Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Bosun Scool' Category

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Bosun School – Smells like Winter

Slowly, ever so slowly, it is sinking in that Bosun School is coming to a close. Only one more week! Where have those days and weeks gone?

Coming to think of it, it is, in fact, surprising that time has not run away even faster. The sheer amount of things that we have been up to over the last two-and-a-half months is quite mind boggling. Bosun School, “an intensive skills development program”. Indeed.

Remember? Overhaul, prepare, repair, caulk, paint & launch boats, from small skiffs (and dugout canoe) to decent-sized sailing yachts; use sheer legs to step masts; learn to sail, row, pull and motor; basic rope work; organise workspaces; wire care and wire rigging maintenance; worming, parcelling & serving; wire and fibre rope splices and seizings; work aloft; partially down-rig a three-masted barque, by hand; learn to move heavy things safely; overhaul blocks; learn the fundamentals of sailmaking and sail repair; hand- and machine sewing; make a ditty bag; build an upper tops’l to the second layout stage; absorb shipboard life with all its joys and demands; attend workshops; write a CV and learn how to apply for a job; listen to distinguished maritime and academic professionals and hear their view of our industry; complete an accredited industrial rigging course, and first aid course; get your recreational boater’s licence… the list goes on. And yet, every day brings something new. Never a dull moment.

Today was yet another busy day at Boz Skool. Despite a rather rainy and windy first half of the day, we had the program running along nicely. Rigging overhaul continued apace in the warmish workshop while the weather was miserable before lunch.

The gang had submitted a revised hauling plan for the schooner Calanova and the Blue Sloop yesterday for approval. Yes, it’s that time of year. Not to make too fine a point of it, our two boats are the last remaining on moorings in Lunenburg Harbour. Many moorings are now in use by the Lobster fishermen, and busy it is in the harbour because of it, too.

Are we being tardy hauling boats? No way. In fact, Blue and Calanova were both sailed a few days ago in golden early afternoon sunshine and light winds. A good occasion for the gang to say “Goodbye” after a couple of months of intense small boat work. A last opportunity to practice maneuvering under sail, in perfect training conditions.

Hauling plan. Yes, we do it that formally. Getting on paper what is loosely orbiting your mind. What is important? Where are the possible snags? Much like in a professional environment, the gang had to compile a plan as if they were offering their services to a customer.  And doing it in such a formal way helps greatly to visualise the process.

We launched the boats two months ago, and a lot has happened since. So many new impressions, so much rigging, sailorising, small boat work, sail making, boat repair, you name it. Somewhere down there, deep down, is the memory of the launching. Hauling is much the same, in reverse. So deep down the memory was that we had to reject the gang’s first attempt at a hauling plan. Had they forgotten everything?

No, they had not. After a debrief regarding the failed plan, the gang submitted version 2.0. And much improved it is, too, I would call it an actual hauling plan this time.

After lunch, I quizzed the gang about their plan, had them describe the process, and let them clarify a couple of “soft” points in the plan. The plan was then accepted, and we will set it in motion tomorrow.

 Busy, you said? Oh yes!

Monomoy, our 26-foot ex-rescue pulling surf boat got hauled by the gang, a last hurrah under oars, and her bottom was cleaned while still soft & slimy. Monomoywill be properly winterised at the Dory Shop shortly. Karl, Mr. Bones and the varnished skiff, all part of the Bosun School fleet of small boats that were used during this year’s session, were moved into the “Building Bay”, a large open workshop in the Picton Castle warehouse. Mr. Bones, in fact, got triced up under the overhead steel girder to give us more room for the remaining three boats that have yet to be moved for the winter. And the Building Bay, also serving as stock lumber store, got tidied some in the process. Good Bosun work all of it.

 Christian, Bosun School student from Denmark and Picton Castle hand this past summer in the Great Lakes, conducted a workshop on 8-strand hawser splicing, and he did a good job. Having to explain and demonstrate something to others is a good tool to deepen one’s own skill and understanding. A valuable lesson to learn.

What else? All is laid along to haul at least Calanova tomorrow. Not sure whether we have enough lumber for bearers for both boat cradles, Calanova and Blue at the same time, we’ll have to see. If we do, the plan is to haul both Calanova and Blue tomorrow on the same tide. If we don’t have enough lumber, the Blue Sloop will be hauled the following day.

In preparation, the beach at the Dory Shop boatyard was cleared from seaweed and debris and leveled today at afternoon low tide.

Now that’s a busy day. A good day.

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Marine First Aid

Bosun School Marine First Aid, 15-17 November 2019

People who sail in Picton Castle come from all walks of life and, quite frequently, after settling back into their “normal” lives ashore, they stay in touch and do return for more.

World Voyage 7 Medical Officer Jen White did that very thing. After months of planning, Jen came to Lunenburg for the weekend of November 15-17 to run a fully accredited Marine First Aid course as part of Bosun School, our land-based skills enrichment program for mariners. Three exciting days of full-on, hands-on, get-down-and-dirty, real-life First Aid scenarios, complemented by the necessary theoretical aspects to tie it all together.

When Jen set up for the course on Friday morning, large bags of gear and props came through the door of the second building at the Dory Shop, our base for the weekend. And kept coming. And coming. Now Jen’s car is tiny. How on earth did all that fit in there? Thoughts of Doctor Who’s TARDIS crept into my mind…

Over the next three days, we learned and practiced, sometimes in an orchestrated scenario, sometimes in a surprise scene strewn with all manner of casualties. In daylight and in the dark. Indoors and out. Roles of first aiders and casualties changed among the gang, many of who interpreted their casualty persona with gusto and conviction; noisy or obnoxious at times, but every so often suspiciously quiet.

Jen’s talent of mixing in-your-face flesh wounds (she brought an eerie supply of movie make-up wounds and a bag of goodies containing fake blood, makeup and other paraphernalia) with less obvious traumas or medical conditions made for an extraordinarily real and engaging context: we were fully immersed in the apparent mayhem of an incident that could happen to any of us, large scale or small, in a group or individually.

In between the outdoor events, the gang huddled around the woodstove, following Jen’s discourse on the background and foundations of effective First Aid in the real world, with an emphasis on the marine environment and remote locations (imagine hiking in a small group on a remote Pacific island).

Jen’s course delivery was a match with Picton Castle’s philosophy of planning and prevention, backed up by sound principles of WHY we do (or not do) things, not only HOW.

And at the end of day three, the air was abuzz with communicating our impressions in a feedback session, and I can confidently say that all of us feel much better prepared, and rightly so, when facing the prospect of not only administering and managing First Aid but also preventing a scenario from developing.

Metaphorically speaking, it is good to have a fire extinguisher. And being well trained in using it. But if you have to put out a fire, something has already gone wrong.

Not all First Aid incidents can be avoided. There are factors that are beyond our control, environmental and others. But we can reduce the variables that contribute to, and let a seemingly normal situation deteriorate into, an incident.

Late afternoon on Sunday, everything was packed up and the dying embers in the wood stove failed to radiate sufficient heat to keep the gang around. It was time to call it a day and think about supper.

In addition to getting good at caulking, parceling and serving, wire splicing and sailing small South Seas cutters and old schooners, our Bosun School gang has had a master class in First Aid training, and are all the better mariners for this.

And yes, all those bags and props did make it back into Jen’s car.

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A valuable and essential tool in advancing the learning of seamanship, and an integral part of Lunenburg’s Bosun School, is small boat work. Understanding and competently working small boats is essential in becoming a proper seaman and, eventually, a Bosun. And a Captain for that matter. All the decisions made by the small boat skipper are those that get made by the captain of a larger vessel with often more immediate consequences. So small boats it is.

Our fleet of small boats comprises a variety of craft from a dugout canoe to dories, skiffs, open sloops and a longboat for pulling and sailing, to a modern fibreglass sloop and a beautiful 26-foot wooden schooner.

Now “small boat work” does not solely denote jumping in one of these, messing around and becoming a proficient boat handler. Bosun School starts with inspecting and preparing the boats for launching, fixing whatever needs to be fixed, surface prep and painting, rigging them up as required, then launching them.

Learn to determine and assemble boat gear as necessary and then be instructed to use the boats while, well, using them. This is hands-on. Learn to row, scull or pull; sail in small open boats or larger sloops and schooners; practice in outboard powered skiffs… all the while hearing and understanding sound principles of small boat work: areas of operation, weather considerations, limitations and capabilities of boats, gear and crew. Instruction, followed by practice and more instruction followed by more practice. Several hours a day of we can.

While the boats are in the water, tend to them as they demand, and care for the gear. They may need their moorings overhauled, so check them frequently. The boats may need bailing due to rain or maybe even just old fashioned leaking. Pump them out. If heavy weather is on the way – its October isn’t it? – deal with them. And at the end of the season, recover them all, label and stow the gear, clean and winterise the boats in sheds or on hard stands in the yard at the Dory Shop. The whole seasonal cycle condensed into eight or so weeks. If you were awake during all of this, you are well underway to becoming a cox’n.

Last week, we rigged and launched BLUE BOAT, a modern 24-foot fibreglass sloop. She needed little work, just a couple of fibreglass patches and a lick of paint. To step her mast, sheer legs were stepped on the ground either side of the mast step, next to the cradle, and crossed. The mast, laying fore and aft along the deck of the sloop, with all its rigging attached, was hoisted horizontally by a tackle from the sheer legs, then canted vertical and lowered into position and secured by shrouds and stays.

With the sheer legs knocked down, a system of runner and tackle was rigged between two fixed points and the boat cradle. With all hands clapping onto the tackle, we dragged the cradle over wooden bearers towards the water over the soft slope of the Dory Shop’s black beach. Once in the water, the cradle dug into the soft shale, so with a system of levers and a tackle upon the tackle, the cradle slid slowly into deeper water, floating off the sloop. It may be how they set up Stonehenge but we did it with our own hands, not a travel lift in sight.

Yesterday, we took BLUE BOAT sailing for the first time. Her rig was fine-tuned and secured, sail bent and the boat kitted out. We sailed her off the mooring and alongside a floating dock, changed the small jib for the racing jib, loaded a couple more hands and sailed into Lunenburg Bay in 10 to 15 knots of Easterly breeze in glorious afternoon sunshine. After a couple of boards between the Lunenburg docks and Battery Point, we spotted MR. BONES’s unmistakable green and orange sails. MR BONES had just been finished that afternoon and launched for its first sail from the beach at the Dory Shop. Our silver-bali skiff was also out as a chase boat. What a way to spend the afternoon!

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The Bosun School at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia- 2019

It is now mid-October, the Picton Castle is back from her very successful tour of the Great Lakes with the grand fleet of Tall Ships Challenge®, a hurricane has come and gone, and the eighth session of the Bosun School of Lunenburg is well underway at our wharf in this old seafaring town. We have a great gang of young mariners from all over in attendance putting in long tarry and salty days. Canada, USA, Denmark, Australia, Greece, and Germany are represented in this session. They have been learning and doing massive amounts of rigging, wooden boat overhaul, heaps of learning how to move heavy things and now sail-making as well as small boat handling every day as we can. Lunenburg Harbour is perfect for small boat sailing and handling. And small boat handling is perfect for learning ship handling.

There is no substitute for and nothing better than real sea time under sail in a proper ship to gain critical experience and advance the skills for a young mariner. But oftentimes on these hard-working ships sailing today, there is little time to focus on advancing these critical skills for the professional mariner. Skills such as wirework and sail-making, ship and boat carpentry and so on. And rarely does the opportunity roll around to actually be part of rerigging a square-rigged ship so extensively, or lay out and make a sail with a professional sailmaker. Or build a dory properly learning or rebuild an historic watercraft under the direction of a master boat builder. And critically, it is very difficult to get the time and access to boats to develop comprehensive small boat handling skills. These things we do at the Bosun School.

The purpose of the Picton Castle’s Bosun School is to provide this opportunity to young dedicated mariners to advance their skills in a concentrated fashion without the entirely natural demands and distractions of being underway at sea standing watches and tending the job every minute of the day. Conducted by myself, the crew of the Picton Castle and special guest instructors, the Bosun School pushes our students to significantly advance their skill levels, making their chances at the best berths in good ships of their choice all the more likely. And also, with simply being better at the job of being a mariner they get to enjoy the job more. Once signed aboard the next ship they will have that much more to offer and will be a greater contributor to helping the ship on her mission – which is, after all, what being crew is all about. These young mariners will simply be more appreciated and thus more in demand. In this year’s course we are also offering a Transport Canada certified Marine First Aid course and an Industrial Rigging certificate.

Stay tuned for updates…..

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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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