Boots and jackets are the new style onboard.
The first time leather covers my feet since I arrived in Santa Cruz de la Palma, on 10th of December 2020. We had the great luck to keep in the Caribbean heat until almost the latitude of Bermuda and already halfway the Azores. Until yesterday night everybody was wearing shorts, going and climbing around bare feet and even pulled off his shirt on the foredeck, so it wont get wet and salty. Even after the first warm front, with some rain and a strong wind shift we kept the faith.
But then the cold front came…and all happened in 20 minutes. The season changed completely from blue skies and a beautiful sunrise & sunset every single day to a cold, grey world, brought to us by the north wind.
But still we have some warmth in our blood. The Caribbean round this time was more sightseeing than ever, due to corona which hit mostly the English speaking island, which closed up severely. We were heading to Barbados on the crossing from the Canaries, but when we heard about their lock down we altered plans just 5 degrees to the north and landed in a very welcoming Martinique instead.
After our share of beach, beer, music and fine anchor-evenings onboard we continued our voyage to the remote island of Barbados, which was not discovered until 1600, to load the finest Barbados Rum from Foursquare Distilleries into our Port and Madeira barrels. Still far ahead of schedule we decided to make a little detour on our way back to Martinique, via the Grenadines. Not allowed to land anywhere without permission, the goal was to see as many islands from as close as possible, which we did! Just after catching a big Barracuda on the shoal between Petite Dominique and Petite Martinique we tacked between the unbelievable beauties up to Mayreau where we came very close to land and hove to for a swim. Just getting out of the water a light rain rinsed the salt from us, while Sabine baked the fish for lunch. More paradise is not possible, no need to step on the land this time!
Some more tacking brought us back to the great anchorage of Sainte-Anne on Martinique, where we loaded again the best rum of the island, this time from Distillerie La Favorite, swimming the barrels a good half mile from the beach to the ship.
Still ahead of schedule and in search for more cargo and adventure, we set sail to Marie Galante, our well known and tranquil island, and again French, which means no corona and long empty beaches with uncountable coconuts. There we were invited to take part at the races, which made a good impression on the yachties, when we overtook the colorful spinnakers with 11kn of speed. It was the tradition that the biggest ship of the race hosted the crew of the smaller participants, so soon a big Ti-Punch party was happening on our decks.
Enough of the relaxing, back to work, means to Dominican Republic, where we get the biggest part of the cargo, the cocoa for the Chocolatemakers in Amsterdam and rum. Lots of fine Dominican rum from Bodegas Oliver.
The way to the DR from the Windward Islands is downhill, too easy for us and still ahead of schedule, we set the route up passing Montserrat, St. Kitts, Statia, Saba and the entering the Virgin Islands, inhaling deeply with our eyes for the beauty glided by us on both sides in turquoise waters in a nice breeze from the stern.
Boca Chica! My deeply loved harbor on the south coast, almost abandoned next to the immense container port of Caucedo, lay becalmed behind La Piedra, awaiting us with many old friends, as it is our base in this Spanish speaking country since 2011. Easily we glided into the basin with the afternoon sea breeze, changing right at time to push us along the shoals and reefs at the entrance. Just meters from the ship waves are breaking on the rocks outside the buoyed channel. Cargo action started the next day already, so no more days off but prepare the ship for the big crossing and load her hold up with the finest goods from the West Indies. Delaying the departure one day allowed the crew to visit the cocoa farm, taste their wonderful home made chocolate and have a look at the interior of this amazingly green and mountainous country without any restrictions anywhere. After a few barbecues at our pier we finally got the waterline up to the black part of the hull, means full and packed until the load line.
Leaving port early in the morning with the still ongoing land wind we were happy to wash off the dirt from the land with the fire hose and set sail for the big crossing over the North Atlantic ocean. Still something missed in the balance for such a long trip and soon we should find out. After tacking against the strong Caribbean winds and currents we finally got out through the Mona Passage, when one crew member decided in serious ways to not take on this voyage with us, which left me with the decision where to deliver him. Puerto Rico, with their American ruled coast guard would not be of any help, nor the local customs, so we had no other chance than to go back to Boca Chica! Luckily we have our friend Lawrence there, who organized a speedy pick up of the man in the bay, thank you!
The detour cost us some rips in the topsail and as this is the engine of the ship we had to have that in good shape before entering the wild waters of the North.
Isla Saona offered the best anchorage on our way so we tacked there with sometimes 30kn of NE winds and anchored in light blue waters with only sea stars covering the white sand and Jimmy the cricket joining the ship. In one day the sail was down, repaired and up again and then we were really ready for sea!
With high spirits we left the Caribbean and the warmth stays in the team also after the first low crossing our path to the Azores.
Hopefully the next season change awaits us in Amsterdam, springtime!
au total que nous voguons au gré du vent et du courant, dans notre quête de grand large, quittant le luxueux abri que nous offrait La Palma.
Et un peu moins de 10 jours que le compas n’indique maintenant que l’ouest devant nous.
Ça y est nous y sommes, cet océan dont on nous conte la majestuosité depuis que nous quittâmes Den Helder et qui nous tendit enfin les bras une fois passé au travers du Cap-Vert et de ses accents d’Afrique. Seul le passage de poissons volants, de nappes de plancton phosphorescent, de dauphins, de baleines et d’oiseaux de grand large ponctuent d’une brève visite de courtoisie ses flots coulants paisiblement vers les Caraïbes, où notre prochaine cargaison et le repos de chacun nous attendent patiemment, scrutant l’horizon dans l’attente de reconnaître le volume et la couleur de nos voiles, tels les proches de marins des temps jadis attendant le retour des leurs, saints et saufs au port.
Nous au contraire sommes jusqu’à l’os convaincus d’y arriver sans encombre et avons le temps de profiter de ce spectacle de vie qui se déroule comme un parchemin vide de toute encre, que notre plume légère et effilée ne fait que survoler au fur et à mesure de notre avancée dans ce no man’s land fait d’eau, ne laissant derrière elle qu’un sillage éphémère. Chacun entretient sa petite routine et échange avec les autres ses pensées, ses rêves, ses espoirs, peut-être même ses peurs ou ses craintes; à propos de ce qui s’est passé, de ce qui se passe, de ce qu’il se passera : ici, partout, et ailleurs. Ceci, intérieurement, nous rappelle toujours où nous sommes au moment présent, comme si l’horizon que nous percevons et le ciel le surplombant n’était qu’une capsule, ou une bulle figée dans ce que l’on appellerait normalement le temps, qui n’en finirait de rouler encore et toujours jusqu’à ce que la première terre, la première pointe de roche que nous appercevrons ne finisse par la faire éclater pour nous libérer.
Les mélodies des guitares amenées à bord se mêlent au son des vagues, des cliquetis, tintements, et craquements du navire; nous permettent évasion la journée et apaisement la nuit tombée, toujours fidèle à notre veille installée.
En fin de compte, nous ne semblons pas si différents de nos aînés qui peut-être, au moment où j’écris ces mots, nous observent et veillent sur nous depuis le firmament, nous accompagnant tout au long de notre périple. C’est souvent que je pense à eux aussi. Le jour comme la nuit, a travers les étoiles et la lune, nous rafraichissant doucement du soleil mordant des tropiques et de sa lumière dorée qui tanne et teinte nos peaux, emplissant nos yeux de couleurs que seul là où nous sommes nous aurions pu observer, de son levé à son coucher.
Maintenant un peu plus de la moitié de notre périple est derrière nous, un peu plus d’un millier de milles nous séparent de notre but et sommes ainsi toujours tous émerveillés et en même temps impatient d’arriver à bon port, afin de pouvoir finalement rayer cette étape de notre liste et pouvoir intérieurement se dire: ça y est, je l’ai fait. J’ai traversé un océan…
Ce qui venant d’un vol Paris/New-York paraît presque anodin, et qui prend tout son sens à nos yeux à bord du Tres qui lui aussi veille sur nous et nous accompagne diligemment vers le clou de notre voyage, où encore autre chose de différent, d’inconnu qu’il nous tarde de découvrir, attend sagement notre arrivée.
The first two stun ‘sails joined our beautiful rig today and were celebrated with cinnamon rolls out of our French cuisine. At the first sign of the Tradewinds we took down booms and blocks from the starboard side and mounted everything on the windward side, heading more or less south in search of more wind and more sun!
Anne Flore left a bright ship and crew for me in La Palma and you could see that the weathered faces were looking forward to some smoother sailing than what they had experienced coming down from Den Helder.
La Palma is the place to be in nature and relax while hiking over mountains or swimming in fabulous pirate caves, which all of them enjoyed here, far away from down-locked Europe. As cargo is my job and I have to know what we load onboard, my excursions were less healthy but still fruitful, as we now have the best rum, wine, mojo and salt from the island onboard.
Aldea distilleries again invited the whole crew for an abundant meal and rum tasting, while Jose and me filled the Sherry and Port barrels we brought empty from Spain and Portugal, with his best rums! Also a barrel of the famous Malvasia from Constantio and Nancy joined the ship, as well as their wines and a few exclusive bottles from Victoria from Fuencaliente.
Now we are loaded up and ready for some miles on the open ocean, for an unfiltered view of the sky, as you just have it in unlit nature. A glittering, moving hemisphere, sometimes stopped and transformed into numbers by Adriaans sextant. On deck a just as enlightened crew, guided by Lenno and Mike and Daniels stories, which keep erupting even without the internet.
Out here, the planets and all those long ago vanished stars can capture the common square sailors’ loneliness in moments, when only beloved ones are in the senses of the beholder of the nightly sky.