Captain's Log

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We Must be Near Land

We must be near land… Early this morning the Picton Castle has a few small birds flying near by. These little birds swoop and dart over the steep rolling peaks and troughs of the large seas rolling along with our ship as we make good time NW towards the Caribbean . These little guys do not look like they can swim so I think they are land birds. The day comes in with fresh winds and squally skies but making eight knots is just fine too. The ship is under t’gallants and the spanker is stowed as well. Steering is fine.

We have had plenty of fairly stiff squalls for the last few days and good strong winds in between. Not sharp violent nasty squalls with radical wind-shifts, just proper, blowing good, rain squalls that send this barque rushing ahead at 9 or so knots, sometimes 10 knots. These squalls trundle down on us from the windward quarter, darkening the horizon, pelt the watch with rain as the helmsman puts the helm up to fall off to make sure the power of the growing breeze is behind us, the watch standing by to take in sail muy rapido if needed. Usually the mate has gotten any kites in already, sails like flying jib, gaff topsail and maybe royals have already been taken in and stowed. That’s the mate’s job to see these things coming. And to call the captain…always call the captain…

First the dark cloud of a squall climbs above us blotting out stars or blue sky. We feel the wind pick up and the order is given to the helmsman to fall off a couple points or about 22 degrees. This done to make sure the wind is well behind us and to allow for sudden wind shifts and to avoid getting caught abackthis latter is very important—soon we will see the curtain of rain smattering at the sea and then we can hear it just before it lays into us. Then for short period (usually short) we go for an exhilarating ride rushing over the seas before we come back to course. The squall eventually rolls over us and usually steals a little wind when it does pass leaving the ship rolling awkwardly for a period with darkened wet canvas sails slating against the rigging until the old wind fills in again and sends us back along our way. And sail taken in might be reset if all looks good astern and the wind comes in steady again.

But these little birds seem unconcerned with squalls and maybe they can sit on the seas surface and swim after all – I am sure we are near land anyway…

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