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The Community At Sea

By Captain John Beebe-Center

February 18th, 2014

Being at sea aboard the Picton Castle on this leg of our journey has turned into a nice exercise of training, work and fairly comfortable living all while occupying this smallish steel world apparently all alone and in the middle of nowhere.

The training is courtesy of some unsettled weather which has brought us great sailing towards Nuku Hiva also numerous squalls, 6-8 per day, requiring taking in of all the lighter sails and then resetting them once the squall is past. We have been doing this by watches, without resorting to calling for “all hands” and the sailors, old hands or recently joined, have really improved their skills.

There is a feeling of pride among the watches for being able to do the job without resorting to wake anyone else up for help. The waking up part due to the fact that most squalls seem to happen at night. So picture a soul who last week was on a plane to join a ship in Mangareva now able to correctly identify dozens of lines adjusting a lot of sails that they didn’t necessarily know existed before they arrived – in the dark. I would equate the line and sail handling learned on this leg alone as being the equivalent of a month at sea under other circumstances. Add to this daily workshops and this becomes a really good classroom.

In terms of the work getting done; with the arrival of more sailors in Mangareva we moved some of the apprentices into daymen positions, working on projects during the daylight hours rather than standing a watch. Pania has taken over as Bosun and Denise has joined her for this leg as a “Bosuns Mate” to help move the deckwork along and to learn more ship husbandry skills. These two have access to all “on watch” crew who are not steering or otherwise looking after the ship for all the maintenance projects which keep Picton Castle in good form from paint and varnish to rigging and overhauling gas bottles, etc. Meanwhile apprentice Teis has joined Engineer Alex as “Oiler” for this leg, learning about and working on generators and the main engine and seems to developing a real capability for trouble shooting problems with the heads.

Comfortable living may be a little difficult to completely convince people of who know the Picton Castle – especially those who have voyaged in her. Picton Castle is a fairly simple ship and there’s no denying that – just now – it’s getting really hot as we move up to the 8 degrees S latitude of Nuku Hiva. But somehow it cools off just enough in the evenings to be reasonably comfortable in the bunks. The wind out here at sea certainly helps. Of course all good things regarding comfort hinge around the galley and Mr Donald Church’s efforts to keep us all well nourished. In this he demonstrates a conversancy of cooking aboard Picton Castle based on natural ability and more than seven years aboard as Chef. On this leg he also has three helpers per day for all the chopping, cleaning, coffee making and what have you.

All in all a nice underlying feeling of sustainability, as though we would be sailing – and could be sailing – indefinitely. But Nuku Hiva is at 300 miles now under our lee bow and the wind is fair so on we go.

Cheers, Captain John Beebe-Center

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