11 April 2018 - Fairtransport
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
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