Captain's Log

Archive for January, 2016

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The Passage from Dakar to Cape Verde

It was an excellent sailing passage from Dakar: we had a nice sailing breeze on the quarter almost the whole time, the ship romping along with flying fish all around. We’ve had nothing but sunshine for weeks now, so our fair weather projects continue: varnish, sailmaking, carpentry and taking care of the rig. Cape Verde is a fascinating, independent country with strong links to Europe, Africa and America even the West Indies. It’s definitely a place for sailors. And also our last chance to stretch our legs before we set sail across the Atlantic on the trade winds passage to the Caribbean.

31 Jan 5 31 Jan 4

31 Jan 2 31 Jan 1

31 Jan 3

PICTON CASTLE is now at anchor off the town of Mindelo on the island of Sao Vincente, Cape Verde. It’s an excellent harbour – the only one to speak of in Cape Verde and we are very snug here, well anchored and enjoying the hospitality of the Marina Mindelo for our skiff landing – this shiny marina wasn’t even built last time the ship was here in 2009! Our neighbours at anchor are various cargo ships, small bulk carriers, the odd fishing boat and the classy Dutch topsail schooner Oosterschelde – it’s nice not to be the only tall ship in town.

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Day’s Run – 23 January, 2016

It’s a beautiful trade-wind sailing day here off the coast of West Africa. Sparkling blue seas, a light haze softening the blue sky, and a pod of dolphin skipping and diving off the port quarter. After all the bustle and colour and noise of Senegal it is incredibly peaceful to be back at sea in our own little world. The only sounds are the water sloshing past the hull as she gently curtsies over the swell, the sails and rigging aloft creaking as they ease to their work and the watch quietly going about their day.

Mackenzie stitching chafe gear aloft on the starboard fore topmast shrouds

Mackenzie stitching chafe gear aloft on the starboard fore topmast shrouds

SHIP’S WORK: Greasing round aloft: blocks, halyard ties and runners and sheets, continue work on Monomoy oars, sent starboard main upper topsail footrope back up after overhauling, work on ratlines in headrig, set up guys for starboard boat davit, paint white on aloha deck bulwarks and red on liferings, clean and spot paint skiff, sailmaking and carpentry projects continue.

TOWARDS: Cape Verde
TIME ZONE: GMT
NOON POSITION: 14°56.7’N /018°20.5’W
DAYS RUN: 84nm
PASSAGE LOG: 84nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 405nm
COURSE AND SPEED: North West (CMGT 294°T)
WIND: Force 3, North East
WEATHER: 1/8 cloud cover and light haze, air temp 76F (24°C), barometer reading 1019 millibars, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 2 feet, North by East
SAILS SET: All sails set braced half way to sharp on a starboard tack

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Day’s Run – 22 January, 2016

PICTON CASTLE got underway from Dakar, Senegal at 1400 this afternoon, bound for Cape Verde a little under 500 nautical miles away.

The big port anchor and two shots of heavy chain were surprisingly easy to hoist, and in less than half an hour we had all sails set to the royals and braced up on a port tack. It’s hot with just a gentle breeze and the characteristic haze in the air as we sail back out past Goree Island after an amazing port stop.

Goree Island

Goree Island

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Day’s Run – 21 January, 2016

PICTON CASTLE is at anchor off the CVD yacht club, a wonderful old colonial hideaway in the city where we have been made very welcome and very well looked after. Our gang are enjoying the bustle of Senegal: wandering the busy streets and soaking up the rhythms and colours of a proper African city, shopping for batik fabric, old masks, beads and bright-coloured clothing (or trying to persuade the very persistent vendors that they really don’t need anything at all!), taking the ferry to Goree Island to see the slave houses and museums there and start to understand some of this terrible and important part of all of our history. It all makes a day on the ship making sails and varnishing the pinrails seem like a rest cure!

21 Jan CVD Yacht Club

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Day’s Run – 19 January, 2016

Our crew got their first glimpse of Gorée Island as we arrived into Dakar – most will take the ferry across to visit this historic and poignant reminder of the Atlantic slave trade.

18 Jan Goree Island

This link will take you to more information on Gorée Island and its history.

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Day’s Run – 17 January, 2016

PICTON CASTLE anchored at Dakar, Senegal at 1630 GMT. We let go the big port anchor at 14°43.1’N 017°24.8’W, about a mile off the yacht club by de Hann beach, and it’s holding well.

The watches are bracing the yards square and stowing sail as the call to prayer rings out from the minarets ashore, calling the faithful to prayer.

We’ll clear in tomorrow when the offices are open, so this evening we’ve planned a signing on ceremony for our new crew, and then after supper we’ll listen to ‘Fula from America‘ by the wonderful Carlyle Brown with popcorn and cool juice.

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Day’s Run – 15 January, 2016

There was a little more wind today making for exhilarating sailing weather, and evidently good weather for fishing too – Jack caught a tuna for our supper. More dolphins and pilot whales today, and heaps of bioluminescence in the water – this part of the African coast has been truly wonderful for wildlife. As Joni Mitchell said; the winds are in from Africa…

rigging a stopper

rigging a stopper

SHIP’S WORK: Start work prepping the new Monomoy oars for use with a light sanding, oiling and a nice piece of leather chafe gear stitched on where the oar will sit in the rowlock. Paint the foclsehead cowl vents white, salon hatch buff, stern chocks black and ‘engineer’s’ ladder to the quarterdeck stone; clean super structure, re-rig overhauled port fore upper topsail footrope and tarring aloft. Sailmaking was in the salon today as some of the clouds looked ominous and it’s important to keep our new sails dry.

TOWARDS: Dakar, Senegal
TIME ZONE: GMT – 1/2 hour
NOON POSITION: 17°34.0’N /017°48.3’W
DAYS RUN: 130nm
PASSAGE LOG: 680nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 176nm
COURSE AND SPEED: South half East (CMGT 182°T)
WIND: Force 5, East North East
WEATHER: 6/8 cloud (cirrus, cumulus and haze), air temp 72F (22°C), barometer reading 1019 millibars, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 3 feet, North East by East
SAILS SET: Square sails to the t’gallants except the mainsail; inner jib, fore and main topmast staysails.

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Day’s Run – 14 January, 2016

The wind built a little today to a perfect sailing breeze. It seems almost a shame to be so close to Dakar when we’re just getting into the routine of this excellent sailing passage. Yet more marine wildlife today with a big pod of dolphin playing all around the bow wave for ages before supper; at least 20 of them including tiny babies were darting and swooping about just below the surface, and every minute or so one would make a crazy leap splashing back into the water to the delight of the crowd watching from the focsle head.

stowing the mainsail

stowing the mainsail

SHIP’S WORK: Clean green trim on charthouse, aft side of mizzen mast and Monomoy; shift pudding for Monomoy along the griping spar a little so the boat sits better and re-paint the spar, exercise and grease the kedge anchor, paint starboard focslehead ladder grey and buff, paint the stanchions for the starboard headsail sheet rail grey, fix main upper topsail earring lashing, re-seize fore lower topsail starboard inner bunt block. Sailmaking on the quarterdeck, carpentry forwards.

TOWARDS: Dakar, Senegal
TIME ZONE: GMT – 1/2 hour
NOON POSITION: 19°480.2’N /017°59.8’W
DAYS RUN: 127nm
PASSAGE LOG: 550nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 312nm
COURSE AND SPEED: South half East (CMGT 171°T)
WIND: Force 4, North
WEATHER: 3/8 cloud (cirrus and haze), air temp 74F (23°C), barometer reading 1020 millibars, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 1 foot, North by West
SAILS SET: All square sails to the royals, outer and inner jibs, fore and main topmast staysails, main t’gallant staysail, mizzen topmast staysail.

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Day’s Run – 13 January, 2016

Gentle easy sailing in warm balmy breezes astern along the coast of the Western Sahara. More whales around the ship this afternoon: we saw them breach and blow across a huge area around the ship, and even a few sets of flukes. From their bulky shape and size we think it was a pod of sperm whales. It was such a quiet, still day you could hear them blow from far away, amazing!

Trimming the main yards

Trimming the main yards

SHIP’S WORK: Send down starboard fore upper topsail footrope for inspection, overhaul and replace aloft; paint buff on edge of focslehead, port focsle ladder and varnish starboard charthouse rail, slush standing rigging at deck level, re-stitch chafe gear on main topmast shroud, ratlines on fore topmast shrouds, stretch new tarry ratline stock, replace wooden ratline on port main t’gallant shroud. The sailmakers are spread out in the sunshine on the quarter deck, working on hand seaming the new main topmast staysail, finish work on the main t’gallant staysail, and inspecting a couple of topsail for repairs and reinforcements.

TOWARDS: Dakar, Senegal
TIME ZONE: GMT – 1/2 hour
NOON POSITION: 21°53.2’N /017°47.1’W
DAYS RUN: 85nm
PASSAGE LOG: 423nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 439nm
COURSE AND SPEED: South by West (CMGT 197°T)
WIND: Force 2, East
WEATHER: 3/8 cloud (cirrus and cumulus), air temp 70F (21°C), barometer reading 1020 millibars, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 1 foot, NE
SAILS SET: Everything set: square sails to the royals, outer and inner jibs, fore and main topmast staysails, main t’gallant staysail, mizzen topmast staysail, and the spanker.

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Day’s Run – 12 January, 2016

We are still enjoying bright warm weather and fair winds as we sail ever south towards Dakar, skirting the coast of Mauritania and the Western Sahara. There’s still heaps of shipping around, so the lookout, helmsman and officer of the watch have to be even more alert than usual, ready to call a passing ship on the radio or alter our course if necessary.

sailmaking & tarring

sailmaking & tarring

SHIP’S WORK: Freshen the nips in sheets, halyards and bunts, served main topmast staysail sheet pennants, spot paint skiff, continue with headrig ratlines, paint red on windlass, white on focsle bulkhead, lash shear-pole in starboard main shrouds, slush headrig, port bunt fair-leader board re-lashed. Sailmakers continue repairs to the topsail and seaming up the new main t’gallant staysail. Carpenters work on small repairs to the Monomoy and the well deck dutchman. Sail drill in watches at night: taking and setting royals and location of all running rigging

TOWARDS: Dakar, Senegal
TIME ZONE: GMT – 1/2 hour
NOON POSITION: 23°17.2’N /017°32.2’W
DAYS RUN: 118nm
PASSAGE LOG: 388nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 525nm
COURSE AND SPEED: South, 1/4 West (CMGT 187°T)
WIND: Force 3, North East by East
WEATHER: 4/8 cloud (cirrus and cumulous), air temp 68F (20°C), barometer reading 1021 millibars, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 2 feet, NExN
SAILS SET: Everything set: square sails to the royals, inner jib, outer jib, main t’gallant staysail, fore and mizzen topmast staysails, and the spanker.

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