Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Indian Ocean' Category

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On the way to Reunion

What a beautiful passage the Picton Castle is having! I have been saying that a lot lately. We aren’t going lickety-split, more like a gentle saunter. The seas are small, the wind also pretty small, but we have yet to even consider motoring. We, the crew, are more than happy with this. All sails set and strolling along bound for the French island of Reunion. At this rate we should be there about Monday morning, just in time for an early lunch.

With this gentle motion, it is a great time for doing serious jobs onboard. The daymen riggers have started to overhaul the lower shrouds: renewing serving and replacing wire seizings, which hold the lower rigging together. This is a complicated and long job that has to be done just right while perching precariously on the ratlines. It is quite possible that the Picton Castle has its first all-women wire-seizing team—Rebecca and Amanda—with sometimes a little help from Ollie(!). Tracy has been varnishing the stanchions on the bridge, and Kemper and the watch have been painting the fore royal yard, which is down on deck at the moment. Becky has been spot-painting the breezeway overhead and the big job, sanding the helmsman gratings.

In the last couple of days there has been much action:

  1. There has been traffic. Compared to our passage to Rodriguez where we saw 2 ships in 3 weeks, this passage we’ve seen fishing vessels, bulk carriers and tankers. These huge mammoth ships are our after-dinner (sometimes after-breakfast) entertainment. We watch them until they pass by and disappear over the horizon.
  2. Lots of dolphins. This morning we all stopped to watch the dolphins try to play in our not-very-substantial bow wave, but nonetheless they were dashing to and fro, jumping up, and generally hanging out.
  3. We tacked the ship 4 times! Okay, it was just for instruction and practice, and if we hadn’t decided to do it, it is possible we wouldn’t have had to touch the lines for this whole passage, except maybe to tighten the braces.
  4. The 4-8 pranked the 8-12 watch. They attached tiny lines to all the coils on the quarterdeck and ran the lines down to the Aloha deck. Then just as the watch changed over, they pulled the line from the Aloha deck, springing all the coils onto the deck. This may not sound funny, but it was! And quite a mess, too. Maybe you had to be there…
  5. Joe has announced that Chibley’s café will open again tomorrow. Eggs any style—woo hoo! And bacon! And hash browns! Maybe crêpes! Even English Muffins!
  6. There must be more, but I am drawing a blank right now.

Smooth sparkling blue seas, a fair breeze, a sweet ship, best shipmates and an exciting island over the horizon. Pretty good, eh?

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Rodriguez First Impressions

After 21 days at sea the Picton Castle has made landfall and put into Rodriguez Island, which is to the east of Mauritius. The second new place to us in a row, new to all of us! A small island with only 5500 people who live here, the capital town of Port Mathurin is tiny grid of streets named after the British town planners who developed it in the 00’s. Full of tiny little shops with corrugated iron shutters painted in an array of bright colors. Tropical flowers weep over the roads and over fences, the air is full of smells of baking bread and frying fish. Mainly French Creole now and part of the Mauritius it has an array of Chinese, Malagasy and French people; with big smiles and really friendly hello’s. We have only been here less than a day and have found friends already!

As the off watch sprang onto the dock yesterday to go in search of a cold drink, they found their usual mission slightly harder than usual. The New Years holiday is still being celebrated and many people have not yet returned to the island and many businesses are still closed. YIKES!!!� Along our hunt we found a man named Carl. He spoke no English, no French only Creole. He got the idea of our charade of needing a cool drink and laughing he waved his arm for us to follow him, like following the Pied Piper off we all trotted. He tried for us so hard, walking all over town to no avail, finally we had picked up several locals by this point desperate to help us in our quest for a cool beverage (very important after a long passage with no refrigeration!!), they popped us into the back of a pick-up truck along the side of the road, walked up to the door of a house there and explained the situation. Now I don’t think this guy was a cabbie, I don’t even think he knew the guys who knocked on his door, he definitely didn’t know us. His wife was hanging out of the second story window baby in her arms waving his chubby little arms at us and smiling. We smiled and waved back, what else do you do? Still sitting in the back of this mans truck; the locals were obviously explaining the situation with much arm movement and shaking of heads, finally he grabbed his keys laughing and off we went. A couple of minutes down the road we stopped along the beach, halleluiah! And there it was a restaurant bar with a big fridge in the corner… yippee!

We asked them to join us, no no he said maybe tomorrow first he would return home for dinner but they wished us a good evening and off they went. We went into the restaurant and ordered cool cool drinks. But wait, these are not so cold. Ahh bless us, all they had were warm drinks. We laughed and drank them anyway. As is typical of a first night in port, all you really want to do is order food that you choose, and drink cool beverages. Well we had the food we also had the drinks, but we were lacking the cool but whatever we were greeted with big smiles and friendly people. John went off to a corner store, bought some ice cold beers and headed back to the restaurant. The owners did not mind that we went BYO to their bar.

On Saturdays (today) the local market starts at 5am and goes until about noon. People from all over the island come to set up their stalls. There is every imaginable hot sauce and spicy pickled sauces, chilies in bottles of oil, big jars of local honey and beautiful vegetables. Joe and his gang were up early picking up fresh produce for us. Big mounds of red juicy looking tomatoes, bunches of beets, little pineapples which are really the sweetest I have ever tasted, big bunches of cilantro, mint and parsley, big wagons full of baguettes. As well as vegetables there were lots of very colourful woven baskets of every size and shape and handmade hats all lining the narrow streets this morning.

Onboard the watch has taken advantage of being in port — we are making some serious mess; that at sea we don’t usually get the chance to do. Yesterday the crew sent down the fore royal yard to make some repairs and today we are giving the galley a massive clean and makeover, everything comes out and then after good scrub the whole galley gets a coat of new paint. This also means we get to set up the barbeque on the stern. Erin and David Zimmer are making burgers and hotdogs for lunch and something grilled for dinner, lovely.� Logan is working on new sink platforms for the heads, Rebecca is still working on the Stay, Andrea Moore, Pania, and Keith are working on topsides and Susannah is laying out sail with Morgan and Ivan on the dock, Chibley has gone ashore for the first time since Rarotonga when we were last up alongside and she is loving it and well I am sitting in the office listening to tunes and writing this. It’s a good day to be part of the Picton Castle crew.

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Sailing Good

The Picton Castle is having an excellent passage in fact this whole voyage has been full of excellent passages; good winds and fair weather. But this passage across the Indian Ocean, with the exception of a few rough days before Christmas, really couldn’t be nicer. The sailing is the kind where it feels good to have the cool breeze on your neck and the warm sun on your face, it feels good to look up at the sails all set, it feels good to lie in your bunk being gently rocked to sleep, it feels good to sit outside after dinner and watch the sun go down, the sailing plain and simply just feels good. We have been going a steady 6+ knots and it feels like 4 (that means it feels comfortable!).

The riggers with the help of the Captain are doing some serious work, they have taken down the port fore cap stay, a ‘stay’ is basically a long piece of wire for strength and support for the mast. It goes to the cap at the top of the foremast and then down to a big turnbuckle and chain plate on the deck. This particular stay backs up the fore lower tops’l yard. It is a big job to clean it up, do the required maintenance which consists of reserving the lower half, replacing the four wire seizings that clamp it together and then send it on up again. This stay on the Picton Castle is made from 1″ wire and is about 35-40 feet long. Yesterday they took all the old seizings off and all the servings, they wire brushed it and cleaned it. Today they have reserved it. They do this so the wire is protected from the elements and rust.

We have also started to take off the taff-rail cap on the quarterdeck so that we can rust bust underneath and make it all pretty again. Another big job! And it’s loud.

Joe is making hamburgers for lunch and homemade burger-buns, this is an exciting lunch to most of us.

It seems like we have just gotten back into our routine again when all of sudden we are nearly in port, we expect to be making landfall at the very end of this week or early next, but how could it have come so soon???

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Clean Sweet Wind

The crew of the Picton Castle is enjoying a passage across the Indian Ocean that is just about as sweet as can be. Since the dual low pressure systems we threaded between just after we sailed from Christmas Island scurried off and away we have had nothing less than perfect trade-wind sailing. Day after day of south easterly breezes blowing in over the port quarter at around 18-20 knots, clear blue skies with just enough puffy clouds to break up the blue. Seas have been small to moderate too. The Picton Castle has been carrying every stitch of canvas we can set; royals, flying jib, main-t’gallant staysail, gaff-topsail, fore lower studding sail, topmast studding sail and t’gallant studding sail. We have been making a steady 130 – 160 miles a day and although some of the gang have had to learn to concentrate, steering has been easy too.

Flying fish dance across the sparkling wave tops scattering out of our way as we plough along ever westward. We have caught a few Wahoo. And eaten them right up.

Sails are getting made up on the quarter deck, piles of bright creamy canvas blinding us in the high tropical sun. Rigger daymen (Ollie, Amanda, Tracy, Rebecca under Lynsey’s�guide) are replacing ratlines, tarring and greasing things. In the afternoons we have been holding seamanship workshops; rope-work, splicing and seizings have been the concentration. Today we will start to overhaul a backstay making new serving and wire seizings. A good chance to learn some rigging skills. Logan and Brent are lifting the teak cap-rail aft around the quarter deck. The steel underneath will be treated and painted, then the cap-rail will be bedded and refastened back in place. Maggie is making some beautiful new curtains for the t’weendecks bunks in the salon out of richly woven Ikat material from the market in Bali. A lovely Christmas has come and gone. Our formal New Years Dance was a fine success and on we sail. This is a big ocean.

This gang has logged over 16,000 miles since casting off from our wharf in Lunenburg. Mostly we have had excellent sailing conditions. Right now sailing conditions are perfect.

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Happy New Year

All the best wishes for the New Year!

With lots of love The Captain and Crew of the Picton Castle

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With Christmas Behind Us

The Picton Castle is sailing gloriously along at about 6 knots, stun’s’ls set and filling nicely. The weather is perfect, not sweaty hot and not cold, the sun is bright and the sky is blue and we have about two weeks of sailing still to go, if it is all like this that would be fine by us.

Joe is making quiche in the galley and every so often the smell of frying onions comes wafting up to the charthouse. I love that smell. My rumbling tummy tells me it is nearly lunchtime but not quite. The riggers are busy doing the rigging thing. John Kemper, the assistant Bosun, has a large rigging crew at the moment; Rebecca, Ollie, Tracy, and Amanda have been tarring the standing rigging, making new seizings on blocks, and general maintenance aloft. The sailmakers Susannah, Morgan and Ivan have been, well it’s more like what haven’t they been doing, they have been seaming a new fore t’gallant, doing tabling on a new lower tops’l, they have an upper tops’l that is ready for new tabling and patches, they have also laid out a new mains’l that they are ready to start on the seaming process. The flying jib is done and has been bent on by the watch and stitching up an new hatch cover which is also nearly done. Maggie has a new project which she is working on with Susannah and that is making new curtains for the salon bunks out of Ikat cloth that we bought in Bali. We have just started participating in NOAA’s (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) volunteer weather observation program, the observations then go on to help predict weather elsewhere and Sam has been leading the watches in the reporting of this. I have finally been able to sit down and start doing my Bali accounting and answering the emails that have been building for awhile. The watches are busy working on sanding the pin rails on the quarterdeck, varnishing, and painting the seizings in the standing rigging. Logan, the carpenter, has some day man help also, Brent is his new assistant and they are busy making new deck boxes to fit between the life rafts on the quarterdeck, and Danie has been scrubbing the Engine Room clean and painting the rough bits. It feels good to be back at work after having a lazy long Christmas weekend, and there is a lot going on to keep us busy.

The big news yesterday was we saw another ship — not our first but our second bit of traffic on this passage! Perfect timing, at just around lunch, so we all stopped to have a look; as you do. We tried to have a chat on the VHF and see what they knew that we didn’t, but they didn’t speak a lot of English which hindered the conversation slightly we did find out they were a supply ship bound for Iles Kerguerlen which is way, way south in the Indian Ocean.

We do have plans for the New Years Holiday and on New Years Eve we will have a formal Marlinspike and lots of dancing tunes; Keith, Sam and Becky have offered their DJ services, Joe is planning on making a roast something and then we will drop some sort of ball like thing from the rigging to celebrate the New Year. On New Years Day Chibley’s café opens again which we love. Basically Joe takes orders for eggs in the Galley; which means we get to chose how we want our eggs. Sounds like every day life, but it isn’t for us. It’s a rare day that we can have fried eggs (imagine making 48 fried eggs on a stove that is always moving??) but at Chibleys café — any eggs, any style you chose AND it can be at anytime between the hours of 0730–1030… Its FABULOUS!

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