Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Leg 4: Cape Town to Lunenburg' Category

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South Atlantic Easter Weekend

Happy Easter to all those folks at home; enjoy that chocolate and the long weekend!

The Picton Castle is under full sail including stun’s’ls. It’s a sunny day out here—not too hot, not cold, and gorgeous blue skies. The Picton Castle is making just more than 5 knots and that’s a nice speed—not lumpy, just a graceful roll here and there. It’s Saturday, and when at noon the watch is finished tarring, oiling, sanding, and painting there are plenty of workshops to look forward to: Susannah and Rebecca are showing how to make seabags and tote bags, but only for those who have finished their ditty bags!

A ditty bag is a small, cylindrical canvas bag with a rope handle. We fill them with “ditty,” which can be a sail palm, a fid, twine—basically it is a sailor’s tool bag. Making a ditty bag is an excellent exercise in sail-making. You learn to make grommets, how to stitch, how to measure canvas and how to do different types of rope work. For those who have not finished their ditty bags there will also be a help workshop on ditty bag making. For some crew their ditty bag has become their nemesis (I am not naming any names)!

For those with stars in their eyes, First Mate Sam is starting to teach celestial navigation. She will start from the beginning again for those who are new and for those who either did not attend the last workshops or who, like me, just never quite get it. It is a very useful skill to have and interesting, too. The South Atlantic is a very good place to practice doing noon sights, twilight, and generally getting the hang of using a sextant. For the more advanced, Sam is also doing star sights.

There are AB workshops for those who want to study for their Able-Bodied Seaman exams on our return. The AB exam covers a wide range of subjects—safety at sea (including first aid), rules of the road, navigation, and laws and regulations of being at sea. These guys can easily pass it with a little bit of preparation and a heads-up on what to expect! Second Mate Greg is leading workshops in studies for learning to pass the Coast Guard AB test and will at some point he will also do a rope-mat workshop.

So it is a busy time on board and every one should have something that they are up to!

I am hoping that all my pestering has paid off and Joe will spend some time making hot cross buns. We will hope and wait!

2nd Ditty Bag Workshop on way to Pitcairn 214
Catharine tarring on the way to Fernando
Drew on helm on the way to Fernanndo
Ivan and Laura on the way to Fernando
Joelle on galley duty on the way to Fernando
Mike sanding, Bruce oiling hinges, and Andrea, dayman rigger
Under sail at sunset on the way to Fernando

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Leaving St. Helena

We need wind. Not too much. Not a gale. But more than a puff would be useful. A nice Force 4/5 would do the trick.

There are many superstitions that sailors of old and sailors of now still believe, if not overtly vocally, then definitely in their minds. For example, on board you never whistle. The only shipmates who are allowed to whistle are the youngest and the oldest. Whistling brings up the wind, but how much wind? One must be very careful with this. Knock on wood—but not if it is a chair—after you say something that may jinx you.

We have found ourselves under full sail going just over 2 knots. Well, we need to go a little bit faster if we want to get to Fernando de Noronha in under a month! So we sent Pania, who is the youngest (it has to be the youngest), to scratch the main mast and aloft as high as she can go to sweep the air with a broom. This ritual is supposed to sweep the wind towards us. While she was there we also had her stick the tip of her knife in the mast—gently, not stabbing. No more gales, thank you!

Amanda paid the toll to Neptune, and maybe that will bring some wind. We even threw in a Canadian dime with the schooner Bluenose on it. We think that must be lucky! We asked the Captain nicely for just a little whistle, not a full bar of a song just a few notes.

Now we wait and see if any of this gets Neptune’s notice!

In the meantime the 8–12 watch and the riggers—Rebecca, Amanda, Ollie, Jack, Vicki, and Andrea M.—get ready the stun’s’ls. These sails can give us up to another knot of speed and the wind is plenty light enough for them right now.

The carpenters—Logan, Bart, and Bruce—are working on being efficient daymen! Lynsey is laying new tiles in the inside head, which Ivan concreted yesterday. John Kemper is assisting being a watch officer on the 8–12 watch, and engineers Danie and David are working on the fresh water pump on the port Lister.

Joe is making chicken salad, tomato soup, and pasta salad for lunch. All is well on the Picton Castle.

PS: Just an hour later, maybe our superstitions paid off. We now are going just over three knots!

Amanda pays Neptune for some wind
Amanda with coins to pay Neptune
Captain whistling up some wind on the way to Fernando
Pania sweeps the sky on the way to Fernando
Pania, the youngest, scratches the main mast on the way to Fernando

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St. Helena

The Island of St. Helena in the middle of the South Atlantic, besides being a striking piece of volcanic rock in the middle an ocean far from anywhere, is quite the cross-roads, literally. St. Helena is best known probably for the incarceration of Napoleon Bonaparte but on a larger scale of thinking that would have to stand as some sort of footnote. This island is one of the last remnants of the British Empire, an empire that was largely gracefully surrendered over the last 60 years.It is only accessed by sea and although the talk of building an airport has been going since the last time we were here, it will not happen for at least another five or six years, with a bill of about 400 million pounds. Wow! There is only really one town and that is Jamestown, built up along the valley. It is one long, steep main street consisting of some great little stores that sell everything from cat toys and Easter eggs to carpenters’ tools. There are a few guest houses and a hotel, which very nicely put up with us for several nights of dancing in their bar! The main street is a mixture of the old and new, with pleasant colonial architecture. It’s a very interesting little spot. The buildings are all very old; most date back to early 1800s, and some from the early 1700s. Many have solid teak floors and timbering to keep termites away. Jamestown looks a bit like some little town in Cornwall. As in England, it rains off and on for most of the day in St. Helena also!

The crew spent time going up to see Longwood where Napoleon was kept, a nice cottage, even by today’s standards, with superb gardens. They even still have his jello molds up there! I would say three-quarters of the crew climbed Jacob’s ladder, all 700 steps, although Kjetil swears blind there are only 698! We ate at Donny’s, down on the waterfront, where we could see all the action of the mail ship, and in Ann’s café, where, if I do say so myself, they make rather a smashing bacon sandwich.

One of the most exciting events in the annual St. Helena calendar happened while we were there—the arrival of the mail and supply ship. The HMS St. Helena is the last of the royal mail ships. It comes from the UK twice a year, and on it this time were the returning Commonwealth Games team, returning islanders, and a LOT of mail (it was bigger by far than any mail call we have ever had!) Also on board were 70 cars and a bus, as well as all the supplies for the supermarkets and shops. When I went to clear out the Picton Castle , the customs warehouse was crazy; they had islanders coming to pick up their mail in trucks. I happily said it was like Christmas. The customs officers laughed and said that at Christmas it was five times worse! Holy moley!

The Saga Rose Cruise ship also came in for an afternoon while we were there. We had an engineering question, so Danie, our chief engineer, went over to ask for some help and advice. Danie came back to the Picton Castle wide eyed, exclaiming that their engine room was “Wild—three stories high, with its own cafeteria and everything!” I think it was the best birthday present Danie had ever had, visiting their enormous engine room. Dave, the engineer on the Saga Rose, helped us out, and many thanks to him and the engineers onboard the HMS St. Helena, as well as to all those Islanders who helped us with our port Lister generator. It was more than greatly appreciated!

But time was escaping us and soon it was time to go. The wind had been blowing us off the island for the previous five days, and we were going to make the most of it and sail off the hook. We did, but just as we were leaving the wind died down a little. Ho hum. It would come back, we hoped!

Ann s Place for lunch, and Jacob s 700 steps behind, St. Helena.
Jamestown, nestled in the valley. St. Helena
Main Street in Jamestown, St. Helena
Picton Castle at anchor in James Bay, St. Helena
Saga Rose leaving St. Helena
Sailing off the hook, St. Helena
Unloading containers from the mail ship, St. Helena

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Steaming Towards St. Helena

Maybe we used up our allotted wind for the week during the gale on Monday, because right now there really isn’t too much of it! The main engine is on and we are motoring towards St. Helena, about 750 nm away. Yesterday the weather was beautifully warm, and shockingly enough most of us had our shorts on with our lily white legs exposed to the sun. This morning the clouds and rain are back and so are the long pants.

This week life has started to take on the regular routine of being at sea. Tracy is now a Dayman sailmaker, as are Margot and Ivan—oh, yes, and Chibbley. Logan and Bart, the daymen carpenters, are still busy putting back together our new and posh-looking inside head. Becky and Andrea M. have been busy in the Bosun’s chair high up in the rig, slushing the stays. Logan finished another deck box for the quarterdeck, on the port side this time. John Kemper has been busy finishing the varnish in the new and improved after-cabin passageway. Ollie, Rebecca, and Amanda continue to do rigging with the help of their new rigger, Jack Hubbard. David Matthews and Andrea Deyling are still being diesel dorks, helping Danie in the Engine Room. Kjetil, Kolin and Zimmer are all lead seamen now, which means that they help liaise between what the Watch Officer needs the watch to do and making it happen.

The new crew who joined us at Cape Town—Laura Gainey, Joelle Plouffe, Steve Nash, Mike Wolfe, John Williamson, Andy Cook, Drew Greenlaw (and, of course, returning crew Papa Jack and Vicki Sullivan)—are all doing well and learning fast, fitting in quickly. But having so many pollywogs onboard may just have something to do with the weather Neptune is sending us eh? Hmmm…

Andrea Moore in the bosun s chair, Namibia to St Helena
Andy Cook priming, Namibia to St. H.
Erin on helm, squally skies behind, Namibia to St. Helena
John Williamson, Namibia to St. H.
Laura Gainey on the helm, Namibia to St. H.
Mike Wolfe on galley, Namibia to St H.

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