Captain's Log

Archive for May, 2015

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Day’s Run – May 22, 2015

DATE: May 22nd, 2015
REMARKS: Land ho! The pretty wooded islands of Nova Scotia emerged out of the fog late this morning, shortly followed by the sweet smell of wood smoke. As I write we’re abeam of Mosher Island lighthouse. It’s about 10 degrees C, but feels colder with the damp, drizzly air and wind chill. The water temperature is about 6 degrees. We’re planning to anchor off for the night so everyone can get some rest, and then clear customs and sail into Lunenburg Harbour. Donald is everybody’s best friend today, with his giant pot of hot chocolate and warm galley.
SHIP’S WORK: Small cleaning and tidying projects below decks have been keeping most of the watch out of the rain. We’ve been keeping a sharp lookout for fishing boats and buoys now we’re so close to the coast, and seen plenty too.
BOUND FROM: St Georges, Bermuda
TOWARDS: Lunenburg, NS, Canada
NOON POSITION: 44°02.9’N /064°22.8’W
DAYS RUN: 164nm
COURSE AND SPEED: Pilotage, Course made good 025° true, 7.4 knots
WIND: Force 3/4, Easterly
WEATHER: Rain, overcast, barometer 1018 millibars and falling slowly, visibility fair
Land ho!
Land ho!

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Day’s Run – May 21, 2015

After crossing out of the Gulf Stream the water temperature plummeted from 26 degrees Centigrade to 12.5 overnight – feels freezing after a year almost entirely spent in the tropics. Warm hats, long underwear, boots and jackets have been dug out from sea chests, and under-bunks, and everyone’s all bundled up and waddling around like colourful penguins. We’re having a final silly seamanship derby this afternoon: we’ll see if Picton really does have talent!
SHIP’S WORK: Finishing up bits and pieces, sorting and overhauling tools, spot painting, but no big projects today.
BOUND FROM: St Georges, Bermuda
TOWARDS: Lunenburg, NS, Canada
NOON POSITION: 40°57.3’N /065°18.5’W
DAYS RUN: 164nm
COURSE AND SPEED: North by East 3/4 East, Course made good 022° true, 7.9 knots
WIND: Force 3, North North East
WEATHER: Fair, 3/8 cloud cover, barometer 1015 millibars and falling slowly, visibility very good
4-8 got talent!
The 4-8 watch thinks they’ve got talent!

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Day’s Run – May 20, 2015

We’re sailing when we can and then steaming when we can’t – the wind is starting to come fair following the most recent low pressure system, but we still have changeable currents from eddies in the gulf stream. The fog has come down this afternoon, though not thick. Delaware is off our port beam.
SHIP’S WORK: Making a new downhaul pennant for the port side of the main upper topsail, spot painting, and a big clean and overhaul of carpenter’s tools. Gabe and the sailmakers are working on making a new information topsail with information about our upcoming Transatlantic Voyage!
BOUND FROM: St Georges, Bermuda
TOWARDS: Lunenburg, NS, Canada
NOON POSITION: 38°27.3’N /066°00.9’W
DAYS RUN: 164nm
COURSE AND SPEED: North North West, Course made good 005° true, 3.7 knots
WIND: Force 3, West South West
WEATHER: Fair, 2/8 cloud cover, barometer 1015 millibars and falling slowly, visibility very good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: South West by South, 1 m
SAILS SET: At noon we were sailing under lower topsails, upper topsails, t’gallants, foresail and goose-winged mainsail
Jens rigging the new main upper topsail downhaul
Jens rigs up the new main upper topsail downhaul

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Day’s Run – May 19, 2015

The weather is slowly getting cooler with sea and air temperatures both hovering around 21 degrees C (70F). A beautiful sunny day today – would be perfect sailing weather if only we were bound with the wind for Europe! We have a bit of a foul current from eddies in the gulf stream too, so we’re making tracks quite slowly, but still expecting to get to Lunenburg this Saturday. We caught a nice sized wahoo just after lunch – perfect timing for tasty fresh fish for supper!
SHIP’S WORK: Overhauling downhaul pennants, spot painting stone on the superstructure aft, wire seizings on the new course sail, various small projects and tarring aloft.
BOUND FROM: St Georges, Bermuda
TOWARDS: Lunenburg, NS, Canada
NOON POSITION: 35°57.1’N /065°43.4’W
DAYS RUN: 100nm
COURSE AND SPEED: North West by North 1/2 North, Course made good 326° true, 6.2 knots
WIND: Force 4, North East by North
WEATHER: Fair, 4/8 cloud cover, barometer 1019 millibars and steady, visibility very good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: North by East, 1 m
SAILS SET: We’re still steaming to get north in light head winds as the low pressure system moves off to the south and east of us. We have all fore and aft sail set
Ashley and Ryan wax up marline
Ryan and Ashley wax up some marlin

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Day’s Run – May 18, 2015

After a wet and squally morning the sun came out again in time for noon sights. We’re pushing to get back to Lunenburg in time for our homecoming this Saturday – we’re excited to get back and see family and friends!
SHIP’S WORK: Replacing paralls on the spanker gaff, roping a new course sail with typhoon wire, and cleaning and tidying the food supplies in the cargo hold, ready to take on new provisions in Lunenburg.
BOUND FROM: St Georges, Bermuda
TOWARDS: Lunenburg, NS, Canada
NOON POSITION: 34°38.1’N /064°38.2’W
DAYS RUN: 140nm
COURSE AND SPEED: North by East, Course made good 352° true, 6.3 knots
WIND: Force 3-4, North West by North
WEATHER: Light rain, 6/8 cloud cover, barometer 1020 millibars and steady, visibility good
SAILS SET: We’re steaming north in light head winds, main topmast staysail, fore topmast staysail, inner and outer jibs are set

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Day’s Run – May 13, 2015

We’re going to Bermuda! We’re in a region of high pressure here in the Atlantic, at about the same latitude as Cape Canaveral, and there’s absolutely no wind so we had to fire up the main engine anyway. Captain said if we have to motor it may as well be in the direction of Bermuda, so we’re expecting to arrive late on Friday afternoon for a flying visit, leaving again on Sunday night to get underway for Lunenburg. We’re all looking forward to the visit but especially our Bermudian Bosun, Erin.
SHIP’S WORK: We spent most of today sorting through the treasure that the ship has collected from around the world – we’ll have a stall selling some of it at the Tall Ships festivals this summer, so today we brought everything up into the sunshine on the hatch, sorted through it all, cleaned and oiled as necessary before re-stowing it all ready for the summer. We have quite a collection: beautiful big chests from Bali, inlaid with mother of pearl or decorated with bronze work; hand-made batik sarongs; intricate puzzle boxes in the shapes of frogs or flowers, baskets and carved wooden Gods from Tonga, tiny canoes and woven basket-bags from Vanuatu and my favourite: the cannibal eye-ball forks and war clubs from Fiji!
BOUND FROM: Oranjestad, Aruba, Caribbean Sea
TOWARDS: Bermuda
NOON POSITION: 28°31.6’N /069°49.2’W
DAYS RUN: 141nm
COURSE AND SPEED: East by North half North, Course made good 047° true, 7.4 knots
WIND: calm
WEATHER: Fair, 1/8 cloud cover, barometer 1024 millibars and steady, very good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: South East by East, 1 m
SAILS SET: Steaming

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Day’s Run – May 12, 2015

Another gorgeous day’s sailing. It’s been a great passage so far and we’ve built up some good time to allow for the calms we’re expecting overnight tonight as we meet a windless ridge of high pressure stretching out across the Atlantic. It was a busy early afternoon on the quarterdeck today with Ashley at the helm; John, Alex, Sam and Katelinn working on sails; Joe doing carpentry work; Amy and Bob taking sun sights, and Vai fixing up our enormous Cook Island flag with Tammy’s hand-crank sewing machine.
SHIP’S WORK: Sailmakers work on the new gaff topsail, and make repairs to the main topmast staysail and a t’gallant. Riggers are busy on the well deck overhauling royal braces, and making new brace pennants out of typhoon wire: they are spliced, parcelled, served, tarred and greased before being sent aloft.
BOUND FROM: Oranjestad, Aruba, Caribbean Sea
TOWARDS: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada
NOON POSITION: 26°52.3’N /071°40.8’W
DAYS RUN: 129nm
COURSE AND SPEED: Steering full and by the wind, Course made good 023° true, 5.5 knots
WIND: Wind Force 5, East by South
WEATHER: Fair, 4/8 cloud cover, barometer 1024 millibars and steady, visibility excellent
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: East by South, 1-2 m
SAILS SET: All sails set to the t’gallants
Sunny afternoon on the quarterdeck
Sunny afternoon on the quarterdeck

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Two Big Square Riggers Meet Up In The West Indies

April 28, 2015

A little background: towards the end of the 19th century many steam ship companies refitted or built cargo carrying sail-training ships in order to train staff mariners for their steamship companies. Companies saw this as a cost effective way to train crew for their steam-ships with the value becoming clear right away and the savings becoming clear in the long run. Sailing ship trained sailors understood the wind, sea and how to prevent things from breaking very, very well. And they knew how to fix things and ‘make do’. Their seagoing experience was much different then those brought up in heated wheel-houses with pots of coffee but a ring to the steward away. No, seafarers that learned their trade hauling braces at every wind shift and steering their vessels by the wind were simply more a seaman than steamship gang. Huge sailing ships were tasked with this honourable calling of training up steamship mariners. The largest and most modern and up to date of these ships was the purpose-built 5-masted Bark Kobenhavn lost to ice (we think) in 1929. Of course, one did not need to be a square-rigger sailor to crew a steam ship or motor ship well, but the skills and training acquired under sail were (and remain) a most effective way to train seafarers in preparation for any vessel or service at sea or in marine industries ashore. Sail Training ships were and remain the best ‘boot camp’ of the sea for aspiring seafarers. In due course, governments took over the role of marine education and such ships were designed and built well into recent years.

It is important to point out that square-rigged sail-training ships were not established in order to produce sailing ship sailors, not in the least, but in every case to better train up steam and motor-ship seafarers. This remains both profoundly true and effective today. Perhaps even more so, as shipping has become more automated and tick-box driven with reduced opportunity to learn the ways of the sea.

The Royal Danish State School Ship Danmark is a steel full rigged ship launched in 1933 for the training of seamen and officers for the Danish merchant marine. She was built after the loss of the Bark Kobenhavn; the Danmark would carry no cargo – pure training. She is about the size of the famous clipper-ship Cutty Sark. During World War Two she sailed under the US Flag with her Danish Captain Knud Hansen and his crew and served as the training ship for the US Coast Guard. This lead to the USCG in to acquiring the Barque Eagle for seamanship training purposes after WWII. The Eagle sails to this day doing her good work. During WWII the conscripted HMS Picton Castle served as a mine-sweeper and convoy escort in the British Royal Navy participating in the raid on St Nazaire, France and getting blown out of the water once and shot up a few times by the odd Messerschmitt headed back across the English Channel for home. The Danmark is about 50 feet longer than the Picton Castle and takes 80 cadets to Picton Castle‘s 40 trainees. Between the two ships there has been a fair amount of crew and cadet exchange over the years to the benefit of both ships. The Danmark is in the middle of a four month voyage and we are wrapping up our 6th world voyage including a long interlude in the South Pacific, carrying cargo and supplies and getting island folks on and off their spread out Cook Islands. Captain Michael Moreland, a former petty officer in Danmark, skippered Picton Castle on these challenging and exciting trips in the Cook Islands. Captain Kurt Andersen has been skipper of Danmark for many years now, carrying on in the finest traditions and taking the ship into the future in a gracious style blending the best of the old with the new. Danmark‘s salty gung-ho Bosun Nadja got her start in Picton Castle sailing around the world.

The Picton Castle gang had a grand time sailing at Antigua and the Antigua Classic Regatta. At Antigua our crew all dispersed, trod the docks at the marina and got spots to sail in the many sweet classic yachts and Carriacou sloops assembled there for the Antigua Classic Regatta races as their ‘final exam’. From little gaff cutters, to lovely old yawls, to huge J-boats and island built fishing sloops, our crew got some interesting slots. This was great good fun, and good sailing seamanship too. But most importantly, this experience demonstrated to each crew member how much he or she had gained as sailors and seamen on this voyage in Picton Castle. Each and every skipper of the yachts they crewed in at the Antigua Classic Regatta complimented us, sometimes in effusive terms, on how good the Picton Castle crew were for them. I knew this to be true, but I wanted the crew to learn this for themselves. And they way to do this was to jump aboard another vessel and go for it. This they did. I was proud when the skippers praised our crew and asked for more of them. This is a good and accomplished gang.

While at Antigua I heard from the Captain of the Danmark who told me by modern satellite e-mail that they were crossing the Atlantic just now and were looking for a nice quiet safe Caribbean anchorage to hold classes and carry out small boat handling and exercises. They had been making good time from the Canaries. I recommended Carriacou as anexcellent spot for such activities and had the advantage of being part of the country of their destination; Grenada. So they set course for Carriacou. And so did the Picton Castle. We sailed from Antigua the 270 miles to that little island and met up with them there for a couple days. Being late in the yachting season, we had the anchorage to ourselves, just for both ships. It was quite remarkable to see these two strikingly similar large white age-of-sail steel square-rigged training ships at anchor in this sweet Caribbean palm fringed bay together, yards squared.

The crew were excited to see each others ship so we arranged tours. We had crew mingling and ship tours back and forth. Both ships had their small boat rowing and sailing out in the bay between the ships. A few of us were invited over for a sweet old school Danish luncheon in the beautiful early 1930s art-deco Captain’s salon aft of hand rubbed mahogany and frosted glass in this most beautiful ship. All under the eyes of their majesties Queen Margrethe II and her husband Prince Henrik, or at least their portraits on the bulkhead. Then later we had a BBQ on Picton Castle with reggae music and Polynesian dancing by some of our crew on the hatch in the evening with their officers and a few cadets.

It was very nice to show this wonderful Danish ship to the crew of the Picton Castle. We also took our very salty two and a half year old son Dawson over to the Danmark so he could run around on deck of his daddy’s old ship. And I think that the Danmark crew got a kick out of seeing a variation on the theme of what they do. Less formal in some ways, but no less demanding.

Then yesterday morning, almost by chance, both ships hoisted boats, hove up anchors, braced yards on starboard tack and sailed off the hook simultaneously, fore yards aback as the anchors were catted and sailed in company for a spell as sail piled on sail. A few miles out we hove-to off Kick’Em Jenny, a rock between Carriacou and Grenada, on a bright sunny tradewind day in blue Caribbean seas for some chitchat, cheers and salutes; they then sharpened up their yards for St Georges in Grenada, we squared away for Aruba to welcome the King and Queen of the Netherlands aboard at Sail Aruba.

Now we are under stuns’ls, sailing west in perfect Caribbean tradewind conditions, bound for Aruba, maybe Bonaire for a day or so if we make good speeds. After Aruba we point our jibboom north, brace up sharp on the starboard tack and head homeward bound for Nova Scotia.

All Picton Castle hats are off and much thanks to Captain Andersen and his gracious Danmark crew for an excellent surprise and interesting get-together for our Picton Castle crew. And congratulations to the powers that be in Denmark that see and appreciate the powerful priceless service that their White Swan of the Ocean provides.

PC and Danmark
Picton Castle in the foreground with Danmark behind, two square riggers at anchor at Carriacou, Grenada

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Day’s Run – May 11, 2015

A fantastic sailing day, watching fluffy white clouds blown across the blue skies as our own cloud of sail fills happily with the steady breeze. We’re making good time getting north, and surprisingly little lee-way. In the afternoon Captain and Chief Mate Sam Sikkema gave a talk about world-wide wind and weather and specifically what’s happening in the North Atlantic – right now, and how that’s expected to change over the next few days.
SHIP’S WORK: Overhauling brace blocks and braces: either end-for-ending the braces or sending up new line depending on the condition of the manila. Wire-brushed and oiled that section of anchor chain that’s always on deck to protect it from corrosion – especially important when we’re taking salt-spray over the focslehead. Oiled all the headsail sheet blocks and tarred the sheet pennants, spot painting white in the workshop.
BOUND FROM: Oranjestad, Aruba, Caribbean Sea
TOWARDS: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada
NOON POSITION: 24°47.3’N /072°00.2’W
DAYS RUN: 146nm
COURSE AND SPEED: North by East, Course made good 355° true, 6.5 knots
WIND: Wind Force 5, North East by East
WEATHER: Fair, 4/8 cloud cover, barometer 1023 millibars and steady, visibility very good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: East by North, 2-3 m
SAILS SET: All sails set to the t’gallants
Gabe and Di overhaul the port anchor chain
Gabe and Di overhaul the port anchor chain

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Day’s Run – May 10, 2015

Sunday at sea. The Captain held an afternoon workshop on squall management as we’ve seen a few over the last couple of days, and their strength and frequency might increase as we get north. After the workshop we had a relaxed social hour midships with popcorn, chat and dominoes.
BOUND FROM: Oranjestad, Aruba, Caribbean Sea
TOWARDS: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada
NOON POSITION: 22°39.7’N /072°07.8’W
DAYS RUN: 155nm
COURSE AND SPEED: Steering full and by the wind, Course made good 030° true, 5 knots
WIND: Wind Force 5, East North East
WEATHER: Fair, 3/8 cloud cover, barometer 1021 millibars and steady, visibility very good
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: East by South, 1-2 m
SAILS SET: Fore and main topmast staysails, inner jib, spanker
Dominoes on the hatch
Playing dominoes on the cargo hatch amidships

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