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Sunday at Sea in the Barque Picton Castle

By Cheri Davidson

29-04 S, 166-53 E – Steering SWxW

What could be better for a bunch of sailors in a deep water square-rigger on a long sea passage than a beautiful Sunday at sea? As in ships of old, Picton Castle crew work hard all week, but on a lovely, sunny Sunday like today, we dial it back a bit and take some time to chill and relax.

We started our Sunday with some electrically charged squalls last night. Both night watches were telling each other about the amazing lightning shows they got. It was quite a scene with a bright, almost-full moon shining over the stern and big, fluffy cumulus clouds getting lit up from behind off the bow. With mostly cloud to cloud strikes, it was easy to see how the ancients used to think lightning was the gods fighting amongst themselves. If lightning is nearby, we stay out of the rig, even away from the rig and always wear rubber boots as well as our foulies.

Our amazing cook, Donald, gets to relax on Sundays, his day off, which means we must cook! *gasp!* Hannah and Chris on Port Watch did an awesome job this morning and started everyone’s day right with heaps of pancakes. This business of the crew cooking certainly aids in appreciating the great job Donald does. Starboard Watch had the decks after breakfast and they were happy to report the very first dolphin sighting of the South Seas Voyage. Very exciting!

On Sundays at sea we don’t do any ship’s work. Which means no painting, no chipping, no scraping, no tarring, and no varnishing. But when something needs doing, we do it. The ‘on watch’ still must be on deck at all times during their watch, and ready for any sailing handling and instruction from the Captain or Mates. As we are motoring right now with just a few fore and aft sails set, there isn’t as much need for sail handling as there would be with all sails set. But we are always ready, just in case. Being on deck means we can give our laundry a good soak in a bucket of sea water, then a good scrub and fresh water rinse and hang it to dry on the well deck. It’s also a good time to get small personal projects done, sew up that hole in your work pants, or go over some knots.

We have been having workshops in rope work; eye splice, short splice, cable splice, long splice, sailmaker’s eye splice and whippings. The Mate Dirk gave a very good workshop in tool cleaning and sharpening on Saturday. We have a lot of carpentry, caulking and rigging tools and they all need to be cared for.

This afternoon the Captain gave the first of several workshops on sailmaking by teaching how to make a canvas ditty bag. This is a perfect Sunday project! Every sailor needs a sweet ditty bag to hold all of their sailor trinkets. Ditty bags are made of the same canvas as our topsails, with a wooden bottom and a rope becket (handle) and are perfect for holding all kinds of tools you might need such as sewing needles and a palm, a pair of pliers, a fid, maybe some pencils and a little knife. Or anything you want really! In making a ditty bag you practice many skills that are used for endless other projects on board. Today we just started with a rectangular piece of canvas and stitched it up to make a cylinder shape.

Sewing with a sailmaker’s needle and palm (like a thimble for the palm of your hand) isn’t a skill that comes easily to all. Good seaming takes practice. And grommets, roping and patching. The Captain can barrel through a short seam in a matter of minutes, but he is a sailmaker, whereas the rest of us seem to take an hour to finish our first seam. Our ship’s cat, George, especially likes Sundays like this when everyone is sewing on the hatch, as it means there is lots of twine and string to play with. He is already an old salt and quickly snuggled down on someone’s half-made ditty bag for a little nap after he had his fill of supervising our work.

The afternoon wrapped up with, yet another stunning sunset at sea, and everyone pitching in to help the galley crew clean up after dinner. We even had time to play some music on the hatch. Our littlest sailor, Dawson, got into the groove and wiggled his way into the center of a dance-off. Can he boogie, too! He loves hanging with the crew. Pretty nice way to wrap up a Sunday at sea.

Ditty bag workshop
Even George is learning to make a ditty bag
Megan and Pup at ditty bag workshop

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