Den Helder: for those who have been around Tres Hombres since her early days, this name will ring more than one bell and recall many memories. It is a town in Noord Holland which faces the island of Texel and looks over the Wadden Zee, with its place in the maritime history of the Dutch navy and fleet.
This is where the headquarters are, in Willemsoord. Where Teerenstra is, the shipyard where Tres Hombres drydocks and gets refitted since 2008. Just on the other side of the canal from the shipyard, there is a green oasis called De Groene Stek, managed by Judith, a strong woman who would deny a smile to no one!
Judith has a great team who works with her in the garden, a team made by special people who would be let apart in society otherwise, people who are differently able but so often get described as disabled. They work setting goals which are tailor-made for everyone involved in the project, matching their personal needs and aiming for real improvements, mental and physical benefits, creating a safe place of acceptance where people otherwise rejected by society can learn new skills.
Through growing veggies and herbs, they grow themselves too! Gardening becomes therapy for them, probably the best and most effective, a way to stay socially connected letting Nature do the healing that is needed.
From there we take the veggies we need for the refits and for the beginning of the winter voyages for many years. We go there to harvest them ourselves, to chat with the people, to cut the apples that will dry in the oven and be served as snacks on board, and to spend some time in this urban oasis of organic agriculture.
Fairtransport and De Groene Stek are long-term friends, Judith has been supporting many cooks and provisioning the galley of Tres Hombres for a long time, during the refit as well as at sea.
And she is so stunningly generous that fresh veggies aren’t the only gift she provides! Let Eddie tell you more about it…
So we are coming to the end of the winter voyage. Reflecting on the time that has passed there is a very clear group that contributed to making the galley what it was.
Groenestek! You have been with us the whole way, and every person on board knows and is so grateful for your gifts. Thank you for your abundant generosity!
A short summary of what they gave
There are some places that simply bewitch you. Faial is one of those indeed.
This little volcanic island in the middle of the Azorean Archipel is a classic stop for many sailors and seafarers for a long time. To split the long Northern Atlantic crossing into two legs, to restock on fresh provisions, to stretch the legs and fill up the lungs with pure ocean breeze loaded with a delightful scent of green grass, sailors stop in Horta and leave on the walls of the marina artistic signs of their passage, creating one of the most interesting open-air travel art galleries in the world! If you ever stop there, we challenge you to find all the drawings Tres Hombres has left over the years.
We have made many friends on the island, and it is always a bit like coming back home for those who have sailed there before.
The hospitality of the locals, who have learnt how to welcome and shelter sailors over many centuries, is legendary (just think of the most well-known example of it, the Peter’s Sport Bar). The island, with its green lush pastures and happy cows, is a hotspot for cheese lovers too. Blessed by the Gulf Stream which mitigates the climate, you can find both sub-tropical and continental varieties of fruits and vegetables too. Oranges and bananas grow next to each other, and a few years ago Tres Hombres’ crew, upon request of one of our farmer friends, brought even a seedling of cocoa. The little plant is now growing into a tree and seems to be pretty satisfied with its new home, soil and conditions.
From Horta, you can enjoy a stunning view of the next island, Pico, and its mighty volcano, which they are very proud of. The funny fact is that the locals in Horta say that the most beautiful thing about Pico is the view you have of it from Faial!
Due to weather and schedule, I knew before arrival that it was set to be a shortstop in the Azores. I got in touch with Paula straight away,
who has been a friend and the contact of the ship for many years. She was so kind and so helpful. The day after we arrived she took me
and some others on a drive around the island to visit some local producers.
First, we went to her family’s bakery where I was able to buy some extra 25kg sacks of flour at wholesale price (thank you!). She also gave us some of the delicious biscuits that they make.
Then we went to Emmanuel, her partner’s project. He has started a small company growing organically oyster mushrooms and has four grow rooms some of which look like some sort of SciFi world with pink lights and ducting. We also bought dried mushrooms for the galley, and be also ready to welcome them to the Fairtransport webshop of sail-shipped products soon!
We then walked to some of his land next door where he grew oranges and lemons which we picked straight from the trees. The ground had almost a carpet of wild mint and it was the most beautiful and overwhelming smell of mint and orange blossom as we walked. Those citrus jewels have been keeping our crew full of vitamin C for the final leg, the most important!
We also went to meet and visit Zuga, who showed us around her new land project and picked 40kg of bananas straight from her trees. Unfortunately, they haven’t ripened yet, but hopefully, it will be a nice treat for the summer trip!
Finally, we went to a beautiful home garden where we bought fresh salad and herbs. After 24 days at sea, all these leafy greens were much appreciated by the crew.
The next day Paula organized a tour around the island with the whole crew. What a lush day. Thank you, Paula, Emmanuel, Zuga, and all the locals who welcomed and helped us. Thank you Faial island, for a brief but beautiful last stop.
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.
Martinique belongs to the French Antilles and it is a well-known pit stop for many (especially French) sailors and cruisers on the Trade Winds route who like to drop their anchors in the many bays the island offers to restock on water, food, fresh croissants and baguettes!
The economy of the island strongly depends on a few agricultural crops such as bananas (first employer of the island) and sugar cane, used to produce the famous rhum agricole the one and only in the world to hold an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée). Right after comes tourism, especially dense and developed in the south of the island where Tres Hombres lands.
It highly relies on mainland France for many resources. Landing in Martinique means also entering French territory, in all meanings. The most consumed and appreciated fruit of this tropical paradise is….the apple. But be sure there is not even one single apple tree growing on the whole island. We won’t dwell here on the post-colonialism issues and consequences that many islands in the Caribbean area still suffer nowadays, but it is essential we keep this awareness well sharp in mind.
Even street markets can be very expensive, many products are imported and the average tourist consumerism is one of the greatest sources of income for the local community. Once a pineapple grower, who also owned a stall at the local market, told us that she had to sell her pineapples very expensive in Martinique because she had to give most of her production to France. She cannot really set a fair price for it. So what remains of her harvest can then be sold freely in the market, but this is the only situation where she is able to choose the price of her fruits herself and to compensate for the little she earns by dealing with the mainland, the local market prices are skyrocketing.
Marie Galante, a little island southwest of Guadalupe, is a true pearl and offers a different experience. Definitely more rural than its bigger sisters, Marie Galante still conserves some of its real wild and authentic beauty. Still pretty untouched by the invasive mass tourism and the wicked private construction which ravaged many of the other islands, the time seems to have stopped here. The local community is still very attached to its customs and tradition, animal traction is still widely preferred to mechanical labor of the soil. More oxen and less tractors!
We love this island and try to respect it as best as we can.
I was in such a daze stepping on land for the first time in three weeks when I went to the first little market in Saint Anne that I think I may have got a little ‘done’. I remember thinking that the kilo price for the bananas seemed high, but I was so scrambled and overwhelmed by being off the boat I didn’t properly clock it. Luckily it was only a quick little shop I did there with not too much money wasted.
At the next market in Le Marin, I was a bit more on it, although definitely feeling hindered by not speaking French. The ladies there were businesswomen and know how to hustle. I definitely bought some unintended pineapples as a result of this! However the food was good and I was keen to stock up the dry store after the crossing, especially as I wasn’t sure if we would be able to go ashore in Barbados because of Covid rules. I bought breadfruit at the market and once it got soft and sweet I fried up like plantain. Most of the people on board had not eaten it before. When I provision it’s important for me to find unusual local items and for the food we eat to evolve and change with our surroundings.
Such a tiny, tiny little island. Marie Galante has a population of 10,000 and only three small villages. In the village we were closest to there were two little veg stalls. With the help of Cami, our Bosun and native French speaker, we managed to organize a larger order of vegetables through one of these stalls. They were quite happy about it, so we got offered to pick up any old veggie that couldn’t be sold, for free. The average tourist cares a bit too much about the sexiness of the fruits and veggies. The first night of picking up a BIG vegetable soup was made!
La Palma, also named “La Bonita”, is known for her Jurassic wild flora, black sandy volcanic beaches, and for delighting the visitors at night with one of the purest skies in the whole Northern hemisphere. It is also one of the steepest islands in the world: the top of its main volcano raises above sea level up to 2423 mt.
Biodiversity thrives here, also thanks to its blessed position in warm latitudes swept by the fresh Atlantic breeze, almost always blowing, being at the entrance of the Trade Winds route.
The island got worldwide famous last year due to the major eruptions of La Cumbre Vieja, which lasted for several months and severely impacted the inhabitants of the island and its wildlife. Growers, farmers, and producers have been struggling in such harsh environmental circumstances but the local solidarity made it possible to cope with the situation and get over it.
We landed on the first island of the many we will encounter during our trans-Atlantic voyage: La Palma, on the Canary Islands. Last years’ cook, Sabine, who has lived on the island for many years, linked me up with lots of small-scale producers. It was great getting to drive around the island and picking up the fruit and veggies direct from them. What a provisioning dream this island is, such a great selection of locally grown produce, including things that are specific to the Island. I tried Yuca for the first time and surprised all the crew with this unsuspecting root vegetable. They look like brown sweet potatoes but have the texture of water chestnut and taste like sugar cane! I added them into salads during the crossing which was delicious. They kept for about a month. I also tried Tomatillo, they look a little like plum tomatoes and also grow on a vine, however, the skin is thicker (and a little bitter) but the taste of the fruit inside is really strong and tropical. These fruits are sturdy and I saved them till at least two weeks into the crossing, they were a nice surprise to pull out long after the rest of the more tropical fruit had been used up.
I also enjoyed buying passion fruit that I would add to fruit salads and to ‘refreshing beverages’ that I would sometimes make and had out to the crew in an extra effort to keep them hydrated.
Being this the first time that I provisioned for a big crossing I was for sure carrying some newbies anxiety. I probably over-bought on some things, and maybe under-bought on others. However in the end the crossing went well and we still had plenty of fresh food by the end. I think another week could have gone by and I would have been able to keep the meals at a good level of freshness and interest.