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Photo of the Month - exploring the Story behind the Image...

Tallship Sailing to Boston

Tallship Sailing to Boston

Year: 2009, Month: July

United States > Massachusetts > Boston

This month's 'Photo of the Month' reminds me of my time spent crewing a tallship. The ship in question was the 3-masted barque 'Picton Castle'. I'd joined her for 9 weeks during the summer of 2009 to learn how to crew a tallship. I joined the ship in the quaint seaside town of Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, and we began the voyage by sailing south to join the Tall Ships events that were happening all along the North Atlantic seaboard. Learning stars straight away: there are no passengers on the Picton Castle, and whilst the trainees maybe total newbies, they are still expected to join in with all the deck work right from day one, and pick up as much as possible by watching the more experienced members of the crew. The first job to do was, in the most literal sense, learning the ropes: there are 175 lines that come down to deck for sail handling. They all have different names, they all have different uses, and it is important for all the crew to know what each one does, how it should be handled, and how to find it in the dark. Yes, that's right: the ship sails at night as well, so you have to handle sails in the dark as well as during the day!

This photograph shows David, a young trainee sailor from the USA, taking his turn at the helm. I chose to take this shot almost as a silhouette, but not quite. I still wanted details of his face and clothing, and of the texture on the ship's wheel. Screw up your eyes to make the picture darker, and you'll see that its not such a strong image. The foreground details get lost in the silhouette, and the photograph loses its sense of depth.

Some background to the Picton Castle: she was built in 1928 and converted to sail in 1997 by her current skipper, Captain Daniel Moreland. She is a 3 masted barque, with no modern conveniences. Converted in the style of the traditional sailing ship, she has no anchor winches or steam capstans: the crew do all the work whilst learning to sail in the traditional manner. There's plenty to learn, and plenty of people on board who can teach you. Basic seaman skills like rigging, sail work, and small boat handling. Advanced topics such as navigation, engine maintenance, weather forecasting, carpentry. The crew on the ship even make their own sails! You will have to help in the galley from time to time, where all food is cooked on the original stove, made in 1893. From time to time you might have to cook for the whole crew, when the cook takes a day off. A lof the time it is very hard work: rope handling, raising the anchor, turning the capstan. Its all done manually, so at the end of a 4 or 6 hour watch, you are very grateful to tumble into your bunk, tired but happy. You will make some really great friends, and learn a lot about teamwork and team togetherness. The ship sails with a team on each watch, it can't function with individuals. There'll be some great opportunites to visit ports all around the world, and explore some of those foreign countries you've only read about in books. To find out more, visit the Picton Castle External link opens a new Browser window website.

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