Captain's Log

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Captain’s Log – 18 April 2017

This summer, Picton Castle will take part in the Rendez-vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta.  Events of this kind are quite rare; they involve tall ships from around the world racing from port to port on both sides of the Atlantic and appearing in festivals in various ports in between the races.  Rendez-vous 2017 kicked off this past weekend in Royal Greenwich in England on what appears to be a wonderful Easter weekend with tall ships moored along the River Thames. 


Ships can choose to sail on some or all of the race legs of the Regatta.  From Royal Greenwich, the ships will race to Sines, Portugal, then to Bermuda.  Picton Castle will start in the feeder port of Charleston, South Carolina, USA then meet up with more of the fleet in Bermuda. 


The next race is from Bermuda to Boston, and we’ll race again from Boston to the Canadian Maritimes.  Once in Canada, the fleet will divide to visit a number of ports in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and St. Lawrence River, gathering together again in Quebec City for the largest tall ships festival in Canada this summer.  Before we get to Quebec City, Picton Castle will visit Summerside, PEI; Sept-Iles, Quebec; and Baie-Comeau, Quebec. 


After Quebec City, the fleet will divide again, with some ships heading for Halifax and then back across the Atlantic to Le Havre in France.  Other ships will continue visiting a number of Canadian ports in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.  Picton Castle will be bound for Norris Point, Newfoundland; Louisbourg, Nova Scotia; Lunenburg, Nova Scotia; Digby, Nova Scotia; and Saint John, New Brunswick. 


So, although we haven’t yet joined up with this majestic international fleet, the Rendez-vous has begun! 

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La Grand Traversée Airs Starting April 11, 2017

Picton Castle played the role of L’Esperance last summer as the French-language documentary La Grand Traversée was filmed on board while crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

We will get to see the first episode when it airs tomorrow night, Tuesday April 11, 2017 on Radio-Canada.

La Grand Traversée tells the story of ten “colonists” who made the voyage from France to New France much as their ancestors would have done in the 18th century.  They wore clothing, lived in accommodations, cooked and ate food appropriate to the period.

Colonists sailing from Europe to the Americas at that time would not have participated in sailing the ship, but on this recreated voyage they certainly did.  The colonists stood watches alongside Picton Castle crew and contributed to sailing the ship.

The passage from La Rochelle, France to Caraquet, New Brunswick, Canada, which was the ship’s first port of call in the Americas, took 39 days.  From there, Picton Castle sailed on to Quebec City, where the colonists signed off.

We’re eager to see how this exciting voyage is portrayed on film.  Be sure to tune in tomorrow night to watch!

Picton Castle as L’Esperance in Quebec City 2016


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We’ve Added Two New Legs To This Summer’s Voyage!

This summer Picton Castle will participate in the Rendezvous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta, one of the biggest and most exciting gatherings of tall ships in many years.  We’re looking forward to being part of an international fleet of vessels, our crew in company with sailors from around the world.

We have just added one more port to the voyage, which means two more legs of the voyage.  Charleston, South Carolina, USA has come on board as a host port and we’re eager to visit.  Picton Castle has been to Charleston before and we had such a wonderful time that we can’t wait to go back!

Leg A begins in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada, a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site with rich seafaring history (it’s also Picton Castle’s North American home).  Join Picton Castle in Lunenburg on April 22 for training, orientation and preparations in Lunenburg before setting sail for Charleston.  Experience a North Atlantic passage, sailing deep water on our route to the southwest.  Leg A ends on May 19 in Charleston.

Leg B begins in Charleston, South Carolina on May 19.  You will join us during Tall Ships Charleston, a wonderful event that celebrates maritime heritage and culture.  In Charleston, Picton Castle will join a number of other tall ships coming from North America, South America and the Caribbean.  We will be in port together, then race together from Charleston to Bermuda on another deep water North Atlantic passage.  Once in Bermuda, we’ll be part of Tall Ships Bermuda, a major celebration that will happen in Bermuda at the same time as the America’s Cup.  Leg B ends on June 2 in Bermuda.

Trainee applications are now being accepted for Legs A & B (as well as all of the other legs of this summer’s voyage to Boston, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick).  No experience is necessary to become a trainee aboard Picton Castle, just good health and a desire to be a working part of the crew.  With the guidance of our experienced professional crew, you’ll quickly learn the ropes!

Please visit our website for more details and to apply.

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Tall Ships America Conference

Captain Moreland and I were at the Tall Ships America annual conference in Boston last week.  Picton Castle is a member of Tall Ships America, whose mission is “to encourage character building through sail training, promote sail training to the North American public, and support education under sail.”

We try to make sure that Picton Castle is represented every year, especially in the years leading up to a tall ships event summer.  Picton Castle will be taking part in a number of tall ship festivals and events in the summer of 2017, so it was important for us to be there for the general learning that takes place at the conference as well as some specific sessions that relate to planning and logistics of these upcoming events.

And, my goodness, are we excited about the upcoming voyage this summer!

There is still work to be done, but we were able to meet with port organizers from many of the ports we’ll be visiting as part of the Rendezvous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta.  Meeting them in person and talking with them about the events they have planned makes us think our crew are going to have a fantastic time this summer.  From a reggae concert in Bermuda to the hospitality of Charleston, the crew parade in Boston to fireworks in Quebec City, we’re in for a treat!

The packed conference schedule kept us on our toes.  Sessions started at 0745 or 0800 and ran until about 1800 most days, followed by receptions or dinners most evenings.  Wednesday’s safety forum and education forum, which are aimed specifically at ship operators, covered topics ranging from ship stability to managing crew fatigue to individual donor fundraising.  On Thursday and Friday, ship operators were joined by host ports, suppliers and others interested in the business and sailing of tall ships.  Session topics included tips on sailing to Cuba, financial management and shared resources, how to produce a series of promotional videos (go check out SeaMester’s webpage for some videos that made me want to go sailing!), human resources, weather for passage planning, and so much more.

The Captain often tells me that while the sessions are good, meeting and talking with people is what it’s really all about.  We both had a chance to catch up with old friends and colleagues, find out what they’re doing now and share some old memories.  We also both met lots of new people and made new connections.

As I kept seeing shipmate after shipmate, I realized that this particular conference had a high concentration of current or former Picton Castle crew present.  Although I may have forgotten someone, I counted at least 21 Picton Castle sailors either attending the conference or visiting during the conference.  While I didn’t quite manage to coordinate a photo with all of us, it was great to see so many people who have spent time aboard with us still working or somehow engaged in the industry.

Captain Moreland was asked to speak twice during the conference.  Once was a lunchtime presentation about Picton Castle’s upcoming seventh world circumnavigation voyage, which I recorded and hope to get uploaded soon to share with you.  As he spoke, a slideshow of tropical images from previous voyages played behind him, in sharp contrast with the snowstorm that kept us all inside the hotel and conference centre that day.  His second talk was at the very end of the conference, wrapping up the official business of the conference before the gala dinner.  In that short talk, he wisely pointed out that every ship and every program does something better than you, so you should learn what that is, adapt it and adopt it on board.  One of the points of a conference like this is to talk with our colleagues to find out how they do things, share how we do things, and learn to do things better.  As I’ve heard Tall Ships America Executive Director Bert Rogers say a number of times, “the rising tide floats all ships.”

The conference ended with a gala dinner and dance, commonly referred to as the “prom.”  Those of you who have seen photos from crew parties or receptions know that sailors clean up well, and those at this conference were no different.  Everyone put on their finest outfits for a classy sit-down dinner (did I mention that the food all week at the Seaport Hotel in Boston was wonderful?), followed by dancing to music by a live band until well into the night.


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January 30, 2017 – Sending Down the Mizzen Topmast

Yesterday was as good a day one could ask for in Lunenburg in January to do some rigging work.  The temperature was above freezing, the sun was shining and there was almost no wind.

Picton Castle is currently in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada and we’re getting some maintenance work done aboard.  We had sent down most of the running rigging as part of Bosun School last fall.  The one remaining thing that we wanted to send down for inspection was the mizzen topmast.

Picton Castle’s fore and main masts are made up of three parts, the lower mast which is made of steel, the topmast which is also made of steel, and the t’gallant mast which is made of wood.  The mizzen mast, the one farthest aft, is made up of two parts, the lower mast which is made of steel, and the topmast which is made of wood. 

We have sent down the mizzen topmast a few times in the past few years, always inspecting it, repairing it as necessary and sending it back up.  Our intention this time is to send it down, inspect it, and likely replace it.  We have a telephone pole aboard, lashed in the port breezeway, that is an excellent blank spar for this kind of project.

Although we only had a small number of hands to help get the mizzen topmast down, they used mechanical advantage to get the job done.  The majority of the weight of the mast was supported by a line that ran all the way from the mizzen mast to the capstan on the foc’sle head.  Anything that could be removed from the mast was removed and sent down to deck, then started the slow and careful process of lowering the mast through the cap while working the rigging secured around it to the top so it could eventually be removed by lifting it over the top of the mast.

Now that the mizzen topmast is down at deck level we can assess its state, look at the previous repairs and how well they’re holding, and likely use it as a pattern for making a new one.

Why not watch the video!



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10 January, 2017

Lunenburg photographer Peter Zwicker ( captured this amazing photograph this morning of Picton Castle surrounded by snow, ice and sea smoke. Thanks, Peter, for letting us share it!

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Captain’s Log – Bosun School 2016

Bosun School is done for this year.

Another excellent Bosun School session has come to a close here on the waterfront in Lunenburg. We had a fine gang of keen marine students who will go far in the marine world as they wish. Since last September up until a few weeks ago they have been busy and hard at it. Under the leadership of long-time PICTON CASTLE Bosun Gabe St Denis and old Bosun Captain Daniel Moreland we got a lot done in in a short amount of time.


Basic Knots, Splices
& Whippings

Extensive Small Boat Handling in Sail & Power Aboard Schooners, Sloops, Cutters & Motor Skiffs Boatyard Boat Managing &
Hauling Small Vessels

Worming Parceling
& Serving

Basic Sail Making & Repair

Wire Splicing &

Small Wooden
Boat Spars

Metal Preparation,
Painting & Coating


Basic Line Handling
& Bracing

Basic Caulking


Chafe Gear & Dock Lines

Basic Varnishing

Safety Working Aloft

Ship Mooring

Shipyard Safety

Sending Down &
Crossing Yards

Leadline &
Heaving Lines

Hauling, Blocking & Sundry Details Associated with Drydocking

Ship Down Rigging

All the skill sets we go over are important. The one we try to drive home as much as possible is “small boat handling” and to that end, we go out in our wide range of boats day after day; instruction, practice, demonstration and practice, then practise practise practise. You cannot truly be an accomplished mariner without being capable, competent and practised at the handling and care of small craft. Just the way it is. And becoming good at small craft offers many insights into large ship operations in all catagories. To this end, we got the gang out sailing, rowing and motoring in dories, cutters, sloops, skiffs and schooners. And of course launched and hauled them as well as caulked and painted them and put them up for the winter. On our final days, we spent time with the gang one on one looking to placement opportunities in the “next ship” all of this gang will do well I am 100% sure.



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Captain’s Log – World Voyage 7

Back in December, before Christmas, we finalized the itinerary for Picton Castle’s seventh world circumnavigation.  Just because we’ve done this six times before doesn’t mean it’s an easy voyage or one to be taken lightly.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  It’s an epic voyage that is demanding and challenging no matter how much experience we’ve got under our collective belts.

But oh, what a voyage.  This is the kind of voyage square-rig sailors from the days of commercial sail would dream about.  Mostly in the tropics, not in a particular rush to get from port to port to deliver the cargo, with an amiable crew who are all keen to be part of the experience.


Now that 2017 is here, the voyage looms large in our minds.  Picton Castle will be sailing this summer, participating in the Rendezvous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta, which will build towards the excitement of this next world circumnavigation.

To say it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience sounds cliché, yet that may be the most accurate description.  There’s truly nothing else like this voyage.  You participate as an actively involved crew member in getting the ship around the world.  Along the way you have unbelievable experiences in the ports we visit.  You develop relationships with your shipmates that will last a lifetime.  You learn seamanship skills and become a competent deckhand aboard a square-rigged ship.  In the quiet of nights on forward lookout or in the commotion of setting all sail, you learn what you’re capable of doing, how to trust others, and how to earn their trust that you’ll do your part when it’s your turn.


If 2017 is your year for epic adventure, consider joining us.  You don’t need any sailing experience, just a clean bill of health and the desire to be part of the ship’s working crew.  Highlights of World Voyage 7’s itinerary include Panama, the Galapagos Islands, Pitcairn Island, French Polynesia including the Marquesas Islands, the Tuamotus, Tahiti and the Society Islands, the Cook Islands, the Kingdom of Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Bali, Rodrigues Island, Reunion Island, South Africa, Namibia, St. Helena, a number of Eastern Caribbean islands, Bermuda and the port where the voyage begins and ends, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada.amanda_helm

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Bosun School Graduation

After three months of studying and hands-on practice in Lunenburg, the Bosun School students officially graduated last night.

Picton Castle’s Bosun School is designed for young mariners who want to gain skills to add to their resumes and advance their careers.  We have found, in receiving applications from some professional mariners to work aboard Picton Castle, that despite having significant sea time their skill levels are below what we might expect.  By taking time to focus on developing these skills in an environment ashore without the natural distractions of sailing the ship, students can see a project through from start to finish and learn the entire process.

Not only do they observe and learn through lecture and demonstrations, they learn primarily through hands-on practice.  Using the example of wire splicing, Captain Moreland did a brief introductory lecture, then a demonstration.  From there, students made two or three splices of their own, under the supervision of Bosun Gabe.  After that, the Captain did a second, more in-depth lesson on wire splicing that they were able to absorb more easily because they had some context of doing the work themselves.  Since then, they’ve done many more splices, some on practice wires and some in actual practical applications where their splices will be used aboard Picton Castle.

This session of the Bosun School had a major focus on rigging.  Bosun School students sent yards down back in September when the school began and they worked on overhauling them through October and November, taking off all the standing rigging and blocks, inspecting and repairing or replacing portions as necessary, and overhauling the yards themselves.  Some of Picton Castle’s yards are steel (the course yards, lower topsail yards and upper topsail yards) so students learned how to deal with rust, removing it and putting coatings on to prevent rust and seal the steel.  Some of Picton Castle’s yards are wooden (the t’gallant yards and royal yards) so students have done some work with wood preparation and varnishing (on a few other projects like deck boxes as well).

Sailmaking has been one of the other main areas of study at this Bosun School.  Students have learned a variety of repair methods depending on what’s called for in each situation.  Some repairs need to be quick and not-so-pretty, others need to be meticulously well done when there is time and space to do it.  Students also worked on sail construction projects, laying out a new outer jib, seaming it together, then adding the tabling, corner patches, grommets, roping and all other finishing.  By being part of constructing a sail from start to finish, they have a greater understanding of all of the components of a sail, how they work together and how and why to look after them.

This past week, as we have been wrapping up a number of projects, students have been meeting individually with Captain Moreland for career counselling sessions.  They’ve been talking about short-term plans as well as longer term plans.  At the graduation ceremony last night, each student received a certificate of completion that outlines the skills they’ve practised that they’ll be able to use when they apply for jobs in the future.

Join us in sending congratulations to all of the Bosun School students on successful completion of the course!img_2338

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Hiring Staff Crew for Rendezvous 2017

Picton Castle carries a full complement of 52 people, which includes 40 trainee crew and 12 professional crew. While trainee crew don’t need to have any experience sailing, our professional crew are qualified, certified, knowledgeable mariners with hands-on experience. Because Picton Castle is a training ship they have to not only be excellent seafarers, they also have to be able to teach and lead by example.

We’re now accepting applications for staff crew positions on our Rendezvous 2017 voyage which takes place next summer. We’re looking for mates, engineers and lead seamen.

All applicants must have, at a minimum, STCW Basic Safety Training and at least a year of experience on traditional sailing vessels (preference is given to those with square rig experience). We prefer to hire lead seamen with their AB (USA), Bridge Watch Rating (Canada) or their national equivalent. Mate applicants must have at least a 500 ton oceans license. Mariners of all nationalities are welcome to apply.

To apply, please email your CV and a cover letter that tells us more about you, your experience and why you want to work aboard Picton Castle to

Taking in topmast studdingsail 2

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