Captain's Log

Archive for February, 2016

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Day’s Run – 28 February, 2016

After a wonderful couple of weeks at sea, the crew are enjoying some island time…  St Pierre in Martinique has all the charm of a sophisticated small town in France, but the sunshine and palm-fringed beaches of the Caribbean.  Mount Pelle, is the islands volcano, and it’s still active – the last eruption was in 1902 and completely destroyed St Pierre – the current town was built up again from those ruins. The scenery is dramatic and lush and the anchorage is deep.  It’s the perfect spot to sail small boats, and swim-calls at the end of the work day are pretty popular too!

27 Feb Martinique 4 27 Feb Martinique 327 Feb Martinique 1

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Picton Castle Itinerary Update

For those of you who keep up with our website regularly, you’ll notice a change to our voyaging plans for 2016-2017.

Sometimes an opportunity comes along that is worth changing plans for. This is the case this time. This summer, we’ll be involved in a special project that will see Picton Castle make two back-to-back transatlantic crossings. We can’t say too much about this project yet, except that it involves a re-enactment, but we hope you’ll trust us when we say we’re excited to be a part of it and we’re working with some great people on it.

We are actively seeking crew for this voyage, which begins April 18 and runs until July 31. Voyage crew should have some related seagoing experience. With so much time at sea, it’s a great way to gain some ocean-going sea time. While English is the working language of Picton Castle, on this voyage, the ability to also speak French is an asset. And there’s a very attractive reduced price for this voyage only. If you’re interested, please fill in the online application form.

We’re also looking for professional crew on deck and in the engine room for this April – July voyage. All professional crew must have, at a minimum, STCW Basic Safety Training, plus additional experience and qualifications as required for each position. On this voyage, the ability to speak both English and French is an asset, as is being Canadian. Professional crew applicants are welcome to apply by sending your resume/CV and a cover letter by email to info@picton-castle.com.

A ship’s doctor is also needed for this voyage. Training and/or experience in remote or wilderness medicine is an asset, is as the ability to speak both English and French. If you’re interested, please send an email to info@picton-castle.com.

Once Picton Castle returns to Lunenburg at the end of July this year, we’ll begin a session of the Bosun School, running from August until December 2016. The Bosun School is a land-based skills development program for mariners who already have some seagoing experience. The Bosun School will help you to gain hands-on experience in rigging, carpentry, sailmaking, small boat handling and general ship’s maintenance and upkeep. Lunenburg is the ideal spot for the Bosun School, with an active small boat sailing community and a variety of marine-related industries. To apply, please send your resume/CV and a cover letter to info@picton-castle.com. Exact dates and costs will be announced soon.

By January 2017, Picton Castle will be in Bermuda, ready for a new voyage. The Bermuda & The Real West Indies voyage will begin on January 4, 2017 in beautiful Bermuda. After a couple of weeks of preparation, training and orientation in port, the ship and crew will set sail heading south to the islands of the Eastern Caribbean. The first leg of this voyage includes visits to many of our favourite islands in the Windward and Leeward Isles. With steady tradewinds blowing, the sailing between and amongst islands is sure to be spectacular. The second leg of the voyage will see Picton Castle make a loop around the coastline of the Caribbean Sea, visiting Bonaire, Colombia, Panama and Cuba before sailing to the Bahamas and back to Bermuda at the end of May 2017. No sailing experience is necessary to join this voyage (those with experience are equally welcome).

That puts us in the perfect place to meet up with an international fleet of majestic tall ships on the Rendezvous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta. We’ll sail in company, sometimes racing, from Bermuda to Boston to Quebec City, with a few other Canadian ports along the way. Quebec City will be the highlight of the Rendezvous because the event is in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canadian confederation. Along with the organizers of the Regatta, we’re still working out some of the details of the itinerary for this voyage. We expect to be able to offer short voyage legs, about two or three weeks each, but dates and ports have not yet been confirmed. Please continue to keep an eye on the website for details. No experience is needed to sign aboard for this voyage. In the meantime, if you’re interested in joining us on the voyage and would like us to send you the itinerary when it’s ready, please send us an email at info@picton-castle.com.

We’re quite excited about our voyaging plans for the next year and a half. If any of our upcoming voyages pique your interest, drop us a line!

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Day’s Run – 23 February, 2016

Another sweet day of easy, trade wind sailing: blue seas, big blue skies and a fair breeze filling the white sails. The captain held an all-hands discussion this afternoon about the Caribbean Islands we may visit in the next month or so. He did a great job of whetting our appetite: amazing history and culture, delightful variety, much small boat adventures in warm, turquoise waters; expeditions to palm-fringed sandy beaches or jungle and waterfalls in the higher islands; snorkelling and scuba diving; visits to sugar plantations or to see wooden boats being built on the sand; but most of all exploring and soaking up the vibe of these wonderful islands. I’m sure most of the crew would rather be back home in the snow, but someone’s gotta sail this barque around the Caribbean 🙂

Emil working on new pilot ladder

Emil working on new pilot ladder

SHIP’S WORK: Move the stu’n’s’l gear to the starboard side so we can set the sails on the other tack; varnish galley house trim, varnish quarterdeck rails; scrape and paint bottom of our Lunenburg Dory SEA NEVER DRY; The bottom planks are now all installed in KARL so they were faired off and given a coat of primer – just the topsides to plank now! KARL spar and sail making also continued; assembly of the new pilot ladder continues; installed upper spanker crane-line; installed newly varnished helm grates. The watches drilled in st’n’s’ls overnight. Celestial practice continues with sun lines.

FROM: Mindelo, Sāo Vicente, Cape Verde
TOWARDS: The West Indies
TIME ZONE: ZD+3
NOON POSITION: 15°05.6’N /056°42.0’W
DAYS RUN: 98nm
PASSAGE LOG: 1,946nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 226nm
COURSE AND SPEED: West by North (CMGT 284°T)
WIND: Force 5, East by South
WEATHER: 4/8 cloud cover (cumulus), air temp 80F (27°C), barometer reading 1020 millibars, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 3-5 feet, East x North
SAILS SET: All square sails to the royals, fore topmast and t’gallant studdingsails, fore topmast staysail, inner jib, outer jib, braced up a point on the starboard tack.

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Day’s Run – 24 February, 2016

It looks to be our last full day at sea of this most excellent transatlantic tradewind passage; we’re expecting to make our landfall in Martinique tomorrow.  It’s a little sad to be coming to the end of these long moonlit nights and sun soaked days at sea but a port stop in a sweet French Caribbean Island doesn’t sound so bad either! The watches wore ship every 4 hours or so through the day and night, making long tacks down wind – the ship makes more speed slightly on the wind than on a dead run.

Ty at helm; Gary varnishing

Ty at helm; Gary varnishing

SHIP’S WORK: Varnish galley house trim, varnish quarterdeck rails; install middle spanker horses (a sort of foot-rope); paint buff and green starboard fruit locker; paint water cooler holder tropical blue; continue work on KARL planks, spar and sails.  The spanker was set this evening for the first time in a while so the watches drilled striking and setting it overnight. Celestial navigation class moved onto star sights today.

FROM: Mindelo, Sāo Vicente, Cape Verde

TOWARDS: St Pierre, Martinique

TIME ZONE: ZD+4

NOON POSITION: 15°26.2’N /058°56.8’W

DAYS RUN: 128nm

PASSAGE LOG: 2,074nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 93nm

COURSE AND SPEED: West North West(CMGT 275°T)

WIND: Force 4, East North East

WEATHER: 1/8 cloud cover (cumulus), air temp 82F (28°C), barometer reading 1021 millibars, visibility good

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 3-5 feet, East

SAILS SET: All square sails to the royals, fore topmast and t’gallant studdingsails, fore topmast staysail, inner jib, outer jib, braced up a point on the port tack.

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Day’s Run – 22 February, 2016

Just another trade-wind Monday. There are now at least four sailmakers working on the quarterdeck at any one time, and four or five carpenters working midships getting Karl planked up, or planning down the mast on the port side of the well deck. The starboard well-deck is a cat’s cradle of footropes and cranelines getting inspected and served and seizings replaced as required. There’s a little clear water, toe high, splashing across the main deck, which keeps it nice and cool and refreshing on the feet – not like the quarterdeck which is too hot to go barefoot in the middle of the day in these tropics. The watch are mostly varnishing now, making the most of the hot sun to get plenty of coats on, and then at noon four or five people appear with sextants to shoot the sun. There’s usually a navigator or two taking the stars at twilight too.

23 feb Sam G re-painting the dragon and castle from the stack

SHIP’S WORK: Spanker craneline maintenance; seaming upper topsail; KARL planking, spar and sailmaking; coats of varnish on the quarterdeck rails; scrape, sand and vanish the aft galley house trim; varnish helm grates; continue to assemble the new pilot ladder. The watches drilled in taking in and re-setting the stu’n’s’ls overnight.

FROM: Mindelo, Sāo Vicente, Cape Verde
TOWARDS: The West Indies
TIME ZONE: ZD+3
NOON POSITION: 15°36.7’N /055°03.2’W
DAYS RUN: 93nm
PASSAGE LOG: 1,838nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 329nm
COURSE AND SPEED: West by South (CMGT 260°T)
WIND: Force 3, East
WEATHER: 2/8 cloud cover (cumulus), air temp 82F (28°C), barometer reading 1019 millibars, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 2-4 feet, East
SAILS SET: All square sails to the royals, fore lower, topmast and t’gallant studdingsails, fore topmast staysail, inner jib, outer jib, main topmast staysail, main t’gallant staysail; braced up a point on the port tack under a cloud of canvas.

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Day’s Run – 21 February, 2016

Rigged studding sails on the fore-mast today. Studding sails or st’n’s’ls are extra sails set in light airs to add sail area and thus a little extra speed running down wind. These lovely sails date from clippers ship days and before. The breeze was finally light enough to need them today, so anyone who wanted to help got to spend a couple of happy hours aloft in the sunshine helping to rig them up: it was beautiful working high in the rig, the ship small below and surrounded by endless cobalt blue sky with flying fish skidding here and there over the small seas. St’n’s’ls are set ‘flying’ from deck, which is a neat bit of seamanship, and it shows just how far our crew have come that they can competently manage this on top of all of our usual sails. The sails have the added advantage of looking magnificent. In these conditions they ad maybe half a knot. That’s 12 miles a day, which can add up on a long passage.

st'n's'ls

st’n’s’ls

SHIP’S WORK: Send up st’n’s’l gear: run aloft to lash blocks for the halyards and tacks, send up the st’n’s’l booms and lash them outboard so they rest in the irons that are fixed to the yards for that purpose, send messenger lines down to reeve off the lines themselves and run the working ends down to deck and the dead-ends to belaying pins on the foreward fife rail. Then the sails are bent onto bamboo poles, the halyards, sheets and tacks are hitched on and the sails are ready to be set, from the focslehead, t’gallant st’n’s’l first. This afternoon we had a workshop to give each watch practice at striking and setting the new sails, and all did very well.

FROM: Mindelo, Sāo Vicente, Cape Verde
TOWARDS: The West Indies
TIME ZONE: ZD+3
NOON POSITION: 16°09.2’N /053°35.7’W
DAYS RUN: 74nm
PASSAGE LOG: 1,745nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 422nm
COURSE AND SPEED: West (CMGT 282°T)
WIND: Force 2, East x North
WEATHER: 3/8 cloud cover (cumulus), air temp 80F (27°C), barometer reading 1018 millibars, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 2-3 feet, East by North SAILS SET: All square sails to the royals, fore lower, topmast and t’gallant studdingsails, fore topmast staysail, inner jib, outer jib, main topmast staysail, main t’gallant staysail; braced up a point on the port tack under a cloud of canvas.

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Day’s Run – 20 February, 2106

Today saw the three watches battle for seamanship bragging rights in the long-awaited and much anticipated ‘Quest for the Broken Spoke’. Good job all round, but special mention to the 8-12 for their outstanding Star Wars costumes; 4-8 for entertaining (scaring) the judges with a Tongan Haka; and 12-4, the eventual winners, for demonstrating their slightly superior seamanship in such testing tests as an egg and spoon race to test their sea legs (sea ‘eggs – gettit?), competitive serving (but not with a serving spoon), knots, steering and most importantly of all: attempting to make decent coffee. Thanks and kudos to John Boy for making the magnificent and much coveted trophy.

Dressed in chafe gear

Dressed in chafe gear

SHIP’S WORK: Half day today! Wooden boat KARL mast and planking continues; tabling on KARL sails; scrape, sand and vanish on the quarterdeck rail; cut in green on the quarterdeck sky-light hatch; end-for-end starboard main sheet.

FROM: Mindelo, Sāo Vicente, Cape Verde
TOWARDS: The West Indies
TIME ZONE: ZD+3
NOON POSITION: 16°14.5’N /052°16.6’W
DAYS RUN: 90nm
PASSAGE LOG: 1,671nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 500nm
COURSE AND SPEED: West by half South (CMGT 270°T)
WIND: Force 2, East South East
WEATHER: 7/8 cloud cover (cumulus, cirrus), air temp 78F (26°C), barometer reading 1019 millibars, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 1-3 feet, East
SAILS SET: All square sails to the royals, the mainsail clewed up to allow the breeze to reach the fore; fore topmast staysail, inner jib. Braced square and running downwind.

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Day’s Run – 19 February, 2016

More blue skies and seas. A few light rain squalls. Whales again this morning, closer to the ship and swimming along the port beam. Medium sized and with white markings, more Minke I think. Captain held a fascinating all-hands lecture on Atlantic slavery on the quarterdeck this afternoon. It’s particularly relevant as we sail this
‘middle passage’ from Africa to the Caribbean, but the impact was so much wider and still has far reaching impacts on the world today. From the wealth and great institutions of the west that were largely built on sugar, tobacco and slavery, to big political questions, and the subtle but pervasive African influence on all of our art and culture today, from modern dance, abstract art to jazz, blues, rock&roll and even how we dress today.

View from Monomoy

View from Monomoy

SHIP’S WORK: Wooden boat KARL mast and planking continues; Corner patching and tabling on KARL sails, stitch canvas rope cover onto main t’gallant staysail; scrape, sand and two coats of vanish on the quarterdeck rail, another coat of vanish on the quarterdeck grates, paint buff on the galley house strong backs; reinstall overhauled port cranelines to fore and main lower yards. The celestial classes were worked examples of lines of position (LOP) today; we took sun lines in both the morning and afternoon sessions and worked our real live examples through from a measured height to a line on the chart.

FROM: Mindelo, Sāo Vicente, Cape Verde
TOWARDS: The West Indies
TIME ZONE: ZD+3
NOON POSITION: 16°19.1’N /050°38.6’W
DAYS RUN: 126nm
PASSAGE LOG: 1,581nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 596nm
COURSE AND SPEED: West by half North (CMGT 267°T)
WIND: Force 4, East x South
WEATHER: 5/8 cloud cover (cumulus), air temp 80F (27°C), barometer reading 1020 millibars, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 4-6 feet, East by North
SAILS SET: All square sails to the royals, the mainsail clewed up to allow the breeze to reach the fore; fore topmast staysail. Braced square and running downwind.

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Day’s Run – 18 February, 2016

More whales off the ship today, but too far off to identify. Celestial navigation classes have reached a key point – putting all of the threads together to be able to draw a line of position on the chart based on the height of any celestial body at a known time. We’re using the sun because it’s easy to see and identify, but the same technique
works for stars and planets too. It really is a bit like magic. Noon sights are getting pretty accurate too, figuring latitude consistently within a couple of nautical miles now.

18 feb Sunrise

SHIP’S WORK: KARL mast and planking continues, paint stone thwarts in MONOMOY, spot paint green galleyhouse trim, paint starboard focslehead railing grey, and spot prime to port, 2 coats of varnish on helm grates, main yard footrope completed and sent up, sailmaking: roping continued on t’gallant studdingsail and gaff topsail, rope cover on t’gallant staysail, corner patches on KARL sails. Cel Nav: introducing the celestial triangle and lines of position.

FROM: Mindelo, Sāo Vicente, Cape Verde
TOWARDS: The West Indies
TIME ZONE: ZD+3
NOON POSITION: 16°27.7’N /048°28.4’W
DAYS RUN: 139nm
PASSAGE LOG: 1,455nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 723nm
COURSE AND SPEED: West by half North (CMGT 266°T)
WIND: Force 5, East
WEATHER: 6/8 cloud cover (cumulus, cumulostratus), air temp 78F (25.5°C), barometer reading 1021 millibars, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 3-5 feet, East by North
SAILS SET: Al square sails to the royals, except the mainsail; fore topmast staysail. Braced square and running downwind in the tropical trade-winds as our barque was built to do.

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Day’s Run – 17 February, 2016

Not much to report, just another fine day of tropical tradewind sailing, blue sky, blue seas and white square sails. The settled weather has been much the same for days now: glorious sunshine in the morning, a little too warm after lunch followed by light rain showers and then a fine afternoon, slightly cooler. Our various projects are continuing well with a new group of daymen sailmakers, carpenters and riggers broken off from the watches today, and an excellent chocolate cake to celebrate Aidan’s birthday.

Working on spar for KARL

Working on spar for KARL

SHIP’S WORK: Work continues on wooden project boat KARL mast and planking, scrape and sand thwarts in MONOMOY, spot paint buff on galley-house strongbacks, spot prime focslehead railing, sand helm grates, main yard footrope maintenance continues, sailmaking: roping on t’gallant studdingsail and gaff topsail, roping on t’gallant staysail, cut tabling off KARL sails. Celestial navigation classes today introduced sun lines, looking at local hour angle and assumed position. Ditty bag workshop on making the large manila grommet for the top of the bag: stitching it on is called roping, and is the same technique as roping the edge of a sail for strength.

FROM: Mindelo, Sāo Vicente, Cape Verde
TOWARDS: The West Indies
TIME ZONE: ZD+3
NOON POSITION: 16°36.6’N /046°04.3’W
DAYS RUN: 132nm
PASSAGE LOG: 1,316nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 863.2nm
COURSE AND SPEED: West by half North (CMGT 271°T)
WIND: Force 5, East
WEATHER: 5/8 cloud cover (cumulus), air temp 80F (26.5°C), barometer
reading 1021 millibars, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 3-5 feet, East by North
SAILS SET: Al square sails to the royals, except the mainsail; fore topmast staysail. Braced square and running downwind in the tropical trade-winds as our barque was built to do.

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