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Blue Water Blogs: Picton Castle

Posted by Tall Ships America on December 4, 2014

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Join PICTON CASTLE as her crew sails west across the Indian Ocean towards the Cape of Good Hope

Stunsails set. (Photo Courtesy of Picton Castle)

November 13, 2014 – 18°44.1’’S x 077°08.6’’E (Bali, Indonesia to Reunion Island, France, Indian Ocean)
“Today’s afternoon workshop was on studdingsails or stunsl’s – the large sails set to windward of the foreyards on special booms in light airs; the history, the ships that carried them and how we rig up for and set stunsles in the PICTON CASTLE. If the wind stays consistently light, we might be able to rig them in the next day or two. Plenty breeze now though. To explain why that makes us so happy, here’s an archive shot of PICTON CASTLE taken in the Indian Ocean a few years ago with all stuns’ls set.  Pretty, no?”

November 14, 2014 – 18°49.6’S x 074°49.6’E (Bali, Indonesia to Rodrigues Island, Mauritius)
“The Captain gave an update on our passage so far this afternoon. He spoke about our anticipated ports of call at Rodriguez Island, part of Mauritus and described by Joseph Conrad as the ‘sugary pearl of the Indian Ocean’. Also La Renuion Island, another 500nm on from Rodriguez and a French Territory and thus in our imaginations source of endless croissants, baguettes, red wine and good cheese. Apparently the crème brulee there is unbeatable. Both islands sound very lovely but it’s also a little sad that we’re thinking about the end of this passage already, it seems to be going very quickly.”

November 15, 2014 – 19°09.6’S x 072°20.5’E (Bali, Indonesia to Rodrigues Island, Mauritius)
“The constant winds from astern have been building the ocean swell over the last few days and it’s now all of three meters.  While it’s fun standing on the quarterdeck on a sunny afternoon and watching your world rise under your feet and then fall away with the sparkling blue sea, it does get tiring, even just standing still or walking around.  It’s both Alex and Peter’s birthdays today so two cakes!”

Christian (Denmark) and Anne-Mette (Denmark) practice coiling (Photo Courtesy of Picton Castle)

Christian (Denmark) and Anne-Mette (Denmark) practice coiling (Photo Courtesy of Picton Castle)

November 16, 2014 – 19°22.2’S x 070°46.4’E (Bali, Indonesia to Rodrigues Island, Mauritius)
“A ‘tropical disturbance’ has appeared on the long range weather forecasts about seven hundred miles north of our course near Diego Garcia.  It’s a low pressure system, which is not yet a cyclone, but we are monitoring the forecasts carefully to see how it develops and tracks.  Its predicted path is south and then west over the next four days, possibly passing right over Rodrigues Island, though at the moment it looks like it will pass to the north.  The harbour there is pretty well sheltered from swell, but open to north east winds so it’s better for us not to be there in a blow.  Currently we are braced up sharp on a port tack, heading almost south so as to make as little westing as possible – we’re effectively tapping the breaks so that this system can blow in front and to the north of us while we monitor the forecasts closely.  Meanwhile, skies are blue and winds are light enough – hard to believe there might be some weather coming.  Goey brownies for Terry’s birthday today.”

November 17 2014 – 20°21.5’S x 069°42.4’E (Bali, Indonesia to Rodrigues Island, Mauritius)
“The Tropical Disturbance has been named ‘Adjali’ and classified as a Tropical Storm.  This in from AccuWeather.com: ‘…Adjali formed Sunday afternoon, EST, in the central Indian Ocean 415 miles west-southwest of Diego Garcia. The system is moving to the south at around 6 mph. Winds with the system are around 45 mph with gusts to 60 mph.’ The system is still forecast to continue moving slowly southwards, and then turn more to the west and weaken as it moves over cooler water.  We are still braced up sharp and are heading south slowly to give the system plenty of sea room to pass well clear of us to starboard.  Once it’s clear that it has passed over we’ll get back on course.  For now it’s sunny and pleasant sailing. Not even a hint of a tropical storm anywhere near. Barometer is high as well. Saw a small fishing boat today, we assume it was out of Mauritius.

Indian Ocean Update By Kate “Bob” Addison: 22 days out of Bali and all is well aboard Picton Castle as we make a fine passage across the Indian Ocean. It’s a long way from Bali to Cape Town and there’s almost nothing in between except blue sky, blue swell and a little white barque impudently dancing her way over the ocean, white sails filled with the sweet trade winds, and helped along her way by a fair ocean current.

The Pacific Ocean is bigger than the Indian Ocean, but it’s all scattered with islands, and west of Pitcairn the longest passage we ever make is only a couple of weeks. So it’s a rare treat to get a full month at sea, and we are enjoying it very much.

There are inconveniences of course: we ran out of bananas after two weeks at sea, and now fresh provisions are down to potatoes, onions, garlic and pumpkin. But we still have tins of fruit, frozen vegetables and juice concentrate, so we should be safe from the dreaded scurvy.

We’re conserving water more than usual at the moment because of a leaking seal in one of the water-makers which means we can still make water, but not as fast as usual. Our tanks are huge, and pressed-up full at the moment so there would be enough for all hands for drinking and cooking for 2-3 months if we were to move to strict rationing, but for now we’re just asking people to use as little fresh water as possible in their showers, go easy on the laundry and to wash dishes in salt water, with just the final rinse in fresh. The crowd took the news cheerfully, most seeing it as all part of the adventure.

Bob (UK) seizing the fish tackle. (Photo Courtesy of Picton Castle)

Bob (UK) seizing the fish tackle. (Photo Courtesy of Picton Castle)

The Indian Ocean swell is famously big and can be steep too, as the trade winds blow consistent and uninterrupted across this large expanse of water, building the ocean up into big blue waves rolling one behind the other all the way down to Africa. The swell has only been a meter or two in height for most of this passage, which is quite easy to live with aboard a ship the size of Picton Castle, though even that would be plenty of movement in a yacht. It got up to four meters a couple of days ago and that was less fun. Anything unlashed took flight, and there were heaps of annoying noises to track down and fix as the roll made anything move that could: things hanging on hooks bashed into their bulkheads; plates and cleaning supplies clattered from side to side in the racks and lockers of the scullery; and doors that were latched open slammed impatiently against their latches until wedged with rags or lashed tightly enough to stop any movement. It’s tiring just walking around when your whole world is prancing about, and even sleeping is tricky – you have to figure out how to wedge yourself in without rolling around too much. Sometimes it’s a curse to have such big, comfortable bunks!

But the swell has eased off now, and the downsides of a life at sea seem pretty trivial compared to how wonderful it is just to be here, crossing this great ocean with a gang of cheerful sailors in a strong and well found ship.

The scenery here is magnificent, if mostly blue. On a sunny day (and it’s only rained twice in the last three weeks), the sea is an intense, bright blue that sparkles on the tips of the ripples with cut-glass brilliance against the backcloth of rippling ultramarine silk.

The trades winds have been blowing strong and sweet and consistent for more or less the whole passage, filling our sails happily from a couple days out of Bali and ever since. When it gets up past a force four or so the wind is strong enough to make the little wavelets break on top of the rollers, and the white caps sprinkled about the waves look like flowers scattered by the handful, smudged across the sapphire seas.

The sky has been blue ever since Bali too, the shade varying from blue to blue. Most days it’s a pale, clear watercolour wash, dotted with the whitest fluffiest clouds like a child’s interpretation of a sunny day at the beach. Some days the clouds are stretched out into the gauzy streaks of cirrus that mean fair weather, and then the sky’s colour is a little stronger. Occasionally they build into a greyish sheet, sucking the colour out of the sky until it becomes whitish, like snow is coming. It might be November, but we’re not actually expecting snow here any time soon – the temperature has been between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius, (or in the 80s Fahrenheit) since forever.

Twilight is short here in the tropics, night and day both seem impatient to follow each other, but the gold and pink of sunrise and sunset is always lovely. Then at night, the blue sky intensifies and darkens until it’s black or almost black, with the stars hanging above, majestic and infinite seeming. The horizon is an unbroken circle all around, the great dome of the skies arching up overhead. We could be in a planetarium watching the constellations as they make their familiar tracks night after night. The only interruptions are the occasional cloud scudding along and the great black blocks of the square sails arcing slowly back and forth. The masts and spars look like the sticks controlling a shadow-puppet-barque pivoting her way across a grand open-air theatre.

And the days seem to roll along with the waves, following one behind the other in a mellow cycle of work, rest, food and sleep. It all gets so routine after a while that you have to make a conscious effort to look up, take it all in, and remember how rare it is to do what we do everyday.”

November 18, 2014 – 21°44.5’S x 069°10.3’E (Bali, Indonesia to Rodrigues Island, Mauritius)
“Abandon ship drills in the afternoon – all hands mustered by their assigned liferaft in personal flotation devices.  We closed all port holes and watertight doors, got all abandon ship gear on deck and discussed the use of SARTs, EPIRBs and so on.”

Elsa (Sweden) helps Nate (USA) don fire fighting gear. (Photo Courtesy of Picton Castle)

Elsa (Sweden) helps Nate (USA) don fire fighting gear. (Photo Courtesy of Picton Castle)

November 19, 2014 – 23°03.6’S x 068°53.7’E (Bali, Indonesia to Rodrigues Island, Mauritius)
“Fire fighting drills this afternoon. Always good to do on a regular basis.”

Looking Back on Bali by Trainee Kurt Schultz – Bali is an island nation of contrasts. My experience didn’t start as well as hoped. After travelling almost 24 hours to reach Bali, I made the mistake of avoiding the airport taxi stand in order to get a better deal from one of the many drivers outside, all wearing identical green flower print shirts. My mistake! Instead of the roughly $8 US fee I would have paid, I ended up paying $20 for the “very far” taxi ride. Later we found that the BLUEBIRD GROUP metered taxis were the best, most reliable to use and we used them exclusively from then onwards. I arrived on October 3rd and met several of the (also tired) apprentices and trainees waiting at the Bali Marina for the ship to clear customs and send the skiff to bring us all aboard. After a few days of learning the ship’s routines and getting split into watches we had some time off by watches. Making good use of the Captain’s good friend and local guide, Made Alon, we arranged some tours and found local guest houses to see the sights and spend some time exploring Bali.

There are a couple of sides to Bali. We saw some grand temples and dances (and dances at temples), rice fields, a coffee plantation where we drank the famous LUWOK coffee (also jokingly known as “CAT-POO-CINO”) as the coffee beans are first eaten by the luwok, a cat-like creature related to the mongoose, then harvested from the luwoks’ excrement, cleaned and roasted. You might remember it as being on Morgan Freeman’s list of things to do before he dies in the movie BUCKET LIST. We also climbed a volcano at 3 in the morning in order to be near the top for sunrise. One of the highlights of that hike was having to trick a monkey in order to reclaim the water bottle he had stolen out of the pocket of my daypack while it was still on my back. We won’t go into details about my other monkey encounters at a monkey filled temple. Suffice it to say that our guide had to clean off the back of my shirt after the monkey leapt onto my neck while unsuccessfully trying to steal my ‘Texas Longhorns’ baseball cap!

I wasn’t a huge fan of the uber-touristy areas such as Kuta Beach, but it was well worth a visit just because it has a nice beach with beachside restaurants and all the shopping stalls and booths you could ever imagine (I eventually bought a nice farmers’ sun hat!). My favourite experience so far was taking a boat over to the small island of Nusa Lombongo. It had a nice small town pace and I was able to walk about 3 miles outside of town to where the road ended at a mangrove forest. The snorkeling out there was fantastic too, much less frenetic and nicer reefs than the ones close to Benoa Harbour. I saw 3 manta rays and even had one swim up to within three feet of me. More to come!”

November 20, 2014 – 23°52.4’S x 067°59.1’E (Bali, Indonesia to Rodrigues Island, Mauritius)
“Tropical Storm Adjali has weakened significantly, and at dawn we turned to get back on course.  We’re now on a starboard tack steering northwest. We’re still making good time for this passage, despite the delay to let Adjali run its course, so we’re heading towards Rodrigues Island about 500 miles to the east of Reunion. Coiling workshop today – different ways to coil and flake hawsers, halyards and whatnot.”

Alex and Emil running aloft. (Photo Courtesy of Picton Castle)

Alex and Emil running aloft. (Photo Courtesy of Picton Castle)

November 21, 2014 – 22°13.6’S x 066°10.2’E (Bali, Indonesia to Rodrigues Island, Mauritius)
“Just a perfect day of trade wind sailing!  Yesterday was Morten’s birthday so we had special Danish cake on the quarterdeck after dinner.”

November 22, 2014 – 22°47.6’S x 064°55.5’E (Bali, Indonesia to Rodrigues Island, Mauritius)
“After 27 days at sea, we’re expecting to make land fall tomorrow!  Rodrigues, Mauritius is just 100nm to the nor’west, and we’re romping along, running down the last few miles quickly now.  It seems the ship is as keen to make land as the crew!

November 23, 2014 – 19°39.5’S x 063°25.3’E (Alongside in Port Mathurin, Rodrigues Island, Mauritius)
“The first sighting was early in the morning and the island grew bigger and more distinct as the morning wore on.  All hands were called after lunch to prepare to come alongside.  Tammy did a great job of steering us in through the winding channel, with Scott standing by for extra muscle spinning the wheel hard over.  We had lines ashore by 2pm, and were all cleared in by 5.  First impressions of Rodrigues are of a delightful and laid back Creole Island with strong French influence, friendly easy going people, and great food. Can’t wait to explore more!”

November 28, 2014 – 19°39.5’S x 063°25.3’E (Alongside in Port Mathurin, Rodrigues Island, Mauritius)
“After a 28-day passage across the Indian Ocean, Picton Castle is currently in port at the island of Rodrigues in the country of Mauritius.  With Captain Moreland keeping a close eye on the weather, the ship successfully dodged Tropical Storm Adjali on the way, slowing down and heading south in order to let the storm pass ahead.  We’re keeping an eye on another developing weather system and will get underway for the island of Reunion when we can.  From there, we’ll round the Cape of Good Hope, arriving in Cape Town in early January.”

“Our ship’s itinerary is always evolving, as conditions require.  We constantly monitor anything that could be considered a potential threat to the ship or crew, including (but not limited to) weather, piracy, political stability and disease outbreak./ As a result, we’ve made a small change to the itinerary of our current leg of the voyage.  Due to a volatile political situation and potential threat of violence against visitors, we’ve made the decision to drop Madagascar from our itinerary on this voyage.  We’ve also had to skip Madagascar on other voyages for similar reasons, but hope to make it there again someday.  Instead, the ship is currently at the island of Rodrigues, part of the country of Mauritius.  The next port will be Reunion, then on to Cape Town where this current leg of the voyage will end. / We are also keeping a close eye on the ebola outbreak in west Africa and will consider dropping any of our African ports from our itinerary if there is any possible threat to our crew.  We’ll continue to monitor the situation over the coming months and adjust as necessary.”

Elias in a bosun's chair. (Photo Courtesy of Picton Castle)

Elias in a bosun’s chair. (Photo Courtesy of Picton Castle)

December 2, 2014 – 20°01.1’S x 062°29.4’E (Rodrigues Island, Mauritius to Reunion Island, France, Indian Ocean)
“First full day at sea after a delightful visit to Rodrigues Island where we waited out a Tropical Storm.  Now the weather is sunny and light and seas are small and blue.  Bosun’s chair workshop this afternoon – everyone got a turn to hoist themselves up and tie the self-tending hitch for lowering themselves most safely.  And we just saw whales blowing off the starboard quarter – the first this passage.”

December 3, 2014 – 20°01.5’S x 061°26.8’E (Rodrigues Island, Mauritius to Reunion Island, France, Indian Ocean)
“Power shower after lunch. Tacking training this afternoon, but not quite enough wind to make it around – we’ll try again when it’s a bit breezier. We furled all sail and fired up the main engine to steam through the night at 5pm.”

December 4, 2014 – 20°36.7’S / 059°23.3’E (Rodrigues Island, Mauritius to Reunion Island, France, Indian Ocean)
“The cats had an unfortunate flying fish for breakfast this morning.  More practice tacking the ship back and forth this afternoon, four actual tacks with one missed stays and with three longtails flying overhead looping in and out between the masts; they looked like they were wondering what this big floating bird below them was doing, and if it meant there might be fish nearby!”

January 2015 to May 2015 – Voyage Plan
“Berths are still available starting January 3 at Cape Town, South Africa, sailing to the Cape Verde islands on March 20 via Namibia, St. Helena and Senegal.  Or sign on in Cape Verde on March 20 and sail across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, then to Bermuda and Lunenburg, Canada in late May.”

May 2015 to June 2015 – Voyage Plan
“Sailing Home to Lunenburg – The final port of this Westward Bound voyage, which began in Fiji this past July, has been changed from Savannah, Georgia, USA to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Picton Castle sailed from Lunenburg in November 2012 and hasn’t been home since.  Details of the exact date she’ll arrive are still being finalized, but we’re looking at mid to late May 2015.  This homecoming marks not only the longest period Picton Castle has been away from Lunenburg since her first world voyage began in 1997, it also brings our sixth world voyage full circle.  All are invited to join in the festivities and join us in welcoming Picton Castle home.”

June 2015 – Voyage Plan
“Philadelphia-Camden – Although Picton Castle will be in Lunenburg in May, she won’t be there for long.  We have a summer voyage to sail, joining a fleet of tall ships for the Tall Ships Challenge, a series of festivals and races that are being held this year on the east coast of North America.  We’re happy to announce that Picton Castle has just confirmed participation at Philadelphia/Camden from June 25 -28, 2015.  If you’re in the area, please come visit during public deck tours!”

October 2015 to April 2016 – Voyage Plan
“Starting October 1, sail from Lunenburg across the Atlantic to the Azores, Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, the Canary Islands, Senegal and the Cape Verde islands.  Then cross a second time to the Caribbean, island-hop through paradise, then sail north to return to Lunenburg on April 1, 2016.  Sign on for the full six months (including two transatlantics!) or for a three-month leg of the voyage.”

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