Boca Chica is a little village located 30km more East than Santo Domingo, on the southern coast of the Dominican Republic, a country situated on the island of La Hispaniola, which they share with their neighbours, Haiti is listed as one of the poorest nations in the world.
Unfortunately, the relationships between these two countries are not smooth: the differences, inequalities and conflicts have intensified
and aggravated even more after the heavy hurricanes and the cholera epidemic which hit the Haitian population over the past
Once again, we find that the origins of such a situation dig their roots way back into the History. We have to acknowledge that these seeds of
discord have been sowed a long time ago, here like elsewhere, from hands who were not working these soils but came from far away to
exploit them and enslave their natives. That thick, dangerous border line which divides the French-controlled part of the island, Haiti,
from the Spanish-settled zone, Dominican Republic was not there when the indigenous people, the Tainos among others, were inhabiting
the island. Other were the issues back then, surely, and conflicts were eventually present also before the arrival of the Spaniards, but
it is undeniable that the dreadful events that followed the landing of the first Spanish settlers in La Hispaniola opened up the way for
one of the most shameful chapters of Human history, colonization, which has deep and atrocious repercussions on
all Central and South American continents till our present days. This is in fact the island where Christopher Columbus first landed in 1492. Santo Domingo, the capital of DR, an immense city, overwhelming in its size and crowding was also the first permanent Spanish and European settlement in this part of the Earth in the whole History.
La Hispaniola is a beautiful and wild island, and very big too! In the Caribbean region, it is second only to Cuba in its size and
demography. Its waters, skies and forest are home to many different endemic species of flora and fauna: from the humpback whales, that
come here to reproduce nearby Samana, to the threatened and rare rhino iguanas, and more than 300 species of birds. And finally, in
its rocky guts are hidden ancient deposits some of Amber and of Larimar, a rare “stone” of a stunning turquoise colour, found
basically only in DR. And last but not least, much of the coffee and cacao we drink and eat worldwide has been grown here.
The Dominican Republic offers a very different experience compared to the smaller paradise islands Tres Hombres visits, but it is surely a crucial stop not merely for our cargo operations but also for our crew, to build up a deeper, and more comprehensive, overview of the History of the Caribbean.
For provisioning, I walked to the market area of San Andres, a 10min walk from the commercial harbour. The first day I spent shopping around at all the different stalls trying to get a gauge of what was on offer and the different prices. The language spoken there is Spanish which I have just enough of a grasp of to do some of my own negotiation, which was fun. It became apparent that I was getting the best deals with Maria, a very warm woman who ran her food stall with the help of her partner and daughter (on a side post scriptum note: we are still in touch via voice messages, she is really sweet and caring). I decided to organize the bulk of the big crossing order through her.
She also explained to me how it works: all the market stall holders go to a big night market to get their products in San Domingo. Maria told us she goes at 1 AM, three times a week. I have also seen her at her own stall every day of the week, so I can only imagine how long are the days that she works! We asked if we could go with her to the night market, but she wasn’t sure if it was safe for us as white people and was also worried that if she was seen with us they would raise the price of the veg sold to her. Fair enough!
Instead, I put together a big list and she went and got it on my behalf. The next morning her partner Angel drove the approximately 150kg of veg to the fish market, our dinghy spot close to the port. Here we loaded it onto the dinghy in three runs and got it on board. Storing it all away for the big crossing was a big mission as well, but this is another story.
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!
Si amigo, ya lo se! Pero no entiendo bien. Que es el mensaje que me quiere dar este pais maravilloso? O este paisaje salvaje, como dice mi amigo Dominicano Manuel, jajaja.
Ya venimos por la Republica Dominicana desde el 2010, al primer viaje, cuando llegamos a la Bahia de las Aguilas con el mastil quebrado, sin carga ni dinero y el equipaje cansado despues de 3 años del trabajo continuo. Pero el pescador Nene y su mujer Catalina nos salvaron en estos dias, cuando comemos lamby y tomamos ron en la fugata a la playa. En estos dias recorrí mucho de la capital, hice contactos con la prensa, con ambassadores, empresarios y politicos. Santo Domingo me hice descubrir mucha belleza: ambiental, cultural, feminina y gastronomica. Tambien encontramos ron, y con eso cambió la situacion porque ncontramos carga para llevar por Europa! Cobramos el flete adelante y ya se podia pagar la tripulacion y comprar comida por el viaje de un mes y medio hasta Europa. Me recuerdo esperar a Nene cuando llegó con sacos de arroz, vegetales y platano al muelle…
La situacion otra vez cambio bastante en el año siguiente, cuando Forrest, Manuel y sus amigos nos guiáron en el viaje desde Santo Domingo hasta el muelle de San Andres, Boca Chica, nuestro base en la isla de Hispaniola desde entonces.
En esta temporada todavia no habia ningun plan por los viajes del velero Tres Hombres. Venimos cruzando el ocean con muchas ganas, poco dinero y ayuda humanitaria por Haiti. Desde alli fuimos a buscar trabajo entre las islas del Caribe, saliendo de St. Martin hacia el sur hasta St. Vincent. Gracias a Eric de Cireexpress hicimos algunos viajes aventurosos, pero con poco exito. Comemos mucho guineo y arroz blanco.
Cada año, antes que llego la temporada de huracanes, navegamos a Republica Dominicana, donde estabamos seguro de obtener buena carga: ron, cacao y cafe. Productos muy queridos en Europa y abundantes aqui en la isla. Y como llega la carga al barco? Pasando la burocrazya Dominicana jeje, eso si me costaba algun nervio por alli…pero seguimos amigos todos! La autoridad portuaria tan cariñosa, la seguridad, la aduana, la armada, la immigracion… Todos hacen su trabajo muy correcto, somos nosotros gringos cuales no siempre saben cumplir con las reglas locales. Pero siempre solucionamos todas las problemas y en la misma temporada encuentras tan buena gente que no vas a olvidar nunca mas, como las señoritas cariñosas del colmado que sirven el mejor pollo del pueblo.
Gente vienen de puro interes en las tripulacion del barco, los gringos con pantalones sucios, las chicas Europeanas y la pura belleza de este barco sin motor. Cual carguero gasta mas en cerveza que en gasoil? En cual barco el capitan anda descalzo y sin camisa abriendo coco con el machete por la mañana y donde hay el mejor vino? Ya tu sabes…
Y nosotros? Amemos los vistazos de la gente en el mercado, de las chicas sorprendidas, la comida, el sol, el paisaje, la bachata. Las charlas con Forrest y su linda mujer, con Manuel, Lawrence, Victor, el rubio, Freddy, Yovanni y muchos amigos que pasan solo pa unas palabras, un cafe, una cope de ron. Algunos cogen la gitarra, otros nos cantan un son o vienen con carne por la parrillada.
Siempre cuando nos vamos conociendo mejor, algo cambia en la vista al otro, siempre hay un mensaje transferido a su propio modo. Me di cuenta que aqui siempre hay un modo de hablar pacifico, aunque cuesta mucha paciencia a veces, sera de ambos lados…Hay mucho para aprender aqui para nosotros.
Al final, es una visita de trabajo, y en Boca Chica nuestro carguero llega a estar full, cargado hasta bajo la cubierta con delicias del Caribe.
Tambien la tripulacion se completo, venieron alumnos de varios paises para aprender de la navegacion estilo antiguo, estilo verdadero y sin daño a la naturaleza, normal pues.
La despedida con un velero sin motor solamente funciona en la mañana, por el viento de la tierra que sigue soplando hasta las 8ymedio, hasta ahi tienes que estar listo pa salir. Como siempre hay un chequeo de militares con perros y si todo esta bien, ahi vamos! Votando las ultimas lagrimas por la Bahia de San Andres, salimos rumbo a Europa!
Pero antes hay que pasar el pasaje de Mona y eso cuesta, un año mas que el otro…este año la pasamos bien duro: recien saliendo al Atlantico despues de 2 dias con viento fuerte de la proa teniamos que regresar al puerto de Boca Chica por un alumno que decidio que no podia realizar el viaje con nosotros, por razones mentales. Tambien rompemos la vela principal en este viaje y por eso, despues de entregar al chico en la immigracion en Boca Chica, con muchas gracias al Lawrence, que nos salvo en este momento, nos fuimos a anclar en la Saona para reparar todo delante una vista maravillosa de las playas blancas de alli. Ahora mismito ya pasamos la Mona por segunda vez, la brisa buena, toda vela puesta y el cafe servido.
En el mar, la vida es mas sabrosa…Nos vemos al los años, no nos olvidamos
The last 54 hours we were beating against the trades. In the morning the winds are East and we steer North, North North East. As soon as the sea wind effect in the afternoon makes that the wind is North East we tack with all hands and steer for 12 hours South East (around 120* overground). This full-on by/closed hauled sailing made us win around 100 miles in the East direction in nearly 3 days. That sounds maybe not so much but can be the big difference to reach Boca Chica/Dominican Republic. At the moment the wind picked up 22 knots and Tres Hombres is jumping against the increasing waves. We have a course of 130* and the ship is heading toward Cabo de la Veda, the most eastern point of Colombia. Tonight when the land wind effect will stop the evening breeze we will tack again and try to get a ground course of 15*. I hope we can make the 350 miles to the Dominican Republic in 3 days full on by starting tonight. I think we will arrive around Thursday night a little east of Isla Beata at the border of Haiti and Dominican Republic. To get into the bay of Santo Domingo we will use the land/sea effect again.
The atmosphere on board is very very good, the crew is really into it, the tacks are going faster and faster: Douse the outer jib, douse the gaff top, clew up the course, everybody in position, helm’s a lee! Ease the jibs, tack the stay sail’s and let’s go and haul! Set gaff top, outer jib and make speed again.
It’s so nice to have so many people from different sailing cargo ships on board. Marine and Lenno, come from the Nordlys, they know how it is to sail on a Fairtransport ship, Anna who sailed on the Greyhound, Luuk and Logan coming from the Ceiba project in Costa Rica, Lars from the Hawila in Copenhagen. And then off course the people of Tres Hombres already sailing here on board since the Netherlands: Paul/Martin/Soraia/Karsten and Daniel. It’s a fight but the spirit on the Tres Hombres is high!
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 email@example.com
[pdf-embedder url=”http://fairtransport.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Tres-Hombres-Winter-2018-2019-new.odt.pdf” title=”Tres Hombres Winter 2018-2019 new.odt”]
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
For days we have been on the ocean now, all the time over starboard tack. Because of the Easterly winds and our goal to reach the Westerlies on the higher latitudes. Since our departure from Boca Chica: sailing close hauled. Sometimes we douse or set the gaff topsail, the flying jib, the outerjib or the upperbob. Yet, every day has been different and beautiful. In the beginning we had, on several occasions, that we saw the moon coming up, huge and yellow, while the sun was making her way down. Or the other way around. This morning we had a rainbow covering half the sky. The past days the clouds have been building to majestic towers. And we are riding along their foundations, playing with their showers, and being perplexed by their powerful appearance. Sometimes the wind blows, sometimes it dies, and the sea colors accordingly.
We have been trying to fish, but the fish have been more lucky than us. Sometimes a flying fish would come up above the waves, before jumping away and neglecting our views. At one moment we came close to a whale and could witness the breathtaking circus of the waving of her tail. As we move more North, towards the legendary seas South of Bermuda, we witness the streaks of seaweed becoming more frequent.
We have logged almost six hundred miles, and another more than twenty two hundred to go, before we make a chance, to see the green mountains of the Azores appearing above the horizon. We expect the wind to veer. So for the first time this voyage, we can brace square, ease the sheets, and let our racing horse, named Tres Hombres, go free. Free, to show us her power, to make the speed where the stories told in seaside bars, talk about. Free, to go with white foam on her bow, and a straight wake at her stern, clipping along by pure wind power. Making use of this powerful sailing energy, just temporarily, before leaving it behind, for the next man to use!
Capt. Jorne Langelaan