Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Transatlantic Voyage 2015' Category

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Day’s Run – 2 April, 2016

Saturday brings another day of perfect sailing.  We’re having a great passage north towards Bermuda with fair winds and clear skies.

Ty - baggy wrinkle

Ty – baggy wrinkle

SHIP’S WORK: Shift fore lower topsail, fore topmast staysail.  Paint skiff gunwales port side red and black.  Repair inner jib, seaming on new sails.  Work continues shaping the new jibboom.  Captain called all hands for a passage update, followed by a workshop on how to make baggy wrinkle.

FROM: Marigot, St Martin

TOWARDS: St George, Bermuda

TIME ZONE: ZD+4

NOON POSITION: 28°34.9’N /064°35.4’W

DAYS RUN: 133nm

PASSAGE LOG: 958nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 227nm

COURSE AND SPEED: North by East half East (CMGT 000°T)

WIND: Force 4, South East

WEATHER: 2/8 cloud cover (cumulus), air temp 75F (24°C), barometer reading 1023 millibars, visibility good

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 3 feet, South East

SAILS SET: Square sails to the royals, main topmast stu’n’s’l, fore, main and mizzen topmast staysails and inner jib, spanker and gaff topsail braced up on a starboard tack.

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Captain’s Log – Caribbean Part II

Dominica to Petite Martinique
Written by Purser Kate (B0b) Addison

We got underway from Dominica on Monday 3rd March, bound for Bequia less than a hundred miles to the south.  Funny how short an overnight sail seems when you’re used to crossing oceans. Not long ago I would have thought it quite the adventure to sail overnight and end up in a whole different country, these days it seems so easy.  We cleared out the night before and set off first thing in the morning into a grey, greasy calm; pushing with the main engine for a few hours got us far enough offshore to catch the wind.  By 1030 there was enough breeze to sail, so we set the squares to the royals and had a nice relaxing day of it, taking ship’s work easy to focus on handling sails and enjoying the view.  It was good sailing overnight too, the night was balmy and full of stars, though the morning came in overcast.  We dropped our hook just before 1500 on Tuesday afternoon, and the Captain, Tammy and I went straight ashore in the skiff to clear in so we could let the off watches ashore that evening.

IMGP6603Just to the south of the big island of St. Vincent, Bequia is part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, famous for its wooden boat building and sailing traditions, and especially the ‘double ender’ whaleboats.  New Bedford-style sloops of about 28 feet, they were built for whaling but now used mainly for sailing and racing.  Some of the boats are very old:

I am told that one, IRON DUKE actually came here in a wooden whaling ship.

The schooner FRIENDSHIP ROSE was built here, over on the beach at Friendship Bay on the windward side of Bequia.  She was originally a cargo and passenger ship running back and forth to St Vincent and she still makes a living carrying passengers, but now taking day-trippers out to Tobago Cays or Mustique for a sunny day of sailing, snorkelling and rum punch.  It seems that the wooden boat tradition here has evolved to keep with the times but is very much still alive.

sea never dry

Sea Never Dry

We launched and SEA NEVER DRY again in Bequia, her red, white and blue Norwegian mainsail distinctive amongst the white sails of the whaleboats and dinghies beating across the bay in and out of the anchored yachts.

MONOMOY went in the water here too, so everyone got to sail in one or both boats.  Sailing small boats is so useful for teaching seamanship, and so much fun especially in such a lovely spot, where the water is warm and crystal clear.

The small boat theme was to continue in Mayreau, our next island call in the Grenadines, and chosen specifically because there’s nothing much there except a nice beach, and really not too much to do except sail the small boats and snorkel.  We heaved up the big port anchor on Wednesday morning, set everything, and sailed out of the bay without using the engine bound on the short daysail from Bequia to Mayreau.

We’d been warned by the locals of some weather coming in, but nothing was showing on our forecasts so we carried on with plan A – it turned out the local knowledge beat our fancy weather models this time –  it was blowing much too hard for playing with small boats by the time we got to Mayreau that evening.  The nice white sand beach where we wanted to practice landing the skiff was engulfed with white surf, and the wind was enough to take clothes from the line.  Small boat sailing would have been hairy enough with an experienced crew, but it was definitely too much wind for teaching.

So we waited overnight to see if it would settle down, and then first thing in the morning the Captain made the decision we would be better off getting underway towards Union Island.  Petit St Vincent and Petite Martinique are tiny but high islands lying between Union and Carriacou, and we thought we would be able to tuck in and anchor there in more sheltered waters to launch our boats.  The two little islands are a stone’s throw apart, but since they belong to different countries we had to call at Union first to clear out of St Vincent and the Grenadines (including Petit St. Vincent), and then go to Carriacou to clear into the country of Grenada (and the island of Petite Martinique).  Who said that political boundaries have to make practical sense?

Monomoy

Monomoy

From Union Island it was less than ten miles across to our new anchorage off Petite Martinique, and the breeze had laid down to an agreeable force 4 so the Captain agreed that MONOMOY, our 18 foot surf-boat should lead her own expedition, and make the passage in company with the PICTON CASTLE.

It was a gorgeous sail over in MONOMOY with our crew of Sam, Anne-Laure, Darren, Hayley B, Jack and Ty.  We saw a sweet Carriacou sloop out sailing, a charter yacht or two, and then the magnificent sight of our barque emerging from the bay at Ashton with square sails set to the t’gallants.  It was breath-taking seeing that great cloud of sail making its way so quietly and with so much purpose through the water.  Strange to think that this majestic creature is also our familiar little barque home.

We tacked about around the ship taking photos of her, and watched our shipmates running about on deck taking in sail and responding to orders, eventually letting go the port anchor.  Once settled and the gang were mostly aloft stowing we came alongside to help clear up the decks – just in time for an all hands swim call and the end of another wonderful day.

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Day’s Run – 1 April, 2016

Another sunny day of excellent sailing.  Gary finished the log line he’s been working on to find our speed through the water.  Notices about the Palm Beach Exclusion Zone, and limiting water consumption to 2 cups of coffee each per day turned out to be April fools…

Switching Out Topsails

Switching Out Topsails

SHIP’S WORK: Shift main upper topsail and fore upper topsail (with t’gallants and royals set above), varnish port Q-deck boxes, stuns’l boom, KARL mast.  Repairs to lower topsail.  Sail drill: gaff topsail.

FROM: Marigot, St Martin

TOWARDS: St George, Bermuda

TIME ZONE: ZD+4

NOON POSITION: 26°25.6’N /064°14.2’W

DAYS RUN: 125nm

PASSAGE LOG: 825nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 360nm

COURSE AND SPEED: North by half East (CMGT 356°T)

WIND: Force 4, East by North

WEATHER: 3/8 cloud cover (cumulus, cirrus), air temp 77F (25°C), barometer reading 1025 millibars, visibility good

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 3 feet, East by North

SAILS SET: Square sails to the royals except the mainsail, fore, main and mizzen topmast staysails and inner jib, spanker and gaff topsail braced up on a starboard tack.

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Day’s Run – 31 March, 2016

Gorgeous day!  It’s warm but not too hot with a steady force 5 breeze just abaft the starboard beam and we’re flying along.  Switched out the fore t’gallant sail for a newer one today: getting a suit of strong sails on her ready to head north. We’re at the same latitude as the mainland USA now – something over 800 nautical miles off the coast of Florida.   Captain ordered a slight course change to the east to keep us safely outside the Palm Beach exclusion zone

Vai Darren & Bronwyn

Vai Darren & Bronwyn

SHIP’S WORK: Shift fore t’gallant, jib boom shaping continues, re-lead stuns’l tack, sailmaking: repairs to lower topsail and t’gallant, set up mizzen topmast shrouds, varnish t’gallant st’n’s’l boom

FROM: Marigot, St Martin
TOWARDS: St George, Bermuda
TIME ZONE: ZD+4
NOON POSITION: 24°16.1’N /063°54.1’W
DAYS RUN: 140nm
PASSAGE LOG: 701nm
DISTANCE REMAINING: 485nm
COURSE AND SPEED: North by East (CMGT 359°T)
WIND: Force 5, East
WEATHER: 6/8 cloud cover (cumulus, cirrus), air temp 78F (26°C), barometer reading 1024 millibars, visibility good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 4 feet, East by North
SAILS SET: Square sails to the t’gallants, fore, main and mizzen topmast staysails and inner jib, spanker and gaff topsail braced up on a starboard tack.

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Day’s Run – 30 March, 2016

The wind has eased off and faired a little so the Captain ordered more sail set: we rigged the studdingsail gear and set the topmast studdingsail, and then the sailmakers finished stitching making the new gaff topsail so we bent and set that too.  It’s satisfying watching the genesis of a new sail from rolls of canvas to finally flying aloft – this one was first laid out and seamed up in a hotel ball room on the tiny mid-Atlantic island of St Helena.

30 march New gaff topsail

SHIP’S WORK: Rig and set topmast studdingsail to starboard; complete, rig and set gaff topsail; sand and varnish t’gallant studdingsail boom; varnish (2 x coats) on the port quarterdeck box lid.

FROM: Marigot, St Martin

TOWARDS: St George, Bermuda

TIME ZONE: ZD+4

NOON POSITION: 21°59.5’N /063°42.1’W

DAYS RUN: 120nm

PASSAGE LOG: 561nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 625nm

COURSE AND SPEED: North by East (CMGT 000°T)

WIND: Force 4, East by South

WEATHER: 4/8 cloud cover (cumulus, cirrus), air temp 80F (27°C), barometer reading 1022 millibars, visibility excellent

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 4 feet, East by South

SAILS SET: Square sails to the royals, fore, main and mizzen topmast staysails and inner jib, spanker, gaff topsail and topmast st’n’s’l braced up half way to sharp on a starboard tack.

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Captain’s Log – Caribbean Part I: Martinique to Dominica

Written by Purser Kate (Bob) Addison
23 March, 2016

The Caribbean feels like a sailor’s reward at the end of a long voyage.  It is difficult not to love these islands, scattered in a chain curving down from Puerto Rico almost to Trinidad, with their pristine turquoise waters and palm-fringed white sand beaches baking in the sun.  Each island and nation is so different, but they share good food, good music and a sort of irresistible zest for life that defines the Caribbean for me.

PICTON CASTLE made her landfall at Martinique, dropping the anchor in the afternoon of Thursday 25th February, just 18 days out of Cape Verde.  The transatlantic crossing started brisk with the trade winds blowing strong, and we made good time though with some swell and spray limiting ship’s work to mostly rigging and carpentry projects.  Then as the wind eased a little we piled on more sail: running out stu’n’s’l booms and setting kites, and the weather was finally settled enough to varnish – I’ve never seen the quarterdeck rail look so shiny and smart.

IMGP7963

It was almost a shame for this excellent passage to come to an end.  I could have happily kept sailing straight for another month, except for one thing: fresh food.

Sailors are apt to start thinking about food almost as soon as their anchor is hoisted and their course set for the open ocean – maybe it’s all the fresh air and exercise of hauling on lines and climbing aloft, or maybe it’s just that the food we have to eat for a passage is limited to what we stowed aboard in the last port.  So we do run out of things and especially fresh fruits and vegetables, most of which don’t keep too well after a week or two at sea anyway.

As a passage progresses, night watches are increasingly spent torturing each other with detailed descriptions of exactly what we would all most like to eat: juicy steak, bacon and avocado, ice-cream.  And as the days-since-last-lettuce increase, so does the longing for salad and fresh vegetables.  It sometimes surprises people that it’s possible to crave green leafy things, but mid-ocean it most definitely is.  It all makes the anticipation of port even greater.

So after two and a half weeks at sea, imagine that first slice of juicy melon and first taste of ice-cream – amazing.

fruitBeing French, Martinique, our first Caribbean port of call, also has the great advantage of proper bakeries selling good baguettes and coffee, and incidentally an astonishing range of pharmacies.  There is a fresh fruit and vegetable market right at the end of the town pier where we landed with our skiff, just a short run from our anchorage out in the bay.  There’s a supermarket selling ice-cream opposite the market, and a bakery just up the street. Town is set all along the water, with fine swimming beaches, lovely cafes and restaurants and further afield little fishing villages dotted around the island.

The town of St. Pierre here was once a significant French city, but almost the entire population was killed in 1902 when the active volcano Mt. Pelée erupted.  Apparently there was some advance warning from geologist types, but nobody wanted to panic the population by passing on the warning.  So, no panic but the city was completely wiped out.  The current town is much smaller and is built on the ruins of the original city. The museum at the top of town is a small but striking illustration of the devastation, with photographs, objects and descriptions of the disaster: boxes of nails that had melted together to make a solid lump and a huge bronze church bell, misshapen and cracked as if made of chocolate, slightly warmed and smooshed by the sticky hand of a giant child. Scary stuff.  Happily the volcano seems to be behaving itself these days, and we hope more notice would be taken of the early warning signs should there be another eruption.

We launched our Afro-Norwegian dory, SEA NEVER DRY, in the bay off St. Pierre at Martinique.  She is a great boat to learn to sail in: simple, small and tacks easily.  You’ll notice pretty quickly if she’s not trimmed right because the lee rail is underwater, so then you learn to bail pretty quickly too!  The off watch were welcome to take her out sailing anytime they wanted and at least one group took her out for a sail every day.

sea never dry

Meanwhile aboard ship the watch on duty was kept busy going after a variety of cleaning, painting and varnish projects.  Got to look after the ship so she continues to look after us.  There were some rigging jobs too: replacing a few braces and buntlines aloft, making a new pilot ladder, replacing ratlines, and rigging SEA NEVER DRY to sail.  But the best part of a day’s work aboard the ship is the 4pm swim call.  Tidy up your project for the day, change into a bathing suit and then jump off the rail or jib boom to splash about in the cool clear water.  We rigged the swing rope off the fore yard, so the more ambitious among us (Jack) could do crazy flips into the water.

After three days in Martinique, stretching our legs, sailing, swimming and eating a lot, we set sail for Dominica, just 34 miles and a gorgeous day sail away to the north.

Dominica is a truly amazing island with terrible anchorages: it’s a steep, lush, volcanic island, and the volcano drops away just as steeply under the water so it’s hard to find a place to drop your hook where you won’t drag off into deep water.  We get around the problem by running out hawsers from the stern and tying them to a stout tree ashore, letting the anchor go forward – we lay  like this ‘Med-moored’, our stern just a stone’s throw from the beach, snug as anything.

The lush, mountainous scenery makes this island a favourite for eco-tourism: our gang hiked to incredible waterfalls and through untouched rainforest to natural hot springs, went scuba diving and snorkelling off Champagne Beach named for the bubbles from ongoing seismic activity, and off some of the island’s pristine coral reef.  We were very well looked after by the Anchorage hotel, using their dock to land our skiff in exchange for buying plenty of meals and cool drinks on their cool patio by the pool.  Not that that was much of a hardship.

ruins rock cafe

Ruins Rock Cafe is another PICTON CASTLE favourite spot here, with an amazing spice shop in the back room selling all kinds of spices, hot sauce and about 70 varieties of flavoured rum with free samples. You’d be pretty brave to try all 70 at one sitting though.

The damage caused by last summer’s hurricane was less obvious than I expected.  It seems like the clean-up operation was fast and efficient.  Money came from the Chinese to rebuild infrastructure, one taxi driver told me.

Dominica has a cruise ship dock, and the town completely changes when a ship is in town: market stalls selling colourful clothes and sun hats, spices and sarongs pop up everywhere; reggae music plays, and it seems like every taxi in town wants to take you on a day trip around the island.  The cruise shippers do seem to mostly keep themselves to themselves though – local cafes and restaurants anywhere except the main waterfront seem to mostly cater for locals, and every one I went into was excellent.  My top tip for Dominica is the grapefruit juice: cool, sweet and incredibly refreshing in the sweltering, tropical heat.

 

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Day’s Run – 29 March 2016

Still sailing north in almost perfect weather – Donald says he brought the nice weather with him from the Caribbean and it’s going to stay with us the whole way, we hope so!

Katie working on KARL

Katie working on KARL

SHIP’S WORK: Replace starboard main t’gallant brace and starboard gaff vang, scrape t’gallant st’ns’l boom ready for varnish.  Sailmaking: roping new gaff topsail, seaming new main t’gallant staysail and repairs to a lower topsail. Carpentry: small jobs continue in project boat KARL, as Tim shapes up the new jibboom.

 

FROM: Marigot, St Martin

TOWARDS: St George, Bermuda

TIME ZONE: ZD+4

NOON POSITION: 19°57.3’N /063°40.8’W

DAYS RUN: 117nm

PASSAGE LOG: 441nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 745nm

COURSE AND SPEED: North by East (CMGT 351°T)

WIND: Force 4, East by North

WEATHER: 3/8 cloud cover (cumulus), air temp 79F (26°C), barometer reading 1021 millibars, visibility good

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 5 feet, East

SAILS SET: Square sails to the royals, fore, main and mizzen topmast staysails and inner jib, braced up sharp on a starboard tack with some screw in the yards – the royals are braced up more square than the courses and t’gallants and topsails fanned out in between.

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Day’s Run – 28 March, 2016

PICTON CASTLE sailed off the dock at St. Martin this morning.

We hove-to just long enough to get the anchor on the rail and the skiff hoisted, and then set our course north towards Bermuda, sailing close to the easterly trade winds under bright blue skies.  We’re homeward bound now, just one more island call scheduled before Lunenburg and the end of this 6-month transatlantic voyage.

28 March

SHIP’S WORK: Bend main lower topsail, headrig seizings, paint chocks and bits, stow mooring lines in chain locker.

 

FROM: Marigot, St Martin

TOWARDS: St George, Bermuda

TIME ZONE: ZD+4

NOON POSITION: 18°06’N /063°07.5’W

DAYS RUN: nm

PASSAGE LOG: 324nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: nm

COURSE AND SPEED: North West by North (CMGT 326°T)

WIND: Force 4, North East by East

WEATHER: 2/8 cloud cover (cumulus), air temp 82F (28°C), barometer reading 1021 millibars, visibility good

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 2 feet, East North by East

SAILS SET: Square sails to the t’gallants, fore, main and mizzen topmast staysails, main t’gallant staysail and inner jib, braced up sharp on a starboard tack.

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Day’s Run – 23 March, 2016

Saw whales blow off the starboard bows this afternoon – we didn’t get close enough to identify them, but it seemed like there were more than one.  We sailed between the islands of St Kitts and St Eustatius mid-afternoon, they looked very pretty all green in the sunshine. Donald is happy we’re close enough to see the islands properly after a couple of days sailing further off when they were just faint blue smudges on the horizon.

Jamie at the helm

Jamie at the helm

SHIP’S WORK: Ratlines in mizzen topmast and fore lower shroud, paint wooden boat project KARL: two coats of topcoat on the hull; spot tar and oil at deck level, sailmaking.

 

FROM: St Georges, Grenada

TOWARDS: Sandy Ground Bay, Anguilla

TIME ZONE: ZD+4

NOON POSITION: 17°14.7’N /062°48.7’W

DAYS RUN: 109nm

PASSAGE LOG: 324nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 75nm

COURSE AND SPEED: North West by North, 1/2 North(CMGT 326°T)

WIND: Force 4, East by North

WEATHER: 3/8 cloud cover (cumulus), air temp 80F (27°C), barometer reading 1021 millibars, visibility good

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 3 feet, East North East

SAILS SET: Square sails to the royals, fore topmast staysail, mizzen topmast staysail, main t’gallant staysail and inner jib, braced up on a starboard tack.

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Day’s Run – 22 March, 2016

The wind has been variable as we make our way between the islands, so there’s been heaps of sail handling, taking in and setting royals and upper staysail, even t’gallants and the mainsail at times as the wind built to a force 6. It was an excellent evening for taking star sight tonight: clear horizon and almost cloudless.  The moon is full so there’s lots of light for the night watches, it’s very pretty reflecting off the water. Sticky BBQ chicken for supper with potatoes and a crunch green salad.

22 March Setting the mains'l

Setting the mains’l

SHIP’S WORK: Grease royal poles, scrape and grease t’gallant masts, wooden boat KARL rebuild continues, replace spanker knock lashing and install new parals. Sail drill with fore royal.

 

FROM: St Georges, Grenada

TOWARDS: Sandy Ground Bay, Anguilla

TIME ZONE: ZD+4

NOON POSITION: 15°32.6’N /062°13.7’W

DAYS RUN: 96nm

PASSAGE LOG: 215nm

DISTANCE REMAINING: 176nm

COURSE AND SPEED: North half East(CMGT 332°T)

WIND: Force 4, East North East

WEATHER: 1/8 cloud cover (cumulus), air temp 80F (27°C), barometer reading 1020 millibars, visibility good

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: approx 3 feet, East North East

SAILS SET: Square sails to the royals, fore topmast staysail, mizzen topmast staysail, main t’gallant staysail and inner jib, braced up sharp on a starboard tack.

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