Blue Water Blogs: Picton Castle
Posted by Tall Ships America on January 2, 2015
PICTON CASTLE and her crew arrived in Cape Town, South Africa today after a 2, 247 nautical mile journey across the Indian Ocean and South Atlantic. Follow their adventures as they learn about the evolution of ship design, celebrate Christmas at sea, and round the Cape of Good Hope just in time for New Year’s 2015!
December 14, 2014 – 21°34.3’S x 054°11.7’E
“After a lovely week in ‘France’, we’re now underway from La Reunion, bound two thousand miles around the Cape of Good Hope for Cape Town. Hot weather today so we rigged the power shower after lunch.
December 15, 2014 – 23°07.0’S x 052°17.8’E
“Still underway from La Reunion to Cape Town, the weather is less sunny today and squally, though so far there’s been no strength in the squalls, just heavy rain showers and a slight wind shift. Abandon ship drills took place this afternoon followed by a talk from Captain Moreland on our plan for this passage: we will be heading south of Madagascar in the south equatorial current and then passing round the tip of Africa, passing close by Durban to pick up the strong Aghulas Current. It’s the best time of year to be rounding the Cape, so we have a pretty good prospect of fair winds and good weather, but we’re busy making sure all is ship-shape just in case.”
December 17, 2014 – 26°02.8’S x 049°54.3’E
“Abandon ship drills and discussion, followed by a workshop on rigging theory: an overview of the purpose and nature of standing rigging. Rather than teaching specific hand-skills today, Captain discussed the basic purpose of rigging, the different strengths and characteristics of the main mast, topmast and t’gallant masts and their yards, shrouds and stays and deliberate weak points, a basic description of how Picton Castle’s rig was designed, the first principles behind setting up and tuning a rig, and touched on the evolution of sailing ship rig design and materials across Europe and the Americas. Great questions from the gang included why we serve wire rigging with tarred marlin, use of different types of ‘goop’ to preserve the rig, if it would be possible to send down the whole rig aboard ship without using a crane (yes), advantages of modern materials and fittings, and the relative advantages of wire splices compared to wire seizings.”
December 21, 2014 – 28°17.2’S x 042°14.7’E
“The last ‘marlinspike’ before Christmas got everyone feeling festive this afternoon with music, popcorn and silly hats!”
December 24, 2014 – 29°14.9’S x 037°32.3’E
Editor’s note: PICTON CASTLE turned back their clocks an hour last night and are now in the same zone as Nairobi and Kuwait.
“To celebrate Christmas eve we had lots of delicious home-made cookies and sweets (mostly thanks to Amanda) and a drop of mulled wine, and played ‘Stealing Santa’ or ‘White Elephant’, where gifts from under the tree are unwrapped one by one and then swapped amid much hilarity. More presents and the big feast tomorrow! We had music playing all afternoon, and then Mark played us a recording of Luis Armstrong reading ‘The Night Before Christmas’ at supper.”
December 25, 2014 – 29°57.9’S x 036°26.7’E
“A lovely Christmas at sea: presents under the tree in the morning, a nice lazy afternoon and then a giant supper followed by home made chocolate-chip cookies and ice-cream. And the wind picking up and sending us along our way.”
December 27, 2014 – 30°56.1’S x 031°36.5’E
“We’re close in to the coast of Africa now. By tonight we expect to make our turn to port, skirting fairly close to the coast to make the most of the Agulhas current which should give us an extra 3 knots or so. There is a large high pressure system off the Cape at the moment, and we are watching a handful of low pressures move around it trying to anticipate what wind we’ll get as we head around the Cape. Right now it’s warm but wet, and we’re expecting more rainy weather overnight.”
December 28, 2014 – 33°07.9’S x 028°34.3’E
“Sunday at sea and rainy weather so no ship’s work happening today. The wind has been very variable as we move between the different weather systems and start to feel the effects of the African continent on wind and currents, so the watches have been kept busy setting and taking in sail as the wind eases and fills and bracing round to meet the wind. The watches are slick and colourful in their wet weather gear.”
“Land ho! The coast of Africa is looming off our starboard beam and has been all day. At 0900 we were just 31nm east of Cape Morgan. It’s hard to believe the smudge on the horizon is a whole continent right there, though it does looks bigger than your average South Pacific Island. Twenty or more dolphins came out to ride the bow wave this afternoon to the delight of the crew – we think we spotted common dolphin and rissos dolphin. Lots of sea birds too.”
December 29, 2014 – 34°14.7’S x 025°46.1’E
“We were less than 20nm south of Cape Recife at noon today. This close to port there are lots of ships around, so we’re keeping a sharp look out and monitoring our electronic equipment to make sure we give these big commercial ships a wide berth – the rules of the road might say steam gives way to sail, but we’d be mad to start tacking about in front of a big chemical tanker! Captain gave the crew an introduction talk about Cape Town this afternoon – everyone’s getting excited now.”
December 31, 2014 – 34°55.4’S x 020°50.2’E
“At 1845 with Cape Agulhas due north, we braced the ship around onto the starboard tack and started heading north of west – at a little over 35 degrees south, we’ve rounded the most southerly tip of Africa, and are now in the Atlantic Ocean. We’re planning to let off a few fireworks at midnight to celebrate the start of 2015 – Happy New Year!”
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