Sunday, June 8th, 2008
30 miles NW of Flores Island, Azores, Portugal
Early this morning the helmsman of the Picton Castle was given the order to fall off four points (come to port 45 degrees in this instance) and steer for Ireland. Over 1500 miles from Lunenburg (and more if you add the meandering miles), it had come time to turn NE for the Emerald Isle and Cork – now less than 1200 miles away (in a straight line – who knows if we will sail in a straight line?). We had been sailing due east for some time, since we passed the “Tail of the Banks.” I had expected to have headed north easterly sooner and pass maybe 300 to 400 miles north of the Azores on our way towards Ireland. But low pressure systems, one after another passing over us to the north have kept us down here. Well, no more. We have a low stalled to our west with a healthy high to our east giving us fresh southerly breezes right on the starboard quarter. The ship is making 7 knots right now under upper-topsails in 8-10 foot seas and with somewhere around 25 knots of wind. Skies are bright blue, the seas dazzling and we can see the high volcanic Azorean islands of Flores and Corvo faintly off in the distance also on the starboard quarter. These waters were once famous for being whaling grounds. Why they called them ‘grounds’ instead of ‘waters’ is anyone’s guess. This morning a sperm whale and her calf passed us close by heading to the west on some business unknown to us. A couple of days ago it was killer whales following along. And it seems that almost every day for a while now we have had dolphins jumping around on friendly visits. Today is Sunday at sea; no tarring, no painting, no knocka-roost, no “make and mend” but still steering, keeping lookout, bracing yards and trimming sail, cooking and cleaning up. They gang is planning a kite flying contest off the quarter-deck with a fine ebony fid as a prize.