My watch mates are resting quietly around me in the darkness of the focastle. The thousands and one sounds of
the ship, the Bosun tools noises, the salty sailors boots heavy steps running on the foredeck, the yelling of the maneuvers (an hard-core symphony which might have sounded creepy or disturbing in the beginning of the trip but now incredibly familiar), together with the glassy waters knocking at the hull close to my ears compose a lullaby, the melody of an old hand-and-heart-made boat that has its own soul and spirit, that breaths as a living creature, that speaks, whispers, cry and shout, at its own way, in its own language.
The red light of my headlamp, which is restricted on deck by the Captain in order to get our eyes sharper and able to see even in the darkest moonless night, brights my bunk and these pages, making me feel alone somehow, if “alone” is a word with a meaning on board of a sailing cargo ship of walkable 25mt shared with 15 sailors. Being alone is a luxury of the land, and personally my biggest saudade on board. So I grab this precious moment and surf this intimate wave of sharing with you some impressions of this whole voyage, now that it is almost over. Yes, almost. Because on an engineless sailing vessel it is hard, pointless, counterproductive and even dangerous to tell such things.
Even if the betting already started nobody can predict with certitude when we will fold the sails, step on the quay, open a fresh beer and looking back at Her saying to ouselves “it is over”. Everything can be, everything can change. You never know. You cannot know. You can do your best, but still it is not you to decide.
The old chinese proverb “if you want to make Gods laughs, tell them about your plans” is truer than ever here and finds its perfect demonstration on the Tres Hombres. The ship and the elements are fully owner of our destinies. Isnt that epic great? So we are almost there and it is time for my watch to begin, lets see what it will be.
The summer trip seems to be a different experience to the way longer transatlantic crossing, but still it is something, especially for some brand new fresh sailors as most of us.
We crossed (without particularly fair winds and currents) the English Channel twice in less than a month, the damned tricky unreliable English Channel with its unpredictable winds and its scaring intense cargo monsters traffic. This has its sailing, nautical but also emotional consequences, repercussion on moods and dynamics, on deck or down in the bunks, as well as inside and outside yourself. This can mean for example that when there is no wind and you feel stuck and bored, kind of useless with no ropes to pull, you can easily get also stuck into a quarrel between peanut butter maniacs and chocolate paste lovers, which it is not such an important either interesting issue, if you know what I mean. The presence or absence of the wind, being anchored in the middle of the Channel unable to move, drifted away or backwards by the currents, the stillness of the wait, all very very tricky elements, and you have to learn how to take care of them. It is therefore very important to keep yourself busy, at least for me it is a strategy that helped a lot. Go to Bosun asking for tasks, take care of the ship to show your love and respect to her, hoping that he will send you up in the riggings, maybe to oil the leather around the shrouds, and there hidden by the sail in the silence of the sky you can listen to your heart beat so loud, making all the other voices quiet, finally.
Sitting on the galley roof staring at the tanks which seem to have released all their petrol cargo on the surface of the sea, so quiet and oily as it looks, witnessing one of the dirtiest fact of our society, a secret hidden in the oceans were every day thousands of thousands of thousands of metal monsters,spitting stinky gases and smokes, whose bellies are filled with a pure foie-gras style with all kinds of evil goods and cheap shit for all kinds of pockets, coming and going from and to all kinds of places, all kinds of materials, colors, shapes, flavours… it seems like we need it, it looks like we desperately need it considering the speed they travel in order to deliver their cargo on the other side of a planet. But do we? Really? What for? And Why? (ps. WHY NOT IS NOT AN ALLOWED FUNNY ANSWER). Are we able to reconsider completely, till the roots, our consumption? Am I?
How many questions, new and old ones, melting together in the messy pot of your mind…and from the outside they sneak into the inside and all the little things and details and events of just a single watch can be strong heartquakes, especially if you are an hopeless empathic sensitive human as I am or used to be? A huge refit of myself started, the one that was waiting for some time now but on land you know… there are lots of ways to postpone it, not to say avoid it. On board of the Tres Hombres, there is no escape from yourself. Your ego will try to trick and tease you but if you accept the challenge and the pain that eventually comes with, you can live a very blow-minding experience. Tolerance, acceptance, adaptation, self confidence and self questioning, the discover of the potentiality of your body, the power of the trust or distrust, in yourself and in the others, the strenght that turns into weakness and reverse, your certitudes upside down… and then the wind starts to blow again and somehow you get through it and you survive your own self while pulling ropes or adding extras crazy sails. or sliding the stunsail boom under the yard inside after having gybed it for the first time believing you cannot do that without making some bullshit… but your beloved one right next to you believes in you, so why wouldnt you?…And you just do it.
I wont go deeper into details, the salty sailors who are reading these lines will probably remember, recognize,understand or at least know what the hell I am talking about and some words could eventually recall some old memories of their very first waves, and the curious followers of the adventures of this ship and her crew are warmly invited to step closer and taste the salt of our personal challenges and mission while we are also sailing cargo pushed only by the winds. The harder the environment, the greater the lesson!
We all have our own hells and heavens, our skeletons and untied knots, dreams and nightmares, and there is nothing more interesting and that will make you feel so connected with yourself, with all the dark and shiny shades of this self, than sailing here. So personally I feel blessed and I am truly thankful to have the opportunity to face this me and eventually, hopefully, grow stronger and be a better being. I promise to myself not to give up on this quest as well as on understanding how this sailing masterpiece and the elements work together and bring us from A to B emission free. Who knows, maybe my path will keep me here for a little more if life will decide I deserve some more of this magic, or somewhere else seeking the same beautiful thrills that made me feel so alive, the learning crashed, the painful downs and unforgettable ups.
I want to thank all the crew, for the good and for the bad, I learned something very important from each of you. And a special one to our Captain, a humble guy who is a pure wild sailing living legend, ready to everything, unpredictable as the winds he loves, who opened up the arms of his knowledge and experience with patience and respect, smartness and balance, it is a true honor to pull the same rope, execute his orders, listening to the explanations of maneuvers, the afternoon lectures or the sunset readings, the generosity to welcome us on board and share his floating home with us, unknown strangers. I have a long list of memories and moments to be grateful for but I will keep it for me.
You are all free to write your own joining this outstanding project to improve yourself and the world living a true life changing adventure.
“We have been longing to see it even if it was missing, but the treasure is there, for sure. Hidden by trickster demons and lost in the labyrinths of our questions and answers” Corto Maltese
Xisto Wines, run by Anton Mann and Lela McTernan are proud to be the only UK wine importers dedicated solely to importing Portuguese artisan wines.
They work with the new wave of young winemakers , who work sustainably, producing small quantities of the finest quality wines with character and a sense of place.
Wines that take you on a journey from the banks of the Douro river to the high mountain tops. Lisbon wines that hint of salty seashells, wines from Dao, Alentejo and Vinho Verde that reflect the terroir perfectly.
These wines are made by producers who are experts in knowing their vineyards, nurturing them in organic and bio dynamic ways.
Indigenous grapes are hand picked, foot trodden and allowed lovingly with minimal intervention and maximum skill for the amazing delicious wines to emerge.
Xisto Wines have become great friends with all their producers and visit them regularly so they can assure their customers of the provenance of their wines.
The producers are 100% behind them in their chosen method of transport, even making unique wines that are shipped in barrel on Tres Hombres or Nordlys to be bottled in Bristol under the PORT O ‘BRISTOL flag.
Bristol and Portugal have historic trade links (Bristol and Porto are twinned cities) which feels right to reestablish with their wines and organic olive oil ( Portugal’s finest , single Quinta do Romeu ) cargo in the belly of a Fairtransport vessel.
From the beginning of 2010 Anton was in discussion with Fairtransport to try and realise their dream of transporting their wines by sail using zero carbon. Over the intervening years this is a reality. It is extremely important to them and the winemakers to leave as little a footprint as possible.
To that end they are really excited to sail the wines made with grapes, genius and passion in a vessel powered by the wind and skilful sailor’s..
MADE BY REBELS
SHIPPED BY PIRATES
DRUNK BY HEROES
For more information about Xisto’s sail shipped wines : https://xistowines.com/
Move your cargo emission free on one of our ships: http://fairtransport.eu/shipping/
Tacking against the trades,
Since leaving the anchorage of Cabo Rojo, we have been close hauled. A term, used by sailors when sailing as much against the wind as physically possible. It is also the course where the qualities of the sailor and his vessel are most tested, independently of the strength of the wind. In the Caribbean sea, when one is intended to move from West to East, there is no other way than going against the prevailing trade winds.
The voyage, before I came on board, which departed after loading coffee in Santa Martha, Colombia, and brought the ship to Cabo Rojo, Dominican Republic, was a good example of a close hauled voyage with strong winds. This is really where crew and ship are tested to the limit. Before leaving Santa Martha, the whole standing rigging was tuned as taut, that she was able to carry sail to the utmost. And this is what she did, and this is what had to be done. Because only with fighting over every degree and mile, it is possible to make headway against the trade winds and their accompanying currents. Especially when they are stronger than average. It has a prize though, a wooden ship pushed this hard, has a tendency of leaking more than in less challenging circumstances. Her crew becomes tired after days of fighting the adverse weather, having not a dry rag left, and being tossed around the decks and cabins.
This trip, to Boca Chica, we encounter a total different situation. Quite the opposite in weather really, the wind has not been very strong and at times even absent. At these occasions there is barely enough wind, to even steer the ship in a straight course. And as we have to tack almost every watch, to fulfill our intended zig zag course against the wind. We had it two times now, that we were not even able to tack her, due to the absent push in the sails, combined with a swell to stop her bow. If this happened, stubbornly we would, make speed again and steer into another tack, to only experience the same disappointment. And finally after having encountered the failed slow motion maneuver twice, we would finally retreat to the even more ground loosing maneuver of jibing. Also sailing with these light winds, would not be so much of a challenge, where it not for the constant strain of the current setting us West, and at our slow speed, making our zig zag course often not more than a parallel track.
Our voyage plan positively stated a voyage of 125 miles, yet we logged already well over 300 miles since heaving up anchor. These miles are not won, with a nice racing speed, no, we are averaging a speed of: 3 or 4 knots an hour. Our crew is in high spirits though. We are looking forward to fasten our mooring lines in Boca Chica. Meet up with the new crew members, who are awaiting our arrival, to join our ranks. And finally start loading the final precious cargo, cocoa, rum and melasse, up till her marks, to return home across the North Atlantic ocean.
So even these days the age old saying holds true: A bloody seagull on a soapbox can sail downwind, but it takes a seaman to go against it.
See you soon,
Capt. Jorne Langelaan
Preparing to go to sea..
So while we are at sea again, I would like to explain a little bit about preparing a ship to go to sea. As you have read in the previous weblog, we have been at anchor for two weeks. I write: we, with that I really mean the ship and her crew, because personally I only joined the ship two days before setting sail. So really most preparations found place under the command of my predecessor, captain Fabian Klenner. So what does it entail? To explain in short: crew, ship and gear has to be ready for sea.
Most crewmembers have been for quite a few months on board. The core crew: mate, cook, deckhands and one of the trainees, has been on board since her departure from Den Helder last year. Of the core crew, most of them sailed before that on Tres Hombres, and of the other crewmembers some of them have. This means there is quite a bit of experience on board to built on. And under the command of Fabian, several safety drills where carried out to keep the crew up to high standards of seamanship. For me off course, being the one new on board, I had to familiarize myself with the capabilities of the crew. Because really, on a sailing vessel like this, it is not entirely the ship which defines her seaworthiness but it is more the crew itself which brings safety, continuity and comfortable sailing. To do this, I had a personal interview with each crewmember, to understand their previous experiences on board, find out about their capabilities and discuss ideas and wishes for the coming trip. Apart from that I had a lot of conversations with Fabian to discuss the management on board and learn about the things, he found out, which worked or did not work.
The ship has proved herself throughout the past ten years under the flag of Fairtransport, and many decades in all different roles under previous owners. This does not mean there is nothing to prepare on her. You can compare a traditional wooden square rigged sailing vessel, with her millions of parts, who are all subject to change, because of weather conditions, wear and tear and maintenance, almost to a living creature. Like any living being, she needs to breath (ventilation), drink (paint, linseed oil, tar) and eat (wood, steel, oakum, pitch, rope and wire) to survive. To make this possible every year she gets a thorough refit, mostly during a period of about a month, this past year it was three months. And also her crew is constantly supporting the life of their vessel with maintenance. Some things are more obvious than others. The standing rigging needs tarring, greasing and tuning. The running rigging, attention to protection for wear and tear, and constant replacing of her parts. The hull needs pumping, re caulking and painting. Here was one of the reasons to be anchored the previous weeks. Because on the voyage from Columbia, back to the Dominican republic, her hull had received quite a beating, which made her more leaky than considered wanted to continue. So repairs where carried out, with the final filling up of seams with a special putty I had taken along from Europe.
Then the gear, which is usually looked upon as the main focus to prepare a ship. All spares, tools, charts, nautical books, stores, drinking water and fuel needs to be on board or brought on board. Gear, like machinery, instruments and safety gear needs to be in working order. And everything, including cargo, needs to be stowed and lashed properly and in a seamanlike fashion. For all of this, on Tres Hombres, we make use of a pre-departure checklist. So again, before proceeding, our fine vessel was deemed healthy again to go to sea.
Capt. Jorne Langelaan
After five months of voyage together, a few dear friends have left us, continued their way home. We stay behind as a small crew. But the voyage isn’t over yet. I wrote a song for those who left and for us who can appreciate what has been and can look forward to what is yet to come. In this blog I’ll share it with you. You can sing it on the melody of ‘Amsterdam’ from Jaque Brel (My sister should definitely try this! I missed you while writing it!).
”From the port of Den Helder did we leave months before
Waving farewell to friends we don’t see now no more
Adventures ahead and a ship full of food
Our minds alive for the best and the good
We sailed over seas heading south and then east
Through the waves and the wind from our fears now released
So far from home all the way that we came
In the end we’ll return to love and to fame
Not all that was easy, no we challenged each other
But living together makes us sisters and brothers
Day after day we shall work together
In sun, cold, storms, squalls, all conditions of weather
Our morning moods, our evening moods
An early wake up call might not do much good
Yes after months at sea, we know everything now
From joy to sadness from the aft to the bow
We are stretching our boundaries we reach out to each other
We seek comfort on shoulders if we miss our mother
From time to time we don’t know what we do
We get wet, we dry up, and who knows for who
When we finally reach land, oh we sight with relief
We have rest we drink rum it is hard to believe
But nothing so needed as time together
Surviving this trip is the most important matter
Many crew came along, people joined people left
We expended, decreased and now we’re bereft
From the whole trip around only three months ahead
But not 15 will join we are 9 now instead…
Our brave 2nd mate is gonna wave us farewell
After service of seatime and an easterly swell
For him the time came now to leave this big ship
To home he continues his personal trip
No more rice, no more beans no more fried platanos
Is this really the route you voluntarily chose?
Enjoy your last breakfast, your last drink your last piss
Remember all this that you’re about to miss
Your last pulling on lines, your last dinghy ride
Your last galley tank water, your last dreams at night
Your last shanty with us, your last mandoline tune
And then we all hope you’ll find your fortune
Besides Conor is also our Jack leaving us
Will it be by train, airplane, boat or the bus?
He fits so perfect to our current crew
We hope next year he has the chance to re-do
And then last but not least captain Fabian takes off
He is leaving us hear and his office aloft
No more playing with dinghies and no bossing around
No ‘I don’t like sweets’ – it’s not true we found out
What means this for us at this beautiful place
So many bunks empty, so much surplus space
This is not the end of our trip together
We’ve still to sail back in all types of heavy weather
Let just not forget, what has brought us here
For the ones who leave we can shed a tear
But what’s left is a group and a beautiful crew
Let’s point out our beauty that we already knew
I am sure that the hardships that are saved for the last
Can only mean that we’ll be at our best
We collect our strength and collectiveness
we hoist the sails and try not to make a mess
After living together so many months in a row
Don’t we know the pearls in our oysters now?
We shouldn’t forget how special we are
That, my friends, will bring us so far
From the port of Den Helder did we leave months before
Waving farewell to friends we don’t see now no more
Adventures ahead and a ship full of food
Our minds alive for the best and the good
We sailed over seas heading south and then east
Through the waves and the wind from our fears now released
So far from home all the way that we came
In the end we’ll return to love and to fame.”
Photo by Chelsea Pyne
Dear partners, (former) crew members and friends.
You receive this newsletter while brigantine Tres Hombres has just crossed the Atlantic ocean again. Almost every other day you can read a new weblog on our website, with the adventures of our sailing crewmembers. That is why now, in this newsletter, our amazing shore and office crew is writing down their stories.
Off course many things happened within the past period in our organization, we often say to each other “Never a dull moment”. To start off we had quite a big change this summer, because the three founders : Arjen v/d Veen, Andreas Lackner and Jorne Langelaan moved on, to put down their daily functions as operational directors. They are still shareholders and they will continue to promote the organization through their own unique ways. Arjen is occupied with organizing sustainable cargo in Rotterdam. Andreas is very closely involved in the technical matters of both ships, and is planning some new ventures in Amsterdam. Jorne is busy with a new sailing cargo project and moved to Ireland. All three of them are still involved in giving talks around the country and in foreign lands, telling their story of sustainable business upon the seven seas.
As the operational succesor of this trio I should introduce myself. My name is Hans van der Pluijm. Before I started as a volunteer with Fairtransport I used to work in a scala of managing roles in large healthcare institutions. Also, for five years, I was general boardmember at a similar institute in Palestina. After my first year coordinating the trading department within Fairtransport, mostly involved in distributing and selling rum, I went for a long walk from the Netherlands to Santiago the Compostella in Spain. At my return I was asked to become a pro-deo general manager to run the organization. It was agreed to evaluate my position after a twelve month term, and since that moment (August this year) I have been general director.
As you can read in this newsletter, before setting sail in May, the fine trading ketch Nordlys has had a thorough refit of the forward part of the ship. The grand old lady is not only still beautifull, but strong as ever. This has been also the first season, with her experienced skipper Lammert Osinga again, that the amount of cargo she carried was on the rise. With the current brokers contacts and promising cargo deals for the coming season we believe this trend will continue. So, if you where thinking to invest your capital in a sustainable cause, forget about bitcoins, and sign on with Fairtransport again! For more information feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or you can download the Nordlys Shipping Company business plan through this link: Invest Contact Form
The past year, apart from many crewmembers, some experienced new captains joined us again. One of them even started sailing with Tres Hombres as a trainee and worked himself up through the ranks of Deckhand, 2nd mate and Chief mate. Next to the real sailing, there where also quite some improvements ashore in the office. Many procedures where put in writing or streamlined. The administration was further automated and connections between the different entities where put in place.
Personally I can only say, that I am very proud: to be part of the group of enthousiatic people which make up Fairtransport. A shipping organization, where care for our natural environment comes first. And because of this, has been proven able to transport its goods in a fair and sustainable matter, while keeping the traditions and craftmanship of traditional sailing alive. This is the reason that I can see a flourishing coming year and further future for Fairtransport, her crew and ships: Tres Hombres and Nordlys. Finally, dear reader, it is because of you, that all of this is possible. So, thank you very much and fair winds in the coming year!
Hans v.d. Pluijm
Last season was absolutely the season of the Nordlys. Gradually she has sailed herself out of the shadow of our flagship Tres Hombres. Which port the Nordlys visited the past months, everywhere the press, film crews and snapping photographers were waiting for her. Whether it was Porto, Noirmoutier, Brixham or Bremerhaven.
Of course, the oldest sailing cargo ship (1873) in the world deserves this attention. Sailing from port to port with olive oil, olives and natural wine in her hold is really special. She is one of the best with her red fluttering sails. Fortunately, the photographers who get the sailing cargo ship and beautiful crew on film were so free to share their images in high resolution. In this way I’m building up an archive for future press reports and other media requests. But the Tres Hombres also has no complaints when it comes to media attention. Recently I received a request from the Lonely Planet to come and film for a report about the best travel experiences in the world. Unfortunately, it did not fit in the schedule. Because in addition to trainees stepping up for a special experience, we also have a cargo schedule that we must adhere to. Hopefully there will be a next time. In any case, we feel flattered. At this moment the Tres Hombres has the trade winds in her sails and will soon arrive at Saint Martin with relief supplies for animals.
With Spotfinder we can closely follow the ships. The crew leaves a track via the satellite. In that way, we can see when the ship is about to arrive. The press is ready to go at that moment.
Our captains can tell extensive stories about these cargo adventures, exciting sailing trips and of course about our Tres Hombres rum. Fairtransport offers custom-made talks for companies or other organisation, even in different languages. If you would like to know more about this, please contact us at email@example.com.
Marketing and Communications
Dear all, We are coming to the end of the year, so it is a nice occasion for a moment of reflection, to pass the events of last year again in review. It is an opportunity to stop and think about the course for next year. One thing is guaranteed… At Fairtransport, nothing is predictable! Ships that sail only on the power of the wind, the changeable weather, and people who come from all over the world and meet each other through Fairtransport, as well as personal developments ensure that is always remains exciting.
We are very happy that the Nordlys is finally in such a good condition. That after the long refit, Lammert and his crew were able to sail a great season and that they could delight the cargo customers with their cargo. The next season of the Nordlys will start in March. We can proudly state that our cargo customers are expanding their cargo volume and that there is already a lot of cargo waiting for the Nordlys’ next season. She will have a pretty fixed cargo route in the future; to Portugal, France, the UK, Denmark and Germany. If you would like to meet her and the crew at a festival next year, that is possible in in Blankenberge in May or Rostock in August.
The moment I write this, the Tres Hombres is on her way to Saint Martin to bring relief supplies. She is now halfway on her ocean crossing. Rémi, who has sailed for us as first mate for several years, has had his first time as captain from Den Helder to Santa Cruz. We hope that he will continue to sail for us as a captain for many years to come. He has passed on the helm in Santa Cruz to Fabian, who has come to us recently and is for the first time the captain of the Tres Hombres. All three men sailed as captain on the Tres Hombres in 2017. Something that has not been the case within one year in the past.
Probably you have noticed that we had to make one of two Atlantic voyages. Which therefore has become longer. We expect the Tres Hombres to return to Amsterdam in May 2018 with rum and cacao. Of course, the yearly unloading party takes place in Amsterdam at that moment.
Everyone who wants to sail with us (again) will find our schedules under the following link: Sail Along. The sailing schedule for the winter 2018/2019 for the Tres Hombres will be developed within the next fourteen days. Thereafter, it will be available on our website under sail along and downloads. If you have any questions, you can send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kind regards and until next time,
A day out of the Shipping journal
This morning I had to make clear to a cargo owner that we do not have any ships sailing on the route from Argentina to Iran at this time. As much as we would like to meet the wishes of enthusiastic cargo owners… In this case we had to disappoint the man. Nothing to be worried about according to the same man: “I see possibilities to transport some things from the Caribbean to Sweden.”
Soon after, the same story with someone who would love to transport a cargo consisting of chocolate bars from Ivory Coast to France. So, requests from all over the world pass the desk of Shipping each week. All of which are answered. Even requests that must be answered in negative are answered with a clear explanation. Thereafter, they are put in the digital archive…
“Because you’ll never know…!” All requests from cargo owners are checked with the sailing schedules of the Tres Hombres and the Nordlys. Concerning the Tres Hombres, we can of course see some acquaintances, who have been using the ship for years to transport cargo from the Caribbean to Europe. For example, cacao for the Chocolatemakers in Amsterdam and rum for our own Trading department. Although, the complete hold is not contracted at the departure from Den Helder, our experience has shown that the full capacity of the ship (about 40 tons) will be used during the return journey. Exciting is that this time (the winter voyage from 2017-2018) probably will be our first North American adventure.
In Nordlys’ case things are different. On the routes along the Western European coast it is still a bit of a search to get regular customers, just like the Tres Hombres. In 2017, the Nordlys came into permanent service and visited Portugal, France, the UK, Belgium, Germany, Poland and Denmark. The indications are favourable for the summer voyage of 2018. We will re-establish the relationship gained in 2017 and we expect to be able to sail a good year along the coastline of Europe. The thrown-out bait in 2017 must lead to the catch of large(r) fish in 2018!
A weblog every other day is the assignment they give us. That seems to be a lot for a place with so little external factors that can influence what happens on board. And yet there is enough to write about. Because the ship is a little village where we have to live together.
I like to see all those people, coming from so many different places and lives, bringing their own story. The one might be on board, only for the crossing. Being astonished by the ships life, not used to the lack of comfort and privacy. But still they come here with a personal challenge to get to know themselves better. The other might be a born sailor, not even noticing we’re already at sea for so long. But in a way I think everyone can smell the land coming closer now (and the land can smell us coming closer I suppose…). And in all the different states of mind we pass, punchyness (meligheid) is one of them.
By running out of trainees to teach the ropes to, Alan is doing a pinrail tour with a wirebrush. Thibaut and Conor keep shaking up flexseeds in water to look at them spinning around. The desperate smokers start roling pipe tabacco in sigarette papers. Well, you see it’s a small world wherein little things can become a big problem or a great pleasure.
Almost four weeks now we are out here at sea. Steady in a routine, but also busy in our minds. Because as wide as the ocean around us is, the ship is only a couple of steps long and we can not leave it. I came to the discovery that this can drive me a bit crazy. As far ‘of the ship’ and away from the people I can get for now is sitting on the little chair on the bowsprit. Which comes with a nice bath if we’re dipping far enough into the waves.
This morning only 250 NM to go! So I think it’s finally time to say we’re almost there. Bets are being made about our estimated time of arrival. We dream about all the things we want to consume we don’t have on board. Although I’m also curious about Sint Maarten: How destroid will it still be? What has happened in the month that we didn’t receive any news from the world? It must be a strange realisation to expend our world again to the scale of the world that has been around us all the time.
So are we actually ready to go on land? I think so, but it will be as much as an adaptation as it was to be at sea.
In small things on board I find my joy. Taking a shower in the dark evening when it’s finally cool enough to stay cool. And to curl up in my camping spot underneath the stairs like Harry Potter, instead of in my stuffy bunk. Most of the time I also enjoy the people and I’m glad I can still make them happy with food.
Showers visit us also by the way. After a day of steaming hot, we could dance in the rain and wash our hair in saltless water from the sky.
Even though they won’t admit it, the boys-watch is getting better and better in making the bread. And even though an unvoluntarily sourdough slaughter took place this morning, a real catastrophy could be prevented. And for everyone who thinks we’re not dealing with any serious problems in this little world of ours, I can confirm that from the 24 olives on the focaccia, 23 could have been saved, and only one went missing.
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.
Finally back at sea. After one long week in the harbor of Newcastle, waiting for 4cm2 to arrive. We’re finally a sailing ship again, instead of a living boat. And I am a ships cook, finally. I still had the feeling I had to prove myself as a real ships cook, because up until this point we were either sailing with very little wind or not sailing at all. I had plenty of time to spoil the crew with home made mayonnaise, union chutney or galley smoked mackerel. Now I need almost all my energy to keep standing behind the stove and peeling an onion takes so much effort. The waves smash spectacular over the bow and water streams now and then in front of my opened galley door. The water in the bucket under the tab gets over the side all the way over the wood and down by the oven. Clearly time to empty that thing. Cooking at sea is something completely different. This thing I love to do the most in normal life gets a whole new meaning on this ship. Somehow it feels extremely unnatural to start cooking at this place.
Being outside, looking at the waves rising as mountains and the always changing color of the water, or even climbing on the bow sprit to furl a sail, makes sense in this situation. But cooking is something that doesn’t belong here. Eating on the other hand is so important. You have to keep eating to feel fit and focussed. And as I know from all the places where I have cooked, food is from big influence on peoples mood. So I also enjoy to take care of everyone. To surprise them with something new and to have them here in the galley, cosy squeezed together, out of the wind for a moment. When I’m not too much occupied with my own wellbeing, I love to watch them, changing. Getting more brown or more tired, more quit. Hair getting mixed up and beards growing longer. I love to see them being eager to learn this new way of sourdough bread baking. They’re part of being involved in the galley life. Because it’s a whole other world.
When I sometimes help outside to set a sail, I can feel that other life, the excitement. Constant wind, cooping with the movements but in a more natural way. The ship works together with the sea and being outside you are able to anticipate on that. Your energy can float away, over the waves, up in the sky. Your thoughts can wonder away, into the sails. Here in the galley I can see the sea through the open door, shining like a silver jewelry because of the reflecting sunlight. But meanwhile I have to focus. I have to bundle my energy in order to create something new. I have to prevent the pots from running away from me, all those objects that don’t seem to belong at this place. Cups want to stand next to each other on a shelve. Chickpeas want to rest in piece for 24 hours in the water instead of jumping in and out the pot. Unnatural it all feels somehow to me, but yet so important. The meals are a moment of rest for the crew, regaining energy, meeting each other. Food has its function in this bigger picture instead of being something on its own looked at by the eye of a perfectionist, being me in most cases. I have to get used to that.
Maybe my thoughts about food are not easy to follow. Main point is that I experience some development. Within this clue less voyage, things are slightly changing. There is no goal, we’re not going anywhere. And so many things are the same every day.
But maybe because of that I can feel the little changes that are so big at the same time. The sea looks different every day, the wind feels different and the sun too. The people are different and I am different. No hour feels the same. My mind teases me now and then, for example when a gust of seasickness reaches me when I step into the galley.
But it’s also enchanting somehow to be at this place. It is a rich place for self inquiry and a continuing study of the group process. The whole month feels as a goal less gathering of moments but meanwhile the time continues without mercy and people get hungry again. My job goes on and on and on and after all, all these goal less moments become one, and they become my first experience on the Tres Hombres.
I do things I’ve never done before and one of these clue less things happens to be an adventure in the end. I learned to catch fish, got a bucket on my head, poured porridge while blocking myself with hands and feet between the mast and door and I got 23 mackerels from a fisherman I met in the laundry room.
The chickpeas are well behaving in the boiling water now. If the wind and the waves decrease a bit I can make risotto tonight. But with this movement I’m not going to stir for one hour.
Of course I wonder sometimes if this is something I could love. My father loved sailing and he would have loved to see me here. Here on the ship I see the real sailors as well, living for this feeling, feeling more at home than anywhere else.
But feeling me a sailor is something still far away, I don’t even know if it’s possible when you’re the cook. It’s a role so important and yet so different. But maybe I can manage to feel as a real ships cook then. Even already a bit after this month.
One hand for the ship, one hand for me and one hand for the risotto.
Put on your traveller shoes…
Some people said: the crew is becoming positively mad with this very low wind, rolling boat, waiting for the breeze , I would say: here we are ”no mad”.
With the ink of my pencil , I am writing this few lines, as for stopping the time, tell to myself what I feel and what is revealing itself. Put on the paper revealing dreams taken from a slowdowned motion for a little moment. Over there I should waiting for a bus, running after a furious cat, research a hidden rat, bring it back a car somewhere else, disturbing under way by hazards. Any stories and her components in my dreams can be transposed here and now, most of the time it is coincidence.
Here it is a ship, a ship who is giving to you an answer when she wants, because of her character. Since a couple of days, our hull doesn’t want to go to Eyemouth and she has an ally: the weather. As she knows in advance that, this goal is useless to reach. You know, one of the Tres Hombres cooks told me: the voyage that we are doing is in an unconscious agreement with the energy of the ”driver”. If certain people find out a message on it, listen to it and to go hand in hand. Some others don’t find out, are not here and forget themselves.
When you are joined to the ship and merge, ours hands grabbing, with a salty wild mood, the rough infinite ropes which give hard skin, brown with the sun and tar, shiny with linseed oil.
I mean everything is connecting and reacting together: one side you’re easing, the other side you tighten. Everywhere it’s triangulation, balance. Body and boat there are no places which are forgotten to avoid breaking stuff, breaking body; you’re trying to be aware. Funny to see on deck people looking to the sky 20 m higher to find THE good rope, this one you have in you’re hand.
This morning at 5 ocloc’k I would like to share this hot chocolate then I choose to be cosy in nest of sails during the anchor watch. On the horizon the fire from the sun rises and is born. Behind, waves rumble gently on the beach, from below comes the smell of the bread browning in the oven and all around a cobweb of halyards, sheets ready to be set.
What a black beauty with her red heart, round welcoming shape and sharp stem post. I appropriate this ship a little and then she takes me with all her soul. In conscience of a sharing happiness birds are laughing, dolphins jumping high and a whale turned around us. When I am here I feel reassured, I am at home.
Something unique on board is we are all strangers for few days in the beginning and quickly becoming a team and we are recognizing each ocher for ever.
See you then….. http://fairtransport.eu/sail-along/
ps: That’s it, I commanded my first tacking without captain.
second mate Anne-Flore Gannat