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Sailing Off The Dock

Wednesday June 2, 2010

As forecast, we had fresh easterly winds this morning, classic trade-winds, perfect for sailing the Picton Castle off the dock. As the Captain and I made our rounds of Customs and Immigration to get our outward clearance, the rest of the crew prepared to get underway. Sails up to t’gallants were loosed, yards were braced up on a starboard tack, chafe gear was taken off the dock lines. Harbourmaster and senior pilot Rob Sint Jago said that we didn’t require a pilot aboard to leave, so when we were ready, we set sails, starting with lower tops’ls and the main topmast stays’l, cast off dock lines and sailed off the dock. There were a number of small boats that followed us as we set more sail and went through the deep passage between the town of Kralendijk and the little island of Klein Bonaire just off the town. As soon as we got the ship under way under sail, of course we had to retrieve our guys off the wharf who cast off the lines and get the boat hoisted, pronto. And on we sailed, good fun.

We sailed all the way up the coast of Bonaire, past the giant fuel depot where medium tankers bring oil from Venezuela and off-load it into giant tanks ashore, in order for super-tankers to come alongside and be filled up to take the oil onward, and past the northern tip of the island. Once out of the lee of the island, the wind picked up to a steady Force 5 to 6 and we’ve been flying along at 7 and even 8 and a half knots. This afternoon, we could see the island of Curacao in the distance and the shadowy outlines of its high mountains.

Once again the crew are shifting from land-mode to sea-mode, becoming sailors all over again. This requires a mental shift, turning on our brains to be acutely aware of what’s going on around us and reacting quickly to any changes. These short port visits don’t let us get too rusty, but it does require full effort and concentration to set all sail as we get off the dock.

Hoisting the skiff in Bonaire
sailing past Kralendijk

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