Thursday, January 20th, 2011
The Picton Castle usually gets a little extra loving while in port and Reunion was no exception.
The crew were not idle as they waited for our agents and then Customs and Immigration to go over our paperwork and stamp our passports. They hopped in to the skiff almost immediately after docking and began scrubbing and osphoing the topsides in preparation for painting. After 30 days at sea she was really not so bad, we were pretty impressed how the topsides had held up so well for so long. Simultaneously the deck and deck structures were given a good fresh water rinse and everything on deck that could be safely removed from the deck was un-lashed and placed on the dock so we could really get the ship cleaned with a good thorough scrubbing. Thankfully the afternoon heat was briefly alleviated by an afternoon rain shower. As the crew soon learned we had arrived during what passes for rainy season. Like clockwork we could expect rain between 1400 and 1500 every afternoon and the mates adjusted and timed their ships work accordingly.
The focs’le head, main deck and quarterdeck were oiled with raw linseed oil and then oiled again. As the Captain explained this helps to seal the deck – not only protecting it from the wear of the elements of sun and sea and rot – but also reducing the amount of water the decks can wick. He explained that even pine decks that get oiled or coated regularly can last 100 years and that bare wood decks in pine or fir last about 20 before they start to go. Plus it looks good! We painted the topsides their famous white and primed and painted the port anchor. The crew also sanded and varnished the charthouse floor and chart table and we replaced one of our VHF radios and got our electronic equipment checked.
The crew also sent down sails and, under the direction of lead sailmaker Rebecca, did the second layout for a lower topsail and the first and second layout for a new upper topsail. Many of the crew were eager to lay in and lend a hand. That combined with the sheer convenience of being alongside led to productive sailmaking days.
The crew cleaned out and organized the hold and the forward sole in anticipation of provisioning. We had done a large amount of dry goods provisioning in Bali and we will be stocking up in Cape Town as well, but we did get some essentials to get us through the passage. Reunion must be famous for it’s colourful markets and fresh fruit and vegetables. There was a large markets every day of the week – in a different town around the island. It was a real treat to go to the market here with Donald and Nadja and we stocked up on green bananas, mangoes, oranges, apples, litchis, grapefruit, onions, potatoes, eggs, lettuce, tomatoes and cabbage…
There is also a necessary balance while alongside. The Picton Castle has accumulated quite a following in Reunion. Every day the dock was filled with people, taking photographs, asking questions and requesting tours. Inevitably ships work sometimes prevented us from being able to offer tours, but we did offer them as often as we could. We had sailed almost ¾ of the way around the world and yet Reunion was one of the few place that we were forced out of our linguistic comfort zone completely. Very few people spoke English on the island – and so those of us who did know a little French were in high demand. Personally I loved it and I think that everyone else (Rebecca, Tiina, Alison, Meredith, Sophie, Nadja, Logan, Liam and Paula) at least appreciated it. Even those who knew no French at the beginning of our stay can now boast a few words and a growing vocabulary. When we were unable to do a tour people were incredibly happy just to talk with one of the crew on the dock – gathering as we told them about what we do as a sail training ship and where we had been during our sail. We gave a tour to the port managers and the harbourmaster and their families and our agent’s nephew among others. We also greeted and hosted friends of Jean-Claude Le Gouallec. Jean-Claude and his accordion had sailed with the Picton Castle from Reunion to Cape Town on the fourth world voyage. Although he was away in France, he was represented well by his friends.
Our popularity was due in large part to the quick response of the press here in Reunion. Many of the crew were interviewed by local radio and TV stations and we were featured daily in the local newspapers of the island. It was neat to have such a huge press following.