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!
It’s around lunch time, the Tres Hombres is moored in the marina at Le Marin, Martinique.
We have just crossed the Atlantic ocean, and here we are unloading wine we have brought from France, and some empty barrels to be filled with rum. My job for the morning was the ship’s laundry, and I have just returned with a mountain of fresh sheets. As I hang them up to dry in the carribean sun, my crew mates are milling around, carrying out maintenance on the ship to the sound of some roots reggae. Behind me I hear some French welcomes and a visitor being helped onboard. I turn around to offer a smile and am taken a little aback. She is standing on the wooden deck, gazing at the scene, wiping tears away from her eyes.
When living on this ship it is easy to become a little blind. At sea for the crossing, for almost three weeks the ship, sea and the sky was the whole world. It seemed natural that the hull is made of wood, that the foremast hosts four squaresails, that the bow is adorned with carved oak flames, that there’s no engine. It became normal to spend a moment whilst at the helm to notice a new detail in the intricate, dreamlike wood carving behind my head. The fact we were often travelling at 10 knots in the shade of 16 filled sails made sense.
In port however, thanks to our visitors, I was given the gift of seeing the ship again as if for the first time. It reminded me that this boat, its form, its rig, its occupation, its logic are not so commonplace. That the beauty I have been surrounded with since starting to work on the Tres Hombres is not so easily found. The ship emanates the hours of work and love that go into it daily.
It turns out that our visitor had timed her visit very well. Just as she had finished looking around and chatting with some of the crew, others were emptying out the moscatel from one of the barrels, left in there to stop it drying out during the voyage. Together we enjoyed a hearty lunch and a glass of wine from Baiona, as more and more visitors were drawn to this magical ship.