossing the ocean from West to East, via the Azores, and all the way to the European continent.
Caroline, was there on one of the voyages, when Nordlys was just operational again. Joining from La Corunha, to cross the bay of Biscay. After this, her love for wooden sailing ships was clear. And now she is working hard to learn the ropes of the other Fairtransport ship.
Jorne, as one of the co-founders of Fairtransport, I can not escape of, once in a while, going to sea in sail. Those times I am still perplexed of the beauty of these wild waters, the skill and happiness of our crew, and the mistery of it all…
Capt. Jorne Langelaan
The Focsle, is the second most forward space below decks. In front of the focsle there is still the forepeak. These two areas are divided by the collision bulkhead, which has a steel watertight hatch to go from one to the other. Traditionally the focsle is the crew quarters where the hands before the mast live. On board Tres Hombres, this is the case as well. There are eight bunks. Seven of them are currently inhabited, the eight one is filled up with cargo, 70kg bags of cacao, which did not fit in the cargo hold. Aft of the focsle is the drystores, where most of the food is kept. Sometimes, especially in long ocean crossings, part of the stores of the drystores are stored in the focsle as well. The focsle can be reached through the drystores or from a hatch with a small ladder from deck.
The name focsle, focsel, or foxhole comes from the original fore-castle. The fore-castle was a castle like building on the foredeck of medieval ships. These ships also carried an aft-castle which later developed into the poopdeck. Since I live in the aft-cabin myself, the focsle, on board Tres Hombres, stays a bit of a mythical place for me. I have heard a lot about it of course, but seldom slept there. I did start my sailing career in different other focsles, on other ships. For sure it is the part of the ship, with the most movement, since it is all the way forward. Also, again since it is so far forward, it is the place where the most spray comes over. And as Tres Hombres is a wooden ship, with caulked seams, especially after the burning sun of the tropics, and the beating of the waves of sailing against the trades, it can not be called a really dry place either.
But then, although it can be a though place to live, for some it is also seen as a badge of honor, to start life on a squarerigger in the focsle. I remember a few years ago, one of our trainees, refusing a bunk in the aft-cabin, after this came vacant and I offered it to him. He would almost be offended, no I am a focsle hand, so I stay before the mast! In the old days there was the saying: coming through the hawse pipes, or through the portholes. Through the hawsepipes meant, starting as a focsle hand, so working yourself up from the ground. Through the portholes, would mean starting in the more prestigious rank of an apprentice, living in the cabin, without ever enduring the hardships of the focsle. Fortunately, signing on as a trainee on Tres Hombres, you have a good chance to start in the focsle, so, welcome on board!
Capt. Jorne Langelaan