Friday, August 25th, 2006
Leaving Port Huron on Monday morning meant the completion of the main part of the Picton Castle‘s summer voyage. We have been part of a fleet of tall ships for the past six weeks, and we all went our different ways as we parted company in Port Huron. We have successfully completed our Tall Ship festival circuit, with over 60,000 visitors touring the decks. The ship is sure to seem quieter as we make our journey home to Lunenburg.
One of the highlights for the crew this summer has been getting to know the crew of the other ships. The camaraderie is instant, because we have so much in common. When our new friends talk about being on helm in the middle of a thunderstorm we understand because we’ve been there, too. Several of the ports this summer have put on events for crew, and these have been great opportunities for everyone to meet each other. Toward the end of the summer it was impossible to walk home to the Picton Castle inside the festival grounds without saying hello and stopping to chat at different ships on the way.
The festival in Port Huron had fewer ships participating than at other festivals this summer, but it was still a huge success. The Picton Castle was alongside the Seaway Terminal in the St. Clair River with the US Brig Niagara, Pride of Baltimore II, and Highlander Sea, which is based here in Port Huron. A trolley ride away, the Unicorn and Royaliste were alongside in the Black River. The event was organized by Acheson Ventures, an organization under the direction of Dr. Jim Acheson that has done huge amounts of work developing the town’s waterfront and generally doing very good works for the town. Instead of buying a ticket, admission to the festival was either a non-perishable food item or a cash donation to the local food bank.
As in all our port stops this summer we have been selling Picton Castle merchandise. Chibbley, the ship’s cat, made a guest appearance in the merchandise tent on Saturday afternoon. She hopped up on the table and curled up right next to the greeting cards and gift cards that bear her image. She always attracts quite a crowd, as she is a celebrity in her own right. I promise you that these photos below were not staged or digitally altered—Chibbley struck all the poses on her own. She must have used her television appearance on the evening news in Chicago as a warm-up for this—the camera crew there chased her around Navy Pier with cameras rolling for more than 20 minutes.
At Port Huron we also hosted a reunion of the crew of the Brigantine Romance. The Romance sailed from 1966 until 1989 under Captain Arthur M. Kimberly and his wife Gloria on voyages all around the world, including two circumnavigations, teaching many young mariners seafaring and the ways of a ship. Capt. Kimberly had gone to sea in schooners in 1939, sailed as an ordinary seaman in a Swedish four-masted barque, and later as mate in three-masted schooners. He sailed in tankers in WWII, worked at Ted Hood’s original sail loft, sailed as skipper of the Brigantine Yankee and worked as Chief Rigger at Mystic Seaport Museum before getting the Romance and sailing her for 23 years. In Port Huron the former Romance crew convened aboard the Picton Castle for a good get-together. Captain Moreland had been the Mate in the Romance in the mid 1970s before sailing in the full-rigged ship Danmark. He says that it was his most formative sea experience by far, and the Picton Castle is a direct result.
The current in the St. Clair River is quite strong, up to 5 knots in places. The Picton Castle was flying along on the way into Port Huron as we passed under the Blue Water Bridge that connects Canada and the USA. I noticed we were going faster than usual and when I checked our speed I was amazed to find that it was 11.5 knots! We made it up to 11.7 knots just before we turned around a bend in the river. The Picton Castle hasn’t moved that quickly since we rounded the Cape of Good Hope in the Agulhas current last February.
And so we continue on out of the Great Lakes, moving with the current towards Nova Scotia. There is still a lot for us to do. We stopped briefly in Erie, Pennsylvania, and today we’ll go through the Welland Canal. This weekend we will be at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, where a new group of trainees will join us on Sunday. The first weekend of September will bring us to Kingston, Ontario, for another of our famous South Sea Cargo Sales where we will offer exotic goods collected on our world voyage. Following that, we’ll be off for Gaspé (Québec) and then to Summerside (Prince Edward Island) before returning home to Lunenburg. The summer voyage of the Picton Castle is far from over, but it’s nice to be heading downbound in the Great Lakes with the current behind us.