Thursday, August 24th, 2006
The Picton Castle left the Seaway Terminal in Port Huron on Monday morning, turning around and moving with the current in the St. Clair River. Being so close to shore is still a novelty the deep ocean sailors on board, and we can all entertain ourselves by watching the scenery. It’s been quite varied as we passed huge homes with beautiful gardens, small cottages, industrial plants and refineries, and GM office towers in downtown Detroit.
We finally had some favourable sailing weather on Tuesday and set all sail as we traveled east in Lake Erie. The entire ship breathed a sigh of relief as we turned off the main engine, heeled slightly on a port tack and proceeded under sail. We have a full ship at the moment between Port Huron and Toronto, so it’s great that we actually got some sailing in on this short passage.
The Picton Castle arrived in Erie, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday afternoon. Erie is the home port of the US Brig Niagara, one of the ships in the fleet participating in the festivals with us this summer. The Niagara had another stop to make before returning home so she was not in port at the time we were. Still it’s nice to have people come down to the dock to check out the Picton Castle who have a bit of an understanding about square-rigged ships. And many did. It seems there are a lot of supporters of the Niagara in Erie.
The crew have been up to their regular “in port” activities—doing laundry, checking e-mail at the library, eating out in restaurants, examining other boats in the harbour, finding the local pub, indulging in ice cream, and so on. Most made it up to the Erie Maritime Museum, home of the Niagara, and returned with rave reviews. There’s a picture of our own Captain Dan Moreland in the museum next to the giant window that overlooks the Niagara‘s berth, taken when the Captain served as Mate on the Niagara.
Our stop in Erie was the first real maintenance day we’ve had in port in a while, and there was a flurry of activity on board. The decks were desperately in need of oiling after millions of footsteps falling on them this summer. We received a shipment of rope that required a complete reorganization of the salon sole in order to fit all the new stuff in. The majority of the rigging received a fresh coat of tar, several lines of running rigging were replaced, long-lost items in the hold were found, the exhaust manifold in the engine room was cleaned, and a super duper domestic cleaning was done.
The ship also had to be prepared to transit the Welland Canal. Just as we did a month and a half ago when we went through the canal in the other direction, we have to move everything that hangs outboard of the hull inboard. We moved the skiff onto the cargo hatch amidships, and turned inboard the davits where the skiff previously hung, along with all their rigging. The boomkins, which hold the blocks for the main braces all the way aft, had to be removed and the brace blocks moved inboard on strops attached to the taffrail. All the yards were braced up sharp on a starboard tack, the lower tops’l sheets were removed and the fore and main yards cock-billed with their starboard sides pointing down to the deck.
This afternoon we motored across Lake Erie towards Port Colborne and the beginning of the Welland Canal, which bypasses that pesky Niagara Falls. We plan to transit the canal Friday during the day, ending up 300 feet closer to sea level than when we started. The crew are resting up between watches tonight for the big day tomorrow. The canal will be an excellent exercise in ship handling for all hands, requiring careful maneuvers and quick response. It is said that going down is easier than going up. We will see.