SUROUNDED BY WRECKS

020

Thursday, November 16, 2017
Mindelo Harbour, S
ão Vincente, Cabo Verde.
24º59´333´ North, 016º53´026´´ West

SURRENDED BY WRECKS

Since leaving Amsterdam more than three months ago, the Fools seem condemned to continuously waggling the waves. The fate of a flying Dutchman. Only the harbour master of Illa de Arousa stealthly conceded a mooring of four days on a panoramic mole to bring espectáculo to the inhabitants. And the harbour master of Valle Gran Rey gave us three hours to top the 14-ton watertank. That water is more precious than diesel or even wine because it accompies us to America. We doubt Cabo Verde can deliver such. Besides, in case the bunker gets sour, we filled an enormous amount of plastic bottles with mountain water from the beach fountain facing the ship. Rowing, rowing, rowing. These bottles are the usual, sad garbage of a town that became a tanatorium of old German hippies. It’s the wrong place run by the wrong politicians giving ludicrious arguments to decline permission for the spectacle. They pretend our collegue sailor/actors “Festina Lente” made too big a mess while presenting in spring their show on the quay…

Again, the five days of sailing look more like a Sunday afternoon cruise than a heroical braving of the Atlantic. Still, some nights, some sailors bind themselves with blankets to their matrasses not to be swept away. Many a glass doesn’t survive the moment of inadvertence of a novice steersmen. The garderobe, rapidly becoming redundant, swings with every wave as a mob of forgotten marionettes. A sea duck and even a bat land as stowaway. One morning we find a whole pan of flying fish scattered over the decks, even as high as the garden. Some made a direct hit to the kitchen already. They’re beautifully blue and delicately delicious and make the perfect Fish&Chip breakfast. A unique feature are the three sails hoisted permanently that gives a good mile an hour extra. After an interval of nearly ninety year, the ship sails again. With the archiviste Marja we select the best hundred-eleven pictures of the three decades of the itinerant theatre Azart. In memoriam of those hundreds of photo’s that never returned or never ever were made. Some art work sneaks in, some historical photo’s of the centenary ship and some pictures from the millenary imaginery of the Ship of Fools. Now, the reportage starts for real. Arrived at the Green Cape, we find an anchor place in between four shipwrecks and feel instantly at home. Without doubt, our ship is the oldest. Here we hunt for foolish actors. Music, or the voice, would be an excellent medium too, as they speak directly to the heart.

FOOD

The Captain’s Black Log Book
019

Monday, October 30, 2017
Valle Gran Rey, Gomera, Canary Islands, Spain.
28º24´30´´ North, 0016º57´52´´ West

FOOD

.
The Fools finally arrive at their eternal summer. The pilot boat of San Sebastián harbour, on the Canarian island Gomera, gracefully escorts the ship to a deserted beach with pristine waters. Playa de la Guancha. The Guanche are the original aboriginals of the island. A perfect spot to start rehearsals that rock against a stunning scenery. The daily experiences are the subject of the new comedy. A foolish captain engaging a foolish crew for a foolish world trip. The show is
a choreographed waiting for the food that the public brings in as entrance tickets but that never comes. A drunken sailor, haphazardly, chucks the pan into the water. Central stage is the long blue table on deck on which we rehearse daily our sunset evening meal.

Slowly, rumours run around the island that the Fools have arrived. The first inhabitants approach ship with their pumpkins and bananas. A passing fisherman throws seven fat fish flying to deck. Some Yersey yachtsmen empty their fridges stuffed with calfsmeat, shrimps and merluza. Some of the crew sail the dinky daily into town for food and wine. When an occasional cruise monster moores, musicians from all over the island go busking. In those days, food abounds. The captain has only twice left ship for negocations with High Authories. That’s no easy bussiness. First, there’s hardly any place in these tiny harbours for a solid vessel like Azart. Then, they’re rather expensive. Then, local chiefs have no say over them. These ports are run by far-away organisations based in Madrid or Tenerife. But, most alarmingly, they require a burocracy that requires a lot of fantasy. Nothing is taken for granted: the arrival of fresh comedians, the permission for the shows, the reactions of the public, the moment to set sail six days southwards, nor tomorrow’s winds and waves.

 

Nor tomorrow’s waves and winds. One night, we find ourselves drifting towards Mauritania, the anchor swinging a jolly thirty meters down into the depths. That invites us to let loose triple chain. After twelve days, our paradisical Guancha beach suddenly and collectively starts boring us, so we swop places to some bays ahead. A tiny village called Playa Santiago. Next day already we swop places again, this time to protect the ship from the hot south-eastern, Saharian winds. We actually could make eternal magical tours around this island. On the western site of the island we find impressive cliffs and a meditation centre facing the anchor place. This town is called Valle Gran Rey, the Valley of the Big King, after the last of the Guanche kings. Here, the Fools have a – suspended – permission to present their new play. The Show Must Go On!  

FAREWELL TO EUROPE

018
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
At 3 hours from San Sebastián, Canary Islands, Spain.
28º24´30´´ North, 0016º57´52´´ West

FAREWELL TO EUROPE !

The world trip finally gets going. Departure again was postponed for about a week, for many a last minute ajustment, for meteorological reasons and for the petrol station running out of diesel, scandalously presuming Fools never would need or meet up for big quantities of diesel. For a whole weekend, while waiting at their station, the ship attracted large crowds of curious of all ages that familiarly and shamelessly settled themselves in front of the ship. And that cheerfully waved us good-bye when we escaped to a paradisiacal anchorage away in the bay. There, our ship writer and doodle-player joinly accomplished the miracle of an unexpected and delicate repair job by repatching the exploted cast iron exhaust manifold that alarmously went leaking again. The patch work of our dear master engineer lasted nine sailing days. The anchorage was in front of a ship yard of traditional wooden craft that invited us for an excursion to their wharf covered by journalists.

And now six days sailing to the Canaries. Never ever been so well prepared. A unicum to give sailing instructions before sailing. Without cups or plates lingering in the steer hut nor any unwanted object occupying illegal places, without the content of so many drawers spread out over the floors, the travel looks more like a sunday afternoon trip then a dramatic good-bye to Europe. No leaking holes, no broken gaffs, gibs nor jibs nor torn sails – only to find in all the cabins, huts, saloons and rooms a very unfoolish neat and trim. Even an unprecedentent tidyness behind the cupboard’s shutters. The motor produces a stupyfing mantra and would be most delighted to run for another eleven thousend seamiles straight to Australia, or, for that matter, aonther seven years non stop – gazoil provided. The sails are put up for action, for mere exercise, arching for winds. Lake Atlantic. They new main sail, a present freshly given, exposes a huge blue Polish pharmaceutical publicity. “Lek Dla Serca”. A Medicine For Your Heart. South of Lisbon the sun starts hitting and the fruits and veggies running out. The DJ set including a host of classic CD’s moved to occupy the steer hut but badly misses our Amsterdam crew member and star DJ who played there some unruly nights crossing the Gulf of Biskaya.

For the next steps the crew has the key. Already, it’s a great team providing fabulous facilities for guest artists. In the afternoon she meets on deck to devise a new show, promted by the spoon and fork of the ship’s figure head: “Here We Come – We’re Hungry”. It’s about a foolish captain stirring up a crew to great and good deeds. A comedy of slips and flops and fiasco’s around a desperate, central staged banquet. The food and drinks are provided by the public as a way of entrance ticket. All elements are on board, provided by a well stocked dressing room, a wide experience and age old fool’s traditions.

An tremendous Atlantic full moon accompagnies us when crossing from Europe to Africa. On the port side the moon rises at dusk while the sun sets at starboard. At dawn the main actors swap roles. As time is precious, we concentrate on beauty and things that matter. We give a wide berth to tourist traps as Tenerife or Las Palmas and head straight to the tiny island Gomera where goat herds communicate in an age old whistling language. The island is in sight. We leave a confused continent behind. We’re your circumnavigating embassador, praising the carnivalesque traditions that put your perspectives upside down and that saved you from fundimentalism. Fellini told so: E La Nave Va !

 

INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF FOOLS # ONE

017
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Illa de Arousa, Galicia, Spain.
42º34´54´´ North, 008º52´58´´ West

About a month ago the Fools arrived, exhausted, to this island and the locals required a relaunch of the fool’s spectacle as they remembered nineteen years earlier. Right they proved to be. A whole range of elements conspired to realize their claim in a superb way. First, a local clown called ‘Peter Punk’ saw the ship arriving and decided to mobilize his clown friends to collaborate with a festival. In the same way, a local gaita player, an old friend we met in the Basque country, decided to mobilize his crazy folk band to take part. Moreover, he and his Italian clarinista embarked for the next destination. A local fisherman borrowed his buoy to let the ship moor in the bay. The harbourmaster thought it wiser not to bother his superiors and magically gave his permission. Ramón the fisherman piloted the ship across the hidden and treacherous rocks. Ship and tribune were supremely located on the end of a jetty on the beach. The newspapers persistently published the proceedings, three days in row. They really did their best to invent incentive headlines. The Galician TV-News came along, eager to satisfy the curiousity of their audience. So last weekend, the first international Fool’s Festival took place. The programation was overwhelming, starting with a ‘Theatrical Visit that brought kids and adults alike aboard – along six exciting cabins. Never before we’ve seen such a grateful public almost entirely connected with the fishing and the sea. First awaited them the ‘Pirate’s Cabin’ where the bandy-legged French sailor wisely stayed in bed receiving the public. The tour continued with a terrorific nymph in the ‘Princess Cabin’, followed by a foolish captain issuing foolish sailing licences in the ‘Steering Room’. Next a terrific granma scared the kids in our well stocked ‘Dresssing Room’. In the ‘Stowaway’s Cabin’ some pillows and the snorking from a mobil phone represented a sleeping, illegal refugee. The final stage was the ‘Artist Saloon’ with the ship orchestra playing local folk music while the cook prepared pinchos while explaining the ship’s history. All along the Amsterdam star singer Merante entertained the public from a fishing net hung up high in between the mast while holding a dutch clock from a ankling rod. ‘Pinchos’ is a favorite Spanish pastime that provides white wine with anchovies and other delicacies. So ‘Pinchos With The Fools‘ was the Festival’s Late Afternoon event that again seduced the locals, not so much with the poor quality pinchos but so much the more with the monologues, jokes and exhilarating melodies of the band. The highlight of the festival was “The Fool’s Gala”, the show itself, boldly reviewed in the newspaper as “A Risky Artistic Proposition That Mixes Comic Theatre and Circus”. Well, the local clowns Peter Punk, Coo and Pajarito performed first, perfectly knowing how to handle with their quirks their audiences. We Fools boldly restaged in three days our Amsterdam performance that surely dazzled our dear public by its unexpected windings. On Saturday a sensual Cape Verde woman percussion and singer band completed the festival, anticipating the Fool’s next destination. The last event was called, for not being published, “La Nada” (The Nothing), an illegal night club for the crew, the participating artists and their friends. Here, we introduced the most spectacular attraction to our night life that already in Amsterdam was famous for the ship wobbling and the floor wiggling. Here, with low tide, there’s only one meter of draft, so we put some more weigth to port side to have the ship leaning against the quay. But then, the merry-makers are dancing on starboard and one little dancing movement proved to be enough to topple the ship twenty degrees to starboard in one dramatic blow that tumbled a lot of glassware and nerves. The crew continues to be exhausted. In a few days she sets sail to the Canarian island Gomorrah, pretty confident to finally live up to our motto of ‘slowly hastening’. While writing this log book some nocturnal delphins encircle the ship.

THIS WEEK’S HEADLINES

The “Ship of Fools” Offers in La Illa a Delirious International Show with Local Artists
The Public Pays 13 ct A Kilo * The Artists Sail Since 28 Years From Harbor to Harbor *
Collaborating is the Islander Peter Punk

Faro de Vigo, Sept 21, 2017, frontpage.

The Folly of Art Takes Possession of the Cabodeira Quay
The “Ship of Fools” Returns to A Illa After 19 Years, On Her Way To Australia
Faro de Vigo, Sept 21, 2017

The Most “Foolish” Company of the Planet Moors in Arousa For Three Days of Spectacle
Diario de Arousa, Sept 21, 2017, frontpage

The Most “Foolish” Company of the Planet Moors in Arousa For Three Days of Spectacle
The Ship of Fools returns to Cabodeiro with invited artists like Peter Punk or “Coo”
Diario de Arousa, Sept 21, 2017

The Ship of Fools Opens Herself to the Arousians
Moored in A Illa, the ship offers during the weekend a most various program together with local artists.
La Voz de Galicia, 21 Sept 2017

Folly Settles in A Illa (The Island)
The Ship of Fools Surprises With Her Risky Artistic Proposition That Mixes Comic Theatre and Circus
Faro de Vigo, Sept 23, 2017

The Gaita-Player Who Says Yes to any Adventure
Simon Premieres in the Ship of Fools, a Kind of Floating United Nations, to Perform in A Illa and to Set Sail to Cape Verde
La Voz de Arousa, 23 Sept 2017

A Paradise of Artistic Folly
“Azart” Continues her Activities on the Cabodeiro Quay
Faro de Vigo, Sept 24, 2017

MAR TENEBROSO

016
Sunday, September 2017
Illa de Arousa, Galicia, Spain.
42º34´54´´ North, 008º52´58´´ West

Mar Tenebroso

A ship at anchor is a universe of sound and motion, gently rocked by the winds and waves. Time gradually loses sense, the days slowly overflow. Each morning the clouds greet us in a thousand shades of changing grey. The main wind is called the Portuguese North and remind us, rather cruely, of the ease of our destination southwards. To go with the flow ! But the crew hardly gets ashore. The fishermen and sunday sailors, as the ambassadors of the little island in the distance, are sailing by, frenetically waving and photographing. Some of them bring local wine, licuors or mussles. They think they live in paradise and they’re right, for some weeks. But the crew, one day, is involved in cleaning a thousand tools. Another day in sorting out a thousand ropes. Seven consecutive days in pumping and rowing a ton of bilge oil to the shore. The mechanic, who kept our motors running for nearly three decades, stayed a week aboard to make sure everything works. Over the decades this motor room slowly turned into a museum, loosing sense of time. The crew got enlarged with four women, defying maritime stereotypes. Ready for part two of the world trip: A Fool’s Festival on this island and sailing to the Canary Islands. Next weekend Fool House and Grand Voyage.

STOPOVER

015
Monday, August 28, 2017
Illa de Arousa, Galicia, Spain.
42º34´54´´ North, 008º52´58´´ West

THE STOPOVER
The crew endured heroically the eigth day crossing of the Gulf of Biskaya that turned out to be a collective catharsis. Upon arrival in paradise the crew exploted. The skipper, a straight descendent of the great West-Frisian sailors that conquered the Orient, was send away for his recklessness. The Basque actress, purificated, decided to cycle backwards home along the pilgrimage route from the nearby Santiago de Compostella. The Amsterdam bar boy experienced a revealation and found his destiny, that, for the moment, leads to an alternative farm nearby. The French Buzuki player, as the Caribbean animation maker are leaving with a big smile. A few are left over, among which our French sailor who cannot walk far away with his broken and plastered leg. Instead, embarked has a local Galician gaïta player with his Italian girl friend who sings and plays the clarinett. They’ve been on board some years ago. The gaïta is a Celtic bagpipe and the idea is to connect with a nearby artistic association of Cape Verde women to look for a musical cross-over. The shipload of our next trip.

And paradise it is. This bay is presumably much more beatiful than the Canarian Islands that are infested with the big muddle of ugly and expensive white plastic yachts. In the middle of this bay is a fishermen’s island whose inhabitants have a reputation to be fools. We have to implore the fishers that sail past not to bring more mussles. A few hours after mooring arrived at our achor place the jounalist who’s first assignement in his career was the Ship of Fools. That was 1999 and again he repeated as the fool’s court photographer during our stopover in 2012. Now he created with an article the big fuzz around a festival the public demands us to organize. This festival is going to be a collaboration with a local association of artists headed by the daugther of the ship yard’s owner. It’s impossible to show up on the street or in a bar without being spoken to or interrogated about the upcoming festival. One shows from his wallet a crumpy 1999 black-and-white photograph of the ship. Another one says to shorten his holiday to be there for the spectacle. A woman was indignated to have had to pay for her 1999 entrance while a fat man in front of her went in for free. It seems as if we have come back especially to explain to her that those weighing more than 111 kilo have all the rights to enter for free. It seems our return awakens a collective frenzy about a romantic vision of their own yought, when everybody was twenty years younger. We returned – by chance – to feed more illusions. Yesterday, a family of four delphins were circling around our ship.

 

THE SHIP

014
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Ilja de Arousa, Galicia, Spain.
42º34´116´´ North, 008º51´506´´ West


For five years the Fools were engaged in making theatre and cabaret in the Basque country and later in Amsterdam. Now, to hop the continents, attention quickly shifts to the ship, the old lady herself who badly needs more attention than the blue diamond facelift she received last year in the ship yard. Sailing over the Atlantic showed a whole range of shortcomings. For most of the crew a strong breeze already is a storm.. And with no more than a strong breeze booms and gaffs broke or bended and the gib dissapeared altogheter. All three safety rafts went hobbling, one of them prematurily into the sea. In three different places the incoming water had to be pumped out. On a certain moment none of the four generators were in running order, risking to turn the ship in nigth time into a kind of flying dutchman. On those moments, at least, Big Brother is not watching us on our Automatic Identification System. Dissapeared from the radar. The motor room, that we try to keep clean and clear, amassed an incredible multitud of sticky oily objects and instruments that started to slide to and fro. My skin got greased in a mix of sea salt, arnica and motor oil. And we kept changing destinations. We changed the Canarian islands to Madeira to make it possible for our star singer Merante to attend a well paid gig. I was tempted to interrupted already the travel in the North of Bretagne, knowing there’s a ship yard run as a social project by volunteers. And just when the favorable Portuguese North winds promised to bring the ship smoothly to Madeira, I thougth it better to cancel further chaos and improvision and to concentrate on some basic technical conditions we better comply. That could take two weeks or two months. One of the jobs is to patch the roof of the fourteen tonn water bunker that flooded the dressing room and turned the drinking water every day more colourful. So this morning, the Fools entered the bay in such a thick mist that there was no distinction between the sea and the sky. We moored on a floating dock of a tiny fisherman’s harbour of a scenic island in the Ría de Arousa, in Galicia. Even the achor manoevre failed. We visited the island already in the last milenium and again five years ago. Being old friends, the environement of the Ría is propitious. Plenty of mussels. We know there’re some gaita players around who could be most helpful to realise a music project in the Cape Verde.  On the way hussling the Canarians. Last time the heading of the local newspaper in the Ría described the project as “A Single Ship’s Journey to Lucidity”.
Una Singladura hacía la Lucidez. We might make turns but we get further.

HASTEN SLOWLY

013
Sunday, August 13, 2017
Coopérative Maritime Dunkerque, France
52º02´55´´ North, 002º22´178´´ East

HASTEN SLOWLY

Last week on Saturday, the Fools gloriously set sail on their eternal foolish pilgrimage, most likely never to return to their home town. We took proud pictures against the back drop of the icons EYE and Central Station, until the lid of the exhaust pipes on top of the steerhut dramatically jumped into the air and a fine, private drizzle of cooling water fell down over the decks, making the ship look like a spouting whale adrift.

An exploted motor presaged the end of all travels. The ship started to drift dangerously towards an enormous incoming barge until skipper Axe hurriedly hoisted a foresail to steer the ship back to the quai on the Java-island. The explosion was due to an imprudence of the same engine-driver that kept the 1959 motor running for decades. A few days later that same engine-driver made the diagnosis that the cast iron water cooled exhaust manifold had crashed, irreparable and irreplaceable. But not indispensable… The Java Island presaged future destinations.

So this Saturday the Fools secretly set sail without a cooled exhaust manifold. Drizzling Amsterdam weeped. A few friends waved us goodbye from until the North Sea jetty. There the waves produced a breeze that was enough to knock down the totality of the crew. For hours none of them poked their nose into the steerhut to inquire what was their shift. Normally the captain is served his coffee.

Before the sailing their curiousity about who’s with whom and when still was overwhelming. The same with the food. Before the sailing the brave crew, helped by so many friends, hoarded a stock as if ready to drift two months over the Atlantic. But once on the sea nobody showed any inclination to eat anything. As the skipper is vegan it became my responability to devour the herrings my brother carefully prepared for the crew.

During the sailing the sweet water tank proved to be leaking. In the motor room the cooling system of the gear box started leaking, provoking a shower of oily drizzle all over in the engine room. For a oceanworthy vessel nothing is worse than not sailing. During the night the fools managed to bump into an illuminated buoy, quiet a feat. Once savely landed in the harbour, we managed to break a mooring cable by failing to anticipate the depths of the low tide. The world is awaiting the fools.

THE CAPTAIN’S BLACK LOG

The Captain’s Black Log Book

012
Friday, August 4, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East


OPPORTUNITIES

Like on the huge East Indiamen that used to sail to the orient, the captain on the Ship of Fools has his quarters on the back deck – and his retrograde porthole astern. His horizon faces the past and fades away. To be able to set the course for the helmsman and the fool steering mates he needs to savor past opportunities and calamities to create new ones. For a sailor this quest for opportunities sometimes borders opportunism, especially if no remnant lingers on the bottom of the ship chest, as routinily is the case. To clarify this best, better to abandon English tongue and invoke the charms of Dutch sailor’s lingo that by sheer practice solidified into petrified phrases. That starts with a seemingly innocent but basic and brave maritime practice like ‘laveren”, that simply means to zigzag against the wind and to reverse the direction just before hitting the obstacles. This “overstag gaan”, an essential nautical manoeuvre to be translated as “to tack”, easily smells like “to change your mind”, very much like the very sensible “omzeilen” or “sailing around” smells like to fight shy of any problem or conflict. The Dutch expression “met de winden meewaaien” or “blowing with the winds”, is a sound nautical principle but means something like “to swim with the tide or “to go with the flow”. This paradox has found a sumptious expression in the Dutch verb “schipperen”, whose significations, confidently, equivalent an express course to a sailing licence. Basically it means “to steer a ship” or “to show good seamanshood”. That simply means acting along the circumstances. This implies to vacillate, to be trown back and forth, to give and take, to bargain and to compromise. That includes quite some botching, patching, wobbling, dabbling, bungling. jumbling, muddling, fudging and swindling. It strongly invites to dodge rules and regulations if required. It often implies to come to arrangements and tangible results. Again it smells like to yo-yo and not to be principled. There’s a befitting 18th century paraphrase of “schipperen” that quotes: It seems I always waver, but I keep my ground and never give up (“Ik schijn altoos te wijken, toe te geven, maar bewaar mijn grond, en geef nooit toe”). The principle is to be unprincipled but to stay loyal to the set course. Tomorrow the ship sets sail. The set course is an eternal pilgimage in praise of folly. For months people ask if everything is ready. Many things get ready, at best, on the way. Still, the ship never has been so well prepared. The real question is if the crew is ready. The biggest danger on the seas is the crew.

011
Friday, July 28, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East


AUSTRALIA

This log is about our destination. There’s a widespread misunderstanding that leaving the ship behind in the Australian desert would be the Glorious Grand Finale of the Fool’s Odyssey. Too bad that in these days of instant communication it’s virtually impossible to breed the rumours and mystifications that were the soul and reputation of our travels. Is the ship still around ? Where the heck are they?  Did they sink ? Weren’t they bankrupt?  Luckily not many read this log book. The fact is we actually do NOT want to go to Australia at all. It is a small, misogyne, racist, xenophobe island. Here we speak more about systems than about people. When investigating our trip we hit the nearby, romantic sounding, “Christmas Island” that houses more refugees than inhabitants. That Australian island happens to be a detention centre to where the Aussi can exile his conscience into oblivion. Pretty much as the Dutch exile their colonial past to other exotic holiday islands. The fact is, crossing the Australian desert on wheels is a descent into hell. The poor ship is deprived of her natural habitat just as the poor fools are submitted to health and security regulations. No chance to enter own board while driving through the desert. No chance to dive into the ocean under the pitiless heath. Our interest to travel to Australia is the travel itself as an itinerant art festival. Australia is only the banner around which to rally artists and dreamers for a tribute to the millennial history of the “World Turned upside Down” alias “The Ship of Fools” that always in history has been a ship on wheels. Australia is the dry plain where beautiful images, stories and dreams can blossom. The Dutch mounted a dozen expeditions to look for a continent full of gold, called “Southland” that proved to be Australia. They found the continent but never the gold. Now, the shipload of our next expedition to the Southland is not the imaginary gold but instead the very tangible immaterial wealth of an artistic and cultural exchange between artists and audiences of different cultures. A tribal elder from the Uluru Rock invited us to visit them in their lost paradise as a symbolic contribution to the still ongoing decolonisation of the continent. The desert trip is not a Fitzcarraldo heroic exploit, just an expensive tender for a crane and trailer to get the ship there. For Hieronymus Bosch and many of his contemporaries, the travel of the Ship of Fools indeed was a descent into hell. Only returning into the ocean we enter paradise, purified. We sail to Australia to have a destination. After that, the fool’s trip starts, without any destination. To get there, the crew now is feverishly liberating all the corners, corridors and cabins from the rubbish that has cumulated there over three decennia’s. Next Saturday a shipshape ship sets sail.

010
Friday, July 21, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East

THE SECRETS OF THE FOOL’S TRADE
To launch a Ship of Fools and keep her sailing has only be made possibly by a bizarre set of conditions and secrets. In fact, such a project is unthinkable in any other country than the Netherlands. I’m not talking about Erasmus and his “Praise of Folly” or about Hugo Grotius and his “Mare Liberum”. It’s just the circumstance that nowhere in the world there’s such a rich maritime heritage with so many centenary ships and the sailors and mechanics that keep them running. Where else in the world a linguist who never sailed in his whole life would buy a vessel and simply set sail? A similar essential condition is the Amsterdam culture of freedom, protest and alternative lifestyles that mark the city. One of the symbols of this could be the Festival of Fools back in the seventies that became the forerunner of an international festival culture.  The ship doesn’t even has to pay taxes for not being of any value. So it’s a well-kept secret we’re sailing a luxury yacht with two toilets, ten private cabins and a bath as big as the ocean. Just go shopping in Monaco where you start with 20 million for a 20 meter yacht and add one million for every meter you want more. That makes us a thirtyfold millionaire. That ship supposedly not being of any value has proven to bring an enormous additional benefit. After all, if you run into problems and find your yacht impounded you just wait a surprisingly short time before they start supplicating you to look for other destinations. Another well-kept secret is the blessing of a motor that is devoid of any electronics and that only needs diesel, oil and cooling water. That indefectible motor, for being built much too solid, only provoked the bankruptcy of the factory. That motor didn’t need any repair or service in 25 years and allowed a linguist to face the seas saving on mechanics. Another of the secrets is of bureaucratic nature, sailing without an address, without budget, possessions, counting, accounting or bank statements. The real secret is of a psychological nature for which we better consult a psychiatrist. Or else of a religious nature, The School for Fools slowly turns into The Church of Fools. The Sekt of Holy Fools. This weekend a 14 persons delegation from London join us to grace the final days of the festival. They’re Butoh-dancers, storytellers and musicians. Panic on board. Under the huge table in the saloon and under the scene on the deck we’ll create a dormitory. What if the best asset of the ship is her jolly arrival in port that spontaneously brings a cheerful mood to most mortals and even to most harbour officials?

009
Friday, July 14, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East

FAREWELL TO AMSTERDAM
The NDSM, the former Amsterdam ship yard turned into an artist laboratory, is being sold. The lady in charge of protecting the unique character of the wharf, resigned. In our naivity we think to say good bye to Amsterdam but in fact it is the city herself that says good bye to her reputation and perspectives. It is the NDSM that says good bye to the city. The free zones in town are being marginalized and dismantled. The same civil servant that generously offered us for two years a free mooring on this Amsterdam top spot, now measures his steps on the quay to worship his God: the square-meter price. The Fools, after dining with the King, can sleep with the dogs again. We set sail as the Ambassador of an illusionary town eager to be transformed into a hub of a zombie Airb&b decor. Farewell ! Our farewell show becomes the swan song of a proud city sinking in the mud. It is a show about dreaming and travelling, about freeing yourself of the seduction of power and money. It is a no budget show made by a crew of about fifteen dedicated to a collective creation. We were very much surprised with the euphopric reaction of the public after the premiere. The scenery, with the city, the ship and sails indeed is stunning. I suspect the real drama of the spectacle is the public realising to be left behind when this ship really hits unknown destinations.

008
Friday, July 7, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East


UTOPIA
How to find a name for a ship that is not there yet? I decided to look for her name in a Russian dictionary, knowing that there isn’t any authentic Russian word that begins with a A. The idea was to find a Russian sounding word that would be understandable in the mayor European languages. Very quickly, on page two, in between the letter Az (A) and Azbuka (Alphabet), the word “Azart” shined up , significating “Fire, Passion”. Wauw! A passion for art from A to Z ! That yielded much more than I was looking for: the name of a vision. It took some time to know that the dictionairy’s translation was a very poor rendering of the riches of the word. It took some more time before we managed to adorn an Amsterdam square with this name. It took 25 years before a Russian paintor and novelist published a novel titled “Azart”. He came to the ship on his first travel to the West in the illusion to find an artist in residence on a millionaire’s yacht. Instead he found a bunch of artists surviving on a ramshackle ship. It made a big impression on him and a quarter of century later he wrote his novel “Azart” as a parable about constructing an ark, about the place of man in society and about the spirit of utopy. I realised it must be the utopian character of the project that attracts the potentional crewmembers, despite all the trouble, hardship and sacrifice it involves. So then, with what motivation? The collectivity of the process? The artistic challenges? The purity of the nature and oceans? The quest for new horizons? The desire to escape the restrictions of society? With what message? So far, it’s very clear that ship’s life functions as a school. A school for fools. The French veteran sailor, fed up with the vegan food on board, carefully and lovingly prepared the two steaks my brother secretly give us out of pity. While looking for some wine the dog of the skipper devored both of them in one blow. One day earlier this dog teared carefully and lovingly his hat apart. Veteran pirates too keep on learning.
Your captain August.
——
007
Friday, June 30, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East



MAGNUM OPUS
The Magnum Opus of the theatre ship Azart is her one-way travel to the Other Side. This took thirty years to get loose. It is fascinating because travelling, living, playing and storytelling come together in a kind of collective Total Artwork or ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’. It fascinates for its fragile and hazarduous character that borders irresponsability. Meanwhile, the captain lost control. He lost his digital memory and every single one of his phone numbers. He lost his power of purchasing food for the crew. He is still fighting by patiently dumping the rubbish the crew still persistently loads on board. The trip becomes an organic collective process. But not really yet. The theatre director, used to third world conditions, keeps control of the artistic process. Daily rehearsals decreted. The skipper commands the sailing. Only two crew members ever sailed. The sea shifts out the sailors. After Canarias, Senegal might replace Ghana, for its proximity. At the Blue Square on the NDSM we got an Amsterdam ferry terminal as neighbour.

Your captain August.
——
006
Friday, June 23, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East


THE JOBS

Five weeks left to set sail on the ultimate, permanent world trip. What are the tasks of the crew? First, you have the captain who accounts for the global vision and communication. Letters and programs. Last saterday, his lap top and his mobile telephone were professionally stolen. By bad chance the back-up memory was part of the loot. Twenty years of digital memory whiped out in one strike. Reset to zero. Liberation. Luckily, all the pictures and images are already thoroughly classified by the archiviste Marja. Meanwhile, the skipper Axe has multiple jobs like revising the sails, masts, ropes, tubes, batteries, electronics while revising the kitchen and the toilet and creating theatre props. Simultanously. He promoted the Motor Room into the Motor Saloon by hanging a chandelier there. The main sail happened to have been the happy home of a rat famile that left five holes to be fixed. A Basque Delegation came over especially to repair some seriously leaky salt water cooling tubes that have been installed in the early sixties and not been touched after. The French sailor is organising drawers, boxes and cases for the instruments and the bolts. The Basque actress and French mamma make a hat for the narrator in the show as four other actors are engaged in making props. The guest director gives a row of instructions. Our Amsterdam artist duo is immersed in organising and publicizing the coming festival. The French musician is only three days on board marvelling. The floating asylum is getting ready to sail.
Your captain August.
——-
005
Friday, June 16, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East

THE SPACE
On the premises of the artist laboratory NDSM in Amsterdam North we fools create a Blue Square that has a particular spaciousness: at one side the skyline of down town and at the other side the emptiness of a former ship yard. It’s a unique place because very central in town and surrounded by mere space. No living quarters half a mile around. That’s one of the extraordinary privileges of sailing a Ship of Fools: to be systematically moored on very top spots. Hometown Amsterdam provides an excellent illustration of this: our Blue Square now turns into a ferry terminal just as earlier the Azart Square turned into a ferry terminal. Communication hubs on hot spots ! But then, hot spots we find all over the world and it’s hard to say which are the most beautiful. The derelict quay in Barcelona where we spend two winters now turning into a Hermitage Museum? Or the last bridge before the real Hermitage in Sankt Petersburg? The tiny island we shared a whole winter with a 14-th century Venetian castle near the Greek Island Levkada – the spot where Cleopatra lost her sea battle and empire? The Saint-Angelo fort in Malta? A 12-the century cathedral in South-Italy? The very end of the majestic river Rhône where we spend three winters? The really beauty perhaps is not a specific place but to hop from one to another. We’ll appraise them by bringing a Blue Square to all of them. In preparation of our Festival of Fools we bordered the Square with five bath tubes.
Your captain August.
——-
004
Friday, June 9, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East


THE CREW
Who are those fools that are ready to set sail on a one-way voyage to the other side of the world? Which qualifications they need to enlist? The answer is not easy. The real question is what it takes to persist. Romantic sights about exotic destinations do not travel far. To start with, you hardly get a chance to be lazy. And you need a certain level of courage and sociability. Most helpful is to be detached of petty worries about stuff and money. To be free of expectations and to be ready to face incertitudes. Crucial is a high state of forbearance because of the daily dealings with your companions that makes the hour and the day. And, for sure, you got to have an idea why you’re in and what you want to express. Because, basically, you give everything and don’t get anything. So, who’s the crew? As always, for the coming travel we take some locals on board. So I’m not the only Dutch anymore. Now we have a skipper who knows better navigating than his captain. By far. And somebody who  finally knows something about sails. Then, there’s a duo of performers that are flying high through the Amsterdam art scene. There’s a would-be sailor boy trying to escape his cruise bar in Amsterdam. A descendent of slaves from the Caribe who’s passion it is to play with tiny objects creating animation movies. A retired French sailor who’s pension alone triples the whole budget of a world tour. A French street musician playing the double bass, guitar, bouzouki, baglamas, ukulele, piano and the clarinet. A Basque actress putting her career at stake by preferring the Fools to a famous Portuguese theatre director. A couple from Valencia that’s perplexed by the whims of the Dutch spring. A skinny cineast from the Spanish Plain who returns to the ship after another year studying at the film academy. A French mom with two kids completes the gang. The sea keeps rocking.
Your captain August.
——
003
Friday, June 2, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East


THE PASSION
About eight weeks before departure for an eternal world trip and still the motor room has to be finished, a show to be made, a festival to be held – with the ship’s chest dramatically depleted. If we wouldn’t have done this a double dozen times before, I never would have believed it. This time, the enterprise is of sheer heroic dimensions. The zero state of the ship’s chest is inversely proportional to the enthusiasm of the crew. This challenge defies common sense. Three holy duties are to blame that the Fools, if they want to be taken serieus, do not have a real alternative to accept this challenge. Thrice Hurray! First, the sailing to the Orient as a remake of Amsterdam’s nautical history belongs to the core inspiration of the project. You can’t really abnegate the very pledge that took thirty years to come to fruition. Another imperative reason we can’t possibly forsake is to meet the standard we’ve set ourselves by naming the ship “Azart”. At that time we still had no clue about it. This word travelled from country to country and got – in passing –  fascinating meanings like fate, luck or chance. Or else meanings like danger or risk. At the eastern end of the trip, in Russia, this “Azart” turned into a glorious “passion to put everything at stake”. Holy Duty ! Nor have we, fools, any serious chance to rewind the millenary fool’s history that is our passion, our bread and – by extension – our future. We’re unwise by vocation and profession. Only the dynamics of our story telling can guaranty our continuity. We can only survive if we are collectively funded. The food waste store is partner already. Not to make others jealous I was asked, while leaving, to hide the free meat destined for the few meat eaters left in a rapidly veganising crew. Another partner is Professor Doctor Herman Pleij, national expert in the nature of Dutch characteristics. His contribution is a solemn lecture in the last weekend of our farewell Festival, a sermon titled “The Crazier – The Better”, about The Necessity To Be A Fool.
Your captain August.
——
002
Friday, May 26, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East

THE LAW
So far, the Fools have visited about two hundred cities. Every time, the big challenge is to earn the respect of the local population. At first, that’s a hard task, given that the ship and especially the crew defy the most common perceptions about what is normal. In fact, they invade the scenery with the alarming question: who is the fool around here? Children and artists are the first to regale the fools. There’s always a minority that upon seeing the ship stiffens automatically and beyond repair in a kind of premature rigor mortis. But the curious thing is a certain phantom pain that overpowers the community as soon as the ship is gone. Gradually, the ship creates a space in the surroundings and in the heart of the people and by leaving, she leaves a notable void. But now there’s another question, not less interesting: does the local neighbour deserves respect on his turn? Sometimes, this proves to be even more difficult, by the indifference and a kind of egocentrism ruling the place. Basically, it’s fear of petty interests being disturbed. That’s especially sad if idealism turns into commercialism. This fear often gets into grotesque dimensions as soon as the authorities are concerned. They grant themselves the responsibility to set rules and then see themselves forced to apply them for fear of losing their job. At present we’re hunted down by a civil servant who happens to be a legalisation freak and who earlier with phoney arguments succeeded to chase the Art Vessel Stubnitz out of town. The poor man believes them himself. Poor City. So it happened we had to present a theatre performance illegally on the quay side. It happened we had to chase away many parents who wanted to show their kids the ship as they’ve done all over the country since centuries. For this log book the disparate arbitrariness of civil servants in so many countries stays an eternal source of amazing content. Just now a Russian writer publicised a novel called Azart, a title borrowed from the ship’s name. Apparently, this novel is a tribute to the spirit of the utopia and to the European values the ship Azart represents. Things of positive interest.
Your captain August.
—–
001

THE BLUE BARGE
May 19, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East

We summon all companions of wild manners
With greetings and salute
To come to the Blue Barge
And into the Blue Barge’s Guild
(Jacob van Oostvoorne, beginning XV-th century)

With these words a satiric sermon launched – for a crew of wastrels and misfits – an imaginary voyage straight to damnation. Now, after six centuries, things finally get serious. Now a crew comes together for a real journey of indefinite duration and with unknown destination. A one way pilgrimage in praise of Folly. In about two months the barge sets sail. The sea chest literary is empty. Just in time Amsterdam TV-News came up with a crowd funding campaign. Weekly the captain records the anxieties and longings of the crew. He talks about negotiations with dignitaries and fools – or about the state of the pipework in the engine room or the provisions in the kitchen.

On board are actors and filmmakers and a sailor who is officially is a hand deck but actually the commander. The epic journey finally starts. It’s preparations lasted thirty years. As in most seaman’s stories, the disasters, misunderstandings and blunders remain the best reading. But Fellini said: And The Ship – She Sailed !
Your captain August

WHERE

(No Automatic Identification System if ship is moored)
.
Arrival at Mindelo Harbour, São Vincente, Cabo Verde:
Wednesday, Nov 15, 2017 at 9.15 pm.
24º59´333´ North, 016º53´026´´ West
.
Arrival at puerto Vueltas, Valle Gran Rey,
Gomera, Canary Islands:
Wednesday, Oct 25, 2017 at 5.35 pm
28º04´374´´ North, 017º19´26´´ West
Departure from Valle Gran Rey:
Friday, November 10 at 3.55 pm

Arrival at Playa Santiago, Gomera, Canary Islands:
Tuesday, Oct 24, 2017 at 6.25 pm
28º01´46´´ North, 017º11´322´´ West
Departure from Playa Santiago:
Wednesday, Oct 25 at 3.45 pm
 .
Arrival at the Playa de la Guancha
San Sebastián de la Gomera, Canary Islands:
Tuesday, Oct 10, 2017 at 3.30 pm
28º24´3´´ North, 016º57´52´´ West
Departure from Playa de La Guancha:
Tuesday, Oct 24 at 16.15 pm
.
Arrival at Punta do Chazo, Galicia, Spain:
Monday, Oct 2, 2017 at 3 pm
42º36´5´´ North, 008º51´5´´ West

Departure from Punta do Chazo: Wednesday, Oct 4 at 2 pm
.
Arrival at A Illa de Arousa: Tuesday, August  22, 2017 at 11 am
42º34´116´´ North, 008º51´506´´ West
Departure from A Illa de Arousa: Monday, Oct 2 at 1 pm
 .
Arrival at Dunkirk: Sunday, August 13, 2017 at 2 pm
52º02´55´´ North, 002º22´178´´ East

Departure from Dunkirk: Monday, August 14 at 6 pm
.
Departure from Amsterdam:  Saturday, August 12, 2017 at 11 am

Temporary berth at Amsterdam NDSM

52º25´131´´ North, 004º48´013´´ East 

Photo: Jasper Schuringa