Captain's Log

Archive for January, 2015

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Day’s Run – January 28, 2015

REMARKS: The wind picked up to a force 6 overnight, and the day came in brisk and grey. At that speed we would have made landfall in Luderitz at night, so we took in sail to tap the brakes and avoid an arrival in darkness. By lunch time today the sun has come out, wind eased up and seas laid down a bit, and we’re enjoying another day of great sailing.
SHIPS WORK: Coatings on ends of new main stay, tar port lower shrouds, Dutchman in port bow cap rail of semi dory, rope cover and sun patch on a new topsail
BOUND FROM: Cape Town, South Africa, Atlantic Ocean
TOWARDS: Luderitz Baai, Namibia, Atlantic Ocean
NOON POSITION: 27°56.9’S /015°03.0’E
DAYS RUN: 134 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: East North East, Course made good 046° true, 2.8 knots
WIND: Wind Force 5, South by East
WEATHER: Fair, 2/8 cirrus cloud, barometer 1018.5 millibars and falling slowly, visibility very good
SAILS SET: Upper topsails, foresail, foretopmast staysail
Stowing the mainsail
Stowing the mainsail

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Day’s Run – January 27, 2015

REMARKS: Running downwind with the yards square, it’s a lovely sunny day but not too hot here in the South Atlantic Ocean. The water is very green here in these coastal waters. Beautiful starlit night last night, and dolphins came to play in the bow wave – the bioluminescence in the water makes them glow green like torpedoes sprinkled in fairy dust.
SHIPS WORK: Replaced a ratline on the foremast, spot painting grey on the Panama bits and windlass gypsy head. Passage update and introduction to Namibia talk on the quarterdeck.
BOUND FROM: Cape Town, South Africa, Atlantic Ocean
TOWARDS: Luderitz Baai, Namibia, Atlantic Ocean
NOON POSITION: 30°02.7’S /015°31.4’E
DAYS RUN: 117 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: North, Course made good 340° true, 5.3 knots
WIND: Wind Force 4, Southerly
WEATHER: Fair, 6/8 cumulus cloud, barometer 1021 millibars and steady, visibility very good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: South South West 1.5m
SAILS SET: lower and upper topsails, t’gallants, main royal, foresail,
and inner jib. Mainsail is clewed up so it doesn’t shadow the foresail.
Jens and Magnus replace a ratline on the foremast
Jens and Magnus replace a ratline on the port fore shrouds

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Sailmaking in Cape Town

By Lead Seaman and Sailmaker Aspirant Amy Barlow

Monday January 26th, 2015

When the Picton Castle was alongside Jetty 2 in the V&A Basin of Cape Town, just next to the ship was a fine, small and empty shed about 70 feet by 40 feet. It was clean, dry and with a smooth floor. This would be a perfect sail loft. The Harbour Master generously allowed us to take this shed over for the duration of our stay and the sailmaking gang went to work. Sailmakers Tammy and John, and helpers Amy and Bruce and others, got a good head start on getting a bunch of sails laid out, seamed up and ready to finish once back at sea. It was a boon to have such a spot to lay out sails and also just to leave all the gear and canvas every night and not pack it up as we must on the ship. This is Amy’s story.

D. Moreland


After a busy few weeks in our own sail ‘loft’ we have laid out and seamed four new sails with our trusty Industrial Singer 31, straight stitch only, weighty machine. We have also laid out and marked up a fifth sail to be entirely hand-seamed while we are at sea.

We’ve used ‘#6 Canvas’ which is a lightweight cotton sailcloth because the new sails are all light-weather sails: royal, flying jib, outer jib, and main t’gallant staysail. We bought the canvas in 36 inch rolls, which are very wide, so we have sewn two ‘false seams’ in each cloth to add strength before seaming the edges of the cloths together to build up the body of the sail. The false seams are marked up with pencil and ruler, and a ‘bight’ of cloth folded over to the line and rubbed in with a wooden seam rubber.

Through Ryan, a friend of Georgie our South African former shipmate, we were invited to visit Ullman Sails, a large loft in Cape Town (the largest loft in Africa and third largest in the world) to see how sails are made on an industrial scale. This loft hires between 60 – 100 people and productivity is down if 13 sails aren’t finished every day! A sail passes through several work spaces. First a computer guides a laser cutter over the Mylar sail cloth, then the seams are taped together and stitched, much as we do, but with the machine set up at floor level with the machinist sitting in a pit. It makes it much easier to make a straight seam when there’s room to spread the whole sail out on the floor next to the machine.

All the finishing work – fitting metal grommets, sliders and bolt ropes are done in another floor area so each worker becomes skilled at their part of the process. Finally the sails are taken to the finish room where they are cleaned up, threads are trimmed, and they are packed into sail bags and packaged up ready for shipping.

We then moved into the high performance sail loft – where carbon fibre and kevlar sails are made. Here they glue strands of fibre onto plastic sheeting laid out on the floor: the angle and density of criss-crossing fibres making different patterns in different parts of the sail, and calculated using computers, so that the sail is strengthened and reinforced exactly where it will be under most strain when it is set. A top layer of plastic sheeting finishes the sail and is sealed in place with vacuum tubes – a world away from our heavy, cotton canvas!

It was a very interesting field trip for John, Tammy, Bob and I to see a different side of sailmaking – the basic format is the same, with just a little technological help.

Finishing two yacht mainsails
Finishing two yacht mainsails

High performance sails
High performance sails

Seaming a spinnaker
Seaming a spinnaker

Picton Castle's sail loft
Picton Castle’s sail loft in Cape Town

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Day’s Run – January 26, 2015

REMARKS: At sea again! After a magnificent three week stay in beautiful Kaap Stad, it’s good to be at sailing again. We steamed overnight in light headwinds, and then the wind came fair this morning so we set sail at the change of the watch. There’s nothing like that first moment of quiet when the main engine and generator have been turned off and the sails silently fill with wind. The only sounds are the water sloshing past the hull and the crew quietly going about their day. It was the Captain’s birthday today so we had a nice dinner in the salon with Donald Fried Chicken, roast beef and baked fish, lots of salads and potatoes and a birthday cake.

SHIPS WORK: Ship stowed for sea and mooring lines spread on galley house to dry. Bent on the fore t’gallant sail, replaced starboard fore upper topsail downhaul, greased top masts and t’gallant masts.

BOUND FROM: Cape Town, South Africa
TOWARDS: Luderitz Baai, Namibia
NOON POSITION: 31°36.4’S /016°48.3’E
DAYS RUN: 165 nm
COURSE AND SPEED: North by West, 1/2 West, Course made good: 319° true, 3.4 knots
WIND: Wind Force 3, South by South West
WEATHER: Fair, 7/8 cloud, barometer 1020 millibars and steady, visibility good
SAILS SET: lower and upper topsails, mainsail, foresail, foretopmast staysail, outer jib and inner jib

Setting sail (Sam B_ Turi_ Paul and Aaron)
Setting sail – Sam B, Turi, Paul and Aaron

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Cape Town

By Kate “Bob” Addison

January 12th, 2015

Picton Castle is in Cape Town! It’s a beautiful Monday morning, bright sunshine but not too hot so the air feels crisp and the colours are clean and vibrant.

We are at the most perfect dock here in the V&A Waterfront in front of the fancy Table Bay Hotel; right in the middle of the city and with Table Mountain making a majestic backdrop for our masts and rigging. I could spend hours watching the ‘table cloth’ of clouds flowing over the mountain top – you can tell the day’s weather with just a glance at the mountain and it’s entrancing how the wind and weather affect the colours and shape and speed of the clouds.

But it’s not all been day dreaming – far from it! We’ve been really busy doing some big projects and interesting ship’s work, making the most of South Africa’s great logistics and reliably good weather.

So far we have sent down fore and main royal sails and royal yards and set the yards up on the dock for overhauling – we’ll be making a new main royal yard from a blank spar we carry for the purpose, but meanwhile the existing fore royal is getting coats of varnish on the wood and fresh paint on the yard arms and steel fittings.

We sent down the mizzen topmast to put a couple of dutchmen in it, scrape it down and give it new varnish and paint.

The main stay was taken off the main mast today – a bit surprising to walk out of the ship’s office and see it missing – the ship look strangely unbalanced without it. But the new stay is made and ready to go aloft today too. That was a fun project that lots of the crew got to help with: greasing and parcelling with strips of cotton sheeting and then serving tightly over the top with tarry marline, and more tar gooped on top all to protect it from rust. The middle part where it bends around the main mast is then parcelled with canvas and marline hitches for protection against chafe. Both ends are bent around thimbles and four wire seizings clamped on each. Then the thimbles are threaded with enormous shackles to attach the stay to turnbuckles, which will be screwed down tight to tension the stay – simple!

The sailmaking team are revelling in a glorious temporary sail loft right next to the ship, and we are very grateful to the harbourmasters at the V&A Waterfront for letting us use the building – with it’s big clean polished concrete floor, tall windows and lack of furniture, it really is the perfect venue to make and repair sails. They have already seamed up and laid out a new royal sail, and are planning to do the same for two more sails before we go. The hand finish work on those three will keep the sailmakers plenty busy on the long passage across the Atlantic to the Caribbean!

Then there’s been carpentry work on the deck: replacing any soft patches with new wood, caulking in the seams to make it water-tight and finishing with melted pitch dribbled along the seam to seal it and keep the caulking in place. We’ve also been varnishing the linseed putty seams on the quarterdeck to keep them tight, and making the most of the sunshine to oil the decks – after all the work holystoning to scrape off years of accumulated gunk, the oil soaks right into the clean wood and makes them look golden and happy.

And of course, fair weather and no salt spray means conditions are perfect to spot paint here and there, so the waterways and foc’sle head ladders have been getting some attention, and the tropical blue overhead on the aloha deck. The t’gallant yards aloft have been getting coats of varnish too.

We’ve said goodbye to some crew who had to leave us at the end of this leg here in Cape Town, and also welcomed some new faces aboard. Norma, Diana, Sian, Sam, Ryan and Agnes have all successfully completed their initial training and orientation, been aloft and laid out on the yards and are now part of the gang laying in with the watches, working two days on and then having four days off to explore the city and round about.

And Cape Town is a magnificent place to be a tourist! Highlights so far have been trips up Table Mountain, and to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was famously imprisoned for so many years; wine tasting in the wonderful winelands especially around Stellenbosch and Franchhoek – some of us went wine tasting on horse back – highly recommended! Then there have been trips to Simons Town to the seaside and Hout Bay to visit the wonderful market there. People have gone diving with sharks (yes, voluntarily!), and a small group have gone to plant trees and play with the children in a nearby township as part of an interesting new social initiative. Georgie (World Voyage V) has been doing a fabulous job of looking after us and showing us around her city, and hosted a great crew party – the next day I heard more than one person complain of being sore from dancing too much! It’s also been wonderful to welcome so many former shipmates, and friends and family aboard and pick up so many old connections.

Really the only down side to this port so far is the mail – or more accurately the lack of mail! The post officer workers were on strike here for so long that the backlog of post became unmanageable, and apparently they resorted to just burning bags full of letters – sad for our crew who were expecting parcels from home!



Second layout of a new sail in the baggage hall at the V&A Waterfront



Overhauling spars on the wharf alongside Picton Castle in Cape Town



Using the big sewing machine to seam together canvas cloths for new sails



Agnes, who just joined Picton Castle in Cape Town, is already busy oiling the deck



The table cloth, the cloud that drapes over Table Mountain, through the wheel of the Picton Castle



Dkembe wire brushes some wire rope rigging for overhaul



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Day’s Run – December 31

BOUND FROM: Reunion Island, France, Indian Ocean
TOWARDS: Cape Town, South Africa, Atlantic Ocean
NOON POSITION: 34°55.4S /020°50.2’E
DAYS RUN: 135 nm
WIND: Wind Force 4, SSE
WEATHER: Fair, 5/8 cloud, visibility very good, barometer 1020 millibars and falling slowly
SAILS SET: All sail set
SHIPS WORK: Holystone well deck, replace ratline lashing
REMARKS: At 1845 with Cape Agulhas due north, we braced the ship around onto the starboard tack and started heading north of west – at a little over 35 degrees south, we’ve rounded the most southerly tip of Africa, and are now in the Atlantic Ocean. We’re planning to let off a few fireworks at midnight to celebrate the start of 2015 – Happy New Year!

Bracing around the tip of Africa!

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