Captain's Log

Archive for December, 2006

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Two Days Out from Lunenburg

At long last, after gales and an early blizzard, the Picton Castle set sail on Tuesday afternoon at 1300. All the signs were there that it was time to go, from the snow on the decks to the excitement on the faces of a whole new group of trainees. We headed out of Lunenburg harbour with Andrea Deyling at the helm once again, bound for warmer weather, trade winds, great sailing conditions and eventually Grenada.

Two days out from Lunenburg, things on board are still a bit chilly although there was a noticeable rise in temperature yesterday and today. A poll of the crew has shown that the average number of layers on top yesterday was six and on bottom was three. We looked like young children in snowsuits, bundled so tightly we couldn’t put our arms down at our sides. The galley stove has been running all day and night, giving one warm and accessible spot on board for people to pop in and warm up. Crew are having experiences that they can tell stories about for the rest of their lives, as we banged the ice off the lines while leaving Lunenburg so we could set the tops’ls. This is the stuff legends are made of, like the story Irving Johnston tells about his trip around Cape Horn on the PEKING in the film “Around Cape Horn.”

The galley is the warmest place on board, and people are looking forward to their turn on galley duty. Bonnie Gold, our medical officer, has taken on the extra responsibility of coordinating the cooking and is being assisted by two different trainees every day. The trainees are starting to learn the tricks of living aboard a rolling ship, including how high you can stack the plates before they fall over and how much coffee can go in a cup without spilling. We have been eating well, with the deckhands leading the crew in cooking duties in Lunenburg. Who knew that line-hauling, rope-splicing, aloft-climbing, order-giving deckhands could also cook? They can, and very well, as we have been eating everything from lasagna to quiche, soups to roasts to jambalaya.

Chibley has chosen to make another voyage in the Picton Castle. Usually we lock her into a compartment on the day we are scheduled to go, but this time we let her free to decide for herself whether she wanted to go with the ship or stay home with her beloved Captain Moreland. Chibley came to the final muster before we left the dock, said her goodbye to the Captain and happily climbed back into the hatch to the Bat Cave. I thought all along that she would come with us, so we had already stowed a six-month supply of cat food and litter.

The weather is just starting to get warmer as we have entered the Gulf Stream. Slowly people are taking off layers of clothing, but it’s not quite shorts and tee-shirt weather yet. Just now the 8–12 watch has the deck, under the direction of lead seaman Laura Gainey. Kelly has lookout while Fred is on helm. The rest of the watch is coiling down lines after we braced the yards sharp on a starboard tack at the change of the watch. We’re moving along at about 7 knots under lower tops’ls, inner jib, and fore topmast stays’l, heading south to warmer weather.

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Good-bye to Lunenburg, Bound for Grenada

Finally, the weather has given us the patiently anticipated window we were waiting for while all hands stored ship, bent sail and went through their first safety drills. On Tuesday the 5th of December at 1300 the lines were cast off from the Picton Castle dock in Lunenburg and a fine farewell given by Deputy Mayor David Dauphinee and Captain Daniel Moreland. Lots of friends came by to wave us off, including Bill Gilkerson, Bob Higgins, Mikayla Joudrey, and the whole shore office team. Lynsey Rebbetoy, as usual, was busy to the last minute to make sure we have all we need. Chibbley decided to share with us the Caribbean adventure and is getting on with her bunk inspection as we speak.

With temperatures just below freezing point, and a breeze from starboard abeam, the light snow showers make sure we won’t forget to appreciate the fine warm weather we are about to sail in soon. Who was it that said it is fun to sail in snow? Ice was broken off the frozen stiff lines and the snow shuffeled from decks and pin rails; nevertheless, we all have smiles on our faces and are full of good spirits. With a long blast for Lunenburg from our ship’s horn, we left the dock and headed for Battery Point.

With great respect for all those seamen who sailed in stormy winter seas the crew lays aloft and loosens topsails. Cold hands and stiff ropes make us aware of how much we were taking for granted: centrally heated rooms not long ago…The galley soon becomes the most frequented place on board, a fine spot for warming up with hot water for a very welcome noodle soup and tea.

The weather is good to us: with 25 knots of wind on the starboard quarter we motor-sail past Cross Island following the backside of that Low with Hurricane force winds, which kept us waiting so long. Mysteriously enough we did not pick up any lobster pots on our way out, but just as we hit the open sea we happen to encounter one of the Canadian Navy ships. Not too far off we find a submarine operating in periscope height, and our first wearing ship maneuver is due. About time that something happens and makes us move; the ropes, however, seem to think differently.

Accompanying dolphins and a fine smell from the galley round up our first day at sea just fine, and while the moon leaves a wonderful sparkling light on the dark sea we look forward to our sunny and warm days, not too far away anymore.

Captain Michael Vogelsgesang
Captains shake hands with Deputy Mayor of Lunenburg
Crew haul the main braces in Lunenburg
David, Don Wilson, Lynsey, and Mikayla cast off dock line
Greg stands by helm in Lunenburg Bay
Winter in Lunenburg off the starboard quarter

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Getting Ready to Go

The Picton Castle is almost ready to head out on her next adventure, a six-month voyage in the Eastern Caribbean. Professional crew and trainees have been arriving since the middle of November, and with the full crew here as of Monday we put to work as a team to get the ship ready to go. The ship has been a flurry of activity as we combine formal training sessions with the work of preparing a ship for sea. All hands have worked hard bending on sails, stowing food and books in the hold, practicing bracing, drilling in safety, loading boats on top of the galley house, varnishing deck boxes, making sure we have the right charts, painting the Monomoy (our rowing-sailing whaleboat), fixing the water pump in the galley, keeping the ship clean, carrying spare sails from the warehouse to the ship and so much more.

Leading the crew in preparations and on this voyage is Captain Michael Vogelsgesang, who has Picton Castle experience as he served as Chief Mate for a year during the second world voyage. He has had command of many different ships, most recently the Francesco Petrarca, a three-masted wooden schooner sailing in the Mediterranean. We are pleased to welcome him to his new role on the Picton Castle and look forward to an excellent voyage in the Caribbean. Captain Moreland continues on as the Senior Captain and CEO of the company (and Marine Superintendent, etc., etc.) and plans to use his time ashore to continue developing the ship’s programs, including The Bosun’s School, which is an intensive training program for experienced traditional seafarers being run for the first time this winter.

The professional crew and trainees we have assembled here are a good group. In addition to the pro crew, there are five trainees who plan to spend the entire six months with us as they participate in the apprentice program and become true traditional seafarers. Many of the trainees who are aboard now are only with us a few weeks for the passage south to Grenada. Already they are all functioning well as a team and have started to learn the ways of the ship. Sail handling is obviously a huge part of our training, but learning to stow and lash is an equally important aspect of seamanship. Many have been surprised by the amount of work that goes into beginning a voyage, but it makes us even more appreciative of the day we get to set sail. There has been plenty of work this time, but there would have been even more had we completely down-rigged after our summer voyage. Running rigging was made off aloft, which saved having to set it all up again, and many supplies and provisions stayed on the ship during our two month port stay in Lunenburg.

The ship is nearly ready, and we will go as soon as we get a clear window in the weather. We expect it will come in the next day or two as a giant low-pressure system currently sitting south of Nova Scotia moves off up the coast. The first few days at sea are sure to be chilly, and we are all looking forward to getting past the Gulf Stream where we will feel the change in the temperature immediately. In the meantime we are using our extra time well to practice rowing the Monomoy, run through safety drills, and lash the last few things in the hold. The Christmas decorations have gone up in our favourite pubs, there are snowflakes in the air today, and the crew are wearing their rain gear over multiple layers just to keep warm. These are all signs that it’s time to go soon.

Bending on fore topmast stays l before leaving Lunenburg
Captain Vogelsgesang commands the Monomoy before leaving Lunenburg
Greg stows the hold before leaving Lunenburg.
Mary Anne confers with the cook.
Monomoy behind the martingale before leaving Lunenburg
Small boat practice before leaving Lunenburg

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