Captain's Log

Archive for September, 2009

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Picton Castle Rowers Take Charity Challenge

Saturday, September 12 was an extraordinarily busy day on the Lunenburg waterfront, what with the International Dory Races, the launching of the schooner Kitty Cochran at the Dory Shop, and all of the other events of the Lunenburg Waterfront Seafood Festival.

One of those events was the Bailly’s Fuels Charity Dory Challenge in support of the South Shore Health Foundation. The Picton Castle had a team in the dory challenge, kindly sponsored by the folks at Nova Scotia Building Supplies. There were two other ships teams, one from the schooner Bluenose II and another from the US Coast Guard Cutter Grand Isle (also sponsored by local hardware stores), as well as teams from local businesses.

The small problem was that the dory challenge was scheduled to begin at 1:30 and at 1 p.m. the schooner had not yet been launched. Our crew not only worked to put the schooner’s masts in place – without a crane, no less – but also worked to rig the boat, so everyone wanted to be on hand for the launch. Add to that the fact that it was the dad of one of our rowers who built the boat and you can imagine that no one was going anywhere until the Kitty Cochran was in the water. Thankfully that happened just before the half hour and our rowers, Kyle Westergaard and Ollie Stiler-Cote, were able to hightail it to the other end of the waterfront for the challenge. Which they won!

We honestly don’t know what was more entertaining – the fine show of rowing skills or members of our crew all decked out in hats and dresses from the schooner launch cheering from the bowsprit of the Bluenose II. However it was a great event and our team was proud to bring their trophy back down to the Dory Shop for celebrations that carried on well into the night.

charity challenge dory champs
PC rowers in dory challenge

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Downrig and Small Boats

Picton Castle has been in Lunenburg for a week and a half now, and the ship and crew are settling into a routine of life in port. We continue to muster at 0800 every morning, we still start our workday with cleaning the ship, Donald continues to make fantastic meals on the regular schedule and we work through the day, getting things done and caring for the ship.

One of the first things we did was send the sails down. After the rain we got from Tropical Storm Danny they were quite wet, so we loosed them two days in a row to dry them. Our sails are made of cotton canvas, so they must be dried when they are wet, otherwise they will rot and tear. They certainly have to be dry before we put them away for the winter so they will be in good shape when we bring them out and send them back up next spring. With chief mate Mike and sailmaker David on deck, the rest of the crew, including our Bosun School students, worked aloft to cut the sails away from their yards and send them down to deck. Gantlines, lines that are used to carry things up and down from aloft, were rigged and the crew were split into two teams per mast, with one team working on the royal and t’gallant and the other working on the upper and lower tops’ls and the course. This job goes surprisingly quickly and all of the sails were sent down in record time.

Most of the running rigging was sent down the next day, then measured, inspected, coiled neatly and tagged to spend a winter in our warehouse. The running rigging is all manilla rope, a natural fibre. It shrinks up as it gets wet and lengthens as it dries, so it also had to be dry to be measured and put away. With less lines on the pins, it makes it easier to get to the pin rails to sand and varnish them, getting lots of coats on to protect the wood over the winter. The rest of the ship will get extra coats of paint, tar, grease and oil as appropriate to make sure that things are well-covered for the coming months.

In addition to ship’s work, the crew are enjoying being part of the community in Lunenburg. Both Sea Never Dry, our tropical-coloured dory with sails made of Senegalese fabric, and Mr Bones, the Grenadian skiff built aboard during the Voyage of the Atlantic with tarp sails made this summer, were out sailing last Wednesday night in the weekly small boat races. According to the folks who have been racing every week this summer, this past Wednesday had the best wind of the whole season. Forgetaboutit, a sweet little boat built by Dave Westergaard and owned by crew member Ollie Campbell, and Mr Bones made an appearance in the Martin’s River Regatta this past Saturday, the first time that any of our crew have participated in that event. Dave Westergaard is currently finishing building another boat, Kitty Cochrane at the Dory Shop, preparing it to be launched on Saturday. The crew assisted with stepping the masts for this 33-foot schooner yesterday, bringing it closer to completion.

crew clean up after stepping masts in Kitty Cochrane
Marie sends down the lower tops l
moving big spars at the Dory Shop
Paul and Kappy send down the t gallant

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Return to Lunenburg


Picton Castle motored into Lunenburg at about 8:00pm last Friday night, completing the 2009 summer voyage. Sailing into Lunenburg is always exciting. The coastline becomes familiar once we spot Cross Island in the distance, then come around into Lunenburg Bay. Crew who have spent some time in Lunenburg point out the communities and features as we sail past them, then the famous waterfront scenery comes into view as the ship approaches Battery Point and its lighthouse.

While Lunenburg is a great port, it is particularly significant in our voyages because of what it represents. Sailing into Lunenburg is the closing of one chapter and the start of a new one, of saying goodbye to shipmates and looking forward to the next adventure, whether that takes place in Lunenburg or elsewhere. Even for the crew members who had never been here before, they feel some sort of attachment to the place because it marks a milestone.

Lunenburg is, of course, also a great town to visit. We had a small but enthusiastic crowd on the wharf on Friday night to welcome us home a day earlier than scheduled. The Captain made the decision to bring the ship in early in order to allow us a bit more time to prepare for Tropical Storm Danny, forecast to arrive on Saturday evening. After the ship was safely tied to the wharf and everything was stowed, the crew greeted the crowd on the dock and headed up to the Grand Banker, our favourite place ashore to get a cold drink, where we said hello to more familiar faces.

Saturday morning was spent getting the ship ready for Tropical Storm Danny. We put out extra dock lines and added extra layers of chafe gear to all the dock lines. We were expecting the strongest wind from the southeast, which is the wind direction that creates the most swell in Lunenburg harbour. We also added extra gaskets to the stowed sails to keep them securely held to the yards. The afternoon brought overcast skies and rain, then the wind started in the evening as Danny approached. The strongest winds came in the hours after midnight, but the ship was secure with the duty watch looking after her.

Except to dry and stow sails, the crew had Sunday and Monday off to relax and enjoy being ashore. While some people used the internet or went to the library, others went surfing, visited the museum, took naps and went for bike rides. Even Donald, our fantastic cook, had days off, so Julie’s mom brought a huge turkey dinner to the ship on Sunday night.

Returning to Lunenburg brings a change of pace for the ship as well. This fall, we have five students joining us for the months of September, October and November to participate in the Bosun School, a land-based skills development program for experienced young mariners. They will assist with downrigging the ship, learning valuable skills along the way, then branch out to study rigging, sailmaking, carpentry, small boat handling and a variety of other skill sets. The Bosun School began this Tuesday, September 1, and we’re glad to have Craig, Sarah, Jack, Andrew and Dave with us.

Our focus over the fall and winter will shift increasingly to the next world voyage. Applications are already being accepted and considered, with a number of trainee applicants arriving in the next few weeks for their in-person interviews. We’re looking forward to meeting them and building a great crew for this incredible voyage. While the ship won’t be sailing for a while, there is still lots going on. Stay tuned for ongoing stories from Lunenburg…

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