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Captain’s Log – Blustery

Saturday May 22, 2010

The Captain held a muster on the quarterdeck before supper yesterday to talk about our North Atlantic passage, south to the West Indies and Caribbean Sea from Nova Scotia. Using a white board, he illustrated our track so far, all has gone according to the passage plan we talked about in Lunenburg. The Picton Castle sailed a big S-curve out of Lunenburg that had us heading to the south west upon leaving Nova Scotia, then south, and south east crossing the Gulf Stream, then coming more east around Bermuda before heading due south again and south west as we aim for the Anegada Passage into the Caribbean Sea. While we’re about 1600nm from Lunenburg on a straight course, we’ve actually sailed about 1800nm or maybe more, given the curve of our route. Probably close to 2,000 miles by the time we are in the Caribbean Sea. Why sail such a curvy route if it’s going to add more distance? Well, the route we’ve taken has allowed us to take most advantage of the prevailing wind and weather conditions, allowing us in a sailing ship to make the most of them. Schooners and trading barks have been taking routes like this from New England and Nova Scotia bound for the Caribbean for hundreds of years.

We’re in fresh trade winds now, the consistent tropical winds that will carry us most of the way around the world. The trades are not as consistent in our current location as they usually are, given a low pressure system over the Bahamas that is having an effect and stirring up gales over there. As a result, we’re experiencing some bouncier swell, a partly overcast sky, occasional squalls and winds well south of east. The watches are getting practice with snappy sail handling, taking in outer jib, spanker, royals and sometimes t’gallants as squalls approach, and helmsmen are learning to fall off quickly in wind shifts.

From the Anegada Passage, our chosen route between the islands of the Lesser Antilles to the Caribbean Sea, where we’ll have the Virgin Islands on our starboard side and Anguilla and St. Martin on our port side, the passage to Panama will be another 1000nm. By that point, we hope to be in more conventional easterly trade winds, beyond the effects of the pesky low hovering off the Bahamas.

While sailing into the Caribbean Sea will mark a milestone, yesterday marked another milestone – our official entry into the tropics! We passed below 23 and a half degrees north, and we’ll stay in the tropics until we leave the Indian Ocean, sailing south around the Cape of Good Hope. It certainly feels tropical – crew are in t-shirts and shorts, and there’s lots of speculation about when the wind and swell might moderate enough for us to have our first swim call.

Captain shows our route
Siri singing in the rain on helm

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