Captain's Log

Archive for June, 2016

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Day’s Run – 17 June, 2016

Trade winds at last! The wind shifted North East last night and we have made our turn to the West. Can’t have much better sailing than this, with a fresh wind, small seas and every stitch of sail we have bent set the Ship is moving along marvellously.

Trade wind passages are typically, in sailing ships, where the most work gets done, with good consistent weather we have many projects on the go.

The last of our sail changes was done today, the crew did a good job with getting the Mainsail swapped out in just an hour. We also have many hands in the rig getting all of the standing rigging slushed down.

SHIP’S WORK: Exercise and grease the Kedge; finish coating outer jibboom guys; end for end the stbd Fore Royal sheet; begin overhaul of Mizzen cranelines; scrape down and slush Main T’gallant mast; shift Mainsail; replace ratlines in Head Rig; end for end Upper Topsail lifts on the Fore and Main; Sailmakers continue roping on the Flying Jib; bunt linings on the Upper Topsail and seaming on the new Main Topmast Staysail.

 

FROM: La Rochelle, France

TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada

TIME ZONE: GMT

NOON POSITION: 32°44.0’N / 018°18.0’W

DAYS RUN: 125nm

PASSAGE LOG: 1291nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 3397nm

COURSE AND SPEED: W x S, 5.5kts

WIND: NNE, Force 4 – 5

WEATHER: Sunny with the occasional squall, air temp: 22°C, water temp: 21°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  N’rly, 3 -5ft

SAILS SET: All Sail

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Day’s Run – 16 June, 2016

The crew kept busy through the night. With the wind gaining strength and then decreasing again throughout the night there were many sail changes. The energy was well spent and the ship earned another good day’s run at almost 140nm.

More sail changes today, this time the Main Upper Topsail. It is a bit of an interesting effort to shift this sail as we do so while leaving all other sail set. The Upper Topsails in PICTON CASTLE have fixed sheets so that when setting them all that is required is to hoist the yard. When shifting these sails at sea however we leave the yard hoisted almost all the way in order to leave the T’gallants and Royals set above them. So this involves rigging up some temporary gear to get the fixed sheets unshackled and then clewed up to the Upper Topsail yard. The ship does look strange for the bit of time it takes to get the old sail off of the yard and the new one up and stretched, having all sail set except the Main Upper Topsail, but it is worth the effort of keeping sail on her and getting every inch out of the canvass we have aloft.

Sending down the fore upper topsail

Sending down the fore upper topsail

This is also a very good exercise for the hands, having to do this unusual task which at first glance might seem impossible, but after it gets rolling is just another day in the rig of PICTON CASTLE.

This afternoon we sighted the island of Porto Santo lying just to the north of Madeira and by evening sailed by within 2 miles. In 1498, on his third voyage to the ‘New World’, Christopher Columbus named this island during a stopover with his fleet anchored in the big beautiful sandy bight on the south side. No sandy anchorage for us however, we stood on past the island and into the sunset.

SHIP’S WORK: Shift Main Upper Topsail; overhaul and re-lead Fore Topmast Staysail halyard; lash new shroud cleats and sheet fairleads in Mizzen shrouds; replace ratlines in Mizzen lower shrouds; down rig Mizzen cranelines for service; dutchman in forward edge of charthouse; continue slushing standing rig; Sailmakers finish repairs on Course ‘E’ and make up for bending; make up Inner Jib ‘A’ for bending; continue grommets on Flying Jib and tabling on Upper Topsail.

FROM: La Rochelle, France

TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada

TIME ZONE: GMT

NOON POSITION: 33°09.8’N / 015°58.8’W

DAYS RUN: 137nm

PASSAGE LOG: 1166nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 3569nm

COURSE AND SPEED: SW, 6kts

WIND: N, Force 4 – 5

WEATHER: Sunny, air temp: 22°C, water temp: 21°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  N’rly, 3 -5ft

SAILS SET: All Sail except Gaff Topsail

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Day’s Run – 15 June, 2016

Our good sailing continues. We had a few squalls during the night and the crew reacted well getting sail off aft to get the ship downwind. After the squalls blew out it was back to the halyards and under full sail again. Turns out all of that practise on the calm nights has paid off.

This morning also saw an abandon ship drill, one more chance to practice getting those immersion suits on in a hurry.

As we keep on the south-southwest we are in search of the north east trade winds. In the middle of the North Atlantic, roughly between Bermuda and the Azores, sits a high pressure zone. If we were to sail right into it (which would be the most direct route) we would run out of wind. As such we are headed for the belt of east and north east wind on the south side of it. This belt of winds are the north east trades of the mid-Atlantic. The high pressure zone changes its location somewhat depending on the season and other climatic changes so it can be somewhat of a search for a sailing ship to find the winds it needs to get back to the west in the North Atlantic. Judging from the freshening wind which his ever slowly veering to the north we can tell that we are headed in the right direction and within a few days might be able to make our turn to the west.

SHIP’S WORK: Shift the Main Lower Topsail; replace ratlines in the stbd fore topmast shrouds; prep and coat outer jibboom guys; replace stbd Fore Upper Topsail earring lashing; oil blocks aloft; coatings on the Main T’gallant Studdingsail boom; Sailmakers continue grommets on the new Flying Jib and begin repairs on course ‘E’

FROM: La Rochelle, France

TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada

TIME ZONE: GMT

NOON POSITION: 34°58.5’N / 014°21.4’W

DAYS RUN: 142nm

PASSAGE LOG: 1029nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 3695nm

COURSE AND SPEED: SSW, 7kts

WIND: NW, Force 5

WEATHER: Partly sunny w/light rain squalls, air temp: 20°C, water temp: 21°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  N’rly, 1ft

SAILS SET: All Sail except Flying Jib and Gaff Topsail

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Day’s Run – 14 June, 2016

The wind continues to slowly build and we are now consistently making between 5 and 6 kts on a beam reach or ‘half wind’.

In the forenoon watch all hands were called to participate in a fire drill, getting all the fire extinguishers, hoses, axes and turn gear out for an exercise.

Today we also continued to shift sail, this afternoon with the Foresail. The courses being the lowest of the square sails are sent down to deck on their gear, clewlines and buntlines. Once down, the gear is bent onto the new sail and with hands on the clews and bunts to hoist away the new sail is sent up. After all is made fast, the watch swarms up into the rigging to stretch the head out tight to the ends of the yard arms and the sail is made fast to the jackstays of the yard. The whole process takes between an hour and a half and two hours.

We concluded the day with the Sailmaker giving the last of the ditty bag work shops, teaching roping, sewing a rope grommet onto the upper edge of the bag for reinforcement. This is the same technique use to reinforce the edge of most of our sails.

making a grommet

making a grommet

SHIP’S WORK: Shift Foresail ‘E’ for ‘C’; Replace ratlines in the starboard main lower shrouds; set up weather main T’gallant shrouds; continue replacing fore and aft gripes on the boats; rig up Main Topmast Staysail halyard whip; herring bone stitch tear in Fore Royal aloft; shift buntline blocks on the Fore Upper Topsail; make up shroud fairleads for Mizzen Topmast Staysail sheets; coatings on new Main T’gallant Studdingsail boom; sailmakers continue grommets on the Flying jib and begin repairs to course ‘C’.

FROM: La Rochelle, France

TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada

TIME ZONE: GMT

NOON POSITION: 37°10.8’N / 013°23.4’W

DAYS RUN: 117nm

PASSAGE LOG: 887nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 3745nm

COURSE AND SPEED: SW x S 1/2S, 6kts

WIND: W x N, Force 4 – 5

WEATHER: Overcast, air temp: 20°C, water temp: 19°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  N’rly, 3 -5ft

SAILS SET: All Sail

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Day’s Run – 13 June, 2016

And the wind finally came, a Force 4 breeze filled in a little North of West last night and we shut down to sail. We will start to pull away from the Iberian coast but continue to sail in a southerly direction in search of the North East Trade winds.

As we clear away from the coast the ship’s anchors were stowed for sea today, the starboard anchor pulled firmly up into the haws pipe with a heavy chain hook and rigging screw, and the port anchor brought up over the rail and secured with many heavy lashings. After all is said and done with securing the anchors, the heavy fish tackle (which hauls the 1,500lbs port anchor up to the edge of the foc’s’l head) is sent down from the Fore Topmast and secured below.

With the wind being moderate into the night we continued to drill the watches in sail handling and brace for every small wind shift to get the most out of the ship.

SHIP’S WORK: Shift bunt blocks on the Fore Lower Topsail, end for end Mizzen Topmast & Main T’gallant Staysail down hauls, re-lead Gaff Topsail gear, set up Gaff Topsail jackstay, send down Fish Tackle, measure and splice ends for Main Topmast Staysail halyard whip, replace fore and aft boat gripes, sailmakers begin grommets on new Flying Jib and continue tabling on new Upper Topsail.

FROM: La Rochelle, France

TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada

TIME ZONE: GMT

NOON POSITION: 38°57.1’N / 012°24.2’W

DAYS RUN: 105nm

PASSAGE LOG: 770nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 3851nm

COURSE AND SPEED: SSW, 4.5kts

WIND: WNW, F4

WEATHER: Overcast, air temp: 22°C, water temp: 19°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  N’rly, 2ft

SAILS SET: All Sail

 

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Day’s Run – 12 June, 2016

The wind again left us last night prompting us to yet again fire up the trusty B&W. We will continue to steam through the day and the forecast is finally looking favourable for finding the NW trade winds sometime tonight or tomorrow. And find them we must as PICTON CASTLE will have to make well more than half of this passage to the Gulf of St. Lawrence under sail.

As there is no ships work going on today many of the off watch are up with ‘make and mend’ personal projects and otherwise enjoying the first Sunday of this passage.

Reading on a Sunday afternoon (earlier voyage)

Reading on a Sunday afternoon (earlier voyage)

SHIP’S WORK: Sunday at sea!

FROM: La Rochelle, France

TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada

TIME ZONE: GMT

NOON POSITION: 40°30.0’N / 011°26.9’W

DAYS RUN: 122nm

PASSAGE LOG: 665nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 3833nm

COURSE AND SPEED: SSW, 7kts

WIND: Calm

WEATHER: Overcast, air temp: 22°C, water temp: 19°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  N’rly, 1ft

SAILS SET: None

 

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Day’s Run – 11 June, 2016

We continued to sail slowly through the night along the Iberian coast. This provided a great opportunity to drill in sail handling at night and the watches ran through the preparations for squall response in getting all of the sail in aft and the getting in the ‘kites’.

A square rigger’s safest point of sail in high winds is with the wind well aft, where the strongest parts of the rigging are brought to bear and the apparent wind is decreased by running with it. As such we drill for squall conditions by quickly taking in the Gaff Topsail, Spanker, Mizzen Topmast Staysail and Mainsail to take the pressure off of the stern of the ship and allow us to turn down wind. The effort is next put into any other sails that might be vulnerable, Main T’gallant Staysail, Royals and Flying Jib.

As the gang gets better and better at these drills it allows us to carry more sail through the night and increase the distance we can make under sail in this passage.

Today we also continue to shift sails: both Royals have come down from the Fore and Main and old ones have been sent up for bending.

SHIP’S WORK: Oil blocks on deck; greasing rounds aloft and on deck; clean semi-dory on the house; continue shaping Main T’gallant Studdingsail boom; send up Main T’gallant Staysail and Mizzen Topmast Staysail; wire halyard whips; Sailmakers begin tabling on the new Upper Topsail and continue with bunt cloths; begin grommets on new Flying Jib.

FROM: La Rochelle, France

TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada

TIME ZONE: GMT

NOON POSITION: 41°42.3’N / 009°47.6’W

DAYS RUN: 74nm

PASSAGE LOG: 543nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 4,072nm

COURSE AND SPEED: SE, 3.5kts

WIND: SSW, Force 3

WEATHER: Sunny, air temp: 21°C, water temp: 17°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  N’rly, 1-2 ft

SAILS SET: All Sail, except Fore Royal

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Day’s Run – 10 June, 2016

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.

Morgan sewing grommets in on the way to Fernando

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

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Day’s Run – 9 June, 2016

The wind has been light, but we have been quite lucky with the weather in the Bay of Biscay. Known for its westerly gales and currents that have for hundreds of years been the bane of many a sailing ship, we have experienced nothing but light airs. As such we continue to steam and get ourselves out of Biscay rather than wait for the weather to become foul. It’s places like Biscay that the term ’embayed’ comes from and we have no intention of being here to find out what that’s like.

We did shut down and sail for a short time today however to take some measurements for our new royal braces, these have wire pennants on them that turn into rope at the hauling end and must be measured very precisely so that the transition between the wire and rope doesn’t get caught in a block when braced up sharp.

With our measurements and bracing done we took in all but some fore and aft sail and got the big Burmeister & Wain Alpha diesel main engine heading us for the edge of the Bay and the coast of Spain.

SHIP’S WORK: Work on Ratlines in the headrig, ft trim pieces to galley port holes, sailmakers put a patch in Fore Topmast Staysail ‘D’ and continue tabling on the Flying Jib, bend the Mizzen Topmast Staysail

FROM: La Rochelle, France

TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada

TIME ZONE: GMT

NOON POSITION: 44°10.7’N / 007°34.3’W

DAYS RUN: 149nm

PASSAGE LOG: 319nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 4,369nm

COURSE AND SPEED: Hove to

WIND: W x N, Force 2

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

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  N’rly, 1ft

SAILS SET: Squares to the Royals, Inner Jib and Spanker

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Day’s Run – 8 June, 2016

As pleasant as yesterday’s sailing was it came to an end late last night when the wind died out completely. So on came the engine and in came the sails and we are now steaming toward Cape Finesterre.

Taking advantage of the light conditions we have done much spot painting and have begun tarring the rig.

Also, in expectation of light airs for the first half of this passage we have begun to change out our strong suit of sails for the older, lighter ones we carry on board.

SHIP’S WORK: Spot painting bulwarks and rails, making new trim for the galley house port holes, spot tarring on Fore Mast, Shift Fore Lower Topsail and Fore Topmast Staysail, Sailmakers finish repairs on the Mizzen Topmast Staysail and continue tabling on the new Flying Jib.

FROM: La Rochelle, France

TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada

TIME ZONE: GMT

NOON POSITION: 45°04.4’N / 004°29.5’W

DAYS RUN: 145nm

PASSAGE LOG: 170nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 4,517nm

COURSE AND SPEED: SW x W, 6kts

WIND: N, Force 2

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

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  N’rly, 2ft

SAILS SET: None

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