Captain's Log

Archive for March, 2014

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Leaving Nuku Hiva

By Chelsea McBroom

March 1st, 2014

The Picton Castle‘s last couple days in Nuku Hiva I made sure to have lunch at the wharf’s café again – ceviche with coconut milk, fresh tomato, rice, a side of banana and bread fruit and a fresh grapefruit juice. When I’m travelling I tend to find importance in the food I’m experiencing (for example the pizza and gelato in Italy, or the borscht in Russia) and the dishes most common in French Polynesia (besides raw fish or chow mein) seem to be steak, chicken or fish and frites. I made sure to have a steak frites at the hotel that evening with the rest of the crew.

The hotel was always open for dinner so it was usually where we ended up – it had a covered patio out front with a stone fire pizza oven. The waitress there seemed to recognize me by my order, my favorite dish being a chevre chaud salad with bacon, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and toast with goat cheese. When I ordered my steak with someone else, she tried to give me someone’s chevre chaud and we laughed and smiled when I commented about how predictable I was, but this time hadn’t ordered it. Others ordered from the long list of personal size fire baked pizzas, dipping it in their incredibly hot pepper oil or tabasco. Dessert was a creamy frozen peach concoction or crème caramel.

Most importantly our last night there was to be shared with Nils, a trainee crew member who was leaving us in Nuku Hiva. Nils, who is a wise soul, had been with the ship during the last 6 months or so and even the new crew were sad to see him go; he was always reminding us of “the bigger picture” and the importance of this experience.

The crew was all on board the ship by 10pm that night to make sure we were well prepared to leave first thing the next morning, the dory having already been returned to its place above the galley. It had been a very hot couple of nights so I slept well on the hatch that night (without rain!) and it was humid and sunny first thing the next day. After breakfast we went right into removing the awnings, domestics, deck wash and fresh water rinsing, hoisting the skiff and then up aloft and loose, loosing all sails. I ended up at the topsails with Samantha, Peter and Denise, folding my tall frame under the upper topsail yard to get to the clew gasket. Starboard watch then hauled the braces into a port tack and joined the port watch as they hauled the anchor up at the windlass – switching out and taking turns, drinking gulps of water out of the pitchers someone had filled.

Once we had the anchor up, Teis crawling out of the chain locker covered in black smears, we motored out of the bay, setting all sails. Just like we joked about our speed that morning – we were racing to get it all done and set all sails (phew!), only to slowly coast away from the island. But that’s the beauty of it!

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Maria Says Goodbye to Nuku Hiva

By Maria Andersen, apprentice from Denmark

February 26th, 2014

There you go, that was Nuku Hiva, we are leaving tomorrow, so we’re hoisting the boats this evening and saying goodbye to this lovely French Polynesian island. It is a weird feeling leaving an island and knowing that the chance of you coming back is relatively small, but we did get around and saw a lot of things and it was amazing and before we know it we will be on our way to the next gorgeous place.

I think I am speaking on behalf of everybody on board when I say that we are excited to go sailing again, at least I know I am. I need some wind in my face and some cool night watches, because as pleasant as the heat and sun are, Danes are not suited for this climate and most times during the night I have to go on deck just to cool down a bit before trying to crawl back in my bunk and sleep. Donald the cook says the I am not allowed to complain about the heat, as he says, “You Danes came on this ship to enjoy better and warmer weather!” and I know he is right but when the sweat is running down your face and the sun is burning your shoulders, is it then too much to ask for a little breeze?

The best part of the day when we are anchored used to be the swim calls, but unfortunately we haven’t had any of them here in Nuku Hiva, and I think it has something to do with all the sharks swimming around in the bay. A couple of days ago we saw a huge hammerhead shark just off the starboard bow and yesterday the guys actually caught a big shark on one of the fishing lines and they had to cut it because of the size of the creature. Many people including some of the people from the Picton Castle actually enjoy going out diving with these sharks and Nuku Hiva is apparently famous for the shark dives. Personally I don’t know what they are thinking, they’re sharks! I will stay on board the ship and look at them, but I am certainly not going in the water. However the guys who went out diving had an awesome dive with colourful fish, manta rays and sharks.

Today starboard watch is getting the ship ready for sea, lashing things and making sure that everything is in its place so that we can leave first thing tomorrow and head towards Tahiti.

Tahiti will be the next island to pay a visit and I am looking very much forward to see what kind of place that is, I have heard a lot of different things about the island, but now I will check it out myself together with some awesome people on board the Picton Castle. New destination, new places to explore and new adventures to be written about in the journal.

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Maria’s Day Off Duty in Nuku Hiva

By Maria Andersen, apprentice from Denmark

February 25th, 2014

As the day went by the Picton Castle saw the big island of Nuku Hiva coming closer, and when we climbed the masts to stow the sails we were welcomed by dolphins jumping and playing in the water. We anchored in the afternoon and were excited to go explore the beautiful island the next day.

The morning came and because I am now the new purser assistant I had to do some grocery shopping with our purser Chelsea and Donald the cook before going on shore leave. We bought some bread, vegetables and other necessary things for lunch and dinner and went back to the ship to drop it off.

When I came back ashore I went to find some internet to contact my family and tell them that I am still alive and actually having the best time of my life. That’s when I got interrupted by Pania and Alex asking me if I still wanted to go horseback riding, and of course I wanted to do that!

An hour later we were picked up by a lady and drove to her ranch, which by the way was covered in skulls and bones from cattle and horses, really cool! We went riding in the pouring rain, and had a great time even though the horse lady were a bit impatient with Pania and Alex who had their first and second time on the back of a horse that day. When we came back we met up with the other guys and had a nice dinner together at the local restaurant.

The next day off watch day we decided to rent a car and go see the island by ourselves, because the other watch didn’t recommend the guided tour they went on the day before. Chelsea, Pania and I went to the rent-a-car place where we caught some internet and a cold juice and suddenly Alex came by with a smile on his face telling us that he just reserved a car for us at the dock. But anyway we sorted everything out and out on the road we went with Gustav driving up and down and in and out the mountains, we were handed at most simple map I have ever seen consisting of one road marked around the whole island, and of course we at one point took a wrong turn a found ourselves on a little dirt road crossing creeks and driving places where no one have been in a long time, we couldn’t turn the car around so we agreed that the road had to lead somewhere. During our drive we stopped the car a lot of times to admire the beautiful view and get a rest from the bumpy ride.

Nuku Hiva have brought us a lot of adventures so far so how can we tell what is going to happen on the next shore leave?

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Nuku Hiva – Part 4

By Chelsea McBroom

February 27th, 2014

The last couple days I’ve been stocking up on groceries with Donald and Maria to prepare the Picton Castle for the sail to Papeete. We took the skiff in this morning with some of the port watch going ashore for their day off. The port bumpers were put out on the skiff as Pania maneuvered the boat around and docked it alongside the cement, the tide being very low and the steps beginning a couple feet above. A man was fileting a large tuna on a wooden table there, and as he cut and cleaned it, the water ran towards us, down the steps and over the side. I gracefully lifted up one leg onto the step and collapsed it into the puddle of water as I pushed away from the skiff, eventually hauling myself up during my crewmates’ fits of giggles. Vai was wearing a beautiful Polynesian style dress, red with white flowers, and managed to pop herself out without a tear or a drip.

Maria, Donald and I checked first to see if Henry was around. He was going to supply us with some fruits, but he wasn’t there yet, so straight to the grocery store we went. Those who worked at the store had become familiar with us; we raced around grabbing piles of canned goods, pasta, and frozen meat and bringing it straight to the counter where the lady there was ready with a box or two – ringing it through and packing it away for us. Employees came to us with boxes of goodies asking if it was something we may need, for example little yogurts that didn’t need to be refrigerated or sacks of potatoes, all received with encouragement and appreciation. At the end of it we were given a bag of mangoes, “Present,” the woman at the cash said, pushing it towards me with a smile.

Already a man that worked there was carrying the boxes of purchases into a covered pickup truck parked in the back. I jumped in the front with the lady driver and Maria and Donald sitting in the back with our purchases. Many of us have hitchhiked in town, and each driver seems to recognize us and point excitedly at the wharf to confirm our destination, this also occurred in the truck and I nodded smiling. We piled our things next to the water and the skiff came to pick them up.

We then went back to Henry who had three bunches of bananas for us – all three different shades of green or yellow. Donald had one of our basket bags filled with grapefruit, mango, bread fruit and small pineapples. Maria reminded me to pick up our laundry from Yacht Services, a little yellow building beside the café. We had to give them three days for it to be washed and then hung to dry on a covered patio in the building. The lady there had helped us with everything from refilling propane, laundry, tours, and taking two totes of books off our hands which she now keeps at the back of her shop for people to borrow. There I bought a bold fuchsia, blue, yellow and brown sarong, the print of people dancing.

We went back to our friends at the farmers market while Donald went back aboard to make lunch for the starboard watch. I walked up to our favorite stand and after counting (to myself) to eight on my hands in French, used that amount (if only I could spell in French) in asking for lettuce heads. I wish I could recall more French phrases here; I yearn to be as polite as possible but don’t even know where to begin. At the post office I could remember, “Parlez vous Anglais?” and she responded in French that she knew a small amount and I’m pretty sure she asked me something teasing like how I had become so fluent in French, and laughed politely before speaking to me in English. It’s clear they appreciate the effort and I speak for all of us when I say we have felt most welcome here in Nuku Hiva.

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Nuku Hiva – Part 3

By Chelsea McBroom

February 25th, 2014

Another beautiful day ashore with no sign of rain and I had a few options as to what I would do for the day. Starboard watch of the Picton Castle could have gone on a bus tour around the island, or Meg, Erin, and Nils, our Master Divers, had signed up to dive for sharks and invited others to snorkel, then Pania and Alex were going to rent a car and go exploring. I decided that renting a car, which worked so well exploring islands off of New Zealand, was the best choice. Pania and I packed our bags in the foc’sle, throwing in a bathing suit just in case, and joined everyone in the first skiff to shore after 8am muster.

Maria, Pania and I went straight to the bank machine to stock up on French Polynesian Francs and then to a little hotel that had a covered patio where they had wifi and in the evening fire baked pizzas. We quickly caught up with those online, drinking bottled water and fresh juice before Alex arrived. We rented our car from there and picked up Gustav at the warf. He was sitting with Lian, Avery and Simon who were waiting for a friend they had met on the island who had offered to take them horseback riding.

Next, to prepare for the day, we went to the little corner store to get things for lunch – the usual fresh bread, cheese, meat and something chocolate. Chocolate was kept in the fridge next to the pop so it wouldn’t melt. The chocolate dipped biscuits Maria bought were dripping within the hour. Armed with just one very simple map that wasn’t to scale, we followed the one road leading up the mountain. The Danes (Maria and Gustav) were both more experienced with manual or stick shift cars so we left it to them to drive around the animals walking in the town and on the windy road in the hills.

We soon reached the other side of the island – a shore lined with ruin-like structures and stone benches. Here we took out our lunch food, found a shaded spot and took a seat on the stones lining the shore’s edge. There seemed to be more wind and the crashing of the waves was loud. Little ants carried whatever bread or Cheeto crumbs we lost on the grass. When we finished I stretched myself on a large flat rock to close my eyes and the others wove leaves into turks heads and crowns. It was quiet and the area seemed deserted except for the loud music coming from a shop down the street. We were told there that if we cared to explore the museum we would be given the key, but we were eager to continue our trip around the island.

Before long the road became bumpy and less travelled. For a while we worried we took a wrong turn (hard to take a wrong turn when there’s only one road, we know, but there were private roads that confused us), Gus maneuvering through the rocks, grass and sometimes puddles of water going uphill. Whenever possible we took a break at a lookout point. We seemed to be the only car on the road and were never passed. Our first lookout had a covered bench overlooking another beautiful shore and we sat there together, giggling and posed like an awkward family photo while Alex’s camera was timed and sitting on the hood of the car.

The next lookout point which seemed to sit atop the mountain, it rolled out and down into the water and had tall manmade stacks of rock or structures lining the red earthed road and further off to the side a scattering of horses grazed. I could smell the mint that was growing around small bushes of yellow and red flowers. The other lookout we found was the most breathtaking – a view of the valley and with the way it expanded before us it looked as if the ocean was the sky. It was cooler here and the trees were more like pine and less tropical. There was a fairly steep decline into the lush green valley from there – of dirt and clay clumps, with a rare pile of grass going down and trees at the bottom. Here Alex and Pania decided to push themselves down like a slide until they lost momentum, and slowly made their way up again. They were grinning and covered in dirt when we climbed back into the car.

Before we knew it, and after convincing ourselves we would reach civilization eventually, a cement highway crossed our path that would either take us to the airport or back to town. We took the road to town, this time Alex getting a chance to improve his manual driving skills and arriving just in time for a swim and a 7pm dinner. That’s a seven hour day! Literally driving all the way around the island! And we were all pleased at the new perspective we had of Nuku Hiva.

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Nuku Hiva – Part 2

By Chelsea McBroom

February 25th, 2014

My 2am night watch aboard the Picton Castle went by quickly. Maria woke me up ten minutes before, telling me I might need a jacket, and I met her on the quarter deck in my pajamas, foulies in hand when I was ready. The stars and nearly full moon were bright, but clouds were crossing. She was just coming out of the charthouse having finished her hourly log in the logbook – writing wind direction and location should the weather change or the anchor drag. Three bearings were written down which Maria explained to me as we looked at the lit compass, holding her arm out at SSE and NE by W etc. to each colored or flashing light. If the bearings were off, we would know the ship had moved, especially after checking the GPS in the charthouse. Maria noted which direction bad weather would be coming in and then went off to do a ship check.

She returned about ten minutes later saying all was well and goodnight. It didn’t take long for the rain to come. Throwing on my jacket and lifting my hood, I walked around the deck checking lines to make sure there was a bit of slack in each, should they get very wet. I closed the hatches that looked down into the salon and the forepeak. Those who had attempted sleeping on the hatch under the windblown awning had made their escape to their bunks, deciding sleeping in the heat was better than sleeping in the rain. I spent the rest of the hour looking up at the sky and the lights on the shore, daydreaming (or ‘nightdreaming’?) and keeping alert my senses for anything – a change in wind direction or the smell of fire – looking my watch every so often to make sure I didn’t wake Simon late.

I checked the scuttle bunk map to make sure I knew where he was sleeping and made my way through the well deck and down the brocave hatch, feeling my way in the dark so I didn’t blind anyone with the torch and whispered his name. He responded immediately, thanking me for the wakeup and the details of rain. When he met me on the quarter deck in a pair of shorts (the rain had, of course, passed) I gave him the spiel and left to do a ship check – making sure to look at our skiff and dory ‘SeaNeverDry’ that were lowered and kept alongside. My worst fear when doing a ship check is that I would miss something detrimental – the freezers could stop working and our food would go bad, our storage of fresh water could leak, the linseed oil covered rags could combust, the gas for the galley stove may still be on, forgotten. But, the ship check put me at ease and I happily returned to my bunk after saying goodnight to Simon, leaving any worries and the ship in the next person’s hands.

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