Monday, June 12th, 2006
The Picton Castle sailed from St. Georges, Bermuda with an eager crew excited about the last sea passage to Lunenburg, friends and family and the end of our voyage around the world. Most of the gang aboard sailed in this barque from Lunenburg just over year over a year ago. Now 30,000 miles later, they are homeward bound. The day came in with a fresh SW breeze and some sunshine and blue sky in between the low scudding clouds. All hands aboard, dropped off the pilot and soon we were steering due north under all sail but stuns’ls making a nice turn of knots. The night was fine with a murky moon hazily glowing through racing clouds.
This morning our wind was making up just a couple points aft of the port beam. The sky is getting thicker and we got in some sail. Spanker, main royal, flying-jib, main t’gallant staysail, gaff topsail and at last, the spanker all taken and stowed and we are still making a nice 7.5 knots. The seas have gotten pretty lumpy though so we are swooping along with plenty of motion. Storm handlines are rigged even though this is not a storm, just a fresh bit o’ breeze. Turns out we have a big low pressure system centered over the Bay of Fundy that reaches all the way down to south of Bermuda; this is what is giving us our strong and favourable winds. Not bad. The more important news is that we have a first Tropical Depression, now called Tropical Storm Alberto, developing in the Gulf of Mexico that the weather folks seem to think is going to scoot rapidly our way. I think this year we all need to keep an eye on the Gulf; the water is hot there, and that’s what cooks up a hurricane.
The crew are all good: excited and spooked at the same time to be headed home. Not much to be done about that. Signing on a ship is hard enough; sailing around the world in a 180′ square-rigger with 49 other people is challenge enough but it is harder still to go ashore. And it’s impossible to properly explain to anyone who hasn’t really gone to sea under sail for an extended period of time. We can list some of our ports: Panama, Galapagos, across the broad South Pacific to famous Pitcairn Island, Mangareva in French Polynesia, Rarotonga, Palmerston Atoll, Vavau in the Kingdom of Tonga, Viti-Levu in Fiji; Esprit, Malekula, Pentecost, Maewo in the Vanuatu Islands; through the treacherous Torres Straights to magical Bali, Christmas Island off Australia; Rodrigues and Reunion in the Indian Ocean; took a pass on Madagascar due to a pesky cyclone; around the Cape of Good Hope to Cape Town, South Africa; tried to put into Namibia and got blown out by a violent gale then onto St. Helena, Fernando de Noronha off the corner of Brazil; Grenada, Bequia and Jost Van Dyke in the sweet West Indies. And that’s the time we spend ashore. Going to sea is something else altogether. Steering (and learning to steer), hauling braces, taking in stiff canvas sails in a squall, learning the 175 pieces of running gear, splicing, sewing, tarring, painting, oiling, varnishing, washing dishes, keeping forward lookout, aloft to furl out on the yards, sunburn, mildew, sunsets, sunrises, burning sun, crossword puzzles, star sights with a sextant, weather reporting, playing guitar up on the well-deck, rubbing the cat’s belly, keeping the log, packing your bunk, making a sea bag, stuffing a sea chest, learning your shipmates as they learn you.
The wind is still picking up and blowing 25-30 on the port quarter and the Picton Castle is going just about as fast as she can, bound for Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Five hundred miles to go.