Captain's Log

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Day’s Run – 20 March 2019

Day came in light overcast, but nice and warm. Wore ship around to port tack at dawn. Sent up stuns’l gear. Set studding sails (stuns’ls) before noon. Everything else much the same. Yard getting worked on. Deck planks replaced. Old t’gallant getting a new clew by the sailmakers. Seas small. Just nice passage making.

From: Luderitz, Namibia

Towards: St Helena

Date: March 20, 2019

Noon position: 19-47S / 005-30E

Course and speed: WNW at 5 knots

Wind Force and Direction: SE at Force 3-4 Swell Height and Direction: small from the SE and the SW

Barometer: 1019 and dropping

Water temperature: 23.5C – 74F

Distance made good in 24 hours: 108 nautical miles

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Day’s Run – 19 March 2019

The day came in fair and partly cloudy. Small sea, light southeasterly winds. Plenty tropical warm now. The decks are busy with good works. Much like the day before. Sailmaking, new planks, spar making and mysterious projects in the engine room. Navigation class on the quarterdeck at 1000 followed by noon sights for latitude at about 1245, meridian passage. Today’s workshop will be on “mast and spar making in wood and steel”. Rigging up for studding sails to be set tomorrow after wearing ship around, or so is the prognostication. Curried roti for lunch today.

From: Luderitz, Namibia

Towards: St Helena Island

Date: March 19, 2019

Noon position: 20-59S / 006-25E

Course + Speed: NNW at 3 knots

Wind Force + Direction: SSE, Force 3, a light 3

Barometer: 1018 steady

Water Temperature: 23.3C / 74F

Distance made good in 24 hours (day’s run): 60 nautical miles

Voyage Log: 21,139 miles

Sails set: all plain square sail, spanker and staysails taken in

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Day’s Run – 18 March 2019

Winds have gone light. Should pick up in a day or two. Yards are just off square. Celestial navigators were out in force today at noon. What chance has the sun? New planks going on the quarterdeck with Carlos and Anne-Laure. Dirk has taken charge of the new royal yard. Erin and I are planning the ANN rebuild. It will be tricky. Sailmaking proceeds apace on the quarterdeck as well. Brahm and Aaron have dove into the engine room to learn the magic down there. Picton Castle‘s engine room is a great one in which to learn machinery, with the wonderful Burmeister & Wain Alpha diesel main engine and the Lister auxiliaries. And Deyan is on the job, Deyan is a gifted diesel engineer. 

From: Luderitz, Namibia

Towards: St. Helena

Date: Monday March 18, 2019

Noon Position: 21-52E / 006-59E

Course and Speed: NNW at 3 knots

Day’s Run: 75 nautical miles

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Bound for St Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean

Three days out of Luderitz the barque Picton Castle is sailing along with all sail set in a modest Force 3 breeze on the port quarter. We are a few miles south of the Tropic of Capricorn in the South Atlantic bound northwest from Namibia towards St Helena some 1,000 miles over the horizon ahead. Almost back in the tropics once again. Sea temperatures have been rising from 13C to now 21C in only a few days. It is getting warmer. After complaining about the cold, soon we will be able to complain about the heat.

Sailing pretty nice just now, just after dawn, with Luderitz 350 miles astern, that delightful and curious little diamond mining and fishing town on that treacherous coast. The South Atlantic run from Africa to the Caribbean is predictably the loveliest passage of the voyage. Long one too but we do not seem to notice. Apart from our new crew who joined in Cape Town, the gang is mostly old seafaring hands by now. Smaller and more regular seas, more reliable trade winds are our lot, and squalls are rare here in the South Atlantic. Best of all, almost no circular storms, not in these tropical regions anyway. Plenty flying fish though, and we caught a 45-pound big-eyed tuna yesterday much to six-year-old Dawson’s excitement. Bending some more sail after the hairy howling winds around southern Africa. No need for kites such as upper staysails, flying jibs and royals in that part of the blustery ocean. Varnishing up the stuns’l booms to send up and run out soon. Dawson just came into the charthouse office with a piece of hot bread fresh out of the oven from Donald’s galley. A nice flaky croissant no less.

Today we start shaping a new royal yard from a 6×6 piece of black spruce we brought from Lunenburg. The yard to be replaced was not old and upon inspection, had no evident inherent internal defects, no knots and it wasn’t rotten, just had a worked crack. Developed a hairline crack that worked open and closed but was difficult to see by visual inspection, then just cracked more one day. Not really too dangerous as there is so much holding the yard together, yokes and jackstays and canvas but such a crack renders it no good and must come down for replacement or repair if possible. So, we get to make a new yard. Very instructional, good self-reliant seagoing stuff, good for the mates to be in on this as well as the gang, glad we have all the bits and the spare timber to make one. A crew does not get to make yard for a square-rigger every day. In Cape Town we sent the fore royal yard down and sent it back up and crossed on the main mast. The ship looks better that way.

Along these lines, in order to give the gang a chance to learn something of wooden boat building, we are going to rebuild the 16 foot long Palmerston Atoll cutter ANN here on the hatch on the way to the West Indies. We have 5,000 miles and perhaps 40+ days to do this, or it turns into a Bosun School project. The idea is to have her done, rigged, sparred and sails made so we can sail her in the Caribbees in among some nice islands. Sweet boat. Rebuilding old schooners is what taught some us shipwright work – even how to build new ones. This project will give our gang a shot at learning a lot about wooden boat building.

This boat was just going to compost or kindling at Palmerston Atoll in the Cook Islands, rotting away under a palm tree, no good to anyone anymore. Big strong aluminum motorboats do the job now in most of the South Pacific atolls. Thus we get the interesting project of saving a piece of South Pacific heritage called ANN. If a museum wanted her when she is done, they have but to ask. We will be trying to do a meticulous and worthy restoration, not just a repair job. Big difference between the two approaches. The island guys, Simon Marsters and company, also cut out local timbers, tamanu (great stuff), for reframing and we got some fine planking stock in Fiji. Forget its name but it’s light, bendy and fine grain. The boat isn’t actually rotten, it is fully intact, just dried out, cracked and worn out and fastening sick. Been refastened too many times so each plank is ready to break right at the frame. Pretty much at every frame, ‘snap off along the dotted line’ sort of thing. Five or six nail holes where there should be no more than two, what with repairs over the years. The pretty bronze tapered squared nails lose their grip as the wood dries out and just fall out. Planks spring off. Good stuff otherwise. Sitting 20 years on the beach, she be some dried out.

So we start by wedging her quarters back into shape, then replace half the sawn frames, then all the planks, alternating as we go. Then the rest of the frames that need to go. Stem, keel, transom and knees are good-ish. New boat, but still the old boat. All bronze metal including cut up stair treads for chainplates and the like, all salvaged from sailing ships wrecked on the weather side of that atoll. Even bits of the HMS BOUNTY ended up on Palmerston Atoll. Certainly, this fine boat will be sailed at Wednesday night Hump Cup races in Lunenburg Harbour, and in Bosun School. Pics are on the website of getting it off the beach and onto the ship. Interesting job in itself getting her aboard. Soon Dirk will lead the keen in the mysteries of celestial sextant navigation. Figuring out ‘time of noon’, noon sight meridian passage for latitude, morning and afternoon sights for lines of position, stars at dawn and dusk for the serious wielders of sextants. Learn to bring the sun down like a beach ball on the horizon. Tables, celestial sphere, calculations, chronometer time, height of eye, zenith distance, lower limb correction and more to chew on and digest to become a sextant navigator. A long trade wind passage like this is the perfect classroom to enter into and perhaps master this arcane art. Sailmaking, rigging and even engine room daymen to go into their areas of concentration for a time as the rest of the gang sails the ship day in and day out.

All the auguries are for a fine passage towards St Helena and the West Indies. Somewhere along this road, maybe over 2,000 miles in the future, the Picton Castle will cross the equator again, into the northern hemisphere. But that is a long way off yet, we have some passage making to carry out.

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Day’s Run – 17 March 2019

Once again the day came in overcast and then cleared up by midday. My guess is that has something do with a sea/air differential. Sunday at sea today. Also our first full day in the tropics in some time. New daymen have been stuck out to sailmaking, rigging and carpentry. Carpentry is concerned with making a new royal yard and sundry deck projects here and there. Dirk started a new celestial navigation class. Two mahi-mahi were hauled over the rail this morning. I saw Johnny cleaning them at the break of the deck. He needed a sharper knife. Yards are squared and the spanker is brailed in. And a happy St Patrick’s Day.

From: Luderitz, Namibia

Towards: St. Helena

Date: Sunday, March 17, 2019

Noon Position: 22-29S / 008-08E

Course + Speed: NNW, 4 knots

Wind Direction + Force: light from the SE

Swell: small

Day’s Run: 101 nautical miles

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Day’s Run – 16 March 2019

The day came in overcast and like yesterday was clearing by noon. Progress being made on the new royal yard. Got the taper in. Erin, Dirk, Carlos and James working on it. Gaff topsail being bent on again. Celestial navigation class scheduled for tomorrow. Having crossed the Tropic of Capricorn this morning, the Picton Castle is back in the tropics.

From: Luderitz, Namibia

To: St. Helena
Date: Saturday, March 16, 2019
Noon position: 23-27 S / 009-44E
Course + speed: steering NWxW, 5 knots
Wind Direction + Force: SE, Force 3
Swell Height + Direction: modest swell from SE
Weather: light overcast to clearing

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Day’s Run – 15 March 2019

The day came in overcast and cleared slowly throughout the day, becoming sunny by day’s end. Water temperature is also up five degrees Celsius by day’s end.

Today we caught a 22 kilo “big-eyed tuna”. It has big eyes. Caught a second fish later but tossed it back being so small. Many birds yet about the ship. We have started in on shaping a new royal yard of a spare yard blank of spruce we brought with us from Lunenburg, now well seasoned and soaked in brine. The Palmerston cutter ANN is on the hatch with a view to starting her rebuild as a way to teach wooden boat building. Today’s workshop was on the passage plan for the run to St Helena and onward the Eastern Caribbean.

From: Luderitz, Namibia

Towards: St. Helena

Date: Friday, March 15, 2019

Noon Position: 24-06S / 011-16E

Course + Speed: steering NWxW, 5 knots

Wind direction + Force: Force 3-4 on the port quarter

Swell Height + Direction: small seas

Day’s Run: 131 nautical miles

Sails Set: all plain sail

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Day’s Run – 14 March 2019

We set sail in strong winds off Luderitz early afternoon yesterday. A bright shiny day on the southwest coast of Africa. Soon we were making 7+ knots under lower topsails and foresail and a couple staysails. As we got offshore the winds laid down as expected and we set all sail. It is some breezy around Luderitz. Howls, it does around there. Now we are bound for St Helena island, most famous historically in the west as Napolean Bonaparte’s last address. In addition to this Anglo-French curiosity, St Helena harbours many other fascinations as well. We can expect good sailing all the way and beyond to the Caribbean islands as well almost 5,000 miles away. Just now under all plain sail. Bending more sail. Getting ready for sundry trade wind projects, sailmaking, spar-making, boat repair and navigation & seamanship workshops. And thinking about the next islands.

From: Luderitz, Namibia

Towards: Saint Helena

Date: Thursday March 14, 2019

Noon Position: 25-26S / 013-12E

Course: NW-1/2N, 320 true

Wind direction + Force: SE at Force 3-4

Day’s Run: 131 nautical miles

Distance to Port: 1,200 nautical miles

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Captain’s Log – Conference in California

Maggie here, writing to you from Picton Castle’s shore office in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada.  While Picton Castle is in Luderitz, Namibia and our usual Captain’s Log writers are busy getting fuel and provisions sorted out for the ship (and seeing some amazing sights in this old German mining town), I’m here to bring you an update from the shore crew. 

A couple of weeks ago, Bronwen Livingston and I headed to San Pedro, California for the Tall Ships America conference.  Bronwen may be familiar to some of you – she was a frequent contributor to the Captain’s Log back on Picton Castle’s fifth world voyage (2010-2011) when she sailed as purser on that voyage.  Bronwen has joined Trudi Inglis and I in the office, working on a few special projects, and we’re glad to have her back. 

Anyway, Bronwen and I flew to California to take part in Tall Ships America’s annual conference.  We try to have Picton Castle represented there every year, and it’s especially important in years when we’re participating in the Tall Ships Challenge, like we are this year.  It’s a great opportunity for us to put names and faces together and to hammer out final details with all of the host port organizers from the various places we’ll visit in the coming summer.  The conference has all sorts of interesting, informative and educational sessions, plus lots of time to talk and connect with other people who work in our industry.  Days were full and busy, starting with breakfast at 0730 and ending with evening receptions that went into the night. 

One of the highlights for us was learning that Picton Castle’s Chief Mate, Erin Greig, would receive an award at the conference’s gala dinner.  Here’s an excerpt from Erin’s nomination as Young Sail Trainer of the Year:

“Erin has worked her way up through the ranks in Barque Picton Castle, first sailing as an apprentice in the South Pacific, then as lead seaman, then bosun on several transatlantic passages to Africa and Europe, then watch officer in training.  After taking some time away from working at sea in order to pursue her education for licensing at Warsash Academy in the UK, Erin became the first Bermudian woman to become a certified Officer of the Watch, Unlimited and 3,000 tons as Chief Officer. Now, as mentioned, she is Chief Mate on an ambitious 30,000 mile voyage, effectively and cheerfully leading young people, mature folks, men and women on this amazing circumnavigation and turning non-mariners into capable seafarers and shipmates. She is simply one of a small handful of dedicated young sailing ship mariners that I can call the most competent and inspiring leaders at sea in sail training today.”

Erin wasn’t there to receive her award in person, so I accepted on her behalf and will be sure it’s properly presented to her once Picton Castle sails into Lunenburg to complete this world circumnavigation voyage. 

We now have in our hands another award as well.  Back in November, none of us from Picton Castle were able to attend the Sail Training International conference in Seville, Spain, so when we were awarded the Sail Training Program of the Year award, Mike Rauworth, the Chair of Tall Ships America, accepted it on our behalf.  Mike toted it across the Atlantic and across the continent for us and presented it to us in person in San Pedro.  We’re still pretty excited about this one, being recognized by our industry colleagues worldwide is a huge honour. 

We were pleased to have a real Lunenburg contingent there at the conference.  In addition to Bronwen and I, there was David Jones from Class Afloat, and Captain Phil Watson and Anne Bailly from Bluenose IIBluenose II will also be sailing to the Great Lakes this summer and we’re looking forward to sailing in company with her.  

It’s always inspiring to see what other people and organizations are doing in their own home towns and this conference was no different.  In the Program Showcase session where I presented about our upcoming Bosun School, there was a presentation on the construction of the brigantine Matthew Turner in Sausalito, California, and a presentation on the schooner Ernestina which is currently undergoing a multi-year reconstruction in Maine. 

The conference flew by and soon it was time for us to head home, just ahead of the next snow storm in Nova Scotia.  Luckily we had a few hours to be tourists and explore Venice Beach before we got on the plane! 

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Day’s Run – 10 March 2019

Picton Castle is now alongside the long narrow dock in the small port town of Luderitz, Nambia. Nice old wooden fishing vessels of the North Sea model, big stern trawlers, a massive and complicated looking diamond dredging ship, a small tug and few yachts, with sea gulls laying low in the strong winds. At the pilot station at 1730.  Got alongside about 1800 yesterday evening. Blew hard on the way in. Winds kept picking up all afternoon to a full gale then increased. As the Picton Castle came around Diaz Point (where Bartholomew Diaz made landfall in 1488 (I think)) winds increased to 45 even 50. Down to storm staysails but full power, the land provided some lee from the seas anyway. Once in the approach channel the wind, as hard as it was, was on the nose as we brought her into the dock. Wind being right ahead is better than astern or from a side when docking anyway. The docking was smooth. The crew did a good job. And soon enough we were cleared in by customs and immigration ready to take in this interesting old port.

Date: March 10, 2019

From: Cape Town, South Africa

To: Luderitz, Namibia

Noon position: 26-38S x 015-09E

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