Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Bosun Scool' Category

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Captain’s Log 10 October, 2016 – Drydock Continues …

Picton Castle has now been in drydock for a week.  The ship was hauled out last Monday at the Lunenburg Foundry for routine maintenance.  We haul the ship out of the water every two years in order to inspect, clean and overhaul the hull and the through-hull fittings.  She’s awfully impressive out of the water, there’s a lot more ship under the waterline than you might imagine! 20161004_162311_resized

Bosun School students did a walk around the outside of the hull last Monday with Captain Moreland, as he pointed out a number of interesting features and ran down the work list.  Since then, the hull has been pressure washed to remove the marine growth, the old zinc anodes have been removed, epoxy primer has been spot painted on to the small areas where there was bare steel and we’ve done testing of the thickness of the steel hull.  Through-hull fittings have been removed for cleaning and overhaul, and seacock valves have also been removed for the same reason.  While out of the water, Picton Castle is also having her annual survey. 20161003_155022-reduced

It’s now Thanksgiving Monday in Lunenburg and the workers at the Lunenburg Foundry are enjoying a holiday.  It’s raining today, but weather looks fair for the next few days which should allow work to continue on the hull.

To celebrate Thanksgiving, Captain Moreland hosted a dinner for the Bosun School crew at his home on Sunday night.  We all have so much to be thankful for!

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How to Rust Bust Steel Yards

While Picton Castle is in drydock, Bosun School students have been carrying on with projects related to Picton Castle’s yards. All yards except the course yards were sent down last week.

Picton Castle’s royal and t’gallant yards (the top two yards on both the foremast and mainmast) are made of wood. The upper and lower topsail yards, as well as the course yards, are made of steel.

The steel yards need to have the rust removed, first by chipping hammer, then by wire brush, then possibly by powered wire wheel or sanding disc. Alternately, sandblasting would do the same thing (and probably even a better job of it) but on a ship at sea, sandblasting is not an option.

Captain Moreland gave the Bosun School a lesson this morning on how to properly use a chipping hammer.



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Picton Castle Goes Into Drydock

With the high tide on the morning of Monday October 3, 2016, Picton Castle was hauled out of the water on the marine railway at the Lunenburg Foundry.  We take the ship out of the water every two years so we can clean, inspect and repaint the hull.  The last time Picton Castle drydocked was in Fiji in the summer of 2014, so it’s time to do it again.

Most of the drydockings we have done have been in Lunenburg at the Lunenburg Foundry.  There are different methods used at different shipyards to get ships out of the water, at the Lunenburg Foundry they use a marine railway.  There is a set of tracks on an inclined plane that goes from the shore into the water and a cradle that goes up and down the tracks.  To prepare for the ship’s arrival, the shipyard sent the cradle down the track into the water.20161003_114630

At high tide, we brought Picton Castle to the cradle and positioned the ship in the middle of the cradle.  Because we’ve worked with this shipyard so many times, they know the shape of Picton Castle’s hull and had already set up blocks on the deck of the cradle.  With the help of scuba divers, the shipyard makes sure the ship is properly aligned over the keel blocks.  Once the ship is in the exact right spot, the cradle starts to move up the track on the inclined plane.  Just as the weight of the ship starts to sit on the keel blocks, the cradle is stopped and the shipyard workers use pulleys to move the bilge blocks in towards the hull so they’re supporting the ship at the turn of the bilge.  With bilge blocks in place, the cradle moves up the track again, being pulled by a very large chain.  Eventually the cradle, holding the ship, is fully out of the water at the top of the track.

Picton Castle out of the water is an impressive sight to see.  I’m always amazed at how much ship there is below the waterline.  As Captain Moreland explained to the Bosun School yesterday, Picton Castle has the lines of a medium clipper.  Although she began her life as a motor vessel, it was her lines that attracted him to her because the shape of the hull is that of a sailing ship.20161003_120212-reduced

On a tour of the ship’s hull with the Bosun School, Captain Moreland pointed out a few features of the hull that aren’t visible from above the water.  The first thing he noted is that Picton Castle’s hull is made of steel that has been riveted together.  Riveting was the accepted way of fastening a steel hull until about the 1940s, when welding was found to be far quicker.  Picton Castle’s hull is about 99% original steel from 1928 and in that time, only about 12 rivets have ha d to be welded over to repair them.  We will gauge the thickness of the steel in various places around the hull in order to make sure it continues to be in good condition.

There are zinc anodes that are bolted to the hull.  The zinc protects the rest of the hull by attracting any corrosion, so they’re basically installed in order to be sacrificed.  As we expected, most of the zinc anodes will have to be replaced.  We use bolted-on anodes rather than welded-on anodes so they could be replaced while the ship is in the water, if necessary.

On both sides of the hull, there are long narrow strips of steel that run along the length of the hull.  They would have been used to protect the hull when the ship was hauling fishing and minesweeping gear.  There are a few places where you can see marks in the steel that look like long gouges made by equipment being dragged up.  The rails would have been added to help prevent the gear from scraping up the side of the hull.20161003_155006

Picton Castle has a number of through-hull fittings.  There are places where water needs to come in and out through the hull.  Water comes in to cool the main engine and goes back out again, water comes in to go through our watermaker which desalinates it and makes it drinkable.  The fittings where the water comes in and out will all be removed, cleaned, inspected and reinstalled while the ship is out of the water.

The propeller on Picton Castle is about five and a half feet in diameter and has three blades.  By the construction of the place where the propeller fits, it’s easy to see that the ship had a larger propeller at one time.  Our current propeller is a controllable pitch propeller, which means that each blade on the propeller turns in order to control the direction the propeller is pushing the ship while the propeller continues to spin in the same direction (as opposed to the blades being fixed and the whole propeller stopping and spinning in the other direction in order to change the direction of the ship’s movement).  While having the propeller blades sticking out slows us down when sailing, having the option to turn on the engine to move the ship is very helpful in some situations.

The rudder post is straight up and down, so when the wheel turns, the rudder turns from side to side.  In addition to the post, as a safety backup, there are chains that connect the rudder to the hull, although Captain Moreland says he can’t imagine a situation where the rudder would come off the post.

Every time we haul Picton Castle out of the water, there is always some growth of marine life on the hull.  Since our last drydocking, we have had the hull cleaned twice by divers using underwater pressure washers.  We’ve also recently been in fresh water in the Great Lakes, which kills off a lot of the salt water organisms.  Even with that, there is some growth on the hull, but not much.  The first job the shipyard workers will do is pressure wash the hull to clean it entirely so we can inspect it and then prepare to paint it.  The first coat will be epoxy primer, followed by two coats of anti-fouling bottom paint which will help prevent marine organisms from growing again.20161003_121012-reduced

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Sending Down Yards

Bosun School students have been working on sending down yards. On some other ships, this is done with the assistance of a crane. On Picton Castle, we use the lifting power and mechanical advantage in the ship’s rig to lower the yards down to deck.
Although sending down yards sounds like it may look dramatic, it’s a slow, methodical process. Before yards can come down, there is a lot of preparation work. All running rigging must be sent down or nipped aloft, the yard must be free of anything that will keep it in place, and the mastrope (the line on which the yard is lowered) and the tag line (the line which helps manoeuvre the yard) must be rigged.
Once all of those things are in place, the mastrope takes up the strain with help from the capstan while the bolt and any last bits of rigging are removed. At that point, all of the weight of the yard is being held by the mastrope. The mastrope is slowly and carefully eased around the capstan while a strain is taken on the tag line and the yard is gently eased down to deck (or in our case, down to dock).
The fore t’gallant yard was sent down this morning, then this afternoon the fore lower top’sl yard came down. As we speak, the last project on this lovely sunny Friday afternoon is to send down the fore upper top’sl yard. We’re hoping to do the same on the main mast tomorrow.
By being involved hands-on in projects like this, Bosun School students are learning how to handle lines, including lines under enormous strain, how to work aloft and on deck, how to work safely, and the various steps that are involved in this project. By doing it multiple times with the different yards, they get to move around to different areas and complete different tasks each time.

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Captain’s Log: Sailing Schooners & Other Traditional Boats

This weekend was all about boats for the Bosun School. Every fall, there’s a race of traditional vessels in Lunenburg. It’s always a fun event. Our students were adopted by skippers of the various boats to crew with them for the day. The breeze was fresh outside Lunenburg harbour, 20 knots gusting to 25 knots out of the northwest. The race course went from Lunenburg harbour, out around Cross Island and back. Festivities, including a BBQ and live music, followed ashore.





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Captain’s Log – Bosun School Begins

Bosun School is officially in session!

Monday September 19 was the first day of classes for this session of the Bosun School.  We have a small class this time, which makes for lots of individual attention for each student.  Bosun School is designed for young mariners who want to learn skills to advance their careers.

While actually sailing is the best way to gain experience, we have often found amongst Picton Castle professional crew applicants that the amount of sea time they have doesn’t always line up with the skills they have.  We’ve noticed that they simply don’t have the skills we might have expected based on their seagoing experience.

Bosun School is our effort to remedy that situation.  By taking away the distractions of being at sea, where work projects are naturally put on hold to tend to the immediate needs of the vessel, students have the opportunity to delve into those skills with focus.  They’ll start and finish projects, seeing them the whole way through.  But it’s not just seeing, Bosun School is based on Captain Moreland’s belief that “practice makes permanent.”  By not just seeing it, or seeing it and doing it once, but seeing it and doing it multiple times, students are able to learn, understand and apply those skills.

So, what is a bosun?  As Captain Moreland describes in this video, the word bosun comes from boat swain, which basically means the boat’s boyfriend.  The bosun usually reports directly to the chief mate and is responsible for the ship’s maintenance.  That doesn’t mean the bosun does all the work him or herself, the bosun coordinates the deckhands and works along with them.  As Captain Moreland points out, many people think of the bosun as being a rigger.  There certainly is some rigging work involved, but that’s only a part of looking after the ship.  It’s also vital that the bosun can keep the ship clean, tidy and in good nick.

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Bosun School and the Martha Seabury

Late summer is probably the best time of year in Lunenburg. We’ve been blessed with outstanding weather, sunny, warm and pleasant. Hurricane Leslie, which we had been watching closely, kindly avoided Lunenburg. Convenient for the Bosun School, because it makes the wharf, the boatyard at the Dory Shop and any number of other outdoor spaces our classrooms, where students can get hands-on practice with real vessels.

And practice they have. Shortly after Picton Castle‘s return to Lunenburg at the beginning of August, the crew and students assisted with the launch of the Martha Seabury, one of two twin schooners 48′ in length, built side by side at the Dory Shop. The Bosun School has been involved in rigging her up since she floated.

Much of that work has taken place aboard the vessel herself – splicing wire and rope, serving, and seizing; high-quality paint and varnish finishes; stepping masts; making sensible arrangements for stowing things; small carpentry jobs; and more.

The sail loft at the Dory Shop has also been abuzz with activity as the tanbark duradon sails for this gaff-rigged schooner come together. They were laid out and seamed by machine during our introductory Bosun School in Bristol, Rhode Island, and have been worked on continuously since then, with all of the finishing work done by hand.

The Martha Seabury set out on her maiden voyage last week, bound for the Newport International Boat Show with Michael Moreland at the helm. Now that she’s sailing, the Bosun School is turning some attention to other projects and spending as much time as possible out on the water in small boats.

On evenings and weekends, the crew and students have been enjoying life on land – cycling, running, shopping, sightseeing, and spending some time at the Grand Banker, the Ice House, and the Knot, some of our favourite places in Lunenburg to have a cool drink.

getting Martha Seabury s rigging in place
Laerke, Maria and Hege work on the Martha Seabury sails
Maria bends on the jib on the Martha Seabury
Proud sailmakers Lola, Laerke, Maria, Hege and Drea

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Bristol Bosun School

4 July 2012

By Kate “Bob” Addison

Picton Castle is heading south from Bristol, Rhode Island towards Newport, RI for the Ocean State Tall Ships event starting tomorrow. The sun’s come out after a greyish start to the day and hands are aloft right now loosing sail. Donald’s making lunch, looks amazing – fried chicken, salad and watermelon.

We’ve been alongside in Bristol for the last ten days, running an introductory Bosun School there; a short version of our main Bosun School that will run from August 6 – October 1 this summer in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada.

So what is Bosun School? The bosun (boat’s swain) on a ship is the most senior seaman, and has responsibility for maintenance and repair of the deck and rig. So Bosun School is a land based school to teach these skills to young sailors. A chance for the young mariner to learn and advance rigging, sailmaking and all manner of ship maintenance skills away from the routine and distractions of life at sea, our Bosun School is run when the ship is alongside a dock so we have more time for bigger projects, and an emphasis on learning and practicing different things to when we’re at sea. We basically teach much the professional sailor should know that you won’t learn at officer school and is actually hard to learn at sea, believe it or not.

We had three main projects on the go during our Bristol Bosun School with three watches rotating around each morning so everyone got to spend some time on each project. We were concentrating on sailmaking, overhauling the capstan and carpentry work on the spanker boom.

Third mate Siri Botnen was leading the sailmaking in our temporary sail loft. We got the whole suit of schooner sails laid out and seamed, and the mainsail also has all the tabling, reefing bands and corner patches sewn on too. The gang did a great job and enjoyed the work – lots done, lots more to do!

The second project was a mechanical one, lead by first mate Michael Moreland and chief engineer David Brown: the capstan up on the forecastle head hadn’t been taken apart and overhauled for years, so we stripped it down and everyone got a turn helping to clear it of rust and grub and goop. It was interesting to see how it fits together and understand how it all works with the gears giving you mechnical advantage and pawls to stop it from slipping backwards. We use the capstan for mooring up the ship sometimes – with up to eight people leaning into their capstan bars and walking round and round we can get enough force on the mooring line to haul the ship in to the dock. We use it to tack down the foresail too. “Board the tack” is the order and with the capstan heaving down on the clew we really can get the leading edge of the sail board tight.

Lastly, we had a carpentry workshop running aft with second mate Sam Sikkema and his gang. They fixed up one fo our Bali sea chests for sale, practiced sharpening and caring for tools and did lots of work on the spanker boom. The spanker boom needed a dutchman inset to replace an area of soft wood. I’ve heard the name came about because Dutchmen were thought too mean to replace a whole plank or spar if it could possibly be patched up instead. Well, the Dutch people I’ve met have all been perfectly generous so I couldn’t possibly comment. Sam and his team did a lovely job, and the boom is now back on the mizzen mast with the sail bent back on – it all looks great. We discovered some real carpentry talent among the crew too.

The afternoons were mostly taken up with sailing and rowing the small boats, trips to local nautical museums, and a bit of time off for everyone. We also had instuctional sessions with the Captain teaching us about sail theory, and chief engineer David Brown taking small groups into the engine room to learn the basics of our mechanical systems: starting and stopping the main engine and the fire pumps. We did lots of provisioning too – lots of new rope and new house batteries gearing up for our upcoming South Pacific Voyage, and plenty of food for the next couple of weeks.

When we get to Lunenburg later in the summer there will be another exciting project to add to the Bosun School mix too: we’ll be rigging up the brand new 50’ Lunenburg schooner and helping to launch her, a very exciting project for the students!

All very busy, everybody worked very hard and learned plenty. We enjoyed Bristol too. It’s a pretty small place, which boasts the longest running 4th of July parade anywhere in the country – it will be the 227th parade this year, so there was a serious of open air concerts by the water, fireworks and all sorts of festivities. The houses are all decorated with stars and stripes flags, bunting, even red white and blue bedding plants. And along the parade route even the line painted on the middle of the road is red white and blue! All together alot of fun. Happy fourth of July!

Drying sails at the dock
Hammer and DB loading batteries
operation seachest
Working on the capstan

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Sailmaking and Aase’s Birthday

28 June, 2012

By Kate “Bob” Addison

Firstly, Happy Birthday to AB Aase and thanks to Dr Jen and her gang for making the cream and berry layered cakes – yum!

I am sitting in the gymnasium of an old empty granite military barrack in Bristol, Rhode Island, USA. It’s a sunny summer’s day outside so the cool of this high-ceilinged hall is very pleasant. The Picton Castle is alongside the pier behind me, just a two minute walk along the water past the fishermen all lined up in the hot sun with their rods and chairs. Her sails are drying in the morning sun.

Five of my shipmates are here too – they’ve set up the huge Singer sewing machine in this big clean space and they’re busy stitching together the cloths of a new sail that we laid out this week. When they pause their stitching for a minute to move the heavy canvas to a new seam, the sound of the machine’s quick clunk is replaced by the mellow sound of Siri’s music drifting from her computer.

Seaming the cloths is one of the first stages in making a sail. The clothes or big strips of cotton canvas are rolled out onto the floor of the ‘sail loft’, cut a bit longer than the right length and sewn together with long seams the length of the fabric to make the strips into a big sheet of canvas roughly the size and shape of a sail, but with stepped edges where the clothes are cut off square at the ends. The next stage is to trim it all to a smooth sail shape. And then the sails are finished by hand with tabling, patches, grommets, roping and reefing points all sewn in. Finishing by hand takes a good deal longer than seaming with a machine, maybe we should re-name it middling and finishing.

These sails are made of a tan cloth called Duradon, contrasting with Picton Castle‘s sails of white cotton canvas. They are destined for a brand new wooden schooner being built right now in Lunenburg, Nova Scoia and due to be launched this August. The soon-to-be owner of this fine vessel? None other than Picton Castle shipmate extrordinaire, returning crew and star of stage and screen: heart throb Ollie Campbell! Swoon! (Editors note: you can tell a girl is writing this, yuck.) Ollie really wanted us to make them so there we go. We’re enjoying making these schooner sails – great learning experience for the Bosun School gang to be able to see how this kind of sails are made and satisfying to see the project to the finish.

The sail is designed on paper first with triangles and geometry and sharpened pencils and the shape marked out on the floor so it fits the vessel. We’re using masking tape on this floor so it comes off again afterwards – we don’t leave a permanent reminder we were here! In a real sail loft they use pins rather than tape, and sometimes just draw the sail on the loft floor.

For a fore-and-aft sail the straight edges of the sail are not straight lines, but curved slightly out at the luff and in at the leech to help give the finished sail its 3-dimentional shape. Ideally a cross section of the sail isn’t flat like a sheet of paper but moulded like an aeroplane wing with a flat leech (that’s the forward edge attached to mast or stay) and then has a belly about 1/3 of the way out towards the luff (that’s the aft edge that goes flappy if you sail too close to the wind). I find it fascinating that sails work like just like aeroplane wings: the difference in length between the long side and the short side of the curve affect the air pressure either side of the sail so it’s sucked forwards towards the side with lower pressure. If the sail is attached to a boat or a ship then it pulls the vessel along with it. Physics says so. In fact the only time that the wind pushes rather than pulls us along is heading dead downwind with the wind coming straight from behind.

This sailmaking is a fascinating skill to learn, too. I think it’s good for any sailor to understand more deeply how their beautiful, silent engines are built and how they do their work. The hand skills of stitching by machine and hand are pretty handy too – don’t have to sail too many miles offshore before being able to mend or reinforce an old or damaged sail become very useful. And in the unlikely event that you don’t carry on sailing after your trip on the Picton Castle at least you’ll know how to stitch your own curtains. And, of course, no one is better than a sailmaker for patching ones jeans.

Birthday Aase!
Cutting the cloth
Siri, Drea and Abbey seaming
The first cloth

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Bosun School Graduation

Friday was a day of celebration as the Bosun School students graduated from the 14-week land-based marine skills development program they’ve been part of since the end of August. A hearty congratulations to Agnes, Eva, Gabe, Heather, Samantha, Aase, Mike who came to us from Mystic Seaport and Tammy who made sails on our last world voyage and at Bosun School, from all of us at Picton Castle!

Thursday, the day before graduation, was also the day of the final exam for the students. They had a written test to do, plus a practical demonstration of skills. The written test included questions on drawing and naming parts of a block, describing rigs of different types of vessels, boxing the compass and drawing and naming the lines in a typical mooring alongside situation. For the practical exam, students had to make a sailmakers eye splice, to take complete charge of and bring the 23 foot longboat alongside under oars as the coxswain, make three accurate heaving line throws in a row (after tons of practice) , sharpen their own knife to perfection and more. They have been working at gaining knowledge and skills in areas such as these over the past three months, so everyone passed the exam.

In front of a crowd of friends and supporters including Lunenburg Mayor Laurence Mawhinney the students graduated on Friday. Captain Moreland talked a bit about the Bosun School and what it is intended to do, what the students have been up to during their time in Lunenburg, and thanked people and organizations in the local community who have contributed to the Bosun School including Michele Stevens of Michele Stevens Sail Loft for the day the students spent with her learning how a modern sail loft works, Jay Langford of the Dory Shop with whom they built a 17 foot boat from scratch, Dave Westergard for the use of his schooner Sea Change, other schooner owners including John Steele, Tom Gallant, Edward Peill and more for having the students sail as crew with them, Ralph Getson and Angela Saunders of the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic for the day of programming on seafaring history and shipbuilding including a tour of the huge schooner Bluenose II being rebuilt nearby, and Richard and Sharon Orpin for the donation of the Tahiti ketch Symphony on which the students learned some boat repair and maintenance skills. Eva spoke on behalf of the students, saying how much they all enjoyed their time in Lunenburg and how welcome they felt here. Students were then presented with their certificates and a few things to add to their ditty bags and take to their next vessels.

The certificates the students received listed the skills they’ve been introduced to and have practiced during the Bosun School. That list includes:

Liverpool wire eye-splicing (and lots of it)
rope splices, including long, short, eye, sailmakers, hawser
parcelling and serving
seizings and whippings
extensive small boat handling, including skiff with motor, small sailing vessels and rowing as crew and coxswain
long boat handling under oars
dropping and picking up a mooring, landing small boats at a dock and alongside the ship
sail making, including grommets, roping, ditty bags, sail repair and canvas work
painting organization
handling heavy gear, sending yards down
coatings and mixtures
wooden boat building, including clench nailing, planing, caulking
overhauling blocks
overhauling spars
slushing and tarring
cordage knowledge – synthetic and natural, mooring lines and chafe gear
making a mooring
bosun’s chair, safe practices aloft
cooking for a crew
knife sharpening and tool maintenance
tool making – serving tools
downrigging – sending down sails, running rigging
general ship’s husbandry
adaptation and overcoming
using tools for efficiency – handy billys, etc
ratline seizings
outboard engine inspection and overhaul

The ceremony was followed by a potluck supper that included everything from chips and dips to potjie (a South African dish), seafood chowder, salads, macaroni and cheese, frittata, cakes and cookies, yum! People mingled and talked, and as the evening wore on guitars and violins appeared and Chief Mate Michael (just returned from a voyage in the Fullrigger Danmark) and Katelinn started off the music. Luckily for us, Lennie Gallant brought his guitar. So did Tom Gallant, and they traded songs back and forth for a while. Catherine McKinnon brought out her violin and Katelinn played the whole night. Another fabulous evening at the Dory Shop, this one a special one in honour of the students who worked so diligently at advancing their skills here in Lunenburg these past three months.

Agnes receives her certificate
Eva speaks on behalf of the Bosun School students
Gabe receives his certificate
some of the assembled crowd watching the graduation

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