Close encounter of the human kind by Cleem
An ordinary Sunday afternoon on the good ship Tres Hombres, somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. A fair wind and beautiful weather, Since there is no maintenance done on Sunday everyone awake was doing his/her own thing: reading, clothes washing, making a shaft for a knife, preparing a new sail or just sitting and enjoying the beautiful view.
But, hey, don' t forget we are talking the Tres Hombres here: the unexpected is never far away.
At about 18.00 hour I was grinding coffee at the middeck and the sun was already dawning when captain Remi ordered some sail handling. We had to take in some sails and after that we braced against the wind, which meant we were stopping the ship.
During the handling I found out that we had been called on by a fishing ship from Belize. They proposed to trade some fish for whisky to celebrate New Year.
Negative. The Tres Hombres does not sail whisky. But how about rum? Deal!
It would take another 2 hours before the Pitufo -meaning Smurf- reached us and those hours were filled with expectation. What was about to happen on this rare encounter?
Meanwhile the starboard safety net was removed and we prepared our dinghy in case we had to launch it.
The one light of the Pitufo we saw at first, appeared to be several of their working lights, so it looked like a Christmas tree was approaching us. Since it was close to the 20.00 hour watch change the other watch was on deck too.
As it was dark already, we lit up a light on the middeck, so the fishermen could also see who they were approaching.
When the Pitufo was getting closer we could see that they had already launched their dinghy into the water with two men in it. Carefully the Pitufo was maneuvered next to the Tres Hombres up close to 20 meters and both the crews could get a better look at each other. And then something extra-ordinary happened: we started waving at each other, shouting things in Spanish and cheering, while their dinghy, that stayed attached to their ship was approaching us. They threw over a line at us and we pulled them closer. Also by a line the trade was done: a few bottles of La Palma rum and some chocolate bars were exchanged for a ±15 kilo swordfish.
Meanwhile the waving and cheering went on, the ships horns were honking and our Laura came in on her trumpet. It was an explosion of sheer enthusiasm and sensible positivism, shared by some 25 people -our 14 and I counted 8 visible ones of them- of at least 8 different nationalities. People who had never met before and probably never will meet again were connected in a very special way for about 15 to 20 minutes. It made me happy and moved me.
I'm sure everyone present will never forget these moments on -we are using dead reckoning- ± 8.14°37' N and 31°32' W. A spot that deserves a memorial, but planting a tree in 3000 meter deep water makes not much sense and a statue at that depth won' t attract a lot of visitors either.
With some last honks and cheers the Pitufo moved further and further away from the Tres Hombres and eventually vanished in the dark Atlantic night. We put back the safety net and set the sails again, and on we went. Direction Barbados and 2019.
To everyone everywhere a very happy New Year and I hope you all will have some close encounters of the human kind with total strangers in 2019.
Cleem Doedens o/b Tres Hombres