Captain's Log

Archive for November, 2015

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Day’s Run – 5 November, 2015

This afternoon’s workshop was a passage and weather update from the Captain. He explained that we’re making good progress, both in miles logged and in the developing competence of the crew. The watches were focussed on the mainsail today as we set it and took it in plenty of times depending on the wind: aloft to loose and coil the gaskets then back on deck to set it, and then the whole operation in reverse if the wind freshens or a squall looks strong enough to take it in.

Fiji telling the Captain to take a coffee break!

Fiji the ship’s cat telling the Captain to take a coffee break!

SHIP’S WORK: Replace starboard outer jib sheet, end for end starboard fore lower topsail sheet, got a coat of primer on a new fire-hose box and did some organising in the hold and the sole.

BOUND FROM: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
TOWARDS: Flores Island, Azores
TIME ZONE: ZD + 4
NOON POSITION: 40°08.6’N /052°54.9W
DAYS RUN: 150nm
PASSAGE LOG: 550nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 998 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: SExE (103°True), 5kts
WIND: NxW, Force 5
WEATHER: 4/8 cloud cover (Cumulus), 58F (14°C), sea surface temp 70F
(21°C) barometer reading 1023 millibars
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: 6-8 feet, North by West
SAILS SET: topsails, mainsail and foresail, inner jib and foretopmast staysail.

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Settling Into Life at Sea

Captain’s Log
Kate (Bob) Addison – 4 November 2015

The theme of today has been rainbows and wind. Squalls have been blowing over bringing short rain showers and gusty wind, but there’s not been much bite in them so far. And the sunshine after each shower kept our own personal rainbow aglow for much of the day.

It’s been one of those bright, active days when the few seabirds still around dance and glide in the wind like it’s all just for fun, and the clouds scud across the sky on their celestial sleigh ride. The afternoon sun breaking through the clouds to starboard could have been a renaissance oil painting and with the wind between force 4 and 6 on the port quarter, we’ve been flying along our course. Just a great sailing day for a square-rigger making passage across the North Atlantic.

The edge of the Gulf Stream has taken the chill out of the water, so while it’s still plenty fresh on deck, at least the living spaces are a comfortable temperature so you can warm up and be snug down below on your off watch. And if Donald’s not too busy then the galley is a great spot to sneak in and warm up your hands over the stove.

Donald’s been keeping us well fed – it never ceases to amaze me how he calmly and cheerfully turns out big soups and stews and rotis, usually served with fresh bread and fresh or canned fruit no matter the weather or how much his galley is rolling out from under him. And that’s just as well because boy does being at sea make you hungry! There’s the constant motion of your whole world meaning core muscles are getting a work out just from sitting down or walking around, even lying in your bunk takes muscles or at least careful wedging. There’s all the fresh air and exercise: running aloft to loose the mainsail, or out in the head rig to furl a jib; even setting up for meals and cleaning up takes a whole lot more effort on rolling decks, when you can’t put anything down without it being lashed or taking flight. There’s also a whole lot to learn and hard-working brains need feeding.

It all reminds me of a quote in our Crew Handbook by brilliant marine author Jan de Hartog:

“Apprenticeship is a necessary period in one’s life as a sailor. There will be moments of elation when the future presents itself in all of its boundless glory, while gazing at the stars; there will be moments of dark dejection when one will mainly feel hungry.”

4 Nov Rainbow

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Taking No Risks with the Weather

Captain’s Log
Kate (Bob) Addison – 30 October 2015

It’s a sunny Friday afternoon in beautiful Lunenburg, and PICTON CASTLE is looking good. She’s alongside at her wharf, where she’s spent the past three months ever since returning from the summer voyage of Tall Ship festivals. It’s been a busy and productive three months: a six-week Bosun School; major rig overhaul, new spars, significant work in the engine room, new stowage in the hold, and a concerted effort to organise throughout. The ship is looking better than ever.

Our crew for this Transatlantic Voyage are a great gang too, we have 45 people aboard (plus one cat), and energy is high. The skill level is quite impressive for the start of a voyage, partly thanks to a number of apprenticeship scholarships granted by the Nova Scotia Seamanship Education Society to widen access to young aspiring professional mariners who couldn’t otherwise access this excellent sea training opportunity. And we are very happy to have them aboard.

So the ship’s ready and the crew are ready, we’ve loaded provisions and made our passage plan – the final part of the jigsaw is the weather. Yesterday was a whole lot less pleasant than today’s clear skies and sunshine – rough weather was forecast, blowing 50 knots just outside the harbour, left over from that hurricane that hit Mexico and even at our sheltered wharf there was a fair amount of swell as this deep low pressure system blew over.

There’s no need to set off on a voyage into bad weather, so we waited with extra lines ashore and double gaskets aloft. Frustrating for the new crew of course, but I think once they saw the conditions, most were secretly glad of another day snug alongside rather than out battling the howling wind and rain. With an excellent short term and long range forecast, the weather’s much better today, but after a strong blow like that the sea state is still choppy and unpleasant, with wind against swell adding to the confusion. Besides: we’re not superstitious, but you can’t start a voyage on a Friday.

It’s not just the crew – even the ship seems eager to get out to sea where she belongs: we were drying sails at the dock earlier this week and she caught a puff of wind that set her tugging at her mooring lines, seemingly keen for the open ocean. It was quite a sight.

And so tomorrow at about 10am the time will have finally come for us to clear out of Canada, cast off our dock lines, haul down sheets and tacks and set sail for the horizon.

As a great friend of the ship said to us today: “Run out of excuses, time to go.”

30 October in Lunenburg - opt

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Day’s Run – 4 November, 2015

A squally day of sunshine, showers and rainbows. Squalls are unpredictable and can bring rain, strong winds and wind-shifts so the Mate of the watch is constantly on the alert for them, scanning the weather horizon and the radar to get as much warning as possible. Then they have time to call the Captain, make sure their people are in waterproofs, see that sails are shortened down if necessary and that the helmsman is ready to put the wheel over and run before the wind.

Usually it’s all over in a couple of minutes and we can get back on course.

4 Nov Rainbow

SHIP’S WORK: Sailing the ship is still the focus. The watches have been training in tying basic knots, practicing sea-stowing the outer jib, and more practice taking weather observations. On their off-watch Colin and Sam H made a nice leather patch that laces onto the spanker boom to prevent the boom chafing against the shrouds when sheeted right out.

Bosun and Captain took up a little on the main t’gallant shrouds and head rig headstays with a small gang.

BOUND FROM: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
TOWARDS: Flores Island, Azores
TIME ZONE: ZD + 4
NOON POSITION: 40°43.4’N /056°07.9W
DAYS RUN: 128nm
PASSAGE LOG: 399nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 1,140 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: SExE1/2E (113°True), 6.3kts
WIND: S, Force 5
WEATHER: 7/8 cloud cover (Strato-cumulus), 57F (14°C), sea surface temp 68F (20°C) barometer reading 1022 millibars
SWELL HIGHT & DIRECTION: 6-8 feet, North by West
SAILS SET: topsails, mainsail and foresail, inner jib and foretopmast staysail.

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Day’s Run – 3 November, 2015

The watches are working on steering, lookout and lines – especially taking in the mainsail and spanker quickly, they are finding out how much harder it is to find the right line in the dark with the decks rolling under you. All hands are doing well.

Chief Mate took us through an introduction to the rules of the road, or International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea today. Every licensed mariner must know the rules inside out, and our gang need to know at least the basics to help make better reports of any traffic they see on lookout.

3 Nov - sailing along

SHIP’S WORK: The Bosun had a gang down-rig and overhaul the fish hook and tackle today; nothing to do with trying to catch tuna, it’s the big hook used to catch the Admiralty anchor on the port side and bring it up to the bow to be lashed securely when at sea.

BOUND FROM: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
TOWARDS: Flores Island, Azores
TIME ZONE: ZD + 4
NOON POSITION: 41°33.1’N /058°46.8W
DAYS RUN: 104nm
PASSAGE LOG: 295.6nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 1,258 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: SExE (114°True), 4kts
WIND: NxE, Force 4
WEATHER: 7/8 cloud cover (Strato-cumulus), 52F (11°C), sea surface temp 74F (23°C) barometer reading 1022 millibars
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: 2-4 feet, Northerly
SAILS SET: topsails and foresail, spanker, inner jib and foretopmast staysail.

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Day’s Run – 2 November, 2015

After a chilly, windy night, today dawned sunny with the wind having moderated to a fresh breeze. Great sailing weather. The swell was still confused and lumpy from the blow, but it sorted itself out a good deal throughout the day. Overnight was the most wind many of this crew have ever seen at sea, but the watches did a good job handling sail throughout the night. A few casualties of seasickness, the mixed-up swell not helping much. Expect they’ll get their sea legs soon enough.

2 Nov Not feeling so good

SHIP’S WORK: The watches are still focused on learning to steer and stand an effective lookout, learning all lines well, learning to describe the current weather and points of the compass and handling sail. Small rigging jobs included installing shear poles on turnbuckles for fore and main t’gallant and royal back stays and spot painting and priming.

BOUND FROM: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
TOWARDS: Flores Island, Azores
TIME ZONE: ZD + 4
NOON POSITION: 42°47.7’N /060°58.6W
DAYS RUN: 110nm
PASSAGE LOG: 193 nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 1,300 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: S (142°True), 5.5kts
WIND: WxN, Force 5
WEATHER: 6/8 cloud cover (Cu and StCu), 59F (15°C), sea surface temp 63F (17°C) barometer reading 1017 millibars
SWELL HIGHT & DIRECTION: 6-8 feet, WNW
SAILS SET: topsails and foresail

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Day’s Run – 1 November, 2015

A grey day today. The wind gradually picked up through the day, so we shortened down sail to topsails and foresail to be nice and snug for the night, with lines rigged tight across the quarterdeck and main deck to give people more to hold on to. Good job Sunday galley team of Colin, Alec and Hanna D – tacos for lunch and spicy fish with spuds, rice and veg for supper. Matt’s birthday today, so chocolate brownies after supper to celebrate.

1 Nov Stowing main t'gallant

SHIP’S WORK: Mostly focusing on sailing the ship today: crew drilled in points of the compass and more practice steering, new crew being assisted by someone more experienced. Plus sail handling: taking in sail and bracing as the wind veered around. Bosun had a small gang up forward doing various small jobs.

BOUND FROM: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
TOWARDS: Flores Island, Azores
TIME ZONE: ZD + 4
NOON POSITION: 43°28.5’N /063°18.W
DAYS RUN: 64.8 nm
PASSAGE LOG: 74 nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 1,430 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: SExS (104°True), 2.5kts
WIND: SSW, Force 3
WEATHER: full cloud cover, light drizzle, 51F (11°C), water temp 20F (13°C) barometer reading 1023
SWELL HIGHT & DIRECTION: less than 1m, NW
SAILS SET: Square sails set to the t’gallants and all fore and aft

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Day’s Run – 31 October, 2015

Happy Halloween!

We’re underway! Much thanks to the crowd of Lunenburgers and well wishers who came down to the wharf to wish us fair winds yesterday. The first day at sea of this voyage and all is well aboard PICTON CASTLE. Seas are small and winds quite light though it’s cold. New hands are finding their sea legs and getting the hang of watches, getting their first trick at the helm and learning to stand an effective lookout up forward on the foc’s’le head. Not too much traffic about but the occasional fishing boat.

31 Oct first muster

SHIP’S WORK: First day out and the focus is on making sure everything we’ve stowed ready for sea is still properly stowed, and all is just as it should be. Drilling in setting and taking in the spanker and mainsail.

BOUND FROM: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
TOWARDS: Flores Island, Azores
TIME ZONE: ZD + 3
NOON POSITION: 44°19.1’N /064°14.1’W
DAYS RUN: 3nm
PASSAGE DISTANCE RUN: 3 nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 1,500 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: 141°T
WIND: W, Force 3
WEATHER: clear skies, 43°F, barometer reading 1023
SWELL HIGHT & DIRECTION: less than 1m
NW SAILS SET: Square sails set to the t’gallants and all fore and aft

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Day’s Run – 30 October 2015

Noon Position: Docked in Lunenburg, NS, Canada

Weather: Clear sky, cool, H 12c L 2c, barometer 1001.

Last minute tasks, drying sail and repetition of drills was the focus of the morning. Fiji, of course, had her own ‘to do’ list which included a game of Cat and Mouse. The Captain held the first of many workshops after lunch. He demonstrated how to make an eye splice, how to taper the splice two different ways and then how to do a whipping. Crew with experience circulated among everyone to lend a hand and by the end of the hour each person had their own length of rope with an eye splice on either end.

At 16:00 the official signing on ceremony took place. The crew collected on the quarterdeck, heard from both Captain Moreland and Captain Sikkema, then were called up individually to sign the ship’s articles and receive two crew hats and crew t-shirts. Wally and Ashley, two volunteers who’ve been helping at the ship, were also acknowledged and thanked by the entire crew. By 17:00, when the two off watches were stood down, the official countdown to getting underway began. T minus 17 hours and counting!

30 Oct 1 optimized

30 Oct 2 optimized

30 Oct 3 optimized

30 Oct 5 optimized

Ship’s Work: Replaced port windlass brake band; prime headrig seizings; topcoat white foc’s’le head round; grease steering gear; installed headrig manropes and temporary ratl’ns where missing. Training: emergency drills (fire and abandon ship); sail drill (4-8 fore, 8-12 main); splicing and whipping workshop (eye splice, 2 tapers); security training; watch standing schedule and details of cleaning routines.

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Day’s Run – 29 October 2015

Noon Position: Docked in Lunenburg, NS, Canada

Weather: High southeasterly winds, rain, H 17c L 8c, barometer 1012

The howling wind, driving rain and large waves may have delayed our departure but we didn’t let it stop us entirely. We braced for the weather, gained practical experience paying attention to and slacking lines, further studied the pin rails, relative bearing points and got closer to being able to racing the other watches through boxing the compass. In the afternoon we settled into the salon with popcorn and hot chocolate to watch two of the great sailing movies: Around Cape Horn and Captains Courageous. These movies highlight in spectacular form the rough lives lived on the sea. Though life aboard will be far easier for us, the two movies also illustrated why training, repetition and coordination are so important.

29 Oct 2 optimized

29 Oct 3 optimized

Ship’s Work: Haul skiff out of water for incoming weather. Training: In watches – slacking gear, pin rails, knots, relative bearing points, boxing the compass and foul weather and harness drill; weather routing talk by the Captain; state of the weather talk by Chief Mate; weather and chart orientation for Second and Third Mate by Captain; movies Around Cape Horn and Captains Courageous in the salon.

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