Friday, August 17th, 2007
Picton Castle made a grand entrance into Lunenburg Harbour on Saturday July 28. A good crowd had assembled on the dock for 1400, and around 1430 the ship sailed around Battery Point and came into view in Lunenburg Bay, sailing under t’gallants, upper tops’ls, lower tops’ls and courses. The Captain kept her under sail well down the channel into the harbour then docked the ship, starboard side to, stern into shore, almost effortlessly. There were smiles and waves, excited shouts of recognition and greeting, and a general sigh of happiness to be home again.
Many local friends of the ship were phoning the office for days before the scheduled arrival asking if the ETA had been moved up, because they could see the ship under sail or at anchor from their homes along the shore nearby. The ship made a quick passage from Sydney, at the north end of Cape Breton, to Lunenburg and had some time left to enjoy the local anchorages. With summer weather having finally arrived in Nova Scotia, the crew were treated to several beautiful day sails, returning each night to anchor in one of the area’s protected bays.
After dock lines were secure and those who had to leave to catch flights home were gone, the rest of the crew lay aloft to deal with the sails. Instead of furling them, like we normally would when coming into port, we began the process of sending them down. Picton Castle‘s sails are mostly made of cotton canvas which means that when they get wet, even if they’re furled, they need to be loosed and dried. If they are not properly dried they will develop mildew and mold, the fabric becomes weaker and more likely to rip. When the ship is in port for a long period of time, we take the sails down so we don’t have to spend all our time drying them and re-stowing them. Because the weather had been so sunny and warm for the few days prior to the ship’s arrival the sails were perfectly dry, and ready to be sent down and put away. Before arriving in Lunenburg, the crew had made bets on how long it would take to send all the sails down. I think the Captain had the shortest time with two and a half hours, others had guessed up to four hours. The crew split up with Lynsey working on the spanker and then the heads’ls, Nadja and Hilary on the main t’gallant and royal, John on the main tops’ls and mains’l, and Rebecca on the foremast. The rest of the crew were working aloft, first tying up the sails with robands then unfastening buntlines, leechlines and clewlines, attaching a gantline and cutting down the lashings that hold the sail onto the jackstays. Those who stay on deck were equally busy with hauling and easing lines as required, and bringing sails safely to deck using the gantline. The sixteenth and final sail to be sent down touched the deck only two hours and four seconds after the process began. As Kjetil pointed out, that’s only seven and a half minutes per sail. Pretty impressive, especially because we beat the Captain’s prediction by almost a half hour and everyone else’s by even more! The last stage of the process was to inspect, label and roll all the sails and get them moved into the warehouse where they were stored temporarily on the first floor.
Saturday night the crew visited all our favourite watering holes in Lunenburg, the veteran crew leading the way for those who had never been in our home port before. Many of our crew members who have not been in Lunenburg in the summer before seemed surprised by the number of tourists, but being a community that has embraced sailors returning from sea for generations we got a particularly warm welcome. Picton Castle returned the welcome the following day, with an open house on Sunday afternoon to say thank you to the local community for their support. It was well attended, and the crew got the chance to reacquaint themselves with friends of the ship, or meet them for the first time. The crew who are new to Lunenburg have discovered quite quickly how lucky we are to be part of this community that has been so hospitable and generous to us.
The next few days were quiet, as the crew took some well-deserved time off. This summer has been a busy one with record numbers of visitors on deck tours in port and lots of trainees signing on and off the ship for short legs of the voyage. It’s good to be home for a while to shift gears from sailing to shipyard, and to enjoy life in our home port.