Captain's Log

Archive for May, 2019

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Bermuda and to Sea

Picton Castle sailed into Bermuda from Jost Van Dyke, 850 nautical miles to the south, just ahead of tropical storm Andrea. We got secured at Ordnance Island at noon before shifting over to Penno’s Wharf. We were very graciously allowed to stay here for the duration of our visit. Once there at
8:30 in the evening the gang got the ship all snugly tied up with extra hawsers and chafe gear on. And then we relaxed. This was on Tuesday evening.

I had hoped to get back to sea north bound by Thursday or Friday but the forecast was calling for a few days of very strong northerlies with seas to match. Had we been planning on heading head back to the Caribbean this would have been fine. But we are bound for Nova Scotia. Spending a few extra days at lovely Bermuda is no ill fate. We went on to two watches to be able to shift the ship if the harbour authorities needed it for a cruise ship as could be the case. And also this was a good and highly appropriate time to do some things in preparation for the 725 nautical mile passage to Lunenburg, through the North Atlantic. And the Gulf Stream. The ship came into port ready to sail, but this is the North Atlantic, not the balmy tradewinds coming up.

But meanwhile, no reason not to enjoy Bermuda, eh? St George’s is a beautiful old town rich in architecture and is a cross-roads of Atlantic history. A cross-roads between England and empire, America, Canada, the West Indies and of course, at the very centre, Bermuda itself. Walking along the narrow streets lined with 1700s and 1800s buildings all nicely painted, none over three stories and only a couple of those. The old armory is one. No shortage of small eateries and watering holes. Wahoos, The Wharf and the White Horse Tavern have been welcoming mariners for a century or more. Last chance for conch fritters, wahoo steaks and the special Bermuda fish chowder, much different than our Nova Scotia/New England variety. Only in Bermuda could it be figured out that fish chowder would be better with black rum in it. And it has to be Goslings Black Rum.

What else? Dirk and Tammy cleared in at Customs & Immigration – very smooth and friendly. The Bermuda Pilots under Captain Mario Thompson could not have been better or more friendly. Malcolm’s Barber Shop, clipping hair for ever, saw some custom. Steve and Suzanne Hollis at Ocean Sails sail loft made us feel very welcome. Ocean Sails does all kinds or repairs on yachts headed north and south. Everyone who sails the Atlantic knows Steve and Suzanne and it seems they know everyone too. Shipmates from voyages past came by to welcome us, as well as friends and family of young former trainees now advancing in their marine careers here and in the UK.

The East End Mini Yacht Club might be the friendliest yacht club anywhere.

On the weekend we saw parades and races between the “fitted dinghies” of Bermuda. These are small boats, a century old in some cases, with wild high rigs, so tall that four or more people must be in the boat just for ballast or they will capsize just sitting there. Tom Gallant (and Jimmy The Cat) in Schooner Avenger of Lunenburg sailed in from Antigua just in time to raft up with us for the coming blow – and it blew plenty.

Laundry got done. Topsides painted. Decks sanded and oiled. Cutter Ann got moved up to the galley deck house. Spot painting on deck. Some sail repairs.

A final food shopping for Donald. Tom Wadson, the famous farmer of Bermuda and friend of the ship, sorted us out with some fine Bermuda grown provisions. Got all our customs declarations off to Customs Canada for our planned arrival. A general and thorough check throughout the ship with much stowing and lashing. Lots of checking lists both for the upcoming passage but also for the summer trip coming up.

On Sunday the winds and weather were fair, but seas outside were still plenty large – no call to go out into that and slam around under power if we did not have to. Big seas and light winds is a recipe for breaking things.

We would sail Monday.

Monday cam in fair and clear. A beautiful morning to sail. Dirk and Tammy got us cleared out. Pastel blue skies, small cotton ball clouds scudding overhead from the west. Yards braced just so, sails loosed. Singled up and gangway in, engine warmed up and pilots aboard, we backed down on a stern spring and the crew of the Picton Castle sailed their barque off the dock, through Town Cut with all sail set and yards squared. A big cruise ship (Grandeur of the Seas, in which Donald was cook when she sailed from where she was built in St Nazaire, France, the same port where Picton Castle visited in 1942 an 2009) was coming up channel bound for Hamilton. They had some speed up, a bone in her teeth, can’t be late. At almost 1,000 feet long quite an imposing sight. Just before the sea buoy off the channel the pilot boat St. David came alongside and took our pilots off, veered away with a long pull on the horn and we were off. Bound for Nova Scotia and her sea-bound coast.

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Boat Carpenter Internship

In the coming summer of 2019 the Sail Training Ship, the Barque Picton Castle is offering a spot aboard for a scholarship boat carpenter internship.

Picton Castle will join the fleet of sailing ships voyaging the Great Lakes of Canada and the USA on this year’s Tall Ships Challenge series.

Carpenter and shipwright projects that will be carried out this summer will include the ongoing restoration and rebuild of the wooden 16′ South Pacific copra/fishing sloop from Palmerston Atoll, Ann, built in 1958. Caulking and pitching, block repair, ship systems, as well as gaining familiarity and competence in sailing this deep-water square-rigged ship.

This is rare opportunity for the advanced beginner boat carpenter to enrich skills and apply and practice them in a traditional tall ship environment under the direction of the captain. This is a full bursary position including room and board. The successful applicant must provide for travel insurance and is responsible for travel to and from ship. No age restrictions, just a solid sober and work ethic keen to learn. June through mid-September. Join in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Voyage dates are June 10 to September 11, 2019.

Captain Daniel D. Moreland and Captain Dirk Lorenzen

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Days Run May 29, 2019

At noon on May 29, 2019, Picton Castle was at 34-55N and 065-00W. Steering a northerly course. Bermuda is 265 nautical miles astern. The mouth of the Chesapeake Bay is 525 nautical miles on our port beam. Cross Island off Lunenburg 452 nautical miles dead ahead. We are also about a day away from the south wall of the Gulf Stream. We have caught a favourable Gulf Stream eddy giving us another couple extra knots, nice.

Conditions are fine and after steaming all night we just set all sail and shut down the main engine and are sailing again. The weather ahead looks okay to good. Nothing scary on the horizon. Knock wood.

The gang is doing what we always do on nice days at sea; Carlos is making deck planks, Anne Laure is making ratlines, John and Brittni and Corey are working on finishing a new topgallant sail. Half the quarterdeck got oiled.

Only oil half at a time at sea, and rarely even then. But it needs doing, so we do it. Deyan is fixing a port hole. Anders is switching out some t’gallant turning blocks aloft. Nice spaghetti lunch with three different sauces and watermelon. Nice warm beautiful day north bound for Nova Scotia where, we are told, there are still frost warnings. Oh my goodness.

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Day’s Run 28 May 2019

A good sail out Town Cut, St George’s, Bermuda under full sail. Nice warm day to start our climb north to Nova Scotia.

Date: May 28,  2019

From: St George’s, Bermuda

Towards: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada

Noon position: 34° 33′ N / 064° 35’W

Course: SWly, at noon steering NE in a frontal passage. Desired course is due north and will be again in a few hours.

Speed: 4  knots

Wind force and direction:  NEly force 4 winds and veering

Seas/swell: moderate seas mostly SE, 1 metre or more, but confused and lumpy

Barometer: 1017 and dropping

Sky: light overcast, light rain and warm this morning, changing and clearing in the afternoon

Water temperature: 23C – 74F

Distance made good in 24 hours: 131 nautical miles

Passage log: 131 nautical miles

Distance to next port: 588 nautical miles as the cod swims

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Passage to Bermuda, North Bound

This has not been the finest sailing passage from the British Virgin Islands northbound for Bermuda and Nova Scotia. Winds started out light as Picton Castle and crew sailed north out of Jost Van Dyke and past Anegada into the North Atlantic for the first time in a year. Still warm, it remained so all the way towards Bermuda. But light winds called for motoring. Or motor sailing. But North we must. And not all that far really. We sailed on a Thursday noon and we found ourselves off St David’s Head, Bermuda, picking up our pilot at noon five days later.

The weather has not been bad at all. Seas have been modest, not cold yet, winds light but fair, flying fish in abundance, dolphins in attendance from time to time. Pretty sunsets. Apart from the motoring, altogether quite pleasant. The gang finishing up personal projects, ditty bags, sea bags and such. Work on deck carries on. Mates making rig surveys. Engineer making shopping lists. Sue seizing ratlines. Carlos, Katie, and company cleaning all the nice crooks felled at Jost Van Dyke. Stephanie painting the chart house and here and there, and tarring, caulking, sailmaking on the quarterdeck. Chief Mate Erin (of Bermuda, by the way) led a series of classes in chart work and basic piloting. The dedicated navigators had their sextants out every day. In between cleaning Sargasso weed off the fishing lines trailing astern, we have even landed a few fish. A big barracuda the other day making a dinner for all those who eat fish.

Once out of these tropics, watching the North Atlantic weather forecasts becomes of great interest. From about the Tropic of Cancer some 500 nautical miles south of Bermuda and to the north, any kind of weather can be expected. Well, snow would be unusual. The steady trade winds become a memory. Right now we are looking at an extremely early season tropical low about 300 nautical miles SW of Bermuda. Even got assigned a name: Andrea. Does not look like it will amount to much but you never know with long term forecasts even as they have improved so much in recent years. More than 48 hours out it is still an attempt at foretelling the future, a dodgy business. Four or more days out, it’s reading tea leaves. Better than that but… There is another low pressure expected to boil off southeastern New England and head our way in a couple days. This will influence when we sail onward.

If ever there was a divinely inspired place in this ocean to put a pretty island with deep protected harbours it would be exactly at the very spot where Bermuda emerges from the sea. Settled about the same time as the Jamestown settlement was founded in Virginia, and with far more success, Bermuda has been a siren call to sailing ships and their crew for centuries. Privateer base, coves for smugglers, Navy base and the put-in island for north and southbound yachts and sailing ships, Bermuda knows how to host a crew. And especially the charming historical town of St George’s, just a little over a mile in from the sea through Town Cut. A lovely place for crew of a northbound vessel to have a run ashore in familiar yet changing surroundings. Bermuda will let you think you are still in the tropics with the lovely pastels, swaying palm trees, warm waters, pink sandy beaches, and coral reefs. But then again, a cold northerly can disabuse us pretty quickly on that score too and out come the sweaters, jackets and rain gear. And Bermuda is also a great place for a sailing ship like Picton Castle to stage for the final 700+ nautical mile passage to Nova Scotia and the end of our voyage around the world.

At about 0930 we made contact with Bermuda Harbour Radio at 20 nautical miles distance, confirmed pilots boarding time and heard the latest weather forecast. Looking to blow some here at Bermuda soon due to Andrea. Calling for gale force gusts.

At noon right off St Davids’ head, Captain Mario Thompson boarded the ship from the pilot boat with two able trainee pilots and we headed for the channel.

With pilot aboard, our Bermuda Chief Mate steers the ship through narrow Town Cut. Water so clear it looks dangerous, sharp coral outcroppings on either side, but 30,000-ton cruise ships navigate this channel routinely, if with nervous trepidation. With white knuckles if a strong cross wind. Then the almost landlocked turquoise harbour of St George’s opens up in front of us. We had to manouver around a large yacht anchored in the fairway. With jib and spanker, we slid the Picton Castle sideways to berth starboard side to the key at Ordnance Island and get tied up for the duration. Or until we move to Penno’s Wharf after a cruise ship sails. Or go to anchor when the winds die down. Anyway, welcome to Bermuda.

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Day’s Run 21 May 2019

Pilot aboard. Headed into Ordnance Island at St George’s, Bermuda to go alongside to clear in and dodge the winds.

Date: May 21, 2019

From: Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands, West Indies

Towards: St George’s, Bermuda

Noon position: off St David’s Head, Bermuda at 29°-30′ North Latitude / 063°-34′ West Longitude

Course and speed: SWly, motoring along making good speed and taking on Pilot

Wind force and direction:  ESEly force 3 winds

Seas/swell: moderate seas mostly SE, 1 metre or less

Barometer: 1020 and steady

Sky: light overcast and light rain, warm

Water temperature: 23C – 74F, getting cooler

Distance made good in 24 hours: 180 nautical miles

Passage log: 872 nautical miles

Distance to the next port:  we are there, at the pilot station off St George’s Town Cut, Bermuda

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Day’s Run 20 May 2019

Motoring along in light winds, could sail (slowly) but want to get into Bermuda and secured before this low pressure to our west catches up with us. A very early season tropical circular system. Should fall apart soon, but should not exist at all…

Date: May 20,  2019

From: Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands, West Indies

Towards: St George’s, Bermuda

Noon position: 29°-30′ North Latitude / 063°-34′ West Longitude

Course and speed: SWly at 7.8 knots, motoring along making good speed

Wind force and direction: fresh ESEly winds

Seas/swell: moderate seas from NW, NE but mostly SE of 1 metre or less

Barometer: 1020 and steady

Sky: mostly cloudy, some sky

Water temperature: 25.3C – 79F

Distance made good in 24 hours: 155 nautical miles

Distance to the next port: 176 nautical miles to the pilot station off St George’s

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Day’s Run 19 May 2019

Motoring along here in light winds, could sail (slowly) but want to get into Bermuda and secured before a new low-pressure system passes over and makes winds all contrary.

Date: May 19, 2019

From: Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands, West Indies

Towards: St George’s, Bermuda

Noon position: 27°-02′ North Latitude / 062°-13′ West Longitude

Course and speed: SWly at 7 knots, motoring along

Wind force and direction: light SEly winds

Seas/swell: steady organized ENEly seas 1 metre 

Barometer: 1020 and steady

Sky: mostly cloudy, some rain squalls about

Water temperature: 25.3C – 79F

Distance made good in 24 hours: 163 nautical miles

Distance to next port: 340 nautical miles to the pilot station off St George’s

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Interlude at Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

The Picton Castle sailed in and anchored under sail at Jost Van Dyke, in the British Virgin Islands, after a short two-day passage. We had been in the Saints just south of Guadeloupe. And a small rendezvous with Carriacou Sloop Genesis off Nevis. Jost (as we call it, pronounced Yost, although lately we are hearing it said Just) is a small island only three miles long, just north of the bigger island of Tortola. Maybe 350 people live here. It is a port of entry. The island industry is making sure visiting yachties sailors have a good time under the palm trees with sand in their toes. Swimming, snorkeling, sailing, diving, calypso, reggae and country western music, plenty cold rum drinks for the grown-ups. A few small goats for the ‘boy’ to chase. This works out for the Picton Castle crew at the tail end of our voyage around the world. But first, we must clear in.

While all hands are furling sail (followed by a swim call) Tammy, Dirk and I head into shore to clear in. Lots of bare-boat cruising yachts in line to clear in also. Happy sunburned faces. Tilley hats and sunscreen. The BVI Customs & Immigration staff all very gracious, courteous and professional, and soon all papers were done. As we left the air-conditioned office and stepped on to the shade of the second-floor verandah with a fresh trade wind blowing, some folks on sailing holidays waiting their turn at clearing-in asked us about the big ship in the harbour (us) and where were we headed next. Told them, Bermuda. They were astonished that we might be sailing so far. Smiles came to our faces. We think we are almost home with only 830 nautical miles to get to Bermuda and another 700 to Lunenburg. These folks thought this was “far”. It’s all in the perspective. We radioed the ship to let them know to take the Q-flag down and off watches could come ashore (the Q-flag stands for quarantine, so it is raised before we enter a port to signal we have not yet cleared Customs and Immigration and is lowered once we have).

One of the best things to do around Jost Van Dyke is to sail small boats. Clear water, nice winds, small seas, blue skies, nice reefs and sandy beaches to sail to, all close by. We have two fine vintage wooden boats just for this purpose. Soon both the longboat and dory Sea Never Dry got launched and anchored off Foxy’s Tamarind Bar at the head of the bay. Over the next three days all who wanted to got to sail all around.

Foxy’s? Simply the most famous and original barefoot beach bar in the Caribbean. Established in 1968 by Philliciano (Foxy) Callwood. To meet Foxy is to meet the Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and Paul McCartney of Caribbean Calypso and then some. Making up riotous songs seemingly on the spot, full of social and political satire and fun. Foxy is also a great leader in historical and cultural preservation in the Caribbean. So much so that Foxy was made an MBE by Queen Elizabeth a few years ago. The Fox is an international hero. Nice article in Soundings magazine on Foxy by Jeffrey Bolster not long ago. Married to Tessa since 1971, it was great to see them again. But I get ahead of myself. Much else to think about.

What else to do at Jost Van Dyke? Well, great snorkeling here and there, any number of classic and very relaxed reggae beach bars/snack shops and restaurants serving great Caribbean foods. In addition to Foxy’s with its beachside hammocks in the shade, there are Cool Breezes, Corsairs, Rudy’s and a couple of others. And usually some good place to dance at night. And it is so Caribbean blue beautiful around here. All day long, all night long. And the lovely trade winds blowing almost all the time. Part of the charm is the creamy sandy road through the village of Great Harbour. Feels good on the toes.

We sent the fore top gallant yard down for some close inspections and overhaul. Mate Erin brought it down, the gang overhauled it and up it went the next day ready for plenty more service. And then a swim call. Not bad a swim call after a day on watch at anchor.

As most might know, Hurricane Irma swept through the BVI in 2017. Did some pretty serious damage to most of these islands. Thinned out the bare-boat fleet some. A few called that part a “cleansing”. And also the islands to the east like Anguilla, St Martin, St Bart, Barbuda and Dominica and so on. And then to the west. Puerto Rico, Dominican Rebuplic, Haiti all got hammered hard. Here at JVD seemed like it sort of sand blasted the place. Most big trees down. Some buildings all gone, some showing remnant foundations, Some only needing new roofs. The hills are speckled with white/graying stalks of dead trees. Seems that this kill-off of flora was from wind velocity and a high salt water content going higher that it had for ages. It is dry season now anyway so the hills looked pretty parched. In a month or two some rains should green things up a bit.

But one small positive of all these dead trees is that we were told by Foxy to cut any of this wood we wanted for boat building. As we are always on the lookout for crooks to make knees and breasthooks out of, Dirk took a gang of young stalwarts (Kimba, James, Dustin, Johnny, David, and Gabe) into the bush near the shore, scared off some lizards and cut away for a couple of hours. Foxy and Tess had a big old mahogany tree come down and that got cut up too. Hot work, maybe they had a cold beer at Foxy’s after. Not Johnny, he had a Ting. Ting is a refreshing grapefruit soda.

BVI is our last time shop for groceries too. Donald took brother Jon and Katie and got on the ferry to West End, Tortola and headed for the market. Don’t need much, but fresh stuff on a sea passage is always welcome. Dawson, Tammy and I got some shore time in. Dawson was literally in small boy heaven, if a small boy likes to swim in turquoise waters and find a conch and see pretty fish swimming around an old tree trunk in bay.

It always comes to time to sail. That’s the nature of a voyage, isn’t it?  Decks get put away. Boats get hoisted. Sea Never Dry up on deckhouse, the longboat in its davits, loose sail. Last goodbyes ashore on a quiet balmy day at Jost Van Dyke and we hove up and sailed away downwind south of the island, past White Bay with its brilliant beach and packed with day visitors from St Thomas reliving their glory days of spring breaks a long time ago. Loud and fun in the sun at White Bay, and a whole different world than cool serene Great Harbour, the last of the West Indies in the Virgin Islands for us. From West End Point, Jost Van Dyke, the course for Bermuda is North.

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Day’s Run 18 May 2019

Still pushing. Rainy and squally. Not bad though. In the old days of my youth with all this rain we would be out in it with a bar of soap getting squeaky clean. But we have freshwater showers now so why bother… Trainee Sue is getting her ratline seizing done. Sue is a strong sailor.

Date: May 18,  2019

From: Jost Van Dyke, BVI, West Indies

Towards: St George’s, Bermuda

Noon position: 24°-20′ North Latitude / 063°-00′ West Longitude

Course and speed: SWly at 7.5 knots, motoring along

Wind force and direction: light SEly winds

Seas/swell: steady organized ENEly seas 1 metre

Barometer: 1020 and steady

Sky: rainy and overcast

Water temperature: 26.5C – 80F

Distance made good in 24 hours: 164 nautical miles

Distance to the next port: 467 nautical miles as the Pole Star pulls

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