Wednesday, May 16th, 2007
Location: 31° 38.8’N / 079° 40.2’W
Water Temp: 24.9°C; Air Temp: 28°C
It has turned out to be a beautiful sunny and hot day aboard the Picton Castle. The 12-4 watch is busy rust-busting and corrosealing the port anchor chain (much to the dismay of the crew trying to sleep directly below in the forecastle) and earlier, our 8-12 watch finished touching up paint jobs here and there. We are preparing for the onslaught of visitors at Charleston, our first port of call in this summer’s tall ship events, and we want to look our best! We are only 50 nm away from our Way Point at the Charleston Harbour Channel entrance. We’ve made great time on this Atlantic passage; we’ve not gone less than 7 knots in the past 48 hours. Unfortunately the winds have not been favourable, so we’ve motored/ motor-sailed the entire time.
Our ordered course is N ½ E and we’ve experienced light airs (Force 0-1; sea like mirror/ small ripples and scales) all morning which looks funny with a 3-4 ft swell on. We experienced a brief weather system that we had been expecting. I guess you could say it stole our wind and with it our hopes of sailing the last day or so to Charleston.
When the 8-12 watch took the deck on the evening of the 14th, a fresh breeze had piped up since we were on deck. The swell was picking up with the wind and before our watch was relieved at 0000 (midnight) we were experiencing force 6-7 breezes (strong breeze- moderate gale—winds 22-33 knots; large waves, seas heaped up, scud from whitecaps, foam streaks downwind), feeling at times like force 8. The swells built to around 6-8 ft before diminishing. There were only two brief squalls that night, less than 5 min each, and the nightly lightning show remained in the distance. Throughout the wind and swell, a bright starlit sky kept the spookiness away.
When the wind and swell began to pick up at the beginning of our watch, Finn (NS), Logan (NS), and John (Virginia), all former World Voyagers, pitched in and helped me to rig the man ropes fore and aft along the length of the windward side of the quarterdeck and both windward and lee sides of the main deck. These are thick lengths of manila line that we use to help us maintain our balance in swelly seas. From time to time a wave would break over the rail, and one had mine and Finn’s name on it while we were lashing the manrope near the salon scuttle. We got soaked straight through and we nearly lost all the strain we had taken up because we were taken in a fit of laughter. We closed hatches and portholes to keep the spray from getting inside the ship, where things were warmer and drier than they were on deck. Lynsey (Ontario), Logan, and Andrea (Ohio) shared the unhappy luck of taking the same wave in all three of their portholes at the same time and there was a procession to the stack house where they hung their sheets and mattresses to dry in the heat rising from the engine room below. We had our forward lookout relocate to the bridge, where it was significantly drier and less of a roller-coaster ride than on the foc’sle head. For ease and safety we had our watches perform ship check in pairs for the remainder of the night. John and I carried the puppies’ house aft to the Aloha Deck so they could sleep somewhere dry and John and Lynsey lashed them soundly to the Starboard veggie locker. They were much happier there than they had been under the forward fife rail where the sea spray got them from time to time. Poor little foxy was seasick and especially thankful. Aside from Foxy, only three or four of our crew were actually seasick well into yesterday (the wind diminished but the swell remained).
Once the crew became accustomed to the new routine and moving safely about the decks, there was still the problem of trying to keep pots of water and food on the stove. We have fiddles to hold pots in place, but that does nothing to stop the liquid contents from sloshing straight out of the pot. I managed to get hot water and coffee ready for the oncoming night watches, but Donald had a rougher go of it the next day (May 15th). We had hot homemade beans and pasta for lunch and for dinner last night a lovely pot of soup with whole wheat and cornflower dumplings and brownies. Nothing too fancy, but we ate well despite Donald’s galley swaying out from under him every few minutes.
Sleeping in any sort of real swell can be difficult. I was one of the lucky ones because I live in the port after cabin and the ship was braced up sharp on a starboard tack, which meant that in the swells, I was being pushed deep into my bunk, and was even pressed against the bulwarks. Those who sleep on the starboard side have spent much of the past two nights with their feet or knees braced up against the lee boards to keep themselves nestled in their racks. Katie (Chicago), who sleeps in a thwart-ships bunk in the foc’sle, claims she slept with most of her weight resting on her feet as if she were standing. Yesterday and even today some crew were still groggy from interrupted sleep.
There is lots of excitement aboard surrounding our arrival in Charleston. The engineers are cleaning the engine room from top to bottom. Taking full advantage of our shipmates’ cleaning out bunks and sea chests, they’ve requested donations of old work clothes for engine room rags. We’ve also had the crew sign the declaration form in the Chart House. This is a form that indicates to US Customs the types of personal belongings each crew member has in their possession. A number of the crew had their hair cut on Sunday so they would look neat and tidy in port or if they expect to be reunited with family and friends. This evening the Captain has organized one last “End of Passage” Marlinspike party. I have no idea if he expects this one to top last Sunday’s Marlinspike which featured dancing on the cargo hatch well into the 8-12 night watch! The puppies will get a bath tomorrow and Chibley has been primping and preening for weeks. The ship looks pretty good inside and out and we’re ready to show off her newly blackened hull. Mostly we’re excited for fresh fruit and vegetables, Southern hospitality and fried chicken! South Carolina, here we come!