Friday, May 11th, 2007
Bound from: Sandy Cay, BVIs; Towards: Charleston, SC
Location: 21° 52.906’N / 71° 19.996’W
This afternoon the Picton Castle is cruising along at a comfortable 7.2 knots of speed. The breeze is a gentle force 3 and the swells are coming from ESE at a height no greater than 2-3 ft. We are braced on a slight port tack and are heading almost directly downwind; our course is NW and the wind is coming from ESE. Square-riggers do not do a great job of sailing dead downwind so we are combining our sails with the main engine to make up what would be lost time if we remained under sail alone. We really have no perspective of how fast we are going or what sort of distance we are covering unless you are responsible for plotting the ship’s position each hour. From deck it looks and feels like we are cutting through the ocean at a nice clip, but we’ve been overtaken by enormous cruise ships twice in the past three days. They travel at rates of speed somewhere around 15-20 knots.
The other night we had a cruise ship overtake us on our starboard side and they remained at a distance of about a mile. We casually acknowledged them amongst ourselves while we ate our dinner on the Aloha Deck, and as they blew past us at a rate of speed that is nothing short of remarkable for a vessel as awkward and mammoth as a cruise ship, I couldn’t help but feel dwarfed and somehow inferior because we were going as fast as we could, and that was no match. I felt myself getting annoyed and when my little internal rant had passed, Donald (our cook from Grenada) pointed out the hundreds of camera flashes that were erupting from all levels of the cruise ship’s decks that faced us. It felt a little bit like we were rare exotic animals and it was feeding time at the zoo, but on the other hand maybe it just implied that not just the Picton Castle crew think that we are the coolest ship … but their ship has chips and goes at warp speed.
So here we are merrily rolling along, happy as clams at low tide in our barque. Around 10 AM we sailed past Grand Turks Island (UK) and now we are just NE of Caicos Islands (UK). Northwest of us lie the Bahamas. It is getting to be summer now and even though we are in the North Atlantic, it was 36°C in the chart house by noon today. Everyone’s sunscreen basically melted off and promptly ran directly into their eyes. By some miracle a few rain clouds rolled in and blotted out the white hot sun and blue reflective sky and it rained long enough for everyone to recover to their former pre-meltdown selves. Night is cool enough to need a shirt with sleeves and I feel more refreshed and energized when I turn in for bed at midnight than I do after having slept all night and then work until noon.
I had the 10-11AM trick on helm this morning and while I was concentrating on getting the ship back on my ordered course, I did not notice Captain Moreland approach until he was standing before me. He pointed to a streak in the sky and asked me what I thought it was. I guessed it was the air stream left behind from a jet that must have flown over. “Erin, have you ever seen a jet leave a trail that large?” No, I hadn’t. He gestured to some far-away land a few points off the port bow. “That is Cape Canaveral,” he said, tracing his finger in the air along the path the aircraft had made. “A rocket launch?” I asked, “When did that happen?” Captain shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sometime this morning.” Then he walked forward and got Bosun Lynsey to come away from whatever chore had brought her into the chart house and he showed her the rocket’s trail. It was the highlight of my morning: here I was, standing at the helm of a square-rigged ship that is as traditional and authentic as a ship 100 years her senior, steering a course that led us directly under the trail of a rocket’s path into outer space. It’s pretty surreal when you think about it.
Despite the heat our crew happily went about checking off the projects that appeared on Bosun Lynsey’s list of ship’s work for today. Before their watch, Katie and Nadja were crowded together over the starboard aft table in the main salon. Katie (Chicago) was showing Nadja (Spain) how to use the ship’s sewing machine so that Nadja could take in a new batik dress that she had bought in Dominica. Natasha (Alberta), Brownwen (NS) and I (NS) were sharing a bag of letter stencils and were busy labelling things on the ship that had recently received a fresh coat of paint. I labeled the paint slops barrel and Brownwen stenciled a warning inside the bow of the skiff indicating its max capacity is 10 persons. When our watch was stood down for lunch, Natasha had just begun stenciling the ship’s name and port of registration on the Monomoy. Katie and Jack (Florida) were busy preparing to paint a second coat of buff on the main mast. As Jack rigged the bosun’s chair on a gantline, Katie perched herself on a craneline to reach some spots while she had time to spare. The puppies were busy burying their bones underneath coils that had been capsized on deck for sail handling. They really enjoy having the ship for a playground. They chase one another up and down the decks on the swells and then they collapse in the most random places to take a nap. They’ve learned Chibley is the boss, but she doesn’t care much for two-month-old puppies. She has been spending these hot days napping in breezy dark places. We thought the heat had caused her to lose her appetite, but on ship check someone caught her in the hold eating the puppies’ food out of a bag that she had torn open.
Wake ups are happening now for a rope work and splicing workshop to take place on the main hatch in ten minutes. So it’s off with this computer and back to traditional seafaring! We’ve got the best of both worlds!