Captain's Log

Archive for August, 2008

| More

Kristiansand, Norway

After two nights of light but fair winds sailing from the coast of Sweden, the Picton Castle sailed into Kristiansand Harbour in southern Norway. This is the homeport of the beautiful sail training ship, the full-rigger Sorlandet (meaning “The Southern Land”), which is a little bigger than Picton Castle.

We tied up at the small heritage shipyard at Bredsholmen just south of town. This yard is devoted to restoring and servicing historic riveted steel ships like ours. There are still quite a few old riveted steel ferry, cargo or tug boats from the early 20th century and even the 19th century, some with original steam power. This shipyard has just recently carried out a multi-million dollar re-plating of the bow and stern of the full-rigger Sorlandet, all in riveted steel plate. Riveting steel is like sewing sails by hand, it takes longer and very few know how to do it anymore, but it is a very good way to put ships together.

This was a snug little berth in a tiny cove for us but quite an interesting place to lay for a bit. There were lots of interesting water-craft around to check out. Because there are so many pretty little pine covered rocky islands nearby in the harbour, a picnic was set up with a full on Caribbean barbeque. Good time had by all. They have a lot of oil industry service vessels in Norway and we were beginning to see them. Much bigger than supply boats, massive things with high bridges and even helicopter pads above the bridges. I have been told that Norway has gone from being the poorest nation in Europe fifty years ago to one of the richest today(with prices to match -$20 fast food hamburgers, $8 Cokes), all because of North Sea oil. This was just a brief stop to see something different and we were off again bound for Stavanger – this time we had head winds so we fired up the Alpha and pushed against small seas in clear weather sailing around the southern corner of Norway.

| More

Marstrand, Sweden

Marstrand is a pretty spot on the west coast of Sweden, a little island that was once an important military fortress and herring fishing port. The herring have swam away and the Danes and Norwegians do not threaten so much these days so now it has become something of a yachting destination, perhaps along the lines of Block Island (in RI, USA) or something. A huge stone fortress from the 1600s tops the rocky hill and the pretty little village lines the quay along the narrow strait between Marstrand and the mainland which I think is just a bigger island. Little ferries steam back and forth all day long between the two.

An old shipmate from the Danmark, Olof Pipping, tracked us down here. He has been a very accomplished rigger and has worked on the large ancient vessel Vasa in Stockholm. Olof gave a short power-point lecture to the crew on the Vasa, a 1600s ship of the line that sank in Stockholm but was so well preserved that she was raised over 300 years later. Now she is preserved and interpreted in a fascinating museum in that city.

Crew walked the little island, swam in the surprisingly warm waters and ships work was ongoing. Lots of boats sailed by in this small harbour and our old friend the Ketch Bessie Ellen sailed in and anchored nearby. We saw almost no trees and got to thinking that winters could be a bit bleak hereabouts, maybe. Onwards, still with no wind, we got under way for Kristiansand, Norway. Calms turned to a nice sailing breeze and soon enough we were under all sail romping along to the ENE.

| More


Copenhagen – Navy Town

Copenhagen was an important navy town with the barrier islands protecting the city from the sea, also a martial bulwark. This naval base has now been largely turned over to civilian use for flats and the very famous Christiania, a sort of free city taken over by the hippie movement in the 1960s for alternative living styles. Now it might be the last great bastion of the Woodstock generation. Life goes on at Christiania, with organic foods, hand made bicycles, music and all the rest you might imagine on a modest scale.

Walking Streets

Walking streets are a distinct feature of Copenhagen. Long cobblestone streets with shops on either side throughout the downtown are blocked off from vehicular traffic and crowded with folks window shopping, shopping for real, gypsy vendors, buskers in odd garb of all types entertaining the multitudes. People watching is a prime sport.

Tivoli Gardens

Tivoli Gardens is perhaps the original amusement park – it could well be the sweetest one. Established in the 1800s in the middle of the city it has rides and pleasant places to relax, all in garden-like setting. Our favourite ride was the swing chairs that spin you around 200 feet above the city. It’s a little scary but the view is incredible. Tivoli is a wonderful summer destination, full of people of all ages enjoying themselves in the sunshine, and in the evening there are very often bands performing well into the night. And the lines are short. There are more than rides and beer gardens at Tivoli. There is a tropical fish aquarium with 1600 tropical fish, a concert hall, a pantomime theatre, Friday rock concerts, a jazz festival, Tivoli Boys Guard Band and museums (this time with exhibit “Bodies”), not to mention playgrounds for small kids and endless people watching and more. They even have a pretty reasonable reproduction of a pirates’ galleon on a small pond. A day off from your ship spent at Tivoli in the summertime is a fine thing.

Meanwhile, back at the ship…

Sailmaking was going on briskly up on the quarterdeck, open ship for public visitors – more old shipmates from my Danmark days came by: Captain B.B. Jespersen of the full-rigger Georg Stage, Captain O.P. Nielsen of the full-rigger Danmark, Capt Jarle Flatebo now of the Bark Statsraad Lehmkuhl, Styrmand Owe Jespersen formerly of the Georg Stage, Styrmand Hanne Jensen, Anita and Katarina Larsen – wife and daughter of the former Chief Engineer of the Danmark and great friend the late Alf Larsen all came by to see this child of Danmark. Earlier, Captain Ole Ingrish, Port Captain of Esbjerg and Captain Rune Bergsby, Sailmaker Bjarne Stammerjohann, Captain Jesper Johansen (Lille Dan), all ex-quartermasters in the Danmark, as well as Ship’s Carpenter (and also Captain) Flemming Walsted, had come by in other ports. And a young woman named Marie who had sailed in the Danmark as a cadet a couple of years ago could not resist the call of the sea again and has signed up to sail with us onward.

Other Ships in Town

The big Naval sail training ship of the line Amerigo Vespucci came into port after us. She was a sight to behold alongside the dock. Her natty cadets swaggered in their snappy uniforms along the streets of Copenhagen in clusters.

Sail to Marstrand

On a bright clear sunny day without a breath of wind we steamed away from Nyhavn, down the long narrow channel of the harbour and into the Sound between Sweden and Denmark and carried on to a spot recommended by many called Marstrand along the rocky coast of Sweden.

music in Nyhavn
Street entertainment in Copenhagen
Tivoli swings
walking streets in Copenhagen

View the the rest of this Album

| More

Arriving in Copenhagen

Entering Copenhagen Under Sail

In bright sunlight and light winds the Picton Castle passed through the breakwater into Copenhagen harbour under full sail. Nicely and slowly we sailed past the long quay of Langelinie with a few cruise ships moored for the day. One of the ships was the Albatros, the captain of which is my old friend and shipmate from the Danmark, Jarle Flatebo. When not captain of this modern ocean going cruise ship he is captain of the Norwegian Sail Training Bark Statsraad Lehmkuhl, a ship about the size of the USCG Eagle, built in 1914, sailing out of Bergen with civilian and Naval cadets. After much blowing of loud ships whistles and various other salutes we took in sail at the Albatros and steamed to our berth at Nyhavn past the Little Mermaid, past the new opera house, past the queen’s palace in downtown Copenhagen.

To Nyhavn

Nyhavn – meaning New Harbour – was built in the mid to late 1600’s as part of an expansion of the city of Copenhagen, inspired by the ambitious King Christian the 4th. Now you might well ask “if that’s the new one, what about the old harbour?” Well, that one dates from 1100 or so and is a short walk to the southwest. Copenhagen sort of means “Shopping Hook” or merchant city which is what it was, still is. Anyway, Nyhavn was, until fairly recently, the working port for smaller vessels and has quite a history of being one of the last rough and ready ‘sailor towns’. Now it is a lovely destination in the summer or any time of year for sitting at one of the many cafes in the sun. While much more upscale than before, there seems to be a conscious effort to make a home for the spirit of an old sailors’ waterfront of yore. Old wooden sailing and fishing vessels along the cobblestone quay, cafés, wandering musicians, even a tattoo parlour still in business. If you do not feel like paying high Scandinavian prices for drink and food, bring your own and set up a picnic right on the quay and that is perfectly okay too – it’s a very Danish thing to do. This place is clean and tasteful, they even vacuum the streets…

Albatross on starboard in the approaches to Copenhagen
entering CPH harbour
Nyhavn Friday night
stowing alongside Nyhavn
the very little mermaid

View the the rest of this Album

| More

Korsor to Copenhagen, Denmark

Starting the race “Fyn-Rundt” and sailing for Copenhagen

Before the start of the Fyn-Rundt race the skippers of all the ships gathered at 0700 at the Naval Association club-room at the old Navy Base (and by ‘old’ I mean early 18th century- before the days when Nelson was sacking Copenhagen and Denmark had a large sailing navy) in Korsor for instructions, coffee and rolls. Surrounded by naval and maritime memorabilia – swords, photos of sailing frigates and steam ships, bits and pieces of brass from ships- we took our good Danish coffee at white linen covered tables. We would sail in an hour. So we did. At 0800 we simply all cast off and streamed out the narrow habour entrance of Korsor without any complicated committee inspired plan in triplicate. We should all just observe good seamanship, common sense and the rules of the road.

Another cool grey, overcast day with spitting rain and a fair wind, but we were getting used to this. The vessels made their way under the huge bridge now connecting Denmark and Sweden with a land route to the rest of Europe to a spot to the north, cracking on sail and dodging about near the starting line. We did likewise. At the gun the Picton Castle had the weather mark and crossed pretty snappily but it was our lot to carry on to the NE while the fleet sailed off to the west. In force 6 breezes soon the fleet of ships were specks lost on a hazy horizon. With a blast on the whistle and a round of greetings and send-offs on the radio we pulled away from the fleet, making good speed under upper topsails.

Luckily for us the wind and rain blew through, breaking out into clear skies and fair breezes from the north as we rounded the top of Sjaelland and we ended up having a beautiful sail overnight right up to the approaches to Copenhagen. Clear skies and light northerly winds carried us along with yards braced sharp on the port tack as we made our way east in smooth seas and fine summer conditions towards Copenhagen.

Kroneborg om Styrbord

At Elsinore, on the north east corner of the main Danish island of Sjaelland, is the castle of Kroneborg, the famous setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. A ship must pass this castle on the way to Copenhagen. This castle dates well after the time of Hamlet and he wasn’t real anyway. For Danish deep-sea sailing ships, passing Kroneborg on starboard means that you are really home now, only a few more miles to Copenhagen. It is also the point where the strait between Sweden and Denmark narrows considerably and there is extremely busy large ship and ferry traffic crossing the shipping lanes at top speed. Our wind got lighter and lighter so we fired up the main engine and pushed on towards Copenhagen. Little tiny fishing draggers fished in the channels, north and south bound ships to and from Russia, Finland and Poland passed us. Big deep sea ferries connecting Oslo and Copenhagen lumbered past. The Italian Navy Sail Training Ship the Amerigo Vespucci passed us under power. She is huge and is modeled after the great three-decker naval sailing warships of the 19th century. She went to anchor off the port and we heard them ordering a pilot for the next day. The Picton Castle would just sail in.

double T and wild Bill admiring the small ships
Elbe 5
IMG 1547
Picton Castle and Lille Dan in Korsor

View the the rest of this Album

| More

North Sea, Sailing from Norway

This afternoon finds the Picton Castle under full sail, every sail set apart from studding-sails, sailing south in fresh winds in the North Sea. We are about 40 miles off the island of Karmoy, Norway steering SSW. Skies are clear with radiant white clouds, seas a dark blue-green and not so big. The wind is cool and from the north. It is good to be back at sea again after some days in port and steaming through the beautiful, mountainous, winding fjords of Norway.

We have just sailed from Bergen after four days of an excellent Tall Ships festival held there. The Picton Castle crew acquitted themselves well. Chibley, the ship’s cat, went walkabout but we got her back with the help of the citizens of Bergen. There are many stories to tell about the last couple of weeks and some of them will be up and posted soon so stay tuned. We have sailed from Kiel, Germany to Svendborg, Denmark, Copenhagen and on to Sweden and Norway. Ships, pulling boat races, crew parades, sailing in and out of small harbours, Norwegian crew from Picton Castle’s old days sailing hereabouts, good weather and bad all figure into our voyage of late and more. But for now we are back at sea sailing and looking after our wonderful ship feeling the seas heave beneath our keel and the kick of the wheel. The air is clean and cool and it is good to be back at sea in the Picton Castle.

Dave seams away
Erin on the wheel
Spenser loosing staysail

View the the rest of this Album

| More

Svendborg to Korsor, Denmark

It seemed a good idea to join all these other sailing ships in Korsor for a bit anyway. We had to get on to Copenhagen but we could spare a little time to do something as interesting as meeting up and joining a fleet of fine sailing ships and a great bunch of kindred mariners in a small Danish seaport, so we sailed for Korsor. The current pulled the bow of the Picton Castle off the quay in Svendborg and we rode the last of the fair tide to make our way out through the narrow fjord that is the northern approach to Svendborg and out into the Great Belt, the sound between Fyn and the next and bigger island to the east, Sjaelland (pronounced “Zealand”).

The day was overcast, spitting rain with fresh southerly winds. We are getting used to this sort of weather, it’s not so bad as long as the wind is usable and this is was. The chunks of land are so close to each other and seas so shallow that seas can not really build up properly to anything that would bother a ship like the Picton Castle.

All this sail setting and tacking in wet weather is also making a stronger crew of our gang, nothing wrong with that. The small grey seas that are a dominant feature of so many marine paintings of this area are with us much of the time. Most of the old Baltic Traders, as the ketches and schooners are collectively called, have water lines of 60 to 70 feet and they do okay in these conditions but tend to hobby-horse in head seas. With our 130 foot water line and sharp entry we barely feel these seas as we sail along in their waters. Big fish in a small pond.

Soon we were lined up on the range lights inbound for the port of Korsor taking sail and then tied up to a stone quay at a historic park that was once a naval base in the 19th century. We were the first ship in. This we did intentionally as I thought it might be interesting for us to watch the other ships sail in. We so rarely get to watch the Parade of Sail as we are usually in the thing. This turned out to be fun.

The next morning the ships started to sail in and soon the cobblestone quay was one long line of wooden sailing ships, some rafted up. Varnished and oiled wooden masts, topmasts and yards everywhere. Silhouetted against the clear skies all was a forest of masts and webs of rigging. Schooners, topsail schooners, galeases, ketches, three masted schooners, sloops, cutters and one bark. Former fishing vessels, ex cargo droughers, ex wet-well eel carriers, old packet boats, former custom/revenue cutters, converted herring fishermen and pilot vessels; these were the smaller work horses from the age of sail, all beautifully restored, maintained and sailed. It was a delight to be in their company.

It was not that long ago that most of the vessels were working at their original tasks. Cod, salt, timber general goods, rope, building supplies, you name it, any and all things could be found in their cargo manifests. Before bridges, before big trucks, before big centralized-consolidated shipping, before diesel engines burning cheap fuel these small ships were sailing all over the Baltic, North Sea and around Europe from Finland (and even Russia) to Spain and Portugal and out to Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland carrying small cargos and trading on a regular basis. The small Brigantine Romance under her original name, Grette, made the voyage to Greenland many a time – pretty far away is Greenland. Perhaps soon their practices will be renewed the way things are headed, and all for the good.

Of particular interest was the topsail schooner Lilla Dan and Pilot Schooner Elbe-5 ex-Wanderbird. The Lilla Dan is a wooden topsail schooner built as a sail training ship for young would-be officers of the Lauritsen Line and was the last ever sail training ship built by and for a steamship company. The Lilla Dan was designed and built after a typical Danish cargo trader of her size at the J.Ring Andersen Yard in Svendborg in 1951. She sails for her company yet and does summer charters. Her skipper is an old shipmate from my Danmark days – Jesper Johansen. He is one cracker-jack sailor and keeps that ship up to perfection with little apparent effort. You can eat off any part of that ship including the engine room. The Lilla sailed in, preformed a snappy manoeuvre and was quickly along side with only a few feet to spare under our jib-boom. No grand-standing, he is just good and knows his ship. Our crew were directed to check out the Lilla Dan to be reminded how clean and well painted a ship can and should be.

There were many fine vessels at our gathering but standing out one must point to the Schooner Elbe-5. This vessel holds a special place in the pantheon of the modern small ship sail training and sea experience movement. In the 1920’s the German Pilot Schooner Elbe-5 was bought by Captain Warwick Tompkins and his wife. As the Wanderbird she sailed for many years with young college students as crew making numerous deepwater passages across the North Atlantic and even around Cape Horn (resulting in that great chronicle of a voyage and ship “Fifty South To Fifty South”).

At one time Captain Tompkins’ mate was a young Irving Johnson, a recent graduate was a young Exy Johnson. These two got married and got a North Sea pilot schooner of their own, two in fact, in sequence. The first schooner rigged and the second converted to a brigantine. In these vessels, both named Yankee, the Johnsons made many voyages taking young people to sea including seven world circumnavigations. The idea to do this on a sustainable basis was born and nurtured aboard the Schooner Wanderbird. Sterling Hayden, who at one time sailed as mate in the Yankee, was also inspired by this exquisite schooner. Both the Wanderbird and the Yankees have been very influential in getting young people out to sea in traditional vessels under sail. And those vessels lead directly to the building of the Schooner Westward, the establishment of the Sea Education Association of Woods Hole and inspired any number of other operations.

The hull lines of the Picton Castle are very similar to Elbe-5 although quite a good deal larger and, of course, barque rigged. After her voyage around Cape Horn and WWII the schooner lay as a house-boat in San Francisco with masts cut off. An enterprising tug-boat skipper Harold Summer and his wife Annelise got a hold of her in the 1960’s, probably for a song, and set about restoring this remarkable schooner. Their restoration was perfection itself. Given her provenance it was logical that this example of 1883 German maritime heritage should one day find her way back to the Elbe River and Hamburg from whence she came. Now she is maintained top-notch and sailed actively by the museum association that owns her. It was fun for me to see her as I had spent some time aboard her in San Francisco years ago. Again, our crew were directed aboard to see what a truly fine schooner looks like. They were welcomed by the crew of Elbe-5. The Danes say she is very fast against their vessels.

While it is great good fun to mix it up with kindred spirits in kindred ships, the work goes on with any sailing ship. Topsides get painted, varnish and rig tarring is ongoing and we spied a nice piece of flat grass on which to lay out a new sail so David, Lynsey and Nadja rolled out bolts of canvas that will become a new jib, hand stitched, every inch. The Navy Association held a nice reception for the officers of the Picton Castle as she is an old navy ship herself. We held open-ship and had hundreds of guests from not only the other ships but from towns-folks and visitors to the assembled fleet. On a personal note I had a good number of shipmates, former cadets and officers both, from those days I sailed in the Danish Full-rigger Danmark as Bosun in 1978-82. Then it came time for us all to sail. We would all start the race together, the fleet would head west around Fyn and we would sail east over the north of Sjaelland towards Copenhagen.

korsor-lille dan
Picton Castle 081 2213x3
Romance D3485x1

View the the rest of this Album

| More

Arriving in Denmark

After passing through the Kiel Canal, our stay in Kiel was perfectly pleasant with lovely weather. We took this chance to re-provision the Picton Castle with fresh fruits and vegetables in this famous naval seaport. As a major shipping artery and transit port they are well set up here to look after ships on the go. A very efficient ship chandler got us all we needed quickly and cheaper than if we shopped for ourselves. We had up to then remarkably good sailing the whole way from Ireland, from Nova Scotia too it must be said.

Kiel has always been an important German Naval base and was pretty much levelled during the Second World War by Allied bombers, thus modern buildings everywhere. It is hard looking around today to think that only two generations ago this part of the world was devastated and little more than smoking rubble. In Kiel we dried sails, painted the topsides and tarred rigging as well wandered around this very old but new in appearance city. Some crew found a very friendly and traditional beer hall with lots of singing and all sitting at long oak tables, good German fun.

These things done we sailed from Kiel. It is a large natural harbour open to the north and the Baltic Sea. Modern freighters, container ships and large ferries to Scandinavia steamed by us coming and going as we sailed under sunny skies out of the harbour past the German Naval base and the grand German Naval Sail Training Ship, the Gorch Foch at her moorings.

We were bound for Svendborg, Denmark in southern Fyn, a large island of Denmark, a nation of islands. “Fyn” is sort of pronounced ‘‘foon’ but as if you had cat hairs up your nose for the correct effect. Svendborg was only a day sail away. Svendborg is a fine, salty seafaring town and I was keen get the crew there to take it in. Soon we were sailing among small low Danish islands covered with fields, patches of forests with charming farm cottages with either red tiled roofs or thatched. I don’t know when last a square-rigged ship of our size had passed through here under sail.

We sailed along up the pretty narrow channel right into the small harbour of Svendborg only to find our carefully arranged and reserved berth at the town wharf occupied by a big gleaming Dutch schooner who was not overly impressed with the large bold sign stating “Reserved for Picton Castle -1800″ in large letters. As there was nowhere else to go we anchored right there in the middle of the channel. The harbour master came down blistering mad at the schooner and they left soon enough only to have another pretty black ketch slip in to the same spot as we were getting our anchor up. This ship (the exquisitely restored West Country Ketch Bessie Ellen) was owned by an old friend and all was sorted out quickly and we went in stern first for our stay.

Coastal Denmark and certainly around Svendborg is a very ‘‘old time’ shippy sort of area and thus perfect for the crew of the Picton Castle. We must start with the J. Ring Anderson Shipyard. This small but bustling shipyard has been in business for a century or two but unlike other wooden shipyards around the western world, this one is still going strong. Rebuilds, refits, overhauls of wooden, steel and iron schooners, ketches and three-masted schooners, annual dry-dockings of dozens of wooden vessels all going on all the time. There are about 40 operational large wooden historic sailing vessels built, restored and based in Denmark that come to this yard from time to time. Around the yard, while listening to the ring of caulking irons or the buzz of band-saws, one wanders around piles of old hawsers and rigging, past old discarded teak deck-houses removed as vessels got converted back to sail and old clinker-built boats. Old spars, anchors and windlasses lie about everywhere while vessels are rafted up waiting their turn for renewal. On the two railways and the floating drydock are vessels hauled out getting new planks or just getting caulked and painted. Norwegian, Swedish, German, English as well as Danish flags fly from these various craft at Ring Anderson. It is quite a sight to see so many sailing ship masts in one place silhouetted against the sky . The Brigantine Romance in which I sailed for four years in the 1970’s was built here in 1936. In the charming wood paneled office of the yard is a photo, painting or model of almost every ship built here. It is a museum on its own.

The town of Svendborg itself is on hills surrounding the landlocked harbour with winding cobblestone streets and any number of places to sit a spell for a nice lunch or dinner ashore; proper seaman’s pubs too, with live jazz or blues many nights. And it is all very, very clean.

Some crew took the ferry over to Aero, an off-lying island, for the day. Aero is perhaps an analog to Nantucket but I think Nantucket would end up being jealous if set next to this island. Aero is truly beautiful. The island of Aero, being somewhat offshore has a legacy of being both very dependent on their own ships and quite independent minded of their association with mainland Denmark, particularly so when it comes to cooperation with federally regulated customs fees and charges and the like. Basically it seems that the Aero Islanders were generally of one mind against the whole idea of paying customs duties to Copenhagen. It seems that when the customs inspector was coming to Aero on his random but weekly visits to the island the ferry-boat bringing him gave a specific, loud and very cheery set of toots on his whistle as the boat was puling into harbour thus saving the local citizenry undue embarrassment with said customs officer (and expense).

The trip to Aero starts with literally a 40 second walk to the ferry from our ship for the hour and 15 minute passage out to the island. All in smooth seas the ferry steams past little islets, some with sheep grazing. Aeroskobing, the town into which the ferry pulls, is a gorgeous old seaport with tiny brightly painted houses some of which date back before the 1500’s. Cobblestone streets, cafes and little shops everywhere. The next thing to do is rent a bicycle to ride around and maybe visit Marstal which is the more working seaport of Aero with more coasters and a shipyard. We had dry-docked here in the Picton Castle in 1993. Down hard packed country dirt roads through fields of ripe grain and corn over rolling hills the scene becomes quite idyllic.

Marstal has a superb maritime museum cram packed with fascinating and very local historical stuff. Dioramas, paintings, a full foc’sle set up even with dirty laundry, sea-chests, tools, models, imports from all over the world and souvenirs brought back by sailors and on and on. And they bring the museum exhibits up to date with exhibits on motor coasters. There even is a full bridge and salon of a 500 ton coaster and delightfully un-restored, looking a bit worn as they would have done when at work. In a gravel yard between the ochre buildings two very old painted up wooden rowboats are set in the ground for kids to row and even a short mock-up of a mast and yard for kids to “climb aloft” and clamber about on, finest kind of jungle-gym it is. On the 8 mile bike ride back to the ferry there are plenty a beautiful spots with lovely views of these inland seas for a small picnic of rye bread, cheese, pickled herring and maybe some Danish salami, frighteningly pink.

Back in Svendborg former Danish shipmates of mine were trying to convince me to join up with the Fyn-Rundt (means ‘‘around Fyn’) sailing ship race in commencing in a town called Korsor. The second ‘‘O’ in Korsor is that funny O with a line through it from 2:00 to 8:00 and is pronounced close to the vowels in the French word for sister “soeur”, good luck pronouncing it. This keyboard does not have that letter. There would be thirty or so 100′ plus wooden and iron sailing ships starting their annual cavalcade around Fyn with a ship/harbour festival there for a couple days. The Picton Castle would fit right in with these veteran ships while being larger than all of them. Many of these mariners had heard a lot about this barque and were keen to see her. Or so I was told.

aero islands
aero KBHN
aero pasture
Aero tour
Areo Museum
MJM-Aeroskobing house
PC - Svendborg

View the the rest of this Album

| More

Picton Castle Early Captain’s Logs, Part 6

What follows below are the first Captain’s Logs that were written back when just getting the ship and working at seeing this dream come true. The story begins in Norway in May of 1993. We hope you enjoy the tale.

The Story of the Picton Castle

The Captain’s Running Letter
Captain Daniel D. Moreland

England to Spain – March 1994

We steamed out of Falmouth Monday, March 28, after a little over a week’s stay and crossed the western approaches to the English Channel, bound for Madeira. The western approaches along with the Strait of Dover can be the worst part, the roughest part of the Channel. This time, the conditions were “fair to good.” We steamed SSW into a fresh southwesterly breeze. The sky was leaden and overcast. It was spitting rain, but the barometer was steady. The weather forecasts were such that I was convinced that if we didn’t sail now, we could be gale bound another week with a coming front.

All went well enough for the first couple of days. The main engine ticked over without complaint, giving the ship a steady eight knots. The crew got on watch routine. Meals and coffee came off the wood stove in the galley in regular pattern. She steamed well; all of the gear worked. We passed Ushant well offshore, as the sailing directions instruct. We carried on to pass Finisterre the same way, that is, well offshore Finisterre, land’s end on the other side of Biscay.

Around noon Monday, about 90 miles from Finesterre, at the southern side of Biscay, the barometer started to go down about one millibar per hour. It kept dropping into the afternoon and picked up in fits and bursts. The seas built up steadily. There was a severe gale forming south of Ireland that was going to slash its way up the English Channel. It turns out that it slashed more than that. I remember thinking I was glad we weren’t in the western approaches for this one. I’m still glad.

By late afternoon, the wind was screaming out of the southwest, we were in a full gale and the Bay of Biscay was living up to its reputation as a nasty place to be during a blow. Seas picked up to about 20′ and were pretty close together. It would have been worse had we been closer inshore, deeper in the bay. It looked worse to the south as well so we hove her to while we still had sea room to leeward. Even if we could have gotten around Finisterre, that would have put us on a lee shore. Not so fine. We set a sort of storm stays’l forward to help her lay off the wind and not wallow in the wave troughs. We secured the main engine too. As it got dark it was blowing force 9 and increasing. That night it got up to force 10 in my estimation. That’s not far below hurricane strength.

Around eleven that night, it was at its worst. The ship was rolling hard, with the wind and seas just a point or so abaft the starboard beam. She is ballasted pretty stiffly just now to keep her up upright, with big seas staying off the decks and cargo hatch. This, however, gives her a pretty snappy roll period and makes her pretty uncomfortable for human habitation. The cats and dog didn’t like it much either. But she didn’t scoop any real green water and that was the idea. How did she ride? Why, she shamed the gulls…

Just after midnight, with the crew keeping lookout on the bridge wings with flares standing by to alert bigger ships to our presence, the barometer went up a bit. A weather report spat out of one of our little black boxes stating the wind should go to a force 7 “for a time” before veering into the northwest and picking up to storm force 10. Good news-bad news. With the wind out of the SW, we had 300 miles of sea room into Biscay to the coast of France. We could stay here for several days if we had to. With the winds out of the NW we had about 60 miles of sea room and a lee shore on to the rock bound north coast of Spain. Not so fine. But it let up a bit. The Engineer got the main engine going again. We hooked her up and hammered our way for La Coruna, Spain, the closest port of refuge. We hadn’t drifted so much in 10 hours hove to. Fifteen miles or so. As dawn broke, we could see the high coast of Spain and feel the seas become low rolling swells on the rising shelf of land. We surfed into La Coruna, swung around the 30′ high stone breakwater and let go both the anchors. An hour later the wind out of the north was roaring again. We could see the tops of the seas breaking over the stone wall to windward of us. Then, just about all of the crew turned in for some well-deserved sleep. The cats chased each other around in the warm sunlight on the cargo hatch.

Quite a seaport, La Coruna. While gales blew outside, large wooden draggers and other fishing vessels streamed in. While we were there, freighters and tankers came and went. A lone yacht left one morning and got towed in dismasted the same afternoon. It would be an interesting place to come back to as a Barque with a shipload of crew. The yacht club took good care of us with their powerful hot showers.

La Coruna is a big city and carefully managed harbour. A section reserved for every type of vessel including an anchorage for ours. Small fishing vessels, large ones, small yachts, large ones, cruise ships, freighters and supertankers.

The lighthouse called the “Tower of Hercules” is claimed to be the oldest in the world established by the Romans ages ago. While here and in the first sunlight we’d seen for months, we made a jib for the Picton Castle and started painting her up.

The weather was getting better. Slowly the barometer crept up and it looked as if we were in for some decent weather.

Early one morning, after two weeks, the day came in fair and clear with some mist rolling down to the sea off the mountains. We got underway in the light land breeze. All hands were anxious to get going. I couldn’t help thinking that if she were rigged, we would have sailed off the hook and made our way to sea, piling canvas on her. Next time.

Once well offshore, the wind backed around in a northerly direction and slowly picked up. By the time we had Cape Finisterre on the port beam and we were sailing SSW, we had a good force 6 on the stern. We set out our little jib and talked ourselves into believing that it was really pulling us along. Slowly the coast of Spain and Portugal slip-slided over the western horizon as we knocked off 8 ½ knots for Madeira.

Four days later, we let go our big hook just off an old fort in the eastern part of the city of Funchal, Madeira some 600 miles off the coast of Morocco, Northwest Africa.

© 2003–2018 Windward Isles Sailing Ship Company Ltd. | Partners | Site Map | Privacy Policy