Captain's Log

Archive for September, 2019

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Hurricane Dorian – the day after the day after…

Monday September 9, 2019
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Hurricane Dorian blew through here over the weekend. A beautiful sunny day here in Lunenburg. Cool fresh west wind blows across the harbour. Streets are getting cleaned up of branches and gravel. Power has been back on since last night in many places.

The weather forecasting for this hurricane was about as precise as can be. This has been a building trend we have seen in recent years; increasingly accurate weather forecasts.

On Saturday building east winds all day and rain. Lots of rain. Plenty of rain. Filled the wells too. Good that. Just around midnight the eye of the storm passed nearby and the winds calmed, went into a lull, then switched to the north, then to the northwest and picked up to plenty of breeze, maybe 60+ knots, maybe more. Then gradually died down throughout Sunday morning, still blowing fresh. Nearby east and southeast ocean-facing Hirtles and Kingsburg beaches saw 30-40 foot breakers. Rocks, big rocks, thrown pretty far up the shore. A couple boats broke loose here and there but most folks were well prepared. The lovely Schooners Avenger and Arcadia hung to their big moorings in Lunenburg Harbour throughout the storm and did just fine. Other schooners found places to hide.

As the wind was not in the south or southeast, no real swell or surge came inside Battery Point. Strong winds but no swell. The A&K scallop dragger Cachalot got back to port in good time to avoid the storm. We all knew they would but you can’t stop worrying until she is tied up, secure.

Picton Castle, Bluenose II, Pride of Baltimore II and Noa Santa Maria are all on the other side of the Canso Straights looking to lock through. Problem is, due to power being out the locks do not work right now. Should be fixed soon. The ships were hoping to get here the 11th but are likely to be delayed. No sense in sailing around Cape Breton at this point.

No damage hereabouts. All the apple trees are stripped from the trees at Bayport and seaweed came pretty high up on the shore in some waves.

At our home at Bailly House we had good kerosene lanterns, candles, and chowder off the woodstove. All very comfortable and cozy. Plenty of ice in the cooler for all that needs ice. Blew hard all night. The Dory Shop and our wharf came through just fine although the water got pretty high. Young Dawson and I pulled on our oilskins and checked on the harbour a couple times during the storm while it was still light and before it blew really hard. Bluenose Drive was flooded.

Otherwise, all is well here in Lunenburg after this hurricane Dorian.

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Homeward Bound from the Great Lakes

After a busy and exciting summer visiting ports in four of the five Great Lakes, Picton Castle is on the final leg of this voyage, bound down the St Lawrence seaway for Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.  In fact, we visited nine lakes this summer (Lakes Michigan, Huron, St Clair, Erie, Ontario, St Francis, St Pierre, St Louis, Lake St Lawrence), plus the Thousand Islands, the American Narrows, and the Richlieu Rapids.  

Our last tall ships festival took place in Erie, Pennsylvania, on the south shore of Lake Erie.  From there, we sailed across Lake Erie to Port Weller, then carried on directly through the Welland Canal, which was built to bypass Niagara Falls (we definitely DON’T want to take Picton Castle down the Niagara River and over the falls).  After a short rest at Port Weller while waiting for our next pilot, we motored across Lake Ontario and into the St. Lawrence River to Clayton, NY. 

Clayton hosted us for a few days, giving the crew a chance to stretch their legs ashore before the final push downbound in the St. Lawrence and back to salt water.  We passed through all the locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway, then paused in Montreal to downrig all of the preparations we had made to go through the locks, making the ship skinny so nothing protrudes horizontally beyond the hull; un-cockbilling the yards, swinging the davits out, lifting boats off the hatch on the main deck and hoisting them in the davits, and removing the 6×6 wooden vertical fenders.  By the time Picton Castle returns to Lunenburg, we will have passed through a total of 32 locks – seven in the St. Lawrence River, eight in the Welland Canal, and one at Canso. 

As we’ve been making our way down the St. Lawrence, we’ve been keeping a close eye on the weather.  It is hurricane season in the North Atlantic, so as we approach the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Nova Scotia coast, we’re paying particular attention to the conditions and forecasts.  We’ve paid close attention to Hurricane Dorian since last week, and continue to keep a close eye as it approaches the Canadian Maritimes. 

Knowing we might need to find a safe harbour, we’ve looked into ports of refuge for where we could put in if necessary.  Under Captain Lorenzen’s guidance, the crew have done safety drills including for heavy weather.  He reports that the crew is prepped, the ship is prepped, and the importance of observance of heavy weather protocols will be stressed.  More than anything, we’re planning to avoid the high winds and high seas by tapping the brakes and slowing down well to the west of the system, allowing it to pass in front of us while we stay to the west of the area of Baie Comeau (or a different point if the forecast track changes), then carrying on once winds and seas abate.  Schedules can be changed, hurricanes cannot.

What a summer’s voyage!  So many ports, each outdoing the other for hospitality.  What passages in fresh water!  And what a treat sailing along with vessels like the huge schooner Bluenose II and the rakish Pride of Baltimore II as well as the US Brig Niagara, HMCS Oriole and others.  While the ship had to motor a good deal for purposes of keeping pilotage time short, the Picton Castle crew got a lot of experience docking and undocking their ship, and sail handling in close quarters in the ports. This crew knows all about a Tall Ship port now. And up and down the entire St Lawrence Seaway with all the locks and climbing up to the Great Lakes and back, that is a pretty rare voyage for anyone.

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