Thursday, September 28th, 2006
The Picton Castle is once again securely tied up in her home port of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. The ship sailed in Friday, September 22, rounding Battery Point on the way into Lunenburg Harbour at 1800. The Captain brought the ship in across the top of our dock then backed in alongside, starboard side to. We made all the dock lines secure before squaring the yards and stowing the sails for the last time this voyage. There was a small crowd on the dock to meet us, giving the usual cheer once all the dock lines were fast and the main engine was shut off.
We had an interesting last week of the summer voyage. Shortly after leaving Summerside we passed under the Confederation Bridge, which connects Prince Edward Island to the mainland. We passed under this 13-km bridge going the other way about 3 months before, but it’s still amazing to see how long and narrow it is. We motored through the Northumberland Strait, heading towards the Strait of Canso, which separates Cape Breton Island from mainland Nova Scotia. At Canso we went through the final lock of our journey. Because there is only one shallow lock at Canso we didn’t make all our usual lock preparations, but instead had tire fenders standing by to keep the ship off the lock walls. It went smoothly, as it should have after all the lock experience we earned in the St. Lawrence River and Welland Canal.
On the Picton Castle, as on any ship, we are constantly concerned about the weather. We had received reports that the wind would blow quite hard from the direction we planned to head, so on Tuesday night we sought shelter in Arichat Harbour on the SW coast of Cape Breton. The wind picked up to gale force, as expected, so on Wednesday morning we went alongside at the wharf of Premium Seafoods Ltd. in Arichat before it really started to blow. They were kind enough to allow us to stay, and the crew experienced the generosity and hospitality for which Cape Bretoners are famous. People kept showing up at the wharf to check out the ship and offer rides or assistance.
Thursday morning we headed out of Arichat to make the final part of our journey down the Nova Scotia coast towards Lunenburg. The wind was still coming from dead ahead of us, but we pushed on under motor anyway. The swells were quite large compared to what we have been experiencing lately inland, and it was truly a reminder that we were in the ocean again. A number of folks on board were feeling a bit green because of the motion of the ship, but there were hardly any complaints. Early Friday morning the swells began to lay down a bit and people started to get used to it, although it was still overcast and cold. The highlight of the last week of the voyage was actually sailing for a few hours on Friday afternoon, heading towards Cross Island and Lunenburg. The sun had come out by then and, although it was still cold, the crew got one last chance to enjoy the wind in our hair, the sun on our faces, and salt spray on our skin as the ship heeled over to port and wind filled the sails.
Most trainees left over the weekend. Those who have stayed are being put to work along with the experienced crew. Saturday all the cargo from the hold was unloaded and moved it into the warehouse. This is always a big job that requires lots of organization, people, and muscles. The job was finished by the middle of the afternoon and the crew got to start their day off a bit early. This weekend the Pride of Baltimore II came into Lunenburg to wait out some rough weather on their trip towards home. The Pride II participated in all the tall ship festivals with us this summer and it was good to see some familiar faces again. The crew had a chance to relax on Sunday, getting to visit our favourite places and people in Lunenburg. The work list for this week is long, and all hands were back at it again Monday morning, starting with a reorganization of the warehouse to make space to unload more things from the ship and loosing sails to dry. The sails are all cotton canvas, which needs to be kept dry when not in use, so they will be sent down and stored in the warehouse until they are needed again. We have to clean and empty the hold and sole, overhaul our living spaces, paint the masts and yards, put a topcoat of paint, varnish, grease or tar in the appropriate places, and take care of all sorts of other loose ends.
The Picton Castle certainly had a busy summer, traveling a total of 4,500 nautical miles. The ship participated in 5 tall ship festivals, visiting 6 states and 4 provinces. We had more than 135 trainees on board along with 25 experienced crew. We ate 260 fantastic meals, heaved up the anchor 13 times, went through 32 locks that brought us 600 feet up and back down, and had over 100,000 visitors tour the decks. We had a good time this summer getting to know new shipmates, meeting crew from other ships, and introducing people to the Picton Castle on tours. Most important, our 135 trainees on board got to know the magic of sailing this beautiful barque, to stand watches, to steer the ship, and to learn more about the sea and themselves in the process.