Captain's Log

Archive for February, 2016

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Day’s Run – 16 February, 2016

What to say? Another perfect trade-wind passage making day bound from Africa for the West Indies. Yards squared, all sail set to the royals. Too fresh for studding sails, flying fish scattering either side of the ship, blue seas with white caps. Changing out sailmaking, rigging, carpentry daymen tomorrow so more folks get a chance.

Painting floorboards on the galley house

Painting floorboards on the galley house

SHIP’S WORK: The mast for project boat KARL is now glued up and is being given some taper towards the ends before being rounded out from square. Planking also continues. Paint tropical blue in the breezeway and stone atop the galley house. Finish painting and reinstall MONOMOY floor boards. Port main yard footrope maintenance and ratlines are keeping the riggers busy, while the sailmakers installed cringles on main the new t’gallant staysail with wire seizings, and stitched grommets onto the new t’gallant studdingsail.

FROM: Mindelo, Sāo Vicente, Cape Verde
TOWARDS: The West Indies
TIME ZONE: ZD+3
NOON POSITION: 16°45.3’N /043°48.3’W
DAYS RUN: 126nm
PASSAGE LOG: 1,184nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 995.5nm
COURSE AND SPEED: West by North (CMGT 272°T)
WIND: Force 5, East
WEATHER: 6/8 cloud cover (cumulus, altocumulus), air temp 78F (25.6°C), barometer reading 1021 millibars, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 3-5 feet, East by North
SAILS SET: All 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 – 15 February, 2016

There was a small pod of Minke whales just a few meters from the quarterdeck on the starboard side today. They stayed with us for much of the morning, sometimes rolling over just under the 6 to ten foot seas to show their white bellies before diving for a while.

In the afternoon the captain gave a fascinating lecture for all hands about ocean winds and currents. He gave an overview of how the spinning of the earth and the uneven heating of the sun causes the prevailing winds and currents that we see across the world’s oceans. There were some great questions from the audience including why the trade winds we’ve been seeing this passage have been stronger than usual, why Cape Horn is notorious for strong winds and extreme weather, and why the weather in Australia is generally more settled than at the equivalent northerly latitudes in North America or Europe.

world weather workshop

world weather workshop

SHIP’S WORK: Laminate up planks for KARL mast and yard with epoxy glue, continue KARL planking with daymen trainees; ratlines, continue foot-rope overhaul, replace starboard fore t’gallant sheave in upper topsail yard-arm and replace the sheet with wire and smaller chain, re-seize port lift block and spanker clew block; paint black MONOMOY stringer and gunwale, prime and paint MONOMOY floor boards, paint tropical blue in breezeway; continue seaming upper topsail, make and install grommets in new t’gallant studdingsail, wire seizings with leather chafe gear for clew of new jib.

Today’s celestial workshops focused on practical sextant techniques to get more accurate altitude readings – it seemed to pay off, people’s noon latitudes are definitely getting more accurate.

The ditty bag (sailmaking) workshop for today covered making and sewing in (called “sticking”) grommets, the small reinforced holes lined with waxed marline and sewn in place, which are used to attach a handle or becket to the bag. Sailmakers have to be good at making grommets as each sail has plenty for bending the sail to the yard, gaff or stay, and still more for attaching hardware in the corners.

FROM: Mindelo, Sāo Vicente, Cape Verde
TOWARDS: The West Indies
TIME ZONE: ZD+2
NOON POSITION: 16°44.3’N /041°35.8’W
DAYS RUN: 148nm
PASSAGE LOG: 958nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 1,124nm
COURSE AND SPEED: West by North (CMGT 270°T)
WIND: Force 5, East
WEATHER: 3/8 cloud cover (cumulus), air temp 76F (24°C), barometer reading 1021 millibars, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 4-6 feet, East North East
SAILS SET: Topsails and staysails, fore t’gallant

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Day’s Run – 14 February, 2016

Sunday at sea and St Valentine’s Day today. Still sailing along swiftly in quite strong winds. We celebrated with popcorn, hot chocolate and banana bread on the quarterdeck this afternoon and pink iced cookies after lunch (chunky tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches). There were lightening and squalls overnight last night, but the squalls just brought a little rain, no real wind, so apart from the crew standing by in rain gear and rubber boots, there wasn’t much to be done except admire the lightening show.

Sailing Along

Sailing Along

SHIP’S WORK: Sunday at sea means only the essential jobs are done, and no painting or maintenance work. It’s the cook’s day off so the 3 people on galley rotation cook, and the rest of the day-men lay in to help wash dishes. The sun has no respect for Sundays, so our navigators were still out at noon taking their sights and figuring our latitude. We’ve been ‘running down the latitude’ on this passage: heading almost due west at a constant latitude, just as ships would have done for many years before accurate chronometers gave them an accurate longitude: find
the right latitude and sail along it until you get there.

FROM: Mindelo, Sāo Vicente, Cape Verde
TOWARDS: The West Indies
TIME ZONE: ZD+2
NOON POSITION: 16°40.9’N /039°08.1’W
DAYS RUN: 141nm
PASSAGE LOG: 810nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 1,267nm
COURSE AND SPEED: West by North (CMGT 273°T)
WIND: Force 5, North East by North
WEATHER: 6/8 cloud cover (cumulus), air temp 78F (26°C), barometer reading 1022 millibars, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 6-8 feet, North East by East
SAILS SET: Topsails and staysails, fore t’gallant

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Day’s Run – 13 February, 2016

Our celestial navigators continue to practice shooting the sun, with a revision workshop to run through the steps to find latitude today. The captain ran an all hands workshop this afternoon on the theory of sailmaking, followed by a practical lesson in making ditty bags with Sailmaker John for anyone who hasn’t made one yet.

Cutting the next plank for KARL

Cutting the next plank for KARL

SHIP’S WORK: We’re working on the boats to get them looking good and ready to sail in the Caribbean: painted buff in the skiff, grey and black in MONOMOY, scraped and sanded MONOMOY sole boards, and continued KARL planking. Sailmakers worked on patches on stuns’ls, seaming the new t’gallant stuns’l, made the long splice in the roping for the new main t’gallant stays’l and completed the roping. Completed main topmast stays’l tack pennant, continued to overhaul the port main yard footrope.

FROM: Mindelo, Sāo Vicente, Cape Verde
TOWARDS: The West Indies
TIME ZONE: ZD+2
NOON POSITION: 16°40.6’N /036°42’W
DAYS RUN: 147nm
PASSAGE LOG: 669nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 1,409nm
COURSE AND SPEED: West by North (CMGT 268°T)
WIND: Force 5, North East by North
WEATHER: 7/8 cloud cover (cumulus, stratocumulus), air temp 76F (24°C), barometer reading 1022 millibars, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 6-8 feet, North East by North
SAILS SET: Topsails and staysails

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Day’s Run – 12 February, 2016

Another great day’s run with average speeds continuing around 6 knots. Not bad considering we’re moving 600 tons of ship through the water and all powered just the wind in our sails. We had a power-shower today: the fire hose rigged up in the port fore shrouds accompanied by much squealing and laughter – the water was maybe a little cold, but it was warm enough drying off after in the sun. Fish steaks in spicy sauce with rice for supper, and more banana bread as the bananas are getting pretty ripe by now.

Shooting the  sun

Shooting the sun

SHIP’S WORK: Downrig and begin overhauling port main yard footrope, paint buff inside skiff, oil skiff floorboards, paint grey in MONOMOY, carpentry and sailmaking projects continue. Celestial classes continue with lots of sextant practice; we’re focusing on taking sun sights at local apparent noon, and using that to figure our latitude.

FROM: Mindelo, Sāo Vicente, Cape Verde
TOWARDS: The West Indies
TIME ZONE: ZD+2
NOON POSITION: 16°38.6’N /034°06.5’W
DAYS RUN: 136nm
PASSAGE LOG: 522nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 1,561nm
COURSE AND SPEED: West by North (CMGT 272°T)
WIND: Force 5, North East by North
WEATHER: 3/8 cloud cover (cumulous), air temp 76F (24°C), barometer reading 1021 millibars, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 6-8 feet, North East
SAILS SET: Topsails and staysails

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Crossing the Atlantic

Written by Third Mate Anne-Laure Barberis

It has now been three days since we left the last lights of the Cape Verde islands behind us, with no regrets. After two weeks in Sao Vicente it was time to discover new horizons! For the next two weeks at least, our horizon will be limited by the endless sky and ocean, our whole world will be the ship and ten or so nautical miles around us.

The crew resumes the ‘at-sea’ routine, rotating through the clock to assure a constant watch of the ship. Little sail handling is expected with the steady trade winds, which allows everyone to focus on other projects: sailmaking, carpentry and rigging repairs are on the program, as well as celestial navigation class, which will teach all the art of determining the ship’s position with a sextant and the stars!

Meanwhile my feelings are torn between the desire to cross the Atlantic very quickly to have more time to explore the Caribbean, and to be incredibly slow to get more time sailing, learning, and why not setting the studding-sails! But as always, this will depend on the wind; and whether the crossing is long or short, we will for sure have a great time!

Anne-Laure Barberis

Anne-Laure Barberis

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Day’s Run – 11 February, 2016

The trade winds continue to blow fresh, even boisterous. We have wind and current in our favour and the ship is surging along, surfing down the waves with white-caps and flying fish scattered all around. New hands continued with their splicing practice in the afternoon, and the celestial navigation classes got as far as calculating latitude from their noon sights today.

Victor doing some rig work on the port fore shrouds

Victor doing some rig work on the port fore shrouds

SHIP’S WORK: Carpentry continues on our wooden boat project – planks are being steamed in our steambox atop the galley house so they can be fitted to the curves of the boat without cracking. The planks for her spars are cut now too, so we’re preparing to laminate them up with epoxy glue. The riggers finished patch serving and seizings on the starboard main footrope and sent it aloft, and replaced the seizings on port-fore fair-leader board. Sailmakers continue to stitch rope on to the edges of the main t’gallant staysail to give it strength, and are seaming up the
cloths of a new upper topsail and a new t’gallant studding sail.

FROM: Mindelo, Sāo Vicente, Cape Verde
TOWARDS: The West Indies
TIME ZONE: ZD+1/ ZD+2
NOON POSITION: 16°41.1’N /031°45.3’W
DAYS RUN: 152nm
PASSAGE LOG: 386nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 1,697nm
COURSE AND SPEED: West by half North (CMGT 276°T)
WIND: Force 6, North East
WEATHER: 3/8 cloud cover (cumulous), air temp 76F (24°C), barometer reading 1022 millibars, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 8-10 feet, North East
SAILS SET: Topsails and staysails

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Our Time in Cape Verde

Cape Verde Boblog – written by Purser Kate (Bob) Addison

The Barque PICTON CASTLE is at sea again, letting the fresh trade-wind breezes blow the red sand of Africa from our rigging; we are westward bound transatlantic in the steady fresh trade winds of the tropics.

We just sailed from the port of Mindelo, on the north west corner of Sāo Vicente, one of the ten main islands of Republic (and archipelago of) Cape Verde. A little more than 300nm off the coast of Africa, Cabo Verde is an independent and savvy young nation with its own strong identity, but maintaining excellent relations with Africa, Europe and America. Its links with New Bedford, Massachusetts, and South Eastern New England are especially strong because so many American whaling ships called here in the 19th century to pick up crew and then never brought them home again founding the large emigrant population of Cape Verdeans in America. This remarkable immigrant group grew and grew with Cape Verdeans making their way to America in their own sailing ships sailing to New England up until the mid 1960’s in such vessels as the CAPITANA, The MADALAN, the MARIA SONY and the ERNESTINA. These vessels hold pride of place and the countries coins and currency underscoring the nation’s identity with the sea and venturesome spirit.

10 Feb Cape Verde 2

These arid, volcanic islands were uninhabited until the mid-1400s when they were claimed by Portuguese explorers in sailing ships. They became important as a stopping off point between Europe and Africa to the east and the Americas to the east. Used for trans-atlantic cable laying and as a coal bunkering station for steam ships, the islands were also used for many years to collect and hold slaves destined for Brazil and the Caribbean. The friendly and colourful market where we went to buy eggs, bananas and vegetables to feed our crew was originally built as a market for buying and selling people.

The architecture in down town Mindelo is still typically European colonial: tall, square buildings painted pastel colours with elegant wide steps and balconies. The suburbs are developing rapidly, with heaps of buildings still at the breeze block-and-mortar stage, you can see where the staircases, windows and doors will go, but for now they are just gaps and zigzags in the grey. But these are certainly proper buildings and not the corrugated iron and cardboard shanty towns that surround so many of the world’s cities: a testament to how quickly this country is developing and how well it functions.

And it really does function. Most of the people seem to have much the same laid-back attitude as in the Caribbean, so going to the bank or post office or shops can take a little time. It’s perfectly reasonable to be first in a long line at the bakery but hold up proceedings for a few minutes while you greet a neighbour with kisses on both cheeks and enquires about their grandchildren and a joke. But there’s no need to get anxious or frustrated, no need to rush or stress, your turn in the queue will come and everything gets done, and done with great energy and no problems.

The national dish is called catchupa: cheap and delicious, I think I ate it at every restaurant in town. A simple mush of beans and different types of maize, the style of the catchupa varied a lot from place to place: sometimes the beans were soft and white and fluffy with chickpeas and white maize, sometimes haricot beans and stock making a reddish stew, sometimes yellow and oily with fried corn, it was almost always served with a fried egg on top and a few slices of paprika-red chorizo sausage on the side. Delicious.

Catchupa

Catchupa

There were hundreds of tiny shops all selling much the same stuff as each other: sacks of flour or rice, gallon jugs of cooking oil, different types of beans and pulses for making catchupa and the usual assortment of cookies and candy in shiny packages. Some of the shops seemed a little random in their selection: one sold pink sparkly outfits for little girls, small electronic devices and a good selection of bicycle tyres and parts. Which made finding all the odds and ends a ship needs a little challenging but fun.

We were lucky enough to see another side of Cape Verde too – our visit coincided with the annual carnival, and they say Mindelo has the best carnival in all of Cape Verde. Based on the Catholic feasting before the austerity of lent, it seems like the Cape Verdeans have taken some cues from their Brazilian cousins to make Mardi Gras and the week before into one giant party. There were parades though the streets every day: groups marching with insistent drums, Samba and Mandingo dancing, half-naked blackened people, blacked up even more with face paint, dried grass around their legs and waist, brandishing a staff and leaping about – somewhere between culturally interesting and terrifying. Groups of children in Disneyfied costumes got to stay up late after the children’s parades for special treats of ice-cream and popcorn after trooping en mass behind floats drifting along with pastel coloured papier mâché elephants and improbable giant flowers. We saw ladies walking with armfuls of ostrich feathers and glittery costumes, and girls shopping for Minnie Mouse headbands and sparkly outfits, beautiful men in silly rainbow afro-wigs with rippling muscles all covered in glitter. There were huge sound systems set up in a different square every night and stands selling everything to eat and drink, but the parties didn’t even get started until after midnight.

10 Feb carnival

Out in the harbour, safely anchored with both hooks down and holding well, among the anchored freighters we heard the music blasting out until late at night, though by the time it got to us the sound was softened by distance and the hot dry off-shore wind. This is the ‘harmattan’ which blows from the deserts of central Africa for hundreds of miles offshore. The dust that it carries into the atmosphere made everything look weirdly foggy though the air was very dry, reducing visibility to less than five miles, making a smudge of the horizon and leaving a thin layer of reddish dust on every surface. Freshly tarred rigging turns pink with this fine Sahara sand. In the words of Charles Darwin who visited here during his famous voyage aboard the BEAGLE, the “impalpably fine dust … falls in such quantities as to dirty everything on board” Turns out we’re not the first crew to have spent extra time scrubbing decks while visiting this fascinating corner of the world.

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Day’s Run – 10 February, 2016

These Atlantic trade winds are blowing some fresh, and we’re romping along under t’gallant sails making excellent speeds with flying fish scattering about. Seas and skies are blue and the dusty Sahara haze of Africa is diminishing.

Knots Workshop: Bronwyn, Hannah M & Sebastian

Knots Workshop: Bronwyn, Hannah M & Sebastian

SHIP’S WORK: Continue work on spars and planking for our wooden boat project, starboard main footrope maintenance, greasing fittings round at deck level such as freeing ports, clean and spot paint MONOMOY, ratlines, continue roping on main t’gallant staysail up on the Q-deck, paint stone atop galley house. Celestial navigations workshops continue: we got the sextants out today and gave everyone the chance to shoot the sun. The bosun ran a basic knots and splices workshop for our new folks.

FROM: Mindelo, Sāo Vicente, Cape Verde
TOWARDS: The West Indies
TIME ZONE: ZD+1/ ZD+2
NOON POSITION: 16°45.7’N /029°00.6’W
DAYS RUN: 146nm
PASSAGE LOG: 234nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 1,852nm
COURSE AND SPEED: West by North (CMGT 274°T)
WIND: Force 5, North North East
WEATHER: 2/8 cloud cover (altocumulous), air temp 76F (24°C), barometer reading 1023 millibars, visibility good SWELL
HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 6-8 feet, North East by East
SAILS SET: All square sails set to the t’gallants (except the mainsail, taken in to make steering easier), inner jib, main topmast staysail, main t’gallant staysail.

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Day’s Run – 9 February, 2016

Westward bound for the Caribbean. Our first day at sea for a couple of weeks, and it’s good to get back into ship’s routines as we set out on our second Transatlantic of this voyage. This passage is set to be a good one, with consistently fair and moderate, even fresh winds and sunny weather in the forecasts – a great chance to break off ‘day men’ from the watches to focus on sailmaking, carpentry, rigging, engineering, and even learning the tips and tricks of the galley as cook’s assistant. It’s the perfect passage to get good at celestial navigation too – so much to do, it’s a shame the Atlantic isn’t a bit bigger…

First muster - KARL on the hatch

First muster – KARL on the hatch

SHIP’S WORK: Work continues on our boat carpentry teaching project boat KARL, getting her ready to sail in the Caribbean: we’re working on planking her, and also laminating up some wood to shape her spars. Paint tropical blue under bridge, cut in red port breezeway t’gallant rail, roping main t’gallant staysail, shaping new parralls for the spanker gaff, footrope maintenance: starboard main yard.

FROM: Mindelo, Sāo Vicente, Cape Verde
TOWARDS: The West Indies
TIME ZONE: ZD -1
NOON POSITION: 16°45.5’N /026°33.2’W
DAYS RUN: 88nm
PASSAGE LOG: 88nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 2,000nm
COURSE AND SPEED: West by North (CMGT 279°T)
WIND: Force 4, North by East
WEATHER: full cloud cover (cumulo stratus and haze), air temp 76F (24°C), barometer reading 1022 millibars, visibility fair
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 3-5 feet, North East
SAILS SET: All square sails set braced square, inner jib, main topmast staysail, main t’gallant staysail.

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