Captain's Log

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Cape Town

By Kate “Bob” Addison

January 12th, 2015

Picton Castle is in Cape Town! It’s a beautiful Monday morning, bright sunshine but not too hot so the air feels crisp and the colours are clean and vibrant.

We are at the most perfect dock here in the V&A Waterfront in front of the fancy Table Bay Hotel; right in the middle of the city and with Table Mountain making a majestic backdrop for our masts and rigging. I could spend hours watching the ‘table cloth’ of clouds flowing over the mountain top – you can tell the day’s weather with just a glance at the mountain and it’s entrancing how the wind and weather affect the colours and shape and speed of the clouds.

But it’s not all been day dreaming – far from it! We’ve been really busy doing some big projects and interesting ship’s work, making the most of South Africa’s great logistics and reliably good weather.

So far we have sent down fore and main royal sails and royal yards and set the yards up on the dock for overhauling – we’ll be making a new main royal yard from a blank spar we carry for the purpose, but meanwhile the existing fore royal is getting coats of varnish on the wood and fresh paint on the yard arms and steel fittings.

We sent down the mizzen topmast to put a couple of dutchmen in it, scrape it down and give it new varnish and paint.

The main stay was taken off the main mast today – a bit surprising to walk out of the ship’s office and see it missing – the ship look strangely unbalanced without it. But the new stay is made and ready to go aloft today too. That was a fun project that lots of the crew got to help with: greasing and parcelling with strips of cotton sheeting and then serving tightly over the top with tarry marline, and more tar gooped on top all to protect it from rust. The middle part where it bends around the main mast is then parcelled with canvas and marline hitches for protection against chafe. Both ends are bent around thimbles and four wire seizings clamped on each. Then the thimbles are threaded with enormous shackles to attach the stay to turnbuckles, which will be screwed down tight to tension the stay – simple!

The sailmaking team are revelling in a glorious temporary sail loft right next to the ship, and we are very grateful to the harbourmasters at the V&A Waterfront for letting us use the building – with it’s big clean polished concrete floor, tall windows and lack of furniture, it really is the perfect venue to make and repair sails. They have already seamed up and laid out a new royal sail, and are planning to do the same for two more sails before we go. The hand finish work on those three will keep the sailmakers plenty busy on the long passage across the Atlantic to the Caribbean!

Then there’s been carpentry work on the deck: replacing any soft patches with new wood, caulking in the seams to make it water-tight and finishing with melted pitch dribbled along the seam to seal it and keep the caulking in place. We’ve also been varnishing the linseed putty seams on the quarterdeck to keep them tight, and making the most of the sunshine to oil the decks – after all the work holystoning to scrape off years of accumulated gunk, the oil soaks right into the clean wood and makes them look golden and happy.

And of course, fair weather and no salt spray means conditions are perfect to spot paint here and there, so the waterways and foc’sle head ladders have been getting some attention, and the tropical blue overhead on the aloha deck. The t’gallant yards aloft have been getting coats of varnish too.

We’ve said goodbye to some crew who had to leave us at the end of this leg here in Cape Town, and also welcomed some new faces aboard. Norma, Diana, Sian, Sam, Ryan and Agnes have all successfully completed their initial training and orientation, been aloft and laid out on the yards and are now part of the gang laying in with the watches, working two days on and then having four days off to explore the city and round about.

And Cape Town is a magnificent place to be a tourist! Highlights so far have been trips up Table Mountain, and to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was famously imprisoned for so many years; wine tasting in the wonderful winelands especially around Stellenbosch and Franchhoek – some of us went wine tasting on horse back – highly recommended! Then there have been trips to Simons Town to the seaside and Hout Bay to visit the wonderful market there. People have gone diving with sharks (yes, voluntarily!), and a small group have gone to plant trees and play with the children in a nearby township as part of an interesting new social initiative. Georgie (World Voyage V) has been doing a fabulous job of looking after us and showing us around her city, and hosted a great crew party – the next day I heard more than one person complain of being sore from dancing too much! It’s also been wonderful to welcome so many former shipmates, and friends and family aboard and pick up so many old connections.

Really the only down side to this port so far is the mail – or more accurately the lack of mail! The post officer workers were on strike here for so long that the backlog of post became unmanageable, and apparently they resorted to just burning bags full of letters – sad for our crew who were expecting parcels from home!



Second layout of a new sail in the baggage hall at the V&A Waterfront



Overhauling spars on the wharf alongside Picton Castle in Cape Town



Using the big sewing machine to seam together canvas cloths for new sails



Agnes, who just joined Picton Castle in Cape Town, is already busy oiling the deck



The table cloth, the cloud that drapes over Table Mountain, through the wheel of the Picton Castle



Dkembe wire brushes some wire rope rigging for overhaul



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