Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Bosun Scool' Category

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The Sweet, Sweet Smell of Swedish Pine Tar

Today we’re wishing that smell-o-vision was a thing.  As I walked through the gate towards the warehouse, I could smell the most lovely, smoky aroma that could only be one thing – Swedish pine tar.  Pine tar is used liberally in Picton Castle’s rigging maintenance, it coats various parts of the standing rigging and helps protect the rope or wire from drying out in the UV rays of the sun. 

Bosun School students are working on overhauling parts of the yards that have already been sent down (the royal, t’gallant and course yards).  Specifically this afternoon, they were working on repairing and replacing servings on footropes.  The footropes are made of wire rope, which is covered by a serving, which means marline (a natural fibre line) very tightly wrapped around the wire rope, often using a serving mallet which is a tool to help with the tight winding.  There are a couple of layers under the serving (worming and parceling), but the focus this afternoon was on serving.  Once the marline is tightly wrapped around the wire rope, it gets slathered thoroughly in a generous coating of pine tar.  And smells sooooo good. 

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Inspecting Royal & T’gallant Yards

After a week or so of site preparation, Bosun School students started downrigging Picton Castle last week.  All sails were sent down, then much of the running rigging.  Sails came down quite quickly, it didn’t take much more than a day to get them all down to deck, bundled up properly, and stowed in our sail loft ashore. 

Sending down royal and t’gallant yards was next.  Bosun School students had all done their training to climb up in the rigging, called going aloft, prior to sending down sail.  They worked in the rigging to get the big cotton canvas sails cut free from the yards and lowered carefully to deck.  But handling the heavy load of a wooden spar with a lot of rigging bits attached to it requires even greater attention to detail to be sure it’s done right.  Yards came down smoothly, with lots of instruction and coordination as it went. 

Now that the yards are sitting on sawhorses on the wharf, it’s time to inspect them.  As Captain Moreland explained to the students this morning, this will determine what work needs to be done on them.  He started by pushing on the yards to see if there are any obvious cracks in the wood, which we’d hear and see if they were there.  Then he looked at the condition of the footropes and identified some areas where the serving needs to be renewed.  He checked the shackles and their mousings that hold the footrope to the ends of the yard and checked the stirrups and the seizings that hold them to the yard.  He explained that shackles always need to be moused and that the seizings for the stirrups are very important and must be made with strong material, and must be watched constantly for chafe.  He also looked at the backropes, which on Picton Castle are made of typhoon wire and their seizings to the yard.  Then he looked at the lifts, which could use a wire brushing and fresh coating.  Captain Moreland also pointed out how important it is to label every piece of rigging so when they’re taken off the yard so the surface of the yard can be repaired if necessary then sanded and varnished or painted, the parts can be identified later and put back together more easily. 

With four yards on the wharf, the fore, and main t’gallants and royals, students then split up into two groups, each taking a pair of yards to inspect and document their findings.  The yards will be moved into the rigging workshop and any repairs or replacements that have been identified will be carried out there. 

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Bosun School – The Wrap Up

Our 8th Bosun School has come to a close, and we had a lovely graduation ceremony at Lunenburg’s historic
Dory Shop on Friday 18 December.

Closing ceremonies are an important part of the Bosun School. Each of the participants works so hard –
it isn’t easy, this school of ours. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to get through it, and that is
one of the reasons we only offer it to individuals who already have some amount of sea experience under
their belt; people who already know they want to work at sea.  So much hard work deserves
acknowledgement, and the closing ceremony is designed to provide that.

In the final weeks of the school, Captain Moreland met individually with each of the participants to talk
about what they see in their future. He was able to provide them with advice, suggestions, and
recommendations, sometimes helping them with their plan and sometimes pointing them in another
direction. Some of the graduates are planning going on to take additional courses from other institutions;
some are going on to work on otherships; all were offered the opportunity to crew the ship as Picton Castle
heads to Bermuda in February.  Almost all accepted the offer. Because as important as it is to have the   the time to dedicate to learning these skills on land, there is no better place to practice these new skills
than at sea. Captain Sikkema is heading south with a very capable crew indeed!

The graduation at the Dory Shop was a great night. It started with some music by Bosun School students
Cici, Anders & Lars, along with a few drinks and snacks, then a sit-down meal of hot fish chowder prepared
by Niko, who was the Bosun School cook.  After the meal there were a few speeches made by Lunenburg’s
Mayor Rachel Bailey, by Captain Moreland, and by the two class valedictorians: Ann Featherstone and Caleb
Winberry. No speech was too long; no speech was too short. Each student received a certificate and letter
from the Bosun School outlining what they have studied in the past three months.  They also each received
a certificate from the Province of Nova Scotia congratulating them on their completion of Bosun School –
our MLA Suzanne Lohnes-Croft wasn’t able to attend in person so her office arranged for the certificates
instead. The whole night was the ultimate mix of perfect. When the certificates were all presented, the tables
were cleared away and the Dory Shop’s Mike Gray had his band perform until the wee hours.

One of the many fun parts of working here in the Picton Castle office is being able to watch futures unfold before our trainees and Bosun School graduates when they leave us; I’m looking forward to seeing where this incredible group of individuals end up!

Bosun School 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rigging Lessons for Bosun School

We’ve been fortunate to have great weather this fall, which is all the better for rigging lessons!

As with most other topics at Bosun School, we’ve been learning, then practicing, then applying the skills. Having learned and been practicing seizings, splices and servings, it’s now time to cement the knowledge by using it to make something practical. This not only gives students a sense of responsibility because what they’re making has to be done correctly for it to be used and relied upon, it also gives them a sense of accomplishment by seeing how the skills they’re working on have real-life applications.

On days when the weather is too wet or cold to work outdoors, students are in the workshop on making new davit guys and some new lifts for Picton Castle. On days when working outside is possible and pleasant, they are in the rigging of Picton Castle, learning how to replace ratlines. We also did a session on how to properly use a bosun’s chair last week that included some hands-on practice.

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Festive Weekend in Lunenburg

Lunenburg was alive with festive spirit this weekend and the Bosun School students took part in the celebrations.

On Friday evening, people gathered on the waterfront to see the lighting of the vessels. Vessels at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic and Adams & Knickle usually participate, along with Bluenose II, and this year we we have lights on Picton Castle as well. All of the vessels were lit up, as well as a Christmas tree made of lobster traps and a number of decorated Christmas trees (including one we decorated). The vessel lighting was followed by fireworks over the harbour. Local businesses and individuals contributed to fund the fireworks, including a donation from the Picton Castle Bosun School.

The highlight of Saturday was the Santa Claus Parade. The Bosun School students prepared the float and rode in it during the parade. Our float featured the brightly coloured dory Sea Never Dry, built at the Dory Shop in Lunenburg and part of Picton Castle‘s fleet of small boats and sailed all over the world. There were about 50 floats in the parade, which shows the great community spirit here.

For the Bosun School it’s back to classes and workshops this week, finishing some varnish practice and getting a lesson on making ratlines.


Shala decorates the Christmas tree on the waterfront


Bosun School/Picton Castle/Dory Shop float in the Santa Claus Parade

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Happy Thanksgiving!

One of the fun things about sailing with an international crew is celebrating holidays from different countries.  It’s the same in Bosun School, with students of a number of different nationalities.  We celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving back in October, and are celebrating American Thanksgiving today.

Niko is busy cooking up a big delicious dinner and we’ve put the usual projects aside for the day in order to focus on festive projects.  This upcoming weekend kicks off the holiday season in Lunenburg and we’re participating fully.  Today we are rigging up Christmas lights on Picton Castle’s masts, decorating a tree at the Fisheries Museum, and decorating our float for the Santa Claus parade.

On Friday evening, the vessels on Lunenburg’s waterfront will be lit up for the season.  The museum’s fleet along with the fishing fleet at Adams & Knickle usually participate, and we’ll be joining in the illumination as well.  The vessel lighting event begins at 6pm outdoors at the Fisheries Museum with warm foods and drinks from local restaurants, along with music and caroling.  At 6:30pm the vessels will be lit, along with the decorated trees at the museum, and at 7:30pm there will be fireworks over the harbour.

On Saturday, there are a number of markets and events happening throughout the town.  At 3pm it’s time for the Santa Claus parade.  Apparently there will be over 50 floats in the parade, including ours.  Keep an eye out for our brightly painted dory, Sea Never Dry!  We’ll take photos and post them for anyone who can’t join us in person.

So, the Bosun School is celebrating Thanksgiving by temporarily becoming a North Pole workshop, followed by a wonderful meal together.  We have a lot to be thankful for here.

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Heaving Line Throwing Practice

When vessels come alongside to dock, they need to get lines ashore in order to tie the vessel to the wharf. Big ships need big lines. It’s not possible to throw these lines because they’re so heavy, so a lighter weight line is tied to the mooring line. These lighter weight lines, called heaving lines, typically have something heavy on the thrown end of them in order to make them easier to throw. On Picton Castle, the heavy part is a monkey’s fist knot, but we’ve seen other heaving lines with bean bags tied to the end, so use whatever gets the job done.

As the vessel approaches the dock, it’s the job of the crew to throw the heaving line from the ship to the shore so it can be picked up by the line handler ashore. Throwing one of these is not as easy as it looks. And getting the proper distance and aim is vital, especially when manoeuvering the vessel in close quarters.

In order to get good at throwing heaving lines, practice is necessary. The Bosun School students practiced yesterday, throwing heaving lines down the wharf from a certain point, trying to get the monkey’s fist knot into an empty garbage can at the end of the wharf.

First the lines have to be coiled very carefully so they won’t tangle when they’re thrown. The fixed end needs to be tied down (in real application it would be tied to the mooring line, but for practice we just tie it to anything handy, often ourselves). Then the part of the line with the monkey’s fist and a few extra coils are held in the dominant hand, swung back to gain momentum, then released, followed immediately by releasing the rest of the line from the other hand. Then recover your line, coil and practice throwing again (and again and again and again…).


Heaving line practice, photo by Alexandra Pronovost

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Wire Splicing at Bosun School

Students at Picton Castle‘s Bosun School have been learning to splice wire this week.

Captain Moreland started by demonstrating the method, then the students paired up to work on splicing their own wires together.  After each pair had completed their splice, Captain Moreland did a second demonstration of the technique, now that the students had a frame of reference.  After that, they worked individually on practicing splicing.

The wire they are using is 5/8″ trawl winch wire that has been used on local fishing vessels.  The wire can’t continue to be used for that purpose because there are parts that are worn, but we can cut away the worn parts to find short lengths of good wire that are suitable for practice.  Because it has been stretched and pre-formed by going through the fishing winches, it’s particularly difficult to work with.  As Captain Moreland would say, this is a good thing.  If you learn using materials that are more difficult to handle, you’ll be better at it when you’re using smaller or more flexible wire.  The wire we’re using is 6×24 and has a fibre heart.

Students started by learning to measure the wire, how to bend it, how to seize it, and how much of a tail to leave to work with.  They have been making eye splices and each student will make at least five splices during their time at Bosun School.

Today, the Captain inspected each student’s splice individually, providing feedback on their work.  For many, the first tuck needs to start sooner so there is no gap at the start of the eye.

More practice is on order for next week.  Students will continue using the practice wire until their skill is determined to be good enough to work on a real project.  By applying their skills immediately to a real piece of rigging on board a working ship, they can not only see the practical purpose of the skill, but they also know that their work has to be good enough to be counted on as an integral part of the rigging.  

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A Beautiful Day To Work Aloft!

October is usually beautiful in Nova Scotia, with all the leaves changing colours. This year, October has also been warm, sunny and wonderful for being outdoors. Bosun School is taking advantage of the weather to spend some time aloft on Picton Castle. Students learned yesterday how to lead “up and overs”, the process of taking new crew aloft for the first time. Today they’re getting set up to make ratlines, which are like the steps of the ladder on the shrouds.

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Why Train Under Sail?

From the mid 19th century until the mid 20th century, sailing ships were the incubator and hatchery for almost all deep-sea steam-ship mariners be they naval or merchant marine. This is what came to be known as “trained in sail” or later, “sail training”. This training service came about due to the extraordinarily rich seamanship acquisition environment that was the deep water sailing ship. In the rapid-fire extreme requirements encountered during WWII for instant mates, lieutenants, commanders and captains, “90 day wonders” they were called, this chain was broken on national scales – but though this chain of traditional training has been worn thin, the skills of a sailing ship seafarer remain critical to the safe and cost effective running and management of modern motor vessels. A well run sailing ship is, now more than ever, the best place to prepare for and begin one’s career at sea.

Sailing to sea in ships is an amazing way of life and can be richly rewarding in countless ways. Not the least of these ways is that mariners can make a good living from ships and the sea. Often well in excess of what they could make ashore. Additionally, every job taken by a citizen going to sea leaves a job open in their country of origin. And successful mariners tend to contribute directly to their home economies and do so disproportionately to the cost and length of time of their educations. There is a great international demand for the next generation of seafarers.

But make no mistake, the sea is an extremely demanding environment not particularly forgiving to the inept, untrained or ill equipped. Good seafarers have to be excellent at a broad range of critical skills. It takes years at sea, working hard, learning at every turn, before one can call oneself a seasoned pro. Recently among flag state marine regulatory agencies there has been a welcome insistence on having a basic and advanced safety and marine emergency training for professional mariners resulting in the United Nations International Maritime Organisation (IMO) mandated STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for seafarers) Basic Safety Training (BST) and certification. Training in firefighting, PFDs, first aid, immersion suits, life rafts etc. This is all to the good and is to be applauded. It is important basic familiarisation with what a mariner is to be able to do when things go all wrong aboard a ship at sea. This training and these skills, however, are quite a bit different from the broad seamanship skills and training a mariner needs to be both useful aboard a ship and to also seriously contribute to the reduction of the likelihood of things going all wrong. BST is established to have a basic standard of what to do when things go wrong. Broad and deep seamanship skills are what contributes mightily to preventing things from going wrong in the first place. BST is how to bandage a cut. Seamanship is not getting the cut. This is where the Picton Castle and the Bosun School come in.

In addition to adventurous sailing and traveling to amazing islands and ports all over the world, the voyages of the Cook Islands Barque Picton Castle are about learning, teaching and passing along the required skills of seafaring. And by direct extension, the essential skills required of any resourceful mariner sailing in todays cargo ships, passenger ships, tugboats, supply boats, fishing vessels, yachts, the Navy and marine related shore positions. These include marinas, maritime schools, museums, sail lofts, rigging lofts, boat yards, ship yards, dry docks and sundry others.

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