Captain's Log

Archive for July, 2016

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Day’s Run – 12 July, 2016

And the next low pressure system comes through bringing near gale force winds for the day. PICTON CASTLE is crawling along upwind under short sail trying to make the best of these conditions.

Fortunately for us this was only to last the day. In the late afternoon the barometer began rising again and at the evening watch change we had Upper Topsail set again and continued to work our way to the North, looking forward to a wind shift and the forecast southerlies late in the week. It’s amazing how quickly the Ocean can change. Just a few days ago on the other side of the Gulf Stream we were all in t-shirts and shorts still marvelling at the deep blue water; now it’s all hats, jumpers and sea boots. The water temperature has fallen considerably since we left the Gulf Stream and the colour of the water has gone grey, similar to what we remember from the start of the voyage, we must be getting close to land again.

SHIP’S WORK: Move and re-stitch leather on MONOMOY oars; Lashings about deck and below.

FROM: La Rochelle, France

TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada

TIME ZONE: ZD +3

NOON POSITION: 42°42’N / 053°49’W

DAYS RUN: 83nm

PASSAGE LOG: 3924nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 664nm

COURSE AND SPEED: N x W, 4kts

WIND: W, Force 7 – 8

WEATHER: Rain and Squalls, air temp: 20°C, water temp: 18°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  W’rly, 11 – 14ft

SAILS SET: Lower Topsails, Foresail, Fore & Main Topmast Staysails and the foot of the Spanker

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Day’s Run – 11 July, 2016

Another day working through the Atlantic, to the North this time. Breeze filled in westerly in the morning and has been a steady Force 5 for most of the day.  All of the safety gear got a quick overhaul: as we know we will need it again, we must keep it in top notch condition.  With the fresh weather we take some time to do some extra cleaning jobs and take any opportunity when the wind lightens up to set more sail.

SHIP’S WORK: Clean aloha deck overhead; replace chafe gear on forward topmast shroud legs; continue shaping MONOMOY main boom; repairs to Lower Topsail ‘C’.

FROM: La Rochelle, France

TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada

TIME ZONE: ZD +3

NOON POSITION: 41°20’N / 053°54’W

DAYS RUN: 86nm

PASSAGE LOG: 3841nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 745nm

COURSE AND SPEED: N 1/2 W, 5kts

WIND: SW x W, Force 6

WEATHER: Overcast, air temp: 22°C, water temp: 24°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  W’rly, 5 – 7ft

SAILS SET: Topsails, Courses, Inner & Outer Jibs, Fore & Main Topmast Staysails, Main T’gallant Staysail and Spanker

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Day’s Run – 10 July, 2016

Weather forecasting has been an amazing advancement to safety at sea: to be able to have a heads up to what’s around the corner and being able to plan accordingly. But as complex as weather systems can be, the forecasters and computer models don’t always get it right. While we were expecting the breeze to freshen today we got a little more than we bargained for in the early morning. Having gotten the kites in around midnight and the T’gallants in around 2am, we were riding nicely under Topsails, Courses and a few Staysails when with a very sharp drop in the Barometer at 0330 the wind built to a solid Force 9. All hands were called to get in Upper Topsails and the Mainsail and rig safety gear.

Being in the upper part of the Gulf Stream the water was still pleasantly warm, and despite the wind the air was making the work much more bearable. This also meant however that we were in an area with the wind against the current which built up the seas very quickly. As soon as the necessary work was complete the off watches were sent below and the on watch stayed snug on the quarterdeck while we rode out the wind and seas.

And just as quickly as it came on, it went away. The Barometer shot back up and by 0830 the wind had abated to Force 6 and we set Upper Topsails again. But, unfortunately for us, as the day wore on the wind continued to decrease, but the seas did not. By late afternoon we again had the fore & aft sail in and the Courses clewed up drifting in the Gulf Stream waiting for a breeze.

The only thing we didn’t have was a flat calm! Despite this, it was a good day for sail handling, testing the skill of a crew now having sailed almost 7,000nm in square rig on the North Atlantic. We have come a long way since that rainy Thursday departure in early May.

SHIP’S WORK: Sunday at Sea!

FROM: La Rochelle, France

TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada

TIME ZONE: ZD +2

NOON POSITION: 40°04’N / 054°08’W

DAYS RUN: 115nm

PASSAGE LOG: 3755nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 823nm

COURSE AND SPEED: SxE, 2kts

WIND: WSW, Force 4

WEATHER: Overcast and squally, air temp: 22°C, water temp: 24°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  Mixed, 8 – 13ft

SAILS SET: Set to the T’gallants and the Inner Jib

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Day’s Run – 9 July, 2016

With conditions continuing to be fresh over night we got in T’gallants early in the morning. The day dawned warm and sunny and when the wind moderated enough we set all sail except the Studding Sails and went charging off on a close reach at 6kts. As we know sunny dry days will start becoming very few, today was a day for many small jobs aloft and on deck. The carpenters were busy with adze, slick and hand saws cutting the taper into the new Royal yard. The Sailmakers, while working on repairs to the light weather sails that had just come down, were also admiring the new Main Upper Topsail, which we have to admit, looks pretty good and is set well.  All in all, a good day to be at sea.

SHIP’S WORK: Replace STBD Main Lower Topsail brace; clean and organize sole stores; shift buntline blocks on both masts; replace ratlines on the main topmast shrouds; shorten Main Topmast Staysail tack pennant; continue on new Fore Royal yard; strip iron work off of old royal yard; Sailmakers finish repairs on Spanker ‘C’ and continue seaming new Main Topmast Staysail.

FROM: La Rochelle, France

TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada

TIME ZONE: ZD +2

NOON POSITION: 38°48’N / 054°08’W

DAYS RUN: 139nm

PASSAGE LOG: 3640nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 897nm

COURSE AND SPEED: N, 6kts

WIND: W, Force 5

WEATHER: Sunny, air temp: 22°C, water temp: 25°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  W’rly, 3 – 6ft

SAILS SET: All Sail, except Studding Sails

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Day’s Run – 8 July, 2016

Winds continued to be light and baffling throughout the night. At one point a breeze sprang up from the north east, prompting us to wear ship, but it died away again to calm shortly thereafter.

It wasn’t until about 6am that a south-easterly came on, and as the seas had come down enough for us to carry sail without beating it to death we put the ship under full sail and ran out the Studding Sail booms on the port tack and ran up the sails. This may very well be the last time of the passage that we will be able to set the Studding Sails. With the constant march of low pressure systems off of the continent we are going to have stronger winds and, when we don’t, they are just as likely to be head winds. But for at least one last chance it is nice to be able to see the ship ‘spread her wings’ as it were one more time.

Bending Main Royal at sea (earlier voyage)

Bending Main Royal at sea (earlier voyage)

While our Royal yards were down we did a thorough inspection on them and serviced their gear. Upon close inspection of the Main Royal yard some deterioration was found that lead us to condemn it. We carry timbers along with us for just such an eventuality and by early afternoon we had the blank sized off for the Royals unlashed and getting marked up for a new spar. These blank timers that we carry started out with us last fall, when we went traipsing out into the woods in Nova Scotia to find suitable trees for spare T’gallant and Royal yards. Having identified them, we had them cut down, sent to the mill to be squared off to eliminate the sapwood and then carefully stowed onboard.

With one Royal yard still strong and ready to go we got ready to cross it on the main mast and soon had it secure aloft ready for sail to be bent, which was also completed that afternoon.

In the late afternoon the wind increased to Force 5 and veered Southwest, so in came many of the kites and we hauled the ship up on the wind for the night making as much as we could toward the west in expectation of West and Northwest winds in the coming days.

SHIP’S WORK: Shift Main Upper Topsail ‘E’ for ‘DK-16’; cross Main Royal Yard and bend Royal ‘F’; caulking on quarterdeck; continue work on new MONOMOY main boom; begin work on new Fore Royal yard; replace STBD Inner Jib sheet; Sailmaker repair Spanker ‘C’ and the Lower Studding Sail.

FROM: La Rochelle, France

TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada

TIME ZONE: ZD +2

NOON POSITION: 37°08’N / 053°29’W

DAYS RUN: 56nm

PASSAGE LOG: 3501nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 1002nm

COURSE AND SPEED: W, 4kts

WIND: SE, Force 4

WEATHER: Overcast with occasional sun, air temp: 24°C, water temp: 25°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  N’rly, 2 – 4ft

SAILS SET: All Sail

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Day’s Run – 7 July, 2016

And after the gale comes the calm. The wind and seas abated enough in the early morning hours and we got the ship underway under Topsails, Courses and Staysails. As the sun started to come up the wind went lighter still and we set all sail to try and move us along through the leftover seas.

Another big day for the Sailmakers with the completion of a new Upper Topsail soon to be bent on.

On toward the evening hours the wind decreased  even further and we took in most of the fore & aft sail and clewed up the Courses to prevent chafe and wait for the wind to fill in.

SHIP’S WORK: Overhaul Royal lifts and footropes; dry Royals ‘A’&’B’ and Course ‘C’ on Galley house; various mousing and slushing aloft; carpenters finish up all quarterdeck repairs; bottom paint on Semi-Dory; Sailmakers finish new Upper Topsail; stow heavy weather gear.

FROM: La Rochelle, France

TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada

TIME ZONE: ZD +2

NOON POSITION: 37°23’N / 052°52’W

DAYS RUN: 48nm

PASSAGE LOG: 3445nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 1035nm

COURSE AND SPEED: SSW, 2.5 kts

WIND: W, Force 3

WEATHER: Sunny with high clouds, air temp: 24°C, water temp: 23°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: W’rly, 3 – 6ft

SAILS SET: All Sail, except Studding sails

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Day’s Run – 6 July, 2016

As predicted, the wind began to build in the early morning hours. At around 4am the Barometer started to fall and we started to get in sail. By 8am the wind was up to Force 6 from the Southwest and we called all hands to get the ship hove to under Lower Topsails and Staysails, all other sails being taken in and securely furled. As the Barometer continued to fall throughout the morning, we got all of our safety gear rigged, extra tarps and ratchet straps on and around the hatch, grab lines on each side of all the decks to hold on and clip into if necessary, and nets mid ship and in the breezeways.

Ropes set for a gale

Ropes set for a gale

All of this preparation came in good time as by noon the wind was up to Force 8, a whole gale. With the ship secure and snug down, the watches kept busy making sure nothing was breaking loose and fixing up lashings here and there as needed. The ship rode well throughout the afternoon and in the late afternoon as the wind veered to the Northwest we called all hands again and wore ship to set us up for the moderate NW forecasted to come in behind this system.

While the wind began to abate in the evening the seas were still quite high, prompting us to wait until things cooled down a bit more before getting underway. The crew stayed snug on the quarterdeck and in the failing light we caught a glimpse of a fully laden tanker ploughing headlong into the big seas making about 4kts. Not so bad, we thought, to be here on a sailing ship calmly hove to and waiting. It’s a good lesson for us as well: we have to work with the elements for we cannot work against them.

SHIP’S WORK: Rig safety gear; double gasket upper sails; double grip boats; stow and lash on deck and below.

FROM: La Rochelle, France

TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada

TIME ZONE: ZD +2

NOON POSITION: 37°39’N / 052°52’W

DAYS RUN: 69nm

PASSAGE LOG: 3397nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 1019nm

COURSE AND SPEED: Hove to

WIND: SW, Force 8

WEATHER: Overcast with squalls, air temp: 20°C, water temp: 24°C SWELL HIGHT & DIRECTION:  SW’rly, 10 – 14ft SAILS SET: Lower Topsails, Fore & Main Topmast Staysails

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Day’s Run – 5 July, 2016

After yesterday’s variable and squally conditions today turned quite the opposite, the wind came up in the morning and the engine was secured. All sail was set to dry and the ship began to move along slowly on a sunny day.

A good portion of the afternoon was dedicated to getting the ship stowed for heavy weather: a fast moving low pressure centre is headed out from Atlantic Canada and will pass to the north of us tomorrow. While we expect to be well away from the worst of it, it is always best practice to have the ship prepared well in advance and for heavier weather than you expect. All of the preparations and reading of safety gear is very familiar to the crew members that did the eastbound crossing with us.

It was also decided this afternoon to send down the Royal yards. While not necessary to have them down for the weather, it will be less windage and it is always good drill for the crew to be able to get the yards up and down at sea, something very few ships do at all any more. PICTON CASTLE usually sends at least one yard up or down at sea during a voyage. The yards came down during the afternoon watch. A good job was done by the Mates and crew involved and they came down in smart fashion.

SHIP’S WORK: Re-stow for sea; spot painting; Continue work on the new Upper Topsail and send down Royal yards.

FROM: La Rochelle, France

TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada

TIME ZONE: ZD +2

NOON POSITION: 37°40’N / 051°41’W

DAYS RUN: 131nm

PASSAGE LOG: 3328nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 1077nm

COURSE AND SPEED: SW, 3kts

WIND: NNW, Force 3

WEATHER: Sun w/ cirrus, cumulus and stratus clouds, air temp: 22°C, water temp: 24°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  NE’rly, 1 – 3ft

SAILS SET: All Sail, except Fore Royal

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Day’s Run – 4 July, 2016

While the wind was steady through the night allowing us to make some good progress it has been anything but steady today. Mid-morning it built to a SW Force 6 again prompting us to get in T’gallants, but soon after backed west to Force 5 and then some time after noon went away all together. When the wind dies out in these conditions we work quickly to take in all sail: with the seas still up from the earlier winds there is nothing to steady the ship and the sails can destroy themselves slating back and forth in the rig.

The calm didn’t last long though. In another hour the wind filled in again from the west and we made sail. Not to much longer though and we had it out of the west at Force 7, prompting yet another round of getting sail in and snugly stowed then hove to under Fore and Main Topmast Staysails.

This short gale of wind didn’t last long either though and as the light began to fade the wind did too, all the way to nothing. As there is a low pressure system forecast to come into this area in the middle of the week we fired up the big B&W Alpha and made some tracks to the west for the night.

SHIP’S WORK: Shift Foresail unbend ‘C’ and bend ‘E’; Re-stow lower hold; more caulking on the quarterdeck; sailmakers finish roping leeches on the new Upper Topsail.

FROM: La Rochelle, France

TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada

TIME ZONE: ZD +2

NOON POSITION: 37°38’N / 049°16’W

DAYS RUN: 99nm

PASSAGE LOG: 3197nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 1192nm

COURSE AND SPEED: N, 4.1kts

WIND: W x N, Force 5

WEATHER: Rain and Squalls, air temp: 22°C, water temp: 24°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION:  SW’rly, 4 – 7ft

SAILS SET: Topsails, Courses, Main T’gallant, Inner & Outer Jibs, Fore & Main Topmast Staysails, Spanker

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Day’s Run – 3 July, 2016

We were expecting more wind and we got it, overnight the wind began to build and we began to shorten sail. By morning the ship was down to Topsails and Course sailing on the wind in a Force 6 breeze.

In the late afternoon the wind moderated just enough to re-set the Main T’gallant but otherwise the crew tended to the ship’s needs and tried their best to enjoy a little bit of a Sunday at sea.

SHIP’S WORK: Sunday at Sea!

FROM: La Rochelle, France

TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada

TIME ZONE: ZD +1

NOON POSITION: 36°15’N / 048°12’W

DAYS RUN: 108nm

PASSAGE LOG: 3098nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 1288nm

COURSE AND SPEED: NW, 5kts

WIND: SW x W, Force 6

WEATHER: Overcast, air temp: 23°C, water temp: 24°C

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

SAILS SET: Topsails, Courses, Inner Jib, Fore & Main Topmast Staysails and Spanker

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