Captain's Log

Archive for November, 2011

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Picton Castle Bosun School Wraps Up This Week

Bosun School is in its final week here in Lunenburg. Our students from Canada, USA, Finland, Iceland and Denmark have all made great progress. It’s tough to believe that almost 14 weeks have gone by since students first joined us at the end of August. We’ve certainly packed a lot into that time, everything from sailing schooners in the waters around Lunenburg to building a beautiful 18 foot wooden skiff of tropical hardwood, splicing wire to changing the oil in an outboard engine, patching a sail to fibreglass repair. The students have made noticeable progress in all areas, advancing their skills and rounding out their resumes. And learning more about working together, leading work and simply working hard.

In the loft above the Dory Shop, students spent a couple of weeks learning sailmaking skills. Starting with a sea bag, which allowed them to many of the skills required in sailmaking in miniature, they learned about hand sewn seams, false seams, tabling and grommets. As their quality of work improved with practice, they were able to do real patching on some of Picton Castle‘s sails, learning the proper techniques not only for making a new sail but also for keeping existing sails in use, a skill that is sure to be useful on their next vessels. Many thanks to Michele Stevens for the day the students spent at her sail loft, learning layout and design skills and seeing how a busy, working professional sail loft operates.

The best way to understand wooden boat construction and repair is to actually build a boat, so we did. Students spent almost three weeks apprenticing in the Dory Shop with boatbuilder Jay Langford, constructing an 18′ dory skiff of tropical hardwood. Under Jay’s guidance, the students were involved in all aspects of building, everything from selecting the wood and making the bottom to setting up the jigs, planking, and finishing. While the build went very smoothly, there were a few little mistakes along the way which were turned into teaching moments – it’s good to know how to fix it when things don’t go right. The result of three weeks of work is a gorgeous skiff, launched on a sunny Friday afternoon at the Dory Shop in front of a crowd of wooden boat enthusiasts.

Throughout the Bosun School, students have been getting out on the water, remembering why they’re learning all these skills and applying them immediately. They have sailed in small boats in Lunenburg harbour weekly as part of the Wednesday night Hump Cup races, they have sailed on bigger schooners in the September Classic and on a few weekends with friends. They have helped put away some of those same boats for the season during their spare time. They sailed on an overnight expedition as a group on board Dave Westergard’s beautiful schooner Sea Change, with Captain Moreland at the helm. And they’ve been exercising in small boats, under sail, oar and motor, learning to handle them well.

The last two weeks of the Bosun School is being spent on rigging review. Back in September, we laid the foundation for this final unit, learning and practicing knots, splices, worming, parcelling, serving, seizings and more. We bent on square and fore and aft sails and rigged them properly. Now we’re reviewing wire splices, working them into muscle memory, learning wire seizings, and practicing with heavy lifting aloft, reeving tackles and rigging for advantage. And they are learning how to send yards and spars down from aloft.

The Bosun School is an intense time of focused learning. Watching the students every day, in all sorts of different situations and learning a variety of skills, we can see them all improving, with some people showing natural talent in certain areas. It’s been a time of great growth, which we know will serve the students and their future ships as they continue in their careers at sea.

attaching the stern
bending on the main upper tops l
overnight on Sea Change
sail repair in the Dory Shop loft
seaming sails
tarring a serving

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Lunenburg Santa Claus Parade

Saturday November 26 was Lunenburg’s third annual Santa Claus Parade. Picton Castle’s crew and Bosun School students made a colourful splash on the streets of Lunenburg! Our Lunenburg-built dory painted in bright tropical colours was the main part of our entry, rigged with a smaller sail than usual in order to clear any overhead dangers. We dressed in our tropical best, dancing down the street to the soca Christmas music pumping from inside the boat and handing out a few treats to the youngest parade watchers. We even had a few dance along with us!

Watch a parade video here.

Sea Never Dry in the parade
Tammy, Pania and Samantha carry the banner

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Atlantic Voyage Itinerary Change

As the Atlantic Voyage 2012-2013 approaches, we’re pleased to announce an exciting change to the itinerary. The opportunity to sail with an international fleet of tall ships on the east coast of the United States and Canada in 2012 to celebrate the bicentennial of the war of 1812 is just too good to pass up! The changes will mostly affect Leg 1 – instead of sailing from Lunenburg directly for the Azores and Europe, we’ll spend the first part of Leg 1 sailing to Bermuda and then to the US east coast to meet up with the fleet. Shorter passages between ports on the eastern seaboard will build toward the culmination of Leg 1, the transatlantic crossing which will bring us to Baltimore, Ireland and to the UK, where Leg 1 will end and Leg 2 will begin.

The chance to be together with these other vessels is truly a thrill – not only do we get to sail amongst them from port to port, we also get to share our ship with crews from other vessels and the public, get to know hundreds of sailors from around the globe and be at the heart of festivities in cities and towns that love to welcome tall ships.

In early August we’ll set our own course across the Atlantic, parting with the fleet and picking up our own agenda. We’ll sail from Nova Scotia to Baltimore, Ireland, which Picton Castle first visited in 2008 and found to be one of the most charming ports in the world for its friendly people, lush green landscape and cozy pubs. The end date of Leg 1 remains the same – August 28, 2012 – but the ship will be in the UK rather than in Copenhagen as originally planned.

Leg 2 will begin with a trip through the Kiel Canal on the way to the Aaland Islands in the Baltic Sea. On the way back toward the Atlantic, the ship will visit Copenhagen and other ports in Denmark, then head for Spain and Portugal where we will pick up with the itinerary as planned.

We’re currently making arrangements with American and Canadian ports for our visits during the first couple of months of the Atlantic Voyage. Once we have confirmed our itinerary, we look forward to sharing it with you.

Spaces for trainee crew members are available for the full year-long voyage and for the full four months each of Legs 1, 2 and 3. There will be opportunities for trainee crew to join for as little as two weeks during Leg 1 as Picton Castle sails up the east coast of North America, and for the duration of the Atlantic crossing from Nova Scotia to the UK.

We’re excited to pack even more fun, more ports and more rich sailing opportunities into this Atlantic Voyage. Keep your eyes on our website for a full itinerary soon. If you have questions, please contact voyage coordinator Maggie Ostler.

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Chibley of the Picton Castle – A Seagoing Cat From Lunenburg

Last night on a dark and stormy evening in Lunenburg, Chibley the Cat was hit by a car on Montague Street and died. She was walking from my house to the ship as was her wont. She had just had a fine dinner and a tussle, as well as a warning that it was a tempest a brewing. No doubt she was headed back to the ship to cage a second dinner, or just to check on things. She seemed to do that a lot. Some could easily say that she should not have been outside or walking around like that and should have been restrained to stay indoors or something, but, if so, they did not know Chibley – Chibley did as she wished – and so did you.

It is of course, very sad for us. It is also easy for us to attribute too many human qualities to a cat and suggest that she was more human than cat but I think that the reverse is more likely the truth – she was pure cat and her influence on her shipmates was that she turned them into more cat-like souls than her association with people might have performed the reverse function – nope, Chibley was pure 100% cat, but oh, what a cat! She certainly was some kinda person, a small furry one to be sure, but determined, keenly intelligent, resourceful, adaptable, wicked smart, soft, cuddly and very much of her ship and her shipmates – and this ain’t no anthropo-whatever. If you knew her, you knew this to be true, even those hostile, open or clandestinely, to such notions were quickly straightened out on this score once in her thrall. We have an encyclopedia of Chibley tales to support this point and she could get really cranky at you for your failings.

That Chibley was a sea cat and mariner without parallel has to be a remarkable understatement to say the least. When the I and 2nd Mate for our first world voyage went to SHAID animal shelter about 14 years ago this month she coyly managed to somehow select me – can’t remember quite how she did this but did it she did. Then Chibley went on to become the longest serving shipmate in the Barque Picton Castle. Now, let me be clear on something; should you read sea stories of long passages in boats and sailing ships that include one or two cute kitties at the beginning of the story you will soon note that some chapters further on either the cat fades from the story or the author takes the time to tell a short anecdote of the loss of said cat, either wandering off in port, never to be seen again in Zanzibar, Bali, Tahiti or elsewhere; or whilst lunging for a bird, perhaps a flying fish, make her way over the rail into the sea, and that was that – much of the time in these stories, well, that cat just walks out of the story. This would not be Chibley. Chibley the Cat has about 250,000 sea miles under her paws. She has licked more salt water off her tail than most sailors see in a lifetime. She sailed around the world five times, been all over Europe and West Africa. Bora Bora, Tahiti, Rarotonga have all had their fish markets raided by said cat. The docks of Cape Town, Reunion and Namibia are well know to her. Kiel Germany, Copenhagen, Ipswich England, all her stomping grounds. She kept her footing in a gale many a time and managed to stay dry when all others were getting soaked. A quarter of a million miles under sail, waterfronts and islands from the deep South Pacific to up the coast of Norway, Australia, gales and calms, tradewinds with stuns’ls set or motoring into head seas, and she loved her Lunenburg too, she loved walking the waterfront from Adams & Knickle all the way through to The Dory Shop, wherever there was something interesting going on you might find her (and Magnolia’s and The Scuttlebutt and The Salt Shaker and The Dockside and J-3; Lemme see, scallops, bacon, milk, pizza, hmmmm. The Grand Banker staff came outside to see to her desires…). This story is clearly incomplete to say the least, but enough for now.

A long time ago we had to decide whether we would treat Chibley like a cosseted pet or a shipmate – turned out to be not our decision – she made that choice herself and the decision was this; ain’t no one was gonna be the boss of Chibley, and so it was. Chibley has something over 1,000 shipmates in her years of voyages in the Picton Castle, and most of them have their Chibley stories, some funny, some cute, some astonishing. So after all her adventures at sea and in port over the last 15 years, it took a simple, even banal, car incident in her quiet homeport to end her life. Well, she lived as she chose and she sailed a course on the tack of her own making. Would that we all could say the same.

Mike Moreland wrote:

To Chibley,
Your last adventure ashore finally got the best of you. You always knew it was safer aboard your ship, whether tied snugly to the dock or out at sea, troubles were always on land. But like all sailors your thirst for the unknown was always there.

Over the years, the many voyages, the hundreds of thousands of sea miles, you gave endlessly your comfort and love to all the crew who passed through your ship. You never asked for much, maybe a small chunk of tuna from the fish just pulled aboard, or maybe your breakfast a little earlier, like 3 am, and just a small piece of the cargo hatch to stretch out on.
Carry on little sea cat, you will be missed.

Pania Warren wrote:

Chibs! I will miss you screamin’ like a banshee down the ladder into the cabin at 5:30am then climbing into my bunk and screamin’ in my face to feed you then start purring like a motor boat and cuddling close so you wouldn’t miss me getting up 🙂 You were the coolest of cool cats and I will miss you a lot. I really like you.

Chibley and Dapper and fresh fish
Chibley at meal time
Chibley checks things out from the charthouse
Chibley helps Nadia with sailmaking
Chibley helps provision
Chibley helps provision the ship--fruit and veggies, Panama 2005
Chibley in a coil of rope
Chibley joins the dancers
Chibley naps on the sail Nadia is stitching
Chibley relaxes on deck
Chibley stretches out in a bunk
Chibley watches Shawn Anderson clean a fresh fish
Chibs is shy
Dave and Chibs
Even Chibley studies the weather!~0
John and Chibley
Lauren and Chibs
Robert and Chibs
Siri and Chibley
Tammy and Chibley

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A Lunenburg Diary

Written by Eva. Eva is a Bosun School student of Finnish origins. She has spent most of her life married to classical music and has discovered the pleasures of sailing only recently.

It has been a busy week. Last Friday we were celebrating Katelinn’s and Maggie’s birthdays at the Dory Shop with extensive cakes and appropriate beverages. On Saturday we were picked up by a friend, to go to Halifax, whose schooner we were to deliver to Riverport on Sunday. Some of us were already celebrating a pre-Halloween in La Have.

This week we have been finishing our skiff: adding all the missing parts (breast hooks, stern cleats, risers, nosing, covering boards, skids, outwales…), planing, sanding, puttying, painting and obviously drilling screws in and out. Today’s surprisingly difficult task was to make plugs for the thwarts. Jay Langford has with patience showed us little tricks that make life easier, and also comforted us in the moment of desperation that that’s just how difficult it is. Wood is a living material and every piece of wood is different. But tomorrow we are expecting our skiff to be ready and launched, exciting!

Next to the Dory Shop we follow with enthusiasm the emerging of the Lunenburg twin schooners. Jay has promised to take us to the mill one of these days to give us a glimpse on the process from wood to planks.

In between we are cooking, washing dishes, doing ship checks and domestics, bringing down some remaining running rigging and listening to sailmaker-Mike’s shanties. We had also a guest this week, one of those lucky ones that get to do the Atlantic Voyage was here familiarizing herself with Picton Castle. We are also planning our own Halloween party and helping friends haul their boats. Are we stressed out? Personally I can’t think of anything more satisfying than hard work for a common goal.

While I am writing this, it is brisk and the October sun is lighting the autumnal colours. For those of you who haven’t had the chance to visit Lunenburg, I have to confirm this is a magical place: a small extremely beautiful town with its personalities and secrets, with everyone saying hello and helping each other. I do feel at home here. To quote Robert M. Pirsig: ”An alternative – and better – definition of reality can be found by naming some of its components …air…sunlight…wind…water…the motion of waves…the patterns of clouds before a coming storm. These elements, unlike twentieth-century office routines, have been here since before life appeared on this planet and they will continue long after office routines are gone.” I find myself being much closer to this reality here in Lunenburg than anywhere else on land.

bow of the skiff
clamping together the thwart
Eva, Samantha, Jay, Agnes and Heather install the riser
Jay demonstrates techniques on the bow
the skiff is painted, just a few finishing touches required
the skiff under construction

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