Captain's Log

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Captain’s Log – Passage to Pitcairn – Landfall

July 19, 2018

At 0520

Took in sail this past evening to slow the ship. We do not want to make Bounty Bay before dawn, now two hours away. Winds have backed and faired more into the east and have laid down from 25 to 20 knots. Seas are down too. Still pretty lumpy but improving. We have a lot of cargo to unload in a few hours. The early morning sky is a dome of piercing stars against a black backdrop. The island is 15 miles ahead and still invisible in the night. Up ahead we can see a single sharp white light low on the horizon.

Out here we can often see stars that low, but now we can see no others and there is enough cloud cover to thicken up near the horizon. Looks like Pitcairn has put the porch light on for us.

At 0730

With the morning sunlight breaking the clouds and growing astern the shape and colours of Pitcairn Island become clear. We are sailing due west in 20+ knot winds but with this large southerly swell on our port beam, rolling pretty hard with yards squared. A call on the VHF, “good morning Pitcairn Island” gets a response and a welcome from Dave Brown. Dave points out that it is pretty rough off the island. We knew this. James does a good job steering us close to an area known as ‘Cornwallis’ where a ship of that name was wrecked ages ago. It is rough, but also starkly beautiful. We rig up the many tires to fend off the long boat and hawsers for it too, with tackles to discharge the cargo; but looks too rough to me for that. The big longboat comes bashing alongside with many familiar faces, Steve, Shawn, Jay, Randy, Dennis, Andrew and a few new to me. Boxes of fruit, banana, oranges, grapefruit come flying aboard for our gang staying on the ship. Then, after a VERY short discussion about not taking the cargo, our gang, half the crew, piled onto the boat, timing their leaps into the tossing boat, let go and headed back for the landing, to windward in large deep blue seas smothered in white caps. Word from the island is that all made it ashore just fine, though soaked to the skin.

At 1030

On the ship we shut down the main engine, braced shard on starboard tack, set two staysails and the main lower topsail and began our jog to the north away from land for the day and the night, until we turn around, get close again and switch crews so the other half can get ashore. Thankfully Meralda also sent a couple bags of fresh breadsticks which she knows I love too much. It is a beautiful sight to see  Pitcairn just off our starboard quarter as we head-reach here deep in the South Pacific.

 

 

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Day’s Run – 19 July, 2018

0530 this morning lead seaman Lars of Norway announced to his watch on the quarterdeck that Pitcairn was in sight! Two lights that the islanders left on for us could be seen off the port bow. All hands were awoken at 0715, time to wolf down some rice pudding, sweet muffins and canned pineapple. Annie, of Ontario, Canada steered us through the big swells, surfing the Picton Castle, bound for the famous Bounty Bay – we had made it. Traveling a very similar route with no doubt similar conditions as Fletcher Christian did in 1790. As we inched closer you could begin to make out the different rock formations, various types of trees and the few houses that inhabit the island. Tammy, of Lunenburg, Canada gave crew members a quick guided tour pointing out the different locations from our deck. Excitement was building but there was still lots of work to do yet.

The Pitcairners launched their 40′ aluminum longboat and speed out to greet us. Smiling faces all around, the two groups – the sailors & the Islanders both old friends and strangers – were ecstatic to see one and other. In a matter of minutes, fruit was tossed from the longboat to deck and fire lined down to safety to our salon. Starboard watch was sent to get their bags.

Lifejackets were put on. Bags were handed over the rail and the crew one by one piled onto the boat, Donald of Grenada, our ships cook being the first aborad, happy to see old friends. And just like that half crew were ashore, while Port watch remains aboard crewing the ship as we’re hove-to. Sail handling was called in order to steer us out of Bounty Bay and the crew were broken into a day and night watch system. Captain kindly shared his delicious Pitcairn breadsticks with the Port watch, thanks to Meralda for making them!

From: Galapagos
Arrived: Pitcairn
Date: July 19, 2018
Noon Position: 24°59.7’S x 130°6.8′ W
Course + Speed: Unknown
Wind direction + Force: ExS + 5
Swell Height + Direction: 4m + ENE
Weather: Cloudy

 

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Day’s Run – 18 July, 2018

High winds this morning carried on throughout the day. Watches huddled together staying warm. This has been Picton Castle‘s longest passage ever to Pitcairn. We sailed out of Wreck Bay at Galapagos on June 21st, 29 days ago!

Today was our first glimpse of land, Henderson Island was spotted off the starboard side. Many keen crew members climbed to the fore royal and t’gallant to get a good long look at the island. Even our engineer, Deyan of Switzerland, was aloft taking it all in, quite a change of scenery from his typical world down below the ship’s decks. With higher winds and seas, Picton Castle feels like a smooth roller coaster, the crew is reminded to walk cautiously across the deck. Extra grab lines are installed to assist with that. Periodically waves send their tops over the side rail, soaking the lines, pin rails, deck, and anything in their way before exiting the ship through the freeing ports. It’s an amazing sight to witness, the water exits off the deck of the ship just as fast as it splashes aboard. It’s not uncommon to hear crew members cheering as they withstand the motion of the ship, as one would when riding a roller coaster.

This afternoon Captain gathered us on the quarterdeck to inform us of our arrival to Pitcairn tomorrow and what that entails. A big priority is to get the Pitcairners’ cargo off the ship and into their longboats. If the swell is too large we will have to wait for a calmer day. Captain assures us that the Islanders are experienced and capable seamen. Once the cargo is removed from the ship, if all goes to plan that’ll be the first thing to go, the starboard watch will be loaded into the aluminum longboats and carted off to land. Before dinner tonight, crew members were dusting off their knapsacks and packing them with their overnight items. We were suggested to bring a flashlight, shoes, a pocket knife, movies/music to share, photos of our family. Everyone is immensely looking forward to this rare and unique destination. Pitcairn, here we come!

From: Galapagos
Towards: Pitcairn
Date: July 18th, 2018
Noon Position: 24°36.5′ S x 128°23.5’W
Course + Speed: SWxW + 3.8 knots
Wind direction + Force: SE + 6
Swell Height + Direction: 5m + SSE
Weather: Cloudy, periods of sun
Day’s Run: 91.6 nm
Distance to Port: 97 nm
Voyage: 6155.7 nm

 

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Captain’s Log – Passage to Pitcairn 4

At 24-34S / 128-17W – east by north of Pitcairn Island 100 miles away – dead ahead – mid-day in the Picton Castle.

Blowing hard from the SE – Force 6-7, seas large, 20-25 feet – plenty breaking white caps. Some sun and a little blue sky breaking through the low flying scudding clouds tearing along overhead. Under upper topsails and courses. Man-ropes rigged on deck, watertight doors closed. Ten miles to leeward we can see the seas breaking over cliffs of Henderson Island, an uninhabited raised coral atoll and part of the Pitcairn Group. The cliffs are 50-60 feet high, maybe more. It too was inhabited up to about 600 years ago, but a pretty inhospitable place. Sharp coral everywhere, a valley where once was a lagoon possibly useful for growing taro. But pretty rough living.

No place to anchor, nor many places to even land a boat in a surf. Went there years ago in the Brigantine Romance to fetch miro wood for carving.

Better weather than now but still an adventure rowing the just cut logs in and out of the surf in the 40′ wooden pulling boat. Miro is a pretty wood used for carving and had become in short supply on Pitcairn. Enough miro growing again on Pitcairn these days for carving needs.

We will take in the main course and fore upper topsail here at noon today in order to slow down a bit so as to not reach off Pitcairn before dawn tomorrow. Crew eager to get ashore. An open question if that will even be possible tomorrow. We are four weeks out of Galapagos today. Almost 3,000 miles under sail alone. Great trade wind sailing, calms, squalls and now something a lot like southern ocean sailing. The gang is keen to feel some earth under their feet and, of course, to meet up all at Pitcairn Island.

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Day’s Run – 17 July, 2018

Moderately calm winds and seas before the sun was upon us this morning. As Captain predicted, through his years of sea-going experience, the seas and winds picked up around 0730 from ahead with a dark line of deep clouds. It was an amazing sight to witness, two sea swells coming in opposite directions, about three metres tall, smoothly met and combined with each other. Tad of Washington, USA was on helm sporting his bright yellow foul weather gear and sou’wester, steering us into the dark clouds. The offgoing watch, oncoming watch and daymen all stood by awaiting the Captain’s orders for sail handling. It was a similar feeling to right before you’re about to play rugby or a soccer/football game, stepping onto the field, staring your opponent in the eye and looking at the goal line. This is what we’ve trained for, this is what we’re here to do. Picton Castle, sturdy as a church, rolled on through without a hitch.

Light rain continues causing many crew members to retire to their bunks, socialize together in the communal spaces in the lee, catch up on celestial homework or enjoy a good old-fashioned movie.

The engineer is finishing the handle for the stack house door, the final product came out wonderfully. Congrats to our engineer team for doing a fine job. Anders of Denmark, our ship’s head carpenter, is constructing a bracket in order to hold the kedge anchor in its upright position. Rather than have it lashed for sea stowage it will be easier to strap down and release when needed. A kedge anchor is the third anchor we have on deck, it has a much different design than the typical anchor one would draw for a cartoon sketch.  The kedge anchor is an emergency anchor. Preparations for our arrival at Pitcairn Island have continued. Yesterday before a delicious fish dinner, the dancers rehearsed the electric slide for our Picton Castle Show Night. All 47 provision packages were put together, wrapped and labeled with each crew member’s name. It’s always important not to show up empty-handed.

From: Galapagos
Towards: Pitcairn
Date: July 17 2018
Noon Position: 24°37.5′ S x 126°43.2′ W
Course + Speed: W + 4 knots
Wind direction + Force: SSW + 3
Swell Height + Direction: 4m + SxW
Weather: Overcast, rain
Day’s Run: 84.7 nm
Passage Log: 2573 nm
Distance to Port: 186 nm
Voyage: 6063 nm
Sails Set: Square sails

 

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Day’s Run – 16 July, 2018

Plenty of bright stars and a crescent moon above us at dawn this morning, before a gorgeous sunrise dead astern. We were heading south out of the tropics and now have turned west for Pitcairn Island. Captain Moreland has informed us that the calm seas and light winds we’ve been luckily enjoying this passage will change. Nothing the ship or crew can’t handle, it’s always good to be prepared by practicing faster line handling and repeating orders.

Ship’s work: This morning’s watch unbent the stuns’ls from their bamboo spars, stowing them in our hold while other crew members unlashed the stuns’l booms from the yards and sent them down to deck. The stuns’ls were fun while they lasted, everyone enjoyed the new challenge. They will go back up later.

Preparations for our arrival to Pitcairn have begun. The rigging team, Vaiufia of Tonga and Anne-Laure of France, are rigging up the two tackles, the stay tackle and the yard tackle that we will use to unload the cargo from our hold into the 40′ aluminum boats at Pitcairn. Scraping of the oars continued this morning, light rain sent any work on deck to seek shelter.

Squally weather lies ahead, rain makes for a busy watch, taking in and setting sails, slacking lines.  Picton Castle is rigged with manila lines, and when manila becomes wet it tightens immensely;  therefore the lines must have slack put into them. When the rain decides to quit and the lines dry, they become loose again and the extra slack must be taken out.

Logistics for Pitcairn are on everyone’s minds. Our cook Donald of Grenada will be sending each crew member ashore with provisions. Seeing as we will double the size of the island’s population, we do not want to deplete all of their resources. It’s all very exciting! The feeling is as though we are going to grandmother’s house for the weekend – anticipation is building.

From: Galapagos
Towards: Pitcairn
Date: July 16, 2018
Noon Position: 23°53.9′ S x 125°23.5′ W
Course + Speed: WSW + 4.1 knots
Wind direction + Force: NWxN + 3
Swell Height + Direction: 3m + NNE
Weather: Overcast, squally
Day’s Run: 92.8 nm
Passage Log: 2481 nm
Distance to Port: 266 nm
Voyage: 5967.8 nm
Sails Set: Square sails, main t’gallant staysail

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Day’s Run – 15 July, 2018

Another lovely Sunday at sea! This marks our sixth Sunday underway, how lucky are we? Light yet steady winds, bright blue sky holding puffy cumulus clouds, golden sunny rays beaming on deck. Chillin’ out is on the agenda today. Our cook was able to sleep in past 0530 by enlisting three crew members to prepare our meals. Thus far, Val, James, and Aaron have done a splendid job at filling our bellies. The sailmakers, bosun, engineers, and carpenters too are idling their hands after a busy week of ship maintenance.

At 0900 we set our stuns’ls, the crew is becoming more accustomed to setting the mysterious outboard sails. It takes many hands, roughly about 6 people, in order to properly set them. At least 4 – 5 people are required to carry the stuns’ls that are attached to bamboo spars from the main deck to the foc’sle head, where they remain to assist in the setting of the sails.

The rest standby on the well deck to haul the halyards, tacks and sheets.

Once the gear is led and attached to either the sail or the bamboo stuns’l boom, the foc’sle head team, at the mate’s command, launch the spar outboard off of the ship as the halyard line is quickly hoisted. The rotten cotton that is holding the sail together like a wrapped burrito breaks as the wind fills the white canvas it pops open like a parachute filling with air.

Rather an exciting and thrilling task.

On deck crew members enjoy basking in the sun, stretched out on the midships hatch, while their shipmates work away on their personal projects; ditty bags, coconut bowls and catching up on their nautical reading. Lots of talk of our arrival and stay on Pitcairn Island, being that we’re just over 300 miles away, that seems like nothing compared to how far we’ve come.

From: Galapagos
Towards: Pitcairn Island
Date: July 15, 2018
Noon Position: 22°33.7′ S x 124°32.2′ W
Course + Speed: S 1/2 W + 3.75 knots
Wind direction + Force: NExE + 3
Swell Height + Direction: 1.5m + ENE
Weather: Bright, sunny
Day’s Run: 88 1/2 nautical miles
Passage Log: 2,412 nautical miles
Distance to Port: 337 nautical miles
Voyage: 5870.3 nautical miles
Sails Set: All square sails, flying jib, all three stuns’ls

 

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Day’s Run – 14 July, 2018

On this beautiful South Pacific morning a group of eager star-sighters gathered on the quarterdeck at 0630, sextants in hand, hoping for good star sights to fix our position. Yesterday an all hands muster was ordered at 1400 to set the stuns’ls. Our chief mate Erin of Bermuda explained the gear and the process of setting the outboard sails and the importance of acting quickly, especially when taking them in. A few hands were recruited to assist with the hauling as others were able to excitedly look on from the main hatch. The sails were sent up without a hitch, all were very pleased, and we gained almost a knot in speed!

Ship’s work continued this morning, coming to a close about mid-day. Val of British Columbia, Canada stitched a beautiful tropical fabric patch in the lower stuns’l. Our Lunenburg Dory Shop-built dory Sea Never Dry’s interior is freshly painted tropical blue – a favoured colour by most of the crew on board. At 1300 we set the stuns’ls again, trying to gain speed in order to get to Pitcairn. Not only are we beyond excited about the arrival, we are just as thrilled to unload the Pitcairn cargo that is taking up about half of the space in our cargo hold. Before leaving New Orleans, ship’s purser Tammy, Maggie from our Lunenburg office, and assistant purser Annie, shopped for the Pitcairner’s wish lists; including riding lawn mowers x3, mattresses, garden tools, clothes and much more. Seeing as Amazon Prime doesn’t deliver to Pitcairn, our crew loaded the cargo into the hold and packed it neatly away. We imagine as soon as we get close, the Pitcainers will be alongside in their big longboats ready to receive their goods and welcome us.

At 1430 today Tony, of England, is hosting a talent show rehearsal, in order to rehearse the haka, sea shantys and dances we plan to perform for our hosts. Weather on the horizon looks promising, everyone is looking forward to a fun-filled weekend on board.

From: Galapagos
Towards: Pitcairn
Date: July 14 2018
Noon Position: 21-37S / 123-18W
Course + Speed: SW at 4.5 knots
Wind direction + Force:  ENE + Force 4
Swell Height + Direction: Many swells, large southerly swell, moderate NEly wind swell
Weather:  Fair and partly cloudy
Day’s Run: 114 nautical miles
Passage Log: 2332 nm
Distance to Port: 426 nm
Voyage: 5,780 nm
Sails Set: All square sails and stuns’ls too!

 

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Day’s Run – 13 July, 2018

At roughly 0730 this morning, after completing a thorough sunrise deck wash, the on-duty watch loosed and set the main topmast staysail, main t’gallant staysail, the mizzen staysail and mizzen topmast staysail. We’re moving again! Steadily at 4 knots we roll along the South Pacific in the Picton Castle way, living up to our slogan “we may be slow but we get around”. 540 miles until we reach the famous Pitcairn Island, and the Captain assures us they are as excited to host us as we are to visit. Preparations for the talent show continue, Tony of the UK encourages all to join, performing any act, big or small.

As for ship’s work, our carpenter team is busy installing a brand new shelf in the main salon to store charging electronics. Modern times. Despite Picton Castle being a traditional tall ship we all must have our ‘devices’.

All onboard are able to charge their electronics between the hours of 0600 – 1000, while the generator is running in order to charge the ship’s batteries. The benefits of not having the generator constantly running is that we can enjoy the peacefulness of sailing; the waves splashing the hull, the sails drawing us along full with wind.

The monomoy’s floorboards are receiving a second coat of primer, the leeboard is being prepped for primer and paint and the rudder is painted and hanging to dry on the foc’sle head. Val of British Colombia, Canada continues work scraping one of nine oars and encouraged others to join her in the fun. By mid-morning she had recruited three other off watch shipmates – many hands make light work. Our rigging gang worked on bending the stuns’ls to the stuns’l yards in order to hoist them up the foremast.

Many salty sailors onboard have never had the chance to set stuns’ls, it will be rather exciting for both new and old crew members. Our engineer team continues their fine work on the stack house door and frame, the noise of their tools will be well worth it once completed. Our sun soaking sail makers are diligently stitching away. Tyler of Ontario, Canada is sewing a window patch onto an upper topsail, Kimba of Ontario, Canada added an eye splice to the royal and joined by Abbey, of North Carolina, USA who dug out her sewing palm to seam the new t’gallant. Sunshine, blue skies and a steady breeze, we couldn’t ask for better weather!

From: Galapagos
Towards: Pitcairn
Date: July 13, 2018
Noon Position: 20°42′ S x 121°32.2′ W
Course + Speed: SW + 4.1 knots
Wind direction + Force: ExS + Force 4
Swell Height + Direction: 2.5m + NExE
Weather: Bright, sunny
Day’s Run: 98.8nm
Passage Log: 2226nm
Distance to Port: 537nm
Voyage: 5666.2nm
Sails Set: All square sails, main topmast staysail, main t’gallant staysail, mizzen staysail, mizzen topmast staysail, inner jib, outer jib

 

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Day’s Run – 12 July, 2018

Wind has picked up moderately, steady swells coming from the south as we inch our way to Pitcairn. Last night on watches we went over where the gear for the stuns’ls will be led to on the forward fife rail. As no additional pins will be added to the rail, lines for other sails will be doubled or tripled to one pin. For the mates and lead seamen, it’s crucial that their watch know their lines. Been rainy all afternoon, misty rain in light squalls.

The fore yard stuns’l boom and the upper topsail stuns’l boom were swiftly sent aloft and secured this morning. Steady precipitation this afternoon delayed sending up the stuns’ls. Yet the rain hasn’t slowed down the all-star all-female rigging team. They’ve taken the outer jib sheet wire from the foc’sle head down to the well deck and will overhaul it as needed.

The sailmakers sought shelter below in the main salon. They’re stitching brand new white canvas man rope covers for our Monomoy and skiff. Brief explanation of man rope covers: when the boat team are lowered in the boats from the quaterdeck rail to the water, they hold onto the man ropes to ensure their safety. The ropes are stored in the covers held up by rotten cotton, hanging an arms reach above the centre of the boat, accessible and easily unlatched from their housing. (Why rotten cotton? So when they are needed, it’s just one sharp haul and they come down.) The covers are in place to protect the rope from exposure to the elements which may weaken it.

The engineers were able to make headway this morning, before the rain, on the stack house door frame located on the quarterdeck. Rehearsals for the talent show we’ll hold on Pitcairn began last evening. Vaiufia of Tonga taught a group of male crew the haka. Tad of Washington orchestrated a sailor shanty rehearsal and Tony of England, the show’s MC, is working hard to recruit talent, ensuring they have what they need in order to perform and organize the order of acts. Today marked the first rain day in quite some time. Days like these are great for catching up on rest, reading (ideally nautical material) and organizing interior spaces such as the hold, salon or one’s bunk. Crew has been pleasantly enjoying this longer passage – spirits are well, a happy ship is a healthy ship.

From: Galapagos
Towards: Pitcairn Island
Date: July 12 2018
Noon Position: 19°54.7′ S x 119°59.6′ W
Course + Speed: SW 1/2 W + 3 knots
Wind direction + Force: ExS + 3
Swell Height + Direction: 2m +ENE
Weather: Rain
Day’s Run: 71.2nm
Passage Log: 2090nm
Distance to Port: 639nm
Voyage: 5566.7nm
Sails Set: All square sails

 

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