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Getting Underway

May 11, 2010

By Maggie Ostler

Picton Castle sailed off the hook from Lunenburg harbour this morning. This might not be such an unusual statement to make partway through a voyage, but to do it at the beginning is quite a feat. To sail off the hook means to hoist up the anchor and get underway under sail alone, without the help of the main engine. It requires good communication and snappy sail handling. There were a few little bumpy moments, but for the most part the crew did quite well. It’s one thing to practice sail setting at the dock, it’s another thing entirely to do it underway and in real time. As the crew become more skilled, this will become an easier process and less confusing for everyone. But this morning under blue and cloudy skies with a light NW breeze this new gang did a fine sailor-like job of sailing their barque away from the anchor.

The past four weeks have been a whirlwind of activity in Lunenburg. Our first official day of the voyage was Monday April 12, which also coincided with the day the ship went into dry dock. For the first week the trainees were with us, they lived aboard two other vessels on the Lunenburg waterfront and were involved, hands-on, in the maintenance of the ship. With a new coat of bottom paint, the ship made her way back into the water that Friday and all hands were able to move aboard.

While there’s a certain amount of physical work to be done before the ship can sail, we also did piles of training. All the crew spent an afternoon at the local pool with an instructor from the fisheries school to learn about and practice with PFDs, immersion suits and life rafts. The Lunenburg fire department led our crew in emergency first aid training, fire-fighting equipment training and practice with fire extinguishers. All interested hands did their first up and over training, a supervised climb for their first time aloft, and laid out on the yards (going aloft is optional), which was later practiced as we bent on sail. We held extensive orientation in all manner of safety procedures, including full drills for fire, man overboard, abandon ship and heavy weather. Most of the trainees are well on their way to learning their lines and names for parts of the ship, and everyone has had at least a couple of turns learning galley duty.

Of course, no amount of practice on land can completely take the place of actually going to sea. We finally got that chance, after a week’s delay due to the postponement of our dry dock dates and a two day delay while waiting for a nice weather window. There was a surprisingly large crowd on the dock for 9am on a Monday, and we were pleased that so many people came out to see us off. After a blessing from Lunenburg mayor Laurence Mawhinney and heartfelt goodbyes to all of our friends, the Captain put the engine in reverse to back away from the dock at Adams & Knickle scallop fishing company, where the Picton Castle has been tied up since last August, and into the channel. Once the ship was turned around on a spring line, the crew set lower tops’ls and we motor-sailed out past Battery Point.

All of Lunenburg was quite surprised when, not long after, the ship could be seen in the harbour again, sitting at anchor. We had a technical problem with our radar systems and made the decision to come back in and get it fixed properly. The repair job took until the evening, so we made the decision to wait until the next morning and head out in daylight. We woke up to a slightly sunnier morning than yesterday, with a light breeze from NNW at Force 2 on the Beautfort scale. After breakfast sails were loosed and ready to set. When the order was given, the 8-12 watch heaved up the anchor while the other two watches set sails. We sailed out of Lunenburg harbour, past Battery point again, and are just now at Cross Island, at the mouth of Lunenburg Bay, where we turn south toward the Gulf Stream, warmer weather and the adventures that await us on this voyage around the world.

Julie, Jo, Kate Lauren and Jan on the main braces and Nadja on the helm
Robert up and over~0
The crew up and overs~0
the crowd on the dock in Lunenburg

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