Captain's Log

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Gloucester

By Kate “Bob” Addison

16 July 2012

Monday morning and it’s cool and foggy here on the Picton Castle as we sail up from Gloucester, Massechusetts towards Nova Scotia at the beginning of the end of our summer of Tall Ships. The fog’s been with us almost since we left and it’s chilly enough to need a sweater. I’m even contemplating shoes…

We spent a long weekend at Gloucester, Massachusetts the ship moored up parallel to the shore across the head of three wharfs like they were dolphin posts. We were the guests of the Gloucester Marine Railway in Gloucester. We are told it’s the oldest continuously working marine railway in the USA and still hauling schooners and all sorts of other boats out of the water for maintenance today. A pretty old fishing vessel, the 1925 Phyllis A was on one of the slips having her hull re-caulked. The bright orange stripes of the red-lead putty along her hull looked like a 1970s style statement.

A stop in Gloucester wasn’t on our original plan but it worked well with our schedule and it really is a lovely place. I think everyone enjoyed having a couple of days ashore to trawl the book stores and junk shops for treasure, and look at the pretty Gloucester schooners. Two of these fine vessels, the Ardelle and the Thomas E Lannon sailed out to meet us, Canadian flags flying from mainmast spreaders to make us feel welcome.

Gloucester was famous as a fishing port once, their schooners fast and seaworthy. Gloucestermen they called them, the ships and the men. Tough, brave and salty. The pretty wooden row boats: Gloucester dories are famous too, and they rather bring to mind the Lunenburg dory. There’s a general sense of kinship with Lunenburg; both pretty fishing ports once bustling with ship building, engineering and all of the other industry supporting the fishing and supported by it. Now, more and more, both towns are selling their charms to the hospitality and tourism industries and art and crafts are flourishing. The nautical jobs are still there, but a niche now, perhaps a little nostalgia mixed with the commercial imperative. But sister towns nevertheless.

Ten of our crew, always up for a challenge, took on the Cape Ann rowing race, thae Blackburn Challenge it is called for a Newfoundland fisherman who rowed ashore in his dory lost from his schooner, hands frozen about his oars. While we were in Gloucester, around the cape they went, more than 6 hours of rowing over a course some 20 miles long. We heard incredulous talk from the locals that anyone would be mad enough to take such a big heavy boat around the course, but the gang did good, rowed all the way without asking for a tow and still smiling by the end. Mate Sean Bercaw raced in a dory and won first place in his section, receiving a big shiny medal and bragging rights for his efforts. But I’ll leave our rowers to tell their own story – tales of courage and endurance coming soon!

Whale ship style, we launched the monomoy at sea as we sailed in with Picton Castle the day before: hove to so the ship stopped in the water for a minute, launched the boat, and then braced the yards round so we continued on our way. Under Siri’s command the boat sailed in behind us and came back alongside Picton Castle once the ship was snug at anchor for the night before we came into dock in the morning.

We had a gang from the Mystic Seaport Museum aboard Picton Castle for a few days to come sailing with us. Mystic is a fabulous place and one of their projects is the restoration of the last of the wooden New England whale ships, the Charles W. Morgan. The plan is to sail her once she’s all fixed up so we figured if they’re going to sail a whale ship it would be good practice for them to launch a whale boat at sea just like the New England whalers of the 1800s did.

There have been a few whales around for the past few days too, but they were safe enough from our gang in the monomoy. Mineral oil has replaced just about everything the whale oil was used for and whalebone corsets are thankfully no longer in fashion. All we wanted from the whales was the thrill of the sight of them and some photographs for the album.

And now we’re sailing sedately along with most everything set, there’s a quiet calm about the place as the crew take their turn at the helm, lookout or doing ship’s work, the watch below snoozing or reading. We have double lookouts posted because of the fog, one at each rail on the forecastle head and all around is wintery white.

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