Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Cape Town, South Africa' Category

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Legs 3 & 4

“It feels like I belong here, like this is home” one of our gang aboard said the other day. Over the past three months, the crew have come to know the ship and each other well, increasingly becoming more than friends or coworkers as we all depend on each other and on the ship to carry us safely on our voyage. There is a word that describes this relationship-shipmates. To be considered a good shipmate is the highest praise for a mariner.

Picton Castle’s deep-sea voyages provide an adventurous seafaring opportunity that is rare and difficult to obtain by any other means. By being a crew member, you are very much an integral part of sailing the ship from port to port. Arriving somewhere having sailed there, having earned your way there, is much different than stepping off an airplane. Long deep ocean passages give you the chance to learn and practice seamanship skills, while short island-hopping passages test your snappy sail handling and ship handling skills. Add in visits to exotic ports and remote islands and a group of people from very different backgrounds who share a common love of their ship, and the result is a truly unique experience.

Crew members work hard and require a certain level of physical fitness in order to haul on lines, climb ladders and walk around a moving deck. While you have your own bunk, it will be in a compartment with a number of other bunks, so you must be able to get along well with other people. And most importantly, you have to make the commitment that other crew members before you have made, to always think of what is best for the ship and to act accordingly. Sailing aboard our beautiful barque is not for everyone but, for those who sign on, it can enrich your life.

All crew spaces on Leg 1 and Leg 2 of this voyage are full, but a few spaces will become available for Legs 3 and 4. Maybe you’ve been following along with the ship’s journeys from your home-now is your chance to step aboard and experience life as a square-rig sailor.

Begin your adventure by joining the ship in exotic Bali in November, then head out to sea for a long tradewind passage across the Indian Ocean. On this passage you will learn the names and functions of all 205 lines of running rigging that come down to deck, learn to steer the ship and keep lookout, and become familiar with the sails, parts of the ship and how things work. Put in at the French island of Reunion and explore this strikingly scenic volcanic isle. We also are looking into putting in to Madagascar and Mozambique. Set sail again for Cape Town, flying around the Cape of Good Hope with the strength of the Agulhas current. Take in South Africa, with off-duty pursuits ranging from shark cage diving to visiting vast game preserves to wine tasting. After a stay at Namibia we will have some of the most consistently perfect trade-wind sailing weather of the whole voyage crossing the South Atlantic, interrupted only for a brief stop at the remote island of St. Helena, site of Napoleon’s final exile. Carry on to Grenada and island-hop through the enchanting Lesser Antilles of the Eastern Caribbean, getting lots of practice with anchoring, sail manoeuvres and small boat handling. Ashore, enjoy local music – reggae, calypso, soca and steel pan- snorkelling, markets and much more. Then sail north next June, pausing at Bermuda, through the North Atlantic to Lunenburg to complete the voyage.

With a full 7 months of certified time at sea, you’ll be eligible to qualify for a first professional seafarer’s certification in most countries. Even if you don’t plan to go to sea again, you’ll find that the skills you’ve developed on board -resourcefulness, teamwork, responsibility-will serve you well. Your shipmates will become lifelong friends and you’ll have a trove of adventure stories to one day tell your grandkids. If the full 7 months is too long, consider joining for either Leg 3 (Bali to Cape Town) or Leg 4 (Cape Town to Lunenburg).

Think you have what it takes to be a good shipmate? Check out additional information on World Voyage 5 or contact our office for more details.

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In the Atlantic Ocean Again — at Last!

It doesn’t seem possible but we were in Cape Town for more than a month! The time flew by in a haze of contractors, dirt, dust, school children, family, receptions, sightseeing, visits to Christel house, wine-tastings, and way, way too much food! The crew have been busy comparing what we have started to refer to as our “Cape Town Belly”; it wobbles and moves with a mind of its own and we have no control over it, our trousers don’t want to do up, and we can’t wear shorts because we have no tan left after wearing pants for 4 weeks. Besides, it is still a little chilly!

Cape Town is an amazing city with more to do than you can fit in, in one month. South Africa as a country could keep you going for at least 5–6 months, and you still wouldn’t be done exploring. But we had 4 weeks and we gave it all a good shot. Jack, Rebecca, John K., Zimmer, Andrea Deyling and her sister, Papa Jack, and Bruce all went shark diving, and most of the crew made it up to the Van Schalkwyk farm in the Free State where they were kept busy driving tractors and herding sheep. Many of us went on safaris. We spotted the Big Five munching grass and petted cheetahs (you can actually do that at the reserve were they raise this endangered species). We drove the garden route, and we tried to go whale-watching in Hermanis, where—believe it or not—they get over a hundred whales at a time in their harbour. They also have the only town whale crier in the world.

Most of us went up Table Mountain a couple times. At the top is a lovely little café where you can sit and watch the sun go down with a truly breathtaking view of Cape Town, Table Bay, Robben Island, and miles of shimmering Atlantic Ocean. We had braii after braii, which is a South African barbeque—usually no vegetables, just meat and lots of it, including Springbok, Kudo and Ostrich as well as beef and chicken. Sometimes you will even get crocodile! And of course, we had the whole Christel House School come for visits, as well as Trinity school. It was great!

The Picton Castle also hosted a reception for the Cape Horners Windjammers Society, the sailors who sailed on the big four-masted barques like the Passat and Lawhill. Those were the guys who sailed around the Horn. We ate and listened as they told stories—very cool!

I said when we left Cape Town the ship would look like “da bomb. ” Well, she looks pretty good. We did tons and tons of work. The crew has done a lot of rigging and overhauling, as well as the obvious things like painting and the less-obvious things like helping overhaul the water tanks. Brett and Danie have been hugely busy down in the Engine Room where we did a lot of engineering work. Joe has provisioned us almost all the way home. All in all, I think we had a great stay—productive and fun. We laid out lots of sails including an upper-topsail we made for the last sailing whale ship, the Charles W. Morgan at Mystic Seaport Museum at Mystic, Connecticut. This sail we will sew completely by hand on the upcoming ocean passage.

It is always sad to leave a place where there is so much you still want to do and where you have enjoyed being, but there is also always the pull to get going, to get back to sea, to start your next passage. We are, as ever, sad to say goodbye to our friends and family we leave behind. All 500 kids of the Christel House School came to bid us farewell yesterday and give us one final dance on the quayside. They shouted and cheered as we cast off our lines, and we shouted and cheered back as well, honking our horn. This leg has us running up toward the tropics and closer to home now. It feels great to be out at sea! Goodbye Indian Ocean. Hellllooo, South Atlantic!

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Cape Town III: The Table Cloth is Filling In

The dominant and signature feature of the city of Cape Town, South Africa is, without doubt, Table Mountain. This huge flat-topped mound of ancient stone looms high over the bright lights, office buildings and neighborhoods of Cape Town. A soaring wall of stratified rock behind Cape Town, it seems more like a massive primordial fortress created eons ago before the ice ages by a race of giants now long gone than any possible natural formation. London has Big Ben. Paris has the Eiffel Tower and L’Arc de Triomphe. San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge. Cape Town has Table Mountain. A day spent at the top of Table Mountain is well worth it. You can hike up and down if you have the legs for it or you can take a completely state-of-the-art cable car to the top. From the “Table Top” the vista is truly stunning. The panorama of the city and the harbour appear far below—a shimmering sea stretching to the horizon, Robben Island (university to today’s leaders of this amazing country), ships from many nations at anchor in Table Bay awaiting their turn to come in to discharge or load at the wharves of this busy port—all give the mountain-top gazer a sense of god-like outlook on the small world below. The wily rock dassie will be lurking in wait for you as you serenely cast your eyes from this top of the world.

But this exquisite view is not always possible. Sometimes it is lost to us small mortals. In fact, at times even the very mountain itself disappears from view. The Table Cloth is responsible for this Olympic conjuring trick. What is this “Table Cloth”? What does the arrival of this old rag portend?

Our Table Cloth is a layer of cloud that builds up on the southeastern side of Table Mountain, the side away from the city, created by moist sea breezes blowing in off the warm Indian Ocean. This layer builds and builds and finally pushes over the perimeter of our Mountain forming a snow-white cap to Taffel-Berg and then a fringe spilling over the edge tumbling down the shear face seemingly towards the city, like a slow-motion waterfall of wispy cotton. It gives every indication that this white miasma will absorb the city and make it disappear. But this does not happen. The clouds tumble over the side and evaporate like so much opaque mist burning in the white-gold sunlight baking against the hot rocks.

What does the Table Cloth mean? It means is that it is going “to blow like holy hooly!,” to quote one Miss Kimberly Helms. It is going to blow a stiff gale out of the southeast or what they call hereabouts a “South East Buster.” Gales; ships at anchor let go a second hook and let out more chain or try to get into the harbour. White caps will form in the short fetch of inner basins of the port. Ship maneuverings inside the breakwaters may be put on hold for a day or two lest a tanker or container ship get out of control even with the aid of powerful tugs. Our little ship will list in the gales right at our snug berth at the Victoria & Alfred Basin, dry dust blowing hard across her decks. And then in a day or so the winds will become breezes, even gentle ones. The Picton Castle will rest at her moorings, ships will arrive and sail again, and the sharp, flat edge of Table Mountain will once again become the skyline of Cape Town, South Africa. The African sun never left us as the blasting wind scoured this southern tip of the continent.

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Cape Town II

Wow! I said it would be busy on the Picton Castle in Cape Town, but I’m not certain even where to start on just how busy. Right now as I write this, I can hear several drills, see sparks from a welder, hear unbearably loud banging, hear shouts from aloft, and smell paint. There is so much going on that is loud, messy, smelly, and dirty. It is not our prettiest. We have the cargo hatch wide open re-loading the food and rearranging the supplies down there; there are bits being painted here or chipped there; some ladders are no longer there and some rigging work here and dirt everywhere.I have had to explain to visitors, friends, and parents that this is not what is called “ship-shape,” this is called “ship yard visit.” I don’t know if they believe me, but it’s true—heads are torn apart to be overhauled and painted and insulated. People’s bunks literally look like someone burgled them. Either crew left in a hurry of digging for shore clothes or they have been digging for goods to give to family and friends or to send home from here. The ship itself is not looking so hot! But when we are done in Cape Town, even those who don’t like ships are going to say we are “Da bomb!”

The weather has been lovely and cool the last couple of days, only to have a sudden heat wave attack us today. It is warm and dry with no breeze, but it makes for good paint drying weather! And no matter how you look at it, it is still much cooler than Reunion.

We have had 6 out of our 10 new people arrive, and it is fun getting to know them and showing them life on the ship. For the first few days they always kind of look a little shell-shocked, but it’ll be okay! Mums and Dads of the newbies: Don’t worry, we are looking after them!

Also on the news front is that the crew finally got to visit and meet the teachers and students of Christel House, South Africa (http://www.sa.christelhouse.org). It was a brilliant day and the kids still so amazing that I feel so lucky to visit their magical and wonderful school. They had a special assembly for us with lots of singing, dancing, and musical instruments, and their talent never ceases to astound me and others who were there. The only problem? They expect a return assembly! We do have a semi-band onboard at the moment and they do know one song. We can sort of do the dance they taught us in Palmerston, and we can sing to our discmans and ipods. But after seeing their shining faces do so many talented acts, we are just plain embarrassed to show them our stuff! However, what we can show them is our ship and their ship and actually we are pretty talented at that. So starting next week we will have approximately 120 children visit the ship every day until all have wandered around and patted Chibley to their hearts’ content. I can’t wait. It always so much fun to have kids on board and these kids are special to us. (I would like to say much more about this but will wait to write a log solely on Christel House and what they do).

Also on the schedule: Some have already gone to visit Danie and his family on their farm, most have taken winery tours, trips to Cape Point and Simonstown to see the penguins, over and down to the East to Knysa to eat oysters, motorcycle touring on Harleys, over to Robben Island— where those in the Freedom and Democracy movement spent so many years incarcerated—and looks around the District 6 Museum, which documents urban renewal old-Apartheid style, kind of rough.

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Cape Town Chaos I

Okay, first things first. Thank you, everyone, for all the mail and the letters that you sent to us. It really is so exciting to receive mail, and it is still coming! Maybe we will have 3 weeks of mail! Ohhhhh! Ahhhh!

We are not the only Tall Ship in Cape Town at this time. The very pretty Swedish East Indiaman replica, the Gotheborg is up alongside near us. She is a replica of the original ship, which was wrecked here in Green Point, South Africa, in 1796. There is much mystery surrounding her sinking and no one ever knew for sure what caused it. Today she is a ship promoting Swedish business interests and is on a voyage to China. Millions of dollars are involved.

The chaos and busy-ness started early on Tuesday morning by unloading the hold of everything you can imagine. Totes lined the dock next to us filled with food, there was a chain of crew, and it really didn’t take us long. We also had the help of Danie’s two younger sisters, Carina and Alry. We couldn’t have done it without them!

There was paint, chalkboards, manilla line, old clothing and books for Christel House to distribute around to the different needy schools in and around Cape Town. AND then after lining everything up, we realized we were going to have to find a home for it elsewhere—YIKES! There was to be a reception on the dock as part of the celebration for having the Gotheborg in Cape Town. So we did a quick hooley around all our friends to get someone with a truck and a driver so that we could take the books to Christel House and create some space on the dock. IOC, our chandlers in Cape Town, very kindly offered donated a truck and driver to take the supplies, and we honestly could not have done it without their lending a hand. Ollie, Rebecca, and Mike were chosen as the lucky to crew to go deliver the supplies to Christel House. The rest of us were very jealous!

The crew are making themselves at home here, and many family and friends have turned up in the last couple of days. So, they have been off doing the sights: visiting Robben Island, taking the cable car up to Table Mountain, eating and drinking wine, going to Simonstown to see the penguins, and going to Cape Point. They are all already on it! And, of course, making friends. We invited the crew of Gotheborg over the night before last to be able to share our ship with them. Well, we made lots of friends… there was lots of music… and maybe one or two beers! Just like us they have many talented musicians onboard, and so we put together an impromptu little concert. It was a blast.

More updates will come as I have them!

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Cape Town Arrival

It was as if the fog cleared especially for us to see our arrival into Cape Town yesterday. All morning it had been grey and misty, like being inside a rain drop. And then, there it was all cleared up except for the famous “table cloth” over Table Mountain- Cape Town, South Africa. Our first continent, very exciting! We anchored for the night and, as it was Sunday, had our usual Marlin Spike—a small punch and lots of popcorn—and celebrated Susannah and Danie’s completed first circumnavigation on the Picton Castle and my second. Joe made a great dinner of roast beef, mashed potatoes gravy and corn—yummy. After dinner Jean-Claude got out his accordion and Zimmer and Brent got out the guitars. Bruce was playing his drum and Jean-Claude taught us a French traditional dance. We listened to Morgan and Kjetil sing a few songs and watched the sun disappear over the horizon bathing Cape Town in a gorgeous pink light. All through the night we stood cold rainy anchor watches. This morning we awoke to fog and a slight chill in the air. This morning we wait. We wait for the port authorities to call us, send out a pilot and bring us in. While we wait we will clean the ship above and below decks, getting ready for visitors. I think I know who our first ones will be, other than the authorities; we can already see the Van Schalkwyks on the end of the jetty waiting to greet Danie. We did a massive wave to them a while ago but we don’t know if they could see us. Just now Bosun Julie from the 2nd world voyage and her husband are circling the ship with the Van Schalkwyks in a charter schooner, and we are waving back and forth. It is all very exciting! Where, oh where, is that thrice-sainted pilot?

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