Captain's Log

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Day’s Run – 8 July, 2018

Sunday at sea. 870 miles to go to Pitcairn Island.

Light to no wind continues on this beautiful Sunday at sea. Sun is shining strongly on deck, the long drawn out swells periodically rock the ship back and forth, side to side like a parent would rock a baby to sleep in its cradle. Sleep is high on the to-do list for many crew members today, the tools and sewing needles are laid to rest, making for a great day to take a nap. The main hatch amidships is filled with five-year-old Dawson’s chalk drawings and crew members working on personal projects, ditty bags, sheaths and coconut bowls are becoming quite popular. After a coconut has been emptied and enjoyed the shell can make a great soup bowl or soap dish. The ‘Danish Clipper’, our ship’s barber, Anders of Denmark, is open for business today. Every week he learns more and more about the world of hairdressing.

It’s paradise in the South Pacific today and the talk on deck is that there will be a swim call at 1300! And the sea is only 12,000 feet deep, two and a half miles to the bottom of this deep blue ocean!

From: Galapagos
Towards: Pitcairn
Date: July 8th, 2018
Noon Position: 17°55.8′ S x 116°34.2′ W
Course + Speed: SW + 1 kt
Wind direction + Force: ESE + 1
Swell Height + Direction: 3m + SW
Weather: Bright, sunny
Day’s Run: 20.7nm
Passage Log: 1842 nm
Distance to Port: 867nm
Voyage: 5335nm
Sails Set: Lower and upper topsails, t’gallants and royals, outer jib and inner jib

Swim Call – No Land In Sight

 

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Ship’s Doctor – Sail the South Pacific  

Picton Castle is in immediate need of a ship’s doctor for Leg 2 of our seventh world circumnavigation voyage.  Join Picton Castle about August 11 in the Cook Islands, sail the South Pacific Ocean, the Timor Sea, the Torres Strait, and the Coral Sea, signing off in Bali about October 29.

Picton Castle carries up to 52 people, including 12 professional crew and up to 40 trainee crew.  The ship’s doctor participates in daily life aboard as a trainee crew member, standing watches, steering, handling lines and sails, and helping with ship’s maintenance as much or as little as you like.

In case of emergency, we call on your medical expertise to provide medical assistance to our crew.  The ship carries an extensive medical kit, all of our professional crew have first aid training, and we subscribe to a consulting service ashore that we can contact from the ship for advice or assistance.

Leg 2 begins at the island of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.  There are weekly direct flights there from Los Angeles, and daily flights from Auckland.  You will sign aboard there, then remain in port for a few days while you go through our orientation process for new crew (and get a few days off to explore the beautiful island).  When the ship and crew are ready, we’ll sail a three-day passage to Palmerston Atoll, also part of the Cook Islands.  It’s a low-lying tropical island and reef that’s home to about 50 people, with no airport.  Ashore, you’ll dance, play volleyball, and drink from coconuts.

From Palmerston, it’s about an eight-day sail to the port of Vava’u in Tonga.  Be sure to check out the whale research centre in this kingdom that is the only group of islands in the South Pacific that were never colonialized.  Then it’s back to sea for four days on the way to Suva, Fiji.  Suva is the capital city and has all the modern conveniences the crew might want (and for us to provision the ship), while outside of Suva is gorgeous nature and small towns and villages.

After another six days at sea, Vanuatu is next.  We’ll visit Espiritu Santo, an island with a bigger population and some services ashore, then visit small villages at two or three outer islands where we’ll be met by people paddling dugout canoes.  These islands have been through a hard time since our last visit, being hit directly by Cyclone Pam in 2015 and we’re hoping to help in any way we can.  Next comes the longest passage of the leg, about four weeks, sailing from Vanuatu to Bali, Indonesia via the Torres Strait, the passageway between Australia and Papua New Guinea.  While the itinerary of a sailing ship is always subject to change, we expect to arrive in Bali in late October.

The travel opportunities on this leg are incredible and sailing with Picton Castle provides access to these islands in a way that the ordinary tourist cannot get.  While the travel is amazing, this is primarily a seafaring voyage.  While at sea, the crew stand watches of four hours on and eight hours off, around the clock.  Through the daily process of sailing the ship, you’ll develop seamanship skills while working together with a diverse group of like-minded people.  Our crew come from all over the world and range in age from 17 to 70.

This is an unpaid position.  In exchange for your medical expertise, we waive the trainee fee (trainees pay $15,000 USD for this leg).  You are responsible for your own transportation to and from the ship and for your own travel health insurance for the duration of your time aboard.

If you’re interested, either for this leg or for future voyages, please contact Maggie Ostler by email at info@picton-castle.com or by phone at +1 902 634 9984.

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Day’s Run – 7 July, 2018

The wind is light, making steering tricky and keeping the helmsmen on their toes. At 1000 this morning we braced up sharp on a starboard tack, steering full and by the wind, now out of the west. This morning’s on watch put down their tools to leave the projects they were working on in order to handle sails. Setting the spanker, flying jib, outer jib, main t’gallant staysail, main topmast staysail, mizzen topmast staysail and the fore topmast staysail. This seems like a mouth full, no doubt about that, yet it only takes a few minutes and these white canvases are flying high above deck.

The welding team has come to a stopping point today on the stack house door, having done a sufficient amount of work, marking the beginning of the weekend onboard where tools lay to rest and quiet is enjoyed throughout the ship. The rigging team re-installed the lower topsail foot ropes, soaking up every last moment of being covered in tar, all day climbing aloft, only to come down for lunch. The sailmakers are stitching away, working vigorously on the new royal.

Today is the last day the temporary daymen work in their designated departments. On Monday new faces will have a chance to learn more about carpentry, engineering, sail making and rigging, the crew has been enjoying the rotation and the chance to learn more within this vast world of square rig sailing. The skills the crew learn on board can be transferred to trades on land, whether within a specific job or at home. Certainly in any maritime world.

Our world famous Senegalese painted dory Sea Never Dry is happily having her interior painted and her rudder scraped and primed – she’ll be looking world class by the time we get to set her Norwegian main sail flag.

Lovely sunny day, Picton Castle bobs along in the ENE swell, crew are settled into their routines pleasantly.

 

From: Galapagos
Towards: Pitcairn
Date: July 7, 2018
Noon Position: 17°36.5′ S x 116°26.6′ W
Course + Speed: SxE 1/2 E + 2.9′
Wind direction + Force: SWxS + 2
Swell Height + Direction: 3m + ENE
Weather: Bright and Sunny
Day’s Run: 65nm
Passage Log: 1,849nm
Distance to Port: 883.3nm
Voyage: 5309.6nm
Sails Set: All sails except the gaff topsail

 

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Day’s Run – 6 July, 2018

The wind is directly aft of us, yards are braced square and we’re sailing along in a fine Force 3, or 12 to 15 knot winds, and gently rolling with the wide-spread swell typical of the vast Pacific Ocean. This morning Picton Castle, in all her white hull, white canvas glory, sailed under a big rainbow – a great start to a gorgeous Friday morning (made even better after a dinner of “Donald Fried Chicken” the night before – Yummy!!). Mother Nature has been very generous to our ship during this voyage, with mostly bright, sunny days and a steady breeze to keep us sailing along at a pleasant speed and plenty of sea life to enthrall us. The sun goes down and the evenings have been cool and refreshing, making sleeping quite comfortable and drinking hot chocolate enjoyable under the starlit sky. The number of stars (and planets) we witness on most given nights is astounding –  it seems almost fake, as though a Hollywood director has inserted each spec of glowing white light him or herself.

Today the rigging department and a few eager helpers sent down the fore upper tops’l and bent on a lighter upper tops’l. This involves a devised plan, as sending down and up a 36′ – 40′ canvas sail must be properly orchestrated. The sail is gasketed, put on a line to lower it (called a gantline), all the robands (lashings) cut, bunts, clews and sheets taken off,  and then it is lowered to deck with a tag-line on it to keep it from going over the side. The rigging team aloft and the on-deck hands must work together in order to safely send down the sail. Orders are called out from aloft and repeated on deck to ensure the message received is correct.

The sail makers are hard at work in their sea sail loft, that being the quarterdeck, adding roping along the edge to the new royal.  Tigress, the kitty, has been having fun among the folds of gleaming white, new canvas, and chasing John’s thread while he’s seaming. The Lunenburg Dory Shop built dory Sea Never Dry is being prepped for painting, with James and Mike sanding the thwarts. The carpenter team, which consists of  Anders from Denmark, Sean from New Orleans and Carlos from Toronto, are busy covering the well deck in sawdust from cutting lumber to build shelves in the main salon. Our engineering team of Deyan from Switzerland and Liz from New Brunswick, Canada are busy welding a new door frame for the door into the stack house. Dirk from Australia is busy scraping the chart-house door in preparation for sanding and varnishing.

We had a fish on the line, a good-sized mahi-mahi from the look of it, which Tony, Niko, and Brahm were busy trying to reel in, when at the last moment the line snapped and the fish was gone – a big disappointment for all.  But all in all another fine, busy day on board, with the sun’s warm rays on our backs, and lots of smiles, laughter and occasional singing on deck.

From: Galapagos
Towards: Pitcairn Island
Date: July 6th, 2018
Noon Position: 16°53.4′ S x 115°35.3′ W
Course + Speed: SW + 3 – 7 kts
Wind direction + Force: ENE + 3
Swell Height + Direction: ExN + 1.5m
Weather: Bright, sunny, 28°
Day’s Run: 87.5nm
Passage Log: 1810 nm
Distance to Port: 947.5nm

Sails Set: All square sails, inner jib

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Day’s Run – 5 July, 2018

Wind has laid down and is almost aft.

As the sun rose through the clouds this morning a handful of bright eyed and bushy tailed souls appeared on deck. In these moments they’re able to sip a cup of coffee or tea and have a moment to themselves while preparing for the day. Some may get a head start on laundry or put a couple more stitches into their ditty bag. Despite only a few exchanges of words between shipmates, it’s a shared feeling that we are all admiring the glorious sight at hand – the beginning of a new day.

The previous evening, with only the occasional cloud, offered up a beautiful vision of stars and other celestial beings. Jupiter, Saturn, Venus and Mars could all be clearly seen, as well as other notable constellations such as Centaurus and Scorpio and, of course, the ever-present Southern Cross – as well known in the southern hemisphere as the Big Dipper is in the north. At around 2300, the darkest hour just before the moon began its rise, the sky was so brilliant and clear that (according to the mate) the “dust” of the Milky Way appeared to have a blue glow. Such sights are rarely seen ashore, perhaps on mountaintops, due to so much light pollution, but it is truly majestic to experience – just one more thing that makes our long ocean passages so, well, awesome.

This morning the rigging gang is nowhere to been seen on deck. Of course, one must look up in order to find the riggers. They’ve been working on the t’gallant yard, the second from the top, unlashing the sail from the spar to send it down to deck. They will then prepare the alternate t’gallant sail, hoist it up the foremast and bend it on. Our ever so colourful dory Sea Never Dry is receiving some tender loving and care, the 12-4 on watch are scraping its paint to prep it for a fresh coat or two. Those who have sailed the ever fun, ever wet dory know what a blast she is to zoom around a harbour in and race other small boats. The porthole over the inside head tub has received a bit of makeover, having been scraped then covered with a fresh coat of primer to prepare it for a final coat of white paint. As well, the windlass brake band was removed, scraped, cleaned up, painted, and left hanging to dry on the well deck.

Sea Never Dry at Mangareva – 2013

From: Galapagos
Towards: Pitcairn
Date: July 5, 2018
Noon Position: 15°58.3′ S x 114°24.9′ W
Course + Speed: SWxS + 5.2′
Wind direction + Force: ExN + 4
Swell Height + Direction: 3m + E
Weather: Overcast
Day’s Run: 123nm
Passage Log: 124.8nm
Distance to Port: 1034nm
Voyage: 5152.8nm
Sail Set: All square sails except the fore t’gallant, inner jib

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Captain’s Log – Passage to Pitcairn III

The Picton Castle sailed past the halfway mark between Galapagos and Pitcairn a couple nights ago. Southeast winds on the beam for many days and blowing pretty fresh at Force 5, gusting 6, have now faired and come in over the quarter and laid down at Force 3-4. Dense overcast at dawn, the ceiling kept lifting and lifting all day and then the blue sky opened up. Yards are almost squared in this following wind, the spanker is in as it is not much of a help sailing so far downwind and some of the staysails between the masts have been taken in as they are blanketed by the big square sails. We saw a pod of what we think were sei whales yesterday afternoon. Big whales, pretty impressive. They followed along in our wake for a while surfing just below the surface of the seas and blowing occasionally.

Sei Whale – Photo By Christin Khan, NOAA / NEFSC – http://cbkhan.blogspot.com/

The Picton Castle crew are all naturals at the big teak steering wheel now.

Sailmakers are under piles of canvas on the quarterdeck. The thick original teak door to the foc’sle and the carpenter’s shop has gotten a beautiful overhaul. It always impresses me that a ship such as ours, designed and built for such prosaic tasks as fishing and freighting, should have such beautiful teak in her original fittings. Same is true in the engine room.

Beautiful copper piping, first class gear all of it. It would cost a million to replace, but of such good quality, we just need to look after it all and keep it up. I am proud and as happy with the fine engine room as I am with the rig of this ship.

We are catching up now on smaller projects, a little carpentry here and there, small welding jobs, all going nicely in this fair weather on a long passage. It seems we still have 20 dedicated navigators learning the arcane arts of the sextant, sun and stars under the guidence of Brigantine Romance marinero Tad. Ditty bags are done and potential sailmakers have been identfied or asked to get into sailmaking more. An afternoon workshop on bracing, sail handling and square sail trim rounds things out on a day of hands-on doing. I am thinking about rigging up to set studding sails of clipper ship days, but the winds are too good right now. With a clear sky, the stars are out in serious force. No city lights, no air pollution, even the Milky Way is starkly clear. The patron saint of southern ocean sailors, the Southern Cross, is two-thirds of the way up to the top of the sky. Maybe tonight people can study the stars if the skies remain this clear. Hard to imagine a better chance to learn the night sky, South Pacific edition.

Sunset at Sea by Tyler Lancaster

 

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Day’s Run – 4 July, 2018

Seas laying down, yards braced almost square to the faired winds, the ceiling of the sky lifting and becoming blue.

Happy Fourth of July and Tonga Day! An overcast, yet bright sky blanketed the ship this morning, grey clouds parted as blue pierced through, making for a sunny afternoon on deck. The sailmaking department is sprawled out on the quarterdeck as usual, mending the spanker that was sent down yesterday and seaming a new t’gallant. The oil- and tar-covered riggers, who we keep as far away as possible from the sailmakers, have foot ropes stretched out on the well deck as they learn to parcel and serve the wire in order to protect it and increase its longevity.

Common sounds you hear on board a square rigger consist of water and waves lapping against the hull washing along the waterline, scraping, sanding and sawing of wood, painting, varnishing – all sounds that fill your ears throughout the day. Best of all, there’s always a crew member singing. Typically they have a line or two stuck in their head for a week or so and the only way to get it out is by singing it. Often others join in and from a fly on the wall’s perspective, it would seem as though we are living in a real-life musical. Alas, we’re merely sailors going about our daily projects all the while entertaining ourselves.

A lecture on sail history and rig types began yesterday and continues today – the crew is keen on learning about other types of ships and boats and where exactly it all began. After weeks out at sea, with not anything in sight but blue ocean, occasional birds soaring by, flying fish gliding over top the water and yesterday’s spotting of 20 – 50 whales (believed to be sei whales), some mere metres off the ship’s stern, it’s a wonder why would we ever go back to land?

From: Galapagos
Towards: Pitcairn Island
Date: July 4th, 2018
Noon Position: 14°43.5′ S x 112°42.6′ W
Course + Speed: SW 1/2 S + 4.8 kts
Wind direction + Force: ExS + 4
Swell Height + Direction: 3m + ExS
Weather: Overcast
Day’s Run: 130.9nm
Passage Log: 137.5nm
Distance to Port: 1157nm
Voyage: 5028nm
Sails Set: All square sails and main topmast staysail

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Day’s Run – 3 July, 2018

The wind has faired as expected. Now it is no longer abeam but well aft.

Ocean ocean everywhere.

This morning began with gusty winds and larger seas than what we’ve had on this passage. Picton Castle sailed beautifully through the slightly heavier conditions. Light rain on the quarterdeck as the moon was fading off into the distance in the early morning. The sun rose and the clouds parted, turning today into a lovely sunny, cool, windy day.

This morning’s 4-8 watch sent down the spanker, the sail on the mizzen or aftermost mast, for it to be repaired. Once the rigging team had breakfast and harnessed up they took to bending on the alternative spanker. Vai of Tonga lead the team, Suzanne of New York City, USA, Kirsten of Alberta, Canada and Rune of Norway successfully had the sail bent on and ready to set before lunch. The main hatch is busy with projects; the carpenter’s shop teak door is being scuffed and varnished, Monomoy oars are getting scraped and oiled and our wooden ladders are being overhauled just the same.

Celestial navigation education is making headway, having everyone wishing they’d kept up with their high school math and science classes. Last night Picton Castle sailed across the halfway point of this passage to Pitcairn Island.

From: Galapagos
Towards: Pictairn
Date:  July 3, 2018
Noon Position: 13°31.2′ S x 110°43.2′ W
Course + Speed: SW + 6.1′
Wind direction + Force: ESE + 4
Swell Height + Direction: 2.5m + SxE
Weather: bright, sunny
Day’s Run: 147.3nm
Passage Log: 147.3nm
Distance to Port: 1294nm
Voyage: 4890.5nm
Sail Set: All sails, with the exception of spanker, gaff topsail, mizzen staysail, fore topmast staysail

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Day’s Run – 2 July, 2018

Yesterday’s South Seas Seamanship Soiree was a big success. First a neck and neck game of pin rail chases, where a member from each team stands at the ready as the chief mate calls out a line and the three scurry to beat their opponents to touch the belaying pin first. Once each member of the crew had taken a turn, the watches were divided up for three timed events: splices, boxing the compass, and the test of the steadiest hand at helm. It came down to a tie, 4-8 vs 8-12. The tiebreaker being who could fill a trash can full of seawater first with a bucket from the ocean rushing by. Once all the scores were properly tallied and all bribes were distributed to the judges, the results were in, 8-12 are the official 2018 Picton Castle Seamanship Derby Champions – rightfully so, being that it’s the chief mate’s watch.

From here the crew rolled into a celebratory marlinspike punch, not only celebrating the derby but the national days of three nations, Tonga and the USA which both celebrate on July 4th and Canada Day which is celebrated on July 1st. At a very timely moment in the afternoon, a marlinspike miracle occurred: there was a  70lb wahoo on the fishing line! Five-year-old Dawson called it a ‘hoohaa’.  There was lots to celebrate yesterday, good fun had by all.

It’s now Monday morning again and there is steady activity around the decks.

The new daymen are settling into their positions as sailmakers, riggers, and carpenters. Sean of New Orleans, USA is working away on the well deck on a new laundry line spreader. Jack of Virginia, USA is learning the herringbone stitch, a very useful and strong stitch that sailmakers often rely on for repairs. Ship’s cook Donald of Grenada has been preparing the wahoo (the biggest he had ever seen) for dinner, as onlookers drool over the fresh fish. Navigation class is in full swing, taking students to the next level of understanding the three dimensional concepts.

From: Galapagos
Towards: Pitcairn
Date: July 2, 2018
Noon Position: 12°24.5′ S x 108°29.7′ W
Course + Speed: SW + 5.8′
Wind direction + Force: ESE + 4
Swell Height + Direction: 3m + ESE
Weather: Bright, sunny
Day’s Run: 140.0nm
Passage Log: 140.3nm
Voyage: 4743.2nm
Sail Set: All sails

 

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Day’s Run – 1 July, 2018

Rolling down to Pitcairn. Almost halfway. A fresh wind on the port beam, yards braced just so, all sails full and drawing, a white noise as the seas rush by the waterline. Blue white-capped seas as far as we can behold.  Shoals of flying fish taking to wing to get out of our way – just like yesterday. An ocean to ourselves.

Today we enjoy a beautiful Sunday at sea and Canada Day! The Canadian flag was hoisted to the royal yard (the tallest yard) on the foremast and the many Canadians onboard are sporting their red, whites, plaids and toques. Canada sits close to the heart of Picton Castle crew, because despite the cold winters in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, the ship calls the country home base. Like Canada is a multicultural country, the Picton Castle is a multicultural vessel. Our mates and lead seamen hail from Bermuda, Germany, Canada, USA, Norway, Denmark, Tonga, Australia, France and Spain.

This morning the ‘Danish Clipper’, our ship’s most stylish barber, Anders of Denmark, was open for business, supplying the crew with the best haircuts this side of the Equator. As Anders states “I don’t give bad haircuts”.

The watches take the traditional ‘Sunday at sea’ and a break from ship’s work today, focusing their attention on preparing for the Seamanship Derby! Costumes are in the works, knots and splices are being practiced, the anticipation is building. Which watch will come out on top? Rumours of bribes and tricks abound.

From: Galapagos
Towards: Pitcairn Island
Date: July 1, 2018
Noon Position: 11°12.1′ S x 106°27.4 ‘W
Course + Speed: SW + 5.7’
Wind direction + Force: SExE + 4
Swell Height + Direction: 3m + SE
Weather: Bright, sunny
Day’s Run: 136.9nm
Passage Log: 140.2nm
Distance to Port: 1574nm
Voyage: 4602.9nm
Sail Set: All sails are set

 

 

Anders – The Danish Clipper

 

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