Wednesday, April 9th, 2008
Picton Castle left her wharf for the first time since July 2007 today, being towed a few hundred metres away to the drydock at Lunenburg Industrial Foundry and Engineering. Instead of using her main engine, the ship was manoeuvred with the help of three tugboats. They pulled the ship away from the wharf, along the harbour and into the cradle at the Foundry.
Getting all the pieces in place in order to take the ship out of the water must be done precisely and takes a while. There is a long track that goes from land down into the water and a cradle, a platform that supports the ship, slides along the track. Before the ship arrived, the cradle was sent down the track into the water. The ship was towed into the cradle and secured with dock lines once it was in the proper position. Workers from the Foundry measured to make sure that the ship was exactly in the middle of the cradle. The ship was supported below by blocks as the cradle was hauled up, so it was important to be sure that the blocks were in the right places. Before the hauling began, divers swam below the ship to make sure that everything was lined up correctly. Once everyone was satisfied that the blocks were in the right positions and the track was clear, a giant chain began to haul the cradle up the track. The bow of the ship rose first, those on shore could see the ship’s waterline rise above the surface. The hauling stopped for a few minutes so the divers could do another check of the blocks, and more blocks could be put in place. They reported that the stern of the ship was still sitting two inches above the blocks, while the bow was now resting on the blocks. Again, once everyone was clear, the giant chain started to haul the cradle up. The process was stopped once more and inspected by the divers, who reported that the ship’s stern was only half an inch above the blocks. Everything was looking as it should and the ship seemed stable, so the hauling began again and continued until the cradle reached the top of the track.
The last time Picton Castle was out of the water was in May 2005, here in Lunenburg, just prior to the fourth world voyage. Seeing the whole hull is quite unusual and makes me realize how huge the ship really is and how much space there is below the waterline. Putting the ship into drydock allows us to clean the bottom and inspect the hull thoroughly, put on a new coat of anti-fouling bottom paint (paint that discourages sea creatures from attaching themselves to the hull) and overhaul all the through-hull fittings.