Captain's Log

Archive for January, 2018

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Voyage to the Gulf of Mexico

In 12+ years with Picton Castle, I’ve learned that the itinerary of a sailing ship is always flexible and that anything can change at any moment. So, when we were approached by Tall Ships America with an invitation to participate in the Tall Ships Challenge in the Gulf of Mexico this April, we didn’t immediately rule it out.

If you’re a regular reader of the Captain’s Log and/or our website or newsletter, you’ll know that we’ve been preparing for an around the world voyage. In fact, this will be Picton Castle’s seventh world circumnavigation, and her last. We intend to keep the ship sailing long into the future, Captain Moreland will even sometimes be in command, but he has made it clear that this will be his last circumnavigation under sail.

World Voyage 7 was scheduled to begin at our home base in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada in March/April this year. Trainees would have joined us in mid March for training and orientation, and to help rig up and prepare the ship, setting sail from Lunenburg by mid April. The three tall ship port visits that make up the Tall Ships Challenge are also scheduled for April, in Galveston, Texas; Pensacola, Florida; and New Orleans, Louisiana all in the USA.

All of our previous world voyages have started and ended in Lunenburg. It took us a little while to wrap our heads around starting World Voyage 7 in a port other than Lunenburg, but that’s exactly what we’ve decided to do. We’re going to squeeze in the Tall Ships Challenge before we begin World Voyage 7.

Although this requires some itinerary changes, there are plenty of good reasons to participate in the Tall Ships Challenge this April. Primarily is that Picton Castle has never sailed the Gulf of Mexico before or visited these southern US ports, so it’s a chance for us to take the ship somewhere new and different. And it gives us availability for short voyage legs of just a week or two, allowing people who don’t have 3+ months to sail to join the ship for a taste of the trainee experience.

And, by lucky coincidence, we’ll be beginning the World Voyage in New Orleans at the same time as the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Although the crew will be busy with the ship, they may have the occasional evening off duty to take in some of the incredible music found throughout the city.

If you live in or near Galveston, Pensacola or New Orleans, we’d love to have you visit the ship. As part of the tall ships festivals we’ll be participating in, we’ll be opening our decks for public tours. Please come and see us!

And for those of you who live in cold climates and want a break from winter, or for those of you who want to sail for just a short period of time, why not join us as a trainee? No sailing experience is necessary to be a trainee crew member. There is an application process where we ascertain that you’re in good health and that you would be good shipmate. Trainees are an integral part of the crew and participate fully in sailing the ship.

As we speak, we’re getting Picton Castle ready to set sail from Lunenburg, under the command of Captain Sam Sikkema, bound for Bermuda where we’ll get the ship looking her best for her public appearances in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Getting Ready for Sea

GETTING READY FOR SEA
By: Captain D. Moreland

A pretty deep, snowy and proper winter here in Lunenburg these days. The PICTON CASTLE is snugly moored to her wharf; 1,500 pound anchor and 300 feet of big anchor chain out in the harbour holding her against SE gales and storms to which this harbour is exposed, many big lines on to the dock. She has not budged an inch nor parted a hawser in even the strongest gales. And we had a whopper of a hurricane force storm recently. We had a long, long summery autumn and then it seemed like it skipped autumn altogether and went straight to full tilt winter. Well, we are halfway between the equator and the north pole here in Nova Scotia…no palm trees ringing the bay here.

Lunenburg is certainly a year-round port and we are getting ready to head off to sea soon. A few days south from here a ship will have crossed the Gulf Stream and the crew will find themselves peeling off the sweaters and quilted gear and pulling on shorts and t-shirts. It is a pretty astonishing transformation. Of course, a mariner has to be pretty mindful of getting a decent weather window to sail from here safely but that is true any time of year. Our plan is to sail from Lunenburg here in February and make our way to St Georges Bermuda and get our anchor down there. This time of year, Bermuda is quite a bit better place to get some painting done on the ship and any number of other things to make her look nice over a couple week period. The gang is keen on this too.

Now we are getting the PICTON CASTLE ready for sea again. Of course, when she sailed in to Lunenburg last fall she was ready for sea, wasn’t she? Logic dictates as much. So, what would we be doing? We are attending to a range of items on our list to both care for the ship and get ready for sea. Right now we have the faithful 24’ monomoy long boat hauled up at the Dory Shop for an overhaul. This venerable and able craft is getting well scraped, sanded, primed and painted as well as some minor carpentry here and there, a new rub-rail and stern sheets (a seat in the stern). This work is difficult to do aboard when sailing as we use the boat so much. But now is a good chance what with the good wood stove going and plenty hands hard at it.

What else? Down in the nice warm engine room we are looking after a few things. Floor plates are getting re-bolted down, water maker gauges being replaced, starting air bottles getting fine tuned, engine mounts for our single cylinder SABB getting replaced, a nice cleaning job done in the engine-room as well as adjacent ER supply room getting nicely stowed and cleaned up. Galley supply inventories as well as medical kit inventories are getting done. We have welders coming in to look after a few small projects on deck. Lots of buying is in order: paint, rope, food, lumber, canvas, all sorts of stuff for both the next few months as well as an entire world voyage ahead to consider. Now, we can get much that we need along the way – we are sailing AROUND the world, not away from the world – but some things are pretty hard to find and we need to have with us when we sail. And we need to make sure all our navigation gear, communications gear, safety gear is all in good order. We need to revue all charts and publications. All auxiliary equipment like welders, emergency pumps, emergency satellite comms, damage control supplies need to be aboard and in good order.

So, while it is cold outside and plenty snow, things are heating up on the good ol’ Barque PICTON CASTLE.

 

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Winter Weather Woes

12 January, 2017

It is an incredibly mild day here in Lunenburg today. It’s actually  +12°c/54°f which is incredibly warm for us on a mid-January day in Nova Scotia. The harbour is almost perfectly calm; this morning as I was walking down Bluenose Drive is was a sheet of glass. Just perfect. You would never guess this is the same place that was mid-storm only one week ago.

We had an outrageous winter storm in Nova Scotia last week – as did much of the Eastern Provinces of Canada, and Eastern States of the USA.  Truth be told, we fared far, far better than many other places. Even other places within Nova Scotia. This was partially due to good luck; partially to good management.

Late on Wednesday afternoon the Captain and Liam went down to the ship and, along with the few crew who remained on the ship over the Christmas holidays, they doubled up on the hawsers and lashed various rigging and things on the ship and the wharf. There were ropes everywhere: the storm was going to be a bad one, we had plenty of warnings about it. Winds up to 140k/hr. That’s massive. They were predicting snow, freezing rain, rain and a huge storm surge. We were worried.

When things started getting bad, Captain Moreland had the crew come set up sleeping bags at his house in his living room, and taking turns they made hourly treks down to the ship to check on things. It was a long, cold, windy, wet & powerless night.  The rum seasoning barge that sits out in Lunenburg Harbour, ageing Ironworks’ next batch of extremely good rum, lost its anchors and ended up on the rocky beach next to Picton Castle. There are so many vastly worse places it could have ended up, but it wedged itself onto our beach and stayed there throughout the storm.

The storm raged all Thursday and through Thursday night, but when all was said and done, and the sun came up on Friday, we fared pretty well. There is an old trawler tied up opposite Picton Castle called Primo. The easterly winds pushed against Primo throughout the storm – pushing her away from the wharf in a way wharves are not used to. The winds were strong; so were the hawsers we set up. Something had to give way, and eventually, it was actually the wood of the wharf that gave way. The ship and hawsers were all fine; the wharf needs a bit of t.l.c.

The next few days we had temperatures of -12°c/10°f with a windchill of minus too cold to even think about. Everything iced up and we were in a deep chill. From unusually cold all the way up to unusually warm for this time of year. Something is going on with Mother Nature.

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Bosun School – The Wrap Up

Our 8th Bosun School has come to a close, and we had a lovely graduation ceremony at Lunenburg’s historic
Dory Shop on Friday 18 December.

Closing ceremonies are an important part of the Bosun School. Each of the participants works so hard –
it isn’t easy, this school of ours. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to get through it, and that is
one of the reasons we only offer it to individuals who already have some amount of sea experience under
their belt; people who already know they want to work at sea.  So much hard work deserves
acknowledgement, and the closing ceremony is designed to provide that.

In the final weeks of the school, Captain Moreland met individually with each of the participants to talk
about what they see in their future. He was able to provide them with advice, suggestions, and
recommendations, sometimes helping them with their plan and sometimes pointing them in another
direction. Some of the graduates are planning going on to take additional courses from other institutions;
some are going on to work on otherships; all were offered the opportunity to crew the ship as Picton Castle
heads to Bermuda in February.  Almost all accepted the offer. Because as important as it is to have the   the time to dedicate to learning these skills on land, there is no better place to practice these new skills
than at sea. Captain Sikkema is heading south with a very capable crew indeed!

The graduation at the Dory Shop was a great night. It started with some music by Bosun School students
Cici, Anders & Lars, along with a few drinks and snacks, then a sit-down meal of hot fish chowder prepared
by Niko, who was the Bosun School cook.  After the meal there were a few speeches made by Lunenburg’s
Mayor Rachel Bailey, by Captain Moreland, and by the two class valedictorians: Ann Featherstone and Caleb
Winberry. No speech was too long; no speech was too short. Each student received a certificate and letter
from the Bosun School outlining what they have studied in the past three months.  They also each received
a certificate from the Province of Nova Scotia congratulating them on their completion of Bosun School –
our MLA Suzanne Lohnes-Croft wasn’t able to attend in person so her office arranged for the certificates
instead. The whole night was the ultimate mix of perfect. When the certificates were all presented, the tables
were cleared away and the Dory Shop’s Mike Gray had his band perform until the wee hours.

One of the many fun parts of working here in the Picton Castle office is being able to watch futures unfold before our trainees and Bosun School graduates when they leave us; I’m looking forward to seeing where this incredible group of individuals end up!

Bosun School 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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