Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Bosun Scool' Category

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Happy Thanksgiving!

One of the best things about sailing with an international crew, and having an international group of students at the Bosun School, is celebrating different national holidays.  This past weekend was Thanksgiving in Canada and the Bosun School students marked the occasion with a sit-down turkey dinner.

We have so much to be thankful for here.  We’ve had beautiful fall weather that has allowed us to get a lot of work and study done, a gorgeous and safe harbour here in Lunenburg, food to eat and a roof over our heads.  What we’re most thankful for is the people who make up our community; the students at the Bosun School, our professional crew and trainees past and present, friends and supporters of Picton Castle, and especially this year, the thousands of visitors who came to see our ship in the many ports we called at as part of the Rendez-vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta.

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Bosun School Launches and Rows A Dory

One of the main things we focus on at Bosun School is small boat handling. Students will practice handling boats of all kinds by rowing them, sailing them and driving them with motors. It’s one of the essential skills of a good mariner, being able to handle small boats. The best way to become proficient is to practice. A lot.

This past week, students at Picton Castle‘s Bosun School prepared and launched a Banks dory named Rocky. The boat was built at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia’s historic Dory Shop, which is celebrating 100 years in business in 2017. The students gave it a paint job and launched it from the beach at the Dory Shop.

Captain Moreland demonstrated how to row a dory. Students then had the chance to practice, followed by a more in-depth lesson.

Here are video clips of the launch and of Captain Moreland’s rowing demonstration.

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Tackle Tug of War

How can one person beat seven people in tug of war?  By using mechanical advantage!

Okay, maybe it’s not truly tug of war, but the Bosun School students staged a powerful experiment this morning to demonstrate how mechanical advantage works.  By rigging tackles properly, one person was able to pull seven others across the floor, despite their best efforts not to be moved.

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First Day of Bosun School

Although elementary and high school students in Lunenburg started school a couple of weeks ago, today is the first day of school for another group of students in Lunenburg. Picton Castle’s Bosun School begins today and we have a group of eager students ready to sharpen both their pencils and their knives.

The Bosun School is designed for young mariners who want to build their seamanship skills in a focused environment. As Captain Daniel Moreland, head instructor of the Bosun School, likes to say, emergency training is good to have, but it’s better to have training in skills that prevent emergencies from happening in the first place, and those skills are seamanship skills.

In order to attend Bosun School, students must have already spent some time at sea standing watches and participating in operating the vessel. By doing that, they already know that they like seafaring and they want to continue to do it. They also know about group living and that everyone must pitch in and do their part.

After an orientation with Captain Moreland this morning, the students dove into rope work. They started with cutting rope, then whipping the rope ends, tying knots, and splicing the rope together in different ways. For all of them, some parts of this was a review, but it’s good to start with the basics to be sure that everyone has a solid foundation on which to build.

We’re expecting wet weather here for the next few days so we’ll mostly be in the workshop, but we’re hoping to get small boats ready to launch later this week so the students can start practicing small boat handling under sail, oar and power.

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Captain’s Log – Bosun School 2016

Bosun School is done for this year.

Another excellent Bosun School session has come to a close here on the waterfront in Lunenburg. We had a fine gang of keen marine students who will go far in the marine world as they wish. Since last September up until a few weeks ago they have been busy and hard at it. Under the leadership of long-time PICTON CASTLE Bosun Gabe St Denis and old Bosun Captain Daniel Moreland we got a lot done in in a short amount of time.


Basic Knots, Splices
& Whippings

Extensive Small Boat Handling in Sail & Power Aboard Schooners, Sloops, Cutters & Motor Skiffs Boatyard Boat Managing &
Hauling Small Vessels

Worming Parceling
& Serving

Basic Sail Making & Repair

Wire Splicing &

Small Wooden
Boat Spars

Metal Preparation,
Painting & Coating


Basic Line Handling
& Bracing

Basic Caulking


Chafe Gear & Dock Lines

Basic Varnishing

Safety Working Aloft

Ship Mooring

Shipyard Safety

Sending Down &
Crossing Yards

Leadline &
Heaving Lines

Hauling, Blocking & Sundry Details Associated with Drydocking

Ship Down Rigging

All the skill sets we go over are important. The one we try to drive home as much as possible is “small boat handling” and to that end, we go out in our wide range of boats day after day; instruction, practice, demonstration and practice, then practise practise practise. You cannot truly be an accomplished mariner without being capable, competent and practised at the handling and care of small craft. Just the way it is. And becoming good at small craft offers many insights into large ship operations in all catagories. To this end, we got the gang out sailing, rowing and motoring in dories, cutters, sloops, skiffs and schooners. And of course launched and hauled them as well as caulked and painted them and put them up for the winter. On our final days, we spent time with the gang one on one looking to placement opportunities in the “next ship” all of this gang will do well I am 100% sure.



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Bosun School Graduation

After three months of studying and hands-on practice in Lunenburg, the Bosun School students officially graduated last night.

Picton Castle’s Bosun School is designed for young mariners who want to gain skills to add to their resumes and advance their careers.  We have found, in receiving applications from some professional mariners to work aboard Picton Castle, that despite having significant sea time their skill levels are below what we might expect.  By taking time to focus on developing these skills in an environment ashore without the natural distractions of sailing the ship, students can see a project through from start to finish and learn the entire process.

Not only do they observe and learn through lecture and demonstrations, they learn primarily through hands-on practice.  Using the example of wire splicing, Captain Moreland did a brief introductory lecture, then a demonstration.  From there, students made two or three splices of their own, under the supervision of Bosun Gabe.  After that, the Captain did a second, more in-depth lesson on wire splicing that they were able to absorb more easily because they had some context of doing the work themselves.  Since then, they’ve done many more splices, some on practice wires and some in actual practical applications where their splices will be used aboard Picton Castle.

This session of the Bosun School had a major focus on rigging.  Bosun School students sent yards down back in September when the school began and they worked on overhauling them through October and November, taking off all the standing rigging and blocks, inspecting and repairing or replacing portions as necessary, and overhauling the yards themselves.  Some of Picton Castle’s yards are steel (the course yards, lower topsail yards and upper topsail yards) so students learned how to deal with rust, removing it and putting coatings on to prevent rust and seal the steel.  Some of Picton Castle’s yards are wooden (the t’gallant yards and royal yards) so students have done some work with wood preparation and varnishing (on a few other projects like deck boxes as well).

Sailmaking has been one of the other main areas of study at this Bosun School.  Students have learned a variety of repair methods depending on what’s called for in each situation.  Some repairs need to be quick and not-so-pretty, others need to be meticulously well done when there is time and space to do it.  Students also worked on sail construction projects, laying out a new outer jib, seaming it together, then adding the tabling, corner patches, grommets, roping and all other finishing.  By being part of constructing a sail from start to finish, they have a greater understanding of all of the components of a sail, how they work together and how and why to look after them.

This past week, as we have been wrapping up a number of projects, students have been meeting individually with Captain Moreland for career counselling sessions.  They’ve been talking about short-term plans as well as longer term plans.  At the graduation ceremony last night, each student received a certificate of completion that outlines the skills they’ve practised that they’ll be able to use when they apply for jobs in the future.

Join us in sending congratulations to all of the Bosun School students on successful completion of the course!img_2338

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Snowy Day in Lunenburg

We’re not used to seeing the decks of our mostly tropical-sailing barque covered in snow, but that they are today. It’s not a good day to be working outdoors so Bosun School students are indoors, working on wrapping up a number of projects as they begin their last full week of classes.


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Crossing Yards

Thursday December 8, 2016

What comes down out of the rig must go back up! Bosun School students sent down yards back in September, they have overhauled all the standing rigging attached to the yards, overhauled the yards themselves, and are now crossing the topsail yards again. The first one to go up was the main upper topsail yard, which was crossed this morning. Gabe and Kimba guided it up from the wharf, Anne Laure was aloft to receive it, while Ashling, Liz, Niko, Jason, Aaron and Polina worked the capstan to do the heavy lifting, all under Captain Moreland’s watchful eye.






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Bosun School Does the Holidays!

It’s been an incredibly busy week here in Lunenburg. Captain Moreland and Maggie travelled to Sweden for a Sail Training International conference and Gabe has been busy doing workshops with the Bosun School in Captain Moreland’s absence. I had to interrupt, though, for something slightly different … this weekend is the first huge big weekend in the build-up to the Holiday Season here in Lunenburg. Tonight there is the lighting of the vessels down at the harbour which includes lighting up some ships, a bunch of Christmas trees and the Holiday Buoy (of course!). One of the Christmas trees is ours. Normally Maggie and I decorate it, but this year I left it up to Gabe and the Bosun School (and Purser Bob who is visiting from the UK) and together they have created a beautiful tree decorated with nautical knots, mini ditty bags and candy canes.



Tomorrow Santa Clause is coming to town in style and will be the star of the annual Christmas Parade through town. We will have a float in the parade so if you happen to be here keep your eyes open for the thoroughly decorated Dory Shop dory with the lovely Christmassy sails – the Bosun School will be handing out chocolate, suckers and candy canes to all kids young & old. After the parade, there will be markets throughout town, a live nativity (complete with donkey) and then Christmas carols by the bandstand as they light the trees on the hill. If you ever feel like you’ve lost the magic of Christmas, come and spend the last weekend of November in Lunenburg and recharge your magical spirit with a great old fashioned Christmas weekend. It feels like you’re stepping back it time.

Captain Moreland and Maggie will return on Monday, but until then we’ll celebrate a little bit of Christmas here in this beautiful old town.


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Bosun School Learns Sailmaking

For the past few weeks, Bosun School students have been focused on sailmaking.  It’s a good skill for a bosun to have – by making a sail, you understand how it works, why each part is the way it is, how to use it and how to look after it.  There aren’t very many sailing ships making their own sails aboard anymore (Picton Castle is one of the only ones), but the understanding of how it’s done makes you a better mariner.

Captain Moreland demonstrates patching techniques

Captain Moreland demonstrates patching techniques

Repairing sails is a skill a mariner is much more likely to use on a sailing ship.  From time to time, sails rip.  Catching it early and repairing it properly extends the life of the sail.  As Captain Moreland explained when he was introducing sailmaking to the students, there are times when different kinds of repairs need to be done.  Sometimes you need the perfect repair, done so well you’d hardly know it wasn’t part of the original sail.  Sometimes you need a quick and dirty five-minute job that will hold for a few hours or a few days so the sail can be set again immediately.  Sometimes you need something in between. Ashling sews in a window patch

Ashling sews in a window patch

Throughout this unit of study, Bosun School students have had the chance to practice all kinds of repairs.  They have sewn in lovely window patches, they have also done ugly-but-effective rubber cement patches on a synthetic fabric sail.

Anne-Laure working on the sewing machine

Anne-Laure working on the sewing machine

Bosun School students have also been involved in making some new sails.  They did some hand seaming on a new main topmast staysail to prepare it for a second layout.  We also have a main deck awning that was ready for a second layout.  And we wanted to do a first layout of a sail with the Bosun School, so we chose to lay out an outer jib.

Kimga put a corner patch on the new outer jib

Kimba put a corner patch on the new outer jib

For two afternoons last week, we used the gym floor at the Lunenburg Community Centre for laying out sails.  We’re not the first people to use the community centre gym for this purpose – Michele Stevens Sailloft laid out the sails for the schooner Columbia there.  The space is so large that we were able to lay all three out at once.

Liz and the main topmast staysail

Liz and the main topmast staysail

laying out sails at the Lunenburg Community Centre

laying out sails at the Lunenburg Community Centre

Both the main deck awning and the main topmast staysail were laid out for the second time.  On the second layout, we even out the edges of the canvas, cut off the outside edge to be used as the material for the tabling (which we accounted for on the first layout) and make sure the shape of the sail is as we want it.

To do the first layout of the outer jib, we marked the dimensions of the sail plus the part we would later cut away in green masking tape on the floor, then rolled out the canvas over top of the shape and cut the cloths to the appropriate lengths, then marked them in the correct order.  To give the Bosun School students some experience with machine sewing, we did the seaming for this sail with our big industrial Singer sewing machine.

Ashling, Polina, Liz & Kimba seam the outer jib

Ashling, Polina, Liz & Kimba seam the outer jib

Kimba, Anne Laure, Ashling, Fiji & Aaron seam sails on the Singer

Kimba, Anne Laure, Ashling, Fiji & Aaron seam sails on the Singer

Once a sail is sewn together, there is still a lot of work to do, and most of it is by hand.  The tabling, which is an extra layer of canvas that sandwiches the outside edge of the sail, is sewn on by hand, as are corner patches and any other patches the sail needs (bunt patches, reef patches, sun patches, etc).  Canvas sails are then roped, meaning a rope is sewn around the outside of the sail to help strengthen it and ropes are often covered with canvas or leather rope coverings.  Grommets need to be sewn in to any point where the sail needs to be attached to the yard, the stay or any running rigging.

Sewing grommets into the luff of the new outer jib

Sewing grommets into the luff of the new outer jib


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