Captain's Log

Archive for May, 2010

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Gale Finis

Gale Finis

0700 34-58N / 061-04W – winds NWLY at force 4-5, seas 4-6’, Chibley hungry

Captain Daniel D. Moreland

Morning came in with clouds breaking up and the day making up fair and handsome. Last night the gale force winds veered into a more NWly slant and laid down nicely along with the largish seas – with the coming of dawn the 4-8 watch loosed and set all sail up to the t’gallants and down-rigged safety man-ropes and nets. Now the watch is washing down the decks and deck houses, fresh watering things off, getting rid of crusty salt, opening hatches and portholes getting everything aired out.

1100 – yards just off square – all sail set and drawing – sun beating down yet still gently – a picture perfect day at sea, the first of many to come we suspect – blue sky with small white puffy clouds sailing along with us over head. Dark blue seas maybe 4-5 feet high with a smattering of frosty white caps foaming off their tops – a 45’ sloop came over the horizon the starboard bearing a German flag and sailed about as close under our bow as one could dare, then headed off the east – maybe heading for Azores. We were standing by for evasive maneuvering. Just before noon today we were also joined by a lone bat valiantly remaining aloft, I fear its prognosis is not good. And a small black butterfly, 240 miles ENE of Bermuda out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. With sunlight on the hatch this Sunday afternoon crew have taken to reading, napping, oiling boots, taking bucket baths, maybe a few haircuts, trying out being barefoot, getting a little sun. Tomorrow is Norwegian National Day – as we have two Norwegians they will instruct us in its proper observance. It is a great day to be at sea in our barque.

Maggie:

1400 – It’s Donald’s day off, so that means that there are guest chefs in the galley. Breakfast was cranberry muffins, poached eggs, porridge and fruit. Lunch, cooked by Siri, Johanna and Nadja, had a European flair – crepes with cheese, veggies and bacon, and heart-shaped waffles in plain, chocolate, banana and cheese. WT appears to have supper under control, although I’m not yet sure what he’s making. One trainee from each watch is assigned to galley duty each day, so Johanna from 12-4, Tiina from 4-8 and Lorraine from 8-12 are the galley assistants du jour.

It’s amazing how quickly the seas have laid down after the gale. Everyone is taking advantage of the good weather by being on deck, relaxing, reading, fishing (although not catching yet), writing in journals, studying their handbooks and working on small projects. Today was laundry day for a few of the crew, washing their clothes in buckets of salt water on deck with a final rinse in fresh, so the laundry lines above the well deck are full of clean laundry and assorted other clothing drying out after being drenched by seas and spray yesterday.

About an hour ago, a family of sea turtles was spotted off the stern. Yet another sign that we’re heading in the right direction. After crossing the Gulf Stream, the crew are now dressed for warm weather – even a few folks in shorts. The current air temperature is 20 degrees Celsius and the sunshine almost makes me forget that two days ago we were bundled up in long underwear, hats, mittens and scarves. I guess we have earned our way to this tropical voyage.

Dan, Liam and Jan reading and fishing
Rebecca and laundry on the well deck

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In a gale

In a Gale

Captain Daniel D. Moreland

So, we are in a gale. First gale for this Picton Castle crew. We are by and large running with it which serves our course just fine anyway – but it is a gale. Not a very big gale, just over the edge of 35 knots to qualify as a gale, but impressive nonetheless. Nice little gale, crew all excited. Safety grab lines are rigged up, hatch with extra battenings, all things securely lashed. We are under lower topsails, fore-topmast-staysail and main-topmast-staysail. The ship is rolling along fine making 7.5 knots in the right direction – How does she ride? Why, she shames the gulls. It is also very warm now, almost 76F / 25C. Good sized seas, some over 16’ boil along beside us spreading bright white foam across the grey seas. If we were a big 3,000 ton 4-masted barque with a gut full of grain bound for the Horn in the Roaring 40’s (sailing below 40 south latitude) this would just be another fine passage making day, in our case it is as well. A front should pass tonight and then we should get NW winds and clearing – this will continue to send the Picton Castle and her crew along their way to the Caribbean Sea. Supper in the salon – mashed potatoes, corn, ribs and salad, not so bad for a day like today, not so bad on any day…didn’t get that in any old deep laden barque in roaring 40’s…

Alex on lookout with Nadja in a gale
Johanna on helm

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In the Gulf Stream

In the Gulf Stream

Captain Daniel D. Moreland

At 0700 this Friday AM we are at 37-10N / 063-27W we are in the stream, predictably lumpy and uncomfortable but not too bad, seas 10’-14’– winds Wly at @ 20 /25kts – we are making 8 knots steering SEly towards a point east of 32N/60W – low overcast – good for the gang to have some moderate lumps right about now, see what the sea is really about, and makes the trade-winds all the sweeter – all fine aboard – only a couple folks sea-sick, not too bad at all except for them, would expect more to be suffering mal-de-mer, Chibley has expelled her one traditional south-bound up-chuck – ship snug as a bug in a rug, making good time towards better weather. Hot comforting porridge coming out of the galley. Siri calls her wet plastered hair her “Force 7 Hair Style”.

Jon on helm in the Gulf Stream
Sophie, Lorraine, Jo and Paula on watch

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1819 Atlantic Time

38-23N / 64-40W – 1819 Atlantic time

Captain Daniel D. Moreland

Things have been fine so far – conditions fair to moderate, not bad at all. Now the Picton Castle is about 360 miles south of Lunenburg and about 480 miles east of the Delaware Bay and right up to the edge or ‘north wall’ of the Gulf Stream – it really is a river in the ocean – we will be crossing most of it tonight – winds went light and then ahead so we have stowed sail and are pushing under power steering SE – we are expecting some breeze tomorrow and then hopefully a wind shift to the NW which is just what we want – that should carry us close to the tradewinds but probably not before we motor through some calms on the latitude of Bermuda – the ship is well lashed and stowed, crew are getting their sea legs – Chibley is working her charm for small bits of meat. Cabbage, roast potatoes, some fine cut of beef, green salad and walnut ginger cake for supper – lunch was a rich lentil stew and fresh herb bread.

Maggie Ostler reporting…

Weather seems to be the theme of this passage, from discussions in the charthouse of the latest weather forecasts and analysis, to idle chat on the aloha deck where Sophie’s brave transition into sandals was admired by some and shocking to others. The water temperature has risen significantly since we left Lunenburg – it was 6 degrees Celsius then, went up to about 20 degrees last night and has been hovering around 15 degrees this morning. We haven’t crossed the Gulf Stream yet, but that time is coming soon.

As we hope for warmer weather, the crew are getting used to the routine of life aboard. They’re getting to know the characteristics of a good wake-up call, how to walk on deck while the ship is moving, where all the lines are in the dark, how to keep a good lookout, which way to stow their belongings in their bunk so they don’t get klonked by stuff falling off their bunk shelves in the middle of the night, and how to steer our little barque. By necessity the learning curve is pretty steep in the first few days at sea – our gang all seem to be getting it and are working well together. Very pleasing to see.

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3 low passed ahead

By Captain Daniel D. Moreland

May 13, 2010 0510 at 41-36N / 065-13W

Our nasty low passed ahead of us and about 0130 the watch started to get sail back on the Picton Castle – as I tap these keys we have a clear sky filled with stars fading into a sunrise, smooth seas and an easy NW breeze send us along under topgallants. We are steering due south in excellent conditions – I will not be content until we are well below Bermuda. People are learning to steer and getting the hang of sail handling – there is so much else to pick up just to make life onboard harmonious and agreeable – like where to hang you wet clothes (not on the fantail), what to do with your coffee cup (wash it and put it away or hang on to it), how to use a flashlight at night without binding your shipmates (mask with your fingers), of and a thousand things more.

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Blue Skies, Blue Seas

Captain’s Log – Blue Skies, Blue Seas

Thursday May 13, 2010

By Maggie Ostler

Things just feel right this morning. As I sit here in the ship’s office in the charthouse I can see a sliver of sunlight through the office window, the white capped ocean is a rich deep blue-green, the GPS in the charthouse tells me we’re sailing along at about 6 knots and our true course is 180 degrees. I can hear the gentle tap of chipping hammers as the 8-12 watch are overhauling the pelican hook for the starboard anchor, the hum of the generator which runs every morning to make electricity (and charge our batteries so we only have run the generator 6 hours a day) and the lap and swish of water as the Picton Castle’s hull moves through the seas. Just now trainee Joanna is reporting to Chief Mate Michael that she was relieved on the helm and soon trainee Jon, who was on lookout, will be reporting his ship check. Although I can’t see from here, I know that tops’ls and t’gallants, the main topmast stays’l and inner and outer jibs are set. Lorraine and Tammy are sitting on the hatch talking, Bosun WT is in the carpenter’s shop working on a project, Dave is napping on the aloha deck, there are sweet smells of curry coming out of the galley and I haven’t had a cell phone in my pocket for 24 hours. This is the way it should be.

Weather-wise, all is going as expected. Second mate Rebecca checked in with Herb of Southbound II, the North Atlantic weather guru, on the single sideband radio yesterday afternoon. He confirmed our own analysis of weather maps, that we should slow down and let the approaching low pass to the south of us, then wait for the NNW wind to fill in from the back side of it. From about 1700 yesterday to 0300 today, we drifted and waited. The wind started to come up then, and by 0800 we had a good Force 5 wind from the NNW to push us farther south.

The water temperature has risen since we left Lunenburg – it was about 6 degrees Celsius then, and now we’re up to about 10 degrees. It’s still not warm yet, and there’s plenty of speculation about when we’ll cross the Gulf Stream. I’m currently wearing three long-sleeve shirts, a hoodie, long johns, jeans, thick wool socks, foulie boots, a scarf and a toque (that’s a winter hat, for all you non-Canadians) and my foulie jacket is standing by to cut the wind when I go out on deck. Dressing for night watches reminds me of little kids in snowsuits – crew can’t quite put their arms down because they’re wearing so many layers, and between foulie pants and harnesses, one must use the head before dressing and hope not to have to pee again for the next four hours. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, soup and instant oatmeal is being consumed in mass quantities in an effort to be warm on the inside.

Rebecca and the 12-4 watch spotted a whale yesterday afternoon that breached four times. Before supper, a pod of dolphins, which we later determined were Atlantic whitesided dolphins, swam past the ship to check out the stern, but didn’t stick around long enough to play (or long enough for me to get my camera). We’ve put the cetacean identification book in the chart house, and hopefully we’ll have lots of occasions to have to refer to it. It’s good to be at sea again.

Joani overhauls a turnbuckle
Shawn on helm with Jo
Under sail Thursday morning

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42-42/65-03

42-42 / 65-03 May 12, 2010

By Captain Daniel D. Moreland

Just before dawn the sky was light in the NE with a tiny fingernail moon against a clear starry sky tugging the sun up to the horizon – breeze making up from the NW so looks like we will shut down the ME and get some sail on her, seas small. Sailed all day we did and took in sail again when it got very light – good drill for the gang anyway – now, all our weather information encourages us to slow down and let this low pass below us – then we can take advantage the fresh northerly and NWly winds on its trailing side – seas are smooth just now – this can change – this will change – change is the constant. So we have stopped and we will wait – Lunch was cream of mushroom soup and tuna melt sandwiches on home-made bread – dinner remains to be seen – just checked – dinner is roast pork, roast potatoes, broccoli, green salad and chocolate cake – not too bad – water temperature has gone up about 5 degrees C since early morning. This is good.

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Sailing From The ‘Burg

Captain’s Log – Sailing from the ‘Burg

1640 May 11, 2010 – 20 miles due south of Lunenburg, bound for Panama

By Captain Daniel Moreland

We have taken all sail in and fired up the main engine. That big old Danish diesel is pushing us along at 6.5 knots just now. We are steering SW in smooth seas and a light westerly breeze. Steering for just east of Georges Banks to sneak around a rapidly moving low pressure system headed this way. It can be useful to ride down the back side of one of those…Light overcast skies and cool temps this evening have all hands pretty bundled up in jackets, scarves and mittens – in mid May – it really isn’t all that cold but at sea it usually feels cooler than it is.

Our new Picton Castle gang arrived in Lunenburg about a month ago to begin their process of becoming deepwater square-rig mariners. Their first surprise was to find that their ship going up on the slipways as they arrived. Well, it wasn’t a complete surprise, we had let them know that our dry-docking had been delayed a few weeks. The ship would be up a week for bottom cleaning, inspections, bottom painting and sundry other things that need to be done in dry-dock from time to time. The gang settled down in bunks on two fine former Lunenburg fishing vessels – both scruffy and worn from years at sea on the outside but comfy on the inside. At the end of that week the Picton Castle came happily down with fresh bottom paint, back to our berth at Adams & Knickle which had been graciously hosting us for the winter.

For the next three weeks, under the direction of Chief Mate Michael, the crew cleaned the ship, stowed the ship, sent topmasts aloft, crossed yards, sent up gaffs and booms, sent up some 300 blocks, rove off new manila running rigging, bent sail, overhauled the four ships boats, packed books for distribution to schools in the South Pacific and Africa, set up their bunks as new homes, learned about washing dishes for 50, lashing things, learned all sorts of new terms, trained and drilled for emergencies such as fire-fighting, man-over-board, abandon ship, damage control, heavy weather set-up with stretch-lines, nets – They have also heard a lot about how to prevent and avoid any such emergencies…and they have been bracing the yards, setting and taking in sails, again and again. They have also been exercising in our wonderful 23’ double-ended pulling boat known as the Monomoy, and generally getting familiar with our various small boats. Small boats are an excellent and complimentary seamanship training component for a ship like ours, and small boats are fun too.

A couple days before our intended date of departure it was time for official drills and inspections. Both our flag state surveyor and an inspector from Transport Canada spent much of a day going through the ship, checking her out in fine detail, studying her documents, safety equipment & installations, and putting the crew through their safety drills to asses the ships (and the crews) sea preparedness. As expected, the gang did well and the ship did so as well. With ship and crew ready for sea, stowed, all new certificates, heaps of orientation under our belts we had gales predicted for the weekend, so we put off sailing until Monday. With a nice crowd of friends and well-wishers led by his esteemed worship Mayor Laurence Mawhinney sent us on our way with a blessing. With the ship bow in we backed around into the channel against a stern spring, Logan pushed the bow around with our 20’ Cape Islander, we set lower topsails and slipped out into the harbour with many loud fishing vessels horns ablowing – After testing the radars every day for a week they blinked off. After trying this and that in conference with our tech help, well just about at the Ovens and Cross Island, I just turned the Picton Castle around and we came to anchor to get this sorted – this was done by our very capable radar genius but it was late so another night in Lunenburg but at anchor. The next morning with Nadja at the wheel, the gang loosed all sail and in cool and light NWly breezes heaved the starboard anchor up and sailed their barque off the hook under full sail and out the main channel of beautiful Lunenburg Harbour, past Battery Point, Long Shoal, Sculpin Shoal and then past Cross Island and out into the Atlantic ocean bound for Panama. Scallop Fisherman Tenacity 1 was steaming inbound as we made our way to sea, much waving back and forth as these ships passed.

The 4-8 watch just braced the yards around to the starboard tack. The watch officer is listening to everyone’s favorite single sideband weather routing prognosticator, Herb of “South Bound II”. Donald is in his galley conjuring up a fine, big belly filling supper – just checked – curly pasta and marinara sauce, a kind of spicy burger steak, salad and fresh bread sticks. Hands on watch are resetting some staysails and studying their lines. Chibley the cat is making her rounds. Sun is breaking through the low clouds off to the west.

Battery Point under the mains l
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bracingtheyards
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leaving
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Nadja on helm leaving Lunenburg take two
prayer
rowing
rsz three cheers for lunenburg
Sailing off the hook in Lunenburg harbour
upandovers

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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.

backagain
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bracing
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Julie, Jo, Kate Lauren and Jan on the main braces and Nadja on the helm
leavingsails
leavingthefirsttime
nadjasteerspastbatterypoint
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Robert up and over~0
rowing~0
The crew up and overs~0
the crowd on the dock in Lunenburg
thepushboat

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