Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Indian Ocean' 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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Preparing For Capetown

Cape Town is a massive stop for the Picton Castle. It is the longest port stay and this is for a number of reasons: First, South Africa is a really beautiful country with a lot to do and it’s huge; for the crew to be able to zip off and go on safari and travel around they need some time to do so. Second, Cape Town has some really excellent marine facilities and is a good place for us to work on upgrades, maintenance and or replacing things onboard. It is cost efficient, the weather is good, and we are there for at least three weeks, which enables us to take things apart that we couldn’t on a three-day port stay.

A long “ship yard stay” takes some planning. It starts in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia before we even set sail. There is always something that needs fixing or painting or rust busting on the Picton Castle. Anyone who owns a ship/boat will tell you that there is always something you can be doing to it. However, some things take priority over others; for example, you are not going to be concerned with cosmetics if your bilge needs maintenance. Some jobs are done once a year, and others need to be done every couple months no matter what; safety gear has to be officially surveyed and inspected every 12 months. So we know right away before leaving that when we get to Cape Town we will have our safety gear inspected. Sails will need mending, even though we work on these at sea all the time and in port when we get a large enough space, we know come Cape Town that we will be able to send down all sail, lay all of them out, and be able to inspect them, mend them, maybe even replace them. The rig will be tarred and painted and trimmed—good jobs to do when all sails are down. All the shroud eyes and turnbuckles will be continued to be overhauled as well as slushing the stays.

At Cape Town water tanks will be cleaned again and have special paint inside them, we can only do this when we have another water supply. The forward ladders to the foc’s’le head will be cut off and replaced by new ones, as will the engineer’s ladder to the port breezeway. The ladder to the captain’s cabin from the charthouse will be rust busted and overhauled. The floor covering inside the superstructure will be replaced. The main salon tables will be re-varnished, and the salon sole cleaned out in preparation for new canvas and rope. The starboard anchor break on the windlass needs to be overhauled, the taffrail on the quarterdeck is being refinished, and the waterways in the quarterdeck are having holes drilled in them for better drainage.

BIG BREATH … and:

We need to have the outboards serviced, and to get rid of our horrid waste slops (easier said than done). There needs to be new cement in the port side head floor, and the salon head needs to be looked at, the inside head is being rust busted, insulated and paneled, the gangway needs welding, the main engine needs its oil changed, the shaft break on the engine needs new break pads, the water-maker needs new fixtures and filters, the main engine exhaust manifold needs an overhauling and a number of cylinders on the main engine need Danie to spend some time with them. The hold will be emptied and re-stowed, as there will be massive ordering of paint, rope, canvas, and, of course, food. Then there is shopping and acquiring to be done; we desperately need some new plastic mugs, new signs for the heads, a new galley matt and new sheets and pillow cases, and about a million other things!

ALSO, we have 11 new trainees joining at Cape Town, which is great; it’s always very nice to have new faces and histories on board. There are also schools to go to, receptions to host onboard, and TV shoots to help with. And all of this is to be fit in and around the above work schedule. Phew! It’s going to be busy, but to make up for the hard work we have a visit to Danie’s family’s farm to look forward to, Mitchell’s pub, great restaurants, great wines, good cheese, new movie releases, and we have a great place that we tie up to with a perfect view of Table Mountain! And, of course, clean laundry!

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Where in the World Is Barque Picton Castle?

Location: 31° 58.5’S / 29° 19.7’E
Ordered Course: Hove-to
Day’s Run: 117 nautical miles
Distance to Cape Town, South Africa: 677 nm

Okay, so the charts indicate that it is South Africa, but I am not convinced. The shoreline matches the chart’s outline and we’ve definitely been riding into and out of the Agulhas Current. My brain tells me that we are hove-to very few miles off the coast of South Africa, but if I just woke up today from a very long winter’s nap, my heart would be in my throat because I would be pretty certain that the panoramic coastline stretching beyond our bow is actually the coast of Nova Scotia! I think it looks like Cheticamp in northern Cape Breton. Alan Creaser (a Lunenburg resident sailing with us until Cape Town) says it looks like Rose Bay, near Lunenburg. I overheard Mike (trainee from Prince Edward Island) speaking to Kjetil on the Aloha Deck, “…Overcast grey sky, grey choppy water, cold wind—kind of makes me homesick!” Another look at the chart is a glaring reminder of Eastern Canada, there’s a port town called St. John’s and another called Hole in the Wall (puts me in mind of Blow Me Down and other funny-named places in Newfoundland).

It is late summer in South Africa and we are all wearing sweaters and toques (some are even wearing shoes and socks!). Perhaps it has a great deal to do with the wind in recent days because the water is still 73° Fahrenheit, but then again, we are South of the Tropics, so its bound to feel cooler now than in recent weeks. I still did not imagine that I would be wearing a sweater (over a tee-shirt and under my foulie jacket) to keep warm on night watch as we prepare to sail around the Cape of Good Hope. I’m guilty of allowing myself to have grown up with the image of sparse flatlands and thousands of giraffes, gazelles, elephants and hippopotami stomping around in the dust in search of a watering hole. These drizzling, green, rolling hills before me look like they are better suited to farming sheep and highland cattle!

Moments ago we fired up the main engine. We had a long night due to the weather and at 0535 this morning I was on helm and was ordered to put the wheel hard left. The Picton Castle was hove-to until further notice because of near- gale conditions. The logbook records the winds shifting to N x W and getting stronger after 0100. The 12–4 Watch braced sharp on a Starboard Tack, but when the wind shifted strength and direction again, all square sails were taken in and stowed. Around 0200 the wind was only a gentle breeze at Force 2. Between 0300 and 0400 the ship altered course from W x N and NW x W and we dumped the Inner Jib. When the 4-8 Watch took the deck at 0400, there was salt water in the air and the wind force was a steady Force 5. The gusts were strong—so strong that I learned that certain conditions trump what I think I know about my seafaring skills. The breeze climbed to a low Force 7 by 0700, with streaks of foam beginning to trail the whitecaps. This afternoon the breeze settled quite a bit and topsails were even set at one point. When I hear the Main Engine fire up I think of our Chief Engineer, Danie (from South Africa), and wonder how he feels about our balance between awesome progress and frustrating delays on our passage to Cape Town. Last night, for instance, before 8 PM we were making between 9.7–10.9 knots. Twenty five minutes ago when we were hove-to, we were traveling at a rate of 0.5 knots.

The crew is not getting shack-wacky or squirrelly just yet. We actually do really well at sea because we enjoy it so much, but pretty much everyone is anxious to get to Cape Town. We have plenty of reasons to be antsy to get there; we are still in the Indian Ocean in cyclone season, our friends and shipmates have family and friends coming to meet us, Danie is going to see his family on his farm and we will all visit them there, there will be plenty of opportunity to explore South Africa, and we are looking forward to seeing our friends at Christel House. One-third of all the educational materials that came aboard in Lunenburg are being donated in South Africa!

We are almost there! Just looking out the port hole at that coastline reminds me that once we have rounded the Cape of Good Hope, we will be in the Atlantic Ocean again and officially on our way home! It’s not time to give that too much thought just yet…

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On the Way to Cape Town

Its muggy today on the Picton Castle, no burning sun scorching down but just a hot, sweaty stickiness that makes us feel like we are totally melting! We have nearly rounded the tip of Madagascar and the seas are lumpy and swelly. But conditions are good and we are making fine progress. The sky is a mixture of clouds and some misty blue but at least it isn’t as squally as yesterday!

We caught a 48-pound Wahoo this morning and Danie said it nearly broke his thumb hauling it in—a big one it was! Pania cut the eye out so we could see how big it was, disgusting! But tonight we feast like kings, as Joe makes us fresh fried Wahoo.

The riggers Rebecca, Ollie, and Jeff Hicks continue to overhaul the shroud eyes and turnbuckles. Amanda is in a painting frenzy, making the Picton Castle look pretty for our arrival at Cape Town. The sailmakers have a new addition: Margot has joined in as another dayman sailmaker and they are working on the new mainsail. The watches are either helping Amanda or overhauling the capstan bars.

Every day the closer the Picton Castle gets to Cape Town, the more excited we get. We are excited about seeing friends who live in South Africa. Many crew onboard are excited about seeing family and friends who will come especially to visit. Then there is Danie, our South African engineer, who will actually be seeing his family and his home. Quite frankly, he is so overexcited that I have no idea how he sleeps at night!

There is mail to get, too. Quick! Pop something in the mail to us if you haven’t already, because we already have bets on who will get the most mail. (That’s a big hint, by the way!) There is a new country to explore and elephants to see. There is Christel House, a school with which we have a special relationship and are dying to see again. Today we have heard from them, and they are excited too! We plan to have mountains of work done while we are there. Bosun Lynsey’s list is written on a piece of paper too big to fold up and put in her pocket!

AND the closer we get to Cape Town, the cooler it gets. Ah, yes, the blessed cool, cool breeze. We needed sweaters on the way around the Cape of Good Hope last time and quite frankly I can’t wait!

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Waiting Out a Cyclone in the Indian Ocean

22.3° South / 53.4° East

February third 2006 finds the Picton Castle sailing along in pleasant modest breezes with sunny skies, benign puffy clouds and not an apparent care in the world. All is lovely at sea today. Sails are being made up on the quarterdeck; a new jib is almost finished and a new upper topsail is on the home stretch. Danie has various bits and pieces of the engine-room up on a tarp on the well-deck grinding away on them to take paint; railings, ladders and the like. Logan’s beautiful new storage chest for boat gear is about to get a coat of varnish and the teak taffrail just got a nice coat of varnish too. Ollie, Rebecca and Jeff Hicks are doing a number of rigging jobs changing out old rope with new and making new ratlines. Ollie, John and Rebecca have just been renewing wire seizings on the lower-shroud standing rigging turnbacks after overhauling the 1-1/8-inch cables of these lower shrouds by wire brushing, greasing, parceling and re-serving them. The fragrant smell of Stockholm tar wafts about, as do whiffs of the bread the cook is baking up in the caboose. The steering is easy, as is the motion of the ship herself. A serene day at sea, as good as it gets.

But all is not quite as perfect as it seems. About 800 miles to the west in the Mozambique Channel, which is the body of water between Madagascar and the mainland of Africa, is our old friend Tropical Storm BOLOETSE�the same storm that kept us in port at Reunion a couple of extra days when it was rumbling around east of Madagascar. Now it is rekindled and is cooking up into a proper cyclone. This storm managed to cross Madagascar intact enough to re-form on the other side. Now it is building. All the predictions and all conventional tracks of such storms in that area have it barreling down the Mozambique Channel and eventually turning off in a southeasterly direction as the Coriolis effect kicks in, as it is prone to do at the higher latitudes. This storm is on a converging course with our route towards Cape Town.

So, what does the Picton Castle do? For one thing, we turn the ship about and sail on a course that is at a right angle to and away from the storm track. The second thing we do is head north, generally, as it is extremely unlikely that the storm after it starts to head south can or will head north again on the east side of Madagascar. The last thing we do is to stay near Reunion just in case we want to put in. We are about 120 miles southeast of Reunion sailing close-hauled on the port tack making slow easting. Just the ticket. There are no ports on the east coast of Madagascar that are even remotely useful in providing refuge from a cyclone. Reunion is it. Our good friend Captain Kevin Denning in Cape Town is keeping us well appraised on weather developments from the South African weather service. Weather prediction and monitoring is one of the areas where manifestly vast improvements have been made in modern times, contributing immensely to the safety of mariners. And this we are all for.

If all goes as predicted, this old Boloetse will blow on through well to our south and in a few days we can tack the Picton Castle around and get back on the road for the Cape of Good Hope and on to Cape Town, South Africa.

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Leaving Reunion Island

The time finally came yesterday for the Picton Castle to leave Reunion Island. The cyclone that had pestered us had blown itself out and gone safely over land, and the day was bright and gorgeous, a good day to leave. We fueled in the morning and finished our last-minute chores and it was time to go. As we prepared to leave, a fresh breeze picked up as it did most days on Reunion just after lunch, but today it was especially fresh. A tug was called to pull us off the fuel dock, which is very exciting as tugs are, of course, and then off we went.

I can not tell you how good it feels to be back at sea. A quiet routine, the watches resumed, and daymen getting on with their projects—how sweet it is. After our delay we have found ourselves out of time for stopping in Madagascar, so we will push on towards Cape Town. The passage to Cape Town should take us 17-20 days if the weather is good to us! If not, of course, it could take much longer. We have about 2,500 miles to sail around the Cape of Good Hope and into Table Bay. But right now we have a fair wind on the port quarter, all sail is set, and the helmsman is having an easy time of it.

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Waiting out a Cyclone

Reunion Island, Southwest Indian Ocean

The Picton Castle is alongside a wharf in the artificial harbour of Port Ouest on the northwest end of this roundish French island of Reunion deep in the southwest Indian Ocean. It is now coming up thick in the cyclone season in the Indian Ocean. Being at Reunion we are almost out of the Indian Ocean, but not quite. When we sailed from Rodriques 17 days ago, we had an area of “disturbed weather” off the northeast corner of Madagascar. This is a hot squally area and basically a kind of incubator for low-pressure systems that can turn into cyclones.

A week or so ago a not-very-impressive shallow low spun out of this area and started to make its way southwest into the waters between Reunion and Madagascar. All the predictions were saying that this was no big thing. All the computer models that the prognosticators use indicated a diminishing system. We expected to get under way a couple of days ago—get some fuel at the fuel station here in the basin, and sail off bound for Toliara in southwest Madagascar. Reunion had been good but we were all excited about getting to sea and Madagascar.

The night before sailing the wind picked up pretty strong in this little protected basin. The weather forecasts still predicted a diminishing system but the sky did not look like this to me. I decided to sit tight. Then a new report came in saying that this low had been upgraded to a tropical storm. Over the next few days this storm got upgraded to “severe” and then down to a “moderate” storm again. This could change back. Now it has stalled right in our way—”quasi-stationary” they call it. It continues to defy the predictors, and 50+ knots is a lot of wind. If you get stuck in like that you get to deal with it, but if you can dodge it that’s all for the good. And when sea-room is diminished by having the east coast of Madagascar downwind, which is like a wall without any meaningful harbours along its shore, it’s better to sit tight in a sweet place like Reunion Island. There is plenty to do here. Everybody’s French is improving, as are their friendships.

The sky is grey. There is a curious surge in the landlocked harbour that makes the Picton Castle tug at her mooring lines in a small jerking motion. The ship is secure, however. The watches continue with meaningful jobs getting done: a new hatch cover is finished and getting waterproofed, the main fife-rail is getting stripped, as are the teak ladders up to the quarter-deck, and a new lower-topsail is getting roped. The free watches are deepening their experience here in Reunion.

Soon we will be gone. Soon we will be leaving the Indian Ocean cyclone season behind as we head for the famous Cape of Good Hope, the southern tip of the great continent of Africa. We will pass the Cape in high summer, the best time of year to make such a passage. The South Atlantic has no circular tropical storms. The water is too cold.

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Still in Reunion

A Severe tropical storm, called TS Boloetse, has formed between us and Madagascar. This storm is hanging just outside Reunion and off the Malagasy coast with high winds and high seas; the Captain has decided that we will wait for it to carry on by. The storm is dodging and weaving right in our way. So we are still in Le Reunion, not that we mind that much—fresh baguettes, great wine, and still so much to do here (it is so cool in the mountains!) that there weren’t too many complaints! We will wait until Monday morning and hopefully then it will be clear for us to go sailing.

So we’ve been up to all sorts. Sightseeing, as I mentioned in my last log, hiring cars and driving all around this beautiful place, eating till we can’t stand how round our bellies are, and hanging out. Onboard the watches are getting the ship ready and double-checking the rig for our turn around the Cape of Good Hope. It is important to make sure and then sure again that the rig is strong. Going around the Cape of Good Hope can be very dangerous, weird weather, large four-knot currents, and at times big seas. So we are preparing, as always, for the worst.

Ollie, Rebecca, Lynsey and Greg have been doing a lot of work on one of the port main shrouds—overhauling the turnbuckles and re-seizing—and the sailmakers are busy laying out a new main sail while we have all this room right beside the ship. The ship has been cleaned several times with our really high-pressure hose that the dock provides, and there is rust chipping and painting galore, as well as great weather for oiling the decks.

Joe has been buying up all the fresh veggies and cutting them up and freezing them. We love this, as we then have fresh vegetables much longer than usual when we are at sea. I honestly don’t think that there is anything they can’t grow here; they have beautiful sunshine and in the hills plenty of rain. The markets are chock a block full with every kind of fruit, vegetable and spice that you want.

With the extra days off in port that we now have, the crew have gone to check out the fresh water swimming holes, usually found at the bottom of the waterfalls. Picnics are prepared in the morning and there’s chatter of maybe the beach later in the day. The hire cars are back and the local bar is overjoyed that we are still here, as you can imagine!

We’ll keep you posted on the storm, but for now, we are sitting tight tied up alongside.

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Visiting the Furnace—Reunion Island

When the Picton Castle put into Reunion, I don’t think we realized where we were going. A small island in the Indian Ocean with more things to do than you can possibly imagine. The ship is alongside in Le Port, which is on the northwest corner of Reunion just west of Saint Denis, the island’s capital. As the crew soon learned, it is much easier to get around and do what you want to do in Reunion in a car. There is a line of white (because most of the cars are) rental cars alongside the ship, of various shapes and sizes. Most of the radios don’t work and very few have air conditioning, and not one of them has any hubcaps, but it feels good to have some freedom and mobility!

To drive around Reunion would take a while and though it has a quick coastal road, most of the most beautiful sights are inland. The coastal road has not only heavy traffic during rush hour but also has steep cliffs on the side, which are covered in heavy steel netting to stop the rocks falling on the road. They sometimes shut off the inside lane for months at a time. Yikes! You don’t want a sunroof around here!

As you start to go inland, what you may expect and what you get are quite different. A drive into the mountains or “La Cirques” as they are called—basically canyons left over from the volcanoes—you think it will be pretty but it is jaw-dropping gorgeous. You start the drive into the La Cirques by driving along the dried-up riverbed with some very steep cliffs on either side. Lush vegetation covers each cliff, with the dark volcanic rock poking out here and there. As you get higher there are definite Yikes! moments. To get to Cilaos, at the top, you must go up and through more than 200 switchbacks, a tiny windy road going off through dark tunnels only one-lane wide and carved literally out of the hills. Rocks litter the road all the way up and sometimes no wall borders the side of the narrow road as you keep going up and up. Sometimes the roadside wall has a nice car-shaped hole in it! YIKES! But oh, my! Was it worth it! The view was so amazing looking down into the valley with small villages nestling into the canyons. The colors seemed so vibrant. Flowers cover this whole island, and up in the mountains it was no different. We saw purple hydrangeas, roses, and loads of tropical flowers that I didn’t recognize that smelled amazing. Rainbows were covering the peaks as we drove up, and the cloud cover gradually got heavier and it got cold. Gloriously cold!

Entering Cilaos, you might think you had driven a high road through the Alps and ended up somewhere like Chamonix. The highest peak in the Cirques is about 11,500 feet. You can see this from the village and with mist rolling over it like a table cloth. Cilaos was a little French village with a spattering of shops, hotels, and restaurants, and covered from one end to the other in flowers. It was so beautiful I didn’t want to leave. I was happy chowing down on the fresh-grown lentils and drinking local wine. Yummy. But time goes so fast when in port and you feel like you must see it all. There were volcanoes to see yet, and active ones at that!

Going back down through the switchbacks is not quite as scary, as you aren’t on the edge of the road anymore! But you go down much faster than you go up! Then back along the coast to the southern tip of St. Pierre and then straight back inland and up and up again. “The Furnace” they call this still-active volcano, and yesterday they reported in the paper that it had stabilized after starting to erupt again before the holidays. We stopped at the first lookout as you go up. I honestly didn’t expect to see much as it had been so misty on the way up. Looking over the rail I found myself staring into an old lava flow, now a glorious valley filled with tiny hills and leading straight into the ocean. It was so beautiful. How, I wonder, can every view I see be better than the last? And still we go farther up. The switchbacks are not quite so scary and the road is much better maintained here. I am just starting to relax and put my feet up on the dashboard (I am not driving here!) when around the corner we go and there right in front of us is a moonscape. It’s part of the crater of the volcano and just a strange but pretty sight. A dirt road runs along the bottom of the crater to get you the rest of the way up. What a crazy sight!

The rest of the drive up I spend wondering if it is worth climbing the 4.5-hour hike to the farthest peak of the furnace, with the chance of seeing real lava. The verdict is definitely yes, but unfortunately I had only flip flops on and it just didn’t seem right to hike up a mountain in them! I sat drinking coffee and wondering if the mist—so heavy that I couldn’t see the little kiosk which was 20 feet in front of the car—was causing the hikers any drama. After a couple of hours I began to wonder if my French was good enough to cover an explanation that still my friends hadn’t come back. I needn’t have worried. Through the mist and sweating profusely they arrived, smiling and talking nonstop about the little volcanoes and the steam. I was jealous and hated my flip flops right then!

We finished the day off by coming back around the island by the east side through the sugar cane and vanilla, where the air smells so fragrant and the waterfalls are so large you cannot imagine! It is a good thing I wasn’t driving or there would have been a danger of driving straight off the road as I stared at the great plunging waterfalls.

Back on the ship, the watch looked as if someone had tried to melt them. Lordy! Was it ever hot down here! There was a hose hooked up to the shore water, and the watch took turns hosing themselves off. Today it is still ungodly hot down here and we have also taken turns hosing ourselves. Everything is hot. The decks are so hot don’t even imagine taking my flip-flops off, and we keep imagining one of our lovely shipmates might come up the gangway with a bag of something really cold to drink!

PS: I just took the temperature. Now I know why it so hot—it is 44 degrees! Hot, hot, really hot.

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Reunion Island Arrival

Yesterday in the Picton Castle was one of those perfect days, on sea or on land. Except, of course, we weren’t on land. Nothing much going on except what you wanted to have going on. Joe opened Chibbley’s Café—very exciting. We had a enormous breakfast and then a late lunch and then our Sunday at sea Marlinspike. The weather was gorgeous, good temperature and sunny. A great day for reading on the hatch and generally not doing much just sailing along on blue seas. Can’t be bad and it wasn’t.

Then as the sun was going down and it went from startlingly bright sunshine to—Wait! Is that Reunion? It had been visible for probably hours, about 45–50 miles away and towering right up into the clouds. The sunshine had been so bright and the clouds so low that we hadn’t really noticed it, but then it was just there. Two towering peaks on either side of the island and high! We could see it from a very, very, very long way off. And no wonder. The highest peak rises nearly 11,500 feet from sea level!

This morning we took in all sail and slowed ourselves down until we could contact the authorities at a more civilized time. Waking up and coming up on deck to see a massive soaring island to our port side is always exciting, but one we haven’t been to before is even more exciting!

Reunion is a large Island. It has over 645,000 people and every outdoor sport you can think of—canyoning, paragliding, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, and my particular favorite, people watching while sitting on a nice, white, sandy beach with maybe some red wine, a baguette, and some cheese!

Before coming in, we first clean the ship so we look even more pretty. Bruce has become the Brasso King, making all the brass work sparkly. All the living spaces get a good tidy and we make ourselves presentable. Then we negotiate our way into the port, tie ourselves up, and wait until the authorities come down and clear us in. But first the Captain is lucky enough to have to squeeze us into a narrow little gap that acts as a throughway into the inner harbour where we will dock. With Danie at the engine controls going slowly slowly, and Lynsey in the skiff with some line handlers to drop lines on the dock and sometimes pushing the bow around with boat, the Captain maneuvers his way past the narrow entrance into the inner harbor, then spins us around and backs us around into the little space for us. Sounds easy, and the Captain always makes it look easy, too; but methinks it may not be that easy. I can barely parallel park a car let alone back a Barque!

When all is done, then we will break into shore watches, and those off watch will depart quickly to internet cafés, laundromats, ATMs, hotels, restaurants and any roadside stand that sells cool drinks! We’ll let you know how much fun we’re having in a couple of days!

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