Captain's Log

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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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Captain’s Log – The Bay of Fundy

By Purser Allison Steele

Our final ports of the Rendezvous 2017 voyage are within the Bay of Fundy on Canada’s East Coast. The Bay of Fundy is historically and ecologically significant as it contains the largest tide in the world; a whopping 29-foot change! For mariners, it can be challenging but not enough to keep the PICTON CASTLE from visiting Digby, Nova Scotia and Saint John, New Brunswick.

Picton Castle & Bluenose II Sailing to Digby

The Tall Ship Festival in Digby was also during the annual Crab Fest which brought scores of visitors and entertainment to the small fishing town and made for lively evenings. The local townspeople rolled out the red carpet for the Tall Ships and we were all treated to Digby scallops which this area is famous for. The Town of Digby itself was a very gracious host with events and amenities for all who were in town for the day. It was not uncommon to see costumed pirates, lobsters and the occasional fish wandering down the street delighting children and even a few adults. Despite the significant tides, visitors came out in throngs to tour the ships or just have a look, and the crew is always happy to talk about the ship we have called home all summer.

Crazy Digby Tides

The wharf where we were all alongside was situated in a way that allowed the crews of the ships to gather in the evening to share stories, a barbecue and music. It has been a wonderful but busy summer and it was nice to spend an evening socializing with other Tall Ship crew that we have been sailing with all summer.  A few of the crew were able to spend an afternoon with former World Voyage Four crew member Amanda and her family from Mariner Cruises out of Brier Island to go whale watching. Although the fog started to roll in, that didn’t deter the mighty humpbacks from putting on a performance including a mom and her calf just learning how to entertain the eager guests. Humpback whales are a most magnificent species and it was humbling to be alongside these gentle giants as they fed.

It was a wonderful visit to Digby and in usual east coast fashion, the townspeople were kind and generous but it was time to set sail for our next port, Saint John, New Brunswick.

Getting underway from Digby, the ships proceeded to the Annapolis Royal basin where the town of Annapolis Royal gathered to watch a sail past. It was an incredible sight as there had been significant fog for most of the day but it suddenly seemed to clear a path for the ships. I can only imagine what it looked like from shore, standing in a quaint seaside town that had been home to some of North America’s earliest European settlers and watching huge ships emerge from the fog.

Our final port for Rendevous 2017 Tall Ship Festival was also in the Bay of Fundy and full of beautiful architecture, an abundance of natural resources and, of course, great seafood! Saint John, New Brunswick held an impressive festival for the Tall Ships and their visitors. Despite the wide range in tides and some after effects of Hurricane Gert, the sturdy East Coasters did not shy away. Spectators and visitors came in droves and patiently waited their turn to tour the tall ships, and take in the attractions and vendors.

Allison with the Pirates

Saint John often has cruise ships visit their town but eleven Tall Ships is an entirely different story. The festival was a treat for the senses with food trucks, live music and the Pirates of Halifax wandering the streets entertaining everyone in attendance.

Many of us left our final official port of the summer with mixed feelings.  There is a certain excitement for some of us who will be returning to our ‘land lives’, some staying in Lunenburg to attend Bosun School in the fall and more than a few dreaming of the next and final World Voyage beginning in March 2018. Regardless of our individual paths, there is a sense of sadness in the ship as we come to the end of the summer. It has been a remarkable 4 months with 13 ports, over 6000nm and countless new friends that become part of our “ship family”.  The world is much smaller than it seems for sailors, and often shipmates cross paths throughout their lifetimes in various ships, ports, seas and continents. One thing I have learned over the years and my involvement with PICTON CASTLE is that you never say ‘good bye’… it is always ‘until next time’.

Final Farewell

 

 

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Captain’s Log – Lunenburg!

 

By: Purser Allison Steele

It was a wonderful visit to our home base in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Although many of our crew have spent a significant amount of time in this lovely port, some others had only heard of this beautiful little town.  The townspeople did not disappoint. A large gathering cheered us and the other tall ships in and the town was in full swing for our visit. Not only was it a Tall Ship Festival but it was also the annual Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival with music everywhere! Street corners, halls, parks and everywhere there could possibly be a gathering. The entire town seemed to step back into the Age of Sail as the small streets teemed with sailors, residents, tourists, artists, and vendors.

It’s always nice to come back to Lunenburg, and with both festivals in town over the weekend, everywhere you went people wanted to talk about the ships. We are always happy to accommodate as we are very proud of our ship and our connection with Lunenburg. Crew spent their days off biking around the area and neighbouring towns, taking in concerts and generally enjoying the sights and sounds this special weekend had to offer. Even the ship’s cat Fiji was happy to be back for a short time.

PICTON CASTLE and BLUENOSE II hosted an evening at the Dory Shop for crews of the Tall Ships, including EUROPA, WYLDE SWAN, FAIR JEANNE, ST. LAWRENCE II, LORD NELSON, SPIRIT OF BERMUDA, WHEN AND IF, BOWDOIN, and HMCS ORIOLE.  Ralph Getson, a local historian, spoke of what life had been like in Lunenburg many years past when commercial sailing was at its peak.

Lunenburg’s Historic Dory Shop – www.doryshop.com

 

Listening to fascinating stories about the old local ships and their travels while we sitting in one of the oldest dory building facilities in North America transported us back in time and made us thankful for those who have paved the way. PICTON CASTLE has always traveled the world with Lunenburg dories steeped in history and it is fascinating to see where it all started …and still continues to this day. 100 years of history is in the foundation of this tiny waterfront building …if only the walls could speak – oh, the stories it would tell.

One of our new crew in particular has been part of Lunenburg for as long as anyone can remember. Bob Higgins (and his lovely wife Rosanna) have been honorary parents for PICTON CASTLE crew that find themselves so far away from home. As former owners of Greybeard’s Bed and Breakfast, they have hosted Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, birthdays and other such occasions when we tend to miss our families the most. They have watched the PICTON CASTLE come and go for 20 years now and we are thrilled to bring Bob along as a crew member for this final leg of the summer. For the first time ever, Bob departed on the ship with his wife Rose waving from the pier. We promise to take good care of him!

Bob & Rosanna Higgins

The ships departed one by one after much too quick a visit, horns blared and hundreds of people waved and bid us safe voyage. This port seems to mark the beginning of the end of our summer and although some of us long for home, we are excited for our final ports, fair winds and more sailing.

Thank you to our gracious hosts, event organizers and sponsors and also to Adams & Knickle for the use of their wharf during our visit. We will see you all again in a few weeks.

Allison

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By: Purser Allison Steele

With new crew on board, we began training them in basic seamanship techniques such as tying knots and how to handle lines. It can be very overwhelming at first when faced with over 180 lines on board, each serving a different purpose. Once you begin to understand the mechanics of square rig sails it all starts to make sense and the knowledge and understanding starts to click. Often we are asked “do you have to know anything about sailing to sign aboard PICTON CASTLE?” and the answer is always no. We will introduce you to the skills you need and you’ll learn them by actually sailing the ship, all with the careful guidance of our experienced crew.

A view of some of the many lines on Picton Castle

Square rigged ships like PICTON CASTLE are much different than traditional schooner rigged or fore and aft sailing vessels and even seasoned schooner sailors find themselves learning all over again. The wind will always be the wind but how we harness it varies.

Each time we leave port we practice our emergency procedures. It might mean for longer term crew they are performing drills every week or 10 days but it helps to keep us sharp and ready to respond in an emergency. Fire, Abandon Ship and Man Overboard scenarios can often feel hectic but every person has a specific task that needs to be carried out calmly and effectively and repetition helps to establish a good working team. Some of those tasks involve quick line handling so learning where the ropes are and what purpose they serve is important to grasp. Practice makes perfect!

 

Noon Position: 44°39′.1N 062°02′.8W

Course + Speed: NW 4.5kts

Wind direction + Speed: W Force 3

Swell Height + Direction: W 1m

Weather: overcast and rainy

Day’s Run: 108.9nm

Log: 126 nm

Distance to Port: 105.8nm

Voyage: 5298nm

 

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Captain’s Log – Louisbourg, Cape Breton Island

By Allison Steele

After a wonderful day of small boat sailing while at anchor off of the Fortress of Louisbourg, it was time to head into port in the town of Louisbourg! But in true PICTON CASTLE fashion we launched our boats and they also participated in the Parade of Sail. Sea Never Dry, Jane and our wonderful 80-year-old Monomoy helped to lead the fleet of six tall ships into the harbour. We were greeted by traditional pipe and drum, historical actors and a huge crowd of onlookers waiting for the chance to come and visit us. As expected, ship’s cat Fiji was the first off the ship and did her usual cute posing for photographs and to delight her new friends on shore.

Louisbourg is a wonderful small town surrounded by great hiking trails and of course the famous Fortress of Louisbourg. Cape Breton is proud of their national historic site as it is one of North America’s busiest 18th century seaports. The fortress was founded by the French in 1713 but was demolished after two sieges by the British in the 1760s. In the 1960s reconstruction began of ¼ of the original French town and fortifications, and today it remains as one of the largest in North America.

The crew spent time touring this impressive fortress and immersing themselves in the 1700s. They could also be found puttering about in small boats in the harbour as it truly is one of our favourite pastimes.  Deck tours are an important part of Tall Ships Festivals as we love to open our home to the community and visitors. We are proud of our ship and the hard work we put in to make her look as beautiful as she does.

Another treat for the residents, visitors and ourselves was Louisbourg’s annual Crabfest! Being such a well known event in the province, it was a very busy weekend for everyone but provided some wonderful seafood and great entertainment. As we get ready to depart, I would like to thank the kind people of Louisbourg, especially the ship’s Liaison Lloydette and her team of volunteers. Events like this are often volunteer driven and without those volunteers, it would not have been the success it was!

 

 

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Day’s Run – 3 August, 2017

 

SMALL BOAT EXTRAVAGANZA!! Once we were anchored and settled, the crew of PICTON CASTLE launched all of our small boats for a fantastic afternoon of sailing in the great anchorage. With Jane, Monomoy and Sea Never Dry flitting around the bay enjoying some perfect weather, the crew learned the finer points of small boat sailing which, in reality, transfers quite well to larger ship sailing. The basic concepts are the same just on a smaller scale. After a great afternoon, the crew settled into dinner, then more small boat sailing and a swim call. The water is surprisingly warm although there were only a few brave souls as most wanted to continue sailing.

As the evening progressed, other ships in the fleet begin to join us in the harbour.  I can only imagine the view from the Fortress of Louisbourg with all the Tall Ships in the background. Like stepping back in time!

Noon Position: At anchor off of the Fortress of Louisbourg, NS.  45°53′.957N 59°58.985W

Wind: S1/2E

Weather: Good

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Day’s Run – 2 August, 2017

 

By Purser Allison Steele

With ship’s work continuing on, many of the crew are enjoying their new roles and adjusting to new challenges. The New Lead Seaman are leading their watches through line drills and practising stowing aloft. There are different methods to stowing sails and they need to be done quickly and efficiently should weather arise so this is an important skill to be practised at. The Mate also lead a workshop on Ratlines and several spares were constructed and maintenance checks to current ones. The crew lined up along the stretched out wires and enjoyed the messy fun of tarring! The application of tar protects the rigging from the wearing elements from the sea and weather not unlike paint and varnish. This type of maintenance work is vital to a ship not only for aesthetics but to provide protection and treatment. Without varnish, for example, wood would not last nearly as long as it does. There are parts of the quarterdeck that are original from PICTON CASTLE’s construction in 1928 that have been carefully maintained over the years. Sailing a vessel such as ours is not just about setting sails, it’s about how to care for the ship so that she can take you to far flung places in the world. A job worth doing.

Noon Position: 47°12′.9N 060°11′.6W

Course and Speed: SxW 3.6kts

Wind: NE 1/2 kts

Swell: ENE <1kts

Visibility: Good

Day’s Run: 85.8nm

Log: 182.9nm

Distance to Port: 94.9nm

Voyage Log: 5172.4nm

 

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