Captain's Log

Archive for February, 2019

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Next Voyage: 2020-2021

Sailing to Europe, Africa, and the Spanish Main

As the Barque Picton Castle sails on the last leg of this current voyage around the world, it behooves us to think of the future. What comes next.  After rounding the Cape of Good Hope (aka “Cape Of Storms”) and settling into a nice long stay in Cape Town we sail northwest in the South Atlantic trade winds towards St. Helena followed by some of the finest kind of island hopping among some of the sweetest islands in the world in the Eastern Caribbean. Then on to the Great Lakes to join a fleet of tall ships enjoying these vast freshwater inland seas and all the exceedingly welcoming ports along the shores in the summer of 2019.

In 2008-2009 we made a long hoped for voyage around the North Atlantic from Nova Scotia, to Eurpoe, Africa and the Caribbean. It far exceeded my hopes for what  the voyage could be. Long ocean passages, Old World ports, lots of tall ships, beautiful old harbours, amazing and charming contrasts as we sailed onward to Morocco and Senegal, a serene trade wind passage to the Caribbean Islands we love so much but now see in a new context of culture and history. A few gales, calms and great trade winds, island hopping, small boat handling and almost no motoring. The crew got really very good at sailing the ship. This is a 10,000 nautical mile voyage through our own undiscovered world of the North Atlantic – from the westerlies up north bound for Europe, to the balmy palm tree breezes within the Tropic of Cancer sailing for and among the green isles of my beloved Caribbean.

In 2020 the Picton Castle is planning on sailing around the Atlantic Ocean again on a voyage of discovery to Europe and Africa and then the Caribbean. Sailing on a late spring departure across the North Atlantic to explore for ourselves as crew of a classic windjammer the ocean world of the Azores, Ireland, Wales, England, France, Holland, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, maybe Latvia and Russia, Portugal and into the Mediterranean for Spain before sailing on to Africa and onto the casbahs of Morocco, majestic Dakar, Senegal and to the Cape Verde Islands. From West Africa we sail across the mid Atlantic to the Lesser Antilles of Eastern Caribbean on a tradewind passage to Grenada, Carriacou, the Grenadines, Bequia, Dominica, Antigua, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Nevis & St Kitts, St Barts, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, and Bermuda. Finalized ports to be determined but you get the idea.

When we made a voyage along these general routes  some years ago, we were literally amazed by it. We have been talking about it ever since. It was so rich and excitingly diverse that we have been wanting to head back and explore so much further. We are working on developing these plans now and will be posting them as they get further along. Stay tuned.

Captain Daniel Moreland, Barque Picton Castle

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Cape Town Days

Tavern Of The Seas….

For centuries this cape and this city, once a small town but always a seaport, has been host and refuge for European and North America sailing ships bound to and from the Far East and their home ports. Today it is much the same but most of the ships now coming from the Far East. For this little world girdling barque, it as a sweet port visit and a major turning point. And a great place to do essential and desired things for the ship as well an amazing land and exciting country to visit.

I will start with the ship.

Due to the dry weather, ship suppliers and excellent craftsfolk here we are getting plenty done. All got kicked out of the main salon to go on safari so the salon floor could get ground down to its pretty white pine, which now is gorgeous once again with five coats of heavy gym varnish. Bits and pieces of small welding jobs are taking place about the decks. The pin rails started in Fiji are getting finished. As per annual plan our safety gear is being checked over and recertified as needed. Of course, we will be doing a huge food provisioning before sailing and we will take on about 8,000 litres of fuel too. Ship supply is good here: rope, wire, tools, plumbing, paint, goops, charts and all one could need are here too.

All under the stunning and beautiful tower of Table Mountain. When it gets ready to blow hard out of the SE, the “table cloth” of cloud spills over the top, giving warning, and soon heaps of wind. Fishing vessels and big ships all come and go with tugs in assist, one at each end making sure the ship gets in or out with crunching the docks or us for that matter. Sea lions play in the harbour and even dolphins come in now and then to cavort. Birds in great flocks seem to fly to a morning and afternoon plan, in and out depending on the time of day.

Coming up in the next logs:

What We Are Doing In Cape Town

Christel House School comes to visit their ship.

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Day’s Run – 13 February 2019


Just before sunrise we had the Cape of Good Hope abeam on starboard as the Picton Castle sailed north bound for Cape Town. The bio-luminescence in our bow wake and waves pulling with us was rich and magical in the inky dark. Seals came alongside to check us out. We could see their shape in the sparkly light green glow. The temperature had gone down to 15 from 25 in a day. A starkly clear sky and the loom of a rising sun put the Cape of Good Hope in silhouette with stars above in the black sky.

By 10:00am were off Cape Town in bright clear day underneath the dramatic tableau of Table Mountain. The harbour pilots were organised but there was some confusion about our berth inside, all prearranged we thought. But it was blowing increasingly hard making the prospect of maneuvering within the harbour somewhat dicey. A very strong SE wind was making up. A SE “Buster” is what they call it around here. But in we went.

Our berth was at right angles to the wind so it was a matter of getting the ship near the dock and parallel to it and keeping her so as the wind docked her for me. I told the pilot that we are going to slam the dock pretty hard. He asked me not to slam it too hard. I pointed out the with 45-50 knots on the beam I am not really in charge here. But I saw nice huge fenders to land the ship on. As long as we landed exactly parallel, we would feel a little sudden bump but would OK. We did, it was. The line handlers were in no rush but we got tied up. Then after a short pause in the wind right after docking, the wind really started to howl.  But we were alongside the knuckle of A Berth in Duncan Basin at Cape Town, Tavern of the Sea. And glad to be so. Foaming blistering white caps covered this inner basin as the ‘table cloth’ of cloud spilled over Table Mountain, the locals all know that this means wind.

Picton Castle at Cape Town

From: Reunion
Towards: Cape Town, South Africa
Date: Feb. 13, 2019
Noon Position: in Cape Town harbour at “Berth A” on the knuckle, 33-54’S x 018° 26’E
Course + Speed: Alongside moored
Wind direction + Force: SE 50 knots and building
Swell Height + Direction: violent SE wind waves, white caps and spray
Weather: fair and clear
Day’s Run: 127 miles
Distance to Port: we are here!
Voyage: 19,895 miles

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Day’s Run 12 February 2019

As of this writing, the Picton Castle is six miles south of Cape Agulhas, the most southern tip of Africa. Many assume this southern tip is the Cape of Good Hope, but it ain’t so; Cape Agulhas has that claim. Nothing between us and Antarctica but increasingly cold ocean. And fish and whales and ships…
Beautiful sunny day here. We were surrounded by small dolphin for a spell this morning. Then, later on, we saw a huge massive swarm of them fishing together. A number of fishing trawlers about. And plenty of ships over 1,000 feet long headed for Singapore or Brazil passing us both ways. The gang is excited about getting into Cape Town, and barring the unforeseen we will get into port tomorrow to tie up at Berth “A” at Duncan Basin, not far from the V&A Waterfront which is evidently full of Navy ships right now.

The Cape of Good Hope is about 70 miles ahead to the northwest. An interesting place to visit with all the wild zebras, ostrich and baboons. As well as the crashing surf of the South Atlantic Ocean.

From: Reunion

Towards: Cape Town, South Africa

Date: Feb. 12, 2019

Noon Position: 34-56’S x 019° 56’E

Course + Speed: WNW at 3 knots

Wind direction + Force: light Southerlies

Swell Height + Direction: small southerly swell

Weather: fair and clear

Day’s Run: 172 nautical miles

Distance to Port: about 130 nautical miles

Voyage: 19,895 nautical miles

Sails Set: all plain sail

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Day’s Run 11 February 2019

Steaming along here making westing about 60 nautical miles south of Knysna, RSA (Republic of South Africa) which is on the bottom of South Africa and has great oysters. Not much wind but plenty ships round the “Cape of Storms” sailing east and west. And huge ones too. Plenty of bulk carriers and tankers over 1,000 feet long (300 meters+). Been damp all night but not bad. Making good time even if it is using up fuel.

From: Reunion

Towards: Cape Town, South Africa

Date: Feb. 11, 2019

Noon Position: 35-03’S x 023° 16’E

Course + Speed: west at 7 knots

Wind direction + Force: light easterlies

Swell Height + Direction: small southerly swell

Weather: cool, overcast, good visibility

Day’s Run: 237 nautical miles, yep, that’s right folks

Distance to Port: about 320 miles

Voyage: 19,723 miles

Sails Set: none

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Day’s Run – 10 February 2019

Making some time here in this Agulhas Current. Making 11 knots. That’s some fast for this ol’ barko. Lots of ships to be seen headed for the Cape or away. Huge 1,200 foot long tankers with almost 200 foot beams. You could set this ship on deck athwartships and no bits would hang over the sides. We have seen albatross, sharks and whales still. Seas and sky are gray. Swells are less but remain confused. In a few hours when due south of Cape Recife we will lose this current and slow down plenty. We shall enjoy it while it lasts. In international news, ship’s boy Dawson lost his first tooth. A fine chicken curry today for lunch made by Ted and his gang.

From: Reunion

Towards: Cape Town, South Africa

Date: Sun Feb 10, 2019

Noon Position: 33-49’S x 027° 32’E

Course + Speed: 250 T at 11 knots

Wind direction + Force: SW at Force 5

Swell Height + Direction: moderate SW 2-4 metre swell

Weather: cool, overcast, rainy, visibility under 5 miles

Day’s Run: 220 nautical miles

Distance to Port: about 500 nautical miles

Voyage: 19,247 miles

Sails Set: lower topsails, fore topmast staysail, main topmast staysail, spanker, main engine

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Day’s Run – 9 February 2019

Closed with coast of South Africa about midnight. Winds went from 25 to 30 knots out of the north to 10 to 20 knots out of the south west around about the same time in short order. Got into some lumpy seas. Hove to. About 0800 this morning got going again, conditions moderated near the coast about 8 nautical miles off. Braced back and forth. A good sailor gang we have to do all that. We have seen sharks today and whales and a big oil-rig ship called GPO AMETHYST  bound for the Gulf of Mexico, she got some kinda massive rig in her. Now down the coast looking to a happy rounding. It smells like Donald is cooking steaks.

From: Reunion

Towards: Cape Town, South Africa

Date: Sat Feb 9, 2019

Noon Position: 31-07’S x 030° 16’E

Course + Speed: 220 T at 8.5 knots

Wind direction + Force: light SEly’s

Swell Height + Direction: large 2-5 metre swell, no white caps

Weather: hot, overcast

Day’s Run: 140 nautical miles

Distance to Port: 880 nautical miles

Voyage: 19,227 nautical miles

Sails Set: none

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Blowin’ Hard

Here we are about 60 nautical miles off the coast of South Africa near Durban. Picton Castle is under shortened sail and it’s blowing hard. Sheets are some taut. Not quite a gale but 30 knots and more sustained wind than we have seen in our flying fish sailing over the last nine months since casting off from the French Quarter in New Lawrence (this is six-year-old Dawson for New Orleans). Mostly soft tradewinds we have had, sometime fresh trades but not 30 knots worth.

Had a few musters to get the idea across that 30 knots sustained is a lot different than 15 to 20. When it blows like this as crew you need to think differently. In addition to extra lashings here and there, double griped this and that, a seaman has to walk differently, look aloft differently, pay attention differently. And stack dirty dishes in the scullery differently. Or not, and just let them capsize and come crashing down. We practised rigged all our “keep ’em aboard” nets. Rigged up the deck grablines. Practised closing all water tight apertures like portholes and skylights and watertight doors. The full gamut. Had to talk about steering. It can be hard steering in these conditions, but steer well we must. Now to get heavy winds experience, well, that’s happening right now, today.

The Mates, Erin, Dirk, and Corey, are doing an outstanding job of chasing down the small details that make for things to be mo’ bettah: cleared freeing ports, getting a gasket off a lower topsail sheet, shutting watertight doors in plenty of time, steering to get the feel of the ship.

And all that said, it is quite a beautiful day out here along the coast of Africa, sailing a great ship bound for the Cape of Good Hope and beyond.

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Day’s Run – 8 February 2019

Blowing pretty hard. We are 65 nautical miles off the coast. Under shortened sail. Expect it to blow a bit more before it lays down, maybe a bit over 30 knots. The gang is well briefed. Port and starboard watertight doors are shut on the cabin trunk. Everything pretty well snugged down. Double gaskets on t’gallants and royals and so on. Pretty day though, sunny with blue skies. Still have flying fish soaring about. Closing with coast of South Africa.

From: Reunion

Towards: Cape Town, South Africa

Date: Feb. 8th, 2019

Noon Position: 29-49’S x 032° 33’E

Course + Speed: 240 T at 7.5 knots

Wind direction + Force: NNEly at Force 6-7

Swell Height + Direction: 2-4 metre swell, white caps everywhere, spray and foam

Weather: fair and partly cloudy

Day’s Run: 140 nautical miles

Distance to Port: 880 nautical miles

Sails Set: upper topsails, fore sail, fore topmast stays’l, main topmast stays’l

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Day’s Run – 7 February 2019

Set sail yesterday afternoon with wind making up out of the South with promises to back and fair. Seas a bit lumpy. Extra lashings going on here and there. Closing with the coast near Durban about 200 miles to the west. Supposed to blow strong out of the NE tomorrow. Cloudy. All good. Portholes getting closed.

From: Reunion

Towards: Cape Town, South Africa

Date: Feb. 7th, 2019

Noon Position: 29-04’S x 035° 02’E

Course + Speed: 265 T at 6.7 knots

Wind direction + Force: SSEly at Force 5-6

Swell Height + Direction: small SW swell

Weather: cloudy

Day’s Run: 105 miles

Distance to Port: 1000 miles

Sails Set: headsails, main topmast stays’l, topsails, t’gallants, courses

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