Captain's Log

Archive for February, 2008

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Cover on the Quarterdeck

Picton Castle has a temporary addition that makes her look quite different when walking down the dock. Because the ship’s stern is closest to the shore, it’s impossible to miss the cover over the quarterdeck. Made of plastic sheeting fastened over a wooden frame, this cover will help keep the quarterdeck dry and protected so that we can continue to work through the winter.

Many vessels that are kept outside during the winter are covered to help protect them from the elements. Picton Castle is usually not covered for the winter, but with the carpentry work on the deck that started in the fall, we have chosen to cover the quarterdeck and continue. The cover doesn’t stop it from being cold, so there are still days when it is difficult to work, but it does keep the deck dry enough to be able to carry on with replacing some of the wood and caulking. You can see this work in progress, under the cover, in the photo below.

Quarterdeck Cover
Wheel and binnacle under cover

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What the Crew Do for Fun

Lunenburg, Picton Castle‘s home port, is fairly quiet in the winter. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. One of the nice things about having the ship tied up for a while is that the crew can work regular, predictable hours, taking most evenings and weekends off. That much time off is a luxury to the crew of a sailing ship, so we’re sure to make the most of it.

Most evenings you can find at least some of the Picton Castle crew at the newly renovated Grand Banker, the local restaurant/pub that becomes our second home in the winter. The place got a facelift in November with new floors, a slightly revised booth arrangement and a fresh coat of paint. The changes make it easier to move around and the new decor looks great. The Grand Banker has started a trivia night on Saturdays, and the Picton Castle team placed first for two weeks in a row in February.

Ben, Kjetil and I took curling lessons at the Lunenburg Curling Club in November and have continued to curl through the winter. We have recruited the rest of the crew to play with us, or at least come and watch, when the club hosts “Friday Fun Night” which is open to anyone, whether you’re a club member or not. Some of us are really improving from week to week, and we’re all having a good time playing this very social sport.

For the crew of a barque that sails mostly in the tropics, we’re really embracing winter. In addition to curling, we have been to the local arena to ice skate a few times. Skating was particularly fun before Christmas when we had a whole group of former crew visiting and there was a huge crowd at the rink. Lynsey and Rebecca have been snowboarding at a hill a short drive away from Lunenburg and hope to go again before the winter is over. I’m sure that all of the crew have thrown a few snowballs, made snowmen or snow angels.

Ben sweeping
Kjetil calls the shots
Maggie delivers a stone

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Heads’l Sheet Pennants

Much of Picton Castle‘s rigging has been sent down from aloft and brought into our warehouse for the winter. This helps protect it from the harsh Canadian winter weather, and it also allows us to work on it so that everything is in great shape when it goes back up in the spring.

Kjetil and Ben have recently been working on overhauling the heads’l sheet pennants. They started each one by cutting away the old chafe gear, seizing and serving then removing the block from the wire eye. The block was taken apart, the wood outside was scraped and oiled, the sheave inside was wire brushed and greased to make sure it can turn smoothly, and put back together again. You can see on the left in the photo below that the block was sitting in the eye, ready for the next step. The wire splice was in good shape still, so it did not have to be replaced. The next step was to worm and parcel the splice. Worming means filling in the grooves between the strands of wire with marlin and parcelling means wrapping a strip of fabric around the splice over the worming to help keep it in place and make the surface more even. Next the splice and the eye were served, meaning that marlin is wrapped tightly around the wire, over the worming and parcelling, to protect the wire. The serving is then covered in a generous amount of pine tar which helps to preserve it. The block is held into the eye by a seizing, which you can see in the middle of the photo, also made with marlin. The last step is to protect it further by sewing leather around the splice which protects the serving. The leather is soaked in warm water to make it flexible, then sewn on by hand.

The sheet pennant is about six feet long and connects the clew of the sail (the aft corner of a fore and aft sail) to the sheet (the line that controls the trim of the sail). One end of the sheet is made fast, the other end goes through the block and to the pin rail. On the other end of the sheet pennant, a shackle connects it to the clew of the sail. The process for overhauling the other end is much the same, just without the block. The old chafe gear, seizing and serving are cut away, the splice inspected, then the splice and they eye are wormed, parcelled, served and covered in leather.

Ben sews leather around an eye
Sheet pennants in stages
Sheet pennants other end

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Winter Preparations

Winter has really taken hold here in Lunenburg. It’s snowing outside my office window, the beginning of what is forecast to be five centimetres tonight. The wind is blowing from the southeast, causing whitecaps in the harbour and I can hardly see the golf course across the water through the snow and fog. Picton Castle is still tied snugly to her wharf, rocking in the waves that are formed when the wind blows up Lunenburg Bay.

Work continues aboard as we prepare for the Voyage of the Atlantic. Finn is making great progress in the engine room, mounting and re-wiring lights, getting parts overhauled and keeping the furnace running when it gets really cold to stop the pipes from freezing. Kjetil, Ben, Ryan and Sarah have made good headway in overhauling all the blocks (over 300 of them!), which were sent down and into the warehouse in the fall. Each block is taken apart, inspected, scraped, cleaned, greased and oiled as necessary. Some take only a few minutes to overhaul, some take much longer. They’re also doing some varnish work, with yards laid across sawhorses in the warehouse for scraping and sanding, then hung from beams in the ceiling to varnish.

The office continues to be busy, with packages arriving almost daily by courier or mail that contain catalogues, publications and samples as we provision the ship for the voyage. We need to make sure there’s enough of everything from crew T-shirts to Chibley’s flea medication. We have heard recently from a number of people in Europe who have connections to Picton Castle, many family members of former crew who worked aboard when she was fishing or carrying cargo. They’re excited to see what the ship is like now, and we’re thrilled to share her with them. There are only a few more months of winter, and a few more months until we sail away on our next exciting adventure.

Kjetil overhauls a block
Ryan sands a yard

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