Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Lunenburg' Category

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Second Layout of a Mizzen Staysail

On Monday, the Bosun School students went to the Lunenburg Community Centre to use the gym floor to lay out a sail. Actually, this is the second layout for this sail – it had its first layout back in 2015 when Picton Castle was in Cape Town, South Africa.

As Picton Castle sails to various ports around the world, we often look for suitable places to lay out sails. The area must be flat and open, big enough to stretch out the full sail. We’ve used gyms and lofts, but we’ve also used cement and wooden docks, grassy fields, parking lots, and pretty much anywhere else that has big open space.

We’re not the only ones who have used the Lunenburg Community Centre for laying out sails. Michele Stevens Sailloft has used this space when they were working on sails for the schooner Bluenose II and for the schooner Columbia. In fact, the mainsails for these vessels are too big to fit in gym so they could only lay out half at a time.

In comparison, our mizzen staysail looked quite small, taking up less than a quarter of the gym floor. By the time it’s ready for the second layout, the canvas cloths have already been seamed together. The purpose of a second layout is to sketch out the sail’s shape and cut off any excess fabric. Measurements are carefully made before the cutting begins, using both knives and scissors.

Once the trimming of the sail is complete, the second layout is done. Next up is putting on the corner patches, then putting the tabling around the edges of the sail, then making and sewing in all of the grommets.


Anders, Tyler and Annie trim the edges of the sail

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Bosun School Launches and Rows A Dory

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

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

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

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

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Captain’s Log – May 9 2017

Anchored in the beautiful old fishing port of Lunenburg Harbour, Nova Scotia, the Picton Castle crew woke up at 0715 to a cold drizzle and overcast day but spirits were high as we knew we were preparing to get underway and head to sea. We had left our dock and gone to anchor two days ago but high seas had kept us in port, 12 to 16 feet swells were the reports just off the coast and even the lobster boats were staying in the harbour. Kind of rough for starting out. The weather had finally turned more favourable with seas laying down and it was time to head south to Charleston, South Carolina. We had been stowing, lashing and drilling for days. Several crew members have sailed aboard the Picton Castle before, but for others, this is their first time at sea. Assistant Engineer Liz has been working and living aboard the ship for almost nine months now and nothing could beat her smile as we heaved up the anchor and headed for warmer weather!

At 1100 the crew was set to haul up the 1,500 lb port anchor. For some vessels, this is done with the press of a button but on our ship, it is the press of sweat and strong backs using a big iron 100A1 “Norwegian Steam” hand powered anchor windlass. The Picton Castle is steeped in tradition including the fact that “many hands make light work”. With 4-5 people on each side of the windlass, sailors “see-saw” on big iron bars until the anchor breaks off the bottom then comes to the surface of the water and can be stowed. Each up and down motion lifts one link of our very large chain, so with two and a half shots or 230 feet of very heavy chain lifting a very heavy anchor, I’m sure you can imagine the strength required. Often chants break out to help keep momentum but our spirits don’t need for much as a secured anchor means we are heading back out to sea. But as one wiseguy said, “can you imagine how hard it would be without the windlass?”

Today the seas are a bit sloppy after the large seas of yesterday, making for cautious footing but we are starting to get into the ebb and flow of the ship. Soon it will be second nature. Getting used to the new and unfamiliar movement, especially in choppy weather can sometimes take a bit. During our aloft training we learn the importance of three points of contact between yourself and the ship. This also rings true when navigating the decks while she rides over the 4 to 8 foot swells!

To some, this may sound like a lot of work and you are right. But when you stand at the bow of the ship, looking back at the tight-knit unit we’ve become in such a short span of time, every time we have scrubbed the deck or stood at the helm, we are reminded that we are a part of something much greater than just ourselves. We are sailors in a great sailing ship.

 

 

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New Mizzen Topmast

Most of the crew have now arrived aboard Picton Castle in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada for the Rendezvous 2017 voyage. It’s always an exciting time when a voyage begins. There is a flurry of activity around the ship as people move aboard and get settled, ship’s work picks up speed as the number of hands increases. Training and orientation is a big part of what’s going on as well, learning the ship and how everything works.

One of the projects we’ve been working on is replacing the mizzen topmast. Each of Picton Castle’s three masts have multiple parts, they’re not each just one solid piece. The mizzen mast, the mast farthest aft (closest to the back of the ship), is made up of two parts. The lower part is made of steel and the upper part, which is called the topmast, is made of wood.

Picton Castle carries a number of spare timbers so that we have materials to use if we ever need to replace any of the spars. We’ve been carrying a telephone pole from Saint Maarten in the Caribbean for a while now. We’re saving it from a life of mediocrity, just staying in one place and holding up wires. Instead, this long straight timber has been crafted into a new mizzen topmast by local all-around-boat-guy Mike Gray and the crew put it into place yesterday, high above the steel lower mast, where it will support sails and rigging while Picton Castle sails the world.

 

 

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10 January, 2017

Lunenburg photographer Peter Zwicker (http://www.bacalaophoto.ca/) captured this amazing photograph this morning of Picton Castle surrounded by snow, ice and sea smoke. Thanks, Peter, for letting us share it!

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Bosun School Graduation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Snowy Day in Lunenburg

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

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Crossing Yards

Thursday December 8, 2016

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

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Bosun School Does the Holidays!

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

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

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

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HMS Picton Castle

With a hull form derived from the famous Brixham sailing trawlers, our Picton Castle started her life as a fishing vessel after she was launched back in 1928, fishing from the ports of Milford Haven and Swansea in Wales.  The actual castle for which she is named is quite close to Milford Haven.  When World War II came, many fishing trawlers vessels were pressed into service in Britain’s Royal Navy including our Picton Castle.  She became HMS Picton Castle, was fitted with minesweeping equipment and became a minesweeper and convoy escort.  Her crew were usually made up of fishermen who knew that type of gear so well and a few regular navy ratings to handle the guns and mines she carried, all in the command of a fairly junior Naval Reserve officer. These small former fishing vessels and their rough and ready crews made up a flotilla known as “Harry Tate’s Navy” after a dishevelled vaudeville entertainer of the times. Maybe a bit similar to “McHale’s Navy”.

Picton Castle as a minesweeper in WWII

Picton Castle as a minesweeper in WWII

In 1942, HMS Picton Castle took part in the Saint Nazaire Raid.  The object was to destroy the drydock facilities in German-occupied Saint Nazaire.  This was the only large drydock on the Atlantic coast that the Germans could use to drydock their vessels.  If this facility was unavailable, the large German ships would have to go up the heavily guarded English Channel and all around Denmark to get to the north coast of Germany in order to drydock.  This was a very vulnerable passage for a German naval vessel. The raid was successful, with the former US WWI Lend-Lease destroyer HMS Campbeltown  smashing into the lock gates and later exploding with such force to take out the drydock for the remainder of the war.  This also resulted in Hitler calling for shooting such commandos upon capture and skipping the prisoner-of-war scenario.

RN veteran and telegraph operator Tom Gamble who sailed in the HMS Picton Castle throughout the war tells of a time that his ship was blown clear out of the water by a mine. They steamed to port and drydocked her but found no damage. Back to sea she went.

Later in WWII, while sweeping for mines in the North Sea, HMS Picton Castle developed a problem and had to put in to the nearest port, which happened to be Bergen, Norway.  The Germans had just decided to abandon Norway rather than fight and so decamped.   The next day the HMS Picton Castle appeared in the desolate empty harbour flying the Union Jack, was greeted by some two officials and has since been hailed as the “Liberator of Norway.” From the VE Day May 8, 1945 until December of that same year our ship swept the waters of the recent hostilities for mines. We can be confident that she found many. Mines pop up to this day in the North Sea and coastal waters of Europe.

On this Remembrance Day, we laid a wreath at the ceremony in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia in memory of one of Picton Castle’s early supporters (early as a sailing ship), Lunenburg’s Martin Eisenhauer and all, like him, who served in the Royal Navy and took part in some of the most grueling convoys of the Battle of the Atlantic.  He may have seen the little Picton Castle sweeping for mines or escorting a convoy on its last miles into safe harbour.

Remembrance Day ceremony in Lunenburg, 2016

Remembrance Day ceremony in Lunenburg, 2016

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