Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Lunenburg' Category

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Snow Day for the Picton Castle

While keenly looking forward to sailing in the balmy South Pacific…we take a moment to enjoy the winter here in Lunenburg.

Here in Lunenburg, we are preparing for our upcoming voyage to the South Pacific. Quite a bit of excitement. Crew and trainees are signing up. Making lists. Working on plans. Talking to our Panama agents. Contact with Pitcairn Islanders about bringing supplies to their ever so remote and delightful outpost island. Thinking about when to re-cross the yards on the foremast. Worklist for our winter ship-keepers. Planning your standard drydocking jobs and oh-so-many tasks associated with getting a ship like the Barque Picton Castle ready to return to sea and ready for a long tropical voyage. Thoughts of tee-shirts and pareaus in soft trade winds at the big teak wheel sailing across warm blue seas in our near future…just seems so far away…

But here in Nova Scotia (halfway between the equator and the North Pole), it was January 8th in this New Year and it snowed aplenty. There would be 20 cm by noon. That’s about 8 inches. With more to fall throughout the day. We were well warned of this large snowstorm by the increasingly excellent weather forecasting – the entire town was snug and put away for the weather – so Maggie called a “snow day”. All hands would work from home. Schools and many businesses closed too. The roads in town were fair quiet – apart from the occasional snow-plow rattling down the muffled lanes. Soft, fluffy stuff drifted gently down from the sky before dawn. Snow just damp enough to be perfect for snowballs and making a snowman, but not so damp to get you soaked. Light winds, trees were allowed to accumulate and balance quite a bit of this delicate stuff on their branches and even skinny twigs.

Despite the declaration of a snow day, and the delightful fire chuckling away in the woodstove at our warm cozy home, it seemed necessary to head out and wander abroad to inspect closely and at first hand this first snowfall of the new year, check on the ship and the waterfront too. Enlisting my 7-year-old son, Dawson, we suited up and set out along the snow-covered streets of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. He did much not want to go out on a forced march and told me so. I pulled rank. Later, of course, he did not want to come back inside – too much fun to be had out of doors. I did not pull rank. We walked through the quiet drifting whiteness up to the grocery store in town not far away known as Foodland. Here we provision the Picton Castle as have ships sailing from Lunenburg for generations. We needed eggs and bagels.

Lunenburg’s Dory Shop

Next, we ambled along pushing snow out of our way down towards the shore and the venerable Dory Shop perched atop pilings over the water, the boat-yard building dories and wooden workboats for the fleet since 1917. A few new dories in the yard were well covered with a blanket of cold white sparkly down, as well as a schooner, a friendship sloop, a Tahiti Ketch (as if we needed a hint) and a large stack of boat building lumber. Across the old Railway Warf with snow-covered lobster boats alongside tugging gently at their lines was our Picton Castle, well moored against winter storms with many hawsers secure to the pilings and her best 1,500-pound bower anchor firmly in the tough bottom mud with 250 feet of heavy chain well out in the harbour to hold her against South-Easterly swells of a storm. This takes a big strain off the wharf in a swell and blow and used to be standard winter practice for the laid-up schooners, bow out, anchors out, chains swollen with ice. No swells today. Slate gray was the surface of the harbour – and as smooth as a piece of slate too in the calm waters as well. Only small ripples that would not even rock a swimming gull was all there was to be seen. With our eggs and bagels in our Pitcairn Island work-basket, and coats and hats covered in snow, home we trudged, Dawson being sure to make a flying leap into each and every large soft snow-bank he saw. He saw a lot of them. The surface of our wharf, for a few fleeting ephemeral moments, was home to snow angels made by himself.

Picton Castle at her wharf in Lunenburg

Warm, snowy, regards from Da Burg, Dan & Dawson Moreland

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How to Handle Rough Weather

As I sit at my desk in Picton Castle’s shore office overlooking the street and harbour in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada, I can hear the wind swinging the sign on the side of the building and whistling through the nearby trees.  It’s been raining on and off throughout the day and the sun hasn’t made an appearance at all.  Picton Castle is tied snugly to the wharf and even though the wind is coming pretty hard, near gale force, from the southeast, the only direction from which Lunenburg Harbour isn’t well protected, the mooring lines and winter anchor set out in the harbour are holding fast and Picton Castle is riding the swells just fine. 

One of the questions that is often raised by people considering a voyage in Picton Castle is about bad weather.  What do we do about it?  How do we handle it? 

Picton Castle herself is a very strong ship, having been designed and built to fish year-round in the North Sea and North Atlantic Ocean, and refitted with a powerful sailing rig with ocean voyaging in mind.  Watertight bulkheads (which means the area below decks is divided into small sections, each one watertight on its own) and excellent stability are part of what make her extremely seaworthy. And we have tools and procedures that we use in different weather conditions.  However, the number one goal is to avoid bad weather in the first place.  Captain Moreland often says that the single biggest technological advancement in the past hundred years that has benefited ships is in weather prediction.  Forecasting has come a long way and we check forecasts frequently then make plans accordingly.  Major bad weather systems can be avoided to a large extent.  But you cannot avoid every gale, every time. 

There are a few different options for avoiding bad weather and we’ve used them all over the years.  Sometimes we extend a stay in port so we can see how something that looks suspicious in the forecast will play out, or wait until it has passed before we get underway.  Sometimes we get underway from a port earlier than we planned so we can get out ahead of a system moving through and allow it to pass behind us.  If we’re in port, what we do will depend on the port – sometimes we set an extra anchor and ride it out, sometimes we move to a more secure berth, sometimes we get underway and get out of the way.  If we’re at sea, we often change course to avoid the system and stay out of its path, or sometimes slow down or heave-to (which means stopping the ship at sea) to allow it to pass ahead or make a clear indication of direction. 

Even though we avoid the worst of the weather, not every day is sunny and beautiful.  There are squalls, wind shifts, and days of overcast, rain, and big waves and swells.  How do we deal with these?  Again, preparation is key.  And not only do we prepare the ship physically, we prepare the crew with extensive training.  We practice sail handling so we can do it quickly, even in the dark.  We practice getting around the ship when the decks are moving.  We practice using safety equipment like handlines and jacklines that run the length of the decks, harnesses with tethers that can be attached to the handlines and jacklines, extra netting, and watertight doors and hatches.  The crew hone their skills in situational awareness so they can anticipate things before they happen. 

We simply can’t guarantee that every day aboard will be comfortable.  In fact, we guarantee that there will be some days that aren’t.  Sleeping, eating meals, even drinking coffee can all be more difficult with the ship moving beneath you.  You might at times feel soggy and tired.  But oddly, it’s often those moments that test us and cause us to rise to the occasion that bring the crew together and make the most vivid memories of the voyage.

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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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Three Tall Ships To Sail From Lunenburg

Bluenose II, Pride of Baltimore II, and Picton Castle will sail out of Lunenburg harbour together on Saturday June 15, starting around 10:00am.

All three vessels are heading for the Great Lakes where they will participate in the Tall Ships Challenge, an event made up of a series of port festivals and races, organized by Tall Ships America.

Canadian icon, the Schooner Bluenose II of Lunenburg will lead the way, under the command of Captain Phil Watson. Bluenose II was in Halifax this week doing open deck tours and harbour sails and is returning to Lunenburg on Friday evening in order to be part of this unique spectacle on Saturday morning.

Pride of Baltimore II arrived in Lunenburg on Tuesday morning for a short visit, taking on fuel and provisions before. Under the command of Captain Jan Miles, Pride of Baltimore II is the sailing ambassador of the State of Maryland.

Picton Castle just completed an incredible seventh voyage around the world. After a short turnaround time at home base, Picton Castle is heading for the Great Lakes under the command of Captain Dirk Lorenzen.

These three vessels will join with a larger fleet of tall ships at the first official host port of the Tall Ships Challenge in Toronto from June 28 to July 1. The Tall Ships Challenge continues in Buffalo, Cleveland, Bay City, Green Bay, Kenosha, Sarnia/Midland, Kingsville, and Brockville (note that not all ships are participating at all ports).

All are welcome on the Lunenburg waterfront and the shores of Lunenburg Bay to see these three majestic sailing vessels get underway and start their voyage to the Great Lakes together. Even for a seaport like Lunenburg which sees its share of vessels coming and going, this will be an awe-inspiring sight.

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Day’s Run – February 24, 2018

We had our wind shift overnight as expected and early this morning got the ship turned to the South with a fresh West wind. The crew did a good job in the early morning hours getting sail back on to speed us along in our passage and steady out the ship’s motion. Though the sun isn’t out today it’s a lot warmer than it has been, no longer icy water crossing the deck but a much more pleasant 15°C. The swell height being up with the fresh west winds, the crew have been spending most of the watches checking that the ship has remained sea-stowed and that no gear has become adrift. This sort of weather doesn’t deter ship’s cook Donald a bit, steak for dinner last night and plenty of hot food at every meal.
We anticipate crossing into the Gulf Stream this afternoon, which will bring even warmer temperatures, a welcome change for all hands. Until then we are still just getting into the ship’s routines and remembering what it’s like to be at sea again. Nothing around, no land, no other ships just Picton Castle and her crew in our own little world.

Date: 24 February 2018
Noon Position: 38°39.8’N, 068°25.3’W
Course + Speed: SxW, 7.8kts
Wind direction + Force: W, F 5
Swell Height + Direction: 3m, W
Weather: Overcast
Day’s Run: 156nm
Passage Log: 428nm
Distance to Port: 420nm
Voyage: 611nm

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Day’s Run – February 23, 2018

Another clear and cold morning dawned on the Eastern edge of the George’s Bank as Picton Castle makes her way to the southwest. Cold as it was this morning the day has warmed to about 8°C and the sun feels good as we are motorsailing along under topsails and the foresail. Many of the crew are up and about the rig on this beautiful day, moving buntline blocks into their proper position and finishing up some odds and ends in the rig to prepare for bending more sail in the near future. Also of importance on a day like today is to continue getting the ship cleaned up and the ‘land’ washed off of her after a winter’s lay-up. We are expecting the wind of veer to the west overnight and this will turn us back to the southeast to line up for crossing the Gulf Stream and on to Bermuda.

Date: 23 February 2018
Noon Position: 40°52.1’N, 066°44.9’W
Course + Speed: SWxS, 8.4kts
Wind direction + Force: NE, F 4
Swell Height + Direction: 1.5m, NNE
Weather: Clear and Sunny
Day’s Run: 198nm
Passage Log: 241nm
Distance to Port: 518nm
Voyage: 424nm

Sunrise on George’s Bank

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Day’s Run – February 22, 2018

Picton Castle hove up anchor from Rose Bay this morning just before sunrise. Having left our berth in Lunenburg yesterday afternoon with all systems go, we are on our way to Bermuda. The crew spent the last few days bending on more sail to speed our passage along and enjoyed some unseasonably warm temperatures. It’s cold out now but all onboard are looking forward to the Gulf Stream and the warm water it brings with it. For now there is a fair wind stretching the topsails, the B&W Alpha main engine is rhythmically thumping away and we are leaving the coast behind. Farewell to Nova Scotia!

Date: 22 February 2018
Noon Position: 43°41.6’N, 064°31.4’W
Course + Speed: SWxS 1/2S, 7.5kts
Wind direction + Force: NNW, F 2
Swell Height + Direction: 2m, SW
Weather: Clear and Sunny
Day’s Run: 40nm
Log: 40nm
Distance to Port: 677nm
Voyage: 223nm

Sunrise in Rose Bay

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Here We Go Again

Picton Castle got underway this afternoon, bound for Bermuda. If that sounds familiar, it should. We also got underway for Bermuda last Thursday. Let me explain.

This past Thursday, Picton Castle got underway from her wharf in our beautiful home base of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada. There was quite a crowd on the dock to send the ship off including Lunenburg mayor Rachel Bailey and local MLA Suzanne Lohnes-Croft. This was to be the last time Picton Castle would be present in Lunenburg for almost a year and a half. The ship got off the wharf at 4:00pm as scheduled and went out to anchor in the harbour for the night.

On Friday, the crew were busy all day with safety drills and the last of the task of stowing and securely lashing everything down for sea. Late Friday, Picton Castle got underway, sailed past the lighthouse at the end of Battery Point, and left the harbour. She went as far as Rose Bay where she anchored overnight again, waiting for the weather window that would bring good conditions for departure on Saturday morning.

On Saturday morning, Picton Castle got underway from Rose Bay, bound for St. George’s, Bermuda. The plan was to stay close to the Nova Scotia shore in order to put the ship in a good position to pick up the northwest winds after a low pressure system passed us by. By Saturday afternoon, it became apparent that there was a mechanical issue. The Captain and crew started to diagnose the problem, figuring out the scope of the problem and how to fix it. By Saturday evening, the decision was made to turn back to Lunenburg. The ship was not far from the Nova Scotia coast and still in Canadian waters. Had it been a summer-weather passage, we would likely have continued on to Bermuda, finding and fixing the problem while underway under sail. But winter in the North Atlantic is a different story. We played it safe and turned back for Lunenburg. On the way back, we found and fixed the problem (a leaky hose).

Picton Castle arrived in Lunenburg on Sunday morning in order to do a double-check of all systems and to find the next window of fair weather for a passage to Bermuda. The crew were in good spirits, all still eager to get to warmer weather in Bermuda. Even Chief Cook Donald, who is from the sunny, tropical Caribbean island of Grenada, didn’t seem too bothered by seeing some more snow.

Fast forward to this afternoon, when Picton Castle got underway for Bermuda for the second time in a week. She left without fanfare this time, just our shore crew to cast off the lines and a few onlookers who were in the right place at the right time to see her off. Picton Castle is anchored in Rose Bay this evening, staying overnight then will set sail tomorrow for Bermuda. The feeling of anticipation amongst the crew before a big voyage was just as strong today as it was last Thursday.

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Returning to Lunenburg

Because of a mechanical issue, Picton Castle is returning to our wharf in Lunenburg. The ship was close to home, still in Canadian waters, so we figured it is easiest and better to head back instead of working at sea this time of year to make the fix. The crew and cat are all well, and the ship is fine. We expect it to take a couple of days to resolve the issue, then we’ll set sail for Bermuda again in the next weather window.

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Setting Sail From Lunenburg

It has been a while since we updated the Captain’s Log – we’ve been so busy getting Picton Castle ready to set sail from Lunenburg that we have been ignoring our blogging duties. We’ll bring you up to date on all the activities of the crew here at our home base in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada in the next few days.

However, we don’t want to wait to tell you about Picton Castle‘s planned departure from Lunenburg. The ship will get off the wharf at about 4:00pm on Thursday February 15, 2018 and head out to anchor in Lunenburg Harbour, then will get underway from the anchorage the following day once the final details are in order, bound for Bermuda.

All are welcome to join us on our wharf at 174 Bluenose Drive, Lunenburg, just before 4:00pm on February 15th to wish the ship and crew well on her upcoming voyage. Picton Castle is scheduled to return to Lunenburg in May 2019, so this will be the last chance to see her in Lunenburg for almost a year and a half.

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