Captain's Log

Archive for November, 2010

| More

Passage From Cape York

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.

fortune telling and power shower at the bizzare bazaar
Shooting the sun
Siri, Joani and Tiina at a chart workshop

View the the rest of this Album

| More

New Film Featuring Picton Castle!

Last August, while Picton Castle was anchored at Summerside, Prince Edward Island, we were approached by film maker Susan Rodgers who asked if she could make a short film about the ship and about people following their dreams. We quickly agreed. I’ll admit I haven’t thought much about the film again, until I saw the results yesterday online. It’s fantastic (although I don’t think I’ll be leaving my job as Voyage Coordinator any time soon in favour of life on screen in Hollywood)! Many thanks to Susan, who directed, filmed, edited and produced the film, for allowing us to share it with you all.

Picton Castle, Summerside 2009

| More

Movember Brovember

By Michael “Fred” Weiss

We bros of the forepeak on board the Picton Castle, aka “brocave”, have been known to come up with some unique ideas. Actually that’s not true. In reality we’re just a bunch of dirty, stinky, sweaty, hard-working kinda guys trying to keep things simple. Well, we did hang up mini disco balls in the forepeak. That’s unique, right? Anyway, while sailing from island to island in Vanuatu, something was brought to our attention. An idea that actually made sense.

Shawn was the one who first brought it up. You see, Robert H. (an HB, or Honorary Bro) and I had already shaved mustaches since Fiji. Mine was shaved in response to a Head Herald (our toilet newspaper) poll survey on what I should do with my massive beard. Robert’s motives remain unknown, but it can’t be denied that he looked super sharp with the ‘stache. Getting back to the idea, Shawn said, “Have you guys ever heard of Movember?” Some replied yes, others no. So it was explained to us that a popular fundraiser for prostate cancer charity is for men to receive pledges for growing out their mustaches in the month of November. Well, we couldn’t really go out fundraising, since we’re on a ship, but we could definitely just grow mustaches, right? Right! All bros agreed that it’s about time we sported the upper lip hair, and that we should get as many men aboard to do so as well.

Public (and by public I mean Picton Castle public) reaction to this monumental decision was heavily divided. “You’ll all look terrible!” cried a Batcaver. “This is the best idea ever, count me in!” exclaimed a ‘tween-decks man. “How will I be able to take any of you seriously?” asked the third mate. The controversy continued as the days ticked away towards November. The bros were unanimous, however, and with the exception of our youngest forepeak resident (who lacks the required facial hair growing capabilities to participate properly), and we anxiously awaited the first of November.

Halloween this year fell on a Sunday, and so we got impatient and took advantage of our work-free day to buzz off our beards while the generator was running in the morning and get a nice, clean shave. The results were impressive, to say the least. One by one, the boys of Picton Castle became men, and not just men, but men with awesome mustaches. Several styles were fashioned onto the faces of the participants, but all were mustaches, and all were incredible. Sure, the haters still hated. But some opinions became more favorable over time, and why shouldn’t they have? We looked great. Even the Captain painted on a mustache for the day.

Two weeks later, on Sunday the fourteenth of November, the ship hosted a “Bizarre Bazaar,” with homemade booths and activities that varied greatly in range. The event was such a great success, it deserves an article of its own. But one of the highlights of the day was the “Mustache Competition,” hosted by our very own Bronwen. All the mustachios were called up one by one to show off their hard work, style, and inherent gifts of facial hair. In the end, the winner was declared by audience applause, and it was none other than the Bosun, WT! A well-deserved victory by one serious mustache.

Our arrival in Bali might not be the end of the month, but it will officially conclude Movember. Now we’ll have to wait for Febby-hairy and NHL playoffs for another sanctioned excuse to grow out our facial hair. I will finish with a list of all who participated at one point or another in mustache growing:

Brad Woodworth, Niko Griffes, Mike “Fred” Weiss, Davey Laing (painted), Dave Farrall, David Brown, Shawn Anderson, Dan Rutherford, Mike “Mitch” Mitchell, Clark Munro, Jan Caselli, Robert Murphy, Liam Tayler, Robert Hoffman, Logan Livingston, Paul “Jet” Bracken, The Captain (painted).

*Thank you to Adrienne for the use of her photos.

Liam poses to show off his mustache
shaving the beard to leave behind the mustache
WT s giant mustache

View the the rest of this Album

| More

Torres Strait

The temperature in the Coral Sea continued to escalate. The sun bit down ferociously and we responded in turn by smothering our skins with sunscreen and wearing progressively bigger straw-brimmed hats. Captain is always telling us to wear shirts. Squalls frequently moved in on the ship with little forewarning – and provided a strange kind of relief from the humidity. During one particularly stubborn squall I stood with Josh on the bridge where he was on lookout. It was noon and the horizon was the dark grey colour of a stormy dusk, the lightening cracked and the thunder growled just above our heads, the waves crashed excitedly against one another and the hull of the ship. The majority of the rain had passed at this point – through the wind still howled in the sails – and as Josh handed me the lookout he commented that although sailing through squally weather was none-so-bad on a tall ship like ours, it was doubtlessly a little uncomfortable on a smaller craft.

Indeed it was hard not to think about one small boat in particular, as we had practically followed her voyage since Fiji. Captain Bligh and 19 crew had sailed these waters on a 23-foot launch after the mutiny on the Bounty condemned them to the ships launch. They quite miraculously made it the 3,700 miles from the Friendly Islands (off Tofua, Tonga) to Kupang, West Timor. We would soon enter “Bligh’s Entrance” to Torres Strait. The Torres Strait is one of the greatest thoroughfares in the world, yet unlike the Panama Canal it is not human-made. It separates the Coral Sea from the Arafura Sea and the South Pacific from the Indian Ocean. It’s natural tidal currents and streams move along at 6 knots and can greatly aid transit – if the timing and the conditions are right.

When the sun rose on the 4-8 watch on the morning of November 10th we could see the mountains of Australian-owned islands on the horizon. The cloudy day did not mar their magnitude nor the reality that our proximity to Oz meant that we would soon be passing over large sections of the Great Barrier Reef. We were indeed close enough to be buzzed several times by low-flying Australian helicopters and Coast Guard ships out patrolling the borders of their national sovereignty. The Captain and Mate Mike held a class on Torres Strait -urging vigilance and spatial awareness. The Torres Strait is frequently used by ships and boats of all shapes and sizes, but it is not without its dangers. In fact ships over a certain tonnage are required to take on a pilot to guide them through the trickier sections and access to other areas forbidden to most cruisers. Some of the waters in and around the Torres Strait remain uncharted to this day and those that are charted are marred with sand dunes, reefs, islands, shallow waters, shifting currents and tidal streams, with buoys and shipwrecks, strategically placed warnings. While tides are diurnal on both sides of the Strait the tidal streams can be either diurnal or semi-diurnal and high water and low water occur at differing times on either side – causing water to flow through the channel at a speedy rate in the direction of the low water. Add to these factors a strong current and depth affecting sand-waves and you have an interesting channel passage.

The conditions looked perfect for us and the tidal currents appeared to be on our side. Our goal was to get through Prince of Wales channel by sundown. Alas this was not meant to be, we were just an hour or two too late to make the tides before they shifted. And night was coming on. Rather than fighting an uphill battle at night through the narrow channel, the Captain anchored us for the night in the lee of an island – and wait for the tides to shift as well as bright daylight. We would get underway at first light in the morning some distance from the channel. As we made our way to our bunks for the night the wind picked up and the rocking waves created the illusion that we were still sailing along. The new moon hung heavy and orange just above the horizon and the lights from buoys and distant ships speckled the entrance to the channel.

At 4:45 am we all stood by the windlass – blinking as our eyes adjusted to the dark and yawning in unison. Our sleepy silence was shattered when Mate Mike called “heave away!” Perhaps not the gentlest way to wake up in the morning – it sure beats the effectiveness of the cold shower and the hot cup of coffee. “Down to starboard!” The sweat was prominent on our brows. We grunted with effort, our lethargic muscles tensing and relaxing with each movement. Up and down, up and down, up and down – until the bell rang, signaling that the anchor was off the bottom. We let go and stepped back, panting. The 4-8 watch took the deck as we began our motor-transit of Prince of Wales channel, but most of the rest of us remained on deck long after we were allowed to go back to bed. The sunrise was spectacular and we all sat on the foc’sle head watching its colours spread and evolve.

We were not alone on the channel during our transit. At one point a tug lay behind us and a tanker flanked us on the left. Another tanker off our starboard bow was escorted by a pilot or the Australian Coast Guard as it changed its heading and retreated into the distance. I wonder where their journey’s are taking them? By noon we were through Prince of Wales channel and officially in the Arafura Sea and the Indian Ocean.

I am afraid to report that it is just as hot in the Indian Ocean as it was in the South Pacific…maybe hotter.

Watch muster -Prince of Wales Channel
Watching the sunrise
Watching the sunrise in Torres Strait

View the the rest of this Album

| More

Cafe Chibley

We learn a great many skills on the Picton Castle. Some we expect to learn and others, perhaps not. We learn how to set sail, take in sail, furl sail, unfurl sail, brace the yards, wear ship and tack. We learn how to box the compass, how to be a good helmsmen and how to stand a good lookout. We study knots and lines and maritime vocabulary. We gain knowledge on navigation and chartwork. We learn how to lash and stow, paint and sew. Some learn to wire splice or run the generators. We learn to walk on deck quietly. We learn that just becasue we are awake, this does not mean all others should be awake at the same time, so keep it down – this is a hard one to learn… Accordingly we also learn how to listen to and care for our shipmates in many different ways.

Perhaps one of the many skills people do not expect to learn when they join the Picton Castle is cooking. And yet learn they do. They not only learn how to cook in general, but they learn how to cook for 50 + people, in rolling seas, rain or shine. Every Sunday Donald gets a well-deserved day off and three of the crew cook all day in his stead. Captain says that if you can’t figure out how to cook or clean a head, maybe you shouldn’t eat. From all accounts the beginning of the voyage proved to be a huge learning curve. How many of us have actually cooked three consecutive meals for 10 people, let alone 50? How many have to take into account rationing? While the hold may look full, the provisions have to last until the next port of call and sometimes longer. It is a huge life skill and to some it has become more than that. It has become a challenge – and it seems that the crew constantly compete to see who can make the best meals and therefore win the prize for the best Sunday Galley Day. There is no physical prize mind you, but most work hard for the smiles, thank yous and the admiration (and perhaps jovial envy) from their fellow shipmates. And we have all reaped the benefits of this healthy competition. Thanks to all!

This Sunday Brad, Clark and Niko took the competition to the next level. Brad posted a sign on the scuttle door on Saturday night -announcing that Cafe Chibley would be open from 7:30 am until 10:30 am Sunday morning. None of us quite new what to expect, but there was a current of anticipation among the crew.

As an aside – Sundays are reserved as a day of rest and relaxation on the Picton Castle. Naturally all of the watches still stand their regular hours. Sails still get set. Yards still get braced. We still stand look-out and obviously someone is always at the helm – but ships work we do not do, unless a repair of something is called for; “the ship comes first” is always our motto. The daymen have the day off from thier tasks, although they are on standby for sail-handling, and the rest of us are free to work on our individual projects – as long as we are on deck and ready to drop everything when the need arises. So, a more leisurely breakfast after we have mustered is possible. And that is exactly what we got -and more.

Waking up in the morning we stretched our way out of our bunks and made our way onto deck. The smell of ‘Clark’s world famous coffee’ drifted through the air and naturally we drifted toward it. After drinking a cup we all made our way to the port side of the galley where Brad greeted us, spatula in hand, and pointed to the menu. The menu! Some didn’t know what to do. “I’ll have an egg.” They said. “How do you like your eggs?” came Brad’s reply as he flipped his world famous hash browns on the stove. Now he had us stumped again. “Ummm… sunny side up?” “How runny do you like your sunny?” And so on. We had a choice of eggs, hash-browns, corned beef hash, and banana waffles, “With or without chocolate chips?” Clark enquired cheerfully as he pressed the batter in our heart-shaped waffle maker. Some opted to order the entire menu and thus the ‘boys’ were kept busy until mid-morning with breakfast and then immediately launched into lunch preparations.

Niko had some help in the scullery as he washed the steady stream of dishes. Almost everybody popped in to wash a plate or two, but Sophie stuck around throughout the day. She told me that Sundays were the only day when she could chose the galley music and consequently calming and sophisticated classical music filled the aloha deck from morning till night.

A bit of a chilly day it was – the weather having turned rather squally over the past 24 hours – and so they decided that tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches were in order. And for dinner they made homemade schnitzels with beans and cauliflower. Yum. We shall see what next week’s crew create, but we all had to admit that this galley team will be hard to beat. But what fun it will be to try!

Clark and Brad work Chibley Cafe
Clark in the galley
The menu

View the the rest of this Album

| More

Back to Sea Once More

We sailed out of Luganville Harbour in Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu on October 28th bound for Bali, Indonesia. Sailing between Cape York, Australia and Papua New Guinea through the Torres Strait it should take us approximately 3-4 weeks to find our way to that storied isle. Everybody was excited to be on our way, but it is still a bit of an adjustment to get back into the rhythm of the ship at sea after an extensive stint on land. And it was hot – desperately hot. So hot that you could taste the humidity, see the heat waves that permeated the air and hear the sweat dripping from your brow. It is still hot, Vanuatu hot, Coral Sea hot…

With new watches assigned we fell back into the everyday routine – albeit a bit clumsily at first. Conducting safety drills helps, not only do drills help us stay up on our game with important emergency procedures but carrying out drills snaps our minds back to the sea and being seafarers again. The wind was spotty and inconsistent for the first couple of days, which made for very interesting 4-hour watches as we set, took in, and set every sail we had, braced to a port tack and then squared the yards and occasionally started up the engine for a few hours to gain some ground. We all knew ahead of time that this might be a hard passage for sailing. The Torres Strait is infamous for it’s currents – and its temperature – also for the fact it is under an ozone hole which makes the sunburn more nasty. Yes, it could get hotter before we reach Bali. No two ‘tacks’ about it. Then it should cool off some.

The Captain, foreseeing a need before it arose, directed that all bunks be evacuated, overhauled, aired out, scrubbed and dried. Things can get pretty moldy in these tropics, so, it was a good thing to do. Just airing your sheets and pillows in the sun cooks some freshness back into them. Regular ships work was put aside for the day as we hauled out our mattresses, pillows and sheets, bleached them out and left them hanging in the sun. The sun beat furiously down on our wooden decks and there seemed no escape, burnt tootsies were inevitable. Yet there was a temporary escape. While motoring along it was impossible to set up a rope and swing off the foreyard – we could, however, have a POWER SHOWER! Rigging the starboard hose in the rigging, its powerful blast not only served to cool us down but served to cool the decks as well. With shampoo bottles and loofas in hand we all got our turn under the ‘hosefall’. Dripping and relieved we were then able to go on and tackle the projects at hand.

We not only changed watches when we left Vanuatu, we also changed out the daymen. Daymen, of course, being crew removed from watches to take a specialty work during the day. They get to sleep all night. WT remains the bosun, naturally, and Sophie still his bosun’s mate, leading the crew in various ships projects, including rust busting and sanding, priming and painting the port and starboard bulwarks; bleaching the garbage; cleaning the windlass dual wheels and overhauling the capstan.

Shawn took David B’s place in the engine room and had quite the introduction as we started and shut-off the engine several times throughout the day and night.

Riggers Logan and Siri took David B and Alex as their newest apprentices – introducing them to the intricate ways of the world as seen from aloft. Their first project was to send down the mainsail and the foresail, replace the foresail with the mainsail and give the foresail to the sailmakers to work on. They have also been extremely busy overhauling the stay and fish tackles and storing them in the sole, tarring and stretching new ratline stock and replacing those that seem due.

The wind shifted shortly after the mainsail was sent downand so an old very patched mainsail was hauled out of the sole and bent onto the yard. Joani and Paulina still remain on as daymen sailmakers, but now they have the dual power of Liam and Dan to help them through the projects. The biggest one at the moment is obviously getting that mainsail repaired and back on the main yard where it belongs. Their work is predominantly done on the quarterdeck, but with a sun this hot, they would roast without protection. An awning now protects them a little from the persistent reach of the sun, allowing them to do their work. A nice cooling breeze funnels under the quarterdeck awning. Paulina, Nadja and Lorraine also spent time making new curtains for the port breezeway head and the port forward head, as the old ones had gotten quite grubby with time. It happens.

Jan and Robert H are the daymen carpenters and have completed numerous projects in the past couple days alone. Jan joked that he should make some more up if I am going to put this into the log. After that comment I did my fact checking, but it does indeed seem that they built an extension on the veggie lockers – allowing them to moonlight as extra sail-making benches, built a new gaff for the monomoy with new joints and new jaws. Tammy helped with this project and I am pretty certain that I have seen Megan wielding a saw lately. They also helped Mike ‘Fred’ W and Paul with their barrel project on the foc’sle head and are helping with a project aloft. Paul, Nadja and Brad launched into the project of overhauling the top platform on the main and foremasts. They wire wheeled, rust-busted and primed and will soon replace the wooden planks of the platform.

Mate Mike, Rebecca and Paul have also held three workshops on chart work. The first was an introduction to the types of charts and the sorts of information they carry. Workshop two went into a little more detail, discussing magnetic variation, ship deviation and how to plot a true course on a map that is invariably flawed because it is flat paper and not the round, moving, flowing, changing reality that is the earth. Charts do not – and cannot – record everything, as Clark discovered when he spotted a gire while on lookout. A gire is a fascinating phenomenon. It is where two currents meet and therefore where garbage gathers. We passed the gire – a strip of light blue water – with oil, plastic and assorted odds and ends. It stretched as far as the eye could see (approx 4.4 miles to the horizon) off the starboard and port bows. This particular one was not recorded on our charts and it changed our wind instantly. Fascinating. Workshop three went into more details about buoys, their colours, shapes and meanings.

The crew have been inspired. Long passages such as this give the mates and deckhands time to teach more complicated subjects. Navigation is certainly one of those subjects and the crew have been busily studying when not on watch. I have seen Dapper Dan in the salon bent over borrowed textbooks, Liam with calculations in hand discussing the mathematics with the mates, Josh spending a lot of time in the charthouse, bent over the charts deciphering the symbols and Ali on the hatch reading over the textbooks. The workshop series will continue in good weather over the next few weeks – branching into a few on the art of celestial navigation.

Donald continues to work his magic in the galley. Despite the heat we are still voracious eaters. Coincidence? I think not. It is due to the undeniable fact that he makes meals so delicious and appetizing that we simply must eat them. Pork loin, sauteed greens and mashed potatoes with a mushroom gravy. Chinese cabbage, steak and yams. Fish and chips with salad. Spaghetti and meatballs? Yes, please and thank you!

Yes, life at sea ain’t so bad at all.

While we may be sweaty and dirty –
our hair full of paint and tar
While the heat may border absurdity-
and land so distant, so far

We are still content to haul and stow-
furl and splice, scrape and sew
Yes, we find we are a happy crew
Happy to be out on the ocean blue

and…Go Ducks…

Mike does a workshop on chartwork
Power shower!
Sail-making on the quarterdeck
Working on the head curtains

View the the rest of this Album

| More

Halloween

The Picton Castle crew love to celebrate the holidays – and they do it well. Preparations for the Halloween marlinspike began on October 30th. Georgie, our party planner extraordinaire, came up with the brilliant idea of having a Halloween Twister game. Using an old sheet from the linen chest she and Alex began their furious painting. Later in the evening she and Dave F took it upon themselves to make sure that there were not only tricks, but treats for everyone. By the dim galley light Dave made his famous fudge – generously allowing me to lick the bowl. The next morning, despite the heat, Alex, Joh, Dave, Sophie and Georgie were back in the galley baking chocolate chip cookies, rice krispie squares and toffee.

At 1600 on Halloween day people began emerging from their living spaces in some serious – or seriously hilarious or seriously scary – costumes. The creativity of the crew never ceases to amaze me. With limited options, being that we live on a sailing ship with no costume shop or general store, they somehow manage to create the most fantastical characters and dress up in the wildest and weirdest outfits.

This Halloween we had quite the guest list. We had a zombie, a hula dancer who died from a hula-related death, a train robber, a cowboy, a fashion designer’s worst nightmare, the corpse of a man who had died by being trampled at a zebra crossing, a 4-8 trainee, a flying monkey, a retired foosball player, three blind mice, a skeleton, a witch, a black cat, a good devil, an angel, a Nascar fan, a zombie bride, a vampire, a Pitkerner, a ski ‘bum’, a 70s intellectual on an acid trip, a man eater and a cannibal, a bag of flour, a tourist, a fortune teller, the lead cop in the instantly classic Bollywood movie “Da Bangg”, John Lennon, a mermaid, an elf, Papa Smurf, a Picton purple pumpkin, and a pirate. Yes, indeed we seemed to have it all.

Twister was a great success. Those participating had a riot and those watching were thoroughly entertained. Perhaps the funniest round saw the three-blind-mice struggling to play the game – Georgie and Alex had not thought to put braille on the sheet. Even the turtles got a turn at the game…

Cheri, Rebecca, Davey, Dave F, Niko, Robert and Liam took to the hatch to ‘thrill’ us with the choreographed dance from Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Jimmy would have been proud. After sufficiently gorging ourselves on sweets we too took to the hatch – dancing, jumping and swinging until the bell for dinner rang and it was time for this party to end. Grownups acting so silly…

crazy costumes for Halloween
Halloween fun
Thriller!
Twister!

View the the rest of this Album

| More

Paintball

By Bronwen Livingston and Doctor Victoria Adams

It turns out that, somehow, amidst all this tropical splendour, ancient Pacific culture, way of life in an age of sail windjammer and stark Second World War history and its remains, our crew found a way to extract themselves from all these things and to engage in a “Paintball Battle of the Watches.” Senior management neither condones nor condemns this activity (except to say, “it’s all very fun until the crying starts…”).

This Captain’s Log reflects the intensity we all brought to the Extreme Paintball match in Santo and captures the immense sense of competition and pride both watches feel. Several such arguments have occurred since the game and undoubtedly more will come. While this log does not reflect the opinion of all players, it does give a fairly good representation of both sides.

It is 22:00 and Vicky stands in the galley. She has a hot water kettle in one hand. She turns toward me, a hint of snarl on her upper lip and continues our argument from earlier, “A fairly even match apart from the fact that you recruited an Australian military-trained sadist psychopath. The first game I will admit that you won, through sneakiness – as we hadn’t yet found our feet. The second game was ended in a serious toilet related incident (TRI) to one of our team members (“Sabotage!” whispers Meredith through the open door on her way to do something a deckhand would do) and was therefore null and void. During said game your Australian psychopath went into action and took out four of our team and repeatedly shot us once we were dead. After a huge show of heroism by our injured member Taia, we continued and entered once more into the battle having found our feet as a lean, mean fighting /defending machine. With Meredith and Georgie up front taking out the enemy and Jet Bracken and Adrienne flanking them with stealth and courage we had a dream offensive combined with a seriously strong defence. Bracken took out Paula and Mr Mate with one bullet before coming to an untimely and sticky end courtesy of Johanna. Ali and I defended base camp acting as excellent lookouts for the sterling defensive sniping by Dave, David and Jan…”

I interrupt to say, “Stirling defence team? More like underhanded and sneaky cheating snipers. Jan clearly hit me at point-blank range – foul play I say. Foul play.”

Vicky continues as if I have not said anything at all, typical for 4-8, big talkers they are, “Nobody knew where Shawn was – perhaps an undercover spy? Georgie died a hero’s death being, shot at one metre. We came out with five remaining soldiers while we had exterminated the entire 8-12 watch! The final score was 2:1 to us with one invalid game due to cheating by 8-12 while we were attending to a casualty.”

Now, it is my turn. I pour the freshly brewed coffee into the thermos, biding my time, making her sweat just a little.

“We were the underdogs from the start. You and the rest of 4-8 believed with all of your hearts that we stood little to no chance of beating you. And you were wrong. I understand that that fact is hard to accept. You were the self-appointed winners before we even stepped onto the field, and that cocksure attitude ensured your swift demise. We did recruit another player, but only because we were short in numbers. But rest assured that even without him we would have fought as strongly and still come out triumphant. Under the stellar leadership of Mate Mike we devised our plan. Our plan was simple. To win at all costs. Communication is the key to success and so we invented codes for manoeuvres, “Set the Spanker!” “Let go!” Sorry if they confused you. That was the point. Our highly skilled offensive team included the Australian sadist -as you refer to him- Mate Mike, Paula, Liam, Robert H, Joh, Katelinn, Cheri, Davey, Niko and me. Oh, wait. That’s everybody. That’s because we didn’t need defence. Because without glory you have nothing. Because we weren’t afraid like you. Because we were willing to sacrifice it all. With Niko (Cupcake the distracter) running and jumping through the underbrush, Mate Mike providing cover, Katelinn and me on our bellies through the underbrush, Liam and the Aussie making a sneak attack distraction, Paula, Joh and Cheri and Robert H on the front lines, Davey was able to capture the flag – not once, but twice. It happened quickly I know, so I forgive your inability to grasp reality. That and the fact that you were hiding in the relative safety of your base the entire game and probably didn’t get a clear look at the battle. Now to take away our second victory because of a TRI is not entirely fair. It was only after the match had ended that you realized your team-mate was down for the count. And you a doctor…tsk tsk. The third skirmish was close, but 8-12 will concede that you won, because we are honest. However, the 4th game, while perhaps you ‘technically’ won in the end, cannot truly be classified as a victory since a) we allowed you to have the better base for the second game in a row (to end your whining and begging) b) we were down three players and c) you hid like the cowards you are within the base while we valiantly and courageously stormed the field. So, the final score was 2:2 but your weak win makes us the true winners. We are the best at being winners and the best at being modest.”

The coffee was ready for the 12-4 watch and Vicky and I stood in the galley house at a stand-off. She would not concede easily I knew. Furthermore the watches had changed since that fateful match. We now stood together on 8-12 – and she is fraternizing the enemy. Awkward for her, satisfying for me.

It is unfortunate for Vicky and the entire old 4-8 watch that the powerful write history. Therefore I (Bronwen) declare 8-12 the victors of Santo Extreme Paintball. We would like to challenge 12-4 to a match. Let’s say in Bali, sometime late November?

*Thank you to Paula for contributing photos this log.

4-8 watch readies for the battle
8-12 was born ready
Mate Mike, Paula and Joh- in it to win it

View the the rest of this Album

| More

Return to Espiritu Santo

We sailed through the night back to the island of Espiritu Santo. The winds were a bit shifty, the threat of rain hung thick in the air and the currents strong. The Captain decided it would be best to anchor on the other side of the bay – in the lee of Aore Island across the way from the town of Luganville. Next to a cruising catamaran we swung safely about on our anchor chain in deep water, about 95 feet – withstanding the occasional smatterings of rain.

With lots to do and lots to see, we had no time to waste here in Santo. Provisioning for the ship was a top priority and once more Donald and Nadja sought out the best prices in town – securing excellent free range meat for the freezers and fresh vegetables and fruit for the lockers. They also ensured that we would not be crackerless or instant-noodle free for the 3 to 4 week passage – a relief for the majority of the crew, who have a fondness for late night snacks. Chris, Paul and WT scoured the hardware stores for bits and pieces and parts. Quite amazingly well stocked they are. Katelinn filled the outboard motor gas containers – while 10 attendants attempted to help. Mate Mike ordered diesel and arranged for the ship to tie up alongside the commercial dock later in the week for the fill up. Yes, it was a busy time, but there was also time for fun.

Shawn found an outfit that specializes in ‘extreme’ sports and Liam booked an afternoon of paintball which pitted the 4-8 watch against the 8-12. It was only due to circumstance that 12-4 could not participate. Someone must watch the ship and 12-4 took one for the team, so to speak. A Captain’s Log dedicated to the match to follow, but needless to say we had a hilarious time of it, chasing one another around a field in suits far too hot for the circumstances and some of us are still discovering the bruises. While we ran around with paint guns, Paulina went horseback riding into the mountains surrounding Luganville. Liam and Siri went diving – exploring the wrecks (planes, tanks, cruise ship a-la-Titanic) that surround the island. Many of the crew visited a spot called Champagne Beach where WWII debris can still be found, scattered over the sand and coral reef. The Captain, Ollie, Nadja, Frankie, Adrienne, Jan, Logan, Mate Mike, Robert H, Niko and Paula took a WWII official tour – visiting old bombers and fighter airfields and equipment buried deep in the jungle. Adrienne, Jan and Taia visited a Kastom village outside of Luganville – although I doubt it was the promise of kava that drew them there. Almost everyone went to see “blue hole” – a beautiful clear swimming hole in hills above Luganville with a depth of 40+ metres. Many, including David B, took the rope swing challenge, climbing up the tree about 15 feet and swinging out into the blue hole, some grabbing a tree mid-swing and back-flipping into the pool. Paula, Davey and Paul took it a step further by climbing the giant tree and jumping from a height of 60 feet – moving so quickly they only show up as light blurs with feet on the camera. Definitely a crowd pleaser.

Some chose to stick closer to town during the visits. It’s nice to spend a night away from the ship every now and then. Joani did for the first time since she joined in Lunenburg in May. Lorraine, Tiina, Clark, Josh, Joh, Mike M, Lauren, Sophie, Cheri, Robert M and Tammy (and more) all got away to great hotels and since we can’t seem to stay away from each other for long, we all tended to meet up for an evening meal or a drink on the veranda of a hotel room or a dip in the pool. A French restaurant in town was our favourite for great cuisine – their deserts decadent, their staff friendly and acceptably French. Although Robert H was disappointed to discover that they were not serving flying fox aka fruit bat this time of year – nor did they have bananas to complete his banana split. He decided in the end that settling for the chocolate orange mouse was not such a terrible compromise.

Once we had fueled up, finished our shopping, sent our emails and cleared out – we were ready to go. But not before we had to say goodbye to not one or two, but three of our crew. Dixon left us here to complete his business in Santo. It was a pleasure to have him onboard! Roselyne needed to return to the Netherlands and our later than planned November arrival in Bali would be too late for her. We wish her the best in the future and hope she stays in touch and does not forget her lessons from the sea or forget us! And we said ‘see you later’ to Ollie – our tortured artist deckhand – who is returning to North America to begin filming a new TV series (“The Killing”, starring Billy Campbell, on AMC, the same folks that brought you the super cool “Mad Men”). We will brag more on that soon, very cool show. He also had to go on a secret mission to Cape Town, South Africa before getting to Vancouver for shooting (it’s secret, I can’t tell you!). He will return to us – we hope sooner rather than later. His presence is already missed onboard, but I believe he knows he is loved and we gave him a proper send off. Break a leg, Ollie!

Tankyu Tumas Vanuatu! It has been a pleasure. But to sea we must go. We are ready for the 3 to 4 week passage that awaits us. From the South Pacific into the Coral Sea to the Torres Strait to Bali!

*Thank you to Paula and Adrienne for the permission to use two of your photos in this log.

Adrienne and an old plane wreck
Liam and Bracken entertain
Mate Mike to rope swing
Million Dollar Point and old jeep engine blocks
Our own tortured artist up a tree!
Roselyne prepares lunch

View the the rest of this Album

| More

A Doctor’s Perspective

By Doctor Vicky Adams

The Picton Castle had planned to carry out medical clinics on three islands in Vanuatu and we had some donated and purchased medical supplies with us to give out. On previous visits the ship had found people in real need of medical care and medications. On this occassion, happily, this no longer seems to be the case. Myself and Shawn ran the clinic and distributed the supplies. All three islands had access to and education in malaria testing and treatment. All the clinics had single use finger prick testing for malaria that gave results in 15 minutes. Educational posters about malaria, family planning, sexually transmitted diseases – including HIV – and healthy diets covered the walls. All were written in Bislama and the local pigeon english. People pay for medications, but not the consultations. The three clinics were very different.

The first clinic in Banam Bay, Malekula was held in their clinic building which had a consultation room and was managed by a nurses aid. They had a doctor visit every few months from the closest hospital. The hospital was a three hour drive away and cost 600 Vatu ($6) to get there. All expectant mothers went to the hospital to deliver their babies. Our day started with Shawn cleaning the facility and putting away our supplies. The population appeared healthy here. The most common complaint was painful knees and painful backs from carrying the heavy loads up the hills that make up their local area. On the first day we saw one expectant mother and on the next day we saw six!

In Bwatnapne Bay, Pentecost the nurse was away and the clinic building locked so we conducted our clinic in the church. The health education of this village seemed much greater than the previous. Lots of people asked to have their blood pressure checked and requested blood sugar checks. There also appeared a great need for dental services – lots of tooth decay and cavities were seen, but unfortunatly besides pain relief there was little we could provide. One kind gentleman made Shawn and I beautiful colored baskets saying “Shawn Canada” and “Vicky England” in green, yellow, blue, purple and pink as a gesture of thanks. He also wanted to us to ensure he had first dibs on frying pans the next trading day.

Asanvari Bay, Maewo had by far the best fascilities and staffing. Olivette is the registered nurse practicing there and she also carries out all of the low risk deliveries in the labour suite in her basic, but very clean facitlity. As the announcement regarding clinic was put out at the trading event all our patients that first day were women. A lot of chronic ailments were seen. We checked one lady’s hemoglobin using the basic chromographic method they had available. Another lady had a thyroid goitae and with no facilities for blood tests or scanning we advised her to attend the local hospital on hour boat journey away on Pentecost Island.

The clinic was very interesting for us and we have been able to deliver medications and give supplies to the villages we visited. Highlights of the clinic were watching Shawn delightedly weighing babies in the make-shift scales (fish scales hanging from the door frame), hearing a fetal heartbeat for the first time through a Pinard Stethescope (we always use Dopplers at home!) and discussing medical issues with Olivette. The places and facilities we both work in are very different, but the problems and issues relating to human behavior are still very much the same!

*Thank you to Vicky and Ali for some of the pictures with this log.

Bwatnapne Bay trading
Clinic in Asanvari Bay
Vicky and Shawn s clinc in Bwatnapne Bay
Vicky and Shawn take a lunch break -Banam Bay

View the the rest of this Album

© 2003–2017 Windward Isles Sailing Ship Company Ltd. | Partners | Site Map | Privacy Policy