Captain's Log

Archive for March, 2008

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Work in Progress

As Picton Castle‘s sailing date draws closer, work continues aboard the ship to prepare for the Voyage of the Atlantic. Many of our professional crew members have already arrived, the rest will be here in the next couple of weeks. As we have more hands, we are able to accomplish more tasks. Many projects that have been ongoing throughout the winter are nearing completion and we’re happy to be able to check things off the giant “to do” list.

Finn has made great progress in the engine room, doing some projects himself and working with local tradespeople on others. New light fixtures have been installed in the engine room and in the breezeway, all with new wiring. Pumps and valves have been sent away for service, returned and re-installed. Sections of piping in the bilge have been taken out and are being replaced with new pipe.

With the combination of steel and salt water, some welding projects are inevitable. Some items, such as the pin rails on the foc’sle head and the ladder from the well deck to the foc’sle head, have been removed from the ship and sent to a local welder’s shop to have sections replaced. We also have a welder working on the ship, with projects like replacing some of the sections of the foc’sle head rail and the quarterdeck edge.

The crew recently checked a huge job off the list by getting the water tanks ready for the voyage. Picton Castle has two big tanks for fresh water, located in the hold. The insides of the tanks needed to be wire brushed and thoroughly cleaned out, then painted with special paint made for water tanks which the crew report is thick like marshmallow fluff.

One of our recent arrivals is David, who will be the sailmaker on the upcoming voyage. He got right to work, laying out sails at the local fire hall to make new sails out of old ones. Patching sails will be another big job, whether it’s replacing rope coverings, patching holes in sails or replacing a worn out sun patch.

Deck and rigging work continues as well, with final coats of oil put on the blocks the crew spent many hours overhauling this winter, priming and painting on deck when the weather permits, getting rigging bits and pieces ready to be sent aloft again.

David patching a sail on the third floor
Nadja sews on a new rope covering
new light fixture in the engine room
Sarah priming
water tank paint drying
Welder Timmy and Finn measure for new quarterdeck edge piece

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Making the Leap

A week ago, the final instalment of the trainee fee was due for those trainees joining Picton Castle for the full year or Leg 1 of the Voyage of the Atlantic. Making that final payment represents a real commitment, and also a huge leap of faith.

As a former trainee, I remember the combination of excitement and nervousness I felt that grew as the time to join the ship drew closer. Right now, there are a group of trainees with those same emotions. They’re wondering what activities and challenges they will face in a day, what their shipmates will be like, how to fit all their gear in a duffle bag or two and how on earth they will learn and remember all 175 lines of running rigging.

Trainees have a lot of details to take care of in preparing for a voyage. One of the most important things on the list is to make sure that their passports are valid for at least six months beyond the end of the voyage and that they have enough blank pages for all the stamps they are sure to collect. While immunizations are less of a concern on Leg 1, trainees need to see their doctors or travel health clinics to make sure they are vaccinated for the areas the ship plans to visit. Trainees also have to make their own travel arrangements to meet the ship and set up health insurance coverage. All of this is in addition to preparing to leave their jobs, homes and families for an extended period, which is no small task.

As the beginning of May approaches, excitement builds. Trainees have told me about shopping trips for foul weather gear, gym memberships to get in better physical shape and internet research on ports the ship plans to visit. Many report having a hard time concentrating at work as their thoughts turn frequently to the adventure ahead. It’s time to begin the countdown—54 days until our first all hands muster!

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