Captain's Log

Archive for August, 2012

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Home in Lunenburg

By Kate “Bob” Addison

August 8, 2012

And so our 2012 summer voyage has come to an end. We’ve sailed to Bermuda and back and explored the East Coast of the USA and Canada as far south as Savannah, Georgia and all the way back up to Halifax. We’ve had city adventures in New York and chilled out in some tiny villages and gorgeous bays. We’ve been a part of festivals and tall ship races, participated in parades of sail and crew parades, pancake breakfasts and crew suppers. We’ve been to parties and dances and blessings of the fleet, watched fireworks, live music, stilt-walkers, and open air movies. We’ve welcomed thousands of visitors on board and made friends across the fleet. If nothing else, this summer was certainly memorable.

An Oscar moment is coming now, so hankies at the ready. Apart from my mum and dad and God I need to thank everyone who made this summer not just possible but a great success. So here goes: thank you to the people behind each of the festivals: Savannah, Greeport, Norfolk, Newport, Halifax, Port Hawkesbury and Pugwash, and the wonderful gang at Tall Ships America for making the whole thing happen, races and festivals and all. Enormous thanks to our brilliant liaison officers in each port who did a thousand small things to make everything run smoothly, and to our fabulous army of former shipmates, parents, friends of the ship and strangers: for every laundry run, provisioning trip, use of a vehicle, edible gift, free admission to a museum and every other kindness. To the harbourmasters and dockmasters, security guards, pilots, push boat drivers and line handlers, thank you for looking after our ship and our crew. To the girl called Laura and the pet rescue centre in Savannah, thank you for introducing us to George, and George to a life as ship’s cat. Thank you to the photographers and press for capturing the spirit of the events, and helping to spread the word. Thank you to every single member of the public who came out to see the ships and in doing so helped support sail training and some of the most beautiful ships in North America and beyond. To the captains and crews of the other ships in the fleet, it was a privilege and a joy to sail with you this summer; I hope our tracks cross again before too long. And finally, to Captain Moreland, Captain Bercaw, the crew of the Picton Castle and our fabulous shore crew Maggie and Susan: thank you so much for your incredible hard work, dedication, skill and good spirit this summer. You guys are some of the best people I’ve ever met, and collectively the reason that the Picton Castle is such a great ship. Ok, I’m all done so hankies away and finish your champagne. Sorry if I missed anyone.

Our last day was spent at anchor in Rose Bay, buzzing about getting the ship all pretty for her homecoming. That evening was one of the nicest of the voyage: a peaceful sunny evening anchored in flat calm in a beautiful spot. People were tired and happy after a productive day’s work. Donald cooked steak for supper and we opened the Starboard Side Swimming Pool so people could splash about, dive off the bow or lounge about in towels on the cargo hatch. We rigged up the swing-rope on the fore course yard, and practiced back flips and belly flops swinging off the rope.

The next morning the fog had settled back in, but we hoisted our anchor and nosed our way into Lunenburg Harbour. There were plenty of people standing on the dock to welcome us home as we emerged like a ghost ship from the fog, quietly backed into our berth and threw the first line ashore. In no time we were safely tied up and with “Mr Mate, that will do the watches” the voyage was finished.

The crew have already started going their separate ways, some staying for Bosun School, and all the projects and fun of Lunenburg in the summer. Another gang has flown out to Istanbul to help rig up Fullriggeren Sorlandet, another exciting project with heaps to do and heaps to learn. Others are heading home to see family and friends, some heading back to school, or to join other ships.

Here in Lunenburg yesterday we helped to launch the beautiful schooner Martha Seabury from the Dory Shop where she’s been being built over the last couple of years. Hundreds of people came out to watch and the press was well represented too. There were speeches from Captain Moreland, dignitaries and her proud new owner Billy Campbell. She was christened Martha Seabury by Maggie breaking a rum bottle on her stem, and her decks were decorated with some of the better looking Picton Castle crew, Danish mostly, before being launched as the crowd cheered. She was floated off her cradle with help of a tow boat and some muscle from Picton Castle, Amistad and the Dory Shop heaving away with block and tackle. It was a truly wonderful day for all involved, and for the Martha Seabury just the start of many wonderful adventures to come. And then, in October the ship’s company will reconvene. New trainee crew will sign on, and old crew will return to begin the exciting preparations for the start of the next voyage. We’ll send up sails, provision and bunker, load cargo for the islands and get the ship all stowed and ready for sea. Get the crew trained, drilled and ready for sea too. And then one fine day this autumn, we’ll take in the gangway, cast off our dock lines and set sail again. But this time for the magical islands of the South Pacific.

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Sailing for Lunenburg in the Fog

By Kate “Bob” Addison

3 August 2012

It’s 8:30pm Atlantic time and Picton Castle is sailing toward Rose Bay, Nova Scotia under lower topsails, main and fore topmast stay sails, inner jib and spanker. It’s foggy out, and damp though not actually raining at the moment. The wind is maybe a Force 5 but seems stronger as the thickening fog and falling night add drama to the scene.

The Captain was explaining to us how this type of fog forms when relatively warm, moist air meets cold seawater and the air is cooled by the water reducing the amount of moisture it can hold. The excess moisture in the air has to go somewhere so it condenses out into tiny droplets that deflect the light into a soft, grey mist and jump into my hair making it into a big red frizz. Meh.

We’ve had some mal-de-mer on board the last couple of days as the ship has been pitching and rolling a bit in the swell. A chief mate I sailed with once used to say there are two stages to sea sickness: the first is when you are worried that you might die, the second is when you are more concerned you won’t die quickly enough. Well nobody’s died yet, and with help of crackers and warm clothes most people are even smiling again. There was definitely less in the way of leftovers after dinner than after lunch, so either the sickies are feeling better or the rest are getting greedier. The people who are feeling fine are probably working a little extra to help out their shipmates, but they get to feel smug instead of sick, so I think that’s a pretty fair deal.

A gang of us just ran up aloft to stow upper topsails for the night – we’re going to have to motor a bit later to get home on time, so better to stow sail before it gets dark. Was exhilarating being aloft looking out into the nothingness of the fog, the only thing in sight our ship and her crew: people fluorescent in their waterproofs lined up all along the yard as we stowed the heavy damp sail. Looking down and around, nothing but grey sea merging with grey sky, grey haze where the horizon should be and below us our beautiful barque, rolling merrily over the seas with her miniature crew scurrying about on deck and the main upper topsail bellying out contentedly behind us.

It took six of us to stow an upper topsail, it was wet admittedly and blowing a bit, and some of the hands pretty new to the game. But crazy to think of the Cape Horners stowing much, much bigger sails, not just wet but frozen stiff, in winds that would blow you off the yard in an instant. A tougher breed. And what if one of those sailors was transported by some trick of physics onto the Picton Castle, and found themselves not battling endless hurricanes but adjusting studdingsails as they sailed in the sweet trade winds of the South Pacific, hopping between beautiful palm fringed islands? And eating plenty of fresh and delicious Donald food instead of rations of salt meat and biscuit, working 4 hours out of 12 instead of 6 or more? Dancing on the beach instead of backbreaking work unloading cargo when they finally made landfall? My guess is they would think that they’d died and gone to heaven.

The mate just walked into the charthouse in his foul weather gear to say that it’s cold and wet outside, and to pet the kitten. I expect he had some chart work to do as well.

8-12 muster, fog (1)
Raphaela on lookout in the fog
Stowing fore upper topsail in fog (2)

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Homeward Bound

By Kate “Bob” Addison

1 August 2012

It’s mid-morning on the first of August and Picton Castle is homeward bound, our position 45º44.3’N 061º32.2’W, as we motor sail into a light headwind towards Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Lunenburg is our Canadian home, and a very special place for the ship and her crew. It is also set to be the site of much exciting nautical activity over the next few months. With Picton Castle alongside, her crew will have plenty of interesting projects to keep them engaged and growing as mariners before we set sail for the South Pacific on our next blue water voyage in a couple of months. The South Pacific is also our home in a very real sense, and even as we head to Lunenburg there’s a sense of anticipation on board for the tropical waters and fabulous islands which we are lucky enough to expect in our near future.

Bosun School will kick off almost as soon as we’re back in Lunenburg on August 6th, and the pace of the summer will be set right away with the lovely Lunenburg Schooner Martha Seabury due to be launched the very next day. Then the summer continues with a whole number of exciting rigging and sail making projects as well as the usual Lunenburg summer fun of small boat sailing rowing and driving, barbeques, hump cup races and the music, dancing and fun times that Picton Castle seems to bring with her everywhere she goes. There’s going to be a big cargo sale too, much exotic treasure from our adventures around the world. Watch this space for more details.

For now we are very much enjoying the charms of Nova Scotia. It is terribly beautiful in the Scottish style, all mists and deep muted colours, the shoreline of rolling hills is dark with forests that reach right down to the water’s edge, making beautiful reflections on calm days. We’re heading closer to the land now as we prepare to transit the Canso Strait. We could have gone the long way around Cape Breton, but with southwesterlies forecast for the next few days it would have been a long and lumpy ride into headwinds, so we’re going for the gentler option and heading back through the lock. Seems like just a day or two ago we were transiting in the other direction heading for Pugwash.

We had a nice time at Pugwash, it’s a pretty village with an excellent coffee shop and lots of art and antiques. There was live music by the water during the festival, and little stands all along the high street selling foods and all manner of assorted things. There were a whole raft of organised events too, from canoe jousting to a volleyball tournament, soap-box car racing and helicopter rides. It felt like the ships were a side show rather than the main event, off to the side physically over at the salt dock too. It was refreshing for us to be a smaller part of the whole festival, we’ve gotten very used to feeling like the circus come to town this summer so it’s nice to be spectator as well as attraction. Plenty of visitors aboard too, but a steady stream rather than a rush.

We left Pugwash yesterday morning, following the big salt-ship Amelia out. Yesterday was sunny as we made our way west along the coast, and we took advantage of the calm weather to practice all our safety drills as well as some sail handling. A good, productive day. We anchored off last night at Livingstone Cove on the west side of Cape George. It was stunningly beautiful. A flat calm, the water all around us glistening smooth. The sun set over our port quarter, a perfect circle an inch across, glowing deep red. The moon was up early, a translucent white orb high in the sky off the starboard beam long before the sun had gone down. The light was clear and everything peaceful, almost silent The huddle of people sleeping on the cargo hatch all snuggled up in their sleeping bags were the real proof that the night was much too lovely to go below decks.

Coming to anchor at Livingstone Cove, NS
Monomoy rowing practice
Stowing sail in Pugwash (3)

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