Captain's Log

Archive for May, 2016

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Day’s Run – 28 May, 2016

At 1140 in the AM local time, after 2,999 nautical miles and 22 days at sea PICTON CASTLE dropped anchor off Ile’ Aix in Basque Roads, about 8 miles from our final destination in the Port of La Rochelle.  We made a good passage overall, averaging about 5.5kts for the trip and it is very satisfying for all hands to have the anchor down on the other side of ‘the pond’.  We will spend about 24hrs at the anchorage before heading into port.

When the lines are made fast we will have sailed a little over 3,000 miles since leaving Lunenburg. Not much time to rest however as we prepare for a quick turn around and departure for our westward bound passage back to Canada.

SHIP’S WORK: general spot painting and cleaning, and prep for coming alongside.

FROM: Lunenburg, NS, Canada

TOWARDS: La Rochelle, France

TIME ZONE: ZD 0, GMT, UTC, Zulu, etc.

NOON POSITION: 46°00.5’N / 001°11.2’W

DAYS RUN: 116nm

PASSAGE LOG: 2999nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 8nm

COURSE AND SPEED: N/A

WIND: Calm

WEATHER: Sunny, air temp: 20°C, water temp: 17°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  Calm

SAILS SET: None

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Day’s Run – 27 May, 2016

Wind and sea have become calm as we cross the Bay of Biscay.  With only 100 miles to go a little afternoon we are anticipating anchoring tomorrow morning.

With the sun shining most of the day we have swung into full port prep: a ship coming in from sea is always supposed, at least on the inside, to look better than when she left. The ship has done well to take care of us as we crossed the North Atlantic and now it’s time we give back to her.

In the early afternoon we stopped for a while to swing the compass. This is a process that allows us to check what our steering compass error is.  All ships, especially steel ones, have some amount of compass error know as deviation. It is correctable to a degree but simply knowing how much error there is at any given time is essential to proper navigation. The process of finding the deviation is turning slow circles with the ship and comparing the ship’s magnetic steering compass to a sun compass or ‘pelorus’. With a few calculations the sun provides us with true azimuth and we deduct the local magnetic variation to get the ship’s deviation.  It is the same tried and true process that has been used since the age of sail.

Just after dinner having come within 60nm of the coast and with a light northerly breeze picking up, the Captain decided to shut down and sail for the night. Within a few minutes the crew, now getting very proficient at sail handling, had all sail set and PICTON CASTLE went gliding along in silence at 4kts across Biscay. As we slide past the multitudes of fishing vessels making their living in the night we have the opportunity to appreciate the calm and peace of being away from land on our last night at sea.

SHIP’S WORK: Continue galley house dutchman, general ship cleaning, acid wash bulwarks and continue overhaul of Outer Jib sheet pennants.

FROM: Lunenburg, NS, Canada

TOWARDS: La Rochelle, France

TIME ZONE: ZD 0, GMT, UTC, Zulu, etc.

NOON POSITION: 46°05.7’N / 003°41.1’W

DAYS RUN: 175nm

PASSAGE LOG: 2883nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 105nm

COURSE AND SPEED: E, 7kts

WIND: Calm

WEATHER: Sunny, air temp: 18°C, water temp: 14°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  1 – 2 ft, mixed

SAILS SET: None

 

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Day’s Run – 26 May, 2016

Our steaming continues as we start to cross the Bay of Biscay in the last few days of our passage.

The weather has turned quite pleasant, sunny, warming up, and the seas have laid down. This has given us a chance to dry out the whole ship after so much wet weather on this trip. Also, with the onset of clear weather the paint brushes have come out! And many hands have been busy today with spot painting about the ship to insure the preservation of the steel.

This afternoon we ran a man overboard drill, launched the boat and recovered the buoy (thrown over to represent the MOB) in five minutes flat.

As the calms come and go the watch on deck sets as much sail as will fill to help speed us on our way, when steaming as we are all of the fore-and-aft being set can give the ship up to a half a knot more speed.

As the breeze dies away or comes ahead the watch take sail in again to avoid chafe from slating against themselves or the stays.

SHIP’S WORK: Wash and paint superstructure, well deck bulwarks and T’gallant rails, tighten up Main T’gallant yard slings, replace port Main sheet, slush new ratlines, continue on galley house dutchman

FROM: Lunenburg, NS, Canada

TOWARDS: La Rochelle, France

TIME ZONE: ZD 0, GMT, UTC, Zulu, etc.

NOON POSITION: 46°05.4’N / 007°50.4’W

DAYS RUN: 171nm

PASSAGE LOG: 2708nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 280nm

COURSE AND SPEED: E, 7kts

WIND: Calm

WEATHER: Sunny, air temp: 18°C, water temp: 14°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  2 – 3 ft, mixed

SAILS SET: None

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Day’s Run – 25 May, 2016

We continued to sail through the night. It was a very pleasant night with a full moon and light winds, the ship sailing along easily under full sail. Nights like this also give us time to practice our sail handling with the light sails that have been so little used on this passage thus far. As the sun rose in the morning however the wind went calm, a high pressure system has developed over the Bay of Biscay and are right in the middle of it.

While most of us would be content to continue to sail along slowly in these pleasant conditions, when things change here in Biscay they can change quickly and not for the better. As such, not wanting to wait around for foul winds, we decided around 0700 this morning to put the big 7 cylinder Burmeister & Wain Alpha diesel engine to work and are now making good headway toward La Rochelle.

Night

SHIP’S WORK: Send up fish tackle, Unbend Mizzen Topmast Staysail for repairs, continue overhaul of Outer Jib Sheet pennants, spot paint about the superstructure, continue on galley house dutchman, oil jibboom, sailmakers continue on Flying Jib tabling.

FROM: Lunenburg, NS, Canada

TOWARDS: La Rochelle, France

TIME ZONE: ZD 0, GMT, UTC, Zulu, etc.

NOON POSITION: 46°05.5’N / 011°54.8’W

DAYS RUN: 86nm

PASSAGE LOG: 2537nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 450nm

COURSE AND SPEED: E, 7kts

WIND: S, Force 2

WEATHER: Sunny, air temp: 18°C, water temp: 13°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  4 – 6 ft, S’rly

SAILS SET: Inner Jib, Main T’gallant Staysail, Fore & Main Topmast and Mizzen Staysails

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Day’s Run – 24 May, 2016

The Gale continued on through the night, pushing us further to the north east.  But just before noon the wind started to abate, the rain showers cleared off and at the watch change the wind was down enough for us to set all sail. With all of our sails being cotton canvass we need to dry them whenever possible or they will start to mildew and rot, with all of the wet weather on this passage that’s been a challenge, but this afternoon provided a good opportunity get everything set and dry.

Speaking of sails we also began our ditty bag workshop this afternoon. In the age of sail it was very common for ships to carry a sailmaker and make all of their own sails at sea, even the last of the windjammers into the 1920 still carried a sailmaker and made their own sails. Even 40 years ago a few ships still went about this task, but now PICTON CASTLE is the only one. This is a task that requires a lot of constant effort to keep making and repairing sails and getting as many hands involved in the work as we can helps a great deal. Here is where the ditty bag comes in, all of the hand work skills required to make a proper working sail are all the same handwork skills that go into making a sturdy canvas bag to hold a sailor’s tools, so in teaching the process of making a ditty bag the ship gets more hands able to lay into sailmaking work and all of our sailors get a proper little bag to hold their growing collections of tools.

Captain Moreland heading up a ditty bag workshop on an earlier voyage

Captain Moreland heading up a ditty bag workshop on an earlier voyage

SHIP’S WORK: Rig up overhauled Inner Jib sheet pennants, rig temporary Outer Jib sheet pennants and begin overhaul, ratlines on the foremast, replace weather fax aerial tagline, sailmakers continue on Flying Jib tabling.

 

FROM: Lunenburg, NS, Canada

TOWARDS: La Rochelle, France

TIME ZONE: ZD 0, GMT, UTC, Zulu, etc.

NOON POSITION: 45°30.2’N / 013°38.1’W

DAYS RUN: 130nm

PASSAGE LOG: 2450nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 525nm

COURSE AND SPEED: NE, 5kts

WIND: SSE, Force 4

WEATHER: Sunny, air temp: 18°C, water temp: 14°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  4 – 6 ft, S’rly

SAILS SET: All Sail

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Day’s Run – 23 May, 2016

Though we expected it to come on to blow during the night the wind remained moderate and gusty, making it seem as if it were about to pick up and then not.

As such we carried easy sail through the night, Topsails and Courses, and it was in the early morning light that the wind finally came. Up to Force 6 and in with the Mainsail, calling a few hands up from below to get the sail in hand and well stowed to the yard. As the day went on the wind force grew, by noon gusting well over Force 8. Under Topsails, Foresail and three Staysails PICTON CASTLE charged along up wind and with the sea still small the motion was easy allowing us to make 6 knots, 7 at times.

When the condition abated for a while in the late afternoon we made time for an abandon ship drill, got the ship hove to under Lower Topsails and carefully got out gear to the muster stations.

Not too long after we finished our drill the wind came back on again and shifted south east. And with that we charged off to the east north east for the night.white sky smaller

SHIP’S WORK: Rig safety gear, overhaul Outer Jib Sheet pennants, continue spare block maintenance, continue stitching Flying Jib tabling.

FROM: Lunenburg, NS, Canada

TOWARDS: La Rochelle, France

TIME ZONE: ZD 0, GMT, UTC, Zulu, etc.

NOON POSITION: 43°46.4’N / 015°22.6’W

DAYS RUN: 123nm

PASSAGE LOG: 2320nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 625nm

COURSE AND SPEED: ENE, 6kts

WIND: SE, Force 6

WEATHER: Squally, air temp: 17°C, water temp: 14°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  5 ft, S’rly

SAILS SET: Topsails, Foresail, Fore & Main Topmast and Mizzen Staysails

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Day’s Run – 22 May, 2016

As predicted the wind went light over the course of the night.

At around 6am as the sun came up to reveal a beautiful Sunday for us the breeze went from light to calm. Though we have been making good time there is no cause to sit around and with another low pressure system coming up in the next 24hrs we fired up the big B&W Alpha and again started making tracks toward Cape Finisterre.

The calm only lasted the morning and by the noon watch change we had set Topsails and shut down the main engine. In the early afternoon we loosed and set all sail. This time it really is ALL sail as we now have the Flying Jib bent and the watch on deck drilled in setting and taking in the new sail.

PICTON CASTLE with all sails set

PICTON CASTLE with all sails set

We also switched and dogged the watches this afternoon, this gives the crew the chance to work with different groups and officers, standing watch at a different time of day. Though getting into a routine is a very good standard practice of a long deep sea voyage it is also good to mix things up a bit and have a change of ‘scenery’ as it were.

In the late afternoon as the new watches settled into place we noticed the first signs of the oncoming low pressure system, the sky began to cloud over and the barometer began to fall, as night came on we reduced sail to Topsails and Courses in expectation of strong winds tonight.

SHIP’S WORK: Sunday at Sea, which means no ship’s work! But we did end-for-end the fore lifts as we noticed a chafe point in them.

FROM: Lunenburg, NS, Canada

TOWARDS: La Rochelle, France

TIME ZONE: ZD+1

NOON POSITION: 43°05.0’N / 017°58.6’W

DAYS RUN: 102nm

PASSAGE LOG: 2136nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 745nm

COURSE AND SPEED: E x S, 6kts

WIND: Calm

WEATHER: Sunny, air temp: 19°C, water temp: 15°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: 2 ft, W’rly

SAILS SET: Fore & Main, Upper & Lower Topsails

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Day’s Run – 21 May, 2016

This day came in with a solid breeze a little to the north of west and after having been shortened down for the night we set more sail in the morning watch.

But before setting sails we did some training with the on deck watch and the daymen in the morning. PICTON CASTLE has a standard type of worm screw steering gear, of a type that was common on almost every ship by the end of the 19th century. Our particular steering gear is sized for a ship larger than this one and as such is very stout. As prudent seamanship dictates, we have a backup steering system and this is what we drilled the watch in this morning. Without using the rudder they had to get the ship hove-to (stopped using just the sails) and then rig up a metal tiller to the rudder post on the aft deck with tackles running outboard to control it.  Drill went well and the crew had the emergency tiller rigged up in no time. After this we downrigged all of the gear and gave it a good greasing so it would be well ready in the very unlikely event that we need it.

Another great sailing day has presented itself and again a good number of the crew came up in their off-watch to work about the deck and rigging. The sail makers have finished some patch work on our old Flying Jib and a gang have sent it out into the headrig for bending.  In the afternoon all hands were called for a ship manoeuvring workshop.  The goal of getting proficient at the evolution of wearing ship (turning the ship’s stern through the wind). The crew did the evolution a few times with all hands and then broke in to watches to have a little competition of which watch could get the ship turned around the fastest.  All three watches came out just about the same with the 4 – 8 watch squeaking out just a little faster.  After the workshop we put the ship back on course for Cape Finisterre.

We are expecting the wind to get light over the coming night, but we can’t complain, it’s been good sailing and we are still making a very good passage toward France.

Example of a dutchman

Example of a dutchman

SHIP’S WORK: Coatings in the forward head – reinstall sink, coatings on focs’le head hand rails, replace port Main Royal brace, bend Flying Jib, dutchman in galley house side, sand smooth windlass friction wheels and grease windlass, grease rigging screws in headrig.

FROM: Lunenburg, NS, Canada

TOWARDS: La Rochelle, France

TIME ZONE: ZD+1

NOON POSITION: 43°34.6’N / 019°50.7’W

DAYS RUN: 131nm

PASSAGE LOG: 2094nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 812nm

COURSE AND SPEED: SE x S, 6kts

WIND: WNW, Force 5

WEATHER: Light cloud cover, air temp: 18°C, water temp: 15°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: 4 to 6 ft, W’rly

SAILS SET: All square sail to the Royals, Inner & Outer jibs, Main & Mizzen Topmast Staysails, Mizzen Staysail, and Spanker

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Day’s Run – 20 May, 2016

After a squally night under Topsails the cold front passed through in the early morning and the weather started to clear off and settle into a moderate westerly breeze. At first light we made sail to the Royals and continued on our way, still sailing to the South of East.

We are currently making for Cape Finisterre, at the south end of the Bay of Biscay. There is a low pressure system forecast to come through early in the coming week that will bring strong winds from the south and we are attempting be positioned in a place to take advantage of this, rather than be held up by it. After the system passes through a fine south west breeze is forecast to come up. This will speed us on our way toward the north-central coast of the Bay of Biscay and La Rochelle.

After sunset, in the failing light, taking in sail for the evening more ocean wildlife came by while we were stowing Royals. A solitary fin whale passed close astern of us, lazing along in the small seas, blowing great plumes of spray with each breath. He apparently decided our ship was not worth a second look and slowly swam off into the darkness.

SHIP’S WORK: Rebuilding spare blocks, replace starboard gaff vang, replace starboard Main Royal brace, end-for-end main upper topsail halyard, finish overhaul of Jib sheet pennants

FROM: Lunenburg, NS, Canada

TOWARDS: La Rochelle, France

TIME ZONE: ZD+1

NOON POSITION: 44°28.8’N / 022°25.0’W

DAYS RUN: 129nm

PASSAGE LOG: 1963nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 905nm

COURSE AND SPEED: ESE, 5kts

WIND: W, Force 4 to 5

WEATHER: Light cloud cover, air temp: 19°C, water temp: 14°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: 4 ft, W’rly

SAILS SET: All Square Sail to the Royals, Inner & Outer Jibs, Main & Mizzen Topmast Staysails, Mizzen Staysail, and Spanker

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Day’s Run – 19 May, 2016

Another day with a pleasant sailing breeze. Though a little cloudy and the breeze a little less than yesterday we made full sail again this morning shortly after wearing ship at the 8am watch change in order to make some more ground to the north.  We wore ship again at the noon watch change and continued on to the east as the crew got busy with the ships work for the afternoon.  The workshop this afternoon was on seizing in natural fibre. The Captain demonstrated and everyone followed suit by practicing the four most common seizing we use in the ship; temporary, racking, flat and round seizings.  As we were taking in the Royals for the night after dinner the barometer started to drop and the wind started to make up, with the knowledge that a cold front will be approaching in the night we took in and furled T’gallants as well.  In the failing light, as we were making the T’gallants fast, a pod of dolphins came up alongside the ship, surfing down the face of the short chop that had made up as the wind built. Upon closer examination they actually appeared to be melon-headed whales (which are a type of dolphin), a rare sight this far north and on this side of the ‘pond’. They checked us out and then moved on leaving us to sail into the night.

SHIP’S WORK: Continue overhaul of Inner Jib sheet pennants, send up running gear for Flying Jib, set up outer jibboom guys, coatings in the forward head, another coat of oil on the jibboom, end-for-end the Foresail sheets, continue tabling on the new Flying Jib.

 

FROM: Lunenburg, NS, Canada

TOWARDS: La Rochelle, France

TIME ZONE: ZD+1

NOON POSITION: 44°26.5’N / 025°19.0’W

DAYS RUN: 135nm

PASSAGE LOG: 1834nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 1028nm

COURSE AND SPEED: NE x E, 5kts

WIND: W, Force 5

WEATHER: Overcast, air temp: 19°C, water temp: 14°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: 4 ft, W’rly

SAILS SET: All Square Sail to the Royals, Inner & Outer jibs, Fore, Main & Mizzen Topmast Staysails, Main Tgallent Staysail, Mizzen Staysail, Spanker and Gaff Topsail

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