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.
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.
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.
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.