Captain's Log

Archive for October, 2014

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At Sea In The Indian Ocean

By Kate “Bob” Addison

Thursday October 30th, 2014

Four days out of Bali and all is well aboard Picton Castle as we sail westwards across the southern Indian Ocean.

After motoring on and off for a few days to get clear of the currents that threatened to set us back towards Indonesia, the wind has filled in nicely and is now pushing us along well, a steady force 4 on the port quarter. Taking in and then setting all sail a handful of times in 48 hours was good practice for our gang, many of them new to the ship since Bali, but they did a good job, and they mostly know their lines already.

Now all square sails are set and all four headsails way forward out on the jibboom, as well as main topmast and t’gallant mast staysails, the mizzen topmast staysail and the spanker. We’re flying along at five knots. Might not sound fast, but our planning assumes an average speed of advance of four nautical miles per hour, day and night, so if we’re making five knots then we’re winning.

It’s early afternoon as I write and the 12-4 watch has the deck. There is a gang on the main deck sanding down one of the stunsail booms, and another boom is lying on sawhorses to port, allowing the tar and oil mix it was slurped with this morning to soak in.

The carpenter is at work on the well deck, chipping out a piece of the starboard pin rail that needs replacing and the sailmakers are up on the quarterdeck putting patches on a course sail, that though old, certainly has enough life in it to be bent one more time. The officer of the watch is putting a whipping on a line on the quarterdeck in between plotting our course on the big-scale chart and checking that the helmsman is reasonably well on course.

I have the best seat on the ship here on the bench on the bridge. The sunshine dancing on the blue waves is quite lovely, and the breeze is strong enough to keep the temperature down to perfect shorts and t-shirt weather. I keep stopping work to wander to the rail and just look out at the sparkly sea and the puffy white clouds.

Laura (Denmark) has the helm

Laura from Denmark has the helm

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Life & Times In Bali

By Kate “Bob” Addison

October 20th, 2014

We’ve visited some amazing places with the Picton Castle on this wonderful, slow voyage round the world, but nowhere quite like Bali! It’s the Far East, it’s Indonesia, it’s Bali! The colour and noise and bustle is really something especially after visiting some of the quietest and most beautiful sandy atolls of the South Pacific.

In Bali you can eat nasi goreng (fried rice with an egg on top) for about $1 and get a cool jasmine tea drink in a bottle for half a dollar at a small, cheerful roadside hut with plastic chairs and a funky music channel playing on the small TV overhead. Or you can walk another hundred meters to pay $50 for a fabulous main course of imported, organic ingredients, all perfectly cooked and served by impeccable, smiling waiters while you sip your champagne and look out on the gorgeous gardens, lightly scented by frangipani, tasteful water feature gleaming in the sun, and the whole melding seamlessly into the ethereal green of young rice paddies stretching far into the distant. I chose both, please! Such good food everywhere!

Bali is amazing and wonderful. Hectic and colourful: busy roads, millions of shops. One area called Kuta is covered with beach bars where you can sit on bean bags on the beach, get silly cold drinks and listen to Bob Marley covers while the sun goes down over the hordes of sunburned Australian tourists. Oh, yes, and get offered massages, sarongs, transport, knock-off Rolexes, get yer hair braided… or you can head off and see and feel the Bali of legend. Beautiful volcanoes, rice paddies, markets, craftsmen, jungle, monkey forests and stunning temples in great variety.

For the Balinese, the temple is a central part of the community and seems to be a significant obligation in the everyday life of families. But no doubt it’s a source of festivity, socialising and fun too. Five times a day little woven pandanus baskets filled with flowers, coloured rice and sweets are offered up to the Gods in family temples and holy places all around, which are often unhelpfully in the middle of the road or on the steps up to a shop. I don’t think anyone minds too much if you accidentally tread on one – we are told the blessing is received instantaneously, so really your tourist flip-flop is just stomping on the holy leftovers. I guess it’s the same reason it’s ok for ants, stray dogs or even monkeys to raid the offerings for sweet treats. Every family house has a temple in the garden where their ancestors hang out. These are all decorated with fabric and flowers, and scented with incense. The fabric is black, white and grey in checks which we are told symbolises the good, bad and indifferent in the universe, and the fact that all good people have some bad in them, and the other way around. Also gold fabric, which I think is just because the Balinese love bling.

Their clothes are all elaborate; printed with gorgeous batik patterns in gold and bright colours. Everyone wears skirts made of two sarongs on top of easy other, the ladies with little lacy tops over and a brightly coloured sash and the men with high necked tunics or shirts and little starched snappy turbans. The dancing is strange and beautiful. All fancy gold costumes and tiny, precise synchronised movements – fingers, toes, even eyes are all expressive and help tell the stylised story. It’s a very old style of dancing, very cool. Though it’s not all old – we are told there’s a brand new dance that’s started even since the ship was last here, so I’d like to check that out if there’s time!

Our gang have been hanging out in groups or wandering off alone, visiting small islands offshore to get away from the tourist trail, eating, praying and loving with the organic-hippy-yoga bunnies in Ubud, or enjoying the tacky, sun soaked fun of Kuta beach. Seminyak is swanky, full of exclusive shops and beach & spa resorts. Fun to visit though. There are monkey forests where you can walk along a path and watch the monkeys watching you. If you hide food in your bags they will find it, so it’s better to just accept the racket and pay up your bananas. It’s worth it to watch them eat them with their little monkey fingers and faces looking like weirdly old and hairy human babies. But they are sacred here, for all their mischievousness, and live in great numbers in the gardens surrounding many of the temples. And they are smart and organised, little crooks!

Vai, Dawson and Made Alon's daughter

Vai and Dawson get to know our friend Made Alon’s daughter

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First Two Weeks in Bali

By Kate “Bob” Addison

October 17th, 2014

It’s been almost two weeks since the last log from the Picton Castle at anchor here in Bali. Our feeble excuse is simply that we’ve been so busy working hard, though the real excuse is that Bali is full of shiny things and very distracting.

We’ve been very busy aboard the ship, and busy enjoying our time ashore in delightful Bali too. With 25 new crew joining the ship here in Bali there is a happy buzz about the ship similar start of a long voyage rather than just the start of a new leg. And what a start! From Bali we will head offshore and find ourselves immediately in the open Indian Ocean. It will be more than three thousand nautical miles and maybe five weeks sailing before we see land again. Hardly a day sail! So there’s a lot to do to make sure the ship and crew are ready before we heave up our anchor, loose all sails and set our course towards Africa.

We started off with all hands onboard every day, working through basic orientation initial safety training and some deck seamanship: conservation of water and electricity, ship’s routines, lifejackets and life-rafts, fire prevention and fire fighting, parts of the ship, names of the lines, how to make a line off on a pin correctly and then coil down properly so the lines won’t get washed back off the pin by the next wave. How to clean the ship quickly and well and how to do both soapy deck wash and soapy dish wash efficiently. Apart from anything else to learn there’s just so much nautical vocabulary that all seems obvious after a few weeks or months onboard, but totally alien at the beginning. So we have to learn to soogee the scuttles and tar the turning blocks, but first what all of those words mean. It’s much more fun actually doing it here in the sunshine than sitting at home reading Patrick O’Brien.

A couple of days in it was time for people to climb aloft, some for the first time ever on any ship, exciting! Everyone did a great job and we obviously have some natural climbers aboard. Even the people who prefer to keep their feet closer to the deck made it, no problems. Everybody climbed up as far as the fore top (the crescent shaped platform around the fore mast, about a third of the way up), and then aloft again shortly after, this time laying out on the fore yard, feet balanced on the served wire rope that’s stretched along for the purpose, hands gripping onto the jack stay welded to the top of the yard. There’s a back rope of very strong wire rope lashed behind your back, and your harness is clipped into this as you step out onto the yard so it’s quite safe, but you must pay attention and you are rewarded with a great view you get from up there! And all the while our experienced crew are strategically placed to help people find their feet. I got to hang out on the main top for a while to watch the climbers and take some photos – so nice to be aloft for a couple of hours, watching how well everyone did and enjoying the views and sea breezes.

We also had a small film crew aloft as people were climbing – they are making short web pilots, which will hopefully turn into a proper documentary about the ship in the near future. They were a great team, and it was fun to have them aboard. It’s always interesting to get a different perspective on our little world – to see the drama in the things we take for granted and the excitement in what we find so matter of fact. Very neat. So watch out for the pilots online next year!

Now we’ve been here for a couple of weeks and the watches are alternating each aboard for two days looking after the ship and continuing with training; the next two off to explore Bali. Aboard we’ve been instructing and drilling in loosing and furling sails, bracing around, and setting and taking in all sails. Also lots of rowing the long boat round the harbour – the current rips through here, and there are plenty of other vessels to avoid, so the crew need to be able to pull well together (less like weak kittens, the Captain says). The coxswain needs to be smart and snappy at issuing orders too so the boat can turn on a sixpence and come alongside fast without smashing the boat, ship or dock. They are getting better!

We’ve also been working on getting people more experienced running the 20 foot Cape Islander skiff with the outboard engine – it’s good seamanship for people to be in charge of their own little boat, and it’s relatively sheltered here, and no coral to hit so not a bad place to learn. Amy, as our resident small boat instructor, has been quizzing people on their book-based homework and testing their driving skills before Captain finally signs them off as coxswains under power, and thus qualified to run the boat unsupervised.

So that’s a brief update on training and our Life & Times in Bali – you’ll have to read the next log for an update on ship’s work and to find out about our adventures ashore at this magic island.

Alex and Erin look out over Benoa Harbour

Lead seamen Alex and Erin look out over Benoa Harbour from the fore top

Axel being filmed in monomoy

Axel being filmed in the monomoy

Kelley and Simon up and over

Kelley and Simon climb “up and over”

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At Anchor in Benoa Harbour, Bali

By Kate “Bob” Addison

Monday October 6th, 2014

Monday morning finds Picton Castle at anchor in Benoa Harbour, Bali. After the four week passage from Vanuatu, we have finally reached land and find ourselves in another world. It’s a bit of a shock to the system to look around from the quarterdeck and see land so close. It’s quite a change from the unbroken horizon of blue on blue that has been our familiar back drop for so long as we sailed more than 3,200nm from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean.

It’s the end of the first leg of this voyage. Half way round the world and we’re already a quarter of the way through this voyage, though with so many new crew joining here in Bali, it feels much like the end of a short but wonderful voyage and the start of the next. We have four crew members schedluled to leave us here, and as always it’s hard to say goodbye after after they’ve been part of our unusual floating family for so long. Arriving as strangers and leaving as shipmates, Rob, Laffi, Luke and Murray – it’s been great to sail with you, we hope to see you again soon!

Benoa Harbour is off a peninsula at the south of the island of Bali and we have plenty of company here at anchor. The surrounding waters are stuffed full of beautiful Indonesian fishing boats, moored fore-and-aft and rafted up three or four abreast. Made of wood, steel and even fibreglass they are painted bright turquoise, red and shades of white and grey. They have distinctive boxy, over hanging transoms, some built up very high, and wide flat bows rather like soup plates. Many have deeply curved rubbing strakes painted contrasting colours which have a jaunty, Medieval look. Or maybe it’s just how things are in the Far East. Funny that we’ve spent so many months sailing west to find ourselves in the Far East.

So here we are in Bali, and it is really an amazing place. The only Hindu island in Muslim Indonesia, Bali is bustling, colourful, welcoming and delightfully hectic. No more South Pacific island time for us for a while – the tranquility of barely inhabited motus with their white sand and coconut palms has been replaced by the bright lights and buzz of big cities linked together by four-lane roads: mopeds with two, three or even four passengers aboard weaving in and out through the cars and trucks, and policemen with batik patterned uniforms blowing whistles and holding up red neon sticks to direct the flow. It’s all very polite and gracious, no beeping of horns or obvious signs of impatience, and miraculously all the vehicles seem to stream past each other without actually colliding. But it feels very fast and a bit scary, used as we are to travelling at five miles per hour, with at least a mile or two between us and the next nearest vessel.

The sides of the roads are lined with a hundred small shops, making and selling everything, apparently. As well as the usual convenience stores and small fresh fruit stands there are stretches of highway dedicated to a particular type of craft: this part of the road sells wood carvings, furniture and carved wooden doors while the next sells sections sells nothing but carved stone statues of Buddha and Ganesh (I thought Bali was Hindu, why all the Buddhas?). They are perfect for your temple, garden, café or sophisticated yoga studio. There are giant and wonderful kites in the shape of dragons and birds, coloured glass lanterns, bamboo bird cages and thousands of sarongs and other apparel of every colour, pattern and quality you can possibly imagine.

Here at anchor everything is a bit more peaceful than inland. The water is beautiful in the early morning light, and all is quiet save for our neighbours’ generators until the distinctive smell of clove cigarettes wafting across the water from the fishing boats indicates that the day is starting. Soon the work boats start moving about: the tug Maiden Kitty moving huge sand barges and cargo carriers around, and fishing boats heading out to sea or coming home with their catch. The Indonesian Naval ship Surabaya is alongside a dock a couple of ship lengths away. Her crew all line up in uniform for their morning exercise, marching at the double round the deck at the stern of the ship – which seems to double as helipad and exercise yard. Later the tourist boats join the melee: speedboats zipping about, many towing imaginatively shaped inflatable tourist-carriers, plenty of jet skis too. There are paragliders off Kuta Beach and their colourful canopies dot the morning sky far in the distance. Big boats too: there are ferries to Lombok blasting terrible music at full volume, and a rather pretty ketch with sails made of netting and party lights that comes out every night to anchor near Picton Castle on her evening ‘dinner and a show’ cruises. I would prefer it if they didn’t play the same soundtrack at the same time every night, and if “YMCA” wasn’t immediately followed by “Gangnam Style”. But at least they are soon gone and then by about 9pm all is quiet aboard.

Fishing boats in Benoa Harbour

Fishing boats at anchor in Benoa Harbour

Our neighbours

Our neighbours at anchor in Benoa Harbour, Bali

Tourist ship

The tourist ship with twinkle lights and netting for sails

Vai and an Indonesian fishing boat

Vai and one of the Indonesian fishing boats

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