Captain's Log

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Fiji Days

May 20th, 2014

Captain John Beebe-Center and his salty crew sailed the Picton Castle into Suva Harbour from Tonga a couple weeks ago, set her big starboard anchor, furled and then sent down all her sail. Then after some celebrations most crew from our amazing voyages throughout the South Pacific then packed their sea-bags to head home or set off on new adventures. The voyage was done. That will do the watches.

With a small crew we have been at anchor here in this big bay working on the ship and also getting ready for dry-docking. As do most ships, we dry-dock every two years. Both regulation and good practice follow this cycle. Dry-docking consists of hauling the ship out of the water, in this case on a marine railway, pressure cleaning the hull from all weeds and barnacles that have made a home on her in recent months in warm tropical waters, and doing various inspections of the hull, the anti- electrolysis zincs, through-hull fittings, the rudder, the propeller and then carry out any maintenance or repairs required. Also the hull will get painted with both anti-corrosive paint and then antifouling paint to prevent or reduce the growth on the hull over the next two years. The zincs will be replaced, tolerances on the propeller shaft and the rudder bearings will be checked and the big bronze through-hull fittings thoroughly inspected. If anything is found wanting in them they will be removed and taken to the machine shop for overhaul. We haul tomorrow, is the plan.

For the last few days at anchor we have been under a long extended front which has been drenching us in torrential tropical rain all day and all night. Today is all nice and clear though and we can proceed with other projects slated for this period. We are replacing the steel bed under the nice teak taff rail that passes around the quarterdeck. We want a few new planks in the quarterdeck too and we have a good gang working on that as well. We are looking after some rustbusting that is unpleasant to do at sea as it is so noisy, but nice to get done. And we have various rigging and sailmaking jobs we want to get after too. Time to wire brush and slush the wire stays, paint the yards, tar the rigging, overhaul blocks, clean and paint living compartments – much easier to do with no one living in them, no? And we renew or reinspect much of our safety gear under the supervision of our Marine Authorities. And plenty else besides. All is calm at anchor. The calm before the storm. This stands to change character wildly as we haul out in our hot tropical shipyard in bustling downtown Suva tomorrow. The harbour pilot is scheduled for 0830. The carpenters said they will come early and help with the anchor. Should be a long day.

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