Captain's Log

Archive for November, 2017

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Now Hiring Mates

Picton Castle is now accepting applications for Mates/Watch Officers for the upcoming voyage. The voyage begins early 2018 and runs until May 2019. This is a sail training voyage for adults and will consist of significant blue-water passages.

Qualification requirements vary by position, but all professional crew must have STCW Basic Safety Training and extensive experience working on traditional sailing vessels. Mates must have, at a minimum, a 500 ton oceans mate certificate.

Please apply by sending an email with your CV and cover letter to info@picton-castle.com.

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Heaving Line Throwing Practice

When vessels come alongside to dock, they need to get lines ashore in order to tie the vessel to the wharf. Big ships need big lines. It’s not possible to throw these lines because they’re so heavy, so a lighter weight line is tied to the mooring line. These lighter weight lines, called heaving lines, typically have something heavy on the thrown end of them in order to make them easier to throw. On Picton Castle, the heavy part is a monkey’s fist knot, but we’ve seen other heaving lines with bean bags tied to the end, so use whatever gets the job done.

As the vessel approaches the dock, it’s the job of the crew to throw the heaving line from the ship to the shore so it can be picked up by the line handler ashore. Throwing one of these is not as easy as it looks. And getting the proper distance and aim is vital, especially when manoeuvering the vessel in close quarters.

In order to get good at throwing heaving lines, practice is necessary. The Bosun School students practiced yesterday, throwing heaving lines down the wharf from a certain point, trying to get the monkey’s fist knot into an empty garbage can at the end of the wharf.

First the lines have to be coiled very carefully so they won’t tangle when they’re thrown. The fixed end needs to be tied down (in real application it would be tied to the mooring line, but for practice we just tie it to anything handy, often ourselves). Then the part of the line with the monkey’s fist and a few extra coils are held in the dominant hand, swung back to gain momentum, then released, followed immediately by releasing the rest of the line from the other hand. Then recover your line, coil and practice throwing again (and again and again and again…).


Heaving line practice, photo by Alexandra Pronovost

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Who Would You Want To Sail With?

Each Picton Castle voyage has its own character, its own inside jokes, its own on-board culture. One of the exciting parts of planning a voyage is putting together the crew and trying to imagine how everyone will interact together.

While there are different individuals on each voyage, there are some common themes. People who sail in Picton Castle are pretty adventurous. Some have had other big adventures in their lives, for some sailing on Picton Castle will be their first big adventure. All have a strong desire to be a part of the crew, doing their part to get the ship from port to port.

Picton Castle crew come from all over the world. We like having an international crew. We tend to have a number of Americans and Canadians, but also quite a few Europeans and people from a variety of other countries. Most people are on the younger side, but there are always those in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and sometimes 70s. Our trainees come from a variety of backgrounds and have done all sorts of interesting things in their lives before sailing on Picton Castle. Some are recent graduates, some are taking a break from jobs, some are retired.

When we select our trainees, the most important question we consider is what each person will be like as a shipmate. The crew live, work, play and eat together in a fairly small space that, when at sea, they can’t leave. Imagine the kind of person you would like to share the experience with and you’ll start to paint a picture of what it means to be a good shipmate. Someone who is considerate, respectful, and friendly, with a good sense of humour, who is willing to do their share and then some.

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Wire Splicing at Bosun School

Students at Picton Castle‘s Bosun School have been learning to splice wire this week.

Captain Moreland started by demonstrating the method, then the students paired up to work on splicing their own wires together.  After each pair had completed their splice, Captain Moreland did a second demonstration of the technique, now that the students had a frame of reference.  After that, they worked individually on practicing splicing.

The wire they are using is 5/8″ trawl winch wire that has been used on local fishing vessels.  The wire can’t continue to be used for that purpose because there are parts that are worn, but we can cut away the worn parts to find short lengths of good wire that are suitable for practice.  Because it has been stretched and pre-formed by going through the fishing winches, it’s particularly difficult to work with.  As Captain Moreland would say, this is a good thing.  If you learn using materials that are more difficult to handle, you’ll be better at it when you’re using smaller or more flexible wire.  The wire we’re using is 6×24 and has a fibre heart.

Students started by learning to measure the wire, how to bend it, how to seize it, and how much of a tail to leave to work with.  They have been making eye splices and each student will make at least five splices during their time at Bosun School.

Today, the Captain inspected each student’s splice individually, providing feedback on their work.  For many, the first tuck needs to start sooner so there is no gap at the start of the eye.

More practice is on order for next week.  Students will continue using the practice wire until their skill is determined to be good enough to work on a real project.  By applying their skills immediately to a real piece of rigging on board a working ship, they can not only see the practical purpose of the skill, but they also know that their work has to be good enough to be counted on as an integral part of the rigging.  

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Erin Greig First Bermudian Woman to be Navigator

Former Picton Castle crew member, Erin Greig, was featured in The Royal Gazette in Bermuda yesterday.  Erin is the first woman in Bermuda to gain the Junior Navigator’s Certificate from Warsash Marine Academy in England and become an Officer of the Watch.  Her sea time on a number of sail training ships, including Picton Castle, helped to get her there!

Congtatulations, Erin!

The full article is available here.

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