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Picton Castle Passage – Bermuda towards Nova Scotia

32-25N / 064-36 – Dropped the Bermuda Pilot just outside St. George’s Town Cut at #1 and 2 buoys at about 1100. Seas a creamy turquoise green along the reef – skies bright and blue, a bit more northerly wind than we had expected when inside, blowing about 20, but it didn’t look like it was going to ease off any time soon so head north we will, with a strong engine and enough fuel. It is 735 miles from Bermuda to Lunenburg in a straight line. That is much the same distance from Halifax to Toronto or Boston to Charleston. A two day drive in a car even with sleeping in a motel over night – could easily take the Picton Castle the week we have allowed. We sail through and then away from seas ever so tropic-like to very clearly the grim, cold and blustery North Atlantic in that short distance.

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38-41N / 065-08W – After a couple days the winds have eased off to mostly nothing and soon enough we are crossing the Gulf Stream, a little further south than we are used to meeting it but it is a river without banks so it can wander a little as it so chooses. Ship’s work carries on and many hands are hard at sewing up traditional seafarers canvas sea-bags… Now, a day later, the Gulf Stream has been crossed, so that’s a tick. Yesterday morn, beautiful warm tropical-like day just like so many others, sunny blue skies and seas, flying fish, porpoise and whales, Portuguese Man O’War jellyfishes sailing along with us, Sargasso weed, balmy, soft warm breezes, t-shirts and shorts. Then we sailed out of the Gulf Stream and into a cold front fresh off the coast of North America…just like that, cold grey seas, lowering dark overcast skies, long pants, socks and sea boots, jackets and watch caps…in the span of a couple hours. Spitting rain and cold eight foot seas sloshing about us as the front passes overhead and on to the east. But then we get a lift from an errant Gulf Stream warm-eddy well north of the main stream and this helps make good time for Cape Sable, 230 miles away and due north, to Lunenburg- 290 straight line. Thus we motor along in a backing northerly. Drill for the day is practise in exposure suits.

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42-13N / 064-35W – This morning the day comes in fair and clear with proper North Atlantic green seas and a light and briskly cool WNW breeze – we are just to the east of Georges Bank and thus well to the east of Cape Cod. Seas are small and the large deep sea swell has left us for the time being. This is beautiful too. More pretty porpoise came along to play by our bow – crew rush over to watch. The Picton Castle is under full sail once again and the main engine (and engineers) get a break – we are just one hundred miles south of Cape Sable and out, out, way out of the tropics – the gang is all bundled up to be on watch (it is actually 60F and 16C so they are a little bit tropical wusses now). But we have to admit, tropics astern of us or not, today is a gorgeous day to be at sea in a fine barque bound for Nova Scotia and that sea bound coast…this afternoon, more wire splicing instruction and practice.

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43-55N / 064-49W – Beautiful day at anchor off Port Mouton, Nova Scotia. Came in and anchored early this morning as there are near gale warnings for today and tonight – it would not do to get blown to Newfoundland nor would it do to come in early. We have a date with Canada Customs & Immigration for Saturday at 1400 and that’s when we will be there. As we are not cleared yet we may have no contact with land; no one ashore and no one aboard – that suits us just fine for the moment – it’s a beautiful day, just great for cleaning bunks, painting here and there and getting some brass polished. David and John are up on the quarter-deck sewing away on new sails. Kevin is painting seizings, Marie is painting out the scullery floor – we knock off early to talk about watches in Lunenburg and upcoming events….all hands are very excited about getting to Lunenburg and anticipation is half the joy. Blowing pretty hard out of the west right now here in the late afternoon. We watch the lobster boats come in, seagulls capering above and astern. Cool sharp breezes, can smell the pine trees and rich smell of earth and land to windward. The big maples and oaks haven’t filled in yet with leaves – they remain grey barked arms held up to the sky. Pine trees or I suppose to a tree guy these are spruce or something more specific and never say “seagull” to a bird person, they will say there is no such thing…

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43-56.6N / 064-43.4W – 0830, off White Head, Southwest Nova Scotia. Day came in fair and clear with light westerly breezes. Blue skies, small seas and a fair breeze – not a bad way to wind up an amazing 18,000 mile voyage. The crew got the Picton Castle underway under sail and she sails through a fair number of lobster pot buoys – lobster boats motor over near us and wave – beautiful day and everyone is pretty excited about sailing into Lunenburg tomorrow.

1310- The breeze has freshened enough to move us along nicely here at six and half knots with every stitch of canvas set and drawing in this force 4 SW winds, yards braced almost square. Cool winds, white capped dark green seas following us along. We can hear a smooth swooshing of ocean sliding along our waterline. Much polishing of brass going on. We don’t polish brass much aboard the Picton Castle but once in awhile it’s nice to see shiny brass round about the ship. Dave sews away up on the quarterdeck.

1415 – off Cape La Have, wind has picked up considerably, royals already in, we sharpen up for Mosher Island.

1456 – sharpen up again, close hauled this time sailing into Ship’s Channel, past Spectacle Islands. T’gallants in, spanker set – keep sailing in closer and closer, beautiful day, ship and crew sailing beautifully like one thing. Near land and under Busch Island, Fat Nick puts the wheel hard over, the ship rounds up, sails forward are taken in, main yards squared to back the main top-sails, spanker is hauled amidships – the Mate lets go the starboard anchor.

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44-15.7N / 064-21.9W – 1600 at anchor off Bells Cove, two and a half shots in 25 feet of water, good holding, Dublin Shore near the mouth of the La Have River. Yards squared, sails stowed, lines coiled, deck swept, cat sunning her self on the hatch, warm breeze blowing over green fields and through pine trees and across the decks of the Picton Castle. After all is said and done, there ain’t nothin’ to say or do…tomorrow we sail for Lunenburg. The sun goes down in the west, which is exactly where it is supposed and expected to go down this time of day, all is well on that front – our stiff winds have gone from SW to NW and laid down so now dominos and chess are being played out on the hatch, a guitar is strumming up forward on the well deck, flags are in and anchor lights lit and hoisted. A couple fishing vessels headed into Riverport and a fine looking schooner called Papa I sailed by and waved hello and hollered across the water ‘welcome back’. It’s a lovely low light evening now and soon dark. A few folks are sitting around caught up in games of chess and dominos, playing with the cat or finishing off sea bags.

Bells Cove – 2009-05-23 – 0730; day comes in fair and clear, light NEly wind, almost calm. Seems a normal morning in the Picton Castle, it is not. Today is the last day of an amazing voyage. Last minute bunk cleanings, savouring so much around us. This ship sails into her last port of this voyage with a great crew and an as excellent a gang of deep-sea square rig sailors that have ever hauled a brace.

Hands to the windlass – there is a hawser hauling the Picton Castle towards Lunenburg.

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