Captain's Log

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Day’s Run – June 19, 2018

Yesterday at 0900 we sailed across the Equator! We hosted a formal visit from His Majesty King Neptune and His royal court. A momentous occasion for all on board, for the pollywogs are now grown into shellbacks like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. As well it was a healthy reminder that we are in fact sailing around the world! As like most things in life we get caught up in the day to day tasks and the end goal can, at times, become clouded when tasks like scrubbing the deck, hauling on lines and painting bulkheads become the main focus. Luckily we have constant occurrences that remind us of the big picture. Catching a blowfish yesterday off the stern, seeing dolphins swimming along ahead of our bow and gazing at the southern cross in the sky as we sail under the bright moon and stars.

Today the ship is busy busy with preparations for tomorrow’s arrival into the Galapagos, Wreck Bay specifically. The on-duty watches are cleaning and tidying the deck; living spaces are being straightened up and the topsides are getting a scrub. Our sailmaker is able to spread out the canvas of a royal sail on the quarterdeck to stitch the seams together. Dawson, the Captain’s five year old son, feverishly awaits cake as it is ship’s cook Donald’s birthday.

From Balboa, Panama
To: Isla San Cristobal, Galapagos
Date: June 19, 2018
Noon Position: 00°13.3′ S – 089°50.6’W
Course and Speed: ExS
Wind Direction and Force: 3-4 + SxE
Swell Height and Direction: 2m + Southerly
Weather: Overcast
Day’s Run: 76.5nm
Passage Log: 80nm
Distance to Port: 42.5nm
Voyage: 3321.6nm
Sails set: All sails

Picton Castle‘s navigation electronics show this is the Equator!

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Day’s Run – June 17, 2018

A gorgeous Sunday at sea here on the Picton Castle, sailing full and by, close hauled on the port tack under the warmth of the sun. We are just one degree above the equator as a cool breeze runs through the ship. It’s been a peaceful morning on deck, no sounds of tools running or banging, the crew is at ease for the day which is important in order to regain one’s energy during long passages. After this morning’s domestic cleaning was completed by the on-duty watch they were able to bask in the sun with a book in hand, of course always on the ready in the event that sail handling is needed. In the galley one crew member from each watch was selected to cook giving ship’s cook Donald a day of rest. Connor, of San Francisco, has been raving all week about the mac n’ cheese that he has planned for this evening’s dinner – we are excited to finally taste the finished product. As the day carries on and the crew emerge from their Sunday sleep in, the sounds of an accordion (remarkably well played) and a trumpet (not so much) are heard on the well deck. It’s days like these where we can stop to reflect and enjoy the little moments together as a crew.

From: Balboa, Panama
To: Isla San Cristobal, Galapagos
Date: June 17, 2018
Noon Position: 01°04.1’N – 088°42.9’W
Course and Speed: Full and by (SW x N 1/2 W) + 4.9kts
Wind Direction and Force: SxE + 3-4
Swell Height and Direction: 4m + SSW
Weather: Bright, sunny
Day’s Run: 118.6nm
Passage Log: 119.4nm
Distance to Port: 127.2nm
Voyage: 3114.2nm
Sails set: All sails

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Day’s Run – June 16, 2018

We are currently sailing along under full sail, steering full and by (about SxW), a degree and a quarter north of the equator, parallel to the line at 086 degrees W. We are about 227 nautical miles from the island of Isla San Cristobal. Skies are mostly blue with a few scattered, fluffy clouds and fair breezes. Seas are still a bit lumpy and there are still plenty of birds, boobies and terns, flying overhead.

Ship’s work: Removed rust from topsides, greased the fore t’gallant mast, and more spot painting around the ship in preparation for our arrival to the Galapagos. We have also been cleaning a lot of bird droppings from the hatch, the quarterdeck and every other exposed area! Yuck! Preparations for the line crossing and meeting King Neptune and his distinguished court are underway, much to the trepidation of the pathetic pollywogs on board. A reckoning is at hand! Ship’s cook Donald made a tasty lunch of burgers and pasta salad.

From: Balboa, Panama
To: Isla San Cristobal, Galapagos
Date: June 16, 2018
Noon Position: 01°25.8N – 086°46.5W
Course and Speed: Full and by (SWxW 1/2 W) – 5.9kn
Wind Direction and Force: SxE – Force 4/5
Swell Height and Direction: 3m – SSW
Weather: Bright, sunny
Day’s Run: 102.7nm
Passage Log: 106.21nm
Distance to Port: 227nm
Voyage: 2994.8nm
Sails set: All sails

Booby birds taking a rest in the headrig

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Interlude at Balboa

The Picton Castle lay in the stream off the Balboa Yacht Club right next to the channel for the Panama Canal for some time as we prepared to head out for the South Pacific Ocean. Rain every day, often in torrents, sometimes with thunder and lightning. Drying sails was hard but had to be done lest they rot into black compost on the yards. The BYC was a fine “base camp” but not to be confused with the New York or Manchester Yacht Clubs. Plenty of cabs standing by to take folks into Balboa or Panama City for shopping, provisioning or sightseeing.

A neat spot in Balboa is the fish market, very clean and well lit and, of course, overflowing with fresh fish right off the boats moored just nearby. Interesting wooden craft suggesting origins in dugout canoes, but proper planked up motor boats.

Provisioning is a big job. And enough machetes for those in need at Pitcairn Island. Ship’s cook Donald and his team spent days at Panama’s answer to Costco, as well as the fresh fruit and veggie market, filling cab after cab.

In between the rain we actually managed to get the ship painted white again. Nice job the gang did, took three coats to overcome the black of two years. we needed to get a permit to paint our ship from the environmental folks, glad they are on the job. She looks right white and she will be much cooler in the tropic sun we will be seeing a good deal of from now on. Having a launch service made our painting project go a lot swifter as we could stay on the job with needing to break off for boat runs.

Folks got to see much of Panama City; craft markets, cafes, elegant restaurants, Panama hats and molas made by the Kuna, the charming Old Quarter of “Casco Viejo” built after Henry Morgan sacked ‘Old Panama City’ still in ruins on the outskirts of town and well worth a visit. He wrecked the place in the 1600’s for gold and there the ruins lay to this day.

One last thing we needed to before heading onward and that was topping up our fuel. we cast off our moorings and headed to a barge anchored out among all the huge deep water ships also anchored off Panama. 6 tons or 2,000 gallons later and we sailed away from the barge under sail, made our way past lovely Taboga Island (where Paul Gauguin spent time before finding Tahiti) and we were gone, headed to the South Pacific to see what is to come over the horizon in this immense blue ocean.

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Day’s Run – June 15, 2018

We are sailing along a degree and a half north of the Equator and parallel to it. Skies are blue again, seas are a bit lumpy. Plenty of booby birds all around.

Ship’s Work: It’s been a fantastic sailing day at sea aboard the Picton Castle. This morning’s watches were rather exciting; wind making up to Force 5 causing the on-duty watch to take in the mizzen topmast staysail and the spanker. The stack house structure is getting a paint job, monomoy oars are being scraped and prepped to be oiled and the butterfly hatch (a ventilation hatch) on the quarterdeck is also being painted. The biggest question sits heavily on every pollywog’s mind, when is the impending court date to occur? And what is in store for the defenseless pollywogs?

From: Balboa, Panama
Towards: San Cristobal, Galapagos
Date: June 15, 2018
Noon Position: 01°37.3’N – 085°03.2’W
Course + Speed: F & B + 4.1kts
Wind direction + Force: SxW + 4
Swell Height + Direction: 4m + SSW
Weather: Bright, Sunny
Day’s Run: 95.9nm
Passage Log: 99.4nm
Distance to Port: 318nm
Voyage: 2888.6nm
Sails set: All sails

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Day’s Run – June 14, 2018

Our ship has caught a bug, leaving a few hands with tummy trouble. Nevertheless on we sail in pretty good conditions and work continues as per usual. At 0800 we were sailing full and by – this relies heavily on a steady helmsman, as they must sail according to the wind and not by the compass. At 1100 the 8-12 watch took in the fore royal and the port sheet parted, which was quickly fixed and reled by Rune of Norway. The Captain says that it is better that it parts from time to time than to be so strong that it cannot part.

The scullery door frame is receiving a coat of lovely purple primer by Kirsten of Alberta, interior of the skiff is getting scraped and the hatch cover is getting a sponge bath.

The real thought on everyone’s minds is when His presence, King Neptune, will occur. Tension builds. The day in question is near, what lies ahead is unknown. Dolphins spotted on starboard side puts the young pollywogs at ease, only for a moment but along with the sea turtle we passed today and the many booby birds spying about we feel as if we are under surveillance….

From: Balboa, Panama
Towards: San Cristobal, Galapagos
Date: June 14, 2018
Noon Position: 01 31.6 N’ – 083 24.7′ W
Course + Speed: Full and By + 4 kts
Wind direction + Force: SxW + 4
Swell Height + Direction: 4m + SSW
Weather: Sunny, slightly overcast
Day’s Run: 96.5nm
Passage Log: 97.5nm
Distance to Port: 410nm
Voyage: 2.789.2nm
Sails set: All sails

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Day’s Run – June 13, 2018

With deck brushes in hand, the bright eyed and bushy tailed 4-8 watch enjoyed a pleasant sunrise this morning as they scrubbed the ship’s decks. From an outsider’s perspective one would think they’re practicing for the next winter Olympics as the Cook Islands curling team. The 8-12 watch took the deck, relieving the 4-8 from their watch duties to chow down on a hot breakfast. The semi-dory, our spare skiff, received a coat of white paint, the door frame of the scullery is getting an overhaul and the cross gripes in the monomoy got a healthy coat of tar. At 1200 we tacked the ship, loosed and set all sails – always a fun, thrilling, heart pumping event.

The awkward tension between the shellbacks and the pollywogs continues to build and the divide is becoming greater and greater each day. The pollywog resistance has retaliated with an ever so creative poem on the subject of turtle soup. Evidently the shellbacks did not take kindly to this kind of behavior. The impending doom for the pollywogs may be near, the court date is soon upon us.

From: Balboa, Panama
Towards: San Cristobal, Galapagos
Date: June 13, 2018
Noon Position: 01 27.8′ N – 081 48′ W
Course + Speed: W 1/4 S + 8.1 kts
Wind direction + Force: SWxS + 4
Swell Height + Direction: 3 + SSW
Weather: Bright, sunny, blue skies
Day’s Run: 122.8nm
Passage Log: 194.4nm
Distance to Port: 486nm
Voyage: 2,691.7nm
Sails set: All sails

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Day’s Run – June 12, 2018

As the new Picton Castle salts are nearing two months on board, the mates are encouraging them to advance their skills and knowledge. Last evening as we sailed along gracefully, the lead seamen took those who wished on a climb in the rig. They could become more accustomed to climbing and feeling their way around in the dark. Many enjoy the solitude of a night climb, as you reach higher and higher in the rig it feels as though you can nearly touch the black sky blanketed with thousands of white shinning stars.

At 0645 this morning all sails were taken in and we got under way by motor. Rain this morning caused ship’s work projects to take place either below decks or under cover. Arne of the USA started making baggywrinkle for the first time. Baggywrinkle is used to protect chafe between parts of the standing rigging, running rigging, or sails. On Picton Castle, you’ll see it on stays, protecting the sails from rubbing hard against them when their bellies fill with wind. Baggywrinkle is made up of 10″ inch pieces of manila rope that is woven through a line of ganjun, a very thin rope, which is then trimmed and wrapped around the stays. It’s very important that it is done properly or else things will chafe and our ship will look like a shaggy dog in need of a trim.

The tension between the shellbacks and the pollywogs continues as the ship approaches the Equator. The shellbacks are demonstrating their dominance by leaving messages around the ship including on the mirrors in the heads, on toilet paper and portholes. As the pollywogs realize that they out number the shellbacks retaliation has begun, responses have been made – this may not end well for those who retaliate, but how could they quietly sit by? It’s like the anticipation of Santa coming yet instead of jolly ol’ Saint Nick it’s Krampus who arrives.

From: Balboa, Panama
Towards: San Cristobal, Galapagos
Date: June 12, 2018
Noon Position: 02 30.1 N’ – 080 04.8′ W
Course + Speed: SW 1/2 W
Wind direction + Force: SWxW + 2-3
Swell Height + Direction: 3m + SSW
Weather: Overcast + Cloudy
Day’s Run: 79.3nm
Passage Log: 107.8nm
Distance to Port: 604nm
Voyage: 2497.3nm

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Day’s Run – June 11, 2018

Bound from Panama towards the South Pacific

Since we left Panama two days ago a flock of booby birds are hitching a ride on our yardarms. Resulting in white wet pellets falling from aloft onto a crew member passing underneath or coating the ship’s deck in white droplets beginning the war on the boobies. We wonder if these boobies are aiming.

The boobies were enjoying the free ride towards the Galapagos until 0730 this sunny Monday morning when the call came to loose all sail, giving the crew a chance at scaring off the birds. So far they have not returned – the battle has been won – for now. At 0800 all sails were set and the engine was shut down – everyone’s favourite sound. Suddenly you can hear the ocean lapping against the ship’s hull and the creaking of the rigging as the ship smoothly sways back and forth from port to starboard – we’re sailing again!

On deck the buzz that King Neptune may make an appearance within the next few days is the talk of the table. The majority of the gang onboard are
what they call “pollywogs” meaning they haven’t sailed across the Equator and those who have are known as “shellbacks”. Rumour is that the pollywogs will endure an unspoken traditional ritual when crossing the Equator in order to be reborn as shellbacks; the anticipation is building by the hours.

Ship’s work continues in an orderly fashion; the anchor chain received some wire brushing and oil lathering, the door on the port side breezeway head has been re-installed and the galley house was organized. To top it all off the crew on deck received a matinee show from the porpoises swimming by on the port side of the ship.

From: Balboa, Panama
Towards: San Cristobal, Galapagos
Date: June 11, 2018
Noon Position: 03 48, 1′ N, 080 21, 3′ W
Course + Speed: SExS + 6.7 kts
Wind direction + Force: South westernly + 3
Swell Height + Direction: 3m + SSW
Weather: Bright, sunny, cloud
Day’s Run: 156. 4nm
Passage Log: 162.2nm
Distance to Port: 620nm
Voyage: 2389.5nm
Sail Set: Flying jib, outer jib, inner jib, fore topmast staysail, all square sails

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Laying Off Balboa

Once through the Panama Canal we moored the Picton Castle off the Balboa Yacht Club just as dark descended (as it does so swiftly in the tropics, almost like switching out a light) and torrential rains drenched us. Few went ashore that night, but some did after a short discussion on wisdom and personal safety.

The facility caters to smaller vessels, of which we would be the largest. There is a big 200 meter long cement pier over the shallow mud flats with a large steel barge at the end where the strong industrial launches operate. It seems quite a few supply boats work from this pier as well. Having the launch service was a boon allowing us to, among other things, use our own boats uninterrupted to get the ship’s topsides painted white again, between torrential downpours.

But we would have much to do here in Panama before setting sail for the deep South Pacific. Food provisioning, fill the freezers, supplies for Pitcairn Island and beyond, deck supplies, engine room supplies, fuel (8 tons or 2,000 gallons), trade goods. Get these all stowed. And of course we need to run around and see something of Panama, a pretty amazing land. And we had already seen the Canal in the best possible way!

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