The Tocorime - her history
Loosing your heart in Sydney during the 200 years celebrations when we crewed on the French tallship “Esperance ´88” (The Thöpaga). We should bring her back to France but before had some fantástic sailing in the Southern Australian Bight and a very interesting drydock on a slip at Fremantle.
The crossing was spectacular – what a experience: on a wooden 2 mast ship life is another dimension !
During the crossing, we broke a topmast during a heavy storm, I was put to blame and locked in my cabin for the rest of the trip. In La Reunion we decided that life onboard is the way to go but… it should be either yours ór be the Captain.
Back in Holland we tried to plan the course to our own 2 mast wooden schooner. We would work 26/7 and when enough capital, we would buy her.
Triple S Standbouw was started to work in the exhibition building in Holland and Europa. Later we also started small reforms for civil jobs. Whow, how we worked, worked and worked a little more…
We saved our money and even had a steel box with a little hole for small notes and coins. Rented an app totgether to save; no more presents for birthdays; saving saving saving. 6 years total focus on your own wooden, 2 mast sailing boat !
Well, hard work does not always pay off. After 4 years it was clear: the “buying part” wouldn´t be possible, we would grey and with rollators if we ever made it. Famous Plan B was born and the only way: build it yourself !
Whow, that is quite a different cooky. How do you built a boat like that ? Where ? What would that cost ? We looked for help with ships architect Olivier van Meer, he was even born on a schooner. He agreed to make the main calculations & -drawings for minimum cost price. He managed to print out the ribs on 100% scale which would help us enormously with the rib-floor.
But where ? Where can you build a boat with our no-budget ? Brazil ? Yes Brazil ! We knew the country from earlier backacking and liked it so we in 1993 we had a look where exactly. We took a little boat from Belém to Manaus and went up the inmense Amazone river. We stopped everywhere to talk to the locals, available shipyards and people in general. After 3 months we arrived in Manaus: “ok, where are we building to boat guys?” We took a hat, dropped our favorite spot anonymously and unanimously choose for “Shipyard Moisés” in Santarém, Pará.
Moisés run a little beach where he builds smaller river boats. He read the drawing with the masts facing downwards but he was sure, he could build her.
We also talked with Capt David, an American who lived there for years, had a fantástic indigenous museum and had built a few boats for himself. Fantástic guy, became a very good friend later on but in the beginning he literally told us:
“You must be crazy if you want to build you´r boat here, but if you´re crazy enough you will succeed” !
So ok, we knew what to do: just be crazy enough guys.
After the “auction-party” to sell the household and saying byebye to all, there we finally went after six years ! We deliberately left Holland on Friday 13th of May 1994 so we could begin the adventure in Brazil on the magic day #14: our bags & backpacks bulging with tools and books; “How to build a wooden boat” from Howard I. Chapelle for example.
Arriving on the little beach, Moisés collapsed: those crazy “gringo´s” really came back ! “Lets do it Moisés, we don´t know how; you want to put the mast downwards but together we´ll make it” and Moisés collapsed even deeper. We showed him the rib drawings 1 on 1 and by then Moisés collapsed totally…
Their way of building is totally different: they start with the keel and the highest hullplank under the deck. Then they eye-sight the curve of the ribs and that makes the shape of the boat. These stupid gringo´s wanted to start first with the ribs, put them on the keel and then planking ! He and his famiy did this already for hundreds of years: he needed a drink, yes; this really was a horrible Saturday.
Holy Mo, Moisés was out before we started. We had a serious problem; what now ? We had a talk with him and the carpenters who worked free-lance with him. We will build our boat here guys; with or without you. The carpenters weighted their opportunities: some stayed with Moisés and we got 2 carpenters: Master Licão and starting “Henkie”. YES, we could start at least ! Later, Moisés saw what we did, started respecting the way we did things and started to turn around; liberating more guys and carpenters when we needed.
That out of the way, we could go to the daily priorities: where to build, get the rib-table ready, order wood and living . We agreed with Moisés where the boat would be build: keel to be layed just inches away from the highest level of the Tapajós (8 meters difference between wet and rain season) and her stern located under the huge mango tree for the shade.
Living ? Well, you just build your own “house” there at the back of the yard, next to the tool shed. We built our 3 little rooms and a galley on the huge veranda: simple, cheap and enough.
Building the house, it was our first lesson how hard that tropical wood really was: every nail went flying untill we pre-drilled every nail. But finally we had a shower, place to sleep, a sort of kitchen and close to the tools for security – perfect !
Our first meal was another lesson, and a hungry one. We were used to the Duch beans, ready in 15 minutes. Here they use a pressure cooker but without that, it took us 4 long hours of waiting…
Then we got some “masaranduba” for the rib table and 2nd hand constructions planks to make the molds for the ribs. This was só exiting: our first real “hands-on” ! Even didn´t feel the sun-burn at first: time for some sheds.
In the meantime we had ordered with “Valniemee” de big lumbs of “Itauba preta” wood for the actual ribs: our first 4m3… YES guys, we´re on the roll !!
To order wood, you need permssion from IBAMA, the country´s environmental regulator. They decide where you can go searching for each type of wood. And of course, pay the reforastation taxes. Then you need to keep the local tribes or communities happy; often in form of bags of cement, bricks, beans or rice. And as our pieces where big; only deep in the florest on vast soil, it could be found.
Every expedition was an adventure: 15 – 20 locals, guides, hunters & cooks, carpenters and sometimes even a Shaman, a sort of priest to protect and bless the expedition.
But when those lumbs of Itauba arrive at our little beach: spit in your hands guys ! Carry all from the barge to shore; nothing floats. On the beach you inspect for “white wood” and termites. If so, it goes back to Valniemee and is credited for. If ok, you carry it further up the beach to the stock.
Then comes the good part: copy the shape of the molds on the rectangular pieces, cut- and shape it. Bolt some 12/ 14 pieces together, figure out the shape and size of the floor timeber -to sit on the keel- and you have a rib ! Yes Sir; keep on going – only 34 to go guys !!
Getting the keel was a big adventure: Calle spent 3 months in the jungle searching. Finally found a propper piece, then it was too big to transport, rolling it true the jungle. It had to be cut in half – in the length of course. And on the river, the little boat kept stable with the 2 pieces on each of her sides !
A lot of ribs where ready to be go when the keel arrived. Calling out for the boys, the girls, the grandma´s to lift a rib on the keel and one by one, the huge skeleton arose in the midst of the jungle.
At this time, the money was horribly gone already. What to do guys ? We always thought that when we had some ribs on the keel, the companies would line up to sponsor, media would have jumped on us and we would be movie stars soon… no such luck guys !
Canoa (Markus Lehmann) had joined the project in the meantime and also Eric Einstein made it to the jungle to never leave again. (See the song written by Will T Brega Hamm: “The Tapajos Monkey blues”). We decided that Canoa would search sponsors & media down South, in Rio & São Paulo and I would do the same in Holland. But it didn´t really go as we hoped: the building was on hold and even surviving was a major problem. The even bought rice in Manaus to sell it in STM to earn e few buck to eat…. I started swinging the hammer again in Holland, just to make some bucks but sponsors, media and moviestars where out….
After a year orso, things turned for the better: Rank Xeros helped us with shiny brochures and “Luba Uitzendburo” was our first real cash sponsor: Oh Goria !! Family and friends also contributed a large amount, whow. Look on “Partners” for more details but every month we managed to wire some money to the junge and we could start up again: we´re back on deck guys !!
Yes, with all the sponsors, donations & sold certificates, we could go full power again. The master pieces of the carpenters didn´t stop rolling out theirs magical hands and tools: the stern post, the bow post and the “self-holding” connections are not seen anymore in this time !
The skeleton was growng and growing but Oh Oh: our stern post was too high and we had to cut a branch of the mango tree. What ?!!? You can´t just cut it; it´s a holy tree ! You need to ask a “shaman” to ask permission during a ceremony. The tree had a spirit of a passed away carpenter who was trapped in the tree; he had not found his way to his next life.
But yes, he gave permission and I hope we even gave him a ride to his next life !
The work on the boat went prosperous. The ribs and bigger posts, in- and outside were gradually made and installed with that increbible craftmenship of the carpenters. Now…. the planking could begin, another milestone guys !!
Planking is crazy, if you weren´t there, it´s hard to believe. Everything goes on the eye ! Curves or bending, giving them the correct angle… all on the eye – amazing ! Another wonderfull habit they have is to cut the bottom plank in the keel instead of angling the plank. Like that you have no thin parts; all solid and less risk of rotting.
Yes, I must say: without those guys -and the interchange of knowledge, the trust to listen to eachother- this dream would never had been realized !!
Aaagh… so fantástic to plank and see your boat getting there; what a wonderfull sight ! Everyday day a little bit more a “real” boat; every day closer to the launching.
By that time we had entered in the official programming of the celebrations of Brasil 500 years discovery. That gave us an enormous boost: the only wooden, real Brazilian boat of the parade ! We had schools coming over to talk about the earlier dicoveries, media to tell about the dream and at least some support frm the auhorities.
Launching day came closer and closer… nervous wreckingly close ! The Tapajós differs 8 meters during raining season and we put her bow right on the highest point. We thought… but you only know for sure when high water level is there!
In the meantime comes caulking, sanding and painting. And now, officially part of Brasil 500, a busy organisation of the launch with the city hall, Governador, schools and local tribes: all wanted to be part of it !
The boat looked so beautiful that even Dutch and Canadian visitors has booked their little spot in the neighbour “Motel”, behind our little house.
The priest was invited to give the Amazonian blessing and although he had Cachaça instead of wine in his bowl, he would be very welcome !
Globo came various times, our great friend and ambassador Lars Grael came for whom we made the first sailing canoe for “Projeto Grael”, even the “Financial times came ! Yes guy, this launching is going to be an unforgetable one, watch my words !
Iemanjá, the Brazilian Godess of the sea and waters, helped us indeed: the water level was perfect, even a little higher then average – thanks !
What a D-Day: 14th of May 1999 – exactly 5 years after we arrived with our backpacks !
A bulldozer from the city hall to push & 2 harbor tugs from the “Docas do Pará” (the port) and 1 big powerfull motoryacht from our German friend Otto to pull from the waterside…
A huge Green table with fruits and softdrinks. 27 familie, friends, a sponsor and lots of certificate holders from Holland and Canada. Children from selected schools. Authorities, media, etc etc…. what a crowd came to see and celebrate !
There we go guys ! Holy Mo, I don´t think anybody of us had a decent night of sleep these last days. Lots of things to arrange on the last hours and of course: nervous !
After 11 years after our trip on the Esperance, we finally had a hull to push in the water !
3 hours it took the machines together to push her towards the water and with every little piece closer, big chears and screams filled the jungle ! Then, her bow 2 inches aways from the water, she stopped. Totally stuck, didn´t want to move at all anymore ! Like she was saying: Well, it took me 5 years to get here; let me get a little used to this before I hop in” !!
But Yes ! finally she went in… in a final smooth slide she entered the fresh, clear blue water of the Tapajós – Oh Gloria !!!
During the launching evening meal and celebrations, Rob Mantel (Luba) put another amount as sponsorship to keep us going again for a while: fantástic !
And whow, a new phase: living in port suddenly ! No more jungle, no more living in the house, no more shade from the Mango tree !
Suddenly, things where going fast. Vasco da Gamma wanted us for the publicity of Brasil 500 at Cabrália, Bahia BUT at 22 April 2000 !! It took us 4 years to built the hull – now to finish her in about 9 or 10 months – whow ! But, they put the money down, so there we went.
The logistics where a nightmare: ropes from Denmark, portholes from Holland, sails from the States, steel wires from Manaus etc etc ! The masts was another big adenture, same as the keel was; but now we had a deadline.
Our tropical pace ended in a race against the clock and still, we had our commitments towards schools and students. As during the mast setting, whow – that was a crazy week with speeches all over town, supervising the “rounding” and finishing of the masts and find again the given 2 golden coins to lay underneath the masts…
But Yes ! again, we got there – and how: shining as the Pearl of the Amazone !!
Outside she is a Pearl of the Amazone but so she is inside ! Eric Einstein really rose above himself with the all that detailed woodwork inside – what a fantástic job: the wheelhouse, the pinga saloon, the bunks up front, the wheel and compass… what a pleasure for the eye !! Our instrumental artist Will T Brega Hamm made some beautiful lay-ins, just look at the chart table with its compass rose !
Technically, it was quite alternative: nothing available in the jungle. The huge air started Yanmar 220 hp engine from 1954 was the only one we could find, but it will do untill we got some extra pocketmoney to replace. The generator was not that old but from the same cartoon serie.
But, its time for the maiden voyage guys ! Down the Amazone and up the Atlantic – Oh Gloria !! What a celebration, what a party – the Tocorimé was leaving after 5 years, we made friends, so many ! They will be with us during every mile we sail – THANKS SANTARÉM !!
And no, a more spectacular start we couldn´t wish for. Sailing down the Amazone, the media woke up. During the first stop, we got an ESPN television crew onboard for the part to Belém and arriving in Belém, we were treated like the Presidents of Brazil ! Funny how those things go… but yes, that attention in the media suddenly was very welcome and opened enough possibilities to charter the Tocorimé afterwards in Rio de Janeiro !
We made it: 22 April 200 in Cabrália – it was close, very cose but we made it ! We had an incredble maiden voyage with 14 tropical thunderstorms on the way; she healed, slid the waves like an old timer and kept us steaming and screaming of joy !
What a sailing, what a vessel – we wil never forget that trip ! After 12 years not knowing what you are doing, trusting your gutfeeling, trusting others, pullig your hairs…. and then she sails like thát !!
Yes, we where crazy enough; muito thank you Capt David, DIP !!
Yes, what a wonderfull time we had ! Wonderfull sailing, fantástic people onboard, wedding, parties, educational outings with Baia Guanabara water research with the British & American schools, trips with the with Favela Vidigal and Nanco van Buuren, incredible live music sessions, Por Mares Nunca Dantes and art in general and whow…. those acrobats flying around in the masts !!
Let alone the corporate events: in port or sailing, French fries & Cocal cola upto Caviar & Champagne – fantástic days ! Had só many beautifal events onboard, of so many different nature and… all -yes: áll!- left the boat with a smile, with a good feeling and happy !!
BUT…BUT…BUT… 2015/ 2016
In the beginning, surfing on the impact of Brasil 500, the Tocorimé was flying high: very popular and with a full agenda. But soon it became a hard struggle to pay the bills, let alone the investments needed for the necessary improvements; the “left-overs” from the alternative solutions during the building. And despite wonderfull projects as “Rio +20” and the Darwin – Galapagos project, every month, the agenda had bigger echo´s…
The boat was in Parati, in the South of the state of Rio, hoping to het some more tourisme and corporates from Sao Paulo, Week trips organized for foreigners, Teambuilding sessions for the banks, Photographer´s courses, Children theatre; we did it all ! But nothing resolved: he situation of the boat was getting more drastic every year…
In 2015/2016 the boat was in bad shape. Laying 4 years on anchor without sailing or attention and care, equipement was stolen, systems moist and away and the cupim (termites) had a 4 year during party. When I took the Tocorimé back to Rio; even the masts & bow sprit broke after a 4 hours during battle ! Nobody got hurt, thanks Iemanjá but the boat had suffered big-time.
In Rio we cleaned up with a crane barge (thanks Luiz Eduardo!) and had to figure out what to do next ? The boat is ruined, we are broke… I counted my savings money and the first thing to do was to call architect Olivier van Meer to make a technical evaluation of the vessel: is it worth it ?? He never had seen the vessel, we lost contact during the years but his end-result in the report made my heart jump: “I´ve never een such a solid built hull & decks but the rest you can scrap” !!
So we had a good hull, a good foundation to build further upon. But we had to start from scratch again; let´s do it the proper way then !! We go 100 % Green and show the world it is possible: a new dream had started – Oh Gloria !!
So ok, there we go : just be crazy enough again !
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