Sunday, December 3rd, 2006
The Picton Castle is almost ready to head out on her next adventure, a six-month voyage in the Eastern Caribbean. Professional crew and trainees have been arriving since the middle of November, and with the full crew here as of Monday we put to work as a team to get the ship ready to go. The ship has been a flurry of activity as we combine formal training sessions with the work of preparing a ship for sea. All hands have worked hard bending on sails, stowing food and books in the hold, practicing bracing, drilling in safety, loading boats on top of the galley house, varnishing deck boxes, making sure we have the right charts, painting the Monomoy (our rowing-sailing whaleboat), fixing the water pump in the galley, keeping the ship clean, carrying spare sails from the warehouse to the ship and so much more.
Leading the crew in preparations and on this voyage is Captain Michael Vogelsgesang, who has Picton Castle experience as he served as Chief Mate for a year during the second world voyage. He has had command of many different ships, most recently the Francesco Petrarca, a three-masted wooden schooner sailing in the Mediterranean. We are pleased to welcome him to his new role on the Picton Castle and look forward to an excellent voyage in the Caribbean. Captain Moreland continues on as the Senior Captain and CEO of the company (and Marine Superintendent, etc., etc.) and plans to use his time ashore to continue developing the ship’s programs, including The Bosun’s School, which is an intensive training program for experienced traditional seafarers being run for the first time this winter.
The professional crew and trainees we have assembled here are a good group. In addition to the pro crew, there are five trainees who plan to spend the entire six months with us as they participate in the apprentice program and become true traditional seafarers. Many of the trainees who are aboard now are only with us a few weeks for the passage south to Grenada. Already they are all functioning well as a team and have started to learn the ways of the ship. Sail handling is obviously a huge part of our training, but learning to stow and lash is an equally important aspect of seamanship. Many have been surprised by the amount of work that goes into beginning a voyage, but it makes us even more appreciative of the day we get to set sail. There has been plenty of work this time, but there would have been even more had we completely down-rigged after our summer voyage. Running rigging was made off aloft, which saved having to set it all up again, and many supplies and provisions stayed on the ship during our two month port stay in Lunenburg.
The ship is nearly ready, and we will go as soon as we get a clear window in the weather. We expect it will come in the next day or two as a giant low-pressure system currently sitting south of Nova Scotia moves off up the coast. The first few days at sea are sure to be chilly, and we are all looking forward to getting past the Gulf Stream where we will feel the change in the temperature immediately. In the meantime we are using our extra time well to practice rowing the Monomoy, run through safety drills, and lash the last few things in the hold. The Christmas decorations have gone up in our favourite pubs, there are snowflakes in the air today, and the crew are wearing their rain gear over multiple layers just to keep warm. These are all signs that it’s time to go soon.