Captain's Log

Archive for December, 2018

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Day’s Run – 11 December, 2018

At daybreak, the call came to loose the square sails. Crew climbed aloft in the rigging, pulling themselves up the shrouds, laying out onto the yards and loosing the furled sail. By 0800, the watches on deck hauled on lines, yanked on braces and heaved on halyards, setting our eight current square sails (our royals are not yet bent on again after being sent down in Bali). Within half an hour our engine was fully shut down, presenting a peaceful calm atmosphere as we moved forward with the wind in our canvas. This marks the first day of sailing since leaving Bali, for those new crew members who joined in Bali it’s rather exciting to experience the feel of the ship under sail.

This morning crew members have been busy; Kimba, of Ontario, and Dustin, of Nova Scotia, worked away on a new jib for Sea Never Dry, our Lunenburg Dory Shop-built brightly painted dory. We hope to do lots of small boat sailing in the Caribbean, it’ll be great to have a jib that suits the boat properly. Colin, of Nova Scotia, worked with carpenter Carlos, of Ontario, working together on the replacement piece for the spanker gaff. Abbey, of North Carolina, scampered aloft to add patch servings to the main shrouds, when we are braced up sharp the yard or sail can chafe against the shroud, adding patch servings protects both parties.

The sailmaking team, with the help of the on-duty watch, hauled out the new spanker from below the sole, below the salon deck, and spread it out onto the quarterdeck to work on the corner patches. The sail had its second layout completed in Bali when four crew members and our sailmaker, John of Massachusetts, took it to a beach nearby our anchored ship, laid it out on a tarp and worked in the hot Bali sun to complete the second and final layout. As you can imagine the corners of a sail get a lot of wear and tear, they need to be fastened with extra strength to ensure its longevity. Like most things onboard a square rigger, they require both attention to detail and an urgency to get the job completed in a timely manner. The ship comes first, after all without her, we wouldn’t be halfway around the globe.

From: Bali, Indonesia
Towards: Rodrigues
Date: Tuesday, December 11th, 2018
Noon Position: 12°50.2′ S x 109°51.9′ E
Course + Speed: WxN 1/2 N + 5.9 kts
Wind direction + Force: SxW + 3
Swell Height + Direction: 2-3m + S
Weather: Hot, sunny
Day’s Run: 139.6 nm
Passage Log: 366 nm
Distance to Port: 2698 nm
Voyage: 14206.8 nm
Sails Set: T’gallants, upper and lower tops’ls, mainsail and foresail, flying jib, outer jib, inner jib, main t’gallant stays’l, main topmast stays’l, mizzen stays’l

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Day’s Run – 10 December, 2018

It’s Monday morning on board Picton Castle, the deck brushes were in use this morning, scrubbing away grime that builds up quickly. Just like that, we are back into the swing of things at sea. The sailmakers are set up on the hatch, with their sailmaking benches, needles and palms in hand they seam away on a new royal. This week we have Ted of North Carolina assisting the ship’s sailmaker John.

Kimba of Ontario joyfully lends a helping hand by adding a new diamond seizing onto the stirrup of the main upper topsail starboard foot rope. Once rigger Anne-Laure, of France, finishes the second diamond seizing the foot rope will be sent back up to its rightful home.

Carpenter Carlos, of Ontario, preps to scarf on a new piece of wood onto the spanker gaff in order to replace the rotting piece. Third mate Corey, of Saskatchewan, and bosun Anders, of Denmark, sent down the anchor fish tackle as it won’t be in use for some time, and it could use an overhaul. Up it will go again when we are near land next.

There is a good atmosphere on deck, which sets a nice pace for the week ahead. Everyone is glad to have returned to sea. Now we keep our fingers crossed that we will soon shut down the engine and sail onwards across the Indian Ocean.

From: Bali, Indonesia
Towards: Rodrigues or Reunion
Date: Monday, December 10th, 2018
Noon Position: 11°41.0′ sx 111°55.0′ E
Course + Speed: SW 3/4 W + 6.2 kts
Wind direction + Force: SxW + 3
Swell Height + Direction: 2m + SSW
Weather: Hot, sunny
Day’s Run: 141 nm
Passage Log: 125 nm
Distance to Port: 2835 nm
Voyage: 14062.9 nm
Sails Set: None, motoring

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Bali – Sailing Day

The Picton Castle has had a nice long visit in Bali. Plenty good stories to tell. Some crew coming and going. Lots of nasi goreng, mei goreng, no shortage of Bintang and Bali Kopi, even cat-poo-chino. Lots of beautiful carvings, ebony boxes, batik sarongs and more. But now it was time to sail onward to the west.

Early morning before dawn we could hear big thunder and see lightning off in the distance followed by true tropical downpours. As dawn eased on to the scene we could see small double out-riggers fishing in the calm waters near the reef at the mouth of the harbour. Towering cloudscapes made for dramatic backdrops.

All hands were to be back aboard at 0800 after their last run ashore. We hauled back the big admiralty anchor we had been spinning around all this time. I was sure it was fouled and thought it best to clear it and cat it in the harbour with the other anchor down. Amazingly enough, it was not fouled. But good to get it catted without the ship lurching about. The waters of Serangan are a pretty fertile soup and we actually got barnacles on the skiff and the anchor chain at the waterline on the short time we were here.

Then on to finish stowing the ship for sea and waiting for Immigration to show up onboard to check us all out to make sure we were all leaving. And waiting for Made Alon and family to come down and say goodbye. Made gave so many good tours and helped us in so many ways. Made and his family have been friends of the ship for 20 years. A small send-off was in order.

In the end, Immigration trusted us and our good agents to see that we were all leaving with the ship and decided no need to visit the ship. Made Gerip, also a friend of the ship, and his helper agents saw us off at the small dock at Serangan. Then Made Alon and Wayan and Gita showed up for a small send-off. Then out to Picton Castle at anchor to heave up and head to sea steering southwest to find some useful winds. It looks to me like we would need to motor a couple days or so to find the tradewinds out here. But nothing wrong with motoring a bit to get us back into a sea routine.

We will miss Bali. But Bali isn’t going anywhere and I am sure many of us will return some day.

So, on a hot tropical day with little wind, our Picton Castle set off westward bound across the broad Indian Ocean.

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Day’s Run – 9 December, 2018

Wow! After two weeks in amazing Bali this is our first full day at sea. It’s a Sunday and it’s our dear shipmate Niko’s birthday. Niko has sailed with Picton Castle on a number of voyages since 2009 when he joined in Grenada. Since then he has been known for his delicious efforts in the galley, and at times overly spicy meals, his immense vocabulary skills, his unusual fashion sense, and his nickname Cupcake. We won’t be eating cupcakes tonight, but we will be devouring a delicious chocolate cake that Liz, of New Brunswick, is planning to create in honour of Niko’s birthday.

Today the crew has been instructed to rest and readjust to life at sea. Many are taking the opportunity to do their laundry, catch up on sleep and reading, while Abbey gleefully devours a large amount of chicken leftover from the delicious lunch that they galley team provided. Today’s cooking duo is lead by rejoining crew member, Ted of North Carolina, who went home for his son’s wedding during the ship’s passage to Bali, and new crew member, Sammy of South Africa.

Today at 1430 there will be a power shower, where we rig up the fire hose and spray salt water down on deck, like a shower. The ship is significantly cooler than on our passage over the top of Australia, but it is still hot on deck in the sun and below in the bunks. A power shower is the perfect way to cool off in the mid day heat, to be followed by a Christmas Committee meeting to discuss the holiday season plans in greater detail. A Sunday at Sea is a wonderful way to start off a new passage and a new leg. With a busy week ahead crew members can prep for what is on the horizon.

From: Bali, Indonesia
Towards: Rodrigues or Reunion
Date: Sunday December 10th, 2018
Noon Position: 10°06.9′ S – 113°42.5′ E
Course + Speed: SW 1/2 W + 5.8 kts
Wind direction + Force: SW + 2
Swell Height + Direction: 1-2m + SW by S
Weather: Hot, sunny
Day’s Run: 125 nm
Passage Log: 104 nm
Distance to Port: 2960 nm
Voyage: 13914.3 nm
Sails Set: None, motoring

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Day’s Run – 8 December, 2018

All hands on deck, 0800 muster, sea watches posted, the crew worked through the intense Bali heat to heave up anchor, get the last of the provisions onboard and lash down or stow any moveable object on deck. Customs and immigration gave us the go ahead, stamping our passports and we hoisted the skiff.

Hoisting the skiff is a feeling like the airtight door being sealed closed on board a plane when you’re about to fly to a new destination. Cutting you off from the world outside the door, in our case, outside our hull, and focusing your brain on the journey ahead towards new ocean and land.

At 1400 the anchor was hoisted onto the foc’sl head and we motored off, getting through the canal and steering southwest in search of wind to fill our sails. This marks the beginning of Leg 3! We cannot believe it. At times it feels as though we’ve embarked on this adventure only a few weeks ago, at other times we get the sense that we’ve been together for quite some time; eight months to be exact. It’s amazing to think we are halfway around the world!

Bali was fantastic, for both the ship and the crew. In terms of the ship, we were able to paint topsides, send down the spanker gaff for maintenance and send down a number of sails: the spanker, both t’gallants, the main topmast staysail and the main t’gallant staysail, at the beginning of our stay. Prior to leaving, we bent on both t’gallants, main topmast staysail, main t’gallant staysail and the outer jib. The on-duty watches while in port were never dull, even at anchor sail training continues.

When the watches were stood down for a few days, the crew were able to explore the vast and diverse island of Bali. There is something for everyone in Bali, the Bali blend as they call it. It’s a healthy mix of old and new, hip, trendy with tradition at the centre. Bali is what you make it, a representation of life. If you desire peace, quiet and tranquility you can obtain that in Bali. If you’re an adventure seeker or a beach bum, those two are easily obtained. Each crew member was able to create their own vacation.

The biggest outlet that is enjoyable for those who love fine craftsmanship, decor and design, Bali was the place for them to shop! The shopping is rather impressive, fun and challenging. Many shipmates are taking or sending home treasures that will last a lifetime.

From: Bali, Indonesia
Towards: Rodrigues or Reunion
Date: Saturday, December 8th, 2018
Noon Position: Serangan Harbour
Course + Speed: S + 5 kts (at 1500)
Wind direction + Force: W + 3 (at 1500)
Swell Height + Direction: 3m + SxW (at 1500)
Weather: Sunny
Day’s Run: 0
Passage Log: 0
Distance to Port: 3064′
Voyage: 13775.8′
Sails Set: Fore and aft


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Picton Castle at Serangan, Bali, Indonesia

Having sailed in to Bali from the Torres Strait between Australia and Papua New Guinea two weeks ago, the crew of the Picton Castle is getting ready to sail for Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. I am pretty sure everyone loves Bali. We have only ever had one crew member not like Bali some years ago – but he never left the port to go explore this magical island. Hard to imagine that.

It looks like the gang has had a grand time here in Bali. All sorts of treks to and in and around Ubud, a cultural centre here in Bali. Traditional dance at elaborate temples. Dawn hikes up to the volcano. Visits to the Sacred Monkey Forest. Full of little wise guys with tails. Roadside satay. A few took time to enjoy the many Bali style spas. Plenty of shopping in amazing markets for beautiful things; fabrics, clothes, carvings, swords, antiques made to order and so on. Plenty of time off the ship to see and enjoy as much as we can. Even a wedding onboard. Tonight is a thank you dinner for those that have helped us so much here.

We tried a new port this time here in Bali. The commercial port of Benoa has been getting cramped and hard to anchor there these days. So we anchored in the open bay of Serangan not far from Benoa in southern Bali. This is more a small fishing port with some yachts and a few ferry boats to nearby islands. This bay is packed with what look like dugouts, outrigger canoes. And that they are but even as they look exactly like traditional wooden canoes, in fact, most of them are made of fiberglass and their outrigger pontoons are sections of curved PVC pipe. Makes perfect sense really. Saves on trees I guess. A few of these pretty craft still operate under sail. Nice home stays and friendly warungs (small diners) featuring tasty Balinese dishes. Everywhere we look little offering temples. Seaweed drying on the seawalls for later eating, drying fish too. Lots of scooters but not many cars here at Serangan.

We had a few local day workers come out to the ship for a few days. We were pretty impressed with how good they were at chipping paint and preparing steel for recoating. They worked hard and steady and with polite smiles too. And got a lot done. We sent the spanker gaff down for inspection and recoating, and some minor repair. Topsides are painted up. We are a bit surprised to see barnacles along the waterline under the stern as we just drydocked in Fiji. But this might be a very fecund harbour for marine growth. We will see as we sail.

Coming up rainy season here. A big downpour almost every day. But now the ship is all fueled up, Donald and his helpers have done a massive food shop and are getting all that re-stowed, a few more sails bent and soon we will be headed west-southwest across the Indian Ocean. The winds look good and the weather favourable for a good passage.

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Greetings from Picton Castle’s shore office

Greetings from Picton Castle’s shore office in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada!

The ship is currently in Bali, Indonesia and the Captain and crew are busy getting things checked off the pre-departure list.  The next passage is a long one, about a month at sea, as Picton Castle sails across the Indian Ocean from Bali to Rodrigues (an island that’s part of Mauritius), then Reunion (an overseas territory of France), then on to Cape Town, South Africa.  There really aren’t any places to stop between Bali and Rodrigues, so we need to be extra careful about our preparations for this passage, making sure we have enough food, fuel and supplies to get us the whole way there.


While our usual Captain’s Log writers are preoccupied with shopping and provisioning in Bali, I’m writing to tell you about what we’re working on here in Lunenburg.  We, of course, are always on call for the ship and respond to any immediate needs right away, but we’re also working ahead to get the next things set up.  One of our main areas of focus for the past few months is the summer of 2019 and the voyage that will take Picton Castle into the Great Lakes to participate in the Tall Ships Challenge.

The Tall Ships Challenge is a series of events and races organized by Tall Ships America.  It moves around and is held in different waters every year.  In 2018, the Tall Ships Challenge was held in the Gulf of Mexico and Picton Castle participated, visiting Galveston, Texas; Pensacola, Florida; and New Orleans, Louisiana.  In 2019, the Tall Ships Challenge will take place in the Great Lakes.  There are 10 host ports, six in the USA and four in Canada, and the ships will visit each one, one weekend after another.  In between the ports there are often races for the ships.

We can’t always participate as we’re often in another part of the world sailing to different waters and ports, but we like to be part of the Tall Ships Challenge when our schedule allows.  Joining a fleet of majestic traditional sailing vessels, barques, brigs, brigantines, schooners, ketches, sloops and more, is pretty awe-inspiring.  We have a lot of fun at sea, sailing in company with these other vessels.  And in port, our crew have a great time getting to know their shipmates and crew from other ships, joining a community of people who are passionate about what they do.

The last time Picton Castle was part of the Tall Ships Challenge in the Great Lakes was 2006.  So, 13 years later, we decided it was time to do it again.  I was on sailing on the ship that summer myself.  I had just completed a world circumnavigation as a trainee and somehow convinced Captain Moreland to take me on for the summer as the purser.  I remember arriving in Cleveland, Ohio, the first port of that summer’s series of tall ships events, and being overwhelmed.  There were thousands of people on the waterfront to watch the ships sail in.  At our berth, the crowd was held back by fences while line handlers greeted us and helped get the ship tied up properly.  There was a whirlwind of signing security documents, getting the gangway set up so we would be ready for our US Coast Guard inspection, meeting with event organizers to confirm all the details of the event, and then, finally, getting to meet the crowds of people who waited so patiently for their turn to come aboard and tour the decks.  There was a real electricity in the air, a combination of anticipation and wonder.

I have so many great memories from that summer; an impromptu game of soccer with crew from a number of different ships on a grassy spot in the festival grounds in Cleveland after the festival was closed to the public; getting a free haircut in Bay City because every business in town, including the beauty school, wanted to be part of the event and give something to the crew to welcome us; watching a TV news camera operator running down Navy Pier in Chicago with his camera held at knee-level to capture some film footage of our ship’s cat for the evening news; a lovely barbeque dinner on the wharf in Erie, provided by the family of a crew member; visiting Lambeau Field, the Green Bay football mecca, when I accompanied Captain Moreland to the Captain’s Briefing; an impromptu crew picnic on an island in the St. Lawrence River; a pre-dinner swim call when Picton Castle was anchored in Lake Erie.

In 2019, we plan to visit ten ports: Toronto, Ontario; Buffalo, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; Bay City, Michigan; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Kenosha, Wisconsin; Sarnia, Ontario; Kingsville, Ontario; Erie, Pennsylvania; and Brockville, Ontario.  If you live in or near one of those ports, I hope you’ll come visit!  Our decks will be open for public tours and we’d love to show you around.

We have also just recently announced opportunities for trainees to sail in the summer of 2019.  If you’ve been thinking of joining us but don’t have the time or money to sail on a long voyage, this is your chance.  Some of the legs are as long as three weeks, but we’ve also included a couple of one-week legs just for people like you.  Of course, you can also combine legs and sail for a longer time too.  All of the dates, ports and costs can be found on our website.

The distances between ports on this voyage are not far and we expect that we will have to motor some passages, but you will still be immersed in the experience of being crew on a square rigger.  You’ll stand watches at sea and in port, take your turn at the helm, and take your turn helping in the galley.  Because we’re expecting less time under sail, we’ve put together a plan for more seamanship learning opportunities, so lots of workshops and hands-on practice in a variety of skills from the Age of Sail.  Put that together with meeting crew from around the world, seeing concerts and fireworks and whatever entertainment the host ports provide and watching other ships sailing by while sailing your own, and it sounds like a pretty great summer vacation plan!  Actually, one trainee said it best when he told me, “it’s not a vacation, it’s an adventure.”

We’re just starting to get trainee applications coming in now, which means I will get to start interviewing prospective candidates soon.  Trudi usually handles the day-to-day communications with trainee applicants and accepted trainees, as well as collecting all the paperwork.  I usually get to do the phone interviews with each of the applicants.  We keep track of everyone and where they stand in the process on a big white board on the office wall.

In the meantime, we’re also working with the ten different host ports to confirm all the arrangements and to see how we can work together to make the events a great success.  We’re sorting out everything from what kind of electrical plugs we need to provide shore power to the ship, to what day and time we need to arrive.

As always, we’re here if you have any questions or want to talk about joining Picton Castle as a trainee crew member on the last leg of this current world circumnavigation voyage, or in the Great Lakes in 2019!


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