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Westward Bound In The Picton Castle

We sailed from Benoa, Bali December 5th in the Picton Castle bound for Reunion Island 3,500 miles away across the wide Indian Ocean. The new crew joining the ship in Bali had several days of orientation in this ship including our safety procedures. Once at sea we conducted fire, abandon ship and MOB drills including full deployment of MOB gear and launching the rescue boat. We use a dry brown coconut for a ‘victim’ as a floating coconut closely resembles what one might see of an actual victim in the water. The rescue boat got launched and to the coconut-victim in three minutes, pretty good time.

After motoring in calms 440 miles SW of Bali I think we have found our wind at last – weather maps and weather forcasting in general today are a vast improvement over the weather info in the ‘old days,’ (that and coatings for steel are miles ahead of 30-40 years ago, the other stuff, not so much). Once we had to motor 7 days to find wind hereabouts, once we caught a useful breeze 5 hours out of Bali – on one of the latter Brigantine Yankee world voyages they had to motor for days to find an Indian Ocean wind and according to the story never really found a great breeze and mostly drifted across the Indian Ocean. And other voyages they had romps in fresh tradewinds. Our maps indicate excellent winds starting at 14 south and 100 east.

We have as good a professional crew that I have ever sailed with or could hope for in this ship, and a group of trainees who already have more experience than many entry level professionals and they are keen learners as well, having fully adopted the old maxim that ‘the ship comes first’. All our five new joiners in Bali have extensive experience in this and / or other ships. On this long passage we are running more workshops and classes in seamanship, sailmaking, rigging and celestial navigation. A long westward bound passage in the tropics is a great way to master the sextant, sun and stars. We will be reviewing heavy weather procedures and taking that very seriously, we will be trying different scenarios and taking a good hard look at how things are stowed, lashed, secured, dogged down and not to take anything for granted. A danger of sailing in benign conditions for so long as we do is to presume that conditions will always remain so, which just ain’t the case. Heavy weather can develop anywhere with not a great deal of warning although, as I mention above, with much better warning than a generation ago.

We have stuck out ‘daymen’ in sail making, rigging and carpentry and the engine room. Everyone gets a chance to be a dayman in one of the specialities if they wish. The quarterdeck is always covered in canvas as the sailmaking gang keeps at it. Much running rigging has been replaced, all new braces all around. The carpenters seem to always find projects to fill their days. In Bali we sent down the fore t’gallant yard and mizzen boom for overhauling. Now these spars up again doing their job of sailing us along ever westward.

Cleaning the gear after the drill
Sophie dons her fire fighting gear
The crew clean with Bali in the background
The rescue skiff in the drill
The skiff coming back after the drill rescue

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