Monday, November 29th, 2010
Light winds has been the lot of the Barque Picton Castle of late. We have been motoring along here in the Timor Sea off the north side of Australia for seven days now, ever since Cape York, the top corner, hot too, 39c hot, that’s 100F. I cannot believe that we have been motoring almost every inch from the top of Oz, with no end in sight. Might end up steaming the whole way to Bali from Cape York, a distance of 1,600 nautical miles. Longest patch of motoring in recent memories. There has been no-zero-zip-nada wind , perfectly fair weather just no winds or occasionally light headwinds. These, at least, cool us off some. I am glad this ship can carry 19 tons of fuel in her tanks; glad that our old B&W Alpha main engine is not so thirsty. Glad we were very thrifty with fuel on the 1,500 miles from Vanuatu to Cape York – if it seemed we could even make 3 knots under canvas, we sailed on that passage. One of the problems with motoring so much in something we call a sailing ship is psychological; when we are under sail all hands feel useful and necessary to the functioning of the ship. This is a good healthy feeling all around. After motoring four days or so, this sense of being needed by the ship starts to erode some. And this feeling is apart from the noise and that sailing is just nicer anyway and so on. Our gang is doing surprisingly well with all this motoring and the heat – and it is wery, wery hot. Not as bad as a few days ago though. The good news is that we are making good time by motoring.
The Mates are doing a tremendous job with chartwork / piloting workshops in the afternoons and all hands are getting into it, it seems. Every afternoon all hands have been pouring over charts, with triangles and dividers. We held a discussion on “Remembrance Day” (elsewhere, aka Veterans Day, Armistice Day); its origins, what it means in general, what it means in Canadian history in particular (with respect to conscription – and lack of it – formation of Canadian units instead of filling in UK units, Dieppe, D-Day and Picton Castle’s role in WWII etc), was very well received by the gang. I encourage them to see “Das Boot” and “The Cruel Sea” as a double feature together. Both movies of unrestricted submarine warfare in the Second World War; one film from below the waves and one from the surface. “Das Boot” being one of the best sea movies ever made. Picton Castle had been conscripted into the Royal Navy about a monthe before the invasion of Poland and had been converted to a mine sweeper for the duration and a bit longer. She swept for mines all along the Engish Channel and North Sea we think and performed some convoy escort work as well. The story is told that she got blown clear out of the water by a mine one time. Didn’t seem to hurt her. She had been part of the raid on St Nazaire, France to take out the biggest drydock on the Atlantic coast (the only one that could service the big German battle ships) and after hostilities she swept for mines for some time before being returned to her owners in December 1945. The war may have been over and hostilities may have ceased but there were mines everywhere. They still pop up from time to time around the North Sea.
Power showers (fire hose in the rigging pointed down) every day to cool off. Cook Donald has been working like a devil in the galley, sweating buckets. We both agree, as the two travelled and lifetime tropical mariners aboard, that we neither of us have been this hot for this long. But in spite of the heat all hands are getting along just fine (did Bligh write that in his journal the day before the mutiny? Just wondering…) Will give an orientation talk on Bali soon. Sailmaking going great. Many new sails under way. Christian’s turtles are doing fine. In the carpentry department we have new planks for the tops from a lovely Fijian wood. Engine room is clean and well painted. Everything else under the Chief Mate going superb. As do the whole gang, I look forward to Bali and then getting going across the Indian Ocean under sail for a proper trade-wind passage at sea.