Captain's Log

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Sailing from Auckland

By Chelsea McBroom

December 23, 2013

After getting aboard ten tons of lumber and building supplies for Pitcairn Island, and getting fueled up 9,500 litres more, making a total of 19,000 litres of diesel aboard in our tanks, it came time to sail Picton Castle away from the big city of Auckland. Sailing from our Auckland wharf, Nolan took the helm and steered us North towards the Bay of Islands. Not much wind but we set the square sails through the calm seas, the crew getting in some good practice for the next long passage coming up.

Teis, Lily, Nolan, Lian, Chelsea and Finn bent on the outer jib, spending the sunny afternoon learning to tie on the hanks and sitting out on the jibboom rigging as we sailed – a great view to see the few light rain clouds the ship sailed in and out of. Amy and Hannah painted the capstan and the windlass bars while Gustav tarred the foremast shrouds. After we took in sail the crew went aloft to stow sail, Vai, our little spitfire from Tonga, going aloft for the first time on a real job. She had been training up just for this moment. Just before we anchored at Kawau Island (a pleasant and familiar view) muster was called to ask if anyone wanted a swim call and even in the cooler weather, the majority of hands shot up with excitement.

The skiff was lowered and as Pania and Dirk took watch the crew jumped over the port side, sometimes even from the surprisingly high jibboom. Enthusiastic cheers were given as each person hesitated as he/she stood on the rail and prepared to jump into the water. When all who swam had a fresh water rinse, dinner was set up around the hatch and the day ended with another of Donald’s appreciated ‘comfort food’ meals and a little of Beamy’s (aka Amy B.) rice pudding with jam.

The sun rose the following day with the sound of the now familiar New Zealand birds singing and calling, announcing another good day ahead as we slowly made our way towards Russell. It was decided that we sail through the night to get us to Russell faster in order to begin completing our tasks for the upcoming journey and watches were split into three. The watches were of 6 or 7 people each with a strong hard working crew. The new watches did well with the new routine, and it was good practice. We had good winds until just before our destination, when we took in sail coming around Cape Brett at sunrise. We passed some beautiful areas: the lighthouse on the pier, the island shaped like a foot, another shaped like a face.

The majority of the crew woke up to the sound of the anchor dropping and the familiar view of Russell. We had actually been warned the anchor was going down. Here we are again! The chocolate shop on the main street always welcomes us as the crew goes in for a chilli hot chocolate and some wifi and the owners add a little sample of fresh chocolate on the side. But outside of the off-watch making their trips ashore for the evenings, for this visit it was time to hunker down and work on our list of things to do so we can get under way.

The robands have been replaced on the square sails and each sail’s head stretched. The shrouds are being tarred. Provisions are ordered. We are finally ready to hoist and put back our beautiful royal yards that have made their home on the well deck for the past few weeks or so as we scraped, sanded, varnished and repainted them.

Even more importantly, the crew has been baking cookies for the evening’s Christmas Party! We have decided to go big or go home, with the cheesiest of cheesy. Popcorn! Snowflakes! The most Christmas music one can bear! Although the sky is cloudy and grey, the Top Secret Christmas Committee is ready for anything and we can be sure to have a well celebrated holiday.

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