Captain's Log

Archive for May, 2013

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Bound For The Final Port Of The Voyage

By Kate “Bob” Addison

Thursday May 9, 2013

20-25’S 159-08’W

Picton Castle is sailing along, steering full-and-by the wind, which is an east by south Force 4. We’re 60 miles NE of Rarotonga, our home port and also the final port of this seven month South Pacific Voyage. The plan is to arrive soon after lunch tomorrow, but the voyage continues for one more week alongside – we have a packed schedule planned for that week including public day sails on Saturday May 18th and Sunday May 19th, sending up the new t’gallant yard and bending on the t’gallant sail, tons of small boat sailing – we’re hoping to do some longer expeditions to the motu off Muri beach – and of course, the crew awards night and leaving party.

But right now it’s peaceful and calm. Blue skies, blue seas and sunshine. We sailed close by the uninhabited atoll of Manuae yesterday evening, a long, low strip of white sand topped with leafy green palm trees. Captain called an all hands muster on the quarterdeck after a great supper of lemony buttery mahi-mahi (thanks to Hayley and DB for the fish), potatoes, broccoli, salad and cheesy bread. The muster was simply to remind people to take a minute to look around them to appreciate what a special and privileged thing it is to be sailing on a barque in sight of a stunning, uninhabited island, deep in the South Pacific Ocean.

Hayley with the mahi mahi
Hayley, Drea and Tonya chilling out with crafts on the aloha deck
Konnor, Chris and Nadja help Sam and DB with the tgallant yard

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Just Another Tuesday

By Kate “Bob” Addison

We have a well-used expression on the ship that something is very “Tuesday”. Tuesday being the vanilla of weekdays. Not traumatic like a Monday or fabulous like a Friday, just run-of-the-mill, routine and rather dull.

Well, today is a Tuesday and on board Picton Castle our daily ship routine rolls along, routine but hardly dull. The routine on the ship is anything but normal for anyone outside of our salty little bubble: Maia and Brody are running up aloft to loose the main t’gallant sail; Victor and Nadja are patch-serving the fore royal footrope stretched out on the well deck and then anointing it with plenty of oozing tar; Kendall has the helm steering close to the wind. Even doing dishes isn’t dull on board, what with the movement of the ship to keep things lively, two shipmates from the other watches to chat with, and your choice of music playing from Niko’s big amplifier, the Aggressor. Dkembe, Graham and Jo are on galley duty today, washing dishes after pasta in a rich tomato sauce and watermelon for lunch.

We had a muster yesterday afternoon before supper, all hands mustered on the quarter deck to hear the Captain setting out our plan for the end of the voyage. He explained that the passage that we have just made in four days from Tonga to the Cook Islands would usually have taken ten days or two weeks as it is going east against the prevailing south easterly trade winds. But we got fantastically lucky with a low pressure system over Fiji that brought us strong fair winds for the whole passage. And so now we find ourselves in middle the Cook Islands, with nowhere that we have to be till next week.

We could have stopped at another island in the Cooks Southern Group, but first we would have had to clear in at Aitutaki from the difficult anchorage there and then sail or motor upwind to get anywhere else. Proportionally we’ve had quite a lot of island time already this voyage, so instead of adding an island to our collection, Captain decided that we should go sailing instead. And sailing is what we’re doing. After the muster we wore ship to get back on course, which is a fun sail-handling exercise, and easy enough with all hands. The only excitement was when the spanker clew outhaul parted as we were re-setting it. By then it was too dark to reeve a new one so we had no spanker set until this morning when Sam’s 8-12 watch fixed it.

Now our position is 20°22’S 159°26’W and the Force 5 easterly wind is blowing across our starboard bow. We’re braced up sharp on a starboard tack heading NNE at 4 knots or so. It’s another bright, active day with white fluffy cumulus clouds, and there’s enough roll to make you notice that you’re afloat, but not enough to fling you from your bunk.

It seems fitting that people have some time under sail to get used to the idea of the end of this South Pacific Voyage and to mentally adjust to whatever the next thing will be for them. The soon-approaching deadline of the end of the voyage also seems to be motivating people to finish off all their little projects, and there’s a flurry of off-watch activity with people finishing ditty bags, sea bags and woodwork projects. Conversations are turning to thoughts of home and what’s coming next, but they sound sort of abstract – there’s a subtle feeling that this voyage will just sort of keep going forever. And in some ways it does. Not just for those who stay on for the next voyage, or those like me who went home and promptly come back again, but for almost everyone who has felt the cool sea water wash across their toes on the main deck, stood forward lookout under the bright tropical stars and felt the pride of wearing a Picton Castle crew shirt as the ship sails majestically into port.

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Back to Sea Again

By Kate “Bob” Addison

Thursday morning sees Picton Castle still pushing to get easting in this favourable weather window. Our position is 19-02’S, 171-09’W and the day is bright and sunny. The wind is a very agreeable 20 knots just to starboard of dead astern and we’re braced almost square, running downwind at a steady 7 to 8 knots.

Looking over the rail from the foc’sle head the water is foaming white under the bow as we surge along. The seas around are a dark, rich blue with scattered whitecaps and occasional glints where the sun reflects off a wavelet. Looking aft at the ship, all is peaceful and ordered industry. The sails are gleaming white in the sunshine and the laundry hanging on the well-deck lines is dancing a colourful dance.

Moving aft past the galley where Donald is inside cooking lunch, to midships and the main deck that surrounds the big canvas-covered cargo hatch, battened down now for sea. The port side of the main deck is almost entirely taken up with a row of saw horses upon which rests the new t’gallant yard Sam and DB are working on. It’s taking shape now, and looks more like a rough spar now rather than the block of wood it was so recently, or the pile of planks it was not so long before that. Something magical about watching it being created day by day, the spar that always was there inside the block being slowly released to the world. The plane lifts off long strips of pale shavings that curl as they rise up and grow, like a snake being charmed.

Moving aft again down the starboard breezeway we find our smallest, furriest shipmate George lying snoozing in the sun. He’s got his sea legs now and the movement of the ship doesn’t bother him, as long as he can keep his paws dry and find people to give him his daily dose of petting. With 30 people aboard he doesn’t exactly want for attention. The aloha deck is next, the furthest point aft on the main deck, it’s where we eat when the weather is fine and our in-house coffee shop and gossip spot all the time. It’s quiet on the aloha deck now, halfway between breakfast and lunch – just baby Dawson sleeping in his car-seat-swing that’s rigged from the overhead. It’s attached to a tag line so his nanny Tonya can swing him while she relaxes too, stretched out on the bench in the stern. Not that he needs much rocking when the ship is moving like this, lucky baby to get his very own barque to rock him to sleep!

Climbing up the port side engineer’s ladder brings us to the quarter deck where the decks are just starting to get hot from the sun. Murray has the helm, steering east by south, into the sun. John and Finn are working on a sail stretched out sausage style on the smooth, well swept deck. It’s an old t’gallant sail that was slightly too large to set nicely, so it’s being trimmed to fit – rather like hemming a pair of trousers. First the foot of the sail was cut off, and then the tabling re-stitched along what is the new foot. Now the bolt rope and clew cringles are being replaced. And soon the sail will be ready to set again, perhaps from the new yard.

It’s easy to write about all of these Tropical Island Paradises that we go to because each one is new and interesting, and there are contrasts and similarities as we sweep our way across the Pacific, but it’s also wonderful to spend some time back on our ship, being sailors and enjoying the simple pleasures of hard work well done, companionship of your shipmates, big blue skies and a wide horizon.

Dancing laundry
DB planes spar
Sailmakers
working on t gallant yard

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International Date Line

By Kate “Bob” Addison

Position 18-40’S 173-1’W, and we’re motor sailing in fair winds to get as far east as possible before we lose these favourable winds and the more usual SE’ly trades resume. We even had some sunshine today, though it’s a bit rolly.

We got up this morning in Tonga on Thursday May 2nd, but then at midday we had crossed back over the international date line and put our clocks back by exactly one day to midday on Wednesday May 1st. Which means we get Wednesday twice this week, to make up for losing a Wednesday that we lost crossing the other way last week, and we’re back to being 11 hours behind London instead of 13 hours ahead. May Day came twice this year! It’s a bit funny that we cross the date line before 180 degrees west – that’s because the line bends around countries for convenience rather than slicing straight through them, which would cause all sorts of confusion if it was two different days on the two sides of the same island…

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