Captain's Log

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Second Layout of a Mizzen Staysail

On Monday, the Bosun School students went to the Lunenburg Community Centre to use the gym floor to lay out a sail. Actually, this is the second layout for this sail – it had its first layout back in 2015 when Picton Castle was in Cape Town, South Africa.

As Picton Castle sails to various ports around the world, we often look for suitable places to lay out sails. The area must be flat and open, big enough to stretch out the full sail. We’ve used gyms and lofts, but we’ve also used cement and wooden docks, grassy fields, parking lots, and pretty much anywhere else that has big open space.

We’re not the only ones who have used the Lunenburg Community Centre for laying out sails. Michele Stevens Sailloft has used this space when they were working on sails for the schooner Bluenose II and for the schooner Columbia. In fact, the mainsails for these vessels are too big to fit in gym so they could only lay out half at a time.

In comparison, our mizzen staysail looked quite small, taking up less than a quarter of the gym floor. By the time it’s ready for the second layout, the canvas cloths have already been seamed together. The purpose of a second layout is to sketch out the sail’s shape and cut off any excess fabric. Measurements are carefully made before the cutting begins, using both knives and scissors.

Once the trimming of the sail is complete, the second layout is done. Next up is putting on the corner patches, then putting the tabling around the edges of the sail, then making and sewing in all of the grommets.


Anders, Tyler and Annie trim the edges of the sail

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What is Ecotourism?

A very long time before Ecotourism was cool – before it was even a word – Picton Castle was an active ecotourism operator. But what does that mean?

Ecotourism is a word that seems to be popping up all over. The latest trend in travel, it is rising in popularity on an international level as we humans are finding it increasingly difficult to ignore the damage we have done and continue to do to this beautiful planet, and start trying to devise ways to lessen our footprint.

But what exactly is Ecotourism? People tell me it all relates to sustainable travel. Okay – but sustaining what: The environment? Animals? Cultures? The International Ecotourism Society defines Ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education” (TIES, 2015). And for to be clear: “Education is meant to be inclusive of both staff and guests.”

So Ecotourism is about travelling responsibly. It’s about having a minimum impact on the planet, while visiting and learning about destinations around the world. This means being educated regarding local cultures however unusual they might seem to the traveller; it means doing your utmost to not inflict any sort of damage to the local flora and fauna; it means helping out where there is a need, without any of the associated harm that can sometimes come from uneducated or misguided assistance.

Whenever possible, Picton Castle travels under sail and not engine; we have a water maker system on board the converts salt water to fresh; we bring aid to countries in need including delivering supplies and school books to remote islands; we know the remote islands and motus we visit quite well and have workshops dedicated to each stop as we head there, so that when we arrive each trainee is well-informed of any unique customs or traditions, and as well as any actions which might cause unintended offence; we barter and trade on these islands so that the local economy is getting a boost from our visit that is fair to all involved without any negative impact.

So what is Ecotourism? Well, when you boil it down to its simplest form I’d say Ecotourism is a fancy word for respect. Respect for the planet, for animals and plants that live on her, and for each other. And yes, it’s a very good thing.

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Bosun School Learns Sailmaking

For the past week or so, Bosun School students have been focused on learning sail making. Picton Castle is fairly unique in that we make all of our own sails on board the ship, so depending on which vessels our Bosun School students work aboard in the future, they may or may not have the opportunity to apply the skills of making a whole sail. But it’s important to learn the parts of a sail and how they’re constructed in order to better understand how they work, and also how to maintain and repair them as necessary.

Before working on any actual sails, the Bosun School students learned the basic hand skills of sail making by first making ditty bags. Ditty bags are canvas bags carried by sailors to keep their tools in. As a beginning sailmaker, a ditty bag is a great project because it contains all the fundamental skills required to make a sail, in a small, compact size. First the canvas is measured and cut, then edges are flattened and pressed, seams are sewn, the tabling on the top is folded over, grommets are made to fit and sewn in, and even the rope handle with its splices and servings replicate sail making skills.

Now that all of the students have ditty bags, they’ve moved on to learning repair techniques. They’ve learned different types of stitching, window patches, glue-on patches, replacing rope coverings, replacing seizings, and replacing grommets. They have put this knowledge to the test by making repairs on sails made of both natural fibres and synthetic fibres.

The students have also been working on some new sails. There is one we laid out in Cape Town back in 2015, a royal, that had the canvas cloths stitched together, but only with one seam. Using the big sailmakers’ sewing machine, the students have put additional rows of stitches on the seams, learning how to work together to get the big canvas sail through the machine in a coordinated way.


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Happy Thanksgiving!

One of the best things about sailing with an international crew, and having an international group of students at the Bosun School, is celebrating different national holidays.  This past weekend was Thanksgiving in Canada and the Bosun School students marked the occasion with a sit-down turkey dinner.

We have so much to be thankful for here.  We’ve had beautiful fall weather that has allowed us to get a lot of work and study done, a gorgeous and safe harbour here in Lunenburg, food to eat and a roof over our heads.  What we’re most thankful for is the people who make up our community; the students at the Bosun School, our professional crew and trainees past and present, friends and supporters of Picton Castle, and especially this year, the thousands of visitors who came to see our ship in the many ports we called at as part of the Rendez-vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta.

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Bosun School Launches and Rows A Dory

One of the main things we focus on at Bosun School is small boat handling. Students will practice handling boats of all kinds by rowing them, sailing them and driving them with motors. It’s one of the essential skills of a good mariner, being able to handle small boats. The best way to become proficient is to practice. A lot.

This past week, students at Picton Castle‘s Bosun School prepared and launched a Banks dory named Rocky. The boat was built at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia’s historic Dory Shop, which is celebrating 100 years in business in 2017. The students gave it a paint job and launched it from the beach at the Dory Shop.

Captain Moreland demonstrated how to row a dory. Students then had the chance to practice, followed by a more in-depth lesson.

Here are video clips of the launch and of Captain Moreland’s rowing demonstration.

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Post Hurricane Relief in the Eastern Caribbean

Picton Castle has spent a lot of time sailing the Caribbean in the past 20 years. We tend to stick to the Windward and Leeward Isles of the Eastern Caribbean and have visited our favourite islands many times. The trade winds are sweet, anchorages are mostly quite good, the islands are beautiful and the people are warm, friendly and welcoming.

The recent hurricanes in the Caribbean have hit our friends hard. We’ve either been in touch or are waiting to hear news from friends in Anguilla, Antigua, Dominica, St. Maarten, and the British Virgin Islands. Many have had homes and businesses destroyed, but thankfully those we’ve heard from and their loved ones are still alive, uninjured and ready to rebuild.

We want to help rebuild. Over the past few weeks, as we’ve seen photos and videos of the devastation, we have been talking about how to help. Picton Castle has a big cargo hold and additional room in the main salon and on deck to carry more than a hundred tons. We could carry a load of supplies. We would want to go to an island we know, to help people we know, in a place where the need is greatest and other help is not on its way.

Although a port visit in the Caribbean is not scheduled for the first leg of the upcoming world circumnavigation voyage starting in March 2018, we have been talking about adding a stop to the itinerary in order to bring supplies. We would have to know where we would go and what they need most there, then either raise funds or goods on our own or partner with another organization to get the supplies to bring with us.

We have been asked whether we would go now, immediately, to carry a load of supplies. We think we could find professional crew who would volunteer their time for a mission like this, and there is the possibility that we could organize a drive locally for supplies. However, it still costs money to operate the ship and unless those costs are covered, we aren’t able to do it. Even with donated time and supplies for the islands, the ship’s costs of fuel, insurance, food and materials to maintain the ship are very real costs that Picton Castle simply can’t absorb.

Rebuilding after these hurricanes, after everything has been flattened, is going to be a long process. Building supplies and other items will still be required months and years down the road. As we figure out how and when best to assist, we’ll keep you posted. In the meanwhile, any comments, suggestions and input you have are welcome.

For what it’s worth, our hearts and minds are with those who have been affected by these hurricanes. Hopefully we’ll be able to provide some on-the-ground help within the next year.


Picton Castle at anchor stern-to in Dominica

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Reasons NOT to sail around the world in the Picton Castle….

I’m fairly certain I’ve heard every reason in the book to NOT sail away on a tall ship. Not only heard them, but stated them myself. That’s my deep, dark secret – my own personal shame: Even though I work for this ship on shore I’ve never sailed a tall ship. Despite never having sailed in one, I’m drawn to them and am insanely jealous of everyone signing up for this world voyage coming up soon. I want to go too. I wish I could go back in time and sail when I was younger and more adventuresome and minus the three kids who seem to think that as their mother I should be looking after them – that’s my list of reasons not to go right there.

One thing I have come to learn is that all the reasons not to sail aren’t reasons at all: they’re just excuses. Little roadblocks that I (and other people like me) put up to make the choice not-to-go an easier choice to make.

I’m too old: Rubbish. I’m not too old. At 46 I’m about mid-way through the age range of people coming to sail. We have people in their 70s coming along on the World Voyage.

 I’ve got too many people relying on me: Right. Because I’m so great at life, the entire Town of Lunenburg can’t bear to have me go away for a few months. I might be good, but I’m not that good. Nobody is.

It’s expensive: Yeah, okay. That’s real. It costs a pretty penny. But it’s basically the same price as many other major adventures you can experience, and a lot less than others. Price out a two-month trip to the top of Everest. You can sail around the world in Picton Castle twice for that ticket. And if you’re talking value for money, it won’t get much better. Cost is real, but if you can scrape it together, it’s just another excuse.

Rough weather: The one reason I was sure was a valid reason not to sail was extreme weather. It’s pretty simple: I don’t want to be in a ship in the middle of the ocean during a hurricane. Who in their right mind would?

I’ve always been in awe of the ships that sail across vast oceans – not just the ships but their crew as well. It seemed to me that to sail out into the endless ocean on a relatively tiny ship and be tossed about at the whim of King Neptune and Mother Nature was .. well crazy, but also brave beyond words. Braver than I could ever hope to be. For me the idea was as intoxicating as it was scary. Going to sea was a ‘when’ something goes wrong and not an ‘if’ something goes wrong. Seems like a valid reason not to sail to me.

As we roll through the month of September, the Atlantic Ocean appears to be doing a stellar job of demonstrating why a person should not ever go to sea at all. Ever. I can’t imagine there is a single person reading this that hasn’t heard about the crazy and terrifying string of hurricanes pummeling the Caribbean. Until I came to work here in this office, weather seemed a very random and scary thing. What I never seemed to notice was this: there aren’t any big ships (cruise ships, tall ships, cargo or otherwise) near those hurricanes. It’s because as wild and random as the weather seemed to me to be as a layman, it actually follows fairly reliable worldwide patterns that take us through the 12 months of the year. Captain Moreland – in fact, any experienced mariner who knows what he’s doing – can readily tell you where you DON’T want to be at fairly specific times of the year, and voyages are planned accordingly. For instance, you don’t want to be in the mid-Western Atlantic right about now during what is called ‘hurricane season’. This is between June and December with June and November not really counting much. Why? Well, hurricanes need certain things to be created: very warm water, warm air, earth’s rotation, appropriate ocean currents and lots of open space. Right now – August, September and into October – all things align to make the formation of hurricanes far more likely in the mid-Atlantic, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, and the currents are going to pull those storms westerly across the Atlantic toward the Caribbean and the Americas.  And it’s the same every year. There aren’t devastating hurricanes every year, but every year at the same time (right now) it becomes far more likely that they’ll form. So smart ships avoid those areas this time of year. Sailing around the world and avoiding catastrophic weather isn’t actually magic at all. Or luck. It’s logic. And the World Voyage is following a very logical and well-timed route – to take in all of the incredible and amazing ports Captain Moreland has fallen in love with over his many years at the helm, and to avoid all of the reliably severe weather patterns.  One world voyage the ship did not even have one gale.

So cross that off your list of reasons NOT to sail. It’s not a reason, it’s just another excuse that is stopping you from taking part in what will be the most amazing adventure of your life.

 

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Tackle Tug of War

How can one person beat seven people in tug of war?  By using mechanical advantage!

Okay, maybe it’s not truly tug of war, but the Bosun School students staged a powerful experiment this morning to demonstrate how mechanical advantage works.  By rigging tackles properly, one person was able to pull seven others across the floor, despite their best efforts not to be moved.

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First Day of Bosun School

Although elementary and high school students in Lunenburg started school a couple of weeks ago, today is the first day of school for another group of students in Lunenburg. Picton Castle’s Bosun School begins today and we have a group of eager students ready to sharpen both their pencils and their knives.

The Bosun School is designed for young mariners who want to build their seamanship skills in a focused environment. As Captain Daniel Moreland, head instructor of the Bosun School, likes to say, emergency training is good to have, but it’s better to have training in skills that prevent emergencies from happening in the first place, and those skills are seamanship skills.

In order to attend Bosun School, students must have already spent some time at sea standing watches and participating in operating the vessel. By doing that, they already know that they like seafaring and they want to continue to do it. They also know about group living and that everyone must pitch in and do their part.

After an orientation with Captain Moreland this morning, the students dove into rope work. They started with cutting rope, then whipping the rope ends, tying knots, and splicing the rope together in different ways. For all of them, some parts of this was a review, but it’s good to start with the basics to be sure that everyone has a solid foundation on which to build.

We’re expecting wet weather here for the next few days so we’ll mostly be in the workshop, but we’re hoping to get small boats ready to launch later this week so the students can start practicing small boat handling under sail, oar and power.

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Captain’s Log RDV2017 – Allison’s Final Thoughts

By Purser Allison Steele

As I sit in the comfort of my living room at home in Ontario, having signed off Picton Castle last week after this summer’s Rendez-vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta Voyage, I find this final Captain’s Log somewhat difficult to write. How do you sum up an entire summer of adventure and learning into a short few paragraphs?

I’ve had a few days at home now to reflect and gather my thoughts and I’ve decided that the best place to start is with a list of things I learned and observed over the past four months.

I have watched over 100 crew members learn and grow all summer, despite their age or experience. Some came for a week and felt it wasn’t enough and others came and never left! This life isn’t for everyone and sailing a tall ship isn’t a vacation by any means. Your limits will be pushed and reset and pushed again. You will be exhausted and invigorated, frustrated and amazed, but in the end you will take many lessons learned with you. Not just how to coil ropes, set sails or paint. You will learn how to live in very close quarters with people and accept their idiosyncrasies as there is nowhere else to go. You will learn the protective nature of your shipmates even if you didn’t always see eye to eye. You will learn that you can do something wrong… then do it again until you get it right and will often never do it wrong again after. You will learn that there are no short cuts, just smarter ways of doing things. You will become efficient with your time and energy as the weather and seas can turn at any minute and your ship and shipmates will be depending on you to have their backs as they have yours. You will learn to conquer fears… or not… but you won’t be judged for it. You will learn about community: yours, ours and theirs. And you will learn that it is the small towns and ports that have the biggest hearts and will throw open their doors and pass you their car keys in case you want to drive around.

Each time I sail aboard the Picton Castle the most important thing I come away with is the importance of living your life. That the creature comforts of home are just that: comforts. That you can learn to live without many things in your life and once you don’t have access to them, you start to look around. When you are ‘deprived’ of electronics and internet you start to notice the world. The beautiful sunsets, the small movements of the ship beneath your feet and what they mean, the subtle shift in the wind and how to harness it, the quiet laughter of shipmates, the sometimes not so quiet meow of ship’s cat Fiji, but most of all is the silence. In a world so full of noise and sounds, lights and flashes it is the silence of the ship and the ocean that guides us back to the importance of life. There are no pictures, no matter how beautiful they look on paper or a screen that can convey the feeling you get when whales and dolphins come to investigate the ship. How it’s almost like you can feel the warmth of a sunset through its colours. Those feelings can’t be explained in words or pictures but need to be experienced for yourself.

Each time I leave the ship and get back to my ‘land life’ I find it gets easier. I know now that it’s never ‘good bye’… it’s always ‘until next time’. Don’t forget to stop, open your eyes and take a quiet look at the world around you. It’s there just waiting for you.

Allison – Thanks Chuck! (photo creds to Jason Hoyt)

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