Monday, July 19th, 2010
On a long ocean passage in the tradewinds in the Picton Castle, or any other deep sea sailing ship, life falls easily into a gentle routine. It feels like we left Galapagos ages ago, but then I think back to something that happened last week and it seems like yesterday. Being at sea causes a strange perception of time for me. In some ways, every day is much the same as the one before – wake up, eat a meal, stand watch, steer, lookout, eat again, have a nap or read a book or work on a project, eat again, stand watch, sleep. Look over the horizon, watch the sunset, feel the seas rolling beneath us. Repeat the next day and the day after and the day after that.
Then there are details of each day that distinguish it from the others – some details are environmental and some are of our own making. Sometimes there are squalls of varying intensity to make us look lively. Sometimes what stands out is a good conversation over a cup of tea after supper. Last Sunday was Julie’s birthday, it was also a partial solar eclipse. On Wednesday the sunlight shone just right to take beautiful photos of the ship under full sail. Thursday was filled with marine life – lots of flying fish scooting across the waves in whole schools, two sightings of a whale close to the ship and then, having caught absolutely zero fish since the day we left Panama, all three fishing lines hooked giant wahoo at the same time (110 pounds of fish in total!). Sometime Wednesday night, we passed the halfway point
on this almost 3,000 mile passage to Pitcairn Island. Steering southwest day after day the ship has been under sail alone since our first day out of Galapagos and we’ve hardly touched the braces of the square sails since then. The mates have conducted celestial navigation workshops to get those interested started on this arcane, challenging but delightful craft. There is no better chance to develop this skill than on a passage like this one. Now it is up to each crew member to get up on the quarterdeck, sextant in hand, at noon for the meridian passage of the sun to practice taking sights to determine latitude. You have to get up earlier for sun sights to get lines of position and of course there are also morning and evening star sights at dawn and dusk.
Sitting on his old sailmakers bench on the cargo hatch, the Captain led a 4-part workshop on sailmaking techniques through the making of canvas ditty bags (old fashioned sailor bags looking like canvas buckets, used to hold tools), leaving the crew to finish up their homework and complete their bags. The sailmaker daymen have patched the fore royal and the riggers bent it on the fore royal yard (time for
making a new one the Captain says), the carpenters are working on spars for a sailing rig and a new self stowing rudder for the long boat.
The quiet routine of life at sea will continue for another week or 10 days or so until we reach Pitcairn. Then it will be like the circus came to town!!!