27 July 2012
By Kate “Bob” Addison
9pm on Friday evening, and Picton Castle is at 45º54.0’N, 062º40.8’W in the Northumberland Strait between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. We’ve been at or near the same position for a couple of hours now, our 1 knot speed of advance entirely due to the current and nothing at all to do with the sails which, though set, are about as much use at this moment as the proverbial chocolate teapot. There isn’t any wind. The forecast that said the winds would go light was right. It’s barely a Force 1 out there. The sea is flat, gently rippled, smooth and glassy, reflecting the sunset of pink and blue. The sails are also flat, hanging from their yards, they look lifeless and strangely statuesque. Something about the sails reminds me of a rather dignified old man – you can tell that they used to be full of energy, full of life, but now they are calm and still.
Now all is quiet aboard the ship. The 8-12 watch has the deck, lead by Chief Mate Sam Sikkema. They are going about their business quietly so as not to wake the off watch, or disturb the peace of this beautiful evening. Hands are aloft stowing the royals for the night. A few of the off-watch are on deck too, lying on the hawsers up on the galley house with a book, or snoozing on the cargo hatch. There’s some whispered rope splicing practicing happening on the hatch too. Some of our trainee crew are just sailing with us for two weeks so they’re keen to make every moment count and learn as much as they can from our ship and her crew. It’s great to sail with people who are so keen to learn and get stuck in with what we do. Wonderful to sail with people who love our way of life.
It’s very quiet. Usually when we are underway there are the sounds of the ship to muffle the sounds of the crew walking, talking and working the ship. There’s usually the sound of the ocean slapping against the hull as it cuts through the water, and the whistle of the wind as it blows through the rig. Usually there’s the creak of timbers and lines and canvas. All pleasant gentle noises that help lull a tired sailor to sleep. But tonight it’s more like the silence of being at anchor. No water moving past the hull right now; we’re drifting wherever the water is going. No wind making the rigging sing. No ocean swell here in Northumberland Strait. The quiet makes my fingers tapping at the keyboard sound obnoxiously loud.
Port Hawkesbury, Cape Breton Island, and on the Strait of Canso, was another successful event for us, and a very pleasant time. Peacemaker, Bounty, Gazela, Sorca, Appledore IV and Appledore V all alongside the same big pier as Picton Castle. Theodore Tugboat was just on the other side of the marina. He’s pretty awesome, that little tug with his bright red base-ball cap and big fixed smile. We were wondering if his expression becomes less cheerful when he’s battling into a headwind or big seas, or towing a heavy ship? Either way Theodore was a big hit with the youngsters in Port Hawkesbury. They like the sailing ships and all, but a tug boat with a smiley face and a red hat? Whoah! That’s even cooler than the pony rides, and foam lobsters on sticks, which were also trending amongst the smaller residents of Nova Scotia. There was a big tent set up at the end of the dock right in front of the yacht club, and here there was music and dancing and delicious foods. All together a very lovely time for all. The Picton Castle was well remembered from previous visits and called the event’s “Signature Ship”.
Tomorrow we’ll arrive into Pugwash for our last summer festival. It’s only about 40 miles from here where we drift, so we’ll start steaming at some point tonight to pick up our pilot early in the morning. But for now we’re just enjoying the peace of a sunset on the ocean.