What a day … (By captain Anne-Flore Gannat)

as every day the tide is changing, our course over ground is changing, the side where the sails are set is changing, the meals as well.

Although something never changed since we left Amsterdam; the motivation expressed from all buddies on board. Yes, it is hard not to sleep well because of the boat bouncing into the waves, because of muscle ache from all the line handling. Today many plasters have been stuck around fingers and cream to heal hand wounds. Our hands are using all their strength to grab as strong as possible the smoothes or roughs halyards, sheets and down hauls. Oh yeah, the body feelings print the adventure in our memories.
I would like to say thanks a lot to some person on duty radio for “Dover Coast Guards ” and “Gris Nez Traffic” who made our passage easier and friendlier instead of asking strictly to apply the rule nb 10. Between theory and reality, tolerance should be accepted. Let’s create a new rule inspired by the Historic Passage of big ships who were racing here. The ones who don’t get the deep experience of pure sailing through the screen, please become a trainee on board!
The perseverance of a crew to realize more than 50 tacks within 72h is Funtackstic!!!
Tomorrow we will continue some repairs on the sails cause of the tough conditions. The inner jib has 2 seams slightly open to be restitched, a thimble disappeared through the mainsail from the clew outhaul of the main staysail who made a hole, also some shaved lines to splice.
Let s go for quieter weather forecast all sails up!!

Anne-Flore

15 miles circle for eternity (by captain Anne-Flore Gannat)

It has been a 48h of tacking in the very agitated sea and sky…

With the tide, we came back exactly where we were the day before in a distance of 15 miles straight line. The reality is that we needed so many little straight lines to reach this 15 miles further south. The explanation is maybe difficult to understand because we are “losing our north” sometimes. I stopped counting how many times we tacked and jibed. The picture is messy on the chart but all was under control. We reported our plan to Dover coast guards and Gris Nez Traffic who keep a sharp lookout on the traffic on the English and French side. Of course, we are annoying them by being the only one ship making a zig-zag route. Not so many options for us aiming the English channel. Some manoeuvres are impressive for those who’ve never seen the dear Tres in such meteorologic conditions. Facing high waves, big splashes, strong gusts in our ears. Our faces are burned or brown from sun and salt, muscles are getting tight and the new rain gears are baptized. Still a lot of positive and useful Joyce on deck.
The gale warning is cancelled now. It means the wind is decreasing and will shift to the West. The ship is well-positioned to go through this bloody tiny busy channel. We are looking forward to going through, at any minute now.
Under fore staysail, topsail and mainsail 1 reef. That is not much but enough. The royal and gallant furling was quick and successfully done with eager crew members called Jules, Colin and Lenno.

Anne-Flore

Between 6 months and a lifetime
(by Soraia Costa)

So here we are, back in Amsterdam, with an empty cargo hold, preparing for the next trip.

Six months have passed since we first left Den Helder on that grey November day. I still remember the steady sound of the tugboat, like a frantic clock rushing us. Soon the time would not matter that much, but we didn’t know that yet. After 3 months of refit, a perfectly black hull and a whole new rigging, she was most definitely ready to go, and so were we. But we still needed our flag, and that bean soup and Jeroen had a few more teas and spices to give us, and from the lovely people standing by the quay, we still had herbs, potatoes, pumpkins and so many fair winds wishes to receive. I remember being hit by all kinds of unexpected emotions and also not having a second to process any of them. The last hugs were shared as the mooring lines were set loose. As she slowly moved away from the pier and the embraces were no longer possible, there came the handshakes and finally, only words and smiles could connect both worlds. There was a special atmosphere surrounding that moment; serious but not heavy. And as we disappeared around the corner, setting sails already, we had no idea what to expect. Then the North Sea and getting to know these 19 people with whom we were going to share part of this adventure came. 

We had a whole new world to learn about and master. Rope names and their functions, manoeuvre logistics, climbing, steering, even simple walking on a moving deck or sleeping on a rolling bunk is a skill that requires practice. Each one of us was pretty soon faced with his and her own battles. Seasickness for some, freezing wet feet for most, tiredness, sleep deprivation, feeling generally overwhelmed, you name it, it was a tough start especially for the ones sailing for the first time!

Then Biscay came and I realised we are more human when we are reminded of our vulnerabilities. A warm soup made by a trainee when I was too sick to work, a pat on the shoulder when bending over the railing, an understanding look that speaks for a thousand words, the relentless work from the experienced sailors on board, allowing the others to get back on their feet…all these were true expressions of love that I will never forget.

It took time for me to be friends with the rolling galley. She would not give in that easily, but I tend to fall for untamed spirits. I had to find out the hard way how to stand and hold my position. Feet were no longer enough since you need 3 points of balance; so butt, hips, knees and back were put to work. Mise en place was made obsolete. All the bowls with prepared veggies would just fly away with the first wave anyway.
You must chop as you go. Elbows, wrists, even the pinkie fingers are fully used daily to keep everything in place. Your senses become alert to any sounds and movements, but careful not to go crazy with the ever symphony of pots and pans hitting the walls. You learn pretty fast that if we are sailing full and by, you shouldn’t make lasagne; the entire top layer will slide out of the tray and burn on the bottom of your oven. You learn that making pasta on a heavy sailing day heightens the mood greatly, but you will need all your prayers to strain that boiling water safely.
You learn about each person’s specificities; how full the bowl should be for each one, who likes runny or hard eggs or who prefers forks over spoons.

Soon after we would be in Baiona rolling empty barrels by hand over the quay and partying with my parents on board and with a new captain we headed south direction La Palma. Some said sailing would be smoother from then on but the sea does what the sea wants. The reliable starry skies were always there though, reminding me of permanence while outside and inside everything was shaking. I didn’t know back then, but there was going to be the last time I would ask myself: can I actually do this? Because then came the Atlantic crossing and a love story were born.

We would be three and a half weeks at sea and, with 70kg of bananas and 30kg of avocados in the cargo hold, we were definitely going to manage. We aimed south until the butter started to melt and then hitchhiked with the good old trade winds all the way to the west.
Downwind sailing, blue skies and sunshine completely changed the mood of the crew. It was time to start living and enjoying life on board. We could finally dry all our damp clothes and have showers on deck. Guitars were taken out and songs were sung and written again. Without much sail handling to do, the days were spent doing maintenance work. Tarring, seizing, sanding, oiling, painting, tensioning, pitching, de-rusting, splicing, sewing; all this needs to be done regularly. It is a lot of work to keep such a ship in shape.

In the galley, life was much easier though. If in fact, life was great! I was feeling more and more synchronized with everything, my body had accepted the daily schedules, the sounds, the movement. And as each meal was served I felt more confident and soon cooking for the whole crew wouldn’t be any different than cooking for myself at home. The days onboard were simple. All actions were concrete and necessary for living; cooking, cleaning, fixing, sailing. And there was always time. It is mind-blowing how much space is left when you are not constantly bombarded with abstract nonsense. I was contented. I felt at peace with my place in the world, at least in this floating world. I remember lying on deck one night, under the most brilliant sky, looking up at the sails and the moon and Venus shining over them. I did not know whether to feel big or small. But I understood then that there is no scale for such feelings of meaningfulness.

One day, when the wind didn’t blow, we decided to put the tender overboard and do a few laps around the ship to take some pictures. That was the day we truly realised it: we are really crossing the Atlantic on a pirate ship. And just like going to space and looking back at Earth, we all stared at her from the distance in awe and reverence. She was everything we had and the only place we were safe within a radius of hundreds, maybe thousands of miles. That day we all came back on board with a renewed sense of care and responsibility, and I wondered how would the world be if more people were able to step out of their lives and take a look from a different perspective.

Anyway, the Caribbean was getting closer and, although I didn’t want the crossing to end, we would finally eat something else rather than pumpkin and bananas and I was also curious for what the West would bring. Barbados was our first stop. We dropped one of our anchors on the bay of Bridgetown and as it touched the ground our captain yelled, “Welcome in the Caribbean” and we all cheered, already imagining all the land pleasures we were going to feast on! But it would take us another 6 hours of hard-core teamwork until we could finally reach land since we soon realised that the anchor wasn’t holding!
With squalls in the horizon and other boats all around us, we had to be quick and pull that anchor up, so we could sail away from the bay and try again. But on a traditional ship like ours, without an engine or modern technology, bringing up an anchor means that the whole crew is taking turns sweating under the sun pulling like crazy. After two hours we were ready to try again. We chose another spot, let go of the anchor, crossed our fingers and waited in silence…damn, it wasn’t holding again! We dropped a few more shackles, nothing changed. We drop our second anchor and still not holding. Now we had two anchors to pull up! Make water bottles ready, we were going to be pulling non-stop for another hour or more. This time was going to be the last time we would try anchoring, since the crew was exhausted and starving after 6h of pulling, tacking, jibing, and running around hoisting and dousing sails. We approached the bay once more, the captain screams “Tres Hombres let go!” and for the third time, we hear the anchor dropping. With four and a half shackles in, she was definitely holding this time!

From then on a different life on board began. Land time became longer than sea time and that had its positive and negative sides. We could rest from the discipline and focus needed at sea but we were also vulnerable again to all land distractions, bureaucracies and stress. But we had a job to do and so we started our island hopping to collect the good cargo. In Martinique, we had a group of people swimming full rum barrels across the bay. We met the Gallant and moored side by side for a memorable barbeque on board. We could taste the French croissants and baguettes again and I discovered the magic of rum punch.

In Grenada, we roamed through spice markets, jumped in waterfalls and met other kindred spirits. We were also introduced to soca music and a bit more rum punch. Arriving in Colombia meant all hands on deck and surviving a storm for one full night. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger they say. In the Dominican Republic, I learned how to negotiate prices, bargain and push my way through the lawless systems. It is undeniable though that problems exist here and in other places we have been. But these issues, such as corruption, for example, derive from deep feelings of unfairness and, as long as there are social and economical disparities in the world, I believe this will be bound to happen. Investing in these countries, helping their internal economies and small-scale businesses, building bridges and connections, rather than just exploiting them for their beautiful nature is, in my view, a good start. And that is what we are doing, on a very small scale.

A friend of mine used to say sometimes that the brightest light casts the darkest shadows. I had to think about that expression when I was in the Dominican Republic because there I have also seen the best in people. I was helped by many strangers and witnessed beautiful and rare gestures of trust and solidarity that made a big impact on me. All hands all day were needed to load our last cargo. I could not believe it would ever fit when I saw it by the quay but it just did. There we would hear about the extension of the coronavirus effects, the border closures and quarantine measures for the first time.
We could not stay longer in the harbour but we also didn’t know where to sail to since the Azores were closing the borders as well as the rest of Europe. But a ship is made for sailing and after the loading was done we were losing our purpose on land. Thus we set sail on a Tuesday morning with a dry store filled with food meant to last for 6 weeks, direction uncertain.

Crossing back though was going to be a very different kind of love story. The trade winds were not going to be there to push us gently from the back. Instead, we would have to navigate our way through the highs and the lows, in an ever colder and wetter environment. I have also realised that the feeling of going back home together with the uncertainties brought by these special times made us less able to truly live and appreciate the present moment. Suddenly time was on our minds again.

When will we arrive? Where will we arrive? Will we have enough food, water, gas? What world will we encounter?

Future sabotaged the present. I also had my own private questions. What will I do next? Where will I go next? When I started this journey I chose to leave everything behind. I left my job, my house, sold my car and most of my belongings. Setting sail with no personal mooring lines was the greatest of feelings but I knew that coming back was going to be confusing, to say the least.

The thing is that after you’ve done one season on Tres Hombres many things you thought were great now seem boring, many things you thought you wanted you don’t want them anymore, and sometimes you meet somebody, they steal your heart and with it all the plans you might have made before. But being confused is good; it is an active state of mind. And being alive is to accept change and flow with it like an autumn leaf in the wind. And if the wind is fair it will get you there.

Now that we have completed our mission, and looking back at what we have done, there are two ways of going about it. In practical terms, we have sailed a ship to the Caribbean to collect cargo and we have sailed it back to Europe to deliver cargo. In total, around 40 tons of cacao, coffee, rum and sugar have been traded. This is what anyway will forever be registered in the paperwork, invoices, logbooks and so on.

But in reality, this was a journey of a lifetime for each individual that stepped on this ship, more so for the ones doing the full round trip. It was confronting, exciting, provocative, awe-inspiring. It stirred all kinds of thoughts and feelings. It opened up different paths and possibilities. It ignited new questions and dreams.

And I can’t help to wonder what the real cargo is in the end, the goods or the people. After all, the fox is right: what is essential is invisible to the eye. So in some ways, I think that the rum we carry is just a necessary mean to make it viable for this vessel to keep sailing and inspiring people. Investing in products with such a story and human beings behind it, is allowing for personal growth and deep life changes, making the world a little bit happier and a little bit healthier a journey at the time. Therefore I must thank everybody that is supporting Fairtransport by buying our products or giving their time and skills to the project. It really got under my skin in ways I am still to process. There is a unique quality given only to things that take time and effort.

So after 200kg of porridge and 176 days of pura vida, if later someone asks me how long my journey was, I’ll say somewhere between 6 months and a lifetime.

 

Surfing in the channel (by Wiebe Radstake)

The 28th of April I woke up the Fo’c’sle at 5 o’clock in the morning.

Good Morning everyone: time to pump up some anchor! Half an hour later the anchor was up and with a very small wind we moved up and down in the bay of Douarnenez. We stopped over here because we were already 5 weeks at sea and the wind in the channel was not that good (tacking with light winds) and we were running out of food. Our good friends Remi and Liz did the provisioning for us (thanks!) and the Tres Hombres crew could sleep for a few days.

A few hours after pumping up the anchor the current was going out of the bay and the wind started to increase slowly. Also, the rains were getting heavier and heavier. Eight hours later we were out of the bay tacking with a Westerly wind up and down Cap du Raz and Ile d’Ouessant. Heavy currents made it very special navigation. Another 10 hours later the wind increased and backed from West to South West. With this wind, we could reach the south side of Ile D’Ouessant but the currents were coming from North to South so we could not get around. This night around 4 o’clock the tidal current changed and we could get around the island open the sails and finally sail into the channel .

I knew this was the perfect timing because a small low was just coming over one watch later. Rain, Rain, Rain and 30 knots of wind backing from one to the other moment. So we had to brace around and wear ship (Gybe).

Now we are sailing or better surfing in the channel, doing in between 6.5 and 10 knots (depending on current again) in the right direction. As we say in the Netherlands: Het paard ruikt de stal! (The horse smells the stable!)
We are looking so much forward to see our families and friends even we have to act differently with the 1.5 m rule.

Still a few days at sea, all the best.

Wiebe Radstake

One month at sea (By Wiebe Radstake)

You’re not the only one with mixed emotions, you’re not the only ship adrift in the ocean.

I remember this was the Rolling Stones song we listened to on the first crossing I did with Tres Hombres seven years ago. And I’m listening to it again now. Fighting our way to the Channel entrance. The last days were cold days, winds from the North East and sailing full-on by. It seems we may not be allowed to sail back home, but do we really want to sail back home? How are we gonna find Europe? Mixed Emotions.

Six years of sailing around the Atlantic and nearly home again. This time for the first time being captain. All the different captains I was sailing with coming up in my head when I stare over the ocean. What did I learn from who and what do I do with this now?
Some things come up: first sailing together on a Tjalk with Jaap in the Zeeland delta: Always try to keep the ship as close to the wind as possible, falling off you can always do later. After hoisting the leeboards hundreds of times it was time for countless hours behind the helm. Learning how to sail on strong currents in the Oosterschelde.

Later when I first stepped on board on the Tres Hombres in Portugal my first skipper was Lammert: The ocean has many ways to show her size (sometimes it’s hell, sometimes it’s paradise). The love for the ocean was born in the very first week of this Atlantic round trip.

After that year I was sailing with Andreas: how to keep the ship in perfect shape, a good combination of hard work and having parties in the harbours.

Next thing I remember: sitting with Francois a few years later in Boca Chica looking at the weather forecast above the North Atlantic: Depression after depression made our computer screen red. The only thing he said: That will go fast.

From Harry on the Morgenster: you can talk forever about the weather but in the end, you can not change anything about it.

Later I learned from Fosse on the Wylde Swan how to sail proudly backwards in a parade, and remember: a life full of adventure gets also boring after a while (altijd avontuur wordt ook maar een sleur).

Just some things from years and years sailing around. And now I have to do it on my own. Now Bob Dylan’s singing: Jeah How does it feel, like a Rolling Stone?
But not without a home: we are sailing home and even the eastern winds will not prevent us to come back.

Wiebe

Moving towards the North (By Logan Mc Manus)

I see grey skies looming in all directions. It’s becoming ever more clear that we are moving towards the North as the temperature drops, and the seas start to lose their blue.

The first response of my shipmates and I is to reflect the state of our surroundings in attitude and emotion; See grey, feel grey.  This is not the complete process of the experience however, as golden hearts shine through the clouds, always to the Sun as we head East.
Every day I am more convinced that the human body is nothing if not adaptable. I’ve learned that it is the sheer power of will that keeps the body warm and immune, not the obvious comforts we so easily depend on externally. This same power is what keeps the ship moving forward, taking just another form of focus, and determination. If the skies can so directly influence our inner states of being, why then, do we feel so incapable of doing the same, in turn, to the skies? Are they not extensions of our own experience? Do they not hail from the same infinite universe?

Aye, I believe humans have indeed caught a glimpse of eternity’s sunrise and stopped to drink from the fountains of Zion, but we remain human still, blissfully mortal. It is our duty to undergo that which unsettles, and disturbs the world. It is discomfort that makes someone move for more, just as harsh winds fill a sail, and push a ship such as ours through oceans.

Sometimes we forget to reconnect with ourselves, and think past our coldness, but even still, as the ever changing seasons of nature would have it, there is always another stimulant that comes forward to lighten the mood, things as simple as hot food at the end of a watch, clean water to drink, or the sight of whales and dolphins dancing for us, welcoming us home. These things set in motion again, the cycle of that human potential, to overcome, and create our own experience, through laughter and teamwork. Long Live those Men and Women who see an adventure in a storm, or an opportunity to sow in barren ground.

Ahoy (by Captain Wiebe Radstake)

We are now 21 days at sea. First, we tacked our way out of the Caribbean sea through the Mona Passage.
Squalls and sailing full-on by through the first ocean waves.  After we sailed close-hauled all the way to the hight of Bermuda. We did see the lights of the lighthouses in the distance and heard Bermuda Radio inform the ships around that if you wanted to visit the islands you had to go into quarantine. We have our own small happy healthy quarantine on board here, in the middle of the ocean.
We are surfing over the ocean and keeping our heads clear: instead of watching tv and internet, we are watching the waves and ocean skies.
Instead of buying toilet papers, we are trimming the sails to go as fast as possible forward: destination Horta.

Till a few days ago: Pedro from Peter Sports café informed that the harbour of Horta was open but crew is not allowed to go on land. We can get provisioning and water to the ship and berth on a special quarantine pier: that’s it.  So no playing rock n roll and dancing on the tables in Peter Sport,  no Tres Hombres painting 2020 or writing my name on the Captains painting by Jorne, no way of getting my mail from the special seaman post office.
And since we have favourable winds, for now, I decided we are going to do this crossing without stopping in the Acores. We have enough food/water and gas on board for another four weeks. We are now homebound: for crew and ship, it’s better to stay in the rhythm of the ocean and have Amsterdam as a destination. Boca Chica to Amsterdam around 5000 sea miles, it will be a crossing to remember.

From today on we will steer North to sail around high pressure in the Biscay and Acores and as soon we have the good hight, we will try to get west first to first reach Land’s End and Lizard Point, after we hope to have good winds to get through the channel and the North Sea. For now, we are enjoining the ocean, this time even without airplane pollution.
All the best from the Tres Hombres

Captain Wiebe Radstake

A life-changing experience (by Luuk van Binsbergen)

On the 16th of February in Santa Marta, Colombia I stepped into a whole new world called sailing. Everything was new to me. Living with people you don’t know on a boat, ropes, sails, climbing, sailing terms.

After preparing the boat we went to Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. In these 9 days, I was getting a little used to all this stuff. But new stuff came up.
Getting dressed and undressed on a constantly moving floor, seeing your bowl of food sliding on the table, walking like a drunk man on deck. Going to the top of the mast is also a whole different ballgame in the waves.

Getting used to the watches. Pulling ropes when it has to be done quickly. In Boca Chica, we prepared ourselves for a long journey, probably (we know for sure now) not stopping in Horta, Azores but directly going to Amsterdam, Holland. After loading the barrels of rum and putting bags of cacao in every corner of the boat and putting love into the boat that has to bring us safely to the other side of the ocean, we left. Again a whole new thing for me, the big relentless Atlantic Ocean. The first days were a good introduction to the ocean. Banging into the waves. Getting almost lifted up from the bed while sleeping. Seeing the 25-meter long mast and her sails moving like grass in the wind while the moon is shining on the sea, gave me such a happy feeling. The boat moving up and down in 5 meter big waves, made me feel like a child again. Climbing in top of the mast while getting swung around, makes me feel alive. Even doing dishes is an adventure. Taking care of all parts of the boat, makes you realize how much things are going on. Countless meters of ropes, blocks, sails and so much more. The good food, laughing, stories under the stars every night, living so close together with 13 other people, the whole idea of a cargo ship without an engine, the sunrises and sunsets, the fight against the elements all the time and the fact that you can’t go anywhere makes the Tres Hombres such a special place to be. After almost 3 weeks on the open sea, I think I understand why people saying this is a life-changing experience and I am more than happy to have this experience!

Sailing Backwards to go Forwards (by Anna R./Trainee)

Tug; tack, tack, (accidental tack and gybe), tack, tack, tack, tack, etc.
Like Tres Hombres’ mission, we sail backwards to go forwards
Learning from the past, bracing and making fast
14 days of full-on by, Starling satellites sail through the night sky
Engineless, just starlight in our small 32 m world alone in the ocean
No mirrors or wifi for egos and vanity
Self-reflection here on a grander scale

Surfing, gliding
Furling, gybing
Tailing, coiling
Tarring, oiling
Heave to-ing
Bunts and clew-ing
Sunrays, stargaze

Olden rum-run living
Care and nuture giving
Diversity
Sustainability
Communication
Appreciation
Hopeful change-makers
Endless opportunity

-anna r

28 Days Later (by Martin Zenzes)

We are fully loaded to the brim with Coffee, Rum and Chocolate. Barrels in the noise room, that’s probably a first. With time to think after weeks of harbours and civilization, I am finally writing my 4th blog article on this journey. Returning home I really look forward to seeing my families and friends again after that long time on the road.
The crew is in a really good mood, after more or less a week at sea everybody is getting into a rhythm again. The old crew falls into its patterns and the new crew gets their feet wet. Old inside jokes developed over time get retold while some stories as if by a silent agreement are not being talked about. And everybody knows that these days of crossing the ocean to Bermuda are the last days of Caribbean Sun before entering the actual North Atlantic, into the European Spring.
The thing I will write about our last harbour, Boca Chica, is that you are not supposed to drink the tap water there – am I surprised? My personal favourite from all the places we visited in the west is Grenada. It had the right mix of exotic but sympathetic roughness. It had a distinct culture, friendly people and on top of that a green and lush nature. The whole crew had a great field day visiting the Grenada Chocolate Company – a delicious slavery-free Oil Down included.
Stepping on land in Horta at the  Azores would be a very welcome experience after all the stories I have heard of these islands, but to be sure we are stocked up for the “long crossing” directly to Amsterdam. From our perspective, it looks like Europe is doing a unique social experiment where the boat is somehow not part of it. We are lucky enough to have plentiful supplies of bog roll and the best homemade pizza I ate in my life. I am prepared for a small chickenpox party after arrival to get done with it. We don’t see many aeroplanes, but got a friendly visit from a US Coast Guard helicopter while passing Puerto Rico. What happens to the rest of the planet? No daily crazy media frenzy to worry about. Our little world here is not changed that much, except the worries about our relatives at home belonging in the risk groups. We are probably at one of the more sane and safe places at the moment.
One thing I strongly remember is that day on the crossing to the Caribbean when we drove the dingy on a calm day around the Tres, she dressed up with all the Stun Sails you can find. That tiny self-sustained world floating in the nothingness of ocean above an abyss of kilometres of water. That was an “Apollo 8 Moment”: Treat that floating home and anything on it with all the love and care you can, there is nothing else around it. If somebody sees a metaphor there I’m happy…
Now after being engulfed in a waft of slightly fermenting chocolate beans for an hour or two I’ll return on deck to finish a wonderful, sunny Sunday off-watch.

Martin Zenzes, Bermuda Basin, 2020