Over the past week, Picton Castle and our wharf and warehouse have been involved in a top secret project here in Lunenburg that we unfortunately can’t tell you anything about yet, but we can tell you about moving the ship at the wharf.
Most of the wharves in Lunenburg are like fingers, extending out from the land into the harbour. In order to do this project, we had to move Picton Castle from her usual berth alongside the east face of the wharf to a position perpendicular to the end of the wharf. In both positions, the starboard side of the ship is facing the wharf, so to move her we had to bring her ahead, make a right turn at the end of the wharf, and bring her ahead again so the wharf looked like it was T-boning the ship amidships.
Saying it that way makes it sound like a quick and easy process. While it’s not a difficult manouever, it did take some time, smart line handling, and work with the anchor chain.
When Picton Castle docks in Lunenburg for an extended stay, we do it the way you see it done in all the old photos of winter in Lunenburg harbour – all the vessels with their sterns towards shore and anchors out ahead. Captain Henry Kohler, famous Lunenburg master of the three-masted research vessel Vema, told Captain Moreland that this is the best way to moor a ship over the winter in Lunenburg harbour. Doing this takes a lot of strain off the hawsers and the dock, rarely do mooring hawsers part and the wharf is saved wear and tear as well. When Picton Castle sailed back from the Great Lakes in September 2019, this is exactly what we did, we let go our 1,500 pound anchor 250 feet or so ahead of the end of the wharf, then backed the ship in slowly while letting out anchor chain. Over time, the anchor and the chain get buried in the mud at the bottom of the harbour and help keep the ship stay very secure over a stormy winter.
So to move the ship for this project, not only did we have to deal with the mooring lines, we also had to deal with anchor chain that had been in the mud for a year. We used the windlass to heave in some chain to get it unstuck to bring the ship ahead, then had to let out more chain to move ahead as Picton Castle turned the corner.
We had local Captain Walter Flower standing by in his zodiac to give Picton Castle a push as necessary, but we did it mostly with human power aboard, just four to six people, both by hauling on lines and using the capstan to warp the vessel around, to teach our gang aboard that hauling and easing the right combination of lines can make the ship move.
Of course, after we moved Picton Castle to the end of the wharf last Tuesday, we had to move her back. Luckily for us, the weather cooperated while the ship was at the end of the wharf and we got a flat calm day on Sunday to bring the ship back to her usual spot before an expected northerly wind on Monday. To move Picton Castle back, we basically reversed what we did the week before, hauling where we eased, easing where we hauled. We did not get all of the anchor chain heaved back in that we had put out on Tuesday, so over the coming week we’ll work away at that with the windlass, doing a bit each day. For the small gang still aboard, this was an educational exercise and they got experience handling heavy mooring lines under strain. And considering six people moved a ship of about 600 tons of displacement, we’re all feeling very strong!