Captain's Log

Archive for September, 2011

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Captain’s Log – A Bosun’s Work

September 22, 2011

On August 30th, 2011, when the Picton Castle’s 3rd official Bosun School commenced, we welcomed eight eager students to the program. Almost a month has passed since that first introductory day and so we felt it was time for another Captain’s Log to allow some of our supporters, alumni and sailing enthusiasts a peek into our world while in port.

Unlike our at-sea sail training program on the Picton Castle, we do require some sailing experience from our Bosun School students. Naturally the best school for a sailor is a ship under sail, yet those of us who have sailed also know that life on the sea is hard work with extra time to learn a rare commodity. This varied course was designed with this in mind. It gives keen, young mariners and budding sailors a chance to learn and advance upon their seamanship skills in a focused and open environment.

Traditionally the Bosun was the foreman of the deck department and therefore needed to be skilled in all aspects of marlinspike seamanship, boat handling, sail handling and a myriad of other ship skills. In modern times the Bosun’s job differs from one ship to the next. On one ship the Bosun may oversee the jobs on deck or below. On another ship they may be also asked to oversee the rigging department as well. The Bosun School is not designed for those who wish to sail specifically on the Picton Castle. Nay, it is designed for those who wish to sail. Period. Indeed we have young mariners in our program who have spent some time in brigs, fully rigged ships, schooners, barques and even a steam wheeler.

The Bosun School students wake every morning at 7:30 am, much like a Bosun on a ship at sea would, and eat their breakfasts as the sun rises over Lunenburg harbour. They do domestics every morning. That means they clean the heads, tidy the living quarters and swab the decks. Every day a new scullery team cleans up after mealtimes and does routine ship checks. Thursday provides a break from this routine as several of the students walk to the Farmers market in town to buy local vegetables, fruits and breads for the week. At 9 am they muster with Captain Moreland and the lead instructors to discuss and prepare for the day.

Since the school began the students have engaged in a multitude of projects and workshops. The Captain has instructed them on the art of splicing, basic whippings and different seizings, even demonstrating their strength with a tug of war. It was 10 people against one of the Captain’s seizings and you can probably guess who won!

They have spent many sunny days –and some foggy days- in the Dory Shop yard working on the Symphony and Happiness. As Maggie mentioned in a previous Captain’s Log – Symphony is a 33’ Tahiti Ketch graciously donated by Richard and Sharon Orpin to be used as an educational sailing vessel for youth. The Bosun School Students have cleaned out the interior and scraped, sanded and painted the exterior – giving her some of the love that she needed. Maggie and four other locals recently bought a small plywood schooner – aptly named Happiness. The boat needed a few little repairs before they could sail her and so the crew have patched some holes and fibre-glassed the edges, making her seaworthy once more.

The first couple of weeks of Bosun School have also given many students their first introduction to small boat sailing and handling. They have taken the Monomoy out sailing and rowing. As they become more comfortable with the commands they will take turns acting as Coxswain. They have also taken for skiff out for practice runs around the harbour – learning the manoeuvres involved in handling the outboard. It is essentials for the qualified mariner to be quite proficient in small boats – a skill set, now not always easy to obtain.

Just this afternoon I went down to the ship to take a few photos and discovered that the Bosun Schoolers were busy rigging. Preparing to bend on the Inner Jib a couple of crew were in the bowsprit rigging the inner jib down-hall with a fairlead, while a couple others were high aloft rigging the halyard with a fairlead. Bending-on sail is one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever done onboard a ship and I was so excited to see the students engaged in the project. I hear that later this week they may be bending on the fore-lower and fore-upper topsail!

Lunenburg is a Mecca for sailing and boat building enthusiasts alike. As such the students have found no shortage of opportunities outside of the Bosun School to apply and expand upon the skills they have learned. Agnes and Danielle have spent several week-ends working on and sailing on a local Catamaran; during Wednesday night hump-cup the students have their pick of the various boats in the harbour; and almost everyone has taken a Dory out on the harbour for a sunset row. There have been quite a few sailing events this summer and fall in which everyone participates. This week-end Lunenburg will host the September Classic. Eva, Samantha, Danielle and Aase have already found themselves coveted crew positions and Gabe, Agnes and Heather will have no trouble finding boats.

While the students do not always make meals during the week, they have taken it upon themselves to make meals during the week-ends. This has not only given them the chance to expand upon their culinary repertoire, but also to learn how to make good, hearty food for twelve people – on a budget. It seems all of our Bosun School students have a sweet tooth and consequently every night when I walk back to the ship the sweet smell of cakes and goodies hangs in the air above the scullery. Danielle celebrated her 22nd birthday yesterday and Gabe, Aase and Eva made a cake for her. This cake was a team effort, if there ever was one, and the three of them aptly described it as a ‘fusion cake’. Chocolate, coffee and raspberry decadence is how the rest of us would have described it. Just delicious.

As the evenings wear on you can hear giggling from the well deck and the scullery – as the students spin yarns and get to know one another. It makes me happy, for their bonding as students in this environment is similar to that of crew bonding while at sea…

rsz 1bosun students work on happiness
rsz eva and lauren rigging in the bowsprit
rsz gabe samantha and aase show off their market finds
rsz getting ready for hump cup
rsz preparing the inner jib
rsz sailing in the monomoy

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Lunenburg Seamen’s Thanksgiving Service

Every year, the community pauses to give thanks for its seafaring residents returning safely to land, and to remember those who did not. Lunenburg’s seafaring heritage has seen generations of people going to sea, whether for fishing, carrying cargo, even rum running during Prohibition. Picton Castle is proud to call Lunenburg one of our homes and the base of our operations, the crew carrying on the tradition of putting to sea from Lunenburg.

We often pass the Fishermens’ Memorial on Bluenose Drive, just down the street from our wharf and office. It’s made up of eight triangular columns of black granite arranged as a compass rose, inscribed with names of ships and seamen who never made it home. In years of bad weather, like the August gales of 1926 and 1927, the lists are long and many of the last names are repeated, some families lost fathers, brothers, uncles and nephews.

While the Fishermens’ Memorial is always available for people to visit, as is the memorial room in the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, time has been set aside every year for more than 80 years to remember those who were lost and to be thankful for those who returned safely. The Seaman’s Thanksgiving Service was held this year at the Central United Church on Sunday September 11. Many of our crew were in attendance while Mayor Laurence Mawhinney and local clergy led the assembled group in words and music.

After the part of the service in the church, beautiful floral wreaths were presented, some in memory of all seafarers lost from the local area and some to honour a specific lost loved one, and carried down the street to the Adams & Knickle scallop fishing vessel Cachalot I. The sun was shining and there was a fresh breeze, the perfect day to reminisce about being on the water. The Captain and crew of the Picton Castle presented a beautiful floral wreath with pink lilies, gerbera daisies and lush green leaves in memory of all lost seafarers, especially Laura Gainey. Once we arrived on the wharf, wreaths were then passed to the crew at the end of the gangway, who gently carried them to the bow and attached them with string to the rail around the bow of the ship. The vessels of the inshore fishing fleet motored past the end of the wharf and were each individually blessed, then Cachalot I slipped off the dock and went out to sea, carrying her cargo of wreaths and memories. Just past Cross Island, the wreaths were cut away to float atop the Atlantic, marking the graves of so many seafarers who lay below.

CACHALOT I with wreaths on the bow, photo by Ollie Campbell
CACHALOT leaves the dock with wreaths
parade of wreaths to the waterfront, photo by Ollie Campbell
ready to receive wreaths at the gangway of CACHALOT I

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Bosun School Begins

September brings back-to-school time, even for us on the Picton Castle.  The Bosun School has been in session for two weeks now and students are starting to settle in to the daily routine of classes, projects and work. 

The Bosun School is a land-based skills development for young people ages 18-30 who have some experience going to sea and want to advance their skills in a focused environment.  Distractions naturally occur at sea, so it can be difficult for one person to see a project through from start to finish.  By taking away that distraction, students have the opportunity to focus on the task at hand, learning it through demonstrations and lectures, then practicing hands-on several times so they gain familiarity and confidence in each skill.

The first few days focused mostly on orientation and familiarization as the students got to know the ship, the warehouse and the Dory Shop, our main classrooms as well as get a start in the many small boats we keep.  We did full safety training and drills, including getting the students aloft in Picton Castle‘s rigging for the first time. 

An incredible opportunity has come our way in the form of a 33’ Tahiti ketch called Symphony, donated by Richard and Sharon Orpin, to be used to get young people sailing.  The Bosun School students are working on this boat, which had been sitting in the Orpin’s yard, at the Dory Shop, getting it ready to go back into the water.  Once the preparation work is done, the vessel will be launched and it will become another classroom for the Bosun School students, learning to handle yet another kind of vessel.  They’ll also be rowing as crew and as coxswain, and learning to drive the skiff.  Small boat handling is an essential skill for a bosun, one we intend to spend some time developing.  

Keep your fingers crossed for good weather so we can be out on the water and working in the rig as much as possible this month.

below deck on Symphony Heather and Danielle
Bosun School first day
Gabe and Samantha working on Symphony
headrig orientation
scraping and scrubbing the monomoy

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Danmark Crossing the Atlantic

Picton Castle‘s Chief Mate on the Atlantic Voyage and World Voyage 5, Michael Moreland, is now sailing aboard the Danmark, Denmark’s national sail training ship. He joined the vessel in Lisbon in July and the ship is bound across the Atlantic to Philadelphia with a full ship of cadets on a sail training voyage, before heading back across again to Europe.  Mike has been keeping us up to date on his current adventure, which we share with you here.

24 North
58 West

September 1st, 2011

The healthy trade winds which have carried this old girl more than half way across the Atlantic Ocean have begun to ease up a bit.  We found our southing end at about 25 north and have been making straight westing for the last 800nm or so.  Tropical waves, depressions, and storms seem to be sprouting up all around us but not in our way, and we watched a potentially historic hurricane rip up the eastern seaboard from the safety of our weather charts.  The only contact we have had so far is catching the top of a tropical wave a thousand miles ago. It was just as a surfer catches a wave, with the isobars building up right behind us which blessed us with steady 30 knots right on the starboard quarter for three days and 20-25 for another 3 days, with only grey skies and the occasional wave breaking on deck as a side effect.  Now the seas and seaweed seem to indicate calmer winds upon us, a nice respite for all 100 souls aboard this old full-rigger, as well as the bosun to catch up with the painting and varnishing. 

All sails are flying these days, with a devoted team of quartermasters and trainees bending the last of the kites and even throwing up the forgotten crossjack, which is just an old main topmast stay’sl, set like a triangle with the top down.  We all agree it completes the mast.  Lots of tarring aloft, splicing up new wire braces, knocking rust off here and there, scraping and sanding endless teak furniture and fixtures aboard, and the usual bracing, stowing and teaching all keeping this group of sailors content and happy.  We have also had a run of luck with fishing off the stern, with a number of mahi mahi and one wahoo thrown onboard and onto our plates.  The Danes say those names of fish are strange sounding, I tell them that the words they say sound strange too.  But none the less, a good opportunity to teach proper fish cleaning and filleting techniques.  

Seaman’s Sunday fell on a Monday this week, which meant no teaching or ship’s work, but instead time for the cadets to air out their hammocks, organize their lockers and a special treat this week, we inflated our training life raft and made a kiddie pool right on the main deck.  Nice to have a day with no knock-a-rust noise and a little extra time to sit on the foc’sle or poop deck and have a chat.  But the days are going by at a nice pace everyone agrees and this collection of cadets and crew keep learning and improving in all the countless tasks and jobs that keep this ship going forward. 

And forward we go now, maybe with a bit more urgency as the next hurricane in line, Katia, is nipping at our heels a bit.  Should be well ahead of it, as we are motor sailing west at good consistent clip, but a little close for comfort.  Seems like we are in the midst of an active hurricane season.  But all is well aboard the Skoleskibet, almost all aboard are serenely unaware of the potential maelstrom lurking over the horizon.  But that’s fine, no need for extra grief.  Just focus and attentiveness to our daily routine, classes, and ship’s work, and maybe enjoying the last light of day as the sun slips below the horizon just ahead off the starboard bow.

Picton mate Mike plays with a local kid
Skoleskibet DANMARK

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Aboard the Danmark

What do our crew do after signing off the Picton Castle at the end of a long voyage? Well, a great many things. But here is one story.

Chief Mate Michael J. Moreland was recruited by the S/V Danmark to become one of their petty officers. The Danmark is the state sailing school ship of the Kingdom of Denmark training seamen and officers for the huge Danish merchant marine. She is known as the Royal State Danish School Ship, and has been steadily at sea since 1933. During the Second World War after Denmark was invaded by Germany her captain turned his ship and her crew over to the US Coast Guard and gave basic sea training to about 5,000 young Americans. Having built ships for the express purpose before, and with an active small vessel program, after WWII the USCG decided that they had better get back into the business of training under sail again and put the big Barque Eagle into commission. Both ships sail today doing what they do better than any other method, preparing young mariners for a life at sea. The Danmark is about 260′ long, with a rig height of about 133′. She carries about 98 crew and trainees and she is a full rigged ship.

D. Moreland

From Michael Moreland at sea in the Danmark:

Here is final revised log. All is well here, riding the top of a tropical wave, strong trades 25-30, 200nm day yesterday, catching some fish, overhauling the malerum (paint locker), and the sun shone long enough today to spread some paint around. Looks like a nasty hurricane coming up the east coast, glad we’re not there.
That’s all from here for now.
Michael

Aboard the Full Rigged Danish State Training Ship Danmark
August 22, 2011,
700 nm SW of Canaries



Sailing along just perfectly since leaving Madeira 7 days ago, steady 20-25 kts right out of the NE, t’gallants and big courses pushing this race horse along at 8-9 knots with hardly a splash on deck. All of the cadets are over their sea sickness and self pity and the extensive orientations are all through now, letting us put them to work and handling the sails. The quartermasters essentially run the deck and get to do all the fun stuff, sail handling and deck work, chasing the cadets around and keeping them in line. A good lot of trainees though. Most keen and follow all the rules amazingly well. It is fun working with a bunch of goofy, young kids, easy to get them motivated. And some of them get a big kick out of trying to teach me Dansk. It’s coming very slowly, but coming none the less.

The transition to English as the working language onboard is interesting in many aspects. All the crew is behind it and I believe, all genuinely glad that I am here help it along, but most of the time the old crew will revert back to Danish amongst themselves when working on deck, which is understandable. However, I think they are all glad to expand their maritime English, as it is the universal language in the shipping industry. It is funny, sometimes, to hear all the trainees running around jabbering in Danish with English maritime words thrown in, as all of the marine teaching has been in English. Overall, I think the decision to switch to English will be viewed favourably at the end of this tour.

The ship lives up to her great reputation and is incredible in every respect. The design, layout, construction, and systems are all top notch and she really feels like a big ship. The rig is immensely stout and powerful, with design and scantlings coming straight from age of sail shipbuilders of the 1930s. It is interesting in that you can see where new things have been added and changed and where the original rig layout is still preserved. What is impressive is that over the years they have been switching to products that keeps reducing the maintenance and upkeep in the rig, which can be valuable for a training ship as it allows more time to teach and train the 80 cadets. Still, plenty of good work to be done up aloft, and we have been enjoying the work while the strong Atlantic trade winds blow.

The organization of the Danmark is very well compartmentalized and good communication is facilitated by the mate and captain. All the crew is given free-range to work in their own areas with little micromanagment. Very good to see new styles. I am getting inspired in a lot of ways, such as teaching and crew management, as well as ship organization. It is refreshing to be teaching hands-on again and I am sharpening the effectiveness of my communications as I am teaching to trainees who don’t speak the best English. Besides teaching, the Bosun and I run the deck work all day and discuss all the ongoing maintenance daily. A good ship’s Bosun, about my age and like minded on proper work and organization. The two other quartermasters have been focusing on work aloft with small groups of cadets, while we have been running the deck work. I have started overhauling all the wire ‘baendsler’ (standing rigging seizings) and will have them all perfectly painted by the time we get to the States. A lot of rust busting, varnishing, painting, cleaning, so on. Nice to have 20 trainees all afternoon. I have also been leading a lot of the sail maneuvers and the commands and tempo I brought from the Picton Castle have been working here nicely. I have been complemented on the fast pace and clarity with which I push the cadets around hauling on ropes, keep them moving. Didn’t try to push my way of sail handling onboard, but was asked several times by the Overstyremand (Chief Mate) to just do it like I am used to.

Keeping my mouth shut about Picton Castle as much as possible, but most crew want to know more. A few ideas thrown out here were to advertise the Bosun School and the next voyage to Georg Stage trainees (the other Danish full rigged training ship) as they will be signing off shortly before then. And some good crew here are wondering about the possibility of joining Picton Castle for the next voyage. All I tell them is to just apply and see. As for the next voyage around the Atlantic, it looks really good. Good route, lots of new places, less miles, more sailing. A good mix of northern latitude European coastwise sailing and sweet trade winds from the shores of Africa to the Caribbean. I am convinced that this kind of Atlantic voyage is the superior voyage for a square rig training ship, not that I am alone in this thought though.

Trying to be more social onboard, as she is a European ship, they like to talk a lot, but hard to join a conversation when you don’t understand what they are saying. All in all, I think it is going very well, and you were right when you said it was just fun, because I am having a blast, and feel beyond honored to work on this age-of-sail full-rigger.

Anyway, hope all is well back in Nova Scotia and you’re having a good summer. Give my best to everyone.



Michael

DANMARK
Picton DSC06106
Picton DSC07366

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