Captain's Log

Archive for the 'World Voyage 7' Category

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Picton Castle sailing into Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Our ocean wandering sail training ship, the Barque Picton Castle, has sailed into Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada and came alongside to complete a voyage around the world.  This is the ship’s seventh global circumnavigation out of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Perhaps a modern day record. Last port was St George’s, Bermuda after stops at Grenada, the Saintes, and Jost Van Dyke in the Caribbean after a nice long passage from South Africa.

This gang of Picton Castle World Voyage 7 seafarers, from many walks of life, soon to walk down the gangway with a sea bag held by calloused hands on tanned shoulders, have sailed over 30,000 nautical miles at sea, put into 27 ports of call, sailing the North Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, Panama Canal, South Pacific Ocean, Coral Sea, Arafura Sea, Timor Sea, South Indian Ocean, Cape of Good Hope, South Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, crossing the Equator twice, and into the North Atlantic once again. A global expedition such as this is inevitably replete with superlatives. And conversely, a voyage like this, a true voyage, does not lend itself readily to easy sound bites.

Our ship and crew have experienced balmy warm trade wind passages day after day. But also sailed through many a cold wet stormy rainy day. We have sailed under many starry nights, the sky inky black bedazzled with diamonds above. The gang has learned to handle sails and get them in swiftly in violent squalls, hauling on stiff manila lines. We have had cool days, calling for jackets and foul weather gear off Cape of Good Hope. And we have had scorching hot days, eyeballs sweating, in the torrid Torres Strait separating Papua New Guinea and Australia.

Mostly we have sailed over smooth seas, but rough seas have been our lot from time to time as well. We have been beguiled by any number of quiet and ever so remote island anchorages and lagoons such as magical Mangareva, French Polynesia or Asanvari Cove, Vanuatu. We have anchored or hove-to off storied and beloved Pitcairn Island, crashing into Bounty Bay in 40 foot longboats. Bustling seaports such as Suva, Fiji, Serangan, Bali and Cape Town, South Africa have hosted the Picton Castle and her adventurous crew. We have had short two day, even one day passages between charming islands in the Caribbean and passages across oceans lasting weeks under sail with nothing but rolling blue seas and skies around us.

On this one year ocean odyssey, the men and women who make up the Picton Castle crew came aboard as lands folk bewildered by the rig and the ways of a ship at sea but will be signing off as blue water seafarers of the highest order. It will take years to digest this experience. It is after all, hardly just one experience, is it? And their friends will ask “how was your trip?” How does one answer that? After climbing the tallest mountain, one may as well be asked “how was your walk?”

In addition to learning and absorbing a great deal about the way of a ship at sea – and putting into some distant and remote ports experiencing whole new levels of welcome, friendliness and hospitality almost everywhere we anchored, our Picton Castle crew helped deliver much needed supplies to remote Pitcairn Island and Palmerston Atoll. They helped our doctor conduct shade-tree medical clinics in the Vanuatu islands. With some pride and satisfaction they delivered literally tons of school books and supplies donated in Nova Scotia and New Orleans to needy South African schools. Sometimes these schools with qualified teachers and eager children barely have chalk for the blackboards. Those who donated these valuable books and supplies in Nova Scotia can be proud too.

Our crew steered their ship every mile around the world, kept lookout all night long and kept the ship up as sailing ship sailors must do. They stood watches at sea and also in port when it stands to reason many would have loved to have been ashore. They learned to splice rope, seize rope, tie knots, belay safely, go aloft and muzzle wet canvas and handle the 205 manila lines from deck so those aloft could get that job done. They have made days with the main engine lumbering along in rolling seas – and have sailed for days on end with decks as dry as can be under clipper ship studding sails.

They have painted, varnished, tarred, oiled, scrubbed, chipped, caulked, scraped, sewed canvas into sails, and cooked and cleaned up after us all in turn. They have done safety drills to prepare them for emergencies. They have had swim calls on calm days in mid-ocean. They hove up what must seem like miles of 1-1/4” anchor chain with a heavy anchor at the other end, time after time getting underway from the last island headed for the next. They handled sextants and small boats and a few even learned some diesel engineering if they sought to.

They have bargained in shops in Bali for colourful kites, carvings and fabrics and traded for curios and baskets in palm-fringed South Pacific coves. Some have dived on coral reefs, many have trekked remote trails ashore. We have all known happiness and joy, and also frustration and disappointment, even sadness at times. Yet these are deep-sea seafarers of the first order sailing into Lunenburg in the Picton Castle. They will meet scant few peers in the coming years.

The route and ports of call for this voyage include New Orleans, Portobello and Balboa in Panama, San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands, Pitcairn Island, Mangareva in French Polynesia, Rarotonga and Palmerston Atoll in the Cook Islands, Vava’u in the Kingdom of Tonga, Suva in Fiji, Espiritu Santo, Banam Bay, Malekua Island, Asanvari, Maewo Island in Vanuatu, Bali, Rodrigues Island, Reunion Island off Madagascar, Cape Town in South Africa, Luderitz in Namibia, St. Helena, Cariacou, Grenada, Guadeloupe, the British Virgin Islands, and Bermuda only 730 nautical miles south of Lunenburg.

In 1996 the Picton Castle steamed into Lunenburg from Norway. Here she was completely refitted for ocean voyaging under square sail by Lunenburg area marine artisans. All her masts, rigging, blocks, steel and iron work, hull work and sails were made in Lunenburg shipyards and workshops, stirring up renewed interest and passion for the working waterfront of this famous and hard working seaport town. The Lunenburg Foundry, Scotia Trawlers (the former Smith & Rhuland), Snyder’s Shipyard, Dauphinee Blocks, Vernon Walter’s Blacksmith, Aubrey Zinck’s Git-‘Er-Done-Gang, Lunenburg Hardware, Clearwater’s Deep Sea Trawlers, Michele Stevens’ Sailloft, and many others in and around Lunenburg County all helped to create this ship as we know her today. And of course, the Picton Castle rigging gang. Now, 23 years and 300,000 nautical miles later she sails into port again.

When Picton Castle was about to set sail on her first of many globe circling voyages in 1997, I was told by renowned Captain Henry Kohler (of the famous three-masted research vessel Vema) at the time Picton Castle was first setting off outward bound, that there were more men alive who had walked on the moon than had sailed around the world in a real proper square rigged sailing ship.  Seven world voyages later this balance has been well reversed in favour of the square rig circumnavigators out of Lunenburg, men and women both. A truly international gang, her crew on this voyage alone hailed from 20 different nations. Canada, USA, Grenada, England, France, Scotland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Australia, Tonga, Bermuda, Spain, Switzerland, China, Belgium, South Africa, New Zealand and Germany. And a cat from Fiji. Also one from Bridgewater.

This is the ship’s last world voyage under my command. But hardly her last voyage taking adventurous souls to sea in square-rig. In a couple weeks, under the command of veteran mariner Captain Dirk Lorenzen, Picton Castle will set off to the Great Lakes with the magnificent and beautiful schooners Bluenose II and Pride of Baltimore II to join a fleet of tall ships assembling for a Tall Ships Challenge series of sailing and port visits. And then starting next May 2020, Picton Castle will be setting sail for the Azores, Ireland and Scandinavia and exploring the rich Atlantic of Northern Europe, on to Morocco and Senegal in West Africa and then to the delightful and still severely under-explored eastern Caribbean islands, all the while challenging crew and trainees to learn “the way of a ship”, attain many skills required of seafaring under sail, and some of good citizenship too, perhaps.

After a year and more of deep-sea, blue-water, voyaging under canvas, Picton Castle and her crew sailed into Lunenburg Harbour this day, took in and furled sail, sails they had made themselves, and made fast to the dock for the last time on this incredible voyage. The voyage may be done but it is never over.

“Mate, that will do the watches.”

Fair winds at your backs, shipmates.

Daniel Moreland

Master of the Barque PICTON CASTLE, WV-7

June 1st, 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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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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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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Day’s Run – 17 May 2019

Wind petered out this morning and was light all night. At 1000 Engineer Deyan fired up the main engine and we are pushing. Weather is perfectly nice, just light winds. Crew are sanding and painting the chart house. Dirk is making a plank for ANN, the 16′ Palmerston Atoll cutter we are restoring. Lists are getting finished for Lunenburg. Sailmaking is ongoing on the quarterdeck. Navigators are still with sextant in hand. Erin is leading lessons in charts and piloting. We bought 700 eggs in Grenada and we are eating them.

Date: May 17,  2019

From: Jost Van Dyke, BVI, West Indies

Towards: St George’s, Bermuda

Noon position: 21°-39′ North Latitude / 063°-27′ 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: 1019 and steady

Sky: sunny, partly cloudy, very nice

Water temperature: 26.5C – 80F

Distance made good in 24 hours: 76 nautical miles

Distance to next port: 639 nautical miles in a straight line. But, of course, we are not sailing in a straight line.

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Landfall – British Virgin Islands – May 11, 2019

With the Saintes and Nevis well astern we kept sailing for the British Virgin Islands and Jost Van Dyke. At dawn, the day came in cloudy and warm. Wind was fair on the starboard quarter, seas modest. On the misty horizon ahead we could see the tips of the many Virgin Islands, so named by Columbus a long time ago after St Ursula and her 11,000 virgins. I have no idea who St Ursula and the girls were. But it sure looks like a lot of islands as we approach. And then it becomes clear that there are fewer as the multiple peaks turn into one island or so. Still plenty islands though. From the east we see Virgin Gorda, Ginger, Cooper, Salt, Deadman’s Chest, Tortola, Peter Island, Norman Island and the US island of St John towards the west. St Thomas is off in the distance and out of view.

Into Sir Frances Drake Channel we slip in to Salt Island Passage at about 0830 and sail almost over the wreck of the RMS Rhone, a famous wreck of a big iron steam and sail mail ship lost in a hurricane in 1867. A horrific loss at the time. Hurricane Irma was a reminder of how bad a hurricane can be hereabouts. Once past Salt Island and Deadman’s Chest (yep, that’s its name) we squared the yards for the run down the channel between the islands. Many bare-boats sailing or motoring around. For reasons we do not understand many of these sloop rigged catamarans under charter seem to prefer to motor downwind instead of unfurling a big genoa and sailing along quietly. A mystery. 

The Picton Castle sailed gently down Sir Francis Drake Channel pointing out various islands and anchorages and introducing a bit of history. Piracy, free-ports, sugar, slaves, rum, terrible tropical diseases of yore, islands changing flags with frequency, the post-colonial era. The islands are dry. They seemed scoured from Hurricane Irma. But rebuilding well underway it seems from afar. Soon enough we came up to the narrow pass at Soper’s Hole and West End Tortola. This we need to negotiate to get to the north of Tortola and to Jost Van Dyke’s Great Harbour. The gang braced up on the starboard tack and remained at the braces and for quick sail handling. Chief Mate Erin took the wheel and sailed the ship through this dog-leg slot without using the engine. Then it was only three and a half miles to Jost. With all sail trimmed just so, Erin sailed the ship right up to the anchor. With some swift sail handling and backing of the main yards to stop the ship from hitting the island,  we let the anchor go in four fathoms and backed the ship down under main topsails until the hook got a good hold. Clew up and furl the sails. The passage was done. Next, launch the longboat and the beautiful Lunenburg/Senegal Dory known as Sea Never Dry. Jost Van Dyke is about as good as it gets for ambitious small boat sailing.

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Îles des Saintes

Two days after sailing due north from St George’s, Grenada, the small group of islands known as “the Saints” lay on the horizon ahead. The Picton Castle had sailed past Bequia, St Vincent, St Lucia, Martinique and Dominica to make for the charming Saints. A decent passage it was. In the lee of the bigger islands winds died down even though these islands were almost 40 miles away. In the lee of the passages between islands both the winds and seas picked up again. Just about 0800 we closed with the narrow pass that would lead us into a nice anchorage off Terre De Haute. Anchor down, skiff in straight away to get cleared in as quickly as possible. We wanted to make the most of this short stop. Time is running out and we must get north to Lunenburg for June 1. Hard to imagine that after more than a year and over 30,000 miles that we are in a hurry now.

Back to Les Saintes…

Once anchored Tammy and Dirk scooted into the town, got us cleared in (and out) the free watch went ashore. Terre De Haute is a beautiful small town, on a sweet little bay, once a sleepy small French West Indian fishing village, now, while still fishing, very much a destination for travelers coming from Guadeloupe and, no doubt, France. And thus plenty of shops, cafes, restaurants and so on. The beach in town is clean and welcoming. Excelent dinghy docks. A perfect place to do nothing at all. Not cheap though. The Euro has made its claim here. So, the gang wandered through the village, enjoyed French style and French island dining. Some walked the half mile over the island to a beach on the windward side. Some found places to snorkel. Picnics with baguettes and cheese and salmon made lots of sense. Dawson found a beach right near the fish cleaning station and a grocery store so he and his family spent most of a day there in the shade of an almond tree listening to French reggae music and watching people going by. The very definition of “limin”. Then we sailed NW for the British Virgin Islands. And Jost Van Foxy’s. From here we will sail north for Bermuda and out of our beloved tradewinds and tropics into the North Atlantic.

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