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Good Sailing

Friday May 26, 2017

After a boisterous few days under sail in strong conditions first light broke with a clear sky this morning, our first since Picton Castle set out from Charleston after an excellent meeting of Tall Ships there. With the ship quietly rolling along under tops’ls and the fores’l at about 5.5 knots the watch on deck is busy going about the routine tasks of hauling tight braces and halyards and breaking down the heavy weather safety gear that we have had rigged the last few days. Also with the moderation in weather comes the chance to set more sail and just as the sun was beginning to peek over the horizon the order was given to set t’gallants. After getting the tops’l yards to full hoist, the t’gallant sheets hauled home to the ends of the tops’l yards and the halyards hoisted up to stretch out the canvas, our ship is running along at 6 to 6.5 knots over blue seas and a brilliant clear day. Good sailing indeed.

Good sailing we have had this trip. After taking on fuel and final provisions Tuesday morning at the Charleston Maritime Center we took our departure from the Charleston entrance channel and as of this morning have covered some 390 nautical miles on our way to Bermuda. The first night and next day were spent running from squalls and observing some spectacular lighting displays, the watches were kept busy hauling on braces as the wind shifted with the squalls. As we sailed across the continental shelf and out into the warm waters of the Gulf Stream the wind and seas began to build, force 6, gusting to force 7 at times. Despite the conditions, the crew is happy to be sailing the ship, especially those who remember what it was like to be pulling at the lee fore sheet in much colder water. Several of the crew were on board last summer when we made our fast passage to France and crossed the Grand Banks to a tune of 0°C for the water temperature, it’s 25°C now!

Wednesday evening in preparation for even stronger conditions the crew set up the rest of our heavy weather safety gear, grab ropes along the deck, nets between the lee rigging and breezeway as well as an extra tarp and straps for the cargo hatch. By early morning Thursday we were snug down to lower tops’ls and the fores’l running along with the seas at 9 knots plus. Picton Castle rides well in this weather and after all is said and done one can really appreciate sailing in a well found ship with a good crew making a fast passage.

The gale force conditions did not last long however and in the afternoon we were able to again set upper tops’ls. During all of this the officers and lead seaman have been busy with the new hands focused on learning the ship, it can be quite overwhelming to learn all the lines, rigging and commands that go into making a ship like this work. Throw in some weather right out of the gate and it can double the challenge, but the experienced hands have done a good job showing the new people ‘the ropes’, and everybody has progressed well in the last few days.

Now that the weather is looking better and better we are excited to get more sail bent on and continue to get the ship shined up for our arrival in Bermuda were we will meet up with the rest of the tall ships fleet sailing over from Europe. But for the time being it is good to appreciate being out at sea in our own little world, working our ship steadily along, bound for nowhere at the moment but the horizon.

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