Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Atlantic Ocean' Category

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Sailin’ Along

Midday – May 20, 2010 – – 25-39n / 058-37w – – winds ESE – about 15 knots

Looks like we are in the famous easterly trade-winds. These winds that blow from the west coast of Africa from Senegal across the Atlantic finding their way to the wind swept and sun kissed isles of the West Indies. The Picton Castle is sailing along braced up sharp on the port tack, our good crew steering south with these trade winds on the port beam – all sail that is bent aloft on yard or stay is set and drawing – sky is a burning blue, seas are small with the occasional white cap but it is mostly just blue, royal blue, silver blue, turquoise blue maybe. All hands in shorts and short sleeve shirts (and hats and sun-glasses and SPF 2,000 goop) – the gang is filling in the deck log now – Time, compass course, course made good, log distance for the hour, wind force, wind direction, swell height, swell direction, visibility, barometer, weather in general and anything else of significance. The hard one really is true wind direction. And Latitude and longitude and any course changes, sail changes etc. This requires a good deal of observation and analysis to get it right. But that is the whole point, to learn to accurately observe and analyze conditions and then record them. Small jobs are getting done, painting here and there, little rigging jobs, cleaning odd corners, whippings on lines, end for ending lines for even wear, dishes-always dishes to do, galley and scullery to clean and clean again, folks up on the well deck making some new baggywrinkle. Name of the ship getting painted on the boats. Take your trick at the wheel, keep the Picton Castle on course, steering South by West or as we annotate, SxW, keep a good look out, one of the fundamentals of seafaring and good seamanship. Yes, that is all going on by each and everyone here in this small barque under full sail making her way into these tropics. First flying fish have been spied swooping to winward.

And then we have our off-watch gang. We see a few people spread out on the green canvas cargo hatch cover midships with books, knitting, making sheaths for knife and spike, napping, maybe with little music boxes with wires snaking towards the ears for some private music, pretty sweet. The temperature is perfect, the seas small, wind fresh and balmy, ship almost steering herself, Lunenburg is a thousand miles astern, many many sea miles ahead…and islands…no doubt thoughts of home too.

Chow onboard – Lunch – well, we had roast turkey yesterday so obviously we had turkey soup or maybe you might call it stew today and for supper – – drum roll…Adams & Knickle Scallops fresh off the F/V Chocklecap, Freedom 99 or Cachalot landed right in Lunenburg fresh from Georges Banks! And basmati rice, olive salad and chocolate cake.

Liam on lookout
Sophie paints letters on the boat

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Making Southing

Until this point, the ship’s log has been kept by the watch officers while the ship is underway. Starting today, trainees are filling in a rough log after their turn on helm. They’re learning that we record our position every hour, on the hour, and that we also make hourly notes on true wind direction and force, swell height and swell direction, barometric pressure, visibility and weather including clouds. Of course they all have to learn how to make all these assessments. They have a bit of experience from doing this on night watches in Lunenburg, but now that we are at sea there is much more keep an eye and now they get to learn how it’s all properly observed and recorded.

This is our second full day of motoring consistently southward. Some wind has picked up, but it’s from the direction we want to go. According to the forecast, it is supposed to back towards the east, making it much more useable for us. We continue to check in with Herb of Southbound II for his weather forecast broadcast daily on the single side band radio for vessels at sea in the North Atlantic, the weather fax consistently spits out drawings of North Atlantic wind and wave and surface forecasts and we’re getting weather by email as well. Somewhere around 25-26 north latitude we should pick up some tradewinds. With all the other vessels we heard Captain Tom Gallant in the mighty Schooner Avenger north of Bermuda bound for Lunenburg too.

Chibley seems to be back to her usual cool indifference, stalking around the deck and experimenting with naps in different bunks. We had a small bird as a passenger for most of yesterday afternoon, flying around the ship and landing on the transom to rest between flights. Chibley was unaware of our feathered passenger, which is just as well. She is pretty hard on small birds.

Donald made one of his specialties for breakfast – meat doughnuts – these are Grenadian/West Indian specialty. They are called “bakes”. You may wonder how meat and doughnuts go together, but it’s like a jelly filled doughnut, except the jelly is corned beef. There were cheese doughnuts for the vegetarians, and this morning the doughnuts were accompanied by oatmeal and sliced cantaloupe. Lunch featured one of my favourite Donald soups, rich with beans, potatoes and squash, along with homemade bread, pasta salad and leftover pasta with tomato sauce. Apart from headwinds the weather is fine and seas aren’t big either. So everything is good.

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High Pressure Near Bermuda

Captain’s Log – High Pressure near Bermuda

Tuesday May 18, 2010

Maggie Ostler

Around 2000 last night the nice NW sailing wind we were experiencing gave up altogether; so we took in and furled all sail and fired up the main engine to push on southward. We’re sitting under a high pressure system with little wind currently and little prospect of wind coming in the near future, so we’re making tracks for where the wind is. This is typical of the area around Bermuda.

Motoring like this isn’t so bad – the sun is still shining, the sky is blue with occasional light puffs of clouds and the water becomes a more vibrant turquoise blue by the day. It is good weather to get work done and laundry taken care of. There is the constant thrum and gentle vibration of the mighty B&W Alpha and a lack of white canvas overhead, but we’re doing okay. We’re hoping to see the first signs of trade winds in about 300nm, the sweet consistent winds that will carry us around the world.

There’s a gentle adjustment to warmer weather happening, the temperature rising by a few degrees daily. At 1300 the thermometer in the charthouse reports that it’s 24 degrees Celsius. We’re seeing more bare arms and legs as the crew don t-shirts, tank tops and shorts, shoes are disappearing but wisely folks are starting to wear hats and make sunscreen application part of their daily routine. The sea is also about 24 degrees Celsius (78 degrees F), not so bad.

Chibley was not seen on deck at all this morning, I think she’s still suffering embarrassment from yesterday. In celebration of Norwegian national day, Nadja made Chibley a t-shirt that says “I love Norwegian fish” on the back. For those of you who know her, getting Chibley to even wear her collar can be a challenge, so the t-shirt really made her cranky. From the time Nadja dressed her before the parade until about 2030 when Julie found her hiding in a corner of the companionway and removed the offending clothing, Chibley disappeared from view entirely. I don’t think she’s over it yet. She was squawking at the Captain about this in his cabin last night.

Donald continues to work miracles in the galley. This morning’s breakfast was scrambled eggs, whole wheat rolls, oatmeal and sliced cantaloupe. Donald even carved a fancy sunburst into one cantaloupe rind and the word “love” into another. Good presentation makes yummy things taste even better. Lunch was giant hamburgers on fresh baked whole wheat buns with cranberries, and a bit of veggie pizza for the non-meat-eaters. For supper is a big huge roast, with broccoli, potatoes and more whole wheat rolls.

Georgie and Via on the upper tops l brace
Leonard on the fore brace

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Norwegian National Day

Captain’s Log

Monday May 17, 2010

Maggie Ostler

Another beautiful day in our little barque. Before supper yesterday the Captain held a muster on the quarterdeck to explain the weather outlook to all hands, breaking the news that the wind was likely to die out, requiring us to fire up the mighty Burmeister & Wain Alpha diesel engine and push south for two or three days until we can find the wind again. The wind has held on through today, between Force 3 and 4, keeping us sailing along between 3 and 5 knots per hour.

With it being Monday, it’s time for ship’s work to begin again. Under the direction of bosun WT, there were a number of different projects underway today. Liam, Shawn, Katie and Michael were all working on the long boat at different points, sanding, then tacking down and painting. Fred was greasing turnbuckles, Niko and Nadia were helping chief mate Michael replace a serving on the standing end of a halyard pennant. The ash capstan bars were being scraped, the caulking around the galley house roof was being overhauled, and the skylight on the quarterdeck was being rust-busted and primed.

Throughout the day, anticipation was high for the Norwegian National Day celebrations which started at 1700. Everyone dressed in red, blue and white, (in our flag book there are 42 countries with red, white and blue as their national colors) and under the direction of our two Norwegian crew, Siri and Johanna, there was a parade around the deck, from the well deck to the quarterdeck, past the viewing stand with the Captain, mate, cook and engineer, past the helm, and back down to the cargo hatch amidships. The 4 to 8 watch were all dressed like Norwegian ski jumpers and presented their ski jumping dance, the 12 to 4 watch were dressed to showcase all things Norwegian (including the king and queen, the midnight sun, and the Edward Munch painting of the Scream) and the 8 to 12 watch sang a song about their favourite parts of Norway. Following the presentations, there was a traditional Norwegian potato-on-a-spoon race that also involved an element of trivia about Norway. Donald presented the typical Norwegian national day dinner, hot dogs and potato salad – yep, that’s what Siri said is traditional.

The crew have set the bar quite high for celebrating special occasions. We have lots of opportunities to celebrate – with an international crew representing nine different countries, there will be plenty of occasions.

8 to 12 loves Norway
Foc sle won the grand prize!
Norwegian Ski Jumping Team aka the 4 to 8 watch

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Gale Finis

Gale Finis

0700 34-58N / 061-04W – winds NWLY at force 4-5, seas 4-6’, Chibley hungry

Captain Daniel D. Moreland

Morning came in with clouds breaking up and the day making up fair and handsome. Last night the gale force winds veered into a more NWly slant and laid down nicely along with the largish seas – with the coming of dawn the 4-8 watch loosed and set all sail up to the t’gallants and down-rigged safety man-ropes and nets. Now the watch is washing down the decks and deck houses, fresh watering things off, getting rid of crusty salt, opening hatches and portholes getting everything aired out.

1100 – yards just off square – all sail set and drawing – sun beating down yet still gently – a picture perfect day at sea, the first of many to come we suspect – blue sky with small white puffy clouds sailing along with us over head. Dark blue seas maybe 4-5 feet high with a smattering of frosty white caps foaming off their tops – a 45’ sloop came over the horizon the starboard bearing a German flag and sailed about as close under our bow as one could dare, then headed off the east – maybe heading for Azores. We were standing by for evasive maneuvering. Just before noon today we were also joined by a lone bat valiantly remaining aloft, I fear its prognosis is not good. And a small black butterfly, 240 miles ENE of Bermuda out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. With sunlight on the hatch this Sunday afternoon crew have taken to reading, napping, oiling boots, taking bucket baths, maybe a few haircuts, trying out being barefoot, getting a little sun. Tomorrow is Norwegian National Day – as we have two Norwegians they will instruct us in its proper observance. It is a great day to be at sea in our barque.


1400 – It’s Donald’s day off, so that means that there are guest chefs in the galley. Breakfast was cranberry muffins, poached eggs, porridge and fruit. Lunch, cooked by Siri, Johanna and Nadja, had a European flair – crepes with cheese, veggies and bacon, and heart-shaped waffles in plain, chocolate, banana and cheese. WT appears to have supper under control, although I’m not yet sure what he’s making. One trainee from each watch is assigned to galley duty each day, so Johanna from 12-4, Tiina from 4-8 and Lorraine from 8-12 are the galley assistants du jour.

It’s amazing how quickly the seas have laid down after the gale. Everyone is taking advantage of the good weather by being on deck, relaxing, reading, fishing (although not catching yet), writing in journals, studying their handbooks and working on small projects. Today was laundry day for a few of the crew, washing their clothes in buckets of salt water on deck with a final rinse in fresh, so the laundry lines above the well deck are full of clean laundry and assorted other clothing drying out after being drenched by seas and spray yesterday.

About an hour ago, a family of sea turtles was spotted off the stern. Yet another sign that we’re heading in the right direction. After crossing the Gulf Stream, the crew are now dressed for warm weather – even a few folks in shorts. The current air temperature is 20 degrees Celsius and the sunshine almost makes me forget that two days ago we were bundled up in long underwear, hats, mittens and scarves. I guess we have earned our way to this tropical voyage.

Dan, Liam and Jan reading and fishing
Rebecca and laundry on the well deck

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In a gale

In a Gale

Captain Daniel D. Moreland

So, we are in a gale. First gale for this Picton Castle crew. We are by and large running with it which serves our course just fine anyway – but it is a gale. Not a very big gale, just over the edge of 35 knots to qualify as a gale, but impressive nonetheless. Nice little gale, crew all excited. Safety grab lines are rigged up, hatch with extra battenings, all things securely lashed. We are under lower topsails, fore-topmast-staysail and main-topmast-staysail. The ship is rolling along fine making 7.5 knots in the right direction – How does she ride? Why, she shames the gulls. It is also very warm now, almost 76F / 25C. Good sized seas, some over 16’ boil along beside us spreading bright white foam across the grey seas. If we were a big 3,000 ton 4-masted barque with a gut full of grain bound for the Horn in the Roaring 40’s (sailing below 40 south latitude) this would just be another fine passage making day, in our case it is as well. A front should pass tonight and then we should get NW winds and clearing – this will continue to send the Picton Castle and her crew along their way to the Caribbean Sea. Supper in the salon – mashed potatoes, corn, ribs and salad, not so bad for a day like today, not so bad on any day…didn’t get that in any old deep laden barque in roaring 40’s…

Alex on lookout with Nadja in a gale
Johanna on helm

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In the Gulf Stream

In the Gulf Stream

Captain Daniel D. Moreland

At 0700 this Friday AM we are at 37-10N / 063-27W we are in the stream, predictably lumpy and uncomfortable but not too bad, seas 10’-14’– winds Wly at @ 20 /25kts – we are making 8 knots steering SEly towards a point east of 32N/60W – low overcast – good for the gang to have some moderate lumps right about now, see what the sea is really about, and makes the trade-winds all the sweeter – all fine aboard – only a couple folks sea-sick, not too bad at all except for them, would expect more to be suffering mal-de-mer, Chibley has expelled her one traditional south-bound up-chuck – ship snug as a bug in a rug, making good time towards better weather. Hot comforting porridge coming out of the galley. Siri calls her wet plastered hair her “Force 7 Hair Style”.

Jon on helm in the Gulf Stream
Sophie, Lorraine, Jo and Paula on watch

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1819 Atlantic Time

38-23N / 64-40W – 1819 Atlantic time

Captain Daniel D. Moreland

Things have been fine so far – conditions fair to moderate, not bad at all. Now the Picton Castle is about 360 miles south of Lunenburg and about 480 miles east of the Delaware Bay and right up to the edge or ‘north wall’ of the Gulf Stream – it really is a river in the ocean – we will be crossing most of it tonight – winds went light and then ahead so we have stowed sail and are pushing under power steering SE – we are expecting some breeze tomorrow and then hopefully a wind shift to the NW which is just what we want – that should carry us close to the tradewinds but probably not before we motor through some calms on the latitude of Bermuda – the ship is well lashed and stowed, crew are getting their sea legs – Chibley is working her charm for small bits of meat. Cabbage, roast potatoes, some fine cut of beef, green salad and walnut ginger cake for supper – lunch was a rich lentil stew and fresh herb bread.

Maggie Ostler reporting…

Weather seems to be the theme of this passage, from discussions in the charthouse of the latest weather forecasts and analysis, to idle chat on the aloha deck where Sophie’s brave transition into sandals was admired by some and shocking to others. The water temperature has risen significantly since we left Lunenburg – it was 6 degrees Celsius then, went up to about 20 degrees last night and has been hovering around 15 degrees this morning. We haven’t crossed the Gulf Stream yet, but that time is coming soon.

As we hope for warmer weather, the crew are getting used to the routine of life aboard. They’re getting to know the characteristics of a good wake-up call, how to walk on deck while the ship is moving, where all the lines are in the dark, how to keep a good lookout, which way to stow their belongings in their bunk so they don’t get klonked by stuff falling off their bunk shelves in the middle of the night, and how to steer our little barque. By necessity the learning curve is pretty steep in the first few days at sea – our gang all seem to be getting it and are working well together. Very pleasing to see.

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3 low passed ahead

By Captain Daniel D. Moreland

May 13, 2010 0510 at 41-36N / 065-13W

Our nasty low passed ahead of us and about 0130 the watch started to get sail back on the Picton Castle – as I tap these keys we have a clear sky filled with stars fading into a sunrise, smooth seas and an easy NW breeze send us along under topgallants. We are steering due south in excellent conditions – I will not be content until we are well below Bermuda. People are learning to steer and getting the hang of sail handling – there is so much else to pick up just to make life onboard harmonious and agreeable – like where to hang you wet clothes (not on the fantail), what to do with your coffee cup (wash it and put it away or hang on to it), how to use a flashlight at night without binding your shipmates (mask with your fingers), of and a thousand things more.

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Blue Skies, Blue Seas

Captain’s Log – Blue Skies, Blue Seas

Thursday May 13, 2010

By Maggie Ostler

Things just feel right this morning. As I sit here in the ship’s office in the charthouse I can see a sliver of sunlight through the office window, the white capped ocean is a rich deep blue-green, the GPS in the charthouse tells me we’re sailing along at about 6 knots and our true course is 180 degrees. I can hear the gentle tap of chipping hammers as the 8-12 watch are overhauling the pelican hook for the starboard anchor, the hum of the generator which runs every morning to make electricity (and charge our batteries so we only have run the generator 6 hours a day) and the lap and swish of water as the Picton Castle’s hull moves through the seas. Just now trainee Joanna is reporting to Chief Mate Michael that she was relieved on the helm and soon trainee Jon, who was on lookout, will be reporting his ship check. Although I can’t see from here, I know that tops’ls and t’gallants, the main topmast stays’l and inner and outer jibs are set. Lorraine and Tammy are sitting on the hatch talking, Bosun WT is in the carpenter’s shop working on a project, Dave is napping on the aloha deck, there are sweet smells of curry coming out of the galley and I haven’t had a cell phone in my pocket for 24 hours. This is the way it should be.

Weather-wise, all is going as expected. Second mate Rebecca checked in with Herb of Southbound II, the North Atlantic weather guru, on the single sideband radio yesterday afternoon. He confirmed our own analysis of weather maps, that we should slow down and let the approaching low pass to the south of us, then wait for the NNW wind to fill in from the back side of it. From about 1700 yesterday to 0300 today, we drifted and waited. The wind started to come up then, and by 0800 we had a good Force 5 wind from the NNW to push us farther south.

The water temperature has risen since we left Lunenburg – it was about 6 degrees Celsius then, and now we’re up to about 10 degrees. It’s still not warm yet, and there’s plenty of speculation about when we’ll cross the Gulf Stream. I’m currently wearing three long-sleeve shirts, a hoodie, long johns, jeans, thick wool socks, foulie boots, a scarf and a toque (that’s a winter hat, for all you non-Canadians) and my foulie jacket is standing by to cut the wind when I go out on deck. Dressing for night watches reminds me of little kids in snowsuits – crew can’t quite put their arms down because they’re wearing so many layers, and between foulie pants and harnesses, one must use the head before dressing and hope not to have to pee again for the next four hours. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, soup and instant oatmeal is being consumed in mass quantities in an effort to be warm on the inside.

Rebecca and the 12-4 watch spotted a whale yesterday afternoon that breached four times. Before supper, a pod of dolphins, which we later determined were Atlantic whitesided dolphins, swam past the ship to check out the stern, but didn’t stick around long enough to play (or long enough for me to get my camera). We’ve put the cetacean identification book in the chart house, and hopefully we’ll have lots of occasions to have to refer to it. It’s good to be at sea again.

Joani overhauls a turnbuckle
Shawn on helm with Jo
Under sail Thursday morning

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