Friday, August 21st, 2009
Picton Castle sailed off the hook from our roadstead anchorage at Iles de la Madeleine on Tuesday morning, meaning that we got underway under sail alone, without the use of the engine. We sailed away from the archipelago in light wind, turning and bracing the yards as the wind varied, and carried on under sail through the night.
The ship receives weather forecasts in a few different ways. One is on the weather fax, which prints out large ocean NOAA weather charts. We also get text-only forecasts through our NavTex and by satellite email through Inmarsat-C. Our office ashore can also send the ship weather information by email. This is all in addition to VHF radio weather reports and forecasts
We first saw Hurricane Bill, which was then Tropical Storm Bill east of the Caribbean, on the weather fax while we were in Iles de la Madeleine and have been tracking that bad boy since. It seems to be fairly big and strong and fast, so we’ve been monitoring it closely. As Bill has developed, we have been looking at options for safe harbours on the south shore of Newfoundland so we can tie the ship up and wait for the weather to pass. Hurricanes can be tricky to predict with any real accuracy in the long-term (as can any weather), so while there are all kinds of forecasts, the truth is that nobody knows exactly which way Bill will go and how strong it will be when it gets there. But it looks strong and like it is coming close. Wherever it goes, we can be fairly sure that we’ll feel some effects in strong winds and big seas. In order to keep the ship and the crew safe, we altered course from ports further east on the south coast of Newfoundland to head towards Burgeo, a well-protected harbour with a solid dock we can tie up to. We’re not expecting the effects of Bill here until Sunday or Monday, but by heading here sooner, we can be sure that there’s a safe place to put the ship and time to get the ship well secured and prepared for this sort of destructive weather.
We took in all sail and started motoring Wednesday afternoon and through the night when the wind went light and visibility was poor because of drizzle and fog. We came to the approaches to Burgeo early Thursday morning, then headed in and anchored at Burgeo Port. We launched the skiff and Paul, Alex and Nadja went ashore to seek some local knowledge and take some soundings at the dock. The docks at the centre of town are either too shallow or are used frequently by the ferry, so we motored around to the back of town where there’s an abandoned fish plant with a good solid dock that we tied up to. The dock is at the end of an inlet called Short Reach, the whole area is well protected and will be a good place to ride out Hurricane Bill. Over the next few days we’ll make preparations by adding heavy duty chafe gear to all our dock lines and add a few more lines, we’ll put extra gaskets on the sails to keep them firmly stowed and check everything on deck to make sure it’s lashed down securely.
In the meantime, today is sunny and warm (I was not anticipating wearing shorts in Newfoundland, but I am) and a bunch of the crew are off on an expedition in the skiff to explore some of the small islands that surround us here. MR BONES has been launched and the rig and sails are just being set up, so some of the crew will have her sailing after lunch. We have been welcomed extremely warmly by the people of Burgeo who seem to be as excited to see the ship as we are to see them.