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The Great Picton Castle Seamanship Derby

By Kate “Bob” Addison

December 3rd, 2012

I am sitting on the bench on the well deck of our barque enjoying the shade of the galley house and the breeze up forward here as we steam through these light airs to get to Panama. Gabe is sitting next to me splicing a new rode for the small boat anchor, Kendall is at the paint locker preparing some buff paint and Gary is standing lookout up ahead on the port side of the foc’sle head. The laundry on lines above us billows and dances in the breeze. It’s a Monday morning at sea and all is quiet industry.

Yesterday, being a Sunday at Sea and the day of the 7th Quazi-Biannual Picton Castle Seamanship Derby, was quite different. At 1300 the watches assembled round the main hatch with stylish team costumes and team spirit running high. In the running to be crowned 2012 Champion Seamen we had AB Victor’s 4-8 “Why Knot?” watch, AB Susie’s 12-4 “Black and white bow-tie” watch and last but never least AB Allison’s 8-12 watch of “Dkembe-pants pirates”.

All was quiet with suspense and anticipation and then… enter the judges! The mates looked smartly tropical in crisp white shirts and pareos, the scorekeeper in a delightful green, blue and white sailor-inspired ensemble (so on trend darling), and the cheerleaders and line-judges looking really quite… extraordinary!

And then the battle began! Starting with a pin rail chase, one person from each watch up, first one to the starboard fore topgallant buntline wins a point: Go Go Go! No pushing, no running, lots of heckling! There was a Scandinavian round with Danes and Norwegians dashing to the main topgallant staysail sheet pennant with everyone else cheering loudly, but having absolutely no idea where they should be going… The final round in this competition had 2nd Mate Sam calling out “David Brown” and then “The bosun” sending our line judges scarpering as they were chased down by the watches, who were by this point hungry for points. After much drama 12-4 were crowned winners of the pin rail chase – perhaps it’s all that practice at midnight sail-handling giving them the edge?

The second round was called “Take in sail!” and rather predictably involved taking in sail. Mainsail and foresail were to be struck, with points and gold stars awarded for speed, style and skill. This was a close race, all three watches did very well with all times under 1 minute. 12-4 got a bonus enthusiasm point for breaking a buntline, while 4-8 were speed demons taking just 52 seconds to strike both sails and 8-12 were awarded style points for bunting up both sails evenly and simultaneously, to the delight of our exacting judges.

All of that sail setting and striking left rather a mess of the lines on the deck, but luckily the next round “Coil and hang!” soon sorted this out. All lines were flung down and the watches timed as they put them back on the pins and coiled and hung. Captain Moreland gave a demonstration of how neat, even coils should look, and told the watches all they had to do was better than him… well let’s just say that all three watches did well enough, but 12-4 won the points in this round for most stylish coils.

After a water break for our athletes and the judging panel, the competition moved up the quarterdeck for the “box-the-compass circle of doom” and knot tying elements of the trials. Both competitions required the whole watch to be on tip-top form – any error in the boxing reset the compass to North, and every watch member’s knot was inspected by the judges before being passed as satisfactory. This was a close competition with a selection of knots being won by every watch. Signe won bonus points for the 8-12 by tying a bowline behind her back with one hand, but 4-8 took the round overall with wins in the bowline, square-knot and sheet-bend categories, and a 2nd place bonus for Brody for being second fastest with the one-handed behind-back bowline. Good work all!

And so with our brave competitors tested to the limits of their seaman’s skill, knowledge and character, and the Captain and mates well pleased with the spirit and hard work of their crew it was time to announce the results.

“Best attention to detail” was awarded to 8-12 watch under AB Allison and Chief Mate Michael. “Most Stylin” was awarded to the 12-4 with AB Susie and 2nd Mate Sam, and the coveted “Most Salty” award went to the extremely competitive and Scandinavian Mate/AB combo of 3rd mate Siri and AB Victor and the 4-8 watch. Good job all round!

Pinrail madness!
square knots by the 4-8 including Brody, Hayley and Alex
The final scoreboard
Victor and the line judges

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