I am trying to dance with the wind. At the helm, it is the middle of the night, and though I have the light of a moon just past the full, it is getting dark. Clouds are rolling in. They might mean a shift in the wind, backing or veering, and an increase in speed, and I am standing with my neck craned all the way back, peering up at the barely-visible flag, trying to judge if the wind is changing, and where I should steer to keep the sails full.
There’s one way of looking at sailing, the way I too often fall into, which is that the ship is a series of clever mechanisms for turning wind into propulsion–purchase blocks, ropes, sails trimmed with exactitude to airplane-wing shape. And that there is one right heading and trimming of sails which will produce the best results, given any defined set of wind and swell conditions. This is treating sailing like a math problem.
But sailing is not math, not regular or predictable, no more than life is. Like astronavigation, there is math involved, but the basis, the foundation is all guesswork, pretending the earth is flat, and having a good feeling about the sextant reading you just took. The first mate, Anne-Flore, talks to me about trying to find the rhythm of each maneuver, the flow of how people move about the deck, meshing with the movement of the wind as we bring the ship through the wind on a tack, for example. It’s a dance, I can see. Each of us moves like the wind, unpredictably but with a certain grace, and the trick to being a good leader, as the trick to being a good sailor, is to work with that energy, and catch it at the most graceful moment. This is sailing–the ship is a thing of muscles and breath and wings. To pay attention to the maneuver in this way is to be where I am, to live where I find myself.
How wonderful, to feel that the world is real, and that I belong to it! I am a part of the place where I am, just as much as the wind and the waves, the stars and the clouds. I too often block the world around me, filter it through a screen which sits on a desk and, in the words of Wendell Berry, “obscures the place where it is.” I place barriers between myself and the real world, of computer screen or even book page, instead of living where I am, in my surroundings. I am trying to learn to dance with the wind instead, to feel it on my face and lean into it, to watch the swell and feel it move me as I sway with it. To listen to the ship, how she reacts to the wind, rudder, or waves. I will not truly learn sailing from a book or a screen, no matter how much they can teach me, for all they do is obscure the place they are in, this place, the place where I am, out here smack in the middle of the Atlantic with my sailwings and rainclouds and moonlight. Dancing.
While I’m not particularly attached to a certain religion where a god is involved, and while I
don’t particularly believe in something, I apparently do have a certain idea of the feeling of
Of course heaven can just refer to anyone’s ultimate dream so in that case it doesn’t
matter if you’re religious or not. But anyways, this morning I was wondering if heaven would
feel something like this. A complete serene surrounding, all this water kept itself so quiet and
almost dissolved in the sky. And then the sunrise came. A forest of clouds being on fire on the horizon.
Sea and skycovered in copper glaze.
While we humans are out there in society, running around, talking, working, worrying, this is
just here all the time. Everyday the sun rises to give us another day over and over again.
Even if we don’t look at it, it’s there. This is of course an idea philosophers have been
questioning, but at least it was the feeling it gave me: This is just here all the time, so
big and endless. It is no one’s property and we have the privilege to look at it.
Then the sun was completely visible and that was when the intensity and brightness of the
light that was all around us, made me wonder about heaven. It’s not that this is my ultimate
dream in the sense that I never want to leave again. Because if we stay drifting around here
like we do, we will run out of food at some point and we will end up eating banana peals with
marmite and we’ll never reach the other side of the ocean.
But if my heaven could have this
serenity, endlessness and peace, that would be a great basis to spend the rest of eternity.
50 miles in the northeast Cabo Verde, steady trade winds.
1st fish : small dorada coryphene. Since few days nights are quite. Sounds of little waves, sails flaps sometimes downwind, windmills turning, barometer tic tac, banging pan in the galley. The moon is very bright now, she shines the rigging, what a beautiful picture: black, white & grey, straits lines, curves & shadow, green red lights. Photographers an drawers could be charmed by the scenery. Close your eyes face toward the sky, let the 24 degrees cool breeze sweep gently your hair as a caress. Your legs are now following the movement of the ship naturally and you know already about a breakfast with banana bread. Yes it’s official, unlimited consumption of the gold’s treasure.
Inspired by an awful book in the open sea.
On the way of travel I met few vagabonds with luggage plenty of anecdotes. I am remembering those, ripples marks on the face as an alive stone which you can find, by chance, on the beach away of any civilisation. You look at the outlines of this part of the rock revealing details, stories in peace, doesn’t matter how deep or big are the scares. You listen to them attentively, you stave wide-eyed in front of humbles story-tellers on a sailing vessel deck. Theirs blows are like an infinity poem flow and we are becoming a tall ship wearing many open sails, gliding over the whisper of the foam.
They are somewhere far away at sea or hidden in an old stone house on a mountain, you are not running after them, never. Gipsies are not this kind of people you are planning to meet. Just a warm dreaming restless wave.
So, about this awful book. I advice you to throw it over board ( as I did yesterday) any books who’s talking about the worst sadness, scared, heavy weight of family tradition… If you want to use your holiday watch as a proper rest and quite sleep (for the focs’tle people), it’s useless to bring it in your stuff. I kept only the last page because she’s the only one ( in 436 pages) positive & full of hope. Well, the past is already done and we can inspire ours life from that, the present is now: the wheel is waiting the next watch team and tomorrow is a new dawn, is a new day, a new life and I’m feeling good ( dixit Nina Simone).
first mate Anne-Flore
It is a strange day for the Sint this year.
He started working with all his gear:
Pieten, pepernoten, presents and horse,
Making the same route on the regular course.
But in the house of van Assem something was wrong.
There was one person not playing along.
She appeared to be on a sailing ship,
On a eight month Fairtransport cargo trip.
So no Sinterklaas for her this time,
In stead a weblog story in rhyme.
Sint sent Piet to have a look at this boat,
But he couldn’t quite get there on only the road.
At this time they were already at the Atlatic seas,
Almost halfway through there storage of cheese.
Piet visited on a quiet day,
And immediately he felt that he wanted to stay.
The sea was a smooth silky blanket all around,
The quiet only disturbed by peaceful boat sound.
Anne-Flore always looking always sails trimming,
The water so clear that you could see the fish swimming.
The just-not-caught dorado is driving us crazy.
The fish is too smart or maybe too lazy.
With their bright colours and their grumpy look,
We can see them swim beside the hook.
We thought we found the perfect purpose,
For all these cans we have in surplus.
They do swim around with their mouth open wide,
But the pieces of cat food they leave on the side.
Then two weeks later the moment is finally there:
Two bright fish for us, not more then fair.
From La Palma on to where we are now,
Was supposed to take us three days Genau.
Instead we’re out here already for more then two weeks,
Down to our very last pumpkins and leeks.
We’ll be at sea for quite a while longer,
But don’t worry it’ll only make us stronger.
We have to be stricter on water and food,
In three weeks fresh stuff will taste ever so good.
We brought enough supplies to spare,
And Waka-Waka has 30 pairs of underwear!
German speakers and Americans are well represented,
But despite that fact we’re all still contented.
The miracle of nature shows us fish that can fly!
It’s really true, I’m not telling a lie.
Lots of dolphins we see all the time,
You would not believe how it still is sublime.
A little word from the cook to let the family know,
About daily life, about how things go:
From the galley comes an amazing smell,
I handle the hungry and talking mouths quite well.
And while the oven doesn’t want to stay lit,
I’m learning to live with the nickname peach pit…
I’m using bananas every meal,
Don’t waste a thing, that is the deal.
If you eat five per day,
The sixth is for free to take away.
What we didn’t bring with us, it’s sad but it’s true,
Is still laying around in 72…
If you lose track of us and don’t see us no more,
Then follow the banana peel track, back to the shore.
The routine at sea, no land in sight,
Nothing is left us then to grow more tight.
I know everyone’s taste, what they put on their bread,
What they wear, what they read or what they do instead.
Thanks to Lis who helped me rhyme not in Dutch,
Writing, shushing the teapot, O this woman knows so much.
Piet thanks the crew for his wonderful stay,
He’ll tell Sint everything right away.
I hope at home you’re all squeezed together,
On mam’s red couch hiding from the weather.
All the grandchildren on grandma’s lap,
Little Mingus might be having his nap.
Leaves me nothing more than wishing you all,
A loving Sinterklaasfeest this fall (eh.. winter).
“Good morning foc’sle, it’s time to wake up!”
But is it? Is it really? I groan internally. Firstly, I dispute this assertion that it is morning. It is actually 11.45pm. Secondly, I only went to sleep less than three and a half hours ago and my body is telling me it is surely anything but time to wake up.
But, I suppose, it is time for my watch. So I better had pull some clothes on and clamber out the foc’sle. But for the love of Neptune, please don’t turn that light on right above my head. That’s just too far.
The watch system we stand on the Tres Hombres runs as follows; two watches, port and starboard, each comprised of either the first or second mate, one deckhand, and four trainees. Watch on, watch off from midnight-4am, 4am-8am, 8am-2pm, 2pm-8pm and 8pm-midnight, ie. three 4 hour watches during the night, and two 6 hour watches during the day. Captain, cook and bosun are on day watch.
The debate frequently rolls around the galley table as to the faults and merits of this old Swedish watch system. Merits include that in any given 48 hour period, we get to see all hours of the day and night; sunrise, sunset, moon and stars and whatever the day may bring. I can tell you about dolphins leaving bio-luminescent trails in the bowsprit waves, jellyfish glowing brightly beneath the swell, even plankton lighting up the toilet bowl as it flushes. I can now find Taurus, the Pliades and Cassiopia in the stars and I know lots about the many different shades of darkness (and not so darkness) one might experience on deck at night. And when it comes to those sunrises and sunsets, where do I start? Oh yes, purple rain. The other morning the sunrise turned falling rain on the horizon purple.
But there is a downside. Namely, never getting longer than six hours off watch. Given that at night, it’s only four hours, when you factor in meals, fifteen minutes for wake-up’s and time to fall asleep in the first place, plus maybe some waking time to oneself during the day, you are looking at sleep in generally three to four hour bursts at a time. (With the glorious exception of holiday watch, which rotates through each member of the watch during night watch’s, sailing conditions permitting. Eight whole glorious hours off in row. Viva la holiday watch!). Developing a rhythm for your body clock is basically a non-possibility and it cannot be sugar coated, the crew often looks a tad fatigued.
The other element of the watch system debate falls to practicalities – size of the crew, number of hands needed on watch, the merits of having the Captain and Bosun on day watch…
Given that it is the only system I have yet experienced, I shall refrain from forming any sweeping judgments. As we settle into the second week of our Atlantic crossing, I am feeling more adjusted and my energy levels are generally higher. I am even now finding time off watch for daily ukulele and Spanish practise, and relatively frequent, refreshing salt water bucket showers.
And when all is said and done, I am sure I can look forward to telling my tales of the mad, exhausting life at sea and the many sights of the night and day which stretch out upon these vast horizons.
“Everyone says love hurts, but that is not true. Loneliness hurts. Rejection hurts. Losing someone hurts. Envy hurts. Everyone gets these things confused with love, but in reality, love is the only thing in this world that covers up all pain and makes someone feel wonderful again. Love is the only thing that does not hurt.”
This at least what Mesa Selimovic says. I agree. To an extend. But it is not the only thing. And it is surely the best thing to heal but not the only one.
My last two years were mainly not too easy and it all culminated in me now being without my best friend and a partner in crime. I also lost my quadruped friend whom I saved from a disastrous live and who in return made it possible that i am now sitting here alive and on this fine vessel.
But at the same time life opened a whole world of new possibilities – I found superb homes for quite a few rescued dogs I feel responsible for and got the opportunity to to travel from Hawaii through the South Pacific followed by the offer to take over this barge 😉
I came on board nearly a week ago and I would like to share my first impressions with you.
After a rather long hand-over between Remi and me (to show our professionalism and dedication we even moved part of the execution of the necessary procedures into several of the off-board liquid supplying offices in La Palma and we sometimes worked daily till up to three in the morning in them!).
Now we are drifting in circles at one of the most magic places I know – next to the Echo Seabank, the Paps Seamountain and Saharan Seamount. 152m, 1512m and 2496m of water above them. If you now imagine the rest of the seabed around being at 3700andsomething meters, you should see a landscape which is quite a bit more impressive than any mountain area you know. These alps here are hit by a southerly current and are located between two continent plates. As a result, this here is a meeting place for everybody in the ocean. We have been visited by common dolphins, bottle nose dolphins, some whales and several mahi-mahis were following us for hours. At night if you shine a torch in the water you see a light show which would be impossible to reproduce with any tools in its four dimensional nature.
Last time I have been here was a looong time ago and to have these conditions which make it possible to appreciate this show is also not exactly highly probable in this part of the world; to put it mildly.
So, Mr. Selimovic, only love, eeee?
When I came on board there was already a very tight group of people which in itself is already a difficult situation for a newbie. Usually. It is even more difficult if this newbie is set on board as captain without knowing anything about this specific vessel and especially if there are much more Tres Hombres experienced people on board. Usually. I really do not feel much of this on this ship. Thanks
I obviously still do not understand the running gags and some procedures seem quite alien to me but i must say that it is – on my first impression – the best ship I have been on in quite a few years sailing; and this comparison stands up against navy sailing vessels and all sorts of much posher, richer and merchant floaty stuff. On the first sight..
Well, the seamountain break for example…
Also there are at least three persons on board who are a spitting image of important persons I have known or dreamt about.
More deja vu: In the first night there was some story/fairy tale telling going on and somebody told spot on ‘my’ story with someone very important. Scary. Fascinating. Relieving. Hope it will have the same ending.
So, Selimovic, maybe not only love? I think all this here is also quite powerful non-hurty-stuff, is it not?
Anyway, come on, we are here on an ocean cruise. Your loved ones are mostly at home which is one of the major difficulties in sailing. You really have to start loving in different ways and other things, situations
and feelings. But these are very unfiltered and real and honest if you let it happen and if you are able to live it truly; the chances and ways are many; especially out here, with these people. But do not ever forget.
Ok, you do know a bit about me and we will keep you informed about how our voyage goes; I promise we have much more dedicated and talented writers than me on board.
Thanks to all and to a few specifically!
[you are right after all, Mesa, if you see love globally and in the biggest picture]
..while I am typing this, someone is singing a song which I have not heard in years and who basically brought me to sailing….
When we arrived near La Palma after 5 days of fast sailing the sea was remembering 20 knots of steady wind a bit choppy. We hove to a couple of hours to prepare the ship to be moored in port, we’ve seen the dance of cruise ships and ferry going out. At 17h00, quite hidden by the pier we dropped stern and bow anchor to stay 5 m away from the quay for 2 days.
We were glad to spend the first evening together on board. The sprays against the quay wall due to the rest of the swell was touching the course yard. Well, we ran the dinghy and the next days had to move the ship 3 times because cargo, cruise ships and ferries are much bigger than us. Nice maneuvers at night on our own or with the pilot boat. We slowly made friends again because 5 years ago a cleat on their deck broke when they towed us, since that they were not open to work together. Captain Remi did a lot of communication to arrange all facilities and make a nice connection because he is just a simple appreciative and competent seaman.
Life on board was sweet for all of us. 14 barrels of precious rum have been loaded and stored for 7 month at sea. For that we had to move cans and cans of animals food on top and take good care of soft tins and bags.
The crew visited the rum distillery, bananas cultures, a little farm, forests and went to restaurants for local food. Also 2 hammocks are full of green bananas in the cargo hold and the drystore shows a firework of colors.
Now at sea, Canary Islands at our back, the new trainees discovering the entire clear starie sky like never before and the bio luminescence in the water when Tres Hombres is cutting the salt water fluid. And then seriously, Eye of the Wind left Tenerife the same day as us,so let’s trim the sails and play with the ship.
To me, after many years as a sailor, I realized that I don’t get used to leaving good friends on land. They set in me a sort of balance in my heart and in my mind. It’s what the life at sea is building, stories to share, emotions to share, know ledges and feedback.
Departure, to say goodbye are essential. This splits my heart, but I know I will meet you later with more sincere love.
You, sailors bloody men that I met in last few years in many places on planet Earth, Mother nature still brings my body and my soul over the oceans and you are a part of myself, print in my blue blood gene. Sailing with you on my shoulder like angels. Thankfull for that what I learned and given the freedom of doing and growing in confidence.
Good bye Captain Remi, respect and good luck for the lovely weather in Netherlands. For the school, here we know already your ability to manage a ship and crew. We are doubtful of your talent particularly in making lists!(the crew is going to hate me )
Welcome to the new Captain Fabian who is sharing his knowledge of cargo on board Kwai and others, also his happiness.
Goodbye Ewan and welcome Alan (born the same day) who have swapped on deckhand position a couple of times without meeting each other before La Palma.
Welcome trainees who came aboard with open and shiny eyes.
I don’t forget crew and trainees who have been aboard since Den Helder¦ JUST AWESOME !
..15 humans, a giraffe and a sheep are going to St Martin.
PS: We went to Brixham instead of Douarnenez, later we went to Porto instead of Madeira but don’t worry about St Martin…
Anne Flore, 1st mate
About a month ago I started sailing this grand voyage from Den Helder to the Caribbean and back again.
My journey of a lifetime. Pretty soon after we set sail for warmer and more exotic places, this 32 meters long sailing merchant vessel and all the people on board, became my entire universe.
Out here, on the high seas, it’s just us, surrounded by the elements and the inpenatrable depths of the ocean beneath us. It’s truelly magnificent.
Beautiful sunsets and sunrises, the sun, the moon, the stars… and of course the waves and winds, both equally annoying and soothing.
The occasional pod of dolphins, accompanying us. Riding and playing in our bowwaves. Looking like little comets of sheers pleasure as they shoot through the bioluminescent waters.
They make us smile and marvel at the creations of mother nature.
Life at sea is hard, yet beautiful and satisfying at the same time. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
It’s with great interest, joy and expectation that I look forward to what is yet to come.
On this beautiful ship, the Tres Hombres.. this little universe I call my own.
In de haven
Nordlys ligt vredig afgemeerd aan de houten steiger in Willemsoord, Den Helder. Omringd door zeezeilschepen, stoomslepers, enkele botters, een voormalig lichtschip en een paar tjalken, is dit een mooi schouwspel dat zich voor mijn ogen voltrekt. Het schip en de bemanning zijn weer veilig in de thuishaven aangekomen. We hebben afgelopen zomer fabuleuze reizen gemaakt met de Nordlys langs de Europese kusten. Eerst Noord en daarna Zuid. In elke haven waar we kwamen hebben we fantastische mensen ontmoet. De Nordlys is ons welgezind en het vrachtruim steeds meer gevuld met heerlijke producten. Nog moeten we een tocht varen naar Bremerhaven deze maand. Daarna is er periode van rust voor het schip en kan er enkel onderhoud gedaan worden.
De zon schijnt meestal tussen enkele korte felle buien die even snel langstrekken als dat ze aankomen . Er waait een frisse vlagerige Noordwester over de Noordzee en hier over de Noordfriese kust. Terwijl een vissoep boven het vuurtje staat te pruttelen zit ik aan dek, kijk om me heen en geniet van een wijntje. Als ik een pijp had gehad, had ik hem gerookt. Het is rustig aan boord, de gehele bemanning is aan land. Ik sla het boek van Hylke Speerstra open, Schippers van de Zee, en begin te lezen.
“ Eeuwenlang werd in Europa kustvaart bedreven. De schepen waren betrekkelijk klein, schippers waren ondernemende zeelieden. Mannen met moed en vakmanschap. En het waren niet alleen de mannen…
Hun vlakgaande kustvaartschepen waren geschikt om de lading uit de havens in het binnenland te halen en naar toe te brengen. Maar schipper en schip bezaten ook de eigenschappen de zee te trotseren. Door deze tweezijdigheid ontstond een vorm van handelsvaart die gedurende een periode van naar schatting twintig eeuwen onuitroeibaar bleek.
Toch hebben perioden van grote bloei en crises ook in deze tak van scheepsvaart elkaar afgewisseld. Oorlogen, die handel tussen de landen vrijwel verlamden, deden de varensmannen en hun gezinnen soms grote armoe lijden. Gedurende die tijden overwoekerde het gras de scheepshellingen. Maar zodra er weer een opleving kwam, bleken er schippers en scheepsbouwers overgebleven te zijn. En met hen was het vakmanschap bewaard gebleven. Steeds opnieuw kwam de kustvaart tot bloei.”
Ik kijk op, overpeins, geniet een moment van rust en vervolg.
Today is our first full day underway since leaving Brixham harbour yesterday afternoon. After a week in port, the crew is feeling well rested, a little broke, satiated by gallons of beer and the good times enjoyed ashore. Rearing to go, the lines were cast off and the ship towed out of harbor under the power of her yawlboat and that of a friendly local skipper, Brixham native Tony Knight.
Brixham was a fine place to spend a week while the ‘Irish hurricane’ Ophelia and her companions blew past turning the Channel and Irish sea into maelstroms. The natural shelter provided by the tall headlands kept our ship out of the winds. During the downtime we were able to make some repairs to important ship’s equipment, refresh our provisions and eat what are perhaps the best fish and chips in the world.
A few days in, our sister ship the Nordlys arrived to wait out the weather and for some days we were able to share meals, stories and good times with our other half. At our favorite pub, musicians and revelers alike from both ships staged a foc’s’le music takeover and the barman kindly indulged us to play our music and carry on until closing.
With the weather past and all hands rearing to go, the crew dropped the tow and set the full complement of sails in a few minutes while the ship bobbed off the breakwater during a calm sunny afternoon. After a tack or two in Tor Bay to keep off the shore, the wind filled in very favorably from the south and enabled the Tres Hombres to slip out of the bay and into deeper water. Later in the evening, as if on cue, the wind switched around to the south west and we began to progress towards the English Channel and our route towards Brittany.