Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007
Location: 16° 38.196′ N / 62° 52.135′ W (about parallel to Montserrat, UK)
Ordered Course: N x W
Yesterday was nothing short of a flurry of activity aboard the barque Picton Castle! Over a 24-hour period, our crew was joined by (lucky) 13 new trainees who are aboard for this three-week passage bound for adventure and ultimately for Charleston, South Carolina. At anchor in St. Pierre, Martinique, the crew spent a wickedly hot day (it is summer now in the Caribbean and it is hot!) rust-busting, priming, painting, preparing the ship for sea and allowing the new trainees to become familiar with their surroundings (and get a little sunburned). The workday came to an appropriate end around 1645 (4:45 PM) when the Captain announced a swim call. Virtually all hands appeared on deck in their suits and were over the rail the instant the ladders and life rings were made fast.
At 1715 (5:15 PM) Captain Moreland called a muster amidships and introduced the professional crew to the new trainees before going over some details about the upcoming passages and places we will visit. When all questions had been answered, the Captain gave the order, “Hands to hoist the skiff!” The new trainees caught on quickly and fell in line behind the professional crew as they scrambled to the boat falls on the starboard side of the Quarterdeck. Those who were wandering about lost and confused were quickly rounded up and given a task. Next the yards were braced up sharp on a starboard tack and by 1740 the engineers had fired up the main engine and First Mate Mikkel oversaw the crew on the foc’s’l head as they heaved up the starboard anchor. Within ten minutes the Picton Castle was underway once again and bound for Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands! Though JVD is Captain Moreland’s favourite British virgin Island, several of our ship’s crew have visited the island several times before and are eager to get back to Foxy’s Tamarind Calypso Bar and Ivan’s “Stress Free” beach. For those among us who have never had the pleasure of meeting our friends on Jost or of truly “living the island life,” they are in for a treat! Foxy sings calypso with plenty of political and social commentary jabs, and, of course, the Piña Coladas and Jamaican Red Stripe go down pretty well while swinging in a rope hammock strung between two palms next to the turquoise water’s edge!
Once we were underway, the heads’ls, main topmast stays’l, spanker, and the lower tops’ls were set and dinner was served. Almost immediately after dinner was finished, the crew broke into sea watches. When Bosun Lynsey’s 4-8 Watch took the deck, the members of the other watches trickled below to nap or rested on the main hatch amidships until bouts of sea sickness subsided.
The crew passed the night with a beautiful, bright moon overhead to light the things on deck that typically lurk in the shadows waiting to stub an unsuspecting toe. The trainees learned to keep a good lookout and experienced their first trick on helm. The weather was warm with only 1/8 cumulus cloud cover to steer by and a gentle breeze filled our sails to help speed us along through the low 1-2 foot swell. At one point, the ship was making as many as 10 knots of speed when motoring with some sails set! We were screaming along but the motion was so regular and gentle that it was difficult to guess the speed without looking at the GPS. Regardless of the low swell there were still a number of green hands seasick. The wind and swell have piped up more today and the green hands who were not sick last night are a little green in the face today.
We are making great time and rumour has it we may arrive at Jost as early as tomorrow! In the meantime, the watches began their first official day of ship’s work at sea with a good deck wash at 6 AM. The 8-12 Watch turned-to on domestics (cleaning living spaces and heads) and then continued with yesterday’s projects: sealing, priming and painting rails, and scraping the decks to prepare for a much-needed coat of linseed oil mixed with kerosene. Oiling the decks is an important part of ship’s maintenance because it protects the wood from the wear and tear of foot traffic and also from the extremes of sea water and the damaging rays of the sun. The infamous Galley Duty roster has been posted, and one person from each watch has been appointed daily to assist Chief Cook Donald (Grenada) with meal preparations and clean-up.
Lunch is finished now and the decks are quiet as members of 2nd Mate Rebecca’s 12-4 Watch go silently about their work. The other watches are below now catching up on lost sleep or frantically studying their Crew Manuals so they can figure out that funny seafaring language we speak on deck. This afternoon we will continue the safety orientation that has been ongoing since early yesterday, and we will likely run through a complete set of Fire and Man Overboard drills to make sure that everyone is familiar with the equipment, the locations of the safety gear, and the procedures that we follow.