Captain's Log

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Day’s Run – 2 February 2019

A fine sailing day at sea. Seas diminished, wind faired, yards almost squared, sparkling seas and nothing but blue sky. In sailmaking, the new spanker is almost done with Tammy roping and John stitching cringles. Spot painting in the dry weather, easy sailing as we head across the Mozambique Channel. Excellent rices bought at Reunion find their way to the meal tables. For the dedicated, sextants out in force to catch the sun, Mates and Captain fine-tuning plans for the Cape Town visit. Workshop yesterday was on serving rigging, and today’s will be to get a start on turks heads, rope mats and fancy ropework. Saturday at sea might include a few naps too. Cats playing in the scuppers with small bits of marlin.

From: Reunion

Towards:  Cape Town, South Africa

Date: Sat Feb 2nd, 2019

Noon Position: 26° 38’S x 046°50’E

Course + Speed: Swly + 5.5 kts

Wind direction + Force: ESE at 4

Swell Height: 2-3m

Weather: sunny, partly cloudy

Day’s Run: 123 nautical miles

Passage Log: 585 nautical miles

Distance to Port: 1,532 nautical miles

Voyage: 18,312 nautical miles

Sails Set: all sail except spanker

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Day’s Run – 1 February 2019

Sweet sailing day today as we head for southern Madagascar, painting, sailmaking, varnishing, steering, sail handling all part of the day. Seas smoother and winds lighter but all pretty nice.

From: Reunion

Towards: Cape Town, South Africa

Date: Feb 1st, 2019

oon Position: 24° 28’S x 048°28’E

Course + Speed: SEly + 5.5 kts

Wind direction + Force: SE at 3/4

Swell Height: 2-3m

Weather: sunny, partly cloudy

Day’s Run: 90 nm

ails Set: all sail set

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Day’s Run – 31 January, 2019

Here at midday, the Picton Castle is bowling along towards a spot about 80 miles south of Madagascar where we will fall off and turn more westerly to cross the Mozambique Channel to make the coast of South Africa near the city of Durban. From there if all goes well we pick up the Agulhas Current and get a boost of speed headed for the the Cape. A lively day today. Sailmaking going on the quarterdeck. Extra lashings going on here and there. A large rainy squall engulfed us a few hours ago, no real blast in wind but once past the winds picked up nicely and faired a bit allowing us to brace in.

Today’s workshop: “Heavy Weather Preparation, Considerations and Practices”.

From: Reunion

Towards: Cape Town, South Africa

Date: Thursday, January 31st, 2019

Noon Position: 24°23′ S x 049°50’E

Course + Speed: SEly + 5.5 kts

Wind direction + Force: SE + 5

Swell Height: 3m to 4m

Weather: sunny, partly cloudy

Day’s Run: 113 nm

Distance to Port: 1710 nm

Voyage: 18,081.7 nm

Sails Set: Spanker, fores’l, tops’ls, t’gallants, royals, main topmast stays’l, main t’gallant stays’l, fore topmast stays’l, inner jib, outer jib

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Day’s Run – 30 January, 2019

The crew were close at hand on standby last night, anticipating sail handling under the dark, cloudy sky with groups of stars peering through, as the moon beamed through the cumulonimbus clouds with a gorgeous orange/yellow colour. This morning has come in overcast and we had slight periods of rain, which stopped the sailmakers’ work on the quarterdeck. Once the rain cleared, John of Massachusetts and Tammy of Nova Scotia continued their work on the new spanker’s brail patches and leech patch.

In between sail handling, bosun Anders of Denmark has been busy overhauling the main topmast staysail sheet pendants. Cutting off the old chafe gear, inspecting the serving underneath, and finding to his delight it looked remarkably well, the old chafe gear was doing its job. Applying tar onto the serving, Anders cut a new piece of chafe gear and sewed it into place. This morning’s 8-12 watch worked away at securing the deck, adding extra lashings to our deck boxes, vegetable and fruit lockers and of course the kitty litter boxes. We are headed for the Cape of Good Hope and the Captain says it could get rough. The seas have calmed down today, yet more busy waters lay ahead. Luckily for the galley team who are cooking dinner tonight, it’ll be a calm afternoon cooking. It’s a wonder how our cook Donald manages to create delicious, filling meals when the ship is rolling side to side as well as up and down.

From: Reunion

Towards: Cape Town, South Africa

Date: Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

Noon Position: 23°18.7′ S x 051°30.0’E

Course + Speed: NW by W + 5.8 kts

Wind direction + Force: SSW + 3

Swell Height + Direction: 3m + S bW

Weather: Overcast, bright

Day’s Run: 138.8 nm

Distance to Port: 1847 nm

Voyage: 17978.7 nm

Sails Set: Spanker, fores’l, tops’ls, t’gallants, royals, main topmast stays’l, main t’gallant staysail, fore topmast stays’l, inner jib, outer jib, flying jib

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Day’s Run – 29 January 2019

Our first day back at sea after nearly two weeks in port – a surprise extended stay on the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. A gorgeous landmass that allowed us to explore its mountains, traverse its volcanos and devour delicious French cheeses, meats, and breads.

As we steadily head southwest out of the tropics, which provided us with steady winds and seas, we are having to build up our stamina for heavier sailing. As our ship corkscrews through the seas, we sailors who have been ashore for 14 days now, are having to learn to navigate through the ship again, re-learn how to walk, handle sails, even the simplest of tasks such as eating and sleeping change. All in all, it’s a good challenge for us ‘flying fish sailors’ as the Cape Horners refer to those that sail the tropics.

First day out and the projects are underway. All of the bitts, the 8 bollards on the ship that we use to make our dock lines fast, were given a fresh coat of grey paint. Annie, of Ontario, and Sue, of England, had the fun, exciting and awkward job of bending on the mizzen staysail. Awkward because there are not many places to stand or sit while bending on this particular sail. With the extra rolls of the ship, lashing the hanks to the sail with robands while hanging on made for a rather comedic afternoon. We were able to enjoy a delicious dinner of chicken and spaghetti in the salon, not before a team of helpful crew members cleaned up a rather unfortunate food spillage accident on the ladder from the main deck to the salon. Be assured we all have a healthy appetite for our cook Donald’s delicious meals. The Captain lead a discussion about our passage in the afternoon, reminding crew members of the new territory, to get our minds back into sea mode and shake off the shore brain. It’s going to be a different passage ahead than we are used to, and the crew are happy to be back at sea!

From: Reunion

Towards: Cape Town, South Africa

Date: Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

Noon Position: 22°20.7’S x 053°47.2’E

Course + Speed: W b N + 4.9 kts

Wind direction + Force: SE by S + 4

Swell Height + Direction: S by W + 2-3m

Weather: Overcast, humid

Day’s Run: 112.8 nm

Passage Log: 109 nm

Distance to Port: 1985 nm

Voyage: 17838 nm

Sails Set: Fore topmast stays’l, inner jib, tops’ls, foresail

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Bound for the Cape

After a very pleasant stay in La Reunion, a French Island east of Madagascar in this South Indian Ocean, the Picton Castle and her adventurous crew are back at sea. After days and days of sunny dry weather, we had a few days of rain and squalls while in port, these being the trailings of a long gone cyclone. The crew made many expeditions into the remote mountains and up to the volcano, then it was time for last minute shopping for coffee, baguettes, fruit and potatoes, and rushing about before setting off for the passage.

We made jaunts ashore to our favorite shore spots, even the simple trailer cafe a short walk from the ship called The Blue Marlin, so frequented by our gang that soon we were given local prices. The cold drinks, salads and sandwiches were as delightful there as anywhere, so why go futher? Tammy and Annie found all sorts of beautiful baskets and crafts for our chandlery ashore as well as for our ship’s boutique on this coming summer’s voyage to the Great Lakes where we are joining other tall ships in a Tall Ships Challenge tour from June through August.

But it was surely time to go. Pilot aboard, engine rumbling, Tammy steered the ship confidently out of the narrow basin into the next small basin to the fuel dock where we turned the ship around and backed into a corner to take on eight tons of diesel fuel. About 1100 the pilot returned to ship and off we were into a gray and hot lumpy sea with little wind. This morning we shut down the main engine and set all sail as the wind picked up. Winds look fair for the next few days as far as we can see into the future with our weather forcasting.

We sailed from Reunion yesterday and now we have a fresh wind on the port beam and some pretty large seas. Must be a storm way down south, far away to make these three to five-meter seas. We are bound for the Cape of Good Hope. This is a passage of about 2,000 miles. We sail about 600 miles from Reunion to pass under the southern tip of Madagascar. Then it’s about another 800 miles to the coast of South Africa in the vicinity of Durban. We close with the coast there to catch the Agulhas Current, the east African analogue to the Gulf Stream which passes by swiftly near the coast. Like the Gulf Stream which is the outlet for all that hot water piled up in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico from easterly Atlantic tradewinds and shoots it away from the low latitudes, so the Agulhas is the outlet for the hot Indian Ocean water piled up on Africa from an ocean full of easterly trade winds. All this water has to go somewhere. So it gathers and makes a strong current along the coast and heads south at 2-4 knots right along the wall of the continental shelf and the 100-fathom curve. Right nearby Durban I expect to hook onto this current for a boost in speed.

Some time tomorrow the Picton Castle will cross the Tropic of Capricorn at 23 degrees, 26 minutes South and pass out of the tropics for the first time since last May. We will not really notice this but weather will be increasingly prone to changing in ways we have not seen for a long time. Going around southern Africa we will sail as far south as maybe 36 degrees south latitude, much the equivalent of Cape Hatteras in the northern hemisphere. But the Cape of Good Hope stands out into what was once called in the age of sail the “Great Southern Ocean”, the bottom of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans all around Antarctica, an area that has no land blocking the winds all around the southern world thus providing an unhindered path for wind and storms. It could get rough. But then that is why we make every effort to sail around here in the summertime when storms are least frequent around the Cape. And why we prepare and put extra lashings everywhere.

From southern Madagascar to Durban is about 800 miles followed by another 800 miles around the corner to Cape Town, Tavern Of The Seas.   

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Captain’s Log: La Reunion, France, Indian Ocean

The Picton Castle is alongside in the fine protected basin, part of the harbour of the commercial port near St Denis, Reunion Island in the western south Indian Ocean. We had a fine five day passage from Rodrigues. The entrance to the basin is a tight hairpin turn and then a channel about 60 feet wide making the approach pretty scary, but with my able helmsman Tammy at the wheel we slithered in just fine and made fast starboard side-to with no mishap.

Called “La Reunion”, this island is about 380 nautical miles east of Madagascar – a little piece of creole France deep in the tropics far from the metropolitan nation. But French it is. And charmingly creole as well. An interesting history of slavery, exploitation, and sugar cane not dissimilar to the West Indies, with a current vibrant population to match. And now great coffee, baguettes, cheese, patisserie, lovely markets and so on. But also much African nuance. Beautiful crafts, many from Madagascar, spices, hot peppers, tropical fruits and wine made up on the hills.

Roughly 120 miles in circumference, Reunion is home to about 900,000 people. More or less the population of Nova Scotia in a space 1/20th the size but not crowded. Great roads and infrastructure and the most amazing landscape of mountains in the steep, craggy, green mountainous interior. The shoreline is lovely tropical French island seaside villages. The interior is out of this world. Steep green mountains shrouded in mists. Crazy roads with no possible room for the bus and your rented car but somehow all survive. At the top there are wide barren volcanic calderas like a moonscape. The volcano blows and pours out lava from time to time and as one drives around the island this is plain to see. Great black fields of jagged lava rock with a few struggling plants pushing up.

Craft and fruit and vegetable markets are all over. Beautiful wooden chests, unlimited bright colourful woven baskets, mangos, pineapples, watermelons, pumpkins, yams, cassava, quail eggs and more at a market overlooking a windblown black lava sand beach with surf booming. Signs on the beach tell us not to swim due to sharks. Apparently there have been more shark attacks here in Reunion than along the entire coast of Africa over the last few years. There are a few beaches that are protected somehow and plenty swimming on the go. Dining out is a delight if not so cheap under the Euro. But the world’s best crème brule has been discovered right here in Reunion.

As we have been alongside this has meant no skiff runs and a good chance to get varnishing, painting, tarring and miscellaneous projects done. Also, of course, with a passage around the Cape of Good Hope bound for Cape Town coming up and a dip to 36 degrees south and well out of the tropics for awhile, this is the natural place to look at all ship stowage, setting up the rig and looking at pertinent safety issues such as the use of immersion suits.

I have delayed departure a few days to let a little cyclone blow by. An annoying little thing sliding down the Mozambique Channel that could not seem to make up its mind which way to go so I could make a rational plan to go around it – so, I figured we would just stay put until the little brute was gone. Now it’s behaving itself and going away. But we have used this time to get some good boat training in and generally tighten things up a bit. Oh, and pack all our goodies that we have gotten for sale at our shipboard boutique (along with ebony fids from Bali and miro fids from Pitcairn, great knives, sewing palms, needles, and all sorts of other stuff, and yes, t-shirts too) on this summer’s Tall Ship Challenge series of port festivals on the Great Lakes starting in June.

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Day’s Run – 13 January, 2019

How lucky we are to have a Sunday at Sea during our four-day passage from Rodrigues to Reunion! Sundays are sacred for sailors, a day to catch up on personal projects, reading, as well as sleep. With all ship’s work ceased, the ship’s decks have a pleasant calm washed over them. This morning’s breakfast was prepared by Jack, Nic and Kimba: delicious eggs with green and red peppers, blueberry oatmeal and a variety of fruit; apples, pineapple, dragon fruit and passion fruit. The well deck this morning was filled with shipmates hand washing and hanging their laundry to dry. Engineer Deyan constructed a fancy new shelf for his bunk, and Anders gleefully completed making his personal roping/sewing sailmaker’s palm and went straight into stitching his sea bag, while six-year-old Dawson educated the crew members lounging on the aloha deck about what a mammal is. After lunch, the crew were able to cool off with a refreshing power shower. It’s rather hot today, with little to no breeze cooling us down on deck most of us are seeking shade when we can or sporting ever so stylish large hats to protect us from the sun. This evening at 1700 the Captain will host a discussion on Reunion, to brief the crew on docking as well as what the island entails and his personal recommendations on what to see and do on the French colonial Indian Ocean island.
From: Rodrigues

Towards: Reunion

Date: Sunday, January 13th, 2019

Noon Position: 20°56.2’S x 058°18.0′ E

Course + Speed: NW + 6

Weather: Hot, sunny

Day’s Run: 110.9 nm

Passage Log: 301.9 nm

Distance to Port: 168.3 nm

Voyage: 17496.5 nm

Sails Set: All square sails are set

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Day’s Run – 12 January, 2019

As we steadily sail along today between 5 – 6 knots, crew members are taking advantage of the lovely sunny weather with the perfect sea breeze whisking through our rigging and stays, cooling our sun-warmed faces. This morning a few work tasks were completed before our half day off work this Saturday afternoon could commence. The two fruit lockers on the quarterdeck received a top coat of fresh buff paint. The door and door frame that leads from the well deck into the carpenter’s shop got a fresh coat of varnish. On the quarterdeck, sailmaker John of Massachusetts finished up the last few stitches of the royal CT 15’s new sun patch. After lunch the paint locker was closed up for the day, the sailmaker packed up his sail making tools and project and all work was laid to rest. The on-duty watch were able to bring out a book on deck or a personal project and plunk away while being on stand by for sail handling.

From: Rodrigues

Towards: Reunion

Date: Saturday, January 12th, 2019

Noon Position: 20°42.8′ S x 060°15.8’E

Course + Speed: W 1/2 N + 4.6 kts

Wind direction + Force: E + 3-4

Swell Height + Direction: 1-2m + Easterly

Weather: Sunny

Day’s Run: 109.7 nm

Passage Log: 186.5 nm

Distance to Port: 278.9 nm

Voyage: 17381.1 nm

Sails Set: All sails set

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Day’s Run – 11 January, 2019

First day back out to sea. It always feels good to be back to our regular schedule. Away from the hustle and bustle of port, back out in the open ocean air. Ship’s work resumed as usual. Rhyanne, of South Carolina, was given the task of touching up our ship’s emblem; a castle turret with an anchor imprinted on it and a dragon wrapped around the turret. We have two, one on either side of the funnel on the stackhouse, high above our quarterdeck, looking out over the vessel like gargoyles on a church. Our Lunenburg dory, Sea Never Dry’s bottom is looking refreshed, after a few coats of bottom paint and a top coat she’ll float better than ever.

In the afternoon, the Captain and our Chief Mate held seamanship workshop on coiling. How to properly coil a line whether it’s on deck or coiled in your hand, followed by how to coil hawsers and coils made for running, which lead into practicing coiling the head sail halyards for running and then testing the newly learned technique by taking in all four head sails at once, a rather fun exercise to end the workday off with.

From: Rodrigues

Towards: Reunion

Date: Friday, January 11th, 2019

Noon Position: 19°53.8’S x 062°00.0’E

Course + Speed: W by N 3/4 N + 3.8 kts

Wind direction + Force: E + 4

Swell Height + Direction: 1-2m + ENE

Weather: Sunny

Day’s Run: 78.6 nm

Passage Log: 76 nm

Distance to Port: 382.6 nm

Voyage: 17270.6 nm

Sails Set: All sails set,

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