Captain's Log

Archive for June, 2008

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Picton Castle Early Captain’s Logs, Part 3

What follows below are the first Captain’s Logs that were written back when just getting the ship and working at seeing this dream come true. The story begins in Norway in May of 1993. We hope you enjoy the tale.

The Story of the Picton Castle

The Captain’s Running Letter
Captain Daniel D. Moreland

The Plot Thickens – August 9, 1993

Sitting in my small but cozy cabin in the 290-ton motor ship Picton Castle and after only two and a half months on board, I find that the story of our project has already become rich and many layered.

We’re alongside the quay in Svendborg harbour in southern Denmark. The crew are banging rust like mad. A surprising number of beautiful Baltic schooners come and go in the course of a few days. The weather is dreadful for any kind of ship work, but it gets done anyway. They have a saying in Danish, “We have two kinds of winters here in Denmark, one white and one green.” This is the green kind. I don’t know how the natives get so tanned. We’ve lost what tan we had.

The heart of this ship right now must be the engine room. It is huge and has one of the world’s finest marine diesels as its impressive centerpiece. When quiet, it appears solid, patient and indestructible. When fired up, it’s a deep, rumbling beast of 690 horsepower. They must be Clydesdales.

The Engineer, “Dr. Motor”, my cousins Tim Viereck and David Brumm, have rarely seen the light of day as they peel back the ten years or so of neglect and let us say “highly economical” repairs and patches. The Burmeister & Wain Alpha is the Rolls Royce of her kind, and has a reputation for running and running and running. This one, installed in 1965, is not considered old. Most of the schooners around here still have their original Alphas from the 1930’s with pipes, floor plates you could eat off, and sometimes potted plants in the skylights. Someday…

The engineering department has done a sterling job of diving into that big engine. Skilled, dedicated and excellent at trouble shooting – if you want to know what they look like, watch the film “Das Boot”. Tim, with his eternally creative solutions when trained experts were stuck, was an enormous asset until he had to head home to take care of business. My other cousin Dave, from Oregon, came for adventure and has had plenty, maybe not what he planned on. He personally cleaned out the inside of a 10-ton fuel tank that had not been used in years.

Jeff Simmons, from Connecticut, the mate and veteran of the brig Niagara, schooners Spirit of Massachusetts, Pride of Baltimore I, Mary Day, Victory Chimes, Brilliant, Tole-Mour, the cargo ketch Edna and relief skipper of the sloop Providence, keeps the crew going on, getting the Picton Castle looking like something. Scraping and banging and wire brushing, priming and painting acres of topsides and bulwarks, charthouse, pilot house, poop deck stanchions, etc. The topsides are done, and were transformed from a rust-streaked blue to an elegant black, with a light yellow buff for the fo’c’sle head and deck houses. (I got 50 gallons of the stuff for $150, so you can bet we’ll use it lots). Jeff brings with him an impressive patience, a dedication for the life, an endless supply of salty jokes which eventually makes us beg him to stop and an ability to get elbow deep into his work, which makes him a tremendous help to me.

Tara Topley of Philadelphia, Bosun of the Picton Castle has been trying to learn Danish. “What for?” is the first question and “how?” is the second. I enjoy being able to speak Danish, but I don’t recommend trying to learn it. Tara’s maturity and integrity belie her youthful years. At 22, she has already been to sea most of the last five or six years, in some of the above mentioned vessels. She is a Bosun, and that means don’t cross her path and you might as well work to midnight if you want to make points with her.

Scott S. of Lancaster, PA is also dedicated to the life before the mast, and has the tattoos to show for it. The four masted Bark Sea Cloud and Schooners Spirit of Massachusetts and Te Vega have been graced with his profile, and now he has signed on as Apprentice to learn in depth the arts of a sailor.

Captain Carl Brown of New York, my bosom buddy and colleague in Affairs Maritime and Styling Pontification, has deigned to keep us on the straight and narrow with his insightful, take-no-prisoners, illuminating humour, as well as lending a hand on the bridge, not to mention swinging a mean rust hammer. Carl has taken a little time off from a blossomingly successful career as a playwright to help his old friend pilot this ship about. Carl has sailed in the Schooners Ernestina, Bill of Rights, Pioneer and Harvey Gamage, much of the time as skipper.

Phil Simmons, Jeff’s dad and a civil engineer, draws upon years in the Navy and as Chief Mate in the merchant marine, to come here and lend us a hand making meticulous repairs to various wooden parts of this mostly steel ship.

Jim Brink, Sailmaker of long standing, is here. The brigantine Romance, bark Charles W. Morgan, full rigger Danmark, brigantine Eye of the Wind, three master topsail schooner Capt. Scott, four masted Bark Sea Cloud, schooner Ernestina, bark  and others have all set his beautifully crafted creations. Quiet (most of the time) and steady, Jim has been my shipmate off and on for 20 years, and a first-class one at that.

Henrich has just signed on as cook, to leave the other hands free to pass the watch and keep the machinery. A desire to see something of the world other than Svendborg seems to be his big motivation.

We spent six weeks at the most excellent shipyard, Thomsen & Thomsen in Marstal on Aero, and island, a small one, off the main island of Fyn, an hour’s ferry ride from the mainland. There we dry-docked the ship, sandblasted and painted the bottom, attached 40 zincs, scraped and greased the 5 ½’ prop (original prop was 9′), removed an ancient WW II depth sounder transducer, drained and cleaned the 20 ton fresh water tank and the 20 ton ballast tank, drained 800 litres of waste oil from the engine room bilge, cut in the water line, trimmed the ship with ballast. 10,000 small and large jobs were done in the engine room, including testing all of the injectors, replacing a section of exhaust pipe, installing an air pump cylinder head, overhauling the pumps for fresh and sea water, attempting to make sense of the electrical system, re-establishing fuel lines, recommissioning unused tanks, lubing the controllable pitch prop and shaft, checking the bearings and cylinder walls, overhauling all the seawater and cooling pumps, and got the electrical panel working. Endless cleaning and mucking out of black greasy holes that had not seen the light of day since her rebuilding in Haugesund, Norway in 1955. Endless tracing of bilge lines, fuel lines electrical lines. Getting electronics – GPS, SSB radio, radar – on line. Jeff Bolster took over setting up the navigation department – charts, tables, almanacs, etc. – all with an eye to efficiency, safety and of course economy. Jeff and Molly and little Ellie and Carl were great sports, crammed into a mate’s cabin designed for one.

The upshot is that the ship’s hull is very strong and thick, and that the engine is also superlative. The electrical system is pretty antiquated, but I’ll see if we can keep it going. It seems strong enough. Lots of water tankage.

I’ve also managed to find here a worm drive steering gear at a fraction of the cost of a new one. From an old auxiliary sail ship of our size and laying someone’s garden in Jutland it was, my nautical spies had been eying for sometime, waiting for the right ship to come along. Boat davits, an anchor, spare parts for the engine, plus mahogany and teak doors off scrapped ships to go below.

The season is getting on, but it seems to have been worth it to get our machinery in order and at the same time get her banged and painted. I love steel! Take a rust hammer to something that hasn’t been stripped in forty years, and then sand and prime, it’s almost as good as new. Wood would be gone. She is also of that pre-war steel that by ship’s classification standard is considered more superior to modern.

This week we are loading a 19 ton extra fuel tank, complementing our existing 20 tons, to make the crossing in one go. We’ll take on 30 tons of ballast, re-deck the cargo hatch and spread and batten down a new weatherproof industrial strength hatch tarp. A weather fax is going on line as I write.

The plan at this point is still to take the Southern route, watching the weather carefully. Svendborg, Denmark to Brixham, England, to the Azores, by Bermuda and on to New England where we will throttle back a little, give the crew a breather, and collect rigging, masting and sailmaking supplies. Then by late October, early November, press on to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia where we’ll set up the Windward Isles Rigging School. There we will take would-be apprentice riggers to join in with our crew to rig this vessel into a lofty Barque. A turn of the century square rigged sailing ship. It is not every day that anyone gets to rig such a ship from the keel up. I expect I’ll take four or so apprentices and then the work, the real work, shall begin. We’re all looking forward to Lunenburg on board, to stop making ready for the sea and get on with the job of rigging and sail making. I’ve got a new clipper bow drawn up, and it is sort of halfway between the Balclutha and the Tusitala, the last American flag steel full rigger (also built in England).

A Final Note – Svendborg, Denmark

The fuel tank is aboard, a re-certified 16-person life raft is in its cradle, and a kind of weather fax is spitting out prognostications. The sun is up and the sky is clear. We’ve taken on 30 tons of sand ballast tonight to settle her down in the water in case of heavy weather. Our worldwide Single Side Band Radio speaks to us in a funny language. A few of the crew have new tattoos, fuel is aboard, and water is, too. Need some food. We’re ready to sail.

To be continued…

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Sailing Into Falmouth

Dawn found the Picton Castle under all plain sail a few miles west of the Scilly Islands, just off Lands End. Breezes were moderate, seas down and the ship slipped along nicely. Lots of deep-water vessels were about, making the corner north into the Bristol Channel or east into the English Channel bound for France, Germany, Denmark, even all the way to Russia. The sky cleared and the sun burned through again, seas were small. Forty miles to go to Falmouth. The 4-masted bark Herzogin Cecilie sailed from Falmouth one calm evening in 1936 bound up the channel with a hold full of wheat from South Australia and went ashore in light winds and fog at Salcombe only a few miles away. This made news world wide as it was one of the last great sailing ship losses. We know a couple of the crew from that voyage in Cape Town, South Africa. This event also brought the story of the remaining Tall Ships to the fore. Anyway, we sailed along in sunny hazy conditions around past “The Lizard” (funny name for a point of land, no?) and braced up most of sharp on the port tack in these WSW winds.

Now we were sailing north in Falmouth Roads, a large roadstead with a westerly shore giving protection from SW around to NE which is pretty good for hereabouts. Back in the day sailing ships could fairly well depend upon sailing in and out of this anchorage. Today this small barque was making her way under sail alone past the roads into the harbour itself. Our sky was fair with a lot of clouds scudding along low overhead with sunlight and blue sky mottled. Three or four medium merchant ships were anchored about and we were in for a special treat. The replica of Giovanni Caboto’s (John Cabot) ship the Mathew sailed out to greet us and sail with us into Falmouth. We shortened sail slowly and made our way in. Nadja was at the wheel and all hands stood by braces, sheets and down-hauls. We sailed in and up the river letting the anchor go in 20 feet of water at “Falmouth Bank” just outside the inner harbour but well inside the rivers mouth. Nadja steered just fine and this Picton Castle crew did a first rate job of handling the ship as they sailed into Falmouth, England. On our one side is an elaborate industrial ship yard complex with dry-docked Royal Navy Ships and the old stone wharves of ancient Falmouth and on our other side we have large green rolling hills with cows here and there and hedgerows in the most bucolic of settings while a few gaff rigged cutters sail up and down the river.

Nadja and MATHEW sailing in to Falmouth
Sailing into Falmouth

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Sailing from Cobh to Falmouth

The day came in grey, overcast and drizzly. The morning light began to seep through the dark of night well before dawn at four AM. In these northern latitudes we get a lot of light at this time of year – plenty of light by 4:00 AM and you can still see at 10:30-11:00 PM. Proper dark night time is only about five hours long.

All hands were bestirred at about 0500 this morning to get underway to sail from Ireland bound for Falmouth, Cornwall, England, 190 miles away. The way the Picton Castle was moored we needed the last of the ebb tide to help peel her bow off the stone bulkhead, otherwise we would be stuck there until the next tide change. Soon the main engine was deeply rumbling as it faithfully does, chafe gear was off the hawsers and they were being singled up. Two hands stayed on the quay to let go our last lines, with the third mate standing by in the skiff to pick them up and get them back out to the ship before hoisting the boat. We backed down on a stern spring, the ebb tide caught the bow and the bow paid off away from the quay and soon we were making our way down the channel.

We called Cork Harbour Radio and let them know we were underway and our general intentions. They in turn let us know about inbound traffic. At this point Chibley came on deck (she had been incarcerated in the fore-peak due to animal regulations). It was raining and we rarely see her on deck when it is raining but this time she stomped all around checking on her ship, rain or no rain. She got a good soaking of rain before she was satisfied with her inspection tour. Well, something was on her mind anyway.

As we made our way past the channel buoys we saw a big 150,000 ton oil tanker at the oil terminal that had come in overnight and a small 400 ton coaster piled high with logs steaming inbound. At 0700 we were abeam of Roaches Point making our departure from land and loosing sail. By 0730 we were several miles at sea under all sail to the t’gallants steering southeast making 5 knots towards Lands End, Cornwall. The name gives it away. Lands End is the most southwestern point of land of mainland England. Our wind was a decent force 5-6 down from 7-8 last night and seas were not too big at all. By 0900 we were making good way in the right direction – ship well secured for sea. Just us and a couple fishing trawlers out here dragging around in the mists of the Celtic Sea. All is well enough. Wind making up here before noon, took in and furled t’gallants. Kolin, Corey and Nadja aloft to stow the stiff wet canvas and get a gasket passed around the sail and the yard.

1500

Wind has picked up a little and faired or veered, which means the direction has rotated clockwise making it all the more useful to us. The ship is going along very nicely, making 6+ knots with a point to spare on our course for Lands End. The seas have made up to 6-10 feet, all a pale grey with peaks covered in spreads of white sea foam. Visibility is about three miles. We have fresh fruit in our deck fruit lockers from the market in Cork, apples and sweet little pears, pretty nice to munch while on the quarter-deck.

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Cobh, Ireland

Cobh is part of the Cork City Port and was one of the major immigrant departure points for North America. Millions of Irish sailed from Cobh for parts west. The first family to walk through Ellis Island in New York stepped foot onto a launch to board a ship in Cobh close to where the Picton Castle is berthed. The Titanic boarded her last 2nd and 3rd class passengers form just astern of where the ship is berthed as well. The wreck of the RMS Lusitania, torpedoed in the First World War (and credited with drawing the United States into that conflict), is just offshore by a few miles. Here they brought survivors and victims, and it remains an important story.

Cobh seems to be a small city of rows of contiguous, nicely painted 18th and 19th century buildings wrapped around a large hill along the edge of the harbour. And the town is crowned by a very impressive and towering Gothic cathedral. It is odd to see palm trees backed by a large European cathedral.

Everywhere you walk you are reminded of tragedy and life carrying on in spite of such tragedies. The famine ships sailed for America from here taking something like a million Irish, most never to return. In the early 20th century another 4 million left to improve their lot somewhere else, somehow. There is a monument to the loss of the RMS Lusitania sunk in 1915 by a German U-boat. Controversy remains regarding whether she was carrying war material. The Titanic sailed from here on her fateful voyage. And the lovely seaside park, full of flowers, ornate iron work and a little playground is named in memory of US President John F. Kennedy. We have seen a few sweet little playgrounds for children. Seems like a nice world for children, Ireland.

What to do here? The duty watch looks after the ship as usual; a little painting, keeping an eye on hawsers and chafe gear with the 10 foot tidal range. We opened the ship to public and the crew made some friends with folks who visited onboard. Ashore some went off to Blarney Castle which is not too far, some have gone to kiss the Blarney Stone. It was Queen Elizabeth I, who couldn’t get a straight story out her Lord Blarney, who came up with the term and its present meaning. Jameson’s Distillery has a big museum of their old stone and copper whiskey fabrication plant. Cork City has drawn a few of us. The grain wharves that took the wheat from the likes of the 4-masted bark Moshulu are still in full operation. Astern of us are moored a couple state-of-the-art tugs with Voigth drives. We went aboard and were amazed by how star-ship like they are. The waterfront itself is a long east-west stretch with ancient little boat basins carved into what is otherwise a long stone bulkhead. There are many charming dark wood-panelled waterfront pubs named for ships along the way, often full of homemade music with all participating. There are any number of small shops selling this and that. A laundry and an Indian restaurant completed the waterfront tour for many of us.

Cobh Cathedral
Cobh waterfront
enjoying a pint at the pub, Cobh

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Sailing from Baltimore to Cobh

Beautiful Baltimore was quite a hit with all hands, apart from Chibley the cat who did not go ashore. But she did not seem to care much. After four days I was hoping to sail on Saturday but strong gale warnings were being broadcast. If we were at sea they would have made for strong fair winds and we would simply go fast and have a roller coaster ride, but it made little sense to stick our nose out into them. So in the preceding calm we repositioned the Picton Castle in the bay and set the second anchor. Soon we had a 1,200 pound anchor out to starboard with three and half shots of 1-1/4″ chain and the port anchor of 1,500 pounds with three shots of chain out, the whole rig weighing in at almost seven tons securing us to the ground which was good holding anyway. For good holding in strong winds the weight and length (scope) of the chain is more important than the weight of the anchors themselves.

We hoisted the boats up and lashed them, braced the yards as sharp as they could go, looked after a few other things then stood by and waited for the wind. It came to blow hard but the ship didn’t budge an inch. The long heavy chain acted as a shock absorber keeping the anchors happily in place. The next day the rain and clouds were gone and we had a pretty blue sky day again but we still had a dry gale leaving the bay a smother of white caps. Quite beautiful as long as the ship is snug. Over Sunday night the wind laid down and it looked liked it was going to be a good “chance along” tomorrow before the next low rolled on through. Here at 50 North and with the jet stream sitting over us the weather systems race along.

It was a 60 mile coastwise passage to Cobh, pronounced “Cove”. For a period it was called “Queenstown” for Queen Victoria. We wanted to sail to and visit Cobh as this port was often the destination for the last four-masted barques of the 1920’s and 30’s bringing grain from South Australia on annual voyages around the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn. The Picton Castle is a smaller version of these types of ships.

Wake up calls were for 0530 Monday to get underway. A bit groggy as we got the starboard anchor up (having gotten the port anchor up and catted the previous evening after supper when the wind had laid down) and steamed out through the narrow entrance to Baltimore Bay. As we made our way down the shoreline a nice breeze made up and we set all sail, they needed drying anyway after the rainy gales. Water spilled out of t’gallants and royals when they were loosed. With Bill at the wheel we sailed in the channel between the high bluffs and past old stone castles or abbeys in ruins, then through the jutting headlands at the entrance to Cobh Bay which make this a particularly good big ship harbour. Sailing dead downwind with a southerly breeze we then braced sharp around a channel buoy and steered for the western end of the harbour where a berth was waiting for us. We had to go around a big tug on a pontoon and slip in sideways to an old looking stone bulkhead and soon we were snugly moored in Cobh, our second and last port in Ireland.

Bill brings us into cobh
sailing into Cobh under full sail

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In Baltimore, Ireland Before

It seems that Picton Castle has been to Baltimore, Ireland before, maybe many times. When our ship was fishing she sailed out of Swansea, Wales, not too far to the east of here. The fishing grounds were to the west in such areas as Rockall Banks and off towards Iceland. This means that she must have sailed past southwestern Ireland hundreds of time between 1928 and 1955, with time out to fight in the Second World War from 1939-45.

When we got to Baltimore it seems that many folks knew all about the Picton Castle. Certainly some of this was from the internet but it turns out that this ship is on record as having put into this very bay. On November 30, 1954 the Picton Castle ducked in during a screaming SE gale and asked for the motor life boat to come and stand by in case they went on the rocks. We found the ship’s name on a plaque at the life-boat station. A few inquiries got us a hand written transcript of the log for that nasty day; here it is:

“R.NL.I.

Report of Service on the 30th day of November, 1954.

Name of Lifeboat, Sarah Wilson O.N. 554

Stationed at Baltimore

Case of Trawler: Picton Castle of Milford

On Tuesday the 30th last (November) at 8:15 am a British trawler, Picton Castle, arrived into Baltimore harbour from South East gale. The gale veered-to and the ship began to – (illegible), and was in danger of being dashed on the rocks near Coney Island. The skipper of the trawler began sending SOS – and sent up flares. The trawler –, some members of the lifeboat crew, who sent word to the assistant secretary. It was decided to launch, the – lifeboat immediately and the Maroon was fired, and the boat launched in the teeth of a gale. When they reached the trawler the skipper hailed the coxswain and asked him to stand by his ship as he feared she would be driven ashore or lost in the severe gale. The coxswain, crew, stood by – and returned to the harbour.

Lifeboat Crew: Michael Harrington, Coxswain. Second Coxswain Steven Nolan, Peter Dennehy, Patrick O’Driscoll, Denis –, and William Fitzgerald.”

But all’s well that ends well and here we are back again after almost 54 years, anchored perhaps in the exact spot where she did before. We had a good look about the life-boat which is a remarkably fine piece of gear, kept up immaculately. After that gale in 1954 the Picton Castle was sold in 1955 to Haugesund, Norway and was refitted with a diesel engine to replace her original steam plant. We are headed there too, should be interesting.

PC and Baltimore lifeboat crews
Picton Castle in 1954 Baltimore

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Baltimore, Ireland

With about 300 people living here, Baltimore is not a huge place. But it is stunningly beautiful, fun and friendly. First of all there are pictures of the Schooner Pride of Baltimore everywhere. Not just in the pubs but on peoples houses and worked in iron on their garden fences. But I get ahead of myself.

Once ashore the Harbour Master looked after all our formalities with cheery dispatch and soon we got the crew of the free watch off at their first port of call after weeks at sea. With a passing front on top of us rain was coming down in steady streams and so it seems that they found the pub. This is Bushes Public house. Plenty pictures of the Schooner Pride and they all know her good Captain. We stood in good stead calling him a friend. The tourist info brochures all refer to the Pride of Baltimore as if she were their own, perhaps she is.

Soon we were meeting folks left and right all very keen to welcome us. And there is lots to see; the 1215 castle of the O’Driscoll clan overlooking the harbour. The current Chieftain of the O’Driscolls is a Canadian. Not really clear on what a clan chieftain does these days but it is a title of some distinction. A gathering of the clan from all over the world is under way next weekend here. A village center with two pubs and two restaurants right there at the top of the harbour where all seem to congregate in the afternoons.

In the late afternoon, drizzle and clouds vanished almost in an instant. One moment all was drab muted shades of grey and the next the sun burst forth and we quickly saw why Ireland is called the “Emerald Isle”. The rolling hills are simply emerald, not just green but dazzling emerald green. Framed by a high sky of rich blue with swirling white confectionary clouds; we were just amazed by the sight. Now the poking about must begin. A few clean, friendly free range dogs working the crowd and plenty of free range children too, pretty nice to see life unfettered. Now, what to do here in Baltimore?

Well, first just walk about the village – perched on the slope and top of a round hill and sloping into warm pleasant coves by the shore of this almost completely enclosed circular bay. One and two story houses from another age all cheek by jowl. Lots of small cozy looking cottages built of stone. On the edges of the village fields and paddocks soon appear with pretty gardens everywhere and a play ground for kids that looks like lots of fun with a jungle-gym in the shape of a sailing ship.

Then, walk out to the beacon at the entrance to the bay; a large white washed tower built of brick standing upon cliffs high, high above the narrow entrance to Baltimore Bay with stunning views every few paces. Looks a lot like Pitcairn Island out there with high jagged rock cliffs sloping steeply down to seas crashing on the rocks below.

Take the ferry over the one mile across the bay to Innisherkin, or Sherkin Island, and see the ruined abbey destroyed in a raid by some cranky rivals from Waterford in 1537, it seems that the lads from Baltimore made off with some of their wine at some point which annoyed the lads from Waterford so they rolled around and burned the place down. It turns out that the folks in Waterford still have the bell from the abbey. Some folks are still a bit sore about this, occasional talk of making a raid on Waterford in order to retrieve the old gong.

Visit the Baltimore Lifeboat Boat house and meet the gang which puts out to sea when every one else is trying to get in – 218 lives saved so far since 1916 and plenty of “assists” including one for the Picton Castle in 1954.

Check out the palm trees. Yup, regular palm trees grow right here in south-west Ireland. The water temperature here is ten degrees higher than off Nova Scotia. The Gulf Stream, though much diffused, warms these rocky shores and verdant fields. The last time it snowed was 15 years ago.
Then get together with your guitar, fiddle, recorder, drum or penny whistle and lend a hand crafting some home made music in a session at the Algiers Inn or Bushes on the Square.

If you have the time, take a stay in a lovely B&B (like Fastnet House with hosts Ronnie and Sandra), built of stone two or three hundred years ago and have yourself a big Irish fry up breakfast in the morning.

Take a bus over to Skibbereen and check out the big city of 2,000.

But what ever you do, do it slowly and relax.

Bushes Bar, Baltimore
Capt takes a break, Baltimore
drying sail in Baltimore
harbour entrance, Baltimore
making music at the Algiers, Baltimore

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Landfall Ireland

The late afternoon of Tuesday June 17, 2008 found our Picton Castle with strong and building winds and seas astern and making good way in squalls and rain into the small bay of Baltimore, Ireland. Weather reports of building gales and rising seas in the waters along the south coast of Ireland had us headed in to get anchored. When we crossed the continental shelf and the ocean became much shallower (100 meters instead of a thousand) the seas become a good bit more lumpy. The seas and skies looked just like those old-tyme oil paintings. The ship was designed for these conditions but it did seem that now it was time to put in.
Captain Jan Miles of the topsail schooner Pride of Baltimore II has put in to Baltimore several times in his vessel and had told me that this was a great port for a sailing ship and her crew. We were going to find out. With Lynsey at the wheel, Nobby at the engine controls, the Mate at the anchor and all hands at sail handling stations and lead-line we sailed through the narrow entrance (80 meters) and dropped the hook in about 22 feet of water with good holding and the passage was done. It had been a classic transatlantic passage almost entirely under sail. In 24 days we sailed over 2,800 miles from Lunenburg. Mostly great sailing, we had had calms, near gales, always a fair wind and all great passage making. We were cold wet and tired and it was about 9:30PM local time when we got the stiff wet canvas sails stowed, anchor light rigged and yards braced so we waited for the next day to go ashore and clear in with customs at the Harbour Master’s office on the wharf.
The next day came in rainy and windy but we launched the skiff to find out what Baltimore, Ireland was like. We found out that this a pretty sweet, beautiful place with heaps of interesting history. We would get glimmerings of a massive pirate history; corsairs, kidnapping and the sacking of Baltimore on June 20, 1631 when most of the inhabitants of this village were captured and taken off to slavery in Algeria. And much later part of that history includes Picton Castle having been here before in somewhat dire straights.

Baltimore harbour entrance
hauling braces approaches to Baltimore
Lynsey on the wheel Baltimore
stowing wet canvas at anchor Baltimore

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Approaching Ireland

Monday morning: We are underway again after being hove-to in fresh northerlies yesterday. The sun came out Sunday evening for “marlinspike” and Shackle got dressed up in traditional marlinspike attire: a floral shirt and sarong. We’re pretty sure he’s the only guy at sea on a barque at 50 North wearing a sarong, lavalava or pareau. During last Sunday’s marlinspike he probably was also the only guy stowing t’gallants in a 3-piece suit. We are under full sail this morning, making a comfortable 4 knots with the wind on the port quarter. A beautiful sunny day with sparkly seas and building excitement about our arrival in Ireland. The water temperature is a full ten degrees celsius higher here than off Nova Scotia. They say palm trees grow in southern Ireland. Can this be true?

Eric spotted pilot whales this morning on lookout; they came right alongside, under the bow, and hung out with us for a half hour or so. There were 2 babies in the pod, no bigger than 2 or 3 feet tops. They were very cute, trying hard to breach like the grown-ups, but looking a little clumsy and floppy. They’re still learning how to be whales. Nadja had just finished saying how much she wants to see a blue whale, when a blue whale surfaced about 3 ship-lengths away, and stayed on the surface for at least 10 minutes. Our guess was that this whale was at least 80 to 90 feet long. It was enormous and amazing to see even once in a lifetime.

A pretty good Monday morning. We keep wondering how this could get any better, but somehow it does. It has been a great passage and we are almost there.

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Hove-to off Ireland

0800: Picton Castle is at 49-40N / 016-08W and the ship is hove-to in strong easterly winds, about 30 knots, well short of a gale but plenty of wind none the less. If we were bound towards any western quadrant we would be sailing nice and smartly. As it happens the wind is coming directly from our destination and objective. We are hove-to more to hold position than to ride out strong winds. We are about 270 miles WSW of the famous Fastnet Rock off the SW coast of Ireland. Grey rolling seas capped with white feathery foam roll on toward us from the fine line of the horizon, give the ship a lift and roll on under and carry on to leeward. The ship takes the small lift like shifting her seat on a chair. The ship is riding very comfortably. Skies are grey of course, a sort of raggedy layer of torn clouds showing shredded edges as they fly, low and swift overhead. Many different shades of grey in today’s pallet, like grey velvet or velour as you pass your hand over it in a low angle light. Spitting rain, too, and a little spray at times. For the finishing artistic touch we have a couple of sea birds who glide along with us keeping us company. Sometimes one comes close to a topsail yardarm. Sometimes one or both of them alight in the seas and heave-to along with us. Most of the time these birds soar and hold station fairly high aloft looking down on this small barque as she jogs along. The watch on deck is hanging out in the lee of the galley house, or the “caboose” as it used to be called back in the day. Warm air and fresh hot coffee stream out Donald’s galley (and also today breakfast burritos), he usually has some music on too, so it is a popular place to hang out. Shaggy was on the hit parade yesterday coming out of his domain. That was described to me by Donald as “Nadja Music”. She was in the galley baking bread in her off watch.

1700: Sky is breaking, lots of blue now but still blowing pretty hard. The winds will probably back into the north and die off. So, it looks like we sit tight and let these winds blow through tonight or so and then we can get back on course for where we are bound, hopefully with a fair westerly to fill her sails. It is Sunday at sea and some of the gang are sewing up canvas ditty bags on the main-hatch.

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