Captain's Log

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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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Visiting Canada For Rendezvous 2017

Close to a year ago, we decided to sign on for the Rendezvous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta.  This means that in the summer of 2017, Picton Castle will join an international fleet of tall ships for a series of festivals and races.  The Regatta actually starts in Europe, in the UK and Portugal, but we’ll meet up with the fleet in Bermuda in early June and remain with the fleet until the end of August.

We’ve been eagerly awaiting news of which Canadian ports we’ll be assigned to visit.  As you can imagine, it’s a lot of work for the organizers, Sail Training International, to coordinate the visit of 40+ ships to 30+ ports in Canada.  A few weeks ago we were given our list of ports and dates for Picton Castle.

In the summer of 2017, Picton Castle will visit the following ports:

Bermuda

Boston

Summerside, PEI

Sept Iles, Quebec

Baie Comeau, Quebec

Quebec City

Norris Point, Newfoundland

Louisbourg, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Digby, Nova Scotia

sail past Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia

Saint John, New Brunswick

Some of these ports we know and love.  Some will be first-time visits for us.  We’re excited about them all!

Anyone age 16+ can sign on as a trainee on this voyage, no sailing experience necessary.  Dates, legs and costs are available here.

Picton Castle in Quebec City 2016

Picton Castle in Quebec City 2016

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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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Bosun School Learns Sailmaking

For the past few weeks, Bosun School students have been focused on sailmaking.  It’s a good skill for a bosun to have – by making a sail, you understand how it works, why each part is the way it is, how to use it and how to look after it.  There aren’t very many sailing ships making their own sails aboard anymore (Picton Castle is one of the only ones), but the understanding of how it’s done makes you a better mariner.

Captain Moreland demonstrates patching techniques

Captain Moreland demonstrates patching techniques

Repairing sails is a skill a mariner is much more likely to use on a sailing ship.  From time to time, sails rip.  Catching it early and repairing it properly extends the life of the sail.  As Captain Moreland explained when he was introducing sailmaking to the students, there are times when different kinds of repairs need to be done.  Sometimes you need the perfect repair, done so well you’d hardly know it wasn’t part of the original sail.  Sometimes you need a quick and dirty five-minute job that will hold for a few hours or a few days so the sail can be set again immediately.  Sometimes you need something in between. Ashling sews in a window patch

Ashling sews in a window patch

Throughout this unit of study, Bosun School students have had the chance to practice all kinds of repairs.  They have sewn in lovely window patches, they have also done ugly-but-effective rubber cement patches on a synthetic fabric sail.

Anne-Laure working on the sewing machine

Anne-Laure working on the sewing machine

Bosun School students have also been involved in making some new sails.  They did some hand seaming on a new main topmast staysail to prepare it for a second layout.  We also have a main deck awning that was ready for a second layout.  And we wanted to do a first layout of a sail with the Bosun School, so we chose to lay out an outer jib.

Kimga put a corner patch on the new outer jib

Kimba put a corner patch on the new outer jib

For two afternoons last week, we used the gym floor at the Lunenburg Community Centre for laying out sails.  We’re not the first people to use the community centre gym for this purpose – Michele Stevens Sailloft laid out the sails for the schooner Columbia there.  The space is so large that we were able to lay all three out at once.

Liz and the main topmast staysail

Liz and the main topmast staysail

laying out sails at the Lunenburg Community Centre

laying out sails at the Lunenburg Community Centre

Both the main deck awning and the main topmast staysail were laid out for the second time.  On the second layout, we even out the edges of the canvas, cut off the outside edge to be used as the material for the tabling (which we accounted for on the first layout) and make sure the shape of the sail is as we want it.

To do the first layout of the outer jib, we marked the dimensions of the sail plus the part we would later cut away in green masking tape on the floor, then rolled out the canvas over top of the shape and cut the cloths to the appropriate lengths, then marked them in the correct order.  To give the Bosun School students some experience with machine sewing, we did the seaming for this sail with our big industrial Singer sewing machine.

Ashling, Polina, Liz & Kimba seam the outer jib

Ashling, Polina, Liz & Kimba seam the outer jib

Kimba, Anne Laure, Ashling, Fiji & Aaron seam sails on the Singer

Kimba, Anne Laure, Ashling, Fiji & Aaron seam sails on the Singer

Once a sail is sewn together, there is still a lot of work to do, and most of it is by hand.  The tabling, which is an extra layer of canvas that sandwiches the outside edge of the sail, is sewn on by hand, as are corner patches and any other patches the sail needs (bunt patches, reef patches, sun patches, etc).  Canvas sails are then roped, meaning a rope is sewn around the outside of the sail to help strengthen it and ropes are often covered with canvas or leather rope coverings.  Grommets need to be sewn in to any point where the sail needs to be attached to the yard, the stay or any running rigging.

Sewing grommets into the luff of the new outer jib

Sewing grommets into the luff of the new outer jib

 

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Captain’s Log: Introduction to Sailmaking – Ditty Bags

One of the best first projects for any beginner sailmaker is a ditty bag.  What is a ditty bag and why would one want to make one, you ask?

Well, a ditty bag is a canvas bag, typically shaped like a cylinder, that’s used to hold a sailor’s tools.  We have no idea why it’s called a ditty bag, it just always has been.  On Picton Castle, we typically make the bottom of the bag out of wood cut into a circle to help give the bag some structure and durability, but the bottom could just as easily be canvas or leather.

By making a ditty bag, a sailor not only get a practical bag in which to keep their tools, they also get an introduction to a variety of concepts and skills required for making sails.

The first step is to measure and cut the canvas.  What eventually becomes a cylinder starts as a rectangle, with extra width and height added for amount of canvas that will be folded over for the seam and the tabling.  Next, the short edges are folded under and rubbed to make a crease.  The canvas is then made into a cylinder and the two ends are seamed together.

This is, for many sailors, the first time they use a needle and a palm.  A palm is like a thimble for the palm of your hand, worn around your hand, with a metal surface that can push the end of the needle through the canvas.  Palms come in right- and left-handed versions and varying grades of sturdiness.

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On a sail, the tabling, which is an extra layer of canvas around the perimeter of the sail, is a separate piece of canvas sewn on.  When making a ditty bag, the tabling is made by simply folding over the top of the bag and sewing it down.

The next step is to add two small grommets where the becket (the handle) will be attached.  We make the grommets ourselves out of waxed marline, wrapping strands of it together in a circle then using a fid (a cone-shaped tool) to shape them into a circle.  The grommets are then stitched into the tabling on opposite sides.

Then it’s time to make a big grommet for the top of the bag.  This grommet is usually made of manila rope and must be made to fit exactly.  Canvas sails typically have roping around the outside of the sail to help give the sail strength and structure.  The large grommet around the opening of the top of the cylindrical bag does the same.  Once the grommet fits exactly, it gets sewn on.

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The last step before attaching the bottom is to make the becket, or the handle of the bag.  It’s typically made of manila rope as well, and the length is chosen by the individual depending on how they want to use their bag.  Some choose a long becket so they can wear their bag across their body and take it aloft into the rigging, others prefer a shorter becket so their bag can be carried by hand or possibly looped over one shoulder.  The becket needs to go through both grommets, then has an eye spliced in each end.  We like to use the sailmaker’s splice, a splice that goes with the lay, on beckets so that sailors can learn another splice that’s useful in sailmaking.  The splices are then served to strengthen and protect them, and to make the bag look more finished.

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As I mentioned earlier, we typically make the bottom out of wood cut into a circle.  There’s more measuring and cutting involved, a bit of sanding and applying something to protect the wood, then the canvas is turned under at the bottom, the wood circle is placed into the bag and the canvas is nailed to the wood.

Bosun School students started their ditty bags on Saturday morning and finished them on Monday as part of their current focus on sailmaking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Captain’s Log – Wire Splicing

Last week, after having served a number of footropes, Bosun School students moved on to wire splicing.  Specifically, splicing an eye into the end of a wire rope.

There are a number of uses aboard a ship for a wire rope eye.  Aboard Picton Castle, we have wire sheet pennants for many of our fore and aft sails, our brace pennants are made of wire, there are wire guys connected to the davits, and the clewlines on some of the heavier sails have wire rope components.  So, it’s very useful for a mariner to be able to splice wire.

The splice the Bosun School students were working on is the Liverpool eye splice.  This is a splice that goes with the lay.  Students started by setting up the wire in a vice to hold it steady, tying the ends to the classroom ceiling so they were held straight up and seizing the two pieces of wire together to form the eye.  Then, with the use of a large marlinspike, strands of the rope were separated and other strands woven in to form the splice.  When it was finished, ends were cut off.

Captain Moreland says that someone with experience and lots of practice should be able to do ten of these per day.  Our Bosun School students are working on their second or third wire splices in as many days, so more practice to come.

wire splicing - photo by Melissa Boulanger

wire splicing – photo by Melissa Boulanger

wire splicing - photo by Melissa Boulanger

wire splicing – photo by Melissa Boulanger

wire splicing - photo by Melissa Boulanger

wire splicing – photo by Melissa Boulanger

 

wire splicing - photo by Melissa Boulanger

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Captain’s Log – Introduction to Sailmaking

Captain Moreland started the sailmaking section of the Bosun School by explaining the shape of a headsail and how to do a first layout of one of these sails.  Bosun School students will start their hands-on practice by making a ditty bag (more on that later), then will learn how to repair sails, and will lay out a new headsail.

 

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Captain’s Log – Rigging And Yards

With Picton Castle in drydock, the Bosun School students are working on yards and rigging.

As you may remember from previous Captain’s Logs, we sent down all yards on the fore and main masts except the course yards.  Picton Castle’s royal and t’gallant yards are made of wood, her upper and lower topsail yards (as well as course yards) are made of steel.  Students have been working on overhauling the steel yards, busting the rust as necessary and preparing the yards for coatings.  Niko and Ashling were working on applying a product called Blue Steel, which is a rust converter primer (not to be confused with the Zoolander pose of the same name).20161013_14294420161013_142821-resized

All of the standing rigging was removed from the yards and taken into the warehouse for overhaul.  Bosun School students have had lessons in worming, parceling and serving.  We worm, parcel and serve in order to protect wire or rope from corrosion and chafe.  It’s easier, less expensive and more practical to replace the service that protects the wire rope than to replace the wire rope itself.  Worming fills the channels between the strands of wire rope with lengths of smaller line, parceling means to cover the rope and worming with thin strips of light cotton material (we sometimes use thin canvas or even old bedsheets) wrapped around them, then serving covers the whole thing in tightly wrapped tarred marline.


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Captain’s Log 10 October, 2016 – Drydock Continues …

Picton Castle has now been in drydock for a week.  The ship was hauled out last Monday at the Lunenburg Foundry for routine maintenance.  We haul the ship out of the water every two years in order to inspect, clean and overhaul the hull and the through-hull fittings.  She’s awfully impressive out of the water, there’s a lot more ship under the waterline than you might imagine! 20161004_162311_resized

Bosun School students did a walk around the outside of the hull last Monday with Captain Moreland, as he pointed out a number of interesting features and ran down the work list.  Since then, the hull has been pressure washed to remove the marine growth, the old zinc anodes have been removed, epoxy primer has been spot painted on to the small areas where there was bare steel and we’ve done testing of the thickness of the steel hull.  Through-hull fittings have been removed for cleaning and overhaul, and seacock valves have also been removed for the same reason.  While out of the water, Picton Castle is also having her annual survey. 20161003_155022-reduced

It’s now Thanksgiving Monday in Lunenburg and the workers at the Lunenburg Foundry are enjoying a holiday.  It’s raining today, but weather looks fair for the next few days which should allow work to continue on the hull.

To celebrate Thanksgiving, Captain Moreland hosted a dinner for the Bosun School crew at his home on Sunday night.  We all have so much to be thankful for!

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How to Rust Bust Steel Yards

While Picton Castle is in drydock, Bosun School students have been carrying on with projects related to Picton Castle’s yards. All yards except the course yards were sent down last week.

Picton Castle’s royal and t’gallant yards (the top two yards on both the foremast and mainmast) are made of wood. The upper and lower topsail yards, as well as the course yards, are made of steel.

The steel yards need to have the rust removed, first by chipping hammer, then by wire brush, then possibly by powered wire wheel or sanding disc. Alternately, sandblasting would do the same thing (and probably even a better job of it) but on a ship at sea, sandblasting is not an option.

Captain Moreland gave the Bosun School a lesson this morning on how to properly use a chipping hammer.

 

 

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