Captain's Log

Archive for August, 2011

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Preparing for Irene

The east coast of North America met Hurricane Irene over the weekend, the weather event that caused evacuations of low lying coastal areas, stopped public transit in parts of New York City and threatened Nova Scotia and the Canadian maritimes. Here in Lunenburg, we had been keeping an eye on Irene since it first formed, watched it batter in the Bahamas and had an eye constantly out for the next forecast as we tried to assess what Irene had in store for Picton Castle.

While it’s good to be optimistic and hope for the best, one should also prepare for the worst. With this in mind, we set about our preparations for Irene on Friday. The crew went through an orientation to heavy weather in port and then got to work preparing the Picton Castle for the storm, including the following:

– extra hawsers and chafe gear
– brace yards sharp on a port tack
– nip halyards in to the rig so they don’t blow around and chafe
– move the skiff from where it was tied up behind the ship
– take small boats off the moorings near the Dory Shop and pull them up on to the beach
– move all boats to higher ground
– haul back the ship’s anchor chain to tighten it and to take the strain off the wharf
– take away the gangway as needed
– check bilges

The highest winds were forecast to be here on Sunday night, so the crew were divided into night watches, keeping an eye on lines, chafe gear, and doing regular ship checks. By the time Irene arrived, it was a post-tropical storm. Sunrise on Monday brought diminished winds, clear sunny skies and no damage.

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Summer Adventures in Lunenburg

Picton Castle arrived home in Lunenburg from her fifth world circumnavigation voyage two months ago yesterday, and we’ll admit we haven’t written much since then. Why? Well, partly because reflecting on an accomplishment so huge can be kind of overwhelming, partly because we’ve been trying to enjoy summer in Lunenburg and all it has to offer, and partly because we’ve been focusing on developing all the myriad plans for our next big voyage.

So, to back up to the middle of June, our return to Lunenburg was a pretty special event. Crew members had friends and family arrive from all corners of the world to greet them and hug them tightly when they stepped off the ship, completing their voyage. From on board the sight of several wharves on the Lunenburg waterfront filled with people waving was a very moving one indeed. From the wharves, the ship looked gorgeous, shortening sail in the channel as she approached the dock. Horns were blaring from other ships in port, people were cheering, it was an all-around festive atmosphere. We certainly appreciate everyone who came out to see the ship and welcome the crew. Memories from that day are always moving, and it won’t be soon forgotten by any of the crew.

In the days following arrival, we had a few homecoming celebrations, final chances for the crew to be together while they made a start at including their loved ones in the experience they just had. The highlight was our awards night where every crew member was recognized for some sort of achievement, most of them quite silly. And then, in the days and weeks following, the crew began to head their separate ways, on to new adventures, old homes, and catching up with what’s been going on the lives of those they left behind when they went to sea.

A small handful of crew members have stayed in Lunenburg to work away at downrigging the ship, getting things cleaned and tidied, taking advantage of the small number of people on board to do an overhaul of now-empty living spaces, and starting to get extra coats of paint, tar, grease and oil on all parts of the ship to preserve her over the winter to come.

We’ve had a few interesting side projects as well, focused on small boat sailing in Lunenburg harbour, one of which was getting the Karl sailing again. This wooden boat was collected in Palmerston Atoll, where crew member Taia is from, on Picton Castle‘s third world voyage. The crew fixed her up then, made a sailing rig and a bright cotton sail, and sailed her in Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta in the British Virgin Islands on the way home. After sitting for a few years unused, we got her fixed up and in the water again. Her first sail this time was in the small boat race at the Lunenburg Wooden Boat Reunion. She didn’t place, but she floated and the crew had a great time sailing her. Weekly small boat sailing races have continued in Lunenburg’s front harbour on Wednesday nights, so we’ve been exercising all the small boats regularly.

This summer Lunenburg hosted the first annual Lunenburg Wooden Boat Reunion. On that same weekend, we held a cargo sale on our wharf. We had a fine array of treasures remaining in the warehouse from previous voyages. We dug them out, polished them up and found that we had all sorts of wonderful stuff to put out for sale. While people browsed through our open-air shop, they also took in workshops our crew offered at our wharf on knot tying, splicing, lead lines and heaving lines. It was also the perfect place to watch all of the wooden boat races, including the Nova Scotia Schooner Association’s Heritage Cup and the parade of sail beforehand, the small boat sailing race, the putt-putt race for wooden boats with single cylinder make and break engines, and the dory rowing races. And our very own Katelinn, second engineer and deckhand, demonstrated her musical skills, playing violin as part of the weekend’s lineup of musical entertainment under the tent at the Fisheries Museum.

While much of the summer has been rainy, foggy and grey, we’ve been making the most of the good weather days when they happen. Finally this week we had a few sunny days back-to-back and the crew have been grinning like fools, tar buckets attached to their hips while they work aloft tarring the rig, as well as painting and varnishing, cleaning and overhauling the ship. While not at work, we’ve all been enjoying BBQs (known as braais when our South African friends are around), sightseeing, taking in local music and events, and relaxing a bit.

Next up for us is the Bosun School, starting on August 30th. Young mariners with some experience at sea on different vessels will be joining us for an intense three months of workshops, lectures and lots of hands-on practice with the skills required to keep a ship, well, ship-shape. We look forward to welcoming these new folks to our happy gang.

Aase and Taia paint the KARL
Aase rust busts the quarterdeck rail
Aase teaches knot tying
Cargo Sale
Chibley helps Maggie paint a banner
Pania and Davey paint the hull of KARL
Pania prepares the KARL for painting
Pania teaches splicing at the wooden boat reunion
the KARL sails again!

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Introducing the Deep Sea Voyage 2012-2013

Here at the Picton Castle we are all very excited to be offering this next deep sea voyage of the Picton Castle to Europe and Africa and the Spanish Main. In 2008 we sailed the ship back to Europe were she had come from and sailed so much for so many years. That voyage was seen as something of a ‘homecoming’ voyage for the ship in so many ways and we were not sure that we would undertake another such trip – but that voyage all over western Europe, to Africa and through the eastern Caribbean was so amazing, powerful and rewarding for the crew that we figured we simply would have to do a voyage like that one again. And we are with some expansions.

This 2012 Voyage of the Atlantic and Spanish Main in the Barque Picton Castle will be one year long, 15,000 miles of deep sea voyaging under square sail, two transatlantic passages, learning the way of a deep sea windjammer and becoming real crew in her, coastal passages in and around Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, Norway, Denmark, Sweden to the Aaland Islands of Finland where the last great Cape Horners made their homes. On to Germany, France, Portugal and Spain at charming old world cobblestone port towns and havens, small quiet island harbours and big maritime city ports, sleepy little fishing ports, meeting up with tall ships from around the world, then on to Morocco and Senegal in amazing west Africa – then sailing the famed “Middle Passage” followed by an extended sojourn through the islands and ports of the ‘unknown’ Caribbean and the Bahamas exploring as few others have had a chance to do as we sail our ship.

The voyage begins in Lunenburg. We sail in May 2012 but the trainee crew show up well before sailing in order to help get the ship ready and take part in all manner of orientation and safety training.Then, with cooperation of the weather we cast off for an eastward bound passage across the North Atlantic Ocean. Perhaps cold and foggy at first we will sail with the prevailing westerly winds across the “Western Ocean” as this part of the Atlantic was once known. About 2,800 miles it is, all the way across, broken up by a stop at some sweet island in the Azores off Portugal before heading onward to all our European ports of call. It is quite surprising how nice the winds and waters usually get a few days offshore of Nova Scotia.

I can promise all those that join our ship on this voyage will sail a great ship on a voyage rarer than the sailing ship herself; that they will have the chance to learn about ships and the sea to a level rarely available or achieved elsewhere – they will visit new lands and ports and countries as crew of a sailing ship which is so completely different than visiting as a backpacker or fly-in tourist.

Steering a tall ship, learning the 205 lines and what looks like acres of sail, steering, keeping a good lookout, hauling braces, ropework, splicing, seizing, sailmaking, painting, varnishing, tarring the rig (and yourself we must admit!), heaving up the anchor link by link, setting and furling the 21 sails all made on board by hand by the crew, making life-long friends in the ship, helping the cook get the endless meals on the table, sunny days under sail, running with a fair wind gale or hove-to instead, standing anchor watch and becoming a valuable integral member of the crew is what Picton Castle is all about. And times ashore off watch in the many and wildly varied ports all over Europe, West Africa, the Caribbean, South America, Central America and the Bahamas will become an encyclopedia of experiences that defies description in these short paragraphs.

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