Captain's Log

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Chugging Along In The North Atlantic

By Kate “Bob” Addison

Picton Castle is motor-sailing South, 600 miles from Lunenburg, braced up sharp on a starboard tack under staysails as we continue to work our way into near-headwinds. We’re well east of a big low pressure system centred in the Chesapeake Bay, which is causing these Southerly winds. And making a bit of a mess for the NE coast of the US. At 34°26’N 064°14’W we’re a healthy 500 miles away from the worst of the low, and we’re not trying to pinch any closer. The winds are forecast to veer round to fair Northerlies by the end of the week which will give us good sailing to the southward; until then, we just keep chugging along, getting Southing.

It’s an exhilarating day to be on deck. Big-ish seas, sunshine and showers and 20 knots blowing over the starboard bow, gusting 25. Five minutes on the bridge and you feel instantly refreshed (if a bit damp). It’s not cold anymore – the water’s been in the low twenties centigrade for the last couple of days, but plenty of rain squalls blowing over. Foul weather gear over T-shirts is the current fashion for on-watch-wear: not too hot, keeps the rain and any spray off, and makes for brightly coloured gatherings when the watches muster.

The worst thing in the last couple of days has been the roll – we’ve had maybe ten and 12 foot seas on the beam at the worst point, making sleeping into an art form. It had lain down a lot by last night so people are looking less sleepy today. In fact it laid down in a couple hours, surprising really.

There was a little bird fluttering round the quarterdeck yesterday morning. Trainee Dan was trying to feed it bits of his apple and take its photo, prompting a discussion about whether or not small birds eat fruit. This one did anyway. Poor bird, it looked fairly bedraggled, and unlikely to make the 125-odd miles to Bermuda, or even to survive as a stowaway with hungry George aboard.

Ship’s cat George has been causing trouble, breaking into his supply of kitty treats on the top shelf in the scullery, eating breakfast baked beans and generally acting like we’re starving him. I think his ever-expanding belly, glossy coat and bright eyes are signs that he’s not actually underfed, whatever he likes to think. He was quite seasick the first few days out, wandering about mewing for his gangway and his dock and being generally miserable except when being fed or petted. He seems to have cheered up now, remembered he’s a ship’s cat and got his sea legs back.

A sign has appeared on the salon door by order of the Chief Mate: “We have entered flying fish territory. The first flying fish found on deck must be brought to the officer of the watch immediately!” One of the trainee crew asked me if the sign was serious. Of course! First flying fish is for the Captain, second for the ship’s cat. Isn’t that how it is on every ship?

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