This morning dawned clear and bright along the Spanish coast.
We made our way through the traffic lanes off Cape Finesterre in the early morning hours with all of the ships bound between Europe and the rest of the world. As we cleared out of the Traffic Separation Scheme the wind filled into a Force 4 from the WNW and we shut down to sail. With two watches on deck we quickly plied on all sail and PICTON CASTLE started to move with more natural comfortable motion than we have had in the last two days of steaming. With the engine off and such a beautiful day many hand came up in the off watches to lend a hand with the ship’s work and to enjoy the sunshine.
With all of this fine weather and a full time Sailmaker on board now some of the gang have been busy on the quarterdeck keeping after the suit. We have a new Flying Jib and Upper Topsail on the go, keeping people busy at seaming and others have been pulling up all of the lighter sails we are preparing to bend for the first half of this passage to insure that they need no further repair before going into the rig.
We often get asked “how long do those cotton canvas sails last?”. The answer, of course, is “it depends”. Most of our sails do not see ‘full time use’: the newest and strongest sails are kept in reserve for times when we know strong weather might be in the offing, such as an east bound North Atlantic crossing or rounding the Cape of Good Hope. The older lighter sails we use for the easy Trade wind passages of the South Atlantic and South Pacific. This is a time honoured tradition in sailing ships. In the age of sail most ships passing out of the North Atlantic on the way south would spend an entire day with all hands and replace every sail in the rig for the lighter suit in approaching the NW trades and the doldrums. Then again when approaching the Horn or Cape of Good Hope they would send up the strong stuff. With this sort of rotation we can get a good 8 to 10 years out of most of our sails, but sometimes more. A well made, well cared for sail can last a long time, some of the lighter sails we are preparing to bend now are over 13 years old and still have service left to give.
Those days have passed us by with the advent of synthetic sail cloth. Few deep sea sailors ever have the opportunity to bend sail at sea anymore and fewer still have the opportunity to repair and care for the sails of their ship as this is often done in the sail loft or a damaged sail is just simply replaced. For us it provides the opportunities to teach sail making and repair that is becoming hard to find in any modern day sailing ships. The care and management of the sails is also another layer of being a training ship: teaching our trainees and crew to be more aware of the different parts of the ship and how to apply the resources we have available to us for deep sea passage making.
SHIP’S WORK: Replace leather on the Main T’gallant parrel; slush the Fore Topmast; slush ratline seizings on the Fore Mast; mortis the Spanker clew outhaul cleat; make up wire whip for Main T’gallant Staysail halyard and Mizzen Topmast Staysail halyard; overhaul Fore Topmast Staysail sheet pennants; end for end Gaff Topsail sheet; begin shaping new Main T’gallant Studdingsail boom from old Royal yard; Sailmakers finish tabling on Flying Jib; stitch bunt cloths on new Upper Topsail and mend Royals ‘A’ & ‘B’ and make up for bending.
FROM: La Rochelle, France
TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada
TIME ZONE: GMT
NOON POSITION: 42°37.3’N / 009°43.5’W
DAYS RUN: 150nm
PASSAGE LOG: 469nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 4,206nm
COURSE AND SPEED: SW, 4.5kts
WIND: WNW, Force 4
WEATHER: Sunny, air temp: 20°C, water temp: 15°C
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: N’rly, 3ft
SAILS SET: All Sail