Captain's Log

Archive for December, 2010

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Jul Tide At Sea

Barque Picton Castle – Friday December 24 – noon – latitude 20 degrees, 50 minutes south / longitude 076 degrees, 03 minutes east – southeast winds at force 4 or about 14 knots – steering west by south for French Reunion Island 1,140 miles away – Bali is about 2,400 miles astern.

Christmas Eve

We have been under all plain sail in this ship for two weeks of pretty much perfect sailing now after motoring out of a broad belt of calm winds near Bali what seems a long time ago. We have been having sweet trade winds out of the southeast ever since then. Blue skies puffed with small white clouds and only the odd squall, small seas, modest swells, flying fish scooting out of our way, dolphins swimming around the ship and dashing across the stem, good fishing and a full moon lately. As Decemeber 25 has been approaching our minds have turned from celestial navigation, varnishing the turned mahagony stantions to the bridge rail, tarring rigging and sailmaking to Christmassy things.

Our little two foot high KrisMiss tree has been established in the middle of the hatch duly secured for rolling and winds. All hands are making one decoration each to hang from a branch. Coloured lights are being put up to light the main deck but not get in the helmsman’s eye. We have quite a collection of Christmas music onboard and we are playing it a lot with the hopes of becoming sick of it as is a long standing tradition of the season for most of us. Swedish peppar kakar cookies and pies coming out of the oven (and Pitcairn bread sticks!) and plenty else.

In the east we have big Sirius and the “three Kings” of Orions belt. Our little tree is lit now as the last glow of the sun fades in the west.


Messages from the Picton Castle crew:

“Wishing you all a very merry Christmas! May the season bring you joy and love. See you all next year!” Love Adrienne Bode

“Chag chanuka semeach l’kol ha yehudim sheli ba’olam and a Happy Xmas to all my friends who celebrate it back home!” Mike ‘Fred’ Weiss

“God jul mine kjaere! Smil, le, syng og spis masse god mat! Det skal jeg. Savner dere. Varme jule klemmer.” Johanna Aase

“Lots and lots and lots of love to all my family and friends. Sorry I am not there with you but you are all in my thoughts. Miss you.” Love Francoise Desoutter

“Mum, Dad, Sister, Last year Africa, this year; the Indian Ocean. Next year, who knows? But wherever I am, I am thinking of you. Happy Christmas.” Liam Tayler

“I love you all so much!!! The smells of constant baking floating from the galley really make me miss home. Felt unnatural, but Christmas fever on board with my surrogate family is rampant and overjoying. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year! See you soon. xo” Megan Mulcahy

“In every way imaginabe, I’m having a blue Christmas without you all. Listening to “O Holy Night” playing quietly while gazing up at a bright star on night watch is one of the many unforgetable experiences of this voyage. With all my love, wishing you haid puhi and a wonderful new year!” Tiina Randoja

“Warme Weihnachtsgruesse vom Indischen Ocean. 1000 Meilen kein land, es koenmte schoenes kaum sein! Auch weumsofesu, im hevzen gamznah und sende euch mein laechelin mit der sonne! Besos.” Nadja N

“Dear family, Happy AbbeyClause Day, Hope your holidays are as adventurous as mine. I’ll send my love to the moon so you can catch it when it comes round!”
Abbey Stern

“Hey evin sind gerade mitten im Indoschen Ozean und wir feirern Weihnachber hier. Die sonne scheint und die see strahlt so blam, Ich wumsche meins familie und freunden zu hause einfrohes und frohliches weihnachts fest is all about happiness and joy.” Robert Hoffman

“God Jul og godt nyttar kjaere mor og far og alle sammen. Tusen takk for pakker fra Oslo, og Haugesund, for Mosjokalender, for Ponduskalender. Det er overaskelser pa vei hjem, savner dere alle, og pinnekjott…Haper Julenissen tar godt vare pa dere alle I ar. Og masse sno og mandel I groten. Mange mange klemmer fra Siri I det Indiske hav.” Siri Botnen

“I find myself on a ship in the Indian Ocean surrounded by new friends and community at Christmas – the Indian Ocean stretches to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that leads me to family and friends I am thinking of. My love goes out to all of you. A very merry Christmas. Celebrate being together with laughter and love.” Alison Phillips

“Merry Christmas to all the extended family: Morelands, Corvis, Wantlands and Stevensons. All is well here sailing along before easy trade winds thinking of everyone back home.” Love Michael Moreland

“Happy Christmas family. Thinking of you all. Love you very much.” Logan Livingston

“For me Christmas is about family and traditions – and we have some magical ones. Since we are so far away from the rest of the family we usually celebrate with (Mom, Dad, Megan, Janet, the Garvey’s, the English family, Ludmilla, Moo, Michelle….) Logan and I will bring some of the traditions we created to the ship. Thinking of you all. Miss you. Always love, Bronwen Livingston.”

“Ich wansch allne da hei blibene schomi wienachte. Guiessed di geborge heit au fer mich bitzdi. Alles gueti, cure chrigi.” Christian Barmettler

“”What? Eggnog without nutmeg is like a turkey without a duck and a chicken inside it!” Merry Christmas everyone…wish you were here. Enjoy the snow!” Love Sophie

“To my family and friends, I love you, I miss you and I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season! Merry Christmas and all the best in 2011.” Tammy

“Simmons and friends. To all my family, friends and loved ones I wish you a Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year! I’ll collect my hand shakes, hugs and kisses when next we meet!” WT Simmons

“Merry Christmas Mom and Dad! I hope all is well on the farm. I miss you guys very much. Give my best to Bec, Jim and the boys and Matt and Gwen. Save some books for me, I’ll be home soon! Love you!” Susie Ordway

“Momina, Dad, Jim, Morgan, Chantral and the girls, the McKinnon’s and the Kirbey’s. Thinking of you and missing you dearly. Merry Christmas. Love, love, love! (Happy Birthday Mom!)” Meredith McKinnon

“Dear Adams family, I’ve made mince pies (astonishing I know!) including the mince meat! Not quite like home, but as close as I’ll get in the Indian Ocean! Missing
and thinking of you and all in Brandiston. Sending lots of love. xoxo. P.S. Please send my love to Spyros.” Victoria Adams

“Merry Christmas to my family!” CCMJR

“Happy Holidays!” Niko

“Happy Holidays from the middle of the Indian Ocean! Hope all is well, mom can’t wait to see you in Africa and I hope everyone is enjoying the snow at home! Love.” Paula Washington

“Mom – I can see you dancing in the kitchen. Dad – you would love this. It reminds me of you. Camden – Best of luck. Play your heart out. I miss you. All – I love you. Thanks for the music. Merry Christmas.” Katelinn Shaw

“Holidays away don’t get any easier. I wish you a verry Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Big hugs and lots of love. xoxo.” Rebecca

“Aan iedereen die dit leest een zalig kerstfeest en een gelukkig nieuwjaar toegewenst vanaf de Indische Oceaan. Inge goeie roetsh noa ut neue joar. Van Jan.” Jan Caselli

“Hope your Christmas was awesome! Have a great time at The Shack! Spekalass was great! Love and miss you all! Shawny”

“Brackens, got a 30 kg pig going on the spit in the am “Mistress for Christmas” (ACDC) rocking from the bridge, fullsail, full moon. Wish you guys could be here. #2 Somewhere in the Indian Ocean.” Paul Bracken

“Thinking of you all these holidays. Wish you were here. Merries to ya and continuous blessings in the New Year. See you all soon. Love ya.” Lorraine Kress

“Merry Christmas Everyone, and a Happy Birthday Dad!” Brad Woodworth

“Merry Christmas from the most wonderful blue sea I’ve seen. Have some curry for me!” Joani Cain

“Astrid onskar alla nara and kara darhemma en riktigt god jol. Tanker lite extra pa er i skane eftersom det ar julafon idag. Kram.” Astrid

“To the family and choms. Merry Christmas ekse and Happy New Year!” Have a jol!” Davey

Brad and Joani decorate the tree
Christmas tree lighting ceremony
Katelinn performs Christmas Eve concert
Katelinn performs for Christmas Eve

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Christmas Eve At Sea

By John Masefield

A wind is rustling ‘south and soft,’
Cooing a quiet country tune,
The calm sea sighs, and far aloft
The sails are ghostly in the moon.

Unquiet ripples lisp and purr,
A block there pipes and chirps i’ the sheave,
The wheel-ropes jar, the reef-points stir
Faintly – and it is Christmas Eve.

The hushed sea seems to hold her breath,
And o’er the giddy, swaying spars,
Silent and excellent as Death,
The dim blue skies are bright with stars.

Dear God -they shone in Palestine
Like this, and yon pale moon serene
Looked down among the lowing kine
On Mary and Nazarene.

The angels called from deep to deep.
The burning heavens felt the thrill,
Startling the flocks of silly sheep
And lonely shepherds on the hill.

To-night beneath the dripping bows
Where flashing bubbles burst and throng,
The bow-wash murmers and sighs and soughs
A message from the angel’s song.

The moon goes nodding down the west,
The drowsy helmsman strikes the bell;
Rex Judpoeorum natus est,
I charge you, brothers, sing Nowell,
Rex Judoeorum natus est.

Christmas Eve at Sea
The moon casts it s shadows

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Tis The Season… For Sailing!

No doubt about it, the holiday season has descended on the Picton Castle – and we are all the happier and the heavier because of it.

A few weeks before we reached Bali, Jan approached me with a request. In Holland, where he hails from, the Dutch are visited on December 5th by a fatherly figure called Sinterklaas. He brings – you guessed it – presents to all of the good Dutch boys and girls. Jan and Joh wanted to introduce this tradition to the Picton Castle crew. Seemed like a fine idea. The Captain thought so too as he had met Sinterklaas himself when he was a schoolboy in the Dutch island of Aruba. Because we knew that it would take a while for Sinterklaas to find us on the Indian Ocean, we held the event on December 12. Joh and Alison and Vicky helped Sinterklaas by baking some scrumptious holiday treats and Jan pulled presents from a large sailor bag (how fitting!) and distributed them to the crew. All in all the day made everyone feel warm and gushy inside.

Signs of Christmas were abundant in Bali during our stay. Many of the stores had decorated for the occasion with multi-coloured plastic Christmas trees adorned with tinsel and gaudy ornaments and Christmas carols blasted from intercom speakers in the predominantly tourist based areas of the island.

While out at sea we have not been faced with blatant (and endless) loudness of a commercial Christmas – we are gearing up for it nonetheless. Spending the holidays (Hanukkah, Jul, Solstice, Rise of the Sun or Christmas) on a ship will be a first for me and many of our crew. For a few seasoned sailors – like Rebecca, Mike, Susie, Logan, Paul, Nadja, WT, Michael S, Pania, Taia, Chris and Donald – at tropical, trade-wind Christmas is nothing new and they reminisce of seagoing Christmases past and the good times had by all. There is something incredibly special already about celebrating something like Christmas at sea. With no shopping mall in sight (or indeed for thousands of nautical miles) we are reminded that it is not about the gift, but about the thought behind it. We may not have much, but we have a pair of scissors and our imagination and that is really all that we need. And good company. While we are far away from our friends and family on shore (and we do think of them often!) we will spend this Holiday season with our sea family instead.

This will also be the first time that many of us have spent the holidays in a tropical or semi-tropical climate. While the air has cooled off substantially since we left Bali – the sun still shines warm and bright and the days continue to get longer. One could say that the chances of a white Christmas are slim! That being said, the holidays are not about the weather – they are about the spirit and the traditions and we would be making our own traditions this year and drinking deep of seagoing traditions as well.

When they are not on watch the crew have been busy little elves – manipulating leather, sewing colourful fabrics, carving coconuts, whittling scrap wood and painting – in preparation for the big day. And every night the galley stove stays lit for a few extra hours as the crew take turns baking sweets to freeze or store for later. Smells of gingerbread, sweetbread, chocolate and peanut butter waft from the open door – and the crew have taken to gathering for a kind of social hour on the well-deck. Perhaps with the hope of being enlisted as a taste-tester? Well, someone has to do it!

Sinterklaas had a helper named Jan
Joh with Sinterklaas treats
Megan and her Sinterklaas gift
Sinterklaas sweets and treats

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South East Trade Winds

When the Picton Castle headed out of Benoa Harbour the humidity still hung in the air like wet woolly blankets hang on the clothes line – low and heavy. Within a few days and after some squally weather, the humidity had dissipated and we turned off the rumbling diesel engine and set all sails. We had finally found the famous southeast trade winds of the Indian Ocean and they did not disappoint.

Now, at night, the waxing moon shines its milky glow on the deck and the stars play peek-a-boo between the sails as the masts sway gently to and fro in response to the swells lapping at her hull. During the day the sun warms our skin and the winds are fresh. As I write this we are sailing along at a comfortable 6 ½ knots. What a wonderful feeling to be sailing again.

When we left Bali the Mates once again changed the watch system and switched up the Daymen. Many of our trainees had demonstrated a natural talent for sailing and leadership skills and the Captain and the Mates decided it was time to bestow some of them with increased responsibility – thus allowing them to grow as mariners. Brad and Sean became the lead seamen on their watches. Mike, aka ‘Fred’ also became WT’s Bosun’s Mate and is overseeing the daytime work projects. This move also allowed some of our ABs and Deckhands to hone new skills. Nadja and Siri both became Assistant Watch Officers. Katelinn and Dan joined Logan up in the rigging; Meredith and Joani lead the sailmaking team with Lorraine and Frankie; Tammy joined Jan as Dayman carpenter; and Paula joined Chris to learn more about the engine room.

When the wind picks up and the ship starts pushing 8 or 9 knots we might take in the flying, inner or outer jib. We might take in the royals or ta’gallants or dump the spanker. If the wind shifts ever so slightly we might adjust the helm course or brace the yards – but in general with the winds as consistent as they are we needn’t do much sail-handling.

This allows us time to complete a lot of ships work. The riggers bent on a new fore royal and mainsail, replaced the foretopmast staysail sheets, the inner and outer jib downhauls and replaced chafe gear aloft. The carpenters fashioned heavy weather hatch boards and are continuously working on and aiding with ships projects. The sailmakers continue work on the new fore course. Since three sides of the sail have wire roping they have been busy wire rope splicing and sewing the wire rope to the leach and the foot of the sail. The Bosun team rust-busted, welded, primed and painted the aloha deck transom; sanded, varnished and re-installed the aloha deck benches; painted waterways and bulwarks; scraped the deck; and overhauled the aft coffee station cupboard.

A celestial navigation overview/review begins in a few minutes and there are already a few eager crew up on the quarter-deck with a sextant in one hand and a reference book in another. There is much to learn and so I must go!

Fred mixes paint
Captain talks of the weather systems
Katelinn and Dan putting chafe gear on
Meredith and Frankie wire sewing
Mitch paints in the starboard breezeway
Shawn and Brad paint the aloha deck transom
Tammy -the new Carpenter Dayman
Tiina and WT varnishing

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Balancing Like The Balinese #3

The crew also found inner balance during their stay – by exploring Bali, while exploring their own passions. Frankie went diving near Lembongan and discovered a reef still rich and teeming with life. Joh, Brad, Dave, Shawn and Siri continued their bargaining spree in Mas where they found sea chests and commissioned carvings and tools. Clark has a passion for maritime history and consequently sought out the spices that sparked much of the trade with the East. Tiina, our resident linguist, discovered that there is a word in the Balinese language which describes the sheer panic one would feel if one could not locate north and she spent a lot of time contemplating how language shapes your worldview. Katelinn’s desire for an authentic cultural interaction led her to the Holy Spring temple where she witnessed worshippers praying and making offerings.

Meredith took a scooter ride with a dear friend to a busy fabric market outside of Ubud where she bargained her way into some real deals. Donald found his zen in the busy marketplace of Denpasar which he described as his most challenging and rewarding provisioning experience to date. Liam, Rebecca, Paul, Mike, Nadja, Paula, Ali, Davey and others found their surfing fantasies in Pedang Pedang and UluWatu. Megan and Taia raved about the affordable spa treatments. Joani, Robert H, WT and Pania took in the Barong and Kecak dances at temple grounds near Ubud. Mike ‘Mitch’ M savoured the traditional nasi (rice dishes). Vicky escaped into luxury and a visit with her visiting family – and Paula, Niko and Rebecca also had family make the long treck to visit. Lauren, Tammy, Jan, Adrienne, Sophie and Chris, to name a few, spent time exploring the more relaxed atmosphere of Ubud and marvelled at the sheer beauty of the rice paddies just outside of the city centre. Logan and a group of friends spent some time in the relaxed seashore town of Padangbai. ‘Fred’ Weiss was not the only one to discover the mischievous macaque monkeys in Ubud’s monkey forest, but he did almost loose his glasses to their greedy little hands!

Bali was the halfway point on the Picton Castle‘s fifth voyage around the world. This inevitably meant that we would be saying goodbye to some of our crew. We bid tearful farewells to Georgie, Cheri, Paulina, David Brown, Alex and Rob M. Their humour and contribution and presence will be sorely missed by this Barque and her crew. However, it also meant that we would be saying hello to new crew. We welcomed six new crew into our floating family complex and we do hope they love it as much as we do.

I should mention that I am sitting in the galley house at half past midnight as I write this. Joh and Pania are attempting to help me by singing their version of Balinese traditional Barong music as they scrub the galley shelves. Ding Ding Ding…Do do do do…. Ding Ding Ding. We too find a balance on the ship between work and play. While we cannot whistle and work (whistling generally being taboo) we certain can giggle while we work – or Ding do do do – in this case.

Karima Kasi Bali. We had a wonderfully enlightening stay!

*Thank you to the Captain, Pania, Brad and Taia for their photographs.

Brad gets harassed
Captain testing out some furniture
Dave B, Paulina, Barong and Pania
Katelinn and a rice farmer
Taia in a rice paddy

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Balancing Like The Balinese #2

When the Picton Castle crew described their stories to me they all expressed a similar awe that they were able to find peace in the midst of chaos. Kuta, for example, is absolute insanity. It is a mecca for tourists and partygoers and shopaholics and surfers. During the day the shops regurgitate their wares onto the sidewalk and crowds of people gather to find a bargain. Hawkers hawk and hustlers hustle and shoppers shop. The white noise is almost deafening. Taxi cab drivers yell “Transport” and scooters whiz by on their way to wherever they are going and shop owners entice you and fellow tourists jostle you in their search for sunglasses or a silk scarf or a DVD or a gigantic zippo lighter. As the evening sets in the bars and dance clubs begin to crank their music and the florescent lights come on and the crowds become louder and pushier. Among others, Josh found this energetic atmosphere stimulating – and it is incredibly interesting.

Yet, perhaps you desire solitude for a time. No problem. Simply step down a side alley (any side alley will do) and inevitably, Lorraine noticed, you will find yourself in another world. This world is one of peace and serenity. A world where the smells of diesel engines, burning rubber and street vendors selling kabobs or suckling pig is replaced by the smells of hibiscus and jasmine and incense honouring family ancestors. Where the only sound you hear is the sound of water trickling into a fountain at the edge of a lush garden. Perhaps you have found yourself in the courtyard of a home-stay or a cheap hotel and they have a room available. Why not stay for the night and rest up? Tomorrow is bound to be a busy day.

Once aware of this balance in Balinese culture it comes as no surprise that one can spend an afternoon as an adrenaline junkie bungee jumping and then hike to the top of a volcanic crater for a serene and sacred sunrise experience – as Dan did. Or spend the day visiting some of the most sacred shrines and temples (including the Goa Gajah and the Lake temple) in Bali (with Made Alon, the Captain’s good friend and tour guide extraordinaire) and then dance the night away at a raucous night club in Kuta – as many of the crew did. Or spend the day sipping palm and rice based cocktails in beautiful UluWatu – literally next door to the most famous of sacred temples in Bali. After all, most dualities in life overlap within and co-exist in some sort of chaotic harmony. Even the Hindu deities Shiva and Pavati have destructive and creative sides – equally honoured and respected.

*Thank you to Joani, Taia and Brad for the use of their photographs.

Dancing up a storm in Kuta
Downtown Kuta
Joani and Tiina at a temple
Megan shopping
View of UluWatu

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Balancing Like The Balinese #1

The Picton Castle and her crew stayed in Bali for 12 wonderful days. Since then I have been striving to find connections to link the stories of adventure and relaxation the crew have been regaling me with since we left that beautiful island. It turns out that the key to my own brief writer’s paralysis lies in the balance deeply embedded in Balinese culture. It is a fine balance that everyone noticed from the moment we motored into Benoa Harbour.

The island of Bali is one of approximately 17,000 islands which make up the archipelago of Indonesia. It is a country made up of thousands of islands, with thousands of histories and languages and dialects. It is hard to imagine a county of islands as diverse geographically as they are ethnically, religiously and culturally – finding any sort of balance. Indeed if one delves into the rich and fascinating history of Indonesia one will find stories of colonial conquest and prideful rebellion; massacres and communal healing; economic crises and continued resilience. Indonesia is truly worth a study and the history of Bali itself could keep one intrigued for a very long time.

Balinese culture is imbued with religious symbolism – and with influences from Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and Christianity it is a richly textured one. It’s landscape is equally rich. The volcanic mountains in the north are as helpful as they are destructive – for when they do erupt the lava blankets the earth creating ideal geographical and geological conditions for terraced rice cultivation – the island’s main source of livelihood and their communal way of life. The complex irrigation systems of the rice terraces are as beautiful as they are functional and they slope gracefully down to the outskirts of urban centres such as Ubud and Denpasar and all the way to the rocky cliffs and white sand beaches of the southern coast.

One of the common ties that bind all of our stories of Bali together is the duality of the Balinese way of life – as they strive to find cosmic balance in an ever-changing world. Their family complexes – and streets and temples – are built with a clear division, or ‘Kaja-Kelod’ axis, between north (good) and south (bad) and sunrise and sunset. Equally planned are the villages themselves – with temples to specific deities erected in strategic positions. There is a balance of vocal and instrumental harmonies and subtle and dramatic movement in ancient Barong dance performances. There is a balance between work and play and rest. There is a daily fight to balance the traditional way of life with the demands of a growing tourist and commercial economy – and consequently to balance the necessity of capitalistic business savvy with natural and heart-warming generosity. There is a balance between feeding a growing population in a family oriented society and safeguarding communal and spiritual land practices.

*Thank you to Pania for the use of her photographs.

A Balinese dance performance on the hatch
Balanced Balinese temple
Balinese procession
Paulina overlooks a rice paddy
Volcano views

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Westward Bound In The Picton Castle

We sailed from Benoa, Bali December 5th in the Picton Castle bound for Reunion Island 3,500 miles away across the wide Indian Ocean. The new crew joining the ship in Bali had several days of orientation in this ship including our safety procedures. Once at sea we conducted fire, abandon ship and MOB drills including full deployment of MOB gear and launching the rescue boat. We use a dry brown coconut for a ‘victim’ as a floating coconut closely resembles what one might see of an actual victim in the water. The rescue boat got launched and to the coconut-victim in three minutes, pretty good time.

After motoring in calms 440 miles SW of Bali I think we have found our wind at last – weather maps and weather forcasting in general today are a vast improvement over the weather info in the ‘old days,’ (that and coatings for steel are miles ahead of 30-40 years ago, the other stuff, not so much). Once we had to motor 7 days to find wind hereabouts, once we caught a useful breeze 5 hours out of Bali – on one of the latter Brigantine Yankee world voyages they had to motor for days to find an Indian Ocean wind and according to the story never really found a great breeze and mostly drifted across the Indian Ocean. And other voyages they had romps in fresh tradewinds. Our maps indicate excellent winds starting at 14 south and 100 east.

We have as good a professional crew that I have ever sailed with or could hope for in this ship, and a group of trainees who already have more experience than many entry level professionals and they are keen learners as well, having fully adopted the old maxim that ‘the ship comes first’. All our five new joiners in Bali have extensive experience in this and / or other ships. On this long passage we are running more workshops and classes in seamanship, sailmaking, rigging and celestial navigation. A long westward bound passage in the tropics is a great way to master the sextant, sun and stars. We will be reviewing heavy weather procedures and taking that very seriously, we will be trying different scenarios and taking a good hard look at how things are stowed, lashed, secured, dogged down and not to take anything for granted. A danger of sailing in benign conditions for so long as we do is to presume that conditions will always remain so, which just ain’t the case. Heavy weather can develop anywhere with not a great deal of warning although, as I mention above, with much better warning than a generation ago.

We have stuck out ‘daymen’ in sail making, rigging and carpentry and the engine room. Everyone gets a chance to be a dayman in one of the specialities if they wish. The quarterdeck is always covered in canvas as the sailmaking gang keeps at it. Much running rigging has been replaced, all new braces all around. The carpenters seem to always find projects to fill their days. In Bali we sent down the fore t’gallant yard and mizzen boom for overhauling. Now these spars up again doing their job of sailing us along ever westward.

Cleaning the gear after the drill
Sophie dons her fire fighting gear
The crew clean with Bali in the background
The rescue skiff in the drill
The skiff coming back after the drill rescue

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Why We Love Bali

We love sailing the Picton Castle to and visiting Bali with our crew for many reasons…

For starters the approach to Bali from the sea is a bit mystical. Cones of volcanic mountains rise up from the opaque mists on the horizon like examples of ancient oriental art pained on silk. As the ship closes with the peninsula of Bali where we stay called Nusa Dua, we can see huge kites and soon all manner of brightly painted fishing boats, fluttering flags.

Steering up the narrow channel at slack water takes us into Benoa Harbour; seeminly broad but mostly shallows, congested with vessels of all descriptions, we soon find ourselves one ship among many and one of so many kinds; tankers, containerships, a small Vietnamese bulk carrier with Haiphong on the transom, a Thai naval ship is in painted beatifully. Two Indonesian navy ships come and go. Many of the ubiquitous white Chinese or Japanese steel long liners (we see them all over the world) are alongside and at anchor. Green, red, blue 140′ long wooden local fishing vessels, little tiny (and very cute) saucy fishing vessels are rafted up here and there all over the harbour. Small water taxis, also wooden built with outboards scoot all over the bay. These last are no different than the lateen rigged sailing ferry boats that were the norm some years ago. Only their rigs have been removed, plywood awnings and outboards fitted.

The smells of a harbour of the far east dominate; fuel oil, fish, smoke, salt water tides, even the distinct spicy perfume of clove cigarettes waft by from time to time from passing boatmen. In the light of early morning and late afternoon, small out-riggers with delicately curved pontoons on both sides are paddled by lone fishermen wearing the signature sun hat of this part of the world, the conical straw chapeau known as a ‘coolie hat’. A strong tide flushes this harbour clean.

We motor up to our anchorage directly under the glide path for the airport. We soon become used to huge jets flying overhead taking off and landing, including airforce fighter jets. It is loud but kind of exciting. Once at anchor among rafted fishing vessels Indonesian Customs & Immigration visits the ship. With formalities concluded we launch our fine Cape Islander skiff and take the first of the off watch into the landing which is handily located at what is called the Bali Marina which will be our take off point in Bali for the days ahead.

Captain guides us to a good anchorage
Close fit Benoa Harbour
Fishing boats and parasailing
Flight path

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Sailed From Bali

The Picton Castle has sailed from Bali bound for Reunion Island across the Indian Ocean. After 12 days at anchor in Benoa Habour with the crew spread out across the island exploring, no doubt there are some stories to tell about our times in Bali. Some of these stories will find their way onto our website here and crew members’ personal blogs in the coming days. For starters though we can say that Bali remains a sweet magical place with something for everyone and anyone.

Bali is a rich fusion of sights, sounds, smells, music, noise, peace, crowds, solitude, cultivation, urban construction, jungle, plains, mountains, temples, commercialism, spiritual and commonplace, excellent food and fruits, coffee, cleanliness, dirt, culture, crudity, charm, more charm and wonder – the only danger, really, is in becoming overly accustomed to it and taking it all for granted. That would be a mistake. Westerners have been coming to Bali since the 1920s in holiday adventure mode. Since the 1930s some have said “oh, you should have been here ten years ago to see the real Bali…”. But we would disagree. The time to visit Bali is now. The real Bali is right here, right now – these are the “good old days”…

cooking satay bali CIMG0684
dancers bali CIMG0679
temple bali CIMG0754
wayans beaded baskets Bali 104

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