Captain's Log

Archive for May, 2011

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St. Barths – A Sailor’s Destination

On April 28th, 2011 the Picton Castle cast off her mooring lines and motored out into the Marigot Harbour in St. Martin from the wharf where we had been moored. While planning to sail all the way to St. Barths (a mere 20nm southeast of St. Martin) opposing winds made this impossible. The Captain, wishing, as we did, to sail, proposed motoring the ship to a place best able to catch these prevailing winds. There we would shut off the engine and sail to St. Barths under full sail – tacking where and when we must.

We certainly did catch the winds, as the Captain suspected, and we seemed to hurtle toward St. Barths. The seas were choppy and unreasonably stubborn and, despite the fact that we had all spent at least a few months onboard, did not disquiet our now queasy stomachs. A scratchy radio call from Chief Mate Mike (currently Captain of Pipe Dream) caused a bit of excitement. It turned out the he and his motley crew of Robert, Josh, Dan and Paula, were tacking just a point off our port bow, also making for Gustavia. Hoping to capture this moment for posterity the Captain wrote to Ollie Campbell, who was at this very minute, lounging amongst his fellow celebrities on St. Barths. “You should hire a boat and film us as we come in” he wrote. “We are going to come screaming into this harbour.” Unfortunately we were too quick for the star and before he could extract himself from the lawn chair he was no doubt folded into, we were already anchored outside Gustavia.

It would soon be a moment of happy reunion. Ollie, Wendy, Fred and Katelinn had already arrived with Good Expectation. Mike, Paula, Josh, Dan and Robert, tacking before us, would soon be in. Davey would be arriving on Sweetheart later that day. Tammy and Adrienne were sailing on Tradition, which was also due to arrive in the afternoon. In addition to a reunion with our own crew, our crew would also be reuniting with the Carriacou sloops we had sailed in the Antigua Classics. You see, we had come to St. Barths, not just for the good food and the sandy beaches, we had come to participate in the West Indies Regatta!

The West Indies Regatta was imagined by long-time Caribbean resident, photographer, published author, sailor, boat builder and social anthropologist, Alexis Andrews. While studying for his degree in anthropology, Alexis came across some literature on the boatbuilders of Carriacou which inspired him to travel to Carriacou personally. Carriacou had long carried a tradition of building these beautiful Carriacou sloops, since the 19th century in fact, when Scottish shipwrights, sent to the island of Carriacou to build schooners and sloops for trading, met with the islanders masterful at the craft of boatbuilding. Many of the residents of Windward, on the windward side of the island, still build these beautiful boats. In recent history, however, this practice had significantly declined. It was Alexis’s hope, that with interest, this might again become a larger part of Carriacou culture. The West Indies Regatta was established in the hopes that many Carriacou sloops might come from Windward and other parts of the Caribbean that they now call home, and sail. This regatta there were nine such sloops in company – and we were all so very glad to see it.

St. Barths is an overseas collectivity of France, but it experienced a great era of maritime prosperity when it was under Swedish control for some time. A volcanic and relatively rocky and arid island, St. Barths was not the ideal location for plantation agriculture. What it did have, however, was excellent natural harbours. Under the Swedish, Gustavia, the capital and main port, was declared a free port during the late 1700s and into the 1800s. This made it incredibly convenient for mariners trading and running goods – both legal and clandestine trading flourished here. Despite the years that have passed since then and the fact that France now lays claim to the island, this heritage is still very much present.

When the Captain visited St. Barths in the Brixham trawler Maverick and the brigantine Romance in the 1970s, it was a sleepy little island community dedicated to fishing, planting and providing smuggling goods to various islands sloops and schooners. Now, tourism has exploded and it has become known as a destination for the rich and famous. Though it has not changed enough to lose its eternal charm and sailors flock to this island now more than ever.

As we took the skiff into the harbour we motored past multi-million dollar yachts and schooners. As we walked toward customs and immigration, we past trendy clothing boutiques, sheeshee cafes and ritzy spas on the shore side and in the harbour, tied up next to the multi-million yachts alongside, were the several of the Carriacou sloops we had so fallen in love with sailing. We could hear the unmistakable sounds of maritime camaraderie, music and laughter coming from the cockpits and bows of these beautiful, traditional boats. The sailors, preferring their boats to the upscale restaurants, had purchased baguettes, cheese and pepperoni and were enjoying a feast as they reconnected with old friends and met new ones. The juxtaposition of these two worlds is quite striking, but in St. Barths it makes sense.

When the Picton Castle hauled up anchor the next morning and motored into the narrow harbour to take our place on the dock, stern to, next to the sloops we planned to sail on that weekend, we too found our place among the mishmash.

Davey on the Sweetheart
Picton Castle is Stern to
Relaxing on the boats
She looked so good!!
Tammy and Adrienne with Deb on Tradition~0
The Carriacou Sloops prepare for the first day of sailing

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Provisioning in St. Martin

On April 26th, 2011, while Mike, Fred, Paula, Wendy, Katelinn, Davey, Ollie, Josh and Tammy were sailing in the Carriacou sloops Pipe Dream, Tradition and Good Expectation, the Picton Castle sailed off the hook under sail alone, out of Road Bay, Anguilla, bound for St. Martin. A mere five miles south of Anguilla, and about 13 miles from anchor to anchor St. Martin is one of the smallest of islands to be divided between two nations. Both France and the Netherlands lay claim to portions of this isle in the Northern Caribbean. There is no border crossing between the two portions.

With the wind, blowing 20 knots in our favour, it looked as if it would a beautiful, if short, day of sailing. As we sailed out of the harbour, the Captain called a muster to discuss the plan for the passage. “Closer.” He gestured to us and we obligingly crowded onto the hatch to get a better view of the white board he held. “Today we will tack our way to St. Martin.” Among other things St. Martin is great place for refuelling and provisioning. Wielding a red white board marker, in order to illustrate his point, the Captain drew overlapping lines in between his hand-drawn maps of Anguilla and St. Martin. Invigorated from our days sailing in the Antigua Classic the crew grinned at one another. Tacking a small boat like a Carriacou sloop or a ketch or gaff-rigged schooner is a regular affair – tacking the Picton Castle, on the other hand, is something we seldom get to practice, just due to the nature of our westward voyage.

Tacking is a manoeuvre which consists of reaching across the wind so that the ship builds up maximum speed, taking the bow through the wind and changing tacks as we do so. If we begin on a starboard tack with the wind blowing from the right side we come about by bracing the yards, passing the staysails and the jibs and will end up on a port tack with the wind on the left side. This action is nearly impossible to do when sailing less than 3 knots. When the bow is pointing directly upwind the ship loses a considerable amount of momentum, the sails luff and, if you do not have enough momentum the ship will stall and you must start the procedure once again.

With all crew on deck for the day sail we had plenty of hands for quick sail-handling and we jumped at the opportunity to practice. As we approached the French port of Marigot our friend Jan Rolus began circling the ship in a helicopter, snapping pictures as we tacked through the waters off the coast. To say that we did not feel a bit like celebrities would be a lie. It must have been particularly thrilling for those furling sail on the royal yard as the helicopter whirred and whizzed directly above them.

We had met Jan Rolus in Antigua during the Antigua Classic and indeed, he was the one who had encouraged us to sail to St. Martin for a few days. It had been about 2 months since we had last done major dry goods food provisioning and just as long since we had filled our engine tanks with diesel. Jan promised that all that and more could be accomplished easily in St. Martin. In fact, the island is primed for it and this, in part, is what makes St. Martin such a big attraction for sailing vessels. Jan and his wife Veerle run a sea school, do STCW training and a have a business assisting yachts when they arrive in St. Martin. They were incredibly helpful to us during our stay in St. Martin, asking only one favour in return – that we hold an open-ship afternoon for interested locals and visitors. We always enjoy sharing our home and way of life with others and so, it was an easy promise for us to make. Jan advertised the open-ship in the local paper and for five hours a steady stream of families, photographers, journalists and fellow sailors toured the ship. Just like Reunion, our crew were forced to pull their rusty French out of their back pockets and put it to use and just like Reunion those who took tours were thrilled with the efforts and the opportunity.

We stayed in St. Martin for two days. While there was indeed a multitude of errands to run and provisions to acquire, there was also opportunity to spend an afternoon or evening off the ship, taking in the sights of the island. The French side of the island is mountainous and for those among us who enjoy a good hike into the wilderness, St. Martin did not disappoint. The Dutch side, by comparison is relatively flat. It was a far better choice for those who wished to swim or snorkel or simply lounge in the sun. I, for one, indulged in one of my favourite activities: eating. The French are known the world over for their rich and delicate fare and this island was not an exception. Escargot, sharp cheese and fresh baked baguette? Oui! Merci beaucoup!

We steamed out of Marigot Harbour on April 28th, bound for St. Barths and the West Indies Regatta of traditional West Indian-built sailing vessels. We had been invited to join and to be the “mother ship.”

Loading provisions St Martin
Open ship day
Picton Castle under sail from helicopter
Picton Castle under sail photo from helicopter
Picton Castle under sail shot from helicopter
Sail-handling

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The Gods of Montserrat

By Ollie Campbell

Note by the Executive Editorial Committee: The below account by veteran Picton Castle crew member Billy ‘Ollie’ Campbell and the facts asserted therein have not all been verified by independent alternative sources, but we have found no one willing to go on record to call him a liar so we let the story stand unchallenged.

After the Antigua Classic, Mike the Mate was given leave by the captain to deliver one of the Carriacou sloops from Antigua to the French (and Swedish) island of Saint Barthelemy, so that she might participate in the West Indies Regatta. A crew of eager Picton Castlers were chosen, and I was detailed to go along as videographer.

The West Indies Regatta in St. Barths was started by Alexis Andrews, maritime photographer extraordinaire who, through the anthropological studies of his youth, had become enamored of the West Indies, particularly of Carriacou, and thence of her sturdy, sweet-sailing little workboats, the Carriacou sloops. His appreciation of them eventually extended not only to the building of his own sloop, Genesis, but to the devotion of a good deal of his energies toward the revival of theboatbuilding and racing traditions on the island he’d come to love. The West Indies Regatta is one of the ways he’s going about this. Reviving interest in the racing traditions of Carriacou naturally meant having as many of her sloops as possible participate in the regatta, and since Good Expectation’s owner Martin couldn’t make it to St. Barths, but was willing to let his sloop come for the races, six lucky Picton Castle crew under skipper Mike Moreland would make the delivery.

A contrary breeze on our morning of departure meant we’d have to beat out of Falmouth harbor, right under the noses of our shipmates still at anchor on the Picton Castle, but we were freshly provisioned, full of energy and optimism and coffee, and set out to make a good showing.

The first couple of tacks were enough to work out the wrinkles – the sloops are simply rigged, easy to handle – but Good Expectation is not as good to weather, we soon found, as she’d need to be to gain the mouth of Falmouth Harbor and so, to a chorus of hoots and hollers from our shipmates who’d lined the railings of the Picton Castle, we accepted a tow from our own skiff, rounded the point, let go, and shaped a plan for Anguilla, some 110 nautical miles to the NNW. There we’d rendezvous and, in a couple days time, sail in company down to St. Barths for the regatta.

We were doing quite well at first, heading toward the upper end of Montserrat, a few points off the port bow, a light but constant breeze pushing us along at a reasonable 2 or 3 knots. By the time Picton Castle had picked up her hook and made an appearance outside the harbor – followed by Pipe Dream, another Carriacou Sloop with her compliment of current and former Picton Castlers – we, in Good Expectation, felt as though we were most of the way to Montserrat. Of course we weren’t, but it was Mike’s plan to head that way which, when the wind came further north (as was expected), would give us as pretty a slant as we could wish to Anguilla. We were meant to sail in company, actually — the Castle, Pipe Dream, and Good Expectation – but, far to the SW of us now, it looked as if our happy barque had run out of wind. She lay on the horizon, sails sagging, seemingly devoid of life, while we were still contentedly toodling along, albeit slowly.

For most of us, save Mike perhaps, this gave rise to a fantasy of standing waist deep in the cool waters of an Anguillan beach with cold beers as, mere yards away, and days after we on Good Expectation had arrived, Picton Castle and her grumpy crew motored in to drop the hook. A few of us elaborated this fantasy to include reggae music, grilled chicken, island girls (Davey’s contribution), and the admiration of the locals, who’d been so impressed to see a bunch of white kids deftly maneuver an engineless Carriacou sloop into their busy harbor, right onto its anchorage, that they’d thrown us an impromptu fete!

We had a good laugh over this notion, some of us, excepting Mike, who (though in a great mood, relieved temporarily of his myriad responsibilities as Picton Castle’s first mate) remained inscrutable as ever, scanning the horizon to weather, suspecting perhaps our luck might turn.

It didn’t just turn, it died. Miserably. A flatulent mosquito might have caused bigger ripples than were now evident on the face of the Caribbean. No wind, not a puffy-wuffy. Zero. Zilch. Nada. For two days we drifted in dreary circles between Antigua and Montserrat, now closer to one, now the other, the water so greasy calm, the sails so limp, that we gave up all hope, stowed the tiller, the sails, put up the awning.

It was bloody hot. Montserrat is an active volcanic island, an ashy plume of steam permanently ragging away to windward – like an angry dialogue-balloon – from her heights. It was easy to believe this had something to do with our predicament, as if the Gods of Montserrat had sucked up the wind, marshaling their reserves for bigger mischief. We imagined the island exploding, which she had as recently as 1995, and, though uncomfortably close for such an eventuality, theorized that we might at least surf the tsunami Anguillaward.

We spent our time dozing and reading and Picton Castle’s 2nd engineer Katelinn made a project of jury-rigging a regulator for the propane tank, as we’d overlooked bringing one. She ingeniously used an ointment tube, rubber gloves, duct-tape, twine, and even a chopstick, I think, in her heroic and successful attempt to provide us with a hot meal. Why we wanted a hot meal is anybody’s guess. Paula and Fred and Davey dived on the hull with scrub-brushes, as it had grown a bit of a lawn. I went for a swim too, and the water, warm as it is in this part of the world, was a welcome respite from the heat, particularly if one dips the old skinny.

Of course potables had to be consumed before the cooler lost its cool, so there were some perks to all the lolling about in the heat. But it had begun to get old by the end of day two – the drifting – and despite the cold beers, the beatific sunsets (accompanied by Katelinn’s heartwarming fiddle), the laughter and camaraderie, we of Good Expectation were positively desperate to make way, our discomfiture only increased by the news that Picton Castle had taken Pipe Dream in tow, fired up her engines and steamed off to Anguilla. Our dreams of greeting our shipmates as newly minted local-heroes had gone up like so much volcanic ash. Now it was we who’d come dragging in.

What little juice was left in my phone allowed us to be in email communication with Captain Moreland on the Castle, though, and he wondered if – due to our delay – it might be more efficient for Good Expectation to head straight to St. Barths, rather than us chasing them down in Anguilla or (more likely by the time we’d arrive) St. Martin, where we’d only have a day or so before having to head back down to Barths.

And suddenly there was wind in our sails, if only figuratively. St. Barths, a whole 4 nights before the Picton Castle would arrive… I mean, we could really get some work done! Rather than spend the extra time sailing around, we could turn-to, do some much-needed work on Martin’s sloop: cleaning, painting, rigging, carpentry, make her tickety-boo for the West Indies Regatta!

Everyone was in quite a lather over this and it was only upon sober reflection, after our excitement had mellowed a bit, that we realized this would also mean 4 unsupervised days in St. Barths: hot showers, cold beers, beaches, Caribbean food, music, dancing, Piña Coladas, and members of the opposite sex. Imagine our dismay. Not a one of us hadn’t heard the Captain repeat the old adage ‘Ports rot ships, and men.’ …and here we had a a predicament: How to avoid temptation, yet do what’s best for the group, for the Captain, for the ship? Certainly none of us wanted to disappoint the Cap’.

We had a lot to live up to.

Mike set us straight. The way forward, the way of true seamanship, was to face temptation and stare it down, prove ourselves stronger than its grasp. We would go to St. Barths, show ourselves deserving of this trust. Would set rigid watches in Gustavia, live and eat and sleep onboard, lubricate our days with elbow-grease, spend our evenings in solemn contemplation of the next day’s labor, with, perhaps, a seamanship review and violin concerto before bunking down on deck at a reasonable hour each evening.

As if in mute approval of our intentions, the Gods of Montserrat released their strangle-hold on the winds, sending the first of many nifty little zephyrs from the North, and soon Good Expectation was rollicking along, a bone in her teeth, her crew as grateful a lot as you might imagine, cooled by the wind, thrilled by the salt-spray. Not long afterward, an enormous mahi mahi took the bait Davey had just sent over the stern, was hoisted by many hands into the boat, wrestled to death by the skipper, filleted, seasoned, fried on Katelinn’s contraption, and hungrily consumed on deck. It was flat-out the tastiest fish I have ever pushed down my pie-hole, and, in concert with a steaming mug of black coffee and a dripping-orange Caribbean sunset, the turquoise waters creaming along our little sloop’d side, it was easy indeed to imagine the Gods smiling down on us.

The next day Mike and his able crew tacked Good Expectation neatly up-harbor into the port of Gustavia. Threading million-dollar yachts, we rounded her up a few boat-lengths to windward of the wharf, set the anchor, and backed down with the wind into our final resting place, stern to the wharf, right next to a giant plastic stinkpot Beyoncé herself might’ve been proud to own. All this without any means of propulsion, save that of wind on Good Expectation’s threadbare sails.

There were no hordes of admiring locals to admire this maneuver, or fete us for it, but the single present crew-member of the aforementioned yacht, having watched the whole operation from his railing, broke into applause with its conclusion. He was a Mexican gentleman, and pronounced it ‘Berry berry niiice!’

Not chicken and cold beer but it would do, just the same.

One of our lads wondered if the crew who worked these big-money yachts – in their khaki shorts and topsiders, with their air conditioning and bow thrusters – might not look down, figuratively as well as literally, on the ragged little Carriacou sloops in their midst, and on those who crew them.

‘You kidding?’ growled Mike. ‘They WISH they were us.’

Mike was smiling as he growled. Good quality in a skipper.

The boat having been secured, lovingly tidied, we made our way into Gustavia town, seven abreast, sunburned and salty. Merely, mind you, by way of reconnoitering its various temptations so that they might be effectively thwarted. Until the Picton Castle sailed in from Anguilla and Saint Maarten 4 days later, and contrary to a previous Captain’s log by another of our crew (the tart), we had not one drop of fun.

I swear by the Gods of Montserrat.

Fred and Davey working well into the evening
Fred cleans the hull
Fred paints by day
Good Expecation
Good Expectation chartwork
Katelinn watches from the bow of Good Expectation

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Tales of Carriacou Slooping in the Leeward Isles

By Tammy Sharp

Editor’s Note: In Antigua we met many skippers of these wonderful wooden sloops built in Carriacou, an island just north of and part of the country of Grenada. They needed crew to help get these sloops to St Barts for the West Indies Regatta. Our crew were ready for the task and did a great seamanlike job of it. This was part of their ‘final exam’ at the tail end of this excellent voyage around the world. The rest of us sailed onward in Picton Castle.

I stood alone on the pier at the low sandy island of Anguilla, feeling kinda emotional, as I watched my home for the past year sail away with all sails set – a beautiful and stirring sight! Picton Castle was on her way to St. Martin for fuel and some provisioning and she was leaving without me. My only company was Ragamuffin Jim (funky hand gesture included), a 62 year old Anguillian man who was fascinated by our ship and life on board, and who peppered me with a multitude of questions. He seemed nice enough, despite the fact he wasn’t wearing any pants, just a long t-shirt. I was later told he often doesn’t wear pants…

No, I hadn’t been left behind by mistake – I was about to embark on my own adventure, and although I was somewhat sad about watching Picton Castle leave, I was excited about the days ahead. I was going to be sailing in a Carriacou Sloop called Tradition from St. Martin to St. Barts for the upcoming West Indies Regatta, a regatta devoted to West Indian-built sailing vessels including many Carriacou-built wooden sloops.

A Carriacou sloop is a single-masted wooden boat that has been built on the beaches of Carriacou, a small Caribbean island in the Grenadines. Most were used for fishing, cargo hauling but also for smuggling, back in the day, (Ed note: back in the day?) between the islands. There are some small variances, some have tillers, others a wheel, some have winches, others block and tackle, but for the most part the design is unmistakable. Tradition carried cargo for many years and maybe just once in a while, maybe smuggled a little bit of rum.

My adventure had actually begun a few days prior in Antigua, when we were in attendence for the Antigua Classic Regatta – a regatta celebrating classic boats of all sizes and types, from smaller wooden sloops, medium sized schooners to the large and impressive J-boats with their massive sails and streamlined hulls. We as crew were encouraged to try and get on a boat to help crew for the days of the race. I managed to make it aboard a couple of schooners and had an blast! When we were about to leave I was asked if I wanted to sail from Antigua to Anguilla, our next stop, aboard a smaller, 40 foot Carriacou sloop. Her owners, Deb and Laurie, had just purchased her and needed some help sailing her home. Deb had sailed on Picton Castle on a previous voyage and had met Laurie two years prior at the same regatta. Of course I said “yes!” jumping at the chance for some more small boat sailing and so myself and Josh, one of my shipmates joined them aboard Pipe Dream.

As luck would have it, after we sailed from Falmouth, the winds died down completely – I mean not so much as a puff – and so after a night of bobbing around (at times it seemed like we were moving backwards) Picton Castle came to our rescue and offered us a tow. So much for my big experience of sailing a Carriacou sloop! But we still had a great time! It was a lot like camping – just on a boat. One day they sent lunch and cold drinks back to us from the Picton Castle. I should mention that Pipe Dream doesn’t have a motor – hence the need for a tow, nor does she have any bunks or cooking facilities, nor does she have a head per se – your only option is to position your backside off the stern. Not so bad, really, once you get the hang of it! 26 hours later Picton Castle cut us loose and we used the dingy to push ourselves into Road Harbor, Anguilla.

After a few days of fun and relaxation in Anguilla, I was once again given a chance to sail in a Carriacou sloop. This time it would be on Tradition, Deb and Laurie’s 50 foot sloop also built for cargo and smuggling aournd the islands, which was in St. Martin in dry dock getting an overhaul. As I watched my ship sail away, I texted Deb and said “I guess you’re stuck with me, let the adventure begin!” A few hours later we were also in St. Martin, setting to work getting the boat ready to hit the water, but it was not to be without challenges. Rain squalls prevented the bottom paint from going on and so it was delayed by a day. We cleared out eveything below decks in order to clean and properly restow, but we couldn’t restow until all the ballast was in. We enlisted the help of a local man who helped to move in all the lead “pigs” (really lead bricks but I have to sound “salty”, according to our second mate, Paul), then we needed to find sand to bag and use as extra ballast. I spent the day vacuuming below decks and cleaning out the main chart house area and restowing items there. Our hired man said he’d take care of the sand.

Day 2 found Deb and I taking the ferry to St. Martin, while Laurie, his son, Noah and their deck hand, Brennan, sailed Pipe Dream. They were bringing her over so that some of our crew could sail her to St. Barts to participate in the regatta. Once again, squalls and high seas, along with some other misfortunes, prevented them from making it in good time. The sand hadn’t shown up and it was just Deb and I. It was looking as if Tradition would not make it into the water in time to make it to St. Barts. Thankfully, Mate Mike, Paula, Dapper Dan and Robert showed up from Picton Castle and set to work on the rigging, the sand, and other jobs that needed doing. I caulked the deck where some of the boards had been replaced on the main deck. We were finally seeing progress! Laurie and the boys showed up just as Deb and I had leave for the last ferry back to Anguilla.

Day 3 found us meeting up with Laurie’s sister, Catherine and her husband, Gareth and another deck hand, Rumple, as we caught the first ferry over. Adrienne, another Picton Castle crew member also joined us. There was a flurry of activity as we set to getting the boat in order, hoping to make one of the draw bridge times. With the ballast in we could finally restow, but there were still delays. We still didn’t have any navigation lights. The bilge pump wasn’t working properly. A mishap with my swedish fid (basically a long, hollowed out metal spike) sent me to the emergency room with a gash in my chin. Not to worry, nothing a little super glue and a bandage couldn’t fix. After all was said and done, it was 4:30 pm by the time we hit the water. The only problem was, we had missed the outgoing bridge opening – would they allow us to leave through the 5:30 pm incoming bridge opening? The answer? No problem, mon! Gotta love the Caribbean and it’s laid back ways! Such wonderful people!

Soon we were out and on our way! We motor sailed out but without navigation lights we couldn’t sail in the dark so we put into Phillipsburg Harbor for the night. We would leave at first light. I had joked that instead of provisioning for a 6-8 hour sail it was more like for 8 days – now I was thankful we had!
At 6am the next morning we set sail and were on our way to St. Barts. We decided to motor sail in order to make it in good time since we were already a day behind and because we thought the race was to start that day. As it turned out it didn’t start until the next day so we had some time to finish various projects and do some socializing.

The next two days were full of fun and excitement as we raced. The winds were favorable, the seas not too big. It was fun to feel the boat heeling at some pretty steep angles – almost like being on a roller coaster! There was some competetiveness, a lot of camaraderie, and a bit of drama as we lost our engine one day and almost ended up on the rocks! All in all, an amazing time! I met some wonderful people and know that I have made some great friends. It was also a great feeling to put into practice a lot of what I’ve learned aboard Picton Castle. My adventure was so much more than sailing a boat and racing, it was the process of working together to make it happen – literally with blood, sweat and tears (yeah, I KNOW, there’s no crying in sailing, but that fid to the face did smart a bit!). My Carriacou sloop adventure was everything I’d hoped for and more. Can’t wait to do it again!

Lashing on a nav light box
Lunch!
PC and Good Expectation
Tammy and Adrienne with Deb on Tradition
Tammy caulking the deck
Tradition sails ahead

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A Good Expectation: Antigua to St. Bart’s In An Old Smuggling Sloop

By Wendy Heisler

So there we are: a rogue crew of 7, bobbing in a lazy circle not far from Antigua. Just us and an engine-less wooden Carriacou Sloop called Good Expectation, which we had previously believed was called Great Expectations. We had been floating in approximately the same position for 24 hours. The wind? Taking a vacation somewhere else. The sea? Glass. Our morale? AMAZING – because we were about to crack frosty beers on a sunny day.

Let’s rewind. It’s Thursday morning in Antigua and the Picton Castle crew are doing their Picton Castle thing. Tidy up, hoist the small boats, prepare the ship for departure. Just as I had finished flexing my bulging ladypirate muscles while single-handedly hauling the rescue boat into position (ok, I admit that another 20 people may have been involved), Mate Mike summoned me to the bridge. If you aren’t aware, trainees such as myself are normally not to set foot on **~~The Bridge~~**, which is a lookout spot exclusively reserved for Captain and the Mates. Naturally, I concluded that I must be in trouble.

6 of us stood wide-eyed as Mate Mike presented a scenario to us: our mission was to deliver a Carriacou Sloop to St. Barth, with a stop-over in Anguilla; the sail would take about 2 days. Were we interested in joining as crew? Um…. how about YESYESYES.

We immediately gathered provisions and necessary cargo. Food for several days, propane, water, dishes, passports. A change of clothes, camera, notepad. Also beer and ice (very important). 45 minutes later we were stepping on board our new (temporary) home. The captain took us aside and told us that this would be very different than Picton Castle; we were going from a big steel ship with all sorts of gear to a small wooden sloop with no engine.

Soon we were out on the open water, waving buh-bye to our Picton crewmates, celebrating the adventure ahead of us. There was Mate Mike, the brains behind the operation and all-around sailing guru. Paula and Katelinn; Picton pro crew, back-up brains and bada** ladies. Davey and Fred; bros, brawn and skill. Me: slightly nerdy, very clumsy trainee with 2 months sailing experience. And bonus crew member Ollie, the bonvivant who would be documenting our expedition. Smells like a sitcom?

We’re screaming along at a terrifying 2 knots, smiling like fools. We’re free, baby! This is living! This is the stuff dreams are made of! And then… nothing. The wind takes an extended coffee break and leaves us staring at Montserrat, an active volcano, several miles off our port quarter. Antigua looms behind us and a tiny island called Radonda peeks from the horizon dead ahead. The calm does not faze us – we jump in the water and open chilled beverages, then eat dinner while watching one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve seen with these virgin eyes. Katelinn pulls out her violin and we sit in a content post-supper haze, and life seems perfect.

Oh, wait. Speaking of Katelinn, let’s focus for a moment on this lady’s genius. With Paula’s assistance, she rescued a propane tank SANS REGULATOR into something workable using only chopsticks, duct tape, a latex glove and small empty tube of sunscreen. People of earth, because of these modern day MacGyvers’ brains and persistence, we were able to eat hot food on Good Expectation. Praise Neptune, hallelujah.

I’ll spare you from the hourly logging of our 2 day bobbing session, but let it be known that we floated on glass for practically 48 hours. Antigua jeered, Montserrat blew its smoke with Parisian arrogance and Radonda remained as a mere chocolate chip on the horizon. Ollie stood at the bow, all 7 feet of him, and called out, “heeeere puffy wuffy!” Fred and Paula dove underneath the hull to remove a seaweed beard that had grown in the harbour. We took naps to avoid blistered lips (and also because we could). We took down the mainsail and put up the awning. We jumped in the water for multiple swim calls (Paula avec coffee). We rationed Heinekens so that a) they wouldn’t disappear in one foul swoop and b) they would be much more exciting to drink as a reward for our patience. We weren’t going anywhere, but we were relaxed and we were happy.

Then… DAY THREE. MAGIC. The wind found us overnight and by jove, we were moving! Sayonara, Antigua! See ya never, Montserrat!** Davey was prepping the fishing lines and he asked me what the catch of the day should be? We agreed that mahi mahi would be best. No lie – the guy hadn’t even finished tying the lines when he called, “FISH ON??” Somehow – whether it was brute strength or sheer determination – the boys hauled a massive mahi up on deck, which proceeded to flop violently and desperately… straight into our cockpit. Mate Mike tackled it like a rodeo ninja and … well, I’ll spare you the details, but 5 minutes later he and Davey were fileting a 40ish pound mahi mahi.

Oh, sweet bliss. Soon I was scarfing down the best galdang fish I’ve probably ever eaten – Mike fried it up with some oil, salt and pepper – and by day’s end, the 7 of us ate pretty much the entire thing (please, hold your applause). Other things that were awesome: we were speeding by St. Kitt’s & Nevis; a whale surfaced to say hello; we had decided to go directly to St. Barth aaaand once again our evening concluded with a violin serenade. Ladies and gents, this was a perfect day.

The next morning we sailed triumphantly into Gustavia Harbour, St. Barth. I imagined that the giant Beyonce yachts gazed at our charming dreamboat of a sloop with yearning in their eyes, for we had successfully spent three days experiencing a real ol’ fashioned sailing adventure. Our vessel was small but sturdy, we caught our own food, we slept under the stars on deck (or in a pile below), we used paper charts (gasp!), we had no engine and were therefore at the whim of the elements. It was epic.

After sailing gracefully to the dock (again, no engine required thankyouverymuch), we spent the next 5 days bumming around St. Barth before Picton Castle arrived. Some of us had no wallet, some of us had no shoes (aka: me), but all of us had an unforgettable time. Of course, that’s another story…

**This is actually a lie. On our passage from St. Barth to Carriacou I woke up early one morning to see Montserrat glowing behind us. I shook my fist, lovingly.

Fred at the helm of Good Expectation
Good Expectation in the calm Caribbean Sea
Major cleanup aboard Good Expectation while stern-to at St Barts
Mike cooks supper on the Good Expectation
Sunrise on board the Good Expectation

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Anguilla Makes The World Go Round

On April 23rd, 2011 the Picton Castle motored into Road Bay, Anguilla. This long and relatively flat coral island represents the most northern of the Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean. It’s white sand beaches glittered in the mid-morning sun and its indigo and cobalt waters shimmered as they lapped against the shoreline. For many of our crew this island was not just another beautiful island stop along the way. More than a year ago the ship set out from Nova Scotia, Canada on a life-changing voyage around the world aboard the Picton Castle. Anguilla was our first stop. Therefore, this island marked the official circumnavigation for 25 of the original crew members aboard.

There was an air of celebration among the crew, but also one of personal reflection. For many, the idea that they had circumnavigated the globe represented a momentous occasion and one to be marked in a similarly momentous fashion. Others were unable to put their experience into words and wished time to reflect. For some this marks a life-long dream. For others this experience has only opened their eyes to the infinite possibilities, and the explorations yet to come. It cannot be denied that all felt a sense of accomplishment, albeit one almost impossible to describe.

The Captain describes Anguilla as his favourite of the Leeward Islands. After this weekend many of our crew concur. Anguilla was settled in the middle of the 17th century by the English. Despite a brief period at the end of the 18th century when it was ruled by the French, English have maintained the island. It is now officially a British dependency, although they have their own internal semi-autonomous government ever since they broke away from St. Kitts and Nevis in 1971. Unlike much of the rest of the Caribbean Anguilla remains mostly undeveloped but the tourist industry represents an important fraction of its economy. There are striking bays on the north and south sides of the island, practically empty cays off the north coast and friendly beaches where one can hang in a hammock and listen to a string band while locals and tourists alike dance into the evening. This lack of extreme development not only means that the beauty of the land has remained relatively untouched, it also means that the friendly small-town mentality has not vanished – nor have the pristine coral reefs which surround the island. The Captain says that the gross national product of Anguilla is ‘Good Times’. This we would learn for ourselves soon.

We arrived in Anguilla on Easter weekend, which also happened (coincidence? I think not!) to be the weekend of the annual Festival Del Mar. With plenty of sailing, fishing, dancing and activities planned, the island matched the festive mood of our crew perfectly. Catching rides to Island Harbour the crew enjoyed watching the volleyball exhibition, the crab and turtle races, the sailing races and the fishing competitions. Walking along the waterfront many were distracted by the aromas of burnt shell and simmering broth drifting out from underneath white tents set up along the beach for shade and practicality. With delicacies such as locally caught conch soup and crayfish, lunch was a satisfying affair and one to feel good about as well. Anguilla still has some of the best fishing grounds in all of the Caribbean and supporting local fare is always a win – especially when it is as delicious as this was.

In my opinion Anguilla has one of the best music scenes in the Caribbean. Whether we were at Picton Castle offcial pub, The Pump House, having dinner and listening to a guitarist play riffs, reminiscent of Mark Knopfler, with a relaxed Caribbean cool edge or hanging out at Gwen’s by the sea dancing to a string band with a beat so catchy we did not want to leave or standing next to the pin-rail on the Picton Castle at 2am, on watch, listening to the pounding music on shore travel across the bay to our barque – Anguilla inspired us to dance!

On April 26th, after 3 days in Anguilla, we hauled up the anchor and sailed off the hook out of Road Bay. The thoughts the crew had been having, about where they have been and where they will go, how much they have learned and how much more they have to learn were set aside for the time being. The day offered us plenty of sunshine and a 20 knot breeze. We had 20 nautical miles before our next stop in St. Martin and plenty of tacking to do before we got there.

Thank you Anguilla for helping our crew celebrate their circumnavigation in style!

A Fishermans Catch
Boat races in Anguilla
Crayfish Anyone
Furling Sail in Anguilla
Picton Castle anchored in Road Bay, Anguilla
Watching as the racers come in

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Exploring Antigua by Land and by Sea

During our week-long stay at Antigua the Captain urged us to take advantage of the Caribbean way of life all around us. This included the classic boats we admired and thoroughly enjoyed sailing, but it also included the splendour of the island itself. Antigua smelled of ripe fruit and smoky earthiness. It was sweet and compelling and as much as we wanted to sail, we also wanted to explore the island. We wanted to experience the quiet solitude of its many coves and beaches; we wanted to hike into its interior; we wanted to dance in the rasta shacks to true Caribbean music. We wanted it all.

Antigua also attracted more than just sailing enthusiasts – although there were plenty of those to meet. It also attracted friends and family who took advantage of our fixed schedule (not to mention ideal location) to come and visit. Brad’s, Meredith’s and Mike/Fred’s parents flew into see them for a few days; the Captain’s brother, Jon, his sister Felicia and nephew William came for the week; and Frank (who had sailed with us on World Voyage 3) came to visit his girlfriend Suzanne, now a proud crew member of ours. We also gained three new crew members, even as we lost one. Our medical officer Dr. Petrus Draat flew back to Holland after spending two months with us onboard. In his place we now have Dr. Raju Raman, originally from Edinburgh and Aase Huggler who has joined us from Denmark. And we got our Ollie back! That is right. For all the fans out there, Mr. Billy Campbell himself has returned from Hollywood to sail, once again, on our barque! He just finished up shooting AMC’s new show called “The Killing”. It has opened to excellent reviews and a lot of viewers, we are thrilled for him.

Afternoons were fairly quiet around Falmouth and English Harbour. Most of the waterfront had been up since 8am racing and now, after 4 pm, it was time for a much needed siesta. Walking along the Falmouth waterfront filled with small boutiques and restaurants and bars our crew found restful spots to catch up on their business and reconnect with friends and family online. Others wandered down the road to English Harbour where a piece of history has been beautifully preserved. Nelson’s Dockyard boasts much of the original colonial British architecture and is still very much a working dockyard, now looking after yachts instead of sailing warships of Nelson’s time. Wishing to wander further afield some crew took road trips to secluded beaches like Half Moon Bay or snorkelling havens like Long Bay to swim and sunbathe. Others spent afternoons with families in secluded villas or hotels – relaxing and reminiscing. Aase and Raju spent an afternoon hiking in the mountains. Others went to the capital of St. Johns to provision, explore and see a bit of city life once again.

In the evenings most of the crew would return from their explorations to participate in the nightly events. The Regatta is a well-sponsored series and every evening the yacht club hosted a band or two and free food was available for all that were so inclined. As the evening wore on, the dancing became more earnest. With races and work in the mornings, many of us had curfews on our boats and ships and we wanted to take advantage of the fun to be had on land, before we nestled into our bunks for a solid night’s rest.

On Saturday, April 16th we had a particularly special night at the yacht club. Mike and Katelinn, integral members of the Picton Castle‘s famous Gypsy Band and rising stars in their own right, were asked to perform on stage. They had a raucous welcome from the Picton Castle crew as they took to the stage but once they started playing they needed no extra support from us. T for Texas came across loud and clear and the crowd began to sway. When Mike and Katelinn pulled out their stirring renditions of Bob Dylan vintage tunes, they had the crowd crowing. The evening felt cool after the warmth of the day and we all danced and cheered as other ships showed off their musical and dancing talents. Sailors, as this ship has long demonstrated, do a lot more than sail. They sing, dance, play instruments, learn languages, talk politics (if a little out of date!), debate, read, sew, draw, paint… and when asked to, they can perform! It was a really fun evening and one we hope will be repeated in future ports and future regattas.

We also noticed during our stay that many people were curious about our ship. We had had a chance to explore and sail their boats and the Captain thought it would nice to have an open ship afternoon. We posted signs around the Falmouth and English Harbour, cleaned the ship from top to bottom, made popcorn and punch and turned on the reggae music. At 4 pm dinghys started pulling up to our starboard and port ladders. The crew, dressed in Picton Castle sarongs made in Bali by the Captain’s friend Wayan, happily showed our guests and fellow sailors around our home. The event lasted well into the evening and was a success and something we also hope to continue as we sail the Caribbean isles.

As the Regatta wrapped up for the week the organizers held an afternoon small boat rowing competition in English Harbour. Naturally our crew wanted to be a part of it. Sea Never Dry, crewed by Ali, Meredith, Nadja and Siri, and the longboat (renamed the Manomoy for the day), crewed by Paul, Cody, Dave, Davey, Robert, Chris and Dapper Dan, sailed off their hooks and into Falmouth Harbour. They spent the morning tacking and gibing around the harbour and making their way, leisurely, to the competition. They all described it as the perfect day. Everyone felt bright and breezy, relaxed and aware, and they were all just thrilled to be sailing in company. Surprise, surprise eh? As the sun reached its peak and blazed furiously down, they hove to, and had a swim call before clambering back over the side and continuing their sail to English Harbour. Once they arrived they realized that their boats were much bigger than the boats already registered for the row. The organizers set up a separate competition and separate course for our two boats and they raced, men against women, Picton Castle crew against Picton Castle crew. The results are debateable. Naturally the crew of Sea Never Dry believe they won because they got the award in the end and naturally the crew of Manomoy believe they won, because they out-lapped the women when they missed the correct marker and had to turn back. No hard feelings though, just healthy competition!

An awards ceremony held in a gigantic tent in English Harbour marked an end to the week’s festivities. As the awards were handed out our crew applauded for the ships we admired and those we enjoyed sailing on and for the crew we met along the way. This sailing community is a special one and it is events like this that bring us all together.

Donald provisions in St Johns
Getting ready to race
Mike and Katelinn perform onstage
Nelson s Dockyard
Sea Never Dry and Long Boat sail into English Harbour

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