Captain's Log

Archive for July, 2018

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Captain’s Log – “Sailing by Starlight and Moonlight”

Written by Trainee Arne Stefferud

As the Picton Castle sails across the world’s oceans, each crew member spends time at night on watch sailing by starlight, and moonlight.

The stars and planets viewed from horizon to horizon are amazing! We have our own “planetarium view” and are learning about constellations that are not visible to us “back home”.

The moon’s phases also appear differently to us. The crescent moon appears at the bottom — not the side of the moon’s surface. I like to think of it as the man in the moon’s “smile”.

I began this voyage 3 months ago with this perspective: “The crew of the Picton Castle will sail across many latitudes and all the longitudes on World Voyage 7 with positive attitudes and hearts full of gratitude.”  Every day and night, I am reminded how true that is.

Arne Stefferud – WV7 Full Voyage Trainee

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Day’s Run – 28 July, 2018

Picton Castle comfortably sails along on a northwesterly course in light northeasterly winds. The ocean is resembling a calm lake, very low to no swell. The ship’s work is back into the full swing of things; the dory Sea Never Dry got another coat of paint inboard as well as the thwarts (benches), the Monomoy’s oars are being labeled in bold letters “Picton Castle” and the bosun and assistant are busy inspecting the main mast. Yet even with these busy tasks at hand, our minds are still on Pitcairn. After an amazing 8 days, we sailed from Pitcairn Island yesterday afternoon.

A recap: on Wednesday, July 18th, before daybreak, a light was spotted one point off port side. It was Pitcairn or ‘Pitkern’ as the islanders pronounce it. The seas were a bit rough. Between the Captain’s expertise and the Islanders, being seasoned seafarers themselves, they decided it was safe to launch the Pitcairn longboat and pick up the starboard watch to be taken ashore. But it was too rough to discharge cargo, which was long awaited ashore.

The island has two longboats that are hauled out of the water by a winch every time they’ve returned from their excursion; whether it be fishing, camping on Henderson Island, picking up tourists from a cruise ship or cargo from the supply ships. Once ashore, the crew met the faces we’ve heard so much about. We were welcomed with open arms, hugs between new friends and old friends – as though we’ve arrived at our distant yet favourite relative’s home. We gathered our bags and were whisked off on quads to our hosts’ abodes. From there each crew member’s experience varied, a strange feeling from living so closely together after 42 days at sea. Without exception, we all entered our hosts family’s homes and were immediately offered a copious amount of food. Breadsticks, scones, breadfruit, oranges, passion fruit, tea, coffee, juice the list goes on. As is custom in many countries, all crew members had a personal host gift as a token of their appreciation.

Once settled into our home away from home, the islanders either offered to tour us around the island or we’d sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and get to know one another. Their easygoing personalities and lifestyle made it seamless for us to fall into their routine, which is what we wanted. We wanted to know how they grow their fruit, what they use to make breadsticks, where they go fishing, what they do for fun, and we loved learning how to speak Pitkern. When Pictairners get together they speak their fast language and it’s difficult for an outsider to understand, although it seems the Captain does just fine.  It’s neat to hear them communicate in a language that a very very small population of this world knows. We enjoyed picking up a few phrases.

Most crew members were able to view all of the island sights: Christian’s Cave, where Fletcher Christian hid and looked out for the British Navy; Highest Point is literally the highest point on the island; Miz T, the island’s last remaining Galapagos tortoise; St. Pauls, which is an enclosed space that is safe for swimming in the salt water otherwise known as “Big Pool”. In the evenings some families would get together for a large dinner, others would remain in the comfort of their home, entertaining their guests. Wherever we ate, the food was always delicious and plentiful. Early risers are the Pitcairners, they don’t waste the sunlight away. With many chores to be done, they’re up with the sun; maintaining their gardens, weaving baskets, etching wood or bone carvings.

On the ship’s second day we were able to drop anchor and unload our hold of all the cargo that we’d had stored below decks since April. We were excited to get our hold back, but not as excited as they were to receive the items they had ordered in the spring. Once all of the cargo was unloaded the port watch was able to go ashore, leaving the starboard watch to maintain and look after the ship. Both watches were immensely lucky to be able to spend a total of 4 nights ashore. This allowed us to get to know not only our hosts but the rest of the Islanders. Nearing the end of our stay it wasn’t uncommon for a crew member to pop by various families homes and walk in as if they’ve known them for years. We felt comfortable taking off our shoes outside, traipsing in, and reaching for a freshly made breadstick on the kitchen table. To then sit down and have a chat with Grandpa Len, Aunt Carol or cousin Olive or Pirate Pawl. The connections we made, even only for a short time, will last a lifetime. As Captain Moreland states “Pitcairn is a hard destination to reach, a very hard anchorage to stay and most of all it’s the hardest port to leave”. It’s not just any port: friendships develop, memories are made, roots are put down. It became our home away from home. Farewell to our South Pacific home, you will remain in our hearts and minds for years to come.

From: Pitcairn Island
To: Mangareva, French Polynesia
Date: July 28, 2018
Noon Position: 23°52.4′ S x 131°58’W
Course + Speed: W x N 3/4 N + 5.6 knots
Wind direction + Force: NW + 1
Swell Height + Direction: 1m + ENE
Weather: bright and sunny
Day’s Run: 125 knots
Passage Log: 141.7 knots
Distance to Port: 171 knots
Voyage: 6445.1 knots
Sails Set: motoring

 

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Day’s Run – 27 July, 2018

With heavy hearts, the Picton Castle crew motored away from Pitcairn Island, our home away from home, with the island the near distance off port side. We motored as there is no useful wind for sailing.

At 1300 the longboat was loaded with our bags, souvenirs and fruit, oh so much delicious fruit, at the Landing at Bounty Bay. We were lucky enough to spend a total of 8 days at anchor or hove to off the island, giving the two watches four nights ashore each!

There are no words to describe the hospitality, warmth and friendship that was given by the islanders. We have it on good authority that our crew represented the Picton Castle very well. Always lending a hand when needed, joining in on the fun and embracing a new way of doing things. Many crew members put their skills to use in order to assist our gracious hosts. Our physical therapist Suzanne of New York City nearly spent every day ashore mending and putting back together a few patients, our engineer Deyan of Switzerland was able to diagnose a couple of washing machines that were in need of a fix. Sue of England, who is a veterinarian, was able to examine Miss T, the island’s only Galapagos tortoise, as well as a few goats.

There is much more to say about our visit to this amazing paradise island and it’s going to take some time for the entire experience to sink in. We’re leaving with our hearts full of love and our food lockers full of fruits and vegetables, so much so we have extra totes on deck to hold the overflow. Farewell Pitcairn Island, farewell.

From: Pitkern
Towards: Mangareva
Date: July 27 2018
Noon Position: Bounty Bay
Course + Speed: NWxW + 6.6 kts
Wind direction + Force: Northerly + 1
Swell Height + Direction: 2m + ENE
Weather: Bright, Sunny
Day’s Run: 0
Passage Log: 0
Distance to Port: 290 nm
Voyage: 6310.7 nm
Sails Set: Spanker, motor sailing

*information taken from 1300 log

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Captain’s Log – Passage to Pitcairn – Landfall

July 19, 2018

At 0520

Took in sail this past evening to slow the ship. We do not want to make Bounty Bay before dawn, now two hours away. Winds have backed and faired more into the east and have laid down from 25 to 20 knots. Seas are down too. Still pretty lumpy but improving. We have a lot of cargo to unload in a few hours. The early morning sky is a dome of piercing stars against a black backdrop. The island is 15 miles ahead and still invisible in the night. Up ahead we can see a single sharp white light low on the horizon.

Out here we can often see stars that low, but now we can see no others and there is enough cloud cover to thicken up near the horizon. Looks like Pitcairn has put the porch light on for us.

At 0730

With the morning sunlight breaking the clouds and growing astern the shape and colours of Pitcairn Island become clear. We are sailing due west in 20+ knot winds but with this large southerly swell on our port beam, rolling pretty hard with yards squared. A call on the VHF, “good morning Pitcairn Island” gets a response and a welcome from Dave Brown. Dave points out that it is pretty rough off the island. We knew this. James does a good job steering us close to an area known as ‘Cornwallis’ where a ship of that name was wrecked ages ago. It is rough, but also starkly beautiful. We rig up the many tires to fend off the long boat and hawsers for it too, with tackles to discharge the cargo; but looks too rough to me for that. The big longboat comes bashing alongside with many familiar faces, Steve, Shawn, Jay, Randy, Dennis, Andrew and a few new to me. Boxes of fruit, banana, oranges, grapefruit come flying aboard for our gang staying on the ship. Then, after a VERY short discussion about not taking the cargo, our gang, half the crew, piled onto the boat, timing their leaps into the tossing boat, let go and headed back for the landing, to windward in large deep blue seas smothered in white caps. Word from the island is that all made it ashore just fine, though soaked to the skin.

At 1030

On the ship we shut down the main engine, braced shard on starboard tack, set two staysails and the main lower topsail and began our jog to the north away from land for the day and the night, until we turn around, get close again and switch crews so the other half can get ashore. Thankfully Meralda also sent a couple bags of fresh breadsticks which she knows I love too much. It is a beautiful sight to see  Pitcairn just off our starboard quarter as we head-reach here deep in the South Pacific.

 

 

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Day’s Run – 19 July, 2018

0530 this morning lead seaman Lars of Norway announced to his watch on the quarterdeck that Pitcairn was in sight! Two lights that the islanders left on for us could be seen off the port bow. All hands were awoken at 0715, time to wolf down some rice pudding, sweet muffins and canned pineapple. Annie, of Ontario, Canada steered us through the big swells, surfing the Picton Castle, bound for the famous Bounty Bay – we had made it. Traveling a very similar route with no doubt similar conditions as Fletcher Christian did in 1790. As we inched closer you could begin to make out the different rock formations, various types of trees and the few houses that inhabit the island. Tammy, of Lunenburg, Canada gave crew members a quick guided tour pointing out the different locations from our deck. Excitement was building but there was still lots of work to do yet.

The Pitcairners launched their 40′ aluminum longboat and speed out to greet us. Smiling faces all around, the two groups – the sailors & the Islanders both old friends and strangers – were ecstatic to see one and other. In a matter of minutes, fruit was tossed from the longboat to deck and fire lined down to safety to our salon. Starboard watch was sent to get their bags.

Lifejackets were put on. Bags were handed over the rail and the crew one by one piled onto the boat, Donald of Grenada, our ships cook being the first aborad, happy to see old friends. And just like that half crew were ashore, while Port watch remains aboard crewing the ship as we’re hove-to. Sail handling was called in order to steer us out of Bounty Bay and the crew were broken into a day and night watch system. Captain kindly shared his delicious Pitcairn breadsticks with the Port watch, thanks to Meralda for making them!

From: Galapagos
Arrived: Pitcairn
Date: July 19, 2018
Noon Position: 24°59.7’S x 130°6.8′ W
Course + Speed: Unknown
Wind direction + Force: ExS + 5
Swell Height + Direction: 4m + ENE
Weather: Cloudy

 

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Day’s Run – 18 July, 2018

High winds this morning carried on throughout the day. Watches huddled together staying warm. This has been Picton Castle‘s longest passage ever to Pitcairn. We sailed out of Wreck Bay at Galapagos on June 21st, 29 days ago!

Today was our first glimpse of land, Henderson Island was spotted off the starboard side. Many keen crew members climbed to the fore royal and t’gallant to get a good long look at the island. Even our engineer, Deyan of Switzerland, was aloft taking it all in, quite a change of scenery from his typical world down below the ship’s decks. With higher winds and seas, Picton Castle feels like a smooth roller coaster, the crew is reminded to walk cautiously across the deck. Extra grab lines are installed to assist with that. Periodically waves send their tops over the side rail, soaking the lines, pin rails, deck, and anything in their way before exiting the ship through the freeing ports. It’s an amazing sight to witness, the water exits off the deck of the ship just as fast as it splashes aboard. It’s not uncommon to hear crew members cheering as they withstand the motion of the ship, as one would when riding a roller coaster.

This afternoon Captain gathered us on the quarterdeck to inform us of our arrival to Pitcairn tomorrow and what that entails. A big priority is to get the Pitcairners’ cargo off the ship and into their longboats. If the swell is too large we will have to wait for a calmer day. Captain assures us that the Islanders are experienced and capable seamen. Once the cargo is removed from the ship, if all goes to plan that’ll be the first thing to go, the starboard watch will be loaded into the aluminum longboats and carted off to land. Before dinner tonight, crew members were dusting off their knapsacks and packing them with their overnight items. We were suggested to bring a flashlight, shoes, a pocket knife, movies/music to share, photos of our family. Everyone is immensely looking forward to this rare and unique destination. Pitcairn, here we come!

From: Galapagos
Towards: Pitcairn
Date: July 18th, 2018
Noon Position: 24°36.5′ S x 128°23.5’W
Course + Speed: SWxW + 3.8 knots
Wind direction + Force: SE + 6
Swell Height + Direction: 5m + SSE
Weather: Cloudy, periods of sun
Day’s Run: 91.6 nm
Distance to Port: 97 nm
Voyage: 6155.7 nm

 

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Captain’s Log – Passage to Pitcairn 4

At 24-34S / 128-17W – east by north of Pitcairn Island 100 miles away – dead ahead – mid-day in the Picton Castle.

Blowing hard from the SE – Force 6-7, seas large, 20-25 feet – plenty breaking white caps. Some sun and a little blue sky breaking through the low flying scudding clouds tearing along overhead. Under upper topsails and courses. Man-ropes rigged on deck, watertight doors closed. Ten miles to leeward we can see the seas breaking over cliffs of Henderson Island, an uninhabited raised coral atoll and part of the Pitcairn Group. The cliffs are 50-60 feet high, maybe more. It too was inhabited up to about 600 years ago, but a pretty inhospitable place. Sharp coral everywhere, a valley where once was a lagoon possibly useful for growing taro. But pretty rough living.

No place to anchor, nor many places to even land a boat in a surf. Went there years ago in the Brigantine Romance to fetch miro wood for carving.

Better weather than now but still an adventure rowing the just cut logs in and out of the surf in the 40′ wooden pulling boat. Miro is a pretty wood used for carving and had become in short supply on Pitcairn. Enough miro growing again on Pitcairn these days for carving needs.

We will take in the main course and fore upper topsail here at noon today in order to slow down a bit so as to not reach off Pitcairn before dawn tomorrow. Crew eager to get ashore. An open question if that will even be possible tomorrow. We are four weeks out of Galapagos today. Almost 3,000 miles under sail alone. Great trade wind sailing, calms, squalls and now something a lot like southern ocean sailing. The gang is keen to feel some earth under their feet and, of course, to meet up all at Pitcairn Island.

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Day’s Run – 17 July, 2018

Moderately calm winds and seas before the sun was upon us this morning. As Captain predicted, through his years of sea-going experience, the seas and winds picked up around 0730 from ahead with a dark line of deep clouds. It was an amazing sight to witness, two sea swells coming in opposite directions, about three metres tall, smoothly met and combined with each other. Tad of Washington, USA was on helm sporting his bright yellow foul weather gear and sou’wester, steering us into the dark clouds. The offgoing watch, oncoming watch and daymen all stood by awaiting the Captain’s orders for sail handling. It was a similar feeling to right before you’re about to play rugby or a soccer/football game, stepping onto the field, staring your opponent in the eye and looking at the goal line. This is what we’ve trained for, this is what we’re here to do. Picton Castle, sturdy as a church, rolled on through without a hitch.

Light rain continues causing many crew members to retire to their bunks, socialize together in the communal spaces in the lee, catch up on celestial homework or enjoy a good old-fashioned movie.

The engineer is finishing the handle for the stack house door, the final product came out wonderfully. Congrats to our engineer team for doing a fine job. Anders of Denmark, our ship’s head carpenter, is constructing a bracket in order to hold the kedge anchor in its upright position. Rather than have it lashed for sea stowage it will be easier to strap down and release when needed. A kedge anchor is the third anchor we have on deck, it has a much different design than the typical anchor one would draw for a cartoon sketch.  The kedge anchor is an emergency anchor. Preparations for our arrival at Pitcairn Island have continued. Yesterday before a delicious fish dinner, the dancers rehearsed the electric slide for our Picton Castle Show Night. All 47 provision packages were put together, wrapped and labeled with each crew member’s name. It’s always important not to show up empty-handed.

From: Galapagos
Towards: Pitcairn
Date: July 17 2018
Noon Position: 24°37.5′ S x 126°43.2′ W
Course + Speed: W + 4 knots
Wind direction + Force: SSW + 3
Swell Height + Direction: 4m + SxW
Weather: Overcast, rain
Day’s Run: 84.7 nm
Passage Log: 2573 nm
Distance to Port: 186 nm
Voyage: 6063 nm
Sails Set: Square sails

 

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Day’s Run – 16 July, 2018

Plenty of bright stars and a crescent moon above us at dawn this morning, before a gorgeous sunrise dead astern. We were heading south out of the tropics and now have turned west for Pitcairn Island. Captain Moreland has informed us that the calm seas and light winds we’ve been luckily enjoying this passage will change. Nothing the ship or crew can’t handle, it’s always good to be prepared by practicing faster line handling and repeating orders.

Ship’s work: This morning’s watch unbent the stuns’ls from their bamboo spars, stowing them in our hold while other crew members unlashed the stuns’l booms from the yards and sent them down to deck. The stuns’ls were fun while they lasted, everyone enjoyed the new challenge. They will go back up later.

Preparations for our arrival to Pitcairn have begun. The rigging team, Vaiufia of Tonga and Anne-Laure of France, are rigging up the two tackles, the stay tackle and the yard tackle that we will use to unload the cargo from our hold into the 40′ aluminum boats at Pitcairn. Scraping of the oars continued this morning, light rain sent any work on deck to seek shelter.

Squally weather lies ahead, rain makes for a busy watch, taking in and setting sails, slacking lines.  Picton Castle is rigged with manila lines, and when manila becomes wet it tightens immensely;  therefore the lines must have slack put into them. When the rain decides to quit and the lines dry, they become loose again and the extra slack must be taken out.

Logistics for Pitcairn are on everyone’s minds. Our cook Donald of Grenada will be sending each crew member ashore with provisions. Seeing as we will double the size of the island’s population, we do not want to deplete all of their resources. It’s all very exciting! The feeling is as though we are going to grandmother’s house for the weekend – anticipation is building.

From: Galapagos
Towards: Pitcairn
Date: July 16, 2018
Noon Position: 23°53.9′ S x 125°23.5′ W
Course + Speed: WSW + 4.1 knots
Wind direction + Force: NWxN + 3
Swell Height + Direction: 3m + NNE
Weather: Overcast, squally
Day’s Run: 92.8 nm
Passage Log: 2481 nm
Distance to Port: 266 nm
Voyage: 5967.8 nm
Sails Set: Square sails, main t’gallant staysail

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Day’s Run – 15 July, 2018

Another lovely Sunday at sea! This marks our sixth Sunday underway, how lucky are we? Light yet steady winds, bright blue sky holding puffy cumulus clouds, golden sunny rays beaming on deck. Chillin’ out is on the agenda today. Our cook was able to sleep in past 0530 by enlisting three crew members to prepare our meals. Thus far, Val, James, and Aaron have done a splendid job at filling our bellies. The sailmakers, bosun, engineers, and carpenters too are idling their hands after a busy week of ship maintenance.

At 0900 we set our stuns’ls, the crew is becoming more accustomed to setting the mysterious outboard sails. It takes many hands, roughly about 6 people, in order to properly set them. At least 4 – 5 people are required to carry the stuns’ls that are attached to bamboo spars from the main deck to the foc’sle head, where they remain to assist in the setting of the sails.

The rest standby on the well deck to haul the halyards, tacks and sheets.

Once the gear is led and attached to either the sail or the bamboo stuns’l boom, the foc’sle head team, at the mate’s command, launch the spar outboard off of the ship as the halyard line is quickly hoisted. The rotten cotton that is holding the sail together like a wrapped burrito breaks as the wind fills the white canvas it pops open like a parachute filling with air.

Rather an exciting and thrilling task.

On deck crew members enjoy basking in the sun, stretched out on the midships hatch, while their shipmates work away on their personal projects; ditty bags, coconut bowls and catching up on their nautical reading. Lots of talk of our arrival and stay on Pitcairn Island, being that we’re just over 300 miles away, that seems like nothing compared to how far we’ve come.

From: Galapagos
Towards: Pitcairn Island
Date: July 15, 2018
Noon Position: 22°33.7′ S x 124°32.2′ W
Course + Speed: S 1/2 W + 3.75 knots
Wind direction + Force: NExE + 3
Swell Height + Direction: 1.5m + ENE
Weather: Bright, sunny
Day’s Run: 88 1/2 nautical miles
Passage Log: 2,412 nautical miles
Distance to Port: 337 nautical miles
Voyage: 5870.3 nautical miles
Sails Set: All square sails, flying jib, all three stuns’ls

 

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