Captain's Log

Archive for March, 2015

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Land ho! Carriacou!

DATE: March 28th, 2015
Five weeks out from St. Helena and Picton Castle spotted land this morning at 1120: Carriacou bearing three points off the port bow, 25nm away. We’re sailing close by Petite Martinque now, coming round the north of the island past Windward and Gun Point, round to Hillsborough Bay on the West side of Carriacou. It’s a beautiful day to arrive in the Caribbean.
Carriacou seen from sea
Carriacou seen from sea

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Day’s Run – March 27, 2015

The green waters surrounding the ship for the last day or two from the Amazon freshwater is back to blue. We had a ‘funky reggae party’ late afternoon on the main hatch to get everyone in the Caribbean mood. Popcorn, juice, colourful outfits and groovy musics, though a mid-party squall sent everyone running to take in sail and we all got thoroughly soaked. Tis a sailor’s life!
SHIPS WORK: Bulwarks are getting scrubbed and fresh white paint, making rigging for our small boats – tiny little wire splices and grommets for the shrouds, bobstay and parralls. Spot painting on the anchor windlass, windlass bars and small boats. Gabe, Nicole and Sian made a new Grenada flag since our last one got a bit shredded. We’re ready to get there now, ETA sometime this weekend depending on wind and current.
BOUND FROM: James Bay, St Helena, South Atlantic Ocean
TOWARDS: Grenada, Windward Islands, Caribbean Sea
TIME ZONE: GMT -3
NOON POSITION: 10°39.3’N /059°13.6’W
DAYS RUN: 163 nm
PASSAGE DISTANCE RUN: 3,731 nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 172 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: North North West, Course made good 322° true, 6.9 knots
WIND: Wind Force 5, North East by East
WEATHER: Fair, 4/8 cloud, barometer 1020 millibars and rising slowly, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: East North East 2 m
SAILS SET: All sails set except studdingsails, gaff topsail and flying jib braced up slightly to starboard and with plenty of screw in the yards
Post-squall rainbow
Post-squall rainbow!

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Day’s Run – March 26, 2015

Now we’re so close to port it almost seems a shame for this passage to be drawing to a close. Another lovely day of fresh breezes and sunshine and a simply gorgeous night of starry, trade wind sailing. This is what all those Cape Horn sailors must have been dreaming about: a sweet barque sailing the tropical trade winds and bound so soon for the beautiful Caribbean islands after 35 days out of sight of land.
SHIPS WORK: The sailmakers finished the rope cover on three quarters of the new outer jib today – looks like the new sail will be finished before we reach Grenada. More coats on the small boat rudders and tillers, and the mast for Sea Never Dry got planed down a little to reduce weight aloft, and then coats of linseed oil and primer. Varnish on the port side taff rail on the quarterdeck, spot painting tropical blue in the breezeways and around the ‘aloha’ deck, and spot painting black trim. The bosun and riggers brought the fish tackle up out of the hold and inspected and overhauled it ready to be sent aloft for use catting the anchor.
BOUND FROM: James Bay, St Helena, South Atlantic Ocean
TOWARDS: Grenada, Windward Islands, Caribbean Sea
TIME ZONE: GMT -3
NOON POSITION: 08°49.3’N /057°12.5’W
DAYS RUN: 174 nm
PASSAGE DISTANCE RUN: 3,568 nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 317 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: North West 3/4 North, Course made good 305° true, 8.3 knots
WIND: Wind Force 5, North East
WEATHER: Fair, 1/8 cloud, barometer 1018 millibars and steady,
visibility very good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: East by North 1-2 m
SAILS SET: All sails set except studdingsails and gaff topsail, braced up slightly to starboard and with plenty of screw in the yards
Amy and John stitch the rope cover on the new outer jib
Amy and John stitch the rope cover on the new outer jib

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Day’s Run – March 25, 2015

The Captain gave a talk on the Caribbean in the workshop slot this afternoon. Drawing whiteboard maps of the whole West Indies and then various islands for orientation, he spoke about the history of the West Indies and the pervasive and ongoing influence of the cane industry, and its profound effect on Europe and America as well as Africa and the Caribbean, and of the PICTON CASTLE’s more recent history and friendships in the islands. He spoke about the nature of the different islands, some of their history through tribal to colonial times and what to expect now; rules for respectful behaviour and tips on how best to make the most of each island. Most exciting is all of was the mention of all the small boat sailing to come amongst some incredibly beautiful coves and cays. Can’t wait!
SHIPS WORK: Work on the small boats, cap stay and sails continued, and another new ratline on the fore. With port so soon are making the ship look tidy with spot painting and varnishing here and there.
BOUND FROM: James Bay, St Helena, South Atlantic Ocean
TOWARDS: Grenada, Windward Islands, Caribbean Sea
TIME ZONE: GMT -3
NOON POSITION: 07°55.6’N /054°25.9’W
DAYS RUN: 174 nm
PASSAGE DISTANCE RUN: 3,394 nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 491 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: North West by West, Course made good 287° true, 6.7 knots
WIND: Wind Force 5, East North East
WEATHER: Fair, 4/8 cloud, barometer 1018 millibars and steady,
visibility very good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: East 2 m
SAILS SET: All sails set except flying jib and studdingsails, braced up slightly to starboard and with plenty of screw in the yards.
Vai and Gabe work on Sydney's tiller

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Day’s Run – March 24, 2015

Just another trade-wind Tuesday. The current has come fair here, a couple of hundred miles off the coast of Brazil, adding nearly two knots to our speed over ground. Smoking along now, should be there in no time – Monday or maybe even sooner. Final splicing workshop this afternoon, the end of topic test: everyone was given three fathoms of rope and told to make a short splice, long splice, eye splice, chain splice and sailmaker’s eye splice all to be inspected and signed off as capable.
SHIPS WORK: Replaced the tacks on the mainsail and a buntline block on the main upper topsail, work on the new cap stay: serving is all done, now time for wire seizings and lots of slush. Replaced a couple of ratlines on the fore. Coats of paint and linseed oil on the tiller and rudder for Sydney. Paint on the thwarts for Sea Never Dry and carpentry work on fitting Sydney with a bowsprit.
BOUND FROM: James Bay, St Helena, South Atlantic Ocean
TOWARDS: Grenada, Windward Islands, Caribbean Sea
TIME ZONE: GMT -3
NOON POSITION: 07°02.3’N /051°42.0’W
DAYS RUN: 116 nm
PASSAGE DISTANCE RUN: 3,220 nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 656 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: North West by West 1/2 West, Course made good 280° true, 6.0 knots
WIND: Wind Force 5, East North East
WEATHER: Fair, 7/8 cloud, barometer 1018 millibars and steady,
visibility very good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: East by North 2 m
SAILS SET: All sails set except royals, flying jib and studdingsails,
braced up slightly to starboard and with plenty of screw in the yards
Taking up on the main braces
Taking up on the main braces

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Sunday at Sea – The Dayman Version

By Kate “Bob” Addison

While watches are kept night and day while we’re at sea, on a long passage like this one, we also engage in a time honoured deep-water sailing ship tradition of turning some of the crew to on deck as daymen.

In fine weather on long passages, large sailing ships would take some of their best AB seamen off the watches and get them working all day in the rigging or sailmaking leaving the younger apprentices to sail the ship. Our version is a bit more egalitarian and educationally focused but much the same. We rotate some people off from the watches for a week or two at a time to give them a taste of some of the other aspects of ship’s life and maybe get in a bit deeper as well. Acting as a ‘dayman’ rather than a watch-stander for a while gives people get a bit more time to work on whatever interests them the most, be it sailmaking, rigging, carpentry, engineering or navigation. This has the added benefit of being excellent at skills development, getting some good work done in nice weather and give a chance to the smaller watches to up their game at sail handling at night. Though of course when there’s sail handling or something else urgent happening then the daymen always lay in with the watch.

Apart from the opportunity to broaden ones salty skills and get to know and understand a different aspect of ship’s life, the other major bonus of being a dayman is getting to sleep in all night and Sundays, when absolutely no work is required, except for helping out with dishes and doing anything else that the ship should demand that day. Here are my thoughts from earlier this week, a pretty typical Sunday at sea, here in the North Atlantic, 3,000nm and 32 days out of St Helena and just a few hundred miles from the mouth of the Amazon.

Wake up without being woken up, hurrah! Winds fresh and broad on the starboard quarter. Aft to get coffee and help set up for breakfast. ‘Ringy dingy’ on the galley bell means breakfast is ready, and it’s a tasty breakfast today: properly made oatmeal and nice thin pancakes. Well done Elvira and her assistant, Dkembe. Then help with dishes, and get some powdered yoghurt going for tomorrow’s breakfast in our improvised Nutella-jar and lunchbox yoghurt maker. It seems to work just fine, and fresh dairy is such a treat, especially after a month at sea.

The ancient fore upper topsail split in the night so there’s a replacement topsail on the hatch being made ready to send aloft. Realize this looks like a fun project, and much better than the reading, laundry and cleaning the foc’sle that was the original agenda for the day. So run off and get changed out of clean Sunday clothes into tarry canvas shorts and an even-more-tarry shirt, plus sunblock (a must for fair skin in the tropics) climbing harness and knife and spike. Because we all know what they say about a sailor without a knife.

We prepare the new sail ready to send aloft: making off ‘robands’ or yarns pulled from lengths of nice new manila rope to lash the sail onto the yard. The shackles on the head earrings need a quick wire mousing to keep the pin secure, and the centre grommet of the sail gets a well-waxed length of marline to mark the centre. Then all is bundled up and held tidy with more robands. Meanwhile Bosun Erin is aloft with her gang cutting off the old sail and sending it down.

Now the new sail is ready so we line up along it’s length and hoist it onto shoulders to snake walk it from midships up to the focslehead, looking like a snowy Chinese dragon or a Balinese barong. Tie a big, loose bowline around the middle and then hoist away the gantline to lift the whole u-shaped sail sausage up to the yard, where Erin and her gang are waiting.

We run up aloft to help too and space ourselves out along the yard: Jens, Bob, Nikolaj, and Ryan on starboard side, Erin, Russell, Sam B, and Norma to port. Russell makes fast the centre lashing to the central jackstay and we heave in time to stretch the head of the sail out taut all along the yard. Then, while Erin and Jens at the yard arms make fast the head earring lashings with two out-haul turns and many round turns, the rest of us lash all the robands to the jackstay every 24 inches or so and voila, the sail is securely attached to the yard. “Bent on” as we say.

The buntlines are rove through the fairleads on the fore side and made fast to the foot of the sail – what’s the correct knot someone asks? A buntline hitch of course. Make fast downhauls to the clews and then all is ready. Everyone back down on deck and it’s time to set the sail – moment of truth – how does it look? Looks fine actually, good job all.

So then its change back out of rigging clothes and get on with the rest of a relaxing Sunday at sea: baking apple crumble for supper, reading a little, and an afternoon discussion by the Captain about the glorious Caribbean islands, now just 800 miles to run and 3,000 already logged since St Helena.

IMGP6033

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Day’s Run – March 23, 2015

We just passed the mouth of the Amazon and Para Rivers, which pump huge quantities of fresh water into the Atlantic here. A strong adverse current is slowing us down at the moment but in just a few miles it should come fair and give us a boost of nearly two knots most of the way up the coast of Brazil. The currents are interesting here: there’s a big swirling eddy in the Guyana Basin to our north and west, the whole thing more than 200 miles across. I wonder if it’s something to do with the out flow from the mighty Amazon? We saw a large sailing yacht pass us by to starboard yesterday evening, they overhauled us slowly, passing close by on the horizon at sunset. Shame they didn’t come close enough to take photos!
SHIPS WORK: Send down fore lower topsail and bent on a replacement. Lots of work on the boats to get them ready to sail in the Caribbean: sanding and painting thwarts, finishing making the rudder and tiller for Sydney and fixing them up for the long boat and Sea Never Dry (all were made aboard over the years). Some of the watch are cleaning and painting the shroud seizings shiny white where the recent slushing of the stays and tarring of the ratlines had left the inevitable grubby marks.
BOUND FROM: James Bay, St Helena, South Atlantic Ocean
TOWARDS: Grenada, Windward Islands, Caribbean Sea
TIME ZONE: GMT -3
NOON POSITION: 06°48.5’N /049°49.0’W
DAYS RUN: 104 nm
PASSAGE DISTANCE RUN: 3,104 nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 757 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: North West by North 1/2 North, Course made good 272° true, 3.4 knots
WIND: Wind Force 3, East by South
WEATHER: Fair, 2/8 cloud, barometer 1018 millibars and steady,
visibility very good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: East 2 m
SAILS SET: All sails set including all three studdingsails, braced up slightly to starboard and with plenty of screw in the yards
Anne-Mette aloft on the lower studdingsail boom
Anne-Mette aloft on the lower stuns’l boom

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Day’s Run – March 22, 2015

Sunday at sea and thoughts are turning to the Caribbean in our near future – maybe in just a week! The Captain gave us an introductory West Indies talk this afternoon to whet our appetites for small boat sailing and wonderful islands, with more in-depth orientation to follow over the next few days.
SHIPS WORK: There was large rip in the old fore upper topsail this morning, so we sent the sail down and bent a replacement before lunch. It seems like we’re getting through sails pretty quickly on this passage, but that’s really what’s supposed to happen when you have 15 or 20-year-old cotton sails bent: get the last little bit of use out of them in fair weather and when they finally fall apart you can dismantle them for parts and chafe gear, and make space to stow the collection of brand new sails and those in progress. Good seamanship sending them up and down, and pretty fun too.
No other ship’s work on Sunday apart from standing watches and basic domestic routines. Elvira was cook today, with Dkembe assisting; they did a great job with the limited ingredients you’d expect after more than a month at sea.
BOUND FROM: James Bay, St Helena, South Atlantic Ocean
TOWARDS: Grenada, Windward Islands, Caribbean Sea
TIME ZONE: GMT -3
NOON POSITION: 06°16.1’N /048°11.3’W
DAYS RUN: 130 nm
PASSAGE DISTANCE RUN: 3,000 nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 861 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: North West 1/2 West, Course made good 292° true, 4.6 knots
WIND: Wind Force 3-4, North East by East
WEATHER: Fair, 6/8 cloud, barometer 1017.5 millibars and steady, visibility very good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: East North East 1-2 m
SAILS SET: All sails set
Fore upper topsail ready to bend (minus the cat)
Fore upper topsail ready to bend on (minus the cat)

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Day’s Run – March 21, 2015

Steamed overnight from 1600 to 0800 as winds were light and variable and we want to push on to Grenada. If we’re taking in or setting all sail we tend to do it at the change of the watch so we’ve got twice as many bodies to help without having to call all hands. With two watches and most of the daymen laying, in the sail handling goes quite fast: taking in all 20 or so sails, one or two or three at a time; running aloft to get rope gaskets wound tight around the kites, t’gallants and royals and then bracing the yards up sharp ready for steaming. And the same again in reverse to set everything again when the wind comes!
SHIPS WORK: Replace spanker clew in-haul and brail blocks, work on new spanker sheet grommets (to attach the spanker sheets to the boom), work on new main upper topsail downhaul pennants, work on Sydney rig (it’s all so cute and little!), and a Dutchman in the port galley house door frame where the door hinge attaches.
BOUND FROM: James Bay, St Helena, South Atlantic Ocean
TOWARDS: Grenada, Windward Islands, Caribbean Sea
TIME ZONE: GMT -3
NOON POSITION: 05°18.4’N /046°15.1’W
DAYS RUN: 125 nm
PASSAGE DISTANCE RUN: 2,870 nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 991 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: North West by North 1/2 North, Course made good 305
true, 2.2 knots
WIND: Wind Force 2, East North East
WEATHER: Overcast, light rain, barometer 1017 millibars and steady, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: East North East 1-2 m
SAILS SET: All sails set
Taking in topmast studdingsail 2
Taking in the topmast studdingsail

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Day’s Run – March 20, 2015

An exciting day today! Firstly the new topmast studdingsail was finished so we bent it and set it for the first time – it looks great, especially for a sail completely made underway, from design and first layout all the way to hand finish work. Sadly the wind was gusting too strong to hold it, so we took it in again after seeing how it set. As we were busy with the studdingsail, the call of ‘Fish On!’ came, and Donald reeled in a nice sized mahi-mahi, the first fish of this passage, and big enough to make a delicious supper for all hands.
And then as if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, we sent up the brand spanking new fore royal yard in the afternoon: a gang on the capstan heaving around to lift the yard way and then the bosun and her riggers aloft to steady the yard, bolt the collar tight and then make fast braces, sheets, footrope stirrups and gear. I would guess that we were the only square rigger in the world crossing yards at sea today.
BOUND FROM: James Bay, St Helena, South Atlantic Ocean
TOWARDS: Grenada, Windward Islands, Caribbean Sea
TIME ZONE: GMT -2
NOON POSITION: 05°02.3’N /044°14.2’W
DAYS RUN: 137 nm
PASSAGE DISTANCE RUN: 2,745 nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 1,088 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: North West 1/2 West, Course made good 283 true, 5.5 knots
WIND: Wind Force 4, North East by North
WEATHER: Fair, 6/8 cloud, barometer 1016 millibars and steady,
visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: North East by East 2 m
SAILS SET: All sails set
Sending the new royal yard aloft
Sending the new royal yard aloft

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