Captain's Log

Archive for November, 2016

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Bosun School Does the Holidays!

It’s been an incredibly busy week here in Lunenburg. Captain Moreland and Maggie travelled to Sweden for a Sail Training International conference and Gabe has been busy doing workshops with the Bosun School in Captain Moreland’s absence. I had to interrupt, though, for something slightly different … this weekend is the first huge big weekend in the build-up to the Holiday Season here in Lunenburg. Tonight there is the lighting of the vessels down at the harbour which includes lighting up some ships, a bunch of Christmas trees and the Holiday Buoy (of course!). One of the Christmas trees is ours. Normally Maggie and I decorate it, but this year I left it up to Gabe and the Bosun School (and Purser Bob who is visiting from the UK) and together they have created a beautiful tree decorated with nautical knots, mini ditty bags and candy canes.

tree

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Tomorrow Santa Clause is coming to town in style and will be the star of the annual Christmas Parade through town. We will have a float in the parade so if you happen to be here keep your eyes open for the thoroughly decorated Dory Shop dory with the lovely Christmassy sails – the Bosun School will be handing out chocolate, suckers and candy canes to all kids young & old. After the parade, there will be markets throughout town, a live nativity (complete with donkey) and then Christmas carols by the bandstand as they light the trees on the hill. If you ever feel like you’ve lost the magic of Christmas, come and spend the last weekend of November in Lunenburg and recharge your magical spirit with a great old fashioned Christmas weekend. It feels like you’re stepping back it time.

Captain Moreland and Maggie will return on Monday, but until then we’ll celebrate a little bit of Christmas here in this beautiful old town.

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Visiting Canada For Rendezvous 2017

Close to a year ago, we decided to sign on for the Rendezvous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta.  This means that in the summer of 2017, Picton Castle will join an international fleet of tall ships for a series of festivals and races.  The Regatta actually starts in Europe, in the UK and Portugal, but we’ll meet up with the fleet in Bermuda in early June and remain with the fleet until the end of August.

We’ve been eagerly awaiting news of which Canadian ports we’ll be assigned to visit.  As you can imagine, it’s a lot of work for the organizers, Sail Training International, to coordinate the visit of 40+ ships to 30+ ports in Canada.  A few weeks ago we were given our list of ports and dates for Picton Castle.

In the summer of 2017, Picton Castle will visit the following ports:

Bermuda

Boston

Summerside, PEI

Sept Iles, Quebec

Baie Comeau, Quebec

Quebec City

Norris Point, Newfoundland

Louisbourg, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Digby, Nova Scotia

sail past Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia

Saint John, New Brunswick

Some of these ports we know and love.  Some will be first-time visits for us.  We’re excited about them all!

Anyone age 16+ can sign on as a trainee on this voyage, no sailing experience necessary.  Dates, legs and costs are available here.

Picton Castle in Quebec City 2016

Picton Castle in Quebec City 2016

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HMS Picton Castle

With a hull form derived from the famous Brixham sailing trawlers, our Picton Castle started her life as a fishing vessel after she was launched back in 1928, fishing from the ports of Milford Haven and Swansea in Wales.  The actual castle for which she is named is quite close to Milford Haven.  When World War II came, many fishing trawlers vessels were pressed into service in Britain’s Royal Navy including our Picton Castle.  She became HMS Picton Castle, was fitted with minesweeping equipment and became a minesweeper and convoy escort.  Her crew were usually made up of fishermen who knew that type of gear so well and a few regular navy ratings to handle the guns and mines she carried, all in the command of a fairly junior Naval Reserve officer. These small former fishing vessels and their rough and ready crews made up a flotilla known as “Harry Tate’s Navy” after a dishevelled vaudeville entertainer of the times. Maybe a bit similar to “McHale’s Navy”.

Picton Castle as a minesweeper in WWII

Picton Castle as a minesweeper in WWII

In 1942, HMS Picton Castle took part in the Saint Nazaire Raid.  The object was to destroy the drydock facilities in German-occupied Saint Nazaire.  This was the only large drydock on the Atlantic coast that the Germans could use to drydock their vessels.  If this facility was unavailable, the large German ships would have to go up the heavily guarded English Channel and all around Denmark to get to the north coast of Germany in order to drydock.  This was a very vulnerable passage for a German naval vessel. The raid was successful, with the former US WWI Lend-Lease destroyer HMS Campbeltown  smashing into the lock gates and later exploding with such force to take out the drydock for the remainder of the war.  This also resulted in Hitler calling for shooting such commandos upon capture and skipping the prisoner-of-war scenario.

RN veteran and telegraph operator Tom Gamble who sailed in the HMS Picton Castle throughout the war tells of a time that his ship was blown clear out of the water by a mine. They steamed to port and drydocked her but found no damage. Back to sea she went.

Later in WWII, while sweeping for mines in the North Sea, HMS Picton Castle developed a problem and had to put in to the nearest port, which happened to be Bergen, Norway.  The Germans had just decided to abandon Norway rather than fight and so decamped.   The next day the HMS Picton Castle appeared in the desolate empty harbour flying the Union Jack, was greeted by some two officials and has since been hailed as the “Liberator of Norway.” From the VE Day May 8, 1945 until December of that same year our ship swept the waters of the recent hostilities for mines. We can be confident that she found many. Mines pop up to this day in the North Sea and coastal waters of Europe.

On this Remembrance Day, we laid a wreath at the ceremony in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia in memory of one of Picton Castle’s early supporters (early as a sailing ship), Lunenburg’s Martin Eisenhauer and all, like him, who served in the Royal Navy and took part in some of the most grueling convoys of the Battle of the Atlantic.  He may have seen the little Picton Castle sweeping for mines or escorting a convoy on its last miles into safe harbour.

Remembrance Day ceremony in Lunenburg, 2016

Remembrance Day ceremony in Lunenburg, 2016

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Bosun School Learns Sailmaking

For the past few weeks, Bosun School students have been focused on sailmaking.  It’s a good skill for a bosun to have – by making a sail, you understand how it works, why each part is the way it is, how to use it and how to look after it.  There aren’t very many sailing ships making their own sails aboard anymore (Picton Castle is one of the only ones), but the understanding of how it’s done makes you a better mariner.

Captain Moreland demonstrates patching techniques

Captain Moreland demonstrates patching techniques

Repairing sails is a skill a mariner is much more likely to use on a sailing ship.  From time to time, sails rip.  Catching it early and repairing it properly extends the life of the sail.  As Captain Moreland explained when he was introducing sailmaking to the students, there are times when different kinds of repairs need to be done.  Sometimes you need the perfect repair, done so well you’d hardly know it wasn’t part of the original sail.  Sometimes you need a quick and dirty five-minute job that will hold for a few hours or a few days so the sail can be set again immediately.  Sometimes you need something in between. Ashling sews in a window patch

Ashling sews in a window patch

Throughout this unit of study, Bosun School students have had the chance to practice all kinds of repairs.  They have sewn in lovely window patches, they have also done ugly-but-effective rubber cement patches on a synthetic fabric sail.

Anne-Laure working on the sewing machine

Anne-Laure working on the sewing machine

Bosun School students have also been involved in making some new sails.  They did some hand seaming on a new main topmast staysail to prepare it for a second layout.  We also have a main deck awning that was ready for a second layout.  And we wanted to do a first layout of a sail with the Bosun School, so we chose to lay out an outer jib.

Kimga put a corner patch on the new outer jib

Kimba put a corner patch on the new outer jib

For two afternoons last week, we used the gym floor at the Lunenburg Community Centre for laying out sails.  We’re not the first people to use the community centre gym for this purpose – Michele Stevens Sailloft laid out the sails for the schooner Columbia there.  The space is so large that we were able to lay all three out at once.

Liz and the main topmast staysail

Liz and the main topmast staysail

laying out sails at the Lunenburg Community Centre

laying out sails at the Lunenburg Community Centre

Both the main deck awning and the main topmast staysail were laid out for the second time.  On the second layout, we even out the edges of the canvas, cut off the outside edge to be used as the material for the tabling (which we accounted for on the first layout) and make sure the shape of the sail is as we want it.

To do the first layout of the outer jib, we marked the dimensions of the sail plus the part we would later cut away in green masking tape on the floor, then rolled out the canvas over top of the shape and cut the cloths to the appropriate lengths, then marked them in the correct order.  To give the Bosun School students some experience with machine sewing, we did the seaming for this sail with our big industrial Singer sewing machine.

Ashling, Polina, Liz & Kimba seam the outer jib

Ashling, Polina, Liz & Kimba seam the outer jib

Kimba, Anne Laure, Ashling, Fiji & Aaron seam sails on the Singer

Kimba, Anne Laure, Ashling, Fiji & Aaron seam sails on the Singer

Once a sail is sewn together, there is still a lot of work to do, and most of it is by hand.  The tabling, which is an extra layer of canvas that sandwiches the outside edge of the sail, is sewn on by hand, as are corner patches and any other patches the sail needs (bunt patches, reef patches, sun patches, etc).  Canvas sails are then roped, meaning a rope is sewn around the outside of the sail to help strengthen it and ropes are often covered with canvas or leather rope coverings.  Grommets need to be sewn in to any point where the sail needs to be attached to the yard, the stay or any running rigging.

Sewing grommets into the luff of the new outer jib

Sewing grommets into the luff of the new outer jib

 

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