Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008
The Picton Castle is having a typical North Atlantic passage. Maybe better than ‘typical’, so far. Right now we are at 42-18N / 045-00W sailing due east. That’s about 900 miles from Lunenburg and 1550 miles from Ireland. The trick is to not get too deep into the fairly stationary high pressure system that tends to lay over the mid-Atlantic, right now it is centered over the Azores, (nice weather but no wind) and then to not get to far north, avoiding the worst effects of the lows that roll off North America and often turn into gales. There have been several of these so far but they seem to not be blowing more than 35 knots which is the lowest category of a gale, not so bad for a ship like this one.
Of course, here is where it all happens for the crew. No amount of practice or drill at the dock is a substitute for the learning that takes place at sea. We are in ship’s routine now. Watches turn and turn about. Meals are served, dishes, pots and pans are washed. Man-ropes are rigged when it gets lumpy, taken down when things get smoother. Hatches are opened and closed depending on the weather. Look-out and steering around the clock, of course. This gang is picking steering up quite quickly. Most can “Box the Compass”: N, NxE, NNE, NExN, NE, NExE, ENE, ExN, E, ExS and so forth until all 32 points get named in correct order. We can take a pass on half and quarter-points for now. Why use points instead of numbers? Well, because you can see the points from the wheel in the dark of night and with rain on the compass in the day. Points are clear, points are simple, points make sense. It is easier. In the old days points were probably helpful as so many seamen were illiterate. We use numbers sometimes when manoeuvring in canals and channels when small adjustments and precision become paramount.
We are also handling sail. All plain sail is bent to the t’gallants. We often take in the t’gallants when it pipes up. Slack away halyard, cast off sheets, haul away clew-lines, bunts and leeches, haul in the slack from the braces, up and stow, get a good snug furl and pass the gaskets. Take in the spanker if the wind comes around aft. And maybe the outer jib at the end of our wooden jib-boom. Then keep on steering to the eastward across this Western Ocean bound for the “old world.”