Discovering the world, through sailing (by Merel van Schilfgaarde)

Over the past month, I’ve been discovering the world, through sailing on the engineless sailing cargo vessel Tres Hombres.

The journey from France to Denmark has been an incredible and unique experience. After receiving the initial safety and climbing training and a galley and ropy tour, I was invited to work alongside the crew. The kindness and openness of the crew made a great ambience. Thus, from the first moment, it felt like I belonged.

Life at sea was a strong contrast to my life at home. After the confinement of the past couple of years, the sea provided a sense of freedom and openness that I had truly missed. While having no service to connect to the online world, I felt much more in touch with my surroundings and the people close to me. Through the ups (imagine seeing fairy dolphins at two o’clock in the morning) and downs (I am definitely not missing seasickness), I discovered a new way of interacting with my surroundings and experiencing the world.
At one point I wrote in my diary: “I am noticing that I feel fitter. The fresh air, moving my body and the almost mandatory living in the moment is helping enormously. I think that is why I love sailing. Sailing is one of the moments where I can, quite literally, let the wind blow my cares away. Afterwards, I can continue my day with a clear head and filled with good courage.” I think this describes quite accurately what the call of the sea means to me and it is a feeling I would wish everyone could experience once in a while.
Life on Tres Hombres thought me a lot about what it can mean to live a sustainable life, guided by the rhythm of nature. Life on board is about relying on nature instead of trying to defeat it. When we stop worrying about being late, the wind will blow again one day, time frees us up to genuinely look at our surroundings and reflect on our choices. Sustainability runs through the veins of the organisation. It goes much further than bringing cargo from one place to another without emissions. Sustainability on Tres Hombres can be found in the way food is prepared, water is used, the clothes that we wear, and the purchases that are made for the ship. From there it flows into the conversations we have with each other and the way we view the world. I am more than grateful that I had the opportunity to be part of an amazing community trying to change the world while enjoying one of my biggest hobbies, sailing.
Now that I am home again I am trying to incorporate as much as possible of everything that living at sea has taught me. This is a whole new challenge and I am not sure what it is going to look like yet. However, I do feel that my experience on Tres Hombres given me a lot of tools to use.
To all the crew, thank you for this experience and fair winds! I am sure we will meet again someday.
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Jugendtraum (von Torsten Schulz)

Wir segeln gerade “um die Ecke”, bei Ouessant, also aus dem Kanal in den Atlantik, auf dem Weg von  Amsterdam nach Les Sables d’Olonne.

Als Jugendlicher las ich alle Hornblower-Romane, die zum Teil genau hier spielen. Beim Lesen versuchte ich mir damals vorzustellen, wie ein Rahsegler und wie das Navigieren in Gezeitengewässern ohne Motor mit einigermaßen Sicherheit und Pünktlichkeit funktioniert. Jetzt, 40 Jahre später, stille ich mit dieser Reise auf dem Lastensegler Tres Hombres diese Jugendneugier.

Das aus Kriegszeiten stammende Holzschiff mit bewegter Geschichte flößt im “Schleuderprogramm”-Wellengang und durch das Saitenspiel bei Sturm in der Takelage nicht nur Ehrfurcht vor den Elementen ein, sondern vor allem Respekt für Andreas, den Kapitän, und seine Crew begeisterter SeglerInnen, die das Schiff routiniert im Griff haben. Das Mitmachen von uns, die wir Trainees genannt werden, ist  gewünscht und gefordert, gerade weil es keinen Motor, keine Winschen und keine künstliche Segel-Intelligenz an Bord gibt, sondern alles auf Teamwork, Geschicklichkeit, Umsicht und Muskelkraft ankommt. Wir Trainees sind Teil des Mehrschichtbetriebs an Bord, Tag und Nacht. Mit dieser Reise verlasse ich die Komfortzone, die sich mit Plastikmüll in Ozeanen und umweltverschmutzenden globalen Lieferketten als trügerisch erweist.

Dies ist an sich schon Abenteuer genug. Was es jedoch zu einem besonderen Erlebnis macht, ist der Humor und die Geduld, mit der Andreas und seine Crew alles erklären und begleiten. In die Rahen klettern und Segel setzen gehören zum Trainee-Alltag wie die Bilge per Hand pumpen und das Steuerrad führen.

Wer eine bessere, fairere und inklusivere Welt wünscht, in der der Mensch und nicht Kapital und Maschinen im Zentrum stehen, sollte beim Anbordgehen Mitmenschlichkeit und Offenheit mitbringen und findet dafür hier im Kleinen, was alles möglich ist:
Handwerkskunst beim Instandhalten von Tauen, Holz und Schiffsgerät unterwegs an Bord, seglerisches Können, Mut und  Kraft in den Rahen, und Begeisterung für ein Metier, das genauso wie andere bedrohte Arten auch zum wahren Reichtum unseres Planeten gehören. Der Mensch ist seine Bedrohung und Chance zugleich. Tres Hombres und seine vielen bewegenden Menschen sind eine Chance, die es zu ergreifen und zu unterstützen gilt, da sie Impulse auch über sich hinaus geben: die Verpflegung an Bord stammt von lokalen Bio-Landwirten und wird von einer kundigen Köchin köstlich zubereitet, die Seife an Bord ist eine handwerklich  hergestellte Meerwasser-taugliche Seife aus Ingredienzen, die Tres Hombres herübergesegelt hat, der an Bord getrunkene Kaffee ist fair hergestellt und ohne Luftverschmutzung transportiert.

Der Wunsch aus Jugendzeiten ging  für mich hier an Bord in Erfüllung und weit darüber hinaus. Ich kann die Erfahrung  nur weiterempfehlen.

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Life on Tres Hombres (by Michael Balshaw)

Life on Tres Hombres has been an experience and a half!

After a few years where we all had a life constraining effect from corona and a chance meeting with an old friend who had sailed on Tres Hombres previously my heart was set on an adventure.
A sailing trip from Amsterdam to Les Sables in France to pick up a shipment of fine wine was booked and the waiting began.

Only having sailed once before I am a novice sailor so before the trip began I had lots of questions. Many of these were answered in a very informative handbook that arrived a week or so before the trip. It is not necessary to have all the latest sailing gear but as long as you are prepared for all weathers it is enough. I respected the advice not to go out and buy new things but to make use of second hand, borrowed or recycled goods. This goes to the very heart of the ethos of the organisation. Transporting goods ethically across the world and at the same time allowing people to learn, experience and enjoy sailing on such a fine vessel.

When it was time for the adventure to begin I set off to meet the ship and the crew where I would be spending the next couple of weeks. After the confines of the previous years, it was a joy to get together with people from all over the world, of different ages and different amounts of sailing experience from the novice like me to vastly experienced sailors but all wanting to experience this unique vessel.

It is important to bring with you an open mind. This is not luxury but you gain so much more. On my arrival, I discovered the intended date of departure could not be met due to some repairs needed on the wooden ship which I learn are constantly ongoing and fascinating to watch and learn from. But also due to the wind. An engineless vessel relies on wind and quickly earths whoever sails upon her into the beautiful natural rhythms of nature. Indeed life on board quickly settles into a rhythm. Watch periods are punctuated with amazing food from the galley cook and the galley in a way becomes the beating heart of the ship. The time before departure was not wasted. We had time to bond as a group and literally learn the ropes and how life on board works. Onboard the crew share their passion for sailing on this boat openly and warmly and in a way, we are all learning together. Learning from each other, from nature and learning to work together. Without the teamwork inherent in the boat, the boat doesn’t work so we do it together. You are invited to take part in all aspects of life on the boat. Slowly you learn at your own pace and settle into life on the open waves.

You will experience all different weathers, seas, clouds, rain, sun and stars in the company of fellow adventurers. Quiet times are punctuated with intense periods of action. We trace our progress across the map as we near the destination always reliant upon the elements to get us there so timing can never be precise. I am writing this from the ship just off the coast of Brittany with strong winds and high waves and I feel alive!

Once at the destination, I will help load the cargo before beginning my journey home and this experience will become a memory. But what a memory it will be. Great food, great people, a vessel who is reliant and steady no matter what is thrown at her and an unforgettable bond with nature. My advice to anyone thinking of sailing on Tres Hombres is ‘do it’. Bring an open mind and a willingness to get involved and you will be rewarded with an adventure of a lifetime with an organisation doing good honest work.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST: THANK YOU GROENESTEK!

LOCATION NOTES:

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…

PROVISIONING:

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
us…

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PROVISIONING IN THE AZORES

LOCATION NOTES:

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!

PROVISIONING:

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.

 

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MEET THE CREW

MEET OUR TRAINEE ARCO

Age:  60
Nationality: DUTCH
Position onboard: TRAINEE
Former occupation on land (aka how do you keep yourself busy when you are not sailing)?
I am a father of two. I work as occupational health physician, insurance physician, and an instituutsopleider at the Radboud
University in Nijmegen (e.g. training new medical specialists). I also volunteer for the local GroenLinks political party, in an
orchard pruning group and for the Slow Food Movement.
Which book, film, song and/or event inspired and sparked in you first the dream of a life at sea?
TV series: Sil de Strandjutter
Book:  In de Bovenjkooi from Jan Maarten Biesheuvel
Song:  Al die willen de kaapren varen
What to pack for your sea chest, absolutely?
A small waterproof (dry) bag for dinghy rides
What to leave ashore, doubtless?
Worries.
Which is your favourite peace corner onboard (aka where do you hide when you need to be alone?)
My bunk is my favourite place on board when I need a moment for myself.
Three magic words to hold fast to?
Look after each other.
Which wild creature would the ship be?
A Manatee.
Biggest fear before joining and greatest satisfaction on the way?
Getting health issues was my biggest fear before we left.
The biggest satisfaction is that I can be part of all this.
Why Tres Hombres?
To me, there is no alternative to the Tres. Who else sails cargo without an engine between Europe and the Caribbean and vice versa? And, for a good cause!

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PROVISIONING ON MARTINIQUE AND MARIE GALANTE

LOCATION NOTES:

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.

PROVISIONING:

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.

Marie Galante

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!

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MEET THE CREW

MEET OUR TRAINEE EILISH

Age: 23
Nationality: SCOTTISH
Position on board: TRAINEE FOR THE WHOLE JOURNEY
Former occupation on land aka how do you keep yourself busy when you are not sailing?
I am working for an arts company, the “Black Dog Puppet Company”, which is expanding into an arts hub called “Create”.
Since the beginning of it, I am working there, doing a little bit of everything: performing but also building and constructing.
Which book, film, or song (or else) inspired/sparked in you first the dream of a life at sea?
When I was really young, I read a book: the brother of the main character loved boats and I guess that inspired me a lot. Then in my teens, I read a series of books set on tall ships, the Liveship Traders trilogy, which was very fun. And in high school, I studied traditional boat building for a year too. So when I finished my last year of high school, everybody started to look for universities, but I didn’t want to.
So I started to look for tall ships and I found Tres Hombres! I signed up for the half trip, but then a hurricane happened and it got cancelled. In the meantime, I studied organic farming in Norway and had a taste of some traditional sailing there in the fjords, which was very exciting. Then because of Covid, I could save some money and so now I am able to do the whole trip a few years after my original signing on.
What to pack for your sea chest, absolutely?
Loads of socks! More than you think you should pack. Also some way of documenting things, camera or diary, something like that and a good
snack for night watches.
What to leave ashore, doubtless?
Dramatic interpersonal dynamics (D.i.d.)
Which is your favourite peace corner onboard aka where do you hide when you need to be alone.
The Gaff Top Sail (not rigged) for snuggles and my bunk when the foc’s’le is empty (nap time)
Three Magic Words to hold fast to onboard?
Okidoke, Samshine, Fun.
If Tres Hombres was a wild creature, which one she would be?
It’s too difficult to choose something, it’s elusive. I can’t pin it down to one thing.
Biggest fear before joining and greatest satisfaction on the way?
My biggest fear was, that I would be s***t, that I just would be bad.
My greatest satisfaction is, that’s not what happened.
Why Tres Hombres?
I was drawing tall ships in art at school because I find there is something inspiring about them, they are pleasing in every sense.
When I found Fairtransport, the idea grew. And the Tres has no engine, which makes it even better!

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MEET THE CREW

MEET OUR TRAINEE NADINE

Age: 25
Nationality:GERMAN
Position onboard:
TRAINEE FOR THE WHOLE JOURNEY
Former occupation on land (or how do you keep yourself busy when you are not sailing)?
I work as a nurse and this kept me busy most of the time. I was assisting with heart surgeries. So as my daily business I was touching beating hearts in open chests.
Which book, film, or song and/or event inspired and sparked in you first the dream of a life at sea?
I went sailing in the Netherlands with an exchange, organized by our youth centre back in my hometown when I was 13 or 14. Since then I went sailing in the Netherlands every year. Someday I thought: I would like to cross the Atlantic!
What to pack for your sea chest, absolutely?
I wish I would have brought my knife! But definitely, you should bring a unicorn.
What to leave ashore, doubtless?
Phone.
Which is your favourite peace corner onboard aka where do you hide when you need to be alone.
The galley roof!
What do you like the most onboard: a detail of the ship, a routine, a person, an activity…?
Leaving and especially sailing out of the harbours.
Three Magic Words to hold fast to onboard?
Douse the royal!
If Tres Hombres was a wild creature, which one she would be?
While climbing the rigging sometimes reminds me of riding a bucking horse.
Biggest fear before joining and greatest satisfaction on the way?
I was worried about how it would be out in the Atlantic, without being able to reach civilization easily and my greatest satisfaction was to find out how much I enjoyed it when I was actually doing it. And how much I enjoyed not being available!
Why Tres Hombres?
Because I was looking for a safe way to cross the Atlantic. The Tres impressed me with her beauty and the fact that there’s no engine on board. I also wanted to join a traditional sailing vessel, to learn some traditional seaman skills.
I didn’t want to do the crossing in a plastic boat!

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PROVISIONING IN LA PALMA

LOCATION NOTES:

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.

PROVISIONING:

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.

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