Tres Hombres aids rudderless German ketch
DEN HELDER _ On Dec. 27, the Dutch sailing freighter Tres Hombres aided the Fidel, a 12m German sailing ketch that had lost its rudder in the Atlantic Ocean (14º42´53N & 48º00´03W). Fairtransport BV, the company running the Tres Hombres initiative, said the ketch’s 70-year-old captain had issued a ‘Pan-Pan,’ a non life-threatening urgency, Dec. 26. At the time, the Tres Hombres was 100 miles north of the stricken yacht. As it reached the reported location, it found no sailing yacht and spent several hours looking for one. Just as Captain Arjen van der Veen wanted to resume his course to the Caribbean, he received a satellite call from Fidel’s exhausted skipper, identified only as Maurits, an elderly man who had been without a rudder for 2 weeks.
The Tres Hombres is a 32m brigantine. In December 2009 she began a sustainable freight service under sail between Europe and the Caribbean. She can accommodate 35 tons of cargo, a crew of 5 and 10 trainees/passengers. She left on her 4th trans-Atlantic voyage Oct. 10, 2012 for stops at Barbados, Antigua, Grenada, Dominican Republic, Bermuda, the Azores, England, Ostend, Den Helder and Amsterdam. On her last voyage she carried English beer to France, French wine to Denmark and rum, organic chocolate, honey, massage oil, sea salt and handicrafts from the Caribbean to Europe.
Aiding a stricken vessel in a heaving Atlantic is is not easy. But how tough is it for a traditional brigantine powered only by wind? Very!. Read this excerpt of the Tres Hombres’ Dec. 27 log:
“We approach the Fidel from the windward direction. Not easy on a rough sea andt the Fidel swings wildly. Captain Arjen van der Veer maneuvers the Tres Hombres skillfully to within 15m. With great precision, Freya tosses a line. The solo sailor turns out to be an elderly man. He doesn’t quite understand what’s going on (and) moves across the deck in a slow, confused manner. We lose precious time. The distance between the two vessels grew fast. We eased out the entire tow line (but) to everyone’s dismay, the line is not fastened. To start all over we must maneuver under sail back to the Fidel. A second attempt also fails. Our crew is getting tired. The captain has them eat lunch before starting a 3rd attempt. We now approach the Fidel under minimal sail. The captain manages to heave-to, just windward of the Fidel so we are sheltering her. The stricken sailor manages to fasten the tow line. We introduce ourselves. Worried, he asks about conditions of our assistance. Maurits says he has no insurance. Our captain understands and asks Maurits if he can afford to buy him cold beer? The man is visibly relieved! We put a German Tres Hombres crew member on the Fidel to assess the lost rudder situation. Soon, we ease the towline and hoist our sails. We ask Moritz to hoist a jib and to run a long line over board to ease his boat’s swinging. We are soon doing 6 knots with Fidel in our wake, sporting a frothy white bow mustache.”
There was ample excitement on Dec. 28, the log shows. The tow line broke and the Fidel quickly became a dot on the ocean, again. The Tres Hombres maneuvered back upwind into a rough sea to retrieve the Fidel.
U P D A T E : On Jan. 3, Fairtrade Transport reported, the Tres Hombres, with the Fidel in tow, dropped anchor in Rodney Bat off the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia.