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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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