Captain's Log

Archive for November, 2015

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Day’s Run – 13 November, 2015

This afternoon the Captain called all hands to the quarterdeck to update us on progress of the passage. With less than 80 nautical miles left to run, we could have set a course straight for Flores Island and arrived in 12 hours or so, sometime early Saturday morning. That is except for the post-tropical depression that is all that remains of the late-season Hurricane Kate. The storm is to our north west, but strong winds to about 35 knots are expected for most of Saturday, easing right off by Sunday morning. So rather than attempt to come alongside the dock in a blow, we’re spending the day waiting out the weather in nice deep water, and we’ll make our landfall tomorrow morning.

Aloft to stow the main royal

Aloft to stow the main royal

SHIP’S WORK: Tarred up a new batch of ratline stock, scrubbed down the bulwarks and got some spot painting done to make her look pretty for port. The Bosun showed an episode of a travel show about the Azores to get everyone ready for landfall.

TOWARDS: Flores Island, Azores
TIME ZONE: ZD + 2
NOON POSITION: 38°55.1’N /032°49.8’W
DAYS RUN: 86nm
PASSAGE LOG: 1,566nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 81 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: SE (94°True), 3.9kts
WIND: S1/2E, Force 6
WEATHER: 4/8 cloud cover (cirrus and alto cumulus), air temp 66F (19°C), sea surface temp 66F (19°C) barometer reading 1021 millibars
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: 6-8 feet, SWxS
SAILS SET: Topsails, foresail, fore and main topmast staysails.

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Day’s Run – 12 November, 2015

It was busy in the Bosun’s domain on the well deck today as the good weather allowed rigging projects to get going. The small seas and sunshine were a delight for the navigators and sailmakers too – noon sights were satisfyingly accurate today, and the Captain brought a sail up to the quarterdeck to work on. A long splice workshop was held for all hands in the afternoon, and the watches did heaving line practice off the focslehead, and drilled in sail handling, especially the spanker, mizzen topmast staysail and mainsail.

Alec at helm

Alec at helm

SHIP’S WORK: Bent the flying jib, took up on the head earring lashings on the topsails. Started sailmaking repairs on a main t’gallant staysail, replaced knock and tack lashings on the spanker, replaced bunt blocks on the fore and main upper topsails, end-for end the port main tack, got chafe gear on the fish tackle.

TOWARDS: Flores Island, Azores
TIME ZONE: ZD + 2
NOON POSITION: 38°34.2’N /034°36.9’W
DAYS RUN: 71nm
PASSAGE LOG: 1,480nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 160 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: Steering full and by the wind (93°True), 3.3kts
WIND: SE, Force 2
WEATHER: 3/8 cloud cover (cumulus), air temp 66F (19°C), sea surface temp 66F (19°C) barometer reading 1025 millibars
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: 4-6 feet, W
SAILS SET: All squares to the t’gallants plus the main royal. Main, fore and mizzen topmast staysails, inner and outer jib, spanker.

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Day’s Run – 11 November, 2015

Another gorgeous day of sunshine and a good sailing breeze. With better weather we can get on with rigging projects: Captain took a small group of people with some rigging experience to show them how to ‘rattle down’ properly so we can get on with replacing ratlines as needed under the eye of the Bosun, followed by an all hands splicing workshop to introduce the short splice.

Ratline Workshop

Ratline Workshop

SHIP’S WORK: Made new heaving lines, each with a heavy ‘monkey’s fist’ knot, to send dock lines ashore, spot painting, set up mizzen topmast stay, and fixed battens onto the main t’gallant yard. Training in watches: main royal and mizzen topmast staysail drill. Weather observations continue in the rough log.

TOWARDS: Flores Island, Azores
TIME ZONE: ZD + 3
NOON POSITION: 38°59.5’N /036°12.5’W
DAYS RUN: 125nm
PASSAGE LOG: 1,409nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 234 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: South East by 1/2 South (129°True), 5kts
WIND: W, Force 4
WEATHER: 5/8 cloud cover (cumulus), air temp 64F (18°C), sea surface temp 68F (20°C) barometer reading 1025 millibars
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: 4-6 feet, W
SAILS SET: All squares to the t’gallants plus the main royal. Main, fore and mizzen topmast staysails, inner and outer jib, spanker.

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Day’s Run – 10 November, 2015

A beautiful sailing day with a moderate breeze, blue skies and puffy white clouds. As the winds come lighter so it’s time to bend more sail to maintain our speed. In the age of sail it would have been standard practice to bend royals and kites at sea as needed – why waste time bending sail stuck in port when you can do it just as well
underway?

Bending main royal at sea

Bending main royal at sea

SHIP’S WORK: Bent the main royal and the mizzen topmast staysail, training in watches focussed on sail drill for the new sails: setting, taking in and sea-stowing quickly and efficiently.

TOWARDS: Flores Island, Azores
TIME ZONE: ZD + 3
NOON POSITION: 39°.45.7’N /038°29.3’W
DAYS RUN: 146nm
PASSAGE LOG: 1,284nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 339 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: SExS (128°True), 6.3kts
WIND: W, Force 4
WEATHER: 3/8 cloud cover (cumulus), air temp 62F (17°C), sea surface temp 64F (18°C) barometer reading 1027 millibars
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: 8-10 feet, WxN
SAILS SET: All square sails set to the t’gallants

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The Former HMS PICTON CASTLE Remembers on Remembrance Day

Our lovely barque rigged sailing ship, now at sea approaching the Azores with a great gang of young mariners sailing on a voyage across the free Atlantic was once know as HMS Picton Castle. Just before open hostilities commenced in the second World War in 1939 our ship was conscripted into the British Royal Navy and fitted out as an Armed Mine-Sweeper Trawler and Convoy Escort. Throughout the war she swept for mines, was strafed by fighter planes, blown clear of the water by a mine and was deployed as part of the task force that effected the first land assault on Hitler’s Europe in the Raid on St Nazaire.

This commando raid took out the largest drydock in western Europe capable of docking Germany’s largest battle ships. The raid was a success but a great cost and a followed by a dictate issued by Hitler that all future ‘commandos’ would be simply shot if captured and were not to be treated as POWs.

The Picton Castle, like her sister trawlers were about the most prosaic naval vessels one could imagine, yet they did their work steadily and on and on clearing mines and escorting convoys in the Western Approaches of the English Channel and North Sea. Many times German fighters and bomber flying low while returning to bases in Germany, Holland and France would attempt to use up their extra bombs and bullets on these tough little warships, really just fish boats. These little vessels were a proud and motley lot, manned mostly by fishermen with a RNR skipper and a couple navy crew to look after the 3” gun on the bow and the depth charges. Well protected armoured navy ships they were not. We have read that the loss rate of HM Trawlers was second only to the astonishing loss rate of German U-Boats. Winter and summer, fair weather or foul, these little ships would head to sea and do their business.

In May of 1945 the war ended. But not for PICTON CASTLE. There were mines everywhere which had no notion that the war was over. They needed to be swept and removed. Mines still pop up in these old battled waters from time to time. The ‘CASTLE’ swept for mines until December 1945 when she was mustered out of the Royal Navy and returned to Consolidated Fishing, her owners, re-rigged for trawling and went back to fishing.

On this day we think of those brave souls who went to sea on the great waters in these little ships to do their bit. We think of their families ashore in vulnerable ports who suffered along with these seafarers, many of whom never returned home. The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest battle of WWII lasting the entire duration of that almost 6 year war. We dedicate our wreath at today’s Remembrance Day memorial in Lunenburg to all who sailed in the Royal Navy and Royal Canadian Navy and put to sea in this conflict on the Atlantic and may it never happen again.

Capt. D. Moreland, November 2015

HMS Picton Castle

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Day’s Run – 9 October, 2015

Another good day’s sailing. The air has quite a chill following the passage of the cold front, but the water is warm so full foul-weather gear with bare feet is the fashion of the day. We’re making tracks across the Atlantic, the crew concentrating on learning weather observations, steering better and tending to the rigging.

Danielle at the helm

Danielle at the helm

SHIP’S WORK: Spot prime quarterdeck scuttle, rebuild well-deck bucket rack (which took some damage in last night’s weather), rig gear for mizzen topmast staysail, rig new port fore t’gallant sheet, end for end inner jib halyard.

BOUND FROM: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
TOWARDS: Flores Island, Azores
TIME ZONE: ZD + 3
NOON POSITION: 39°54.8’N /041°42.3W
DAYS RUN: 120nm
PASSAGE LOG: 1,138nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 483 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: SExE (085°True), 6.2kts
WIND: NW, Force 5
WEATHER: overcast (stratocumulus), air temp 62F (17°C), sea surface temp 70F (21°C) barometer reading 1023 millibars
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: 6-8 feet, NW
SAILS SET: Topsails, foresail, inner and outer jib, fore and main topmast staysails.

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Day’s Run – 8 October, 2015

It’s difficult to take pictures of heavy weather at sea.

Braced against the rail with the wind singing in the rigging and the decks lurching under you as she dances along, skipping over 10 foot swell with the white water churning under the bow and sloshing across the main deck and salt spray in your face and you feel for a moment like you’re in ‘Around Cape Horn’. And then the photo comes out and looks like a nice brisk day out yachting. From the forecasts we knew to anticipate strong winds overnight from a deep low pressure system blowing up towards the UK, so we spent the afternoon making ready and snugging down. It blew through as predicted just after midnight bringing cold air and an immediate drop in wind force. No damage done and all’s well aboard. Well done Vai, Jesper and Kevin for keeping us well fed on Donald’s day off.

4-8 watch rig the midships nets

4-8 watch rig the midships nets

SHIP’S WORK: Preparing for heavy weather: rigging typhoon-wire jack lines, and netting in breezeways and midships from main to fore shrouds to keep sailors inboard; extra tarp and ratchet straps on the main hatch and batten down all portholes, hatches and watertight doors to keep the ocean out. Stow most sails with double gaskets aloft, leaving lower topsails and main topmast staysail set and sheeted down hard.

BOUND FROM: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
TOWARDS: Flores Island, Azores
TIME ZONE: ZD + 3
NOON POSITION: 39°41.1’N /044°45.7W
DAYS RUN: 167nm
PASSAGE LOG: 918nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 625 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: ESE (089°True), 7.1kts
WIND: SWxS, Force 6
WEATHER: 1/8 cloud cover, haze, air temp 70F (21°C), sea surface temp 66F (19°C) barometer reading 1018 millibars
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: 8-10 feet, SW
SAILS SET: Topsails, foresail, inner jib and fore and main topmast staysails.
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Learning to Sail in October

By Ashley Mulock

Thirty odd days ago trainees and apprentices who are sailing on the PICTON CASTLE for the Transatlantic Voyage began to arrive. Eyes like saucers they boarded the ship, struggled awkwardly down the quarterdeck stairs (designed I’m pretty sure to initiate newcomers on the spot) and then gathered on the green hatch at amidships to be shown where to go next. First order of business, down to the bunks to dump personal gear, followed by a quick introductory orientation of the ship, heads and meal schedule then, at last, some time to settle in. Looking at the strange surroundings, including a bunk that is the only personal space to be had while aboard, may have left some wondering what on earth they’ve gotten themselves into. Others will immediately think of the ship as home. It all depends on a person’s rate of adaptability.

20 Oct 2 optimized

During the course of the week ending on October 3rd, the steady stream of new crew member arrivals culminated in a three day blitz of about 24 people. New faces were seen in every corner of the ship almost overnight. Everyday there were numerous orientations held until the last dotted line on the last checklist had been signed by the last trainee. Next up – the best way to get adjusted to life aboard a tall ship is to begin living it. With that in mind, on October 1st a three watch system was posted. This means that each crew member was assigned to either the 12-4, 4-8 or 8-12 watch. Out to sea these would be the hours that each watch will work. While at the dock it plays out a little differently. For example, if the 12-4 was ‘on watch’ that means they will work a 24 hour period beginning at the 8:00am muster and finishing at the same time the following day. The ‘on’ watch is responsible for cleaning all domestics that day as well as standing the anchor watch rotation at night (one person being assigned to each hour between 20:00 – 08:00). Everyone on board gets busy doing ship’s work during the day with the 4-8 and 8-12 being stood down after the evening muster, generally at 17:00. These two watches are then on free time during which they could leave the ship as long as they were back by the morning muster. At that time, and in this case, the ‘on’ watch would then change to the 4-8. This same basic schedule will be used anytime the ship is anchored or alongside a dock.

Living, working and playing in a relatively small amount of space helped the crew bond really well. Going from complete strangers of different nationalities, ages and backgrounds to becoming full-on shipmates should be a daunting task. Actually, it is not as difficult as it may seem. Virtually all of the tasks we perform and the training that we engage in is done as a team. As the weeks flew by the tasks become more involved which in turn involves a greater degree of coordination. A few missteps have been taken to be sure, but every one of them has been addressed, learned from and not repeated. Sailing a tall ship is, in essence, a coordinated effort in which every crew member plays an important role.

Oddly enough one of the best ways to teach this actually takes place off of the ship. As often as possible rowing has been part of the training schedule. Each of the eight rowers will take their place in the boat and from that moment on await instructions from the coxswain. Why is it important to wait for instructions at this early stage? Well since even the act of picking up the six foot oars and lifting the blades skyward can wreak havoc, it is best to begin the way you intend to continue. Once the oars are in position, poised over the water, it is again up to the coxswain to call out instructions that must be followed in unison. Can you guess what would happen without this person? Oars would be slapping into each other; one side likely will be rowing with more strength than the other; progress would be slow and tempers would be on the rise. Rather than descend into potential chaos and anarchy the coxswain calmly identifies the first oarsman, port aft most position, with whom everyone else must stay in sync. He or she then issues the first command. After only a few strokes most people realize that this activity is not nearly as easy as it looks. Focus and attention sharpens on not only the physical aspects of rowing, but also on the coordination and teamwork required to make the boat respond correctly. In this way the crew begin to learn and then solidify how to work together. They also become more accustomed to listening for and to the commands of one particular person. These are some of the fundamental and vitally important lessons that crew members must understand for sailing on a tall ship.

27 Oct 1optimized

There are a host of tasks on the ship’s work schedule every day that hone coordination and teamwork among crew members. Sending up masts, crossing yards, bending on sails, hauling up the anchor, emptying out then re-stowing the hold, stowing the ship for sea, painting, rust busting, – the list is endless. Add to this the various training sessions of emergency drills, sail handling, learning the pin rails, ship board terminology, heavy weather drills, basic weather lessons, boxing the compass and learning relative bearings it’s a wonder that heads didn’t explode with the sheer amount of information needing to be digested. As has been illustrated in the daily logs, repetition is the name of the game. Sail handling and emergency drills especially were trained over and over again, the frequency increasing as the day of departure grew ever closer. If they chose to do it, filling out the pin rail diagrams could help take a new crew member from a boiling mass of confusion to being confident as to what line to go to and when. Loudly repeating commands makes everyone feel silly at first but is vital for effective communication between the Captain, Mates and Crew. It also reinforces the names and places of all sails, yards, stays and masts and what lines affect each. Slowly, by degrees, the new crew members improved their skills with every training session or drill that went by. There were impromptu after hours talks in the salon, on the hatch, in the warehouse, etc. to help those who were struggling with one concept or another. Sometimes the answer clicked from a staff crew explaining things or sometimes from a crew member who just joined as well.

In these weeks before leaving, everyone at once became a student and a teacher. The PICTON CASTLE herself is one of the best classrooms a person could ask for. This particular crew was able to participate in rigging her back up after a summer of maintenance and repair, thus gaining an understanding and appreciation for all that must happen in order to leave the dock. A task that may have seemed too pedestrian before, suddenly takes on a whole new level of importance. “The ship is the absolute safest place to be while underway” Captain Sikkema has told us before. “It is our hard work, attention to detail and focus that will keep her this way”.

29 Oct 1 optimized

After a slight delay brought on by the remnants of Hurricane Patricia blowing through, and accounting for the superstition against starting a voyage on a Friday, the departure of the PICTON CASTLE was scheduled for Saturday October 31st at 10:00am. The notice was put out the day prior and a hundred or so people arrived on that bright sunny morning. Captain Moreland spoke to the entire crew from the dock, as did Mayor Rachel Bailey of Lunenburg, Suzanne Lohnes Croft, Lunenburg’s MLA, and Laurence Mawhinney – past mayor as well as Presbyterian Minister, who blessed the ship. At 10:15 the last mooring line was tossed to waiting hands and the ship slowly separated from the wharf.

The skiff, being the last piece of equipment not yet aboard, was hoisted up – the cries of ‘And’ ‘Heave’ being heard faintly over the water. Then she was off, sailing around the lighthouse at the mouth of Lunenburg Harbour. Keeping with tradition, every one of us had turned away, and not looked back, by the time the last sail disappeared around the bend. Fair winds to the PICTON CASTLE and her crew. Enjoy the epic adventure that awaits. Stay open to things happening that never would have crossed your mind when signing up for a tall ship experience. And here’s to finding whatever it is you were looking for when you first gazed at the website and thought ‘I can do this’.

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Day’s Run – 7 November, 2015

One week out of Lunenburg and PICTON CASTLE is about half way to the Azores. Time is doing its usual deep-sea warping, what with two watches to stand and two sleeps a day, nobody really seems to know what day of the week it is. Sailing along out here, time is measured by the sun rising and setting, the turnover of the watches and most importantly the ringy ding of the galley bell.

12-4 watch taking in the spanker

12-4 watch taking in the spanker

SHIP’S WORK: Replaced some running rigging today: new fore t’gallant sheet, new outer jib sheet and new mainsail gear. Started work on a new canvas mast-boot to be fitted in port. Training today was focused on getting in the spanker quickly and sea-stowing squares: you have to jump on the canvas to bring it under control as quickly as possible – as Captain explained: that’s why they call it ‘handing’ sail, you’ve got to put your hands on it!

BOUND FROM: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
TOWARDS: Flores Island, Azores
TIME ZONE: ZD + 4
NOON POSITION: 39°46.1’N /048°25.7W
DAYS RUN: 83nm
PASSAGE LOG: 751nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 770 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: SExE (096°True), 9.8kts
WIND: SSW, Force 4
WEATHER: 8/8 cloud cover (stratocumulus), air temp 71F (22°C), sea surface temp 73F (23°C) barometer reading 1020 millibars
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: 4-6 feet, SSW
SAILS SET: Squares set to the upper topsails, inner and outer jib and fore and main topmast staysails.

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Day’s Run – 6 November, 2015

Fairly big seas today, the final remnants of last night’s strong winds. Some water sloshing across the main deck and out through the freeing ports. Occasionally a bigger wave comes over the rail and you can hear where it hit by the sound of the shriek – unless the watch were quick enough to get out of the way! Lucky the water is warm. We have man-ropes rigged tight across the main decks and quarterdeck to give an extra hand-hold.

The mate watches 4-8 stow the fore upper topsai

The mate watches 4-8 stow the fore upper topsai

SHIP’S WORK: Main aim of the day was just to keep the ship moving and in the right direction: keep the wind on the quarter and steer as straight as able in the swell. Other jobs included re-lashing the boats and greasing and installing shearpoles on the head rig turnbuckles. The focus of training in the watches was on belaying lines under strain and continued weather observations.

BOUND FROM: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
TOWARDS: Flores Island, Azores
TIME ZONE: ZD + 4
NOON POSITION: 39°29.3’N /050°08.3W
DAYS RUN: 118nm
PASSAGE LOG: 668nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 876 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: SE (109°True), 4kts
WIND: NxW, Force 5
WEATHER: 5/8 cloud cover (Cumulus), 58F (14°C), sea surface temp 73F
(23°C) barometer reading 1026 millibars
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: 8-10 feet, North West by North
SAILS SET: topsails, mainsail and foresail, inner jib and foretopmast staysail.

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