– Sailing Away From Cape Town

On March 23, at about 1500 our pilot boarded the Picton Castle and we steamed out of Duncan Dock, Cape Town, bound North and to sea. We had just taken on 7 tons of diesel fuel, cleared out at Immigration RSA. The main engine had been warmed up and hawsers singled up. Backed down a stern spring, the skiff with Dustin, George and Dan pushed on the starboard bow away from the quay and we were off. Light headwinds and pretty cool weather as we motored past the anchored cargo ships and Robben Island, South Africa’s Alcatraz, and for many years where President Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for resisting apartheid, the former racialist system for white dominance. But what a few weeks we had had in South Africa!

The crew got plenty of time off away to explore South Africa: Kruger National Park, beautiful wine country of the Western Cape (and it’s not just about wine) and no doubt many other things. Onboard the ship we had the chance to get some worthy projects taken care of. And we had some visitors, welcome visitors.

Ship’s work:

Lots of sailmaking; reseamed a good number of sails and laid out a new course, fore topmast staysail and outer jib, repaired a few sails too. Christiane, Ben, Benita, Rachel, Spring and a few others were in on this. Finished up a new lower topsail started the last time we were here and bent that sail on. Looks a bit small but it will work.

Laid some new 3-inch pine planking on the main deck and caulked it all up. Dustin led a gang of local carpenters in this job.

Chipped and ground the blue overhead of the breezeways and after deck and got that all nicely painted out. A pretty big job that I had put off for awhile, want nice dry weather to do it properly.

Pulled all the head stays out of the bowsprit and jibboom and got them all nicely overhauled and back in again. A bigger job than I am making it sound. Line led her riggers and did an outstanding job.

Sent our welding machine to repaired, it came back in pieces which was pretty disappointing. Found and bought a new one but it failed to get the ship before sailing – so we hope it catches up with us. Ours is still a good one, just needs to be put back together by someone who knows what to do.

We also did our radio equipment survey required by our good flag state organization, Maritime Cook Islands. We had done all our other annual recertification with our surveyor in Bali. This all life rafts, and such and a thorough survey of the ship. Every two years we must do an out of the water survey.

All fire fighting gear is forensically checked by certified inspectors and so on.

Dirk did an superlative job of looking after all the shore contractors. Lots of details to keep track of.

Of course Cape Town was always going to be a big provisioning port and so it was. We bought enough food to finish up the voyage, more or less. Some crew could not believe how much food came aboard, as they stowed it all. First we need to clean all the freezers and storage totes, a job in itself, before we can stow it all properly. But it all got done.

We had 180 students from the Christel House school onboard for a morning. Lovely children. One of the adult leaders had been aboard Picton Castle as a young fellow when he was a student at Christel House. They got tours of the ship, went for a boat ride in the skiff, spun the big steering wheel around, clanged the bell and had a good time, as did we who hosted these kids. Earlier we had emptied the hold of donated school books from Nova Scotia and a whole lot of clean second hand clothes donated by Pitcairn Island.

Much thanks must go to David Crossley with Super maritime South Africa, our agents. We could not have managed without him.

Dan built and put a new bottom on the dory Sea Never Dry, a pretty big job. Clara, a trained shipwright, did a masterful job re-enforcing the fore t’gallant yard so it can serve as we shape a new one sometime soon as we sail up the South Atlantic.

And there is the almost endless tasks of getting ship’s laundry done after departing crew and general use – and generally running around taking care of errands and shopping for turnbuckles, and endless odds and ends. This falls to Tammy who tells me she was getting used to Cape Town traffic.

Cape Town is a good place for a ship to get things done – the Tavern of the Seas but maybe the Hardware Store of the Seas as well.

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