Captain's Log

Archive for July, 2009

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Pictou

Picton Castle sailed out the long fjord-like river from Sydney on Monday morning with our Sydney harbour (and all of Cape Breton) pilot, Captain MacKelvie, aboard. All in a flat calm. We would have sailed the night before but we could not get the required pilot to take us out. Pictou, the next port on our Tall Ships tour of Nova Scotia, was 200 nautical miles away. Some of the ships in the fleet had chosen to sail through the Bras D’Or lakes in Cape Breton, some, like us, who have rigs too tall for the high tension wires over the lakes, would be heading around Cape North, the tippy-top of Cape Breton and Nova Scotia and along the northwest coast of Cape Breton Island. It was a bit foggy as we rounded the Cape, but shortly after the skies cleared we were amazed by the beauty of the coastline. Giant cliffs rising out of the sea, heavily forested hills, sections of shale that looked like they were sliding into the ocean, even a long and narrow waterfall. Most of the land we saw is uninhabited, except for the occasional farm or small village. Breathtakingly gorgeous in the summer, probably a difficult place to live in the harsh winter conditions they must experience here.

We sailed into Pictou at 2:00 on Tuesday afternoon with a big crowd on the wharf to welcome us in and within an hour, we had the ship tied up and ready to open for deck tours. I have been amazed by the number of people who come out to see the ship in these small Nova Scotia towns. Some are repeat visitors, having seen the ships in Halifax a few weeks ago or in previous years, some are new to tall ships, having never been aboard before. There’s something about these ships that excites people and wraps them up in the idea of sailing, ships, the sea and adventure. Maybe it’s the heritage angle as once upon a time these small ports were regularly serviced by schooners and square-riggers about the size of the Picton Castle.

Pictou is home to its own tall ship, Hector, a replica of the original ship which brought the first Scottish settlers to Nova Scotia from Scotland in 1773. The original ship was built earlier in the 1700s, so she was an older type ship when she left Scotland for the New World, bringing people who were looking for new business opportunities, particularly in the forestry industry. They were also motivated by the idea of owning their own land and getting away from a tough life in Scotland. The replica was built over a period of about seven years, about ten years ago. Captain Moreland was chief rigger in 2003, getting the ship rigged up as you see her today. Hector was blown onto the rocks in Hurricane Juan in 2004, and again had drama in 2007 when one of her masts was struck by lightning. Hector is tied up at the Hector Heritage Quay, which also has an interpretation centre, a blacksmith shop, a carpentry shop and a small gift shop. Captain Moreland says she is one of the best replica / display ships anywhere.

The organizers of the Tall Ships event in Pictou hosted a breakfast for the crew on Wednesday morning at the Hector Heritage Quay. The food was great and our crew was joined by the mayor of Pictou, who introduced himself simply as Joe. As the morning went on, Joe mentioned that a woman from Pictou had sailed on Picton Castle. Mary Anne was shipmates with of a few of us aboard, and Donald and Ben mentioned to Joe that they had tried, unsuccessfully, to get in touch with her. Joe knew exactly where Mary Anne lives and drove Donald and Ben to her house. Imagine Mary Anne’s surprise when, at 8:15 in the morning, two old shipmates and the mayor turned up at her front door.

On Thursday morning, it was time to get underway and sail from Pictou to Pugwash, the next and final stop on our Tall Ships tour of Nova Scotia. The wind was good and strong on Thursday morning, making it a great day for sailing. All of the ships got off the dock, one after another, and hoisted their sails to parade out of the harbour. We parted ways here with Amistad, as they headed back towards the USA to continue on with their program. Sail were set up to the t’gallants and the helmsmen steered full and by as we sailed up the Northumberland Strait along with Pride of Baltimore II, Roseway and Mist of Avalon.

Jackie on helm on the coast of Cape Breton
Marie gets ready to ospho on the way to Pictou
PC under sail on the way to Pictou

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Port Hawkesbury

Picton Castle sailed out of Halifax harbour with the other ships at the start of the Tall Ships Race, but bound for Port Hawkesbury instead, about 150 nautical miles away. The grand fleet of sailing ships that had been together in Boston and Halifax was breaking up at this point, with some of the ships racing across the Atlantic to Belfast, Ireland, some heading on to other Nova Scotia ports (including us) and some continuing on with their own sail training or educational agendas. But all the ships sailed along for a while in diminishing winds in the pretty, clear afternoon off Halifax and the shore of Nova Scotia – what a sight it was! And what a special occasion to be sailing with these great ships! Kruzenstern, Eagle, Sagres, Cisne Branco and all the others made for quite a fleet. We shut down the main engine right at the mouth of the harbour and sailed from Monday afternoon until Tuesday morning, then fired up the main engine and made the rest of the passage under engine power in absolutely zero wind.

Tuesday night just at dusk we anchored off Lazy Head next to Durell Island near Canso. The Pride of Baltimore II anchored with us to wait out the night and give the crew some rest. It was a sweet quiet anchorage and we could smell pine and spruce and other earthy hints blowing gently off the land. At the crack of dawn on Wednesday morning we heaved up the anchor and were ready to take on a pilot to go into the Canso Straight. Canso Straight is a long fjord-like straight between Cape Breton Island and mainland Nova Scotia. It gets some major shipping due to the oil terminal there as well as gravel and gypsum cargos. Huge super tankers tranship their cargos to smaller tankers for getting into shallower harbours all up and down the east coast of the US and Canada. Many thanks go to our pilot, Tony Pierce, who guided us in and out of Port Hawkesbury. Mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island, both part of the province of Nova Scotia, are connected by the man-made Canso Causeway. The causeway is not only a bridge and road between to these two land masses but with its shipping lock does a great deal to regulate what would otherwise be a very strong tidal current making navigation that much more tricky. The town of Port Hawkesbury is very near the causeway on the Cape Breton side. From our dock in Port Hawkesbury, we could see the causeway just ahead. Port Hawkesbury is also home to the Nautical Institute of the Nova Scotia Community College, where many of our former crew members have gone to school to earn their various formal marine certifications after their training onboard this ship.

We shared the dock at Port Hawkesbury with Topsail Schooner Pride of Baltimore II, Brigantine Fair Jeanne, Schooner Roseway and, on Wednesday, the tugboat Theodore Too. All of the ships had open decks from 1000 to 1700 on Wednesday and 1200 to 1900 on Thursday. We were welcomed warmly in Port Hawkesbury with two events for crew, including a great dinner of barbequed steak and chicken (also corn on the cob, potato salad, carrot salad, soft drinks and, yes, beer for those old enough…) on Wednesday evening and free admission to the pub night with the band Sons of Maxwell on Thursday night. Our crew were the first to be up on their feet and dancing at the pub night, the band was great! Sons of Maxwell have been made famous by a YouTube video about airline baggage handlers smashing their guitars somewhat cavalierly and all on video! They had volunteer drivers available to take crew on ships’ errands including grocery shopping and trips to the hardware store, and to the community centre to use the showers and the internet. One of our trainees, Julie, lives close to Port Hawkesbury and her mom brought us lobsters for supper on Thursday, along with lots of other baked goods and other mom type treats.

Now we’re sailing for Sydney, at the north end of Cape Breton. We sailed out of Port Hawkesbury on Friday morning with Pride of Baltimore II and have kept pace with them for the passage. The weather on this passage has been wet and the skies are overcast, but we’re glad to be at sea again, sailing along the coast of Cape Breton. The new crew who joined us in Halifax are getting accomplished at steering, lookout and the rest of the watch duties and the day’s work included a few little rigging projects.

This morning we hove-to off Sydney in pretty strong south easterly winds waiting for our pilot time. We can see the Pride closer in under land in the mouth of the fjord tacking back and forth waiting to head in too.

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Halifax

After a fair passage from Boston, Picton Castle sailed around Chebucto Head, boarded our pilot Captain Shawn Dauphine and sailed into grand Halifax under grey skies on Thursday afternoon. We sailed the whole way under sail in the fair breeze, only taking in sail off Georges Island right by the downtown waterfront. We quickly got tied up bow in, port side to alongside Purdy’s Wharf at the north end of the lovely Halifax waterfront. We shared this wharf with the Dutch barque Europa during our stay in Halifax. Europa is a beautiful ship, exactly the same size as Picton Castle and also barque rigged – they look almost like sister-ships. We have had crew, including Nadja and Christian, who have worked on both vessels. We sometimes say that she is a cold weather version of our ship or that we are a tropical version of theirs. She is a lovely and sea worthy ocean going vessel, very well operated. Europa has spent a good part of the past few years making voyages to Antarctica, so she has a few different features (like heating) than Picton Castle as we sail mostly in the tropics.

Purdy’s Wharf is quite high above the water, so we set the gangway on the quarterdeck between the two life rafts and also served the teak taff-rail on the quarterdeck so we could rest the gangway there when the tide was low. With Halifax being our first port back in Canada after our visit to the US, we also had to clear in with Customs and Immigration, which went smoothly as usual. With the whole fleet arriving from Boston, the officers were very busy clearing in all the many vessels and crew. There were a few other vessels in Halifax that had not been in Boston, mostly Canadian vessels, and they met up with the fleet there.

The on-watch wasted no time in Halifax, getting to work right away on Thursday afternoon to host a private reception on board the ship. A catering company brought some great food and the guests seemed to enjoy the spirit of the Tall Ships event. The off-watch headed straight for the Cunard Centre where there was a welcome party and BBQ for crew of all the ships. The party featured Nova Scotia entertainment, including our friend, Lunenburg-based fiddler Anna Ludlow, who, by the way, is just awesome. Anna played at a party we had in Lunenburg when the ship returned from the Atlantic Voyage and it was great to see her again on a bigger stage. Did I mention that she is awesome?

We had three days of deck tours in Halifax, and enthusiastic crowds of visitors on all three days. Friday was foggy and Saturday it rained most of the day, but that didn’t seem to stop visitors from coming out to tour the decks. It takes more than a little rain to keep Nova Scotians indoors. We rigged an awning amidships so that there was some shelter from the wet weather. Sunday was sunny and beautiful. We loosed and set all the sails to dry and we continued to have lots of people visiting the ship.

After Halifax, the fleet was scheduled to part ways with some of the ships, like us, sailing onward to more Nova Scotia ports, some ships setting out across the Atlantic on the next leg of the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge race to Belfast, Ireland, and some ships carrying on with their own schedules or returning to their programs. While our crew did some visiting with other vessels in Boston, Halifax was our last chance to see some of these great ships. I made time to tour some of the other ships and was particularly impressed by Kruzenshtern, the four-masted barque from Russia. Apart from Sedov, another Russian vessel, Kruzenshtern is the largest working sailing vessel in the world. At 376 feet in length, she is more than twice as long as Picton Castle. Part of her foremast came down earlier in the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge, so her fore t’gallant and royal yards were stowed on deck along with the mast. I first saw a yard that was about the size of our lower tops’l yard and figured it was the t’gallant, but then later saw a larger yard on deck, one so big I could barely fit my arms around it, and discovered that the yard I saw earlier must have been the royal.

On Saturday morning there was a crew parade, which is not to be confused with a parade of sail. A crew parade is an event on land, where the crews of all the ships march together up and down some streets. This is an opportunity for the crews of military ships to show off all their fancy uniforms and their precise training and sharp coordination. Ships from different countries will often have some of their crew in traditional costumes and some ships even have bands. Picton Castle crew have a lot of fun in crew parades, but we are a bit hopeless so we usually take things more lightly and dress in bright colours, carry all sorts of international flags and bring a stereo to blast music. Our marching patterns are also unique and mimic sail handling moves made on the ship.

The parade on the water, the Parade of Sail, took place on Monday as the ships departed Halifax. Naturally the Schooner Bluenose II led the fleet; we were fourth in the parade after Amistad and Peers Fancy. We backed off away from the dock shortly after 1000 and followed towards the mouth of the harbour while the other ships maneuvered in behind us. We made one big loop of Halifax harbour, then continued around for a second loop to go back and drop off the guests we had aboard for the parade. The amount of people on the shore watching the parade was incredible – quite a crowd on both sides of the harbour. Lots of salutes, cannons, blowing of deep ships’ horns, dipping of flags and the ships with as much sail as they could carry under the conditions with the breeze freshening.

Now we’re heading for Port Hawkesbury, the first of our out-port visits in Nova Scotia. We’ll be in the company of a few other ships for the next few ports, including Pride of Baltimore II, Fair Jeanne, and Roseway who will be in Port Hawkesbury with us; then a few more vessels who have gone to Louisburg will meet up with us again in Sydney.

Note from the Captain: We have to say that Halifax outdid themselves this time – this was a great sea-side event, the best ever in Halifax in our experience, very well planned, managed, led and a great time had by all, ashore and aboard the ships. Onward…

EAGLE underway in Parade of Sail Halifax
KRUZENSHTERN alongside in Halifax
PICTON CASTLE and EUROPA at Purdy s Wharf Halifax
PICTON CASTLE sails into Halifax
Tall Ships at Halifax

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Boston to Halifax

The crew of the Picton Castle had a great time in Boston. It’s a big city full of things to see and do, many of the crew have talked about returning there sometime to visit again and see more of the city. The ships are tied up at various facilities, with us at Charlestown Navy Yard along with Schooner Bluenose II, Schooner Amistad, three masted Schooner Spirit of Bermuda and the US Coast Guard Barque Eagle. The rest of the sailing ship fleet is spread out around the harbour, as far away as the Boston Fish Pier, which was once home to hundreds of fishing schooners, then fish draggers, now not so much. The weather has been clear, hot and sunny, a big change from our foggy and rainy sail up to Gloucester from Nova Scotia.

Bluenose II and Picton Castle made the front page of the Boston Globe on Friday, all tied up and with visitors aboard in Charlestown. We have welcomed lots of people aboard during our time in Boston. At about 4,000 people per day, our decks have been packed with visitors and despite the fact that the ships are well spread out, people seem to be making the trek to see as many of the ships as they can. Sail Boston and all of their partners have done a great job at making sure that the event is safe and easy to get around. At the head of Pier 4, where we are docked, there is a big first aid station staffed by EMS personnel, along with food and drink concessions and souvenir stands. We have also had visits from many former crew here in Boston, some who have been part of previous world voyages and some who have sailed on shorter voyages. Among those visitors were Mike and Carla Johnson who sailed on our third world voyage. They come by this world voyaging business naturally as Mike’s grandparents were Captain Irving and Exy Johnson of Brigantine Yankee fame. Also Paulina Brooks of Bermuda who (as well as her son) has sailed with the ship many times – she delivered to us samples of the new 70 cent Bermuda postage stamp with Picton Castle under full sail on it.

Our crew have been out exploring Boston on their days off duty. Boston is a great city to walk around in, many of our crew have been on the Freedom Trail or parts of it, visiting historic landmarks in the city. Different Italian restaurants in the north end of the city have been getting great reviews from our crew, there are also some places with great food and wine in Charlestown, close to the ship. A number of our crew attended the crew liberty party at the Bank of America Pavilion, Picton Castle crew were also added to the guest list at the exclusive Foundation Room at House of Blues thanks to our friends at Sail Gloucester. Almost every evening we have met up with crews from other ships. Getting to meet other crew and know them is definitely one of the highlights of sailing as part of the fleet.

Sunday was the last day of festivities in Boston and we were due to get underway Monday morning at 0900 for Halifax. Bluenose II had left the dock an hour before us, so we were able to back up and then turn around and sail out of the harbour. There was no official parade of sail, but with most ships leaving on Monday morning, we were able to see other vessels. The elegant graceful departures of so many sailing ships sailing from Boston made for delightful “pageant of sail” if not a “parade”. We had a stunning view of Sagres, the 295’ barque from Portugal, as she sailed out behind us as well as many of the smaller vessels. The sail from Boston to Halifax was a Cruise-in-Company as part of the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge. Each ship goes at her own pace on the passage, but with so many beautiful vessels sailing between the same ports we were able to see many of the fleet. I have often wondered what our ship looks like coming over the horizon at sea, I think I have a better idea now, having seen other square-riggers at a distance. Pretty magical.

It was good to get back to sea on this four-day passage. Crew got back into the routine of watches and mealtimes, a quiet passage in contrast to the excitement we left in Boston and anticipate in Halifax. It can be tough to get ship’s work done in ports when we’re welcoming guests aboard, so we used the time at sea between ports to do some maintenance work and keep the ship looking her best. Erin taught Nick how to replace ratlines aloft; other crew members were working on slushing some of the rigging, oiling blocks and spot painting. We did a man overboard drill where we threw a buoy over the side and then recovered it with the rescue boat and a fire drill where we simulated a fire in the paint locker. Second mate Paul led a workshop on navigation – then the crew were split in half to study charts and practice plotting with Paul and chief mate Mike. On Wednesday, our last day at sea before arriving in Halifax, we had a leg party to end the first leg of the summer voyage. Crew members leaving the ship in Halifax were presented with their sea service certificates and a Picton Castle hat, followed by some popcorn and punch to celebrate.

As I write this, we are sailing towards Chebucto Head at the entrance of Halifax harbour, about to take on a harbour pilot to bring us in to our berth at Purdy’s Wharf. The Bark Europa is sailing just ahead of us with stuns’ls set and the VHF radio is abuzz with ships in the fleet reporting their arrival and making arrangements to enter the harbour. We’ll be saying goodbye to some of the crew here in Halifax, but we’re looking forward to seeing some old friends and welcoming some new crew.

Antoine on helm with SAGRES behind leaving Boston
Erin replaces ratlines
Mike leads navigation workshop
Paul leads navigation workshop

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Sailing into Boston

After Picton Castle’s departure from Gloucester was delayed by weather on Tuesday, we got underway early on Wednesday morning to sail into Boston on time for our docking schedule. We had a few new faces on board for this passage as we had a crew exchange with the Dutch Navy ketch Urania. We welcomed Marc, Eric, Gerrit and Rodney as crew for this short passage while Sasha, Lewis and Antoine from our crew sailed with Urania into Boston. Getting to know sailors from other ships and experiencing other vessels is a huge part of what makes these Tall Ships events interesting and valuable for the crew.

The day came in kind of grey but with a modest fair wind for Boston. There was an all hands wakeup call at 0600, then we quickly got the main engine fired up, dock lines singled up, the gangway aboard and stowed and we were underway, heading out of Gloucester harbour. This passage would be a short one, as we were due into Boston at 1100. We motor-sailed for the first part of the passage, trying to get to the mouth of the harbour fairly quickly so we could take our time sailing into Boston. Around 0820 we set all sail up to t’gallants and were under sail power alone, beginning our entrance to the harbour. The main engine was on stand-by in case we needed it.

We sailed along into the harbour, past different industrial buildings at first, then into the downtown skyline. The international airport in Boston is on the water’s edge and it was pretty amazing to have airplanes flying low above the ship as they came in to land. As we got closer to the main city centre, we saw a number of other ships already alongside at their berths including the full-rigger Cisne Branco from Brazil, Libertad from Argentina also a full-rigger and the 4-masted barque Kruzenshtern from Russia. These are very big ships.

We made our way to the head of the harbour, to Charlestown Navy Yard, which is the home of the USS Constitution. Picton Castle is docked at Pier 4, along with Bluenose II, the famous Canadian schooner and our neighbour in Lunenburg, and LE Eithne, an Irish Navy warship. In the space between Pier 3 and Pier 4 is a drydock basin that is part of the Navy Yard. The whole area is now operated by the National Parks Service as a historic site. Ellen, our liaison officer from Sail Boston, was on the dock to greet us and hand over piles of information on the city and the event. US Coast Guard personnel were also on hand upon our arrival to inspect the ship and certify us for deck tours. Shortly after, second mate Paul and I were whisked away to a briefing on the port and the local area.

We took advantage of the time on Wednesday with no deck tours scheduled to get the ship into great shape for opening to the public on Thursday. We estimate that we had about 4,000 visitors tour the decks on Thursday, it looks now like those kind of numbers will continue for the duration of the event. We love having the chance to share the ship with people and are glad to welcome folks aboard.

The crew are getting out to explore the city while off duty. There is a ferry boat that goes from the next pier over into the heart of Boston, or it’s possible to walk the Freedom Trail from Charlestown Navy Yard, across the bridge and into the central part of the city, passing by a number of historic landmarks on the way. The crew were able to take in one such landmark on Wednesday evening as a crew party was scheduled in Faneuil Hall, a collection of shops and restaurants in an all-pedestrian marketplace. Our crew party was at Cheers (one of two locations in Boston), modelled on the bar from the TV show.

Just before the crew party, our furry four-legged crew member, Chibley, the ship’s cat, had an adventure of her own. The building closest to where the ship is tied up is a condominium, somehow Chibs ended up in the parking garage of the condo. Some nice resident found her there and turned her in to the front desk clerk. The clerk then called the phone number on Chibley’s tag and got through to us. One of the crew went to the condo front desk to retrieve her. The nice folks had ordered room service for her and she had some pretty nice chow in front of her. She is used to walking around and exploring on her own, so she would have found her way home without help. It’s nice that someone was looking out for her, though. Our time in Boston has just begun, but it seems like a great city and we’re looking forward to exploring it more.

Airplane flies close to the ship in Boston
Catherine aloft on the royal in Boston
Chibley helps sell merchandise
PICTON CASTLE and BLUENOSE II in Boston

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Gloucester

Picton Castle’s visit to Gloucester has been a bit of a whirlwind. After getting tied up at the very excellent new facility of Gloucester Cruiseport, operated by the extremely gracious Sheree DeLorenzo, right across from the big fish pier, we had two days of perfect weather. This was well appreciated after weeks of fog and rain. We have had such a warm welcome, everyone in the city has been really friendly to our crew and there have been a number of events for us to attend. Once we told Ally O’Connor we were coming to Gloucester on our way to Boston, she wrangled more vessels to join us in Gloucester, including the Dutch Navy sail training vessel Urania, the Dutch barque Europa and Tecla, a vessel our crew first saw at the Tall Ship Races in Europe last summer. Gloucester is such a richly salty old seaport with all sorts of charming small coves and boats coming and going or tied up. They have something here we don’t see so much anymore; small wooden family operated fishing trawlers making a living bringing in fish from the sea. Plenty of lobster boats too with seagulls wheeling overhead constantly crying. And the beautiful Essex built Schooner Thomas Lannon making daily trips getting visitors and locals alike out on Gloucester harbour in an exquisite example of the type of craft that made for Gloucester’s legends. The 1924 fishing schooner Adventure was berthed right next to us, making progress on her restoration too.

After we got the ship turned around in the narrow passage and tied up (gang-way out, chafe gear on, net rigged) and cleared through Customs/Immigration (very smooth), we quickly prepared the ship to open for deck tours. There is a small floating dock between the wharf and the ship, making gangway arrangements fairly easy. We opened the ship for deck tours for a few hours on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Our guests aboard were inquisitive, asking the crew all sorts of questions about the ship and her voyages. With so many crew who had just completed our 20,000 mile voyage of the Atlantic we had no shortage of answers. For many of our new crew, this was the first time they were involved in public deck tours and it was a good warm-up for the big city tall ship events to come in Boston and Halifax.

Lovely dinners at local restaurants were offered to groups of our crew every night that we were in Gloucester. On Saturday night the crew enjoyed a fantastic Mexican meal at Jalapenos on Main Street, on Sunday we sat on the beautiful patio at the Dogbar for supper and on Monday night we were at Gloucester House for a crew party for the crews of all visiting ships. We send our thanks to all these fine establishments for their hospitality – you certainly went out of your way to make us feel welcome and we appreciate it!

Sunday morning started with breakfast at the Eastern Point Yacht Club for the Captain and a number of our crew. Captain Moreland was asked to address the members of the yacht club, to speak about the ship. Eastern Point Yacht Club is a beautiful old association at the very mouth of the harbour, right at the lands end of the big breakwater protecting the port. They are now working at getting more young people out sailing to give them a chance to enjoy and appreciate their own wonderful local waters. A number of the members came to the ship later in the day for deck tours. Monday morning also started with a breakfast program, this time a business breakfast with three panellists, Bert Rogers, Executive Director of the American Sail Training Association, Ian Kerr, Executive Director of Ocean Alliance and Captain Moreland, also speaking about waterfront development. Mayor Carolyn Kirk moderated the forum, attended by Gloucester business people. This event went over well and hopefully will help to advance the conversation in Gloucester about waterfront issues specific to their seafaring community.

Picton Castle has a lot of friends and supporters in Gloucester and it was great to be able to welcome them aboard. We had a private reception the first evening we were in port and another one yesterday around lunch time. During our stay we shared in the Blessing of the Fleet, which something we never pass up when it comes our way.

Coming alongside Gloucester Cruiseport
EUROPA at the Gloucester fish pier
Getting the gangway ready
Schooner ADVENTURE at the Gloucester Cruiseport

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Arriving at Gloucester

Our passage from Lunenburg to Gloucester has been foggy, thick, thick fog all the time. But the winds were fair and we sailed along our way. Finally, yesterday, it began to clear as the ship sailed into Ipswich Bay on the coast of Cape Ann. We arrived in time that we could have gone into Gloucester on Friday night, but we had a big arrival scheduled for Saturday morning, so we went to anchor in Ipswich Bay in order to sail in on time the next day.

This passage, the first passage of the summer voyage and the first passage for many of our trainees, has been full of new experiences. People have been aloft underway for the first time, loosing and stowing sails. A few people were seasick for the first time, but everyone seems to have recovered now. We have seen whales, practiced knots, set sails, braced yards, scrubbed the decks, washed dishes and even tacked the ship. Like a quote in our handbook says, sailing is a mix of the ordinary and the sublime.

This morning we woke up early, 0630 in ship’s time and 0530 in shore time, in order to get around Cape Ann and to the entrance to Gloucester Harbour on time. We heaved up the anchor and got going under mostly clear skies on the first sunny day we’ve had in a while. We sailed around Thatchers Island with its twin light houses famous to generations of Gloucester fishermen coming home from the Banks. As we came closer to the entrance to the harbour in Gloucester, there were more and more boats around – this and thousands of lobster trap buoys everywhere. The organizers of the event had put out a call to all recreational boaters to let them know they could accompany us into the harbour. In addition to scores of small boats, we were accompanied by the schooners Thomas E Lannon, American Eagle and Lewis R French. The French is a restored coasting schooner from the 19th century, sailing with passengers in Maine. The Lannon had been built recently in Essex for day sailing and the American Eagle had been built in Gloucester in 1930 as a fishing schooner and had once been owned by Capt Ben Pine, Capt Angus Walters’ perennial rival in fishing schooner races with the famous Bluenose of Lunenburg. Lannon was close by our side for most of the way, under the command of Captain Tom Ellis. A fire boat also came out to join us, throwing huge sprays of water up into the air to lead us in. While they were to windward of us, it felt and looked like we were back in the fog that accompanied us from Lunenburg. As we got closer and came into the harbour, there were people standing on the wharves waving and watching our arrival. Days of fog had turned to an exquisite blue sky sunny day for our arrival.

Our berth is at the Gloucester Cruiseport, across from the fish pier. The inner harbour has two channels, separated by the fish pier. Both channels are full of vessels, mainly commercial fishing vessels. The Captain wanted to position the ship with the starboard side to the wharf, so we had to turn the ship in the channel and bring her alongside. By using the engine and setting and taking in the spanker to push us around, the ship made a tight half-circle with not a lot of extra room on either side to face the right way.

After we were tied up to the wharf and US Customs had come aboard to clear us into the country, we welcomed Mayor Carolyn Kirk and event planner Ally O’Connor on board. They have been so welcoming and have organized lots of things to keep the crew busy. After such a great welcome, we’re looking forward to our stay in Gloucester, this fine old seaport with so many connections to Lunenburg and, of course, the sea.

Captain has the conn on the way into Gloucester
Fire boat leads the way into Gloucester
John on helm going into Gloucester with THOMAS E LANNON behind
Schooner THOMAS E LANNON
Watching Picton Castle sail in
Waving as we pass

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Brazil Rock

Sailin’ in a tick dungeon o’fog…cut it with a knife you could…Just now the Barque Picton Castle is off Brazil Rocks near the southern tip of Nova Scotia steering to pass just north of Georges Banks. Back in the day of fishing schooners and fog much of the navigation was enriched guess work. That so many vessels went up on the rocks in the fog is no surprise, that so many made it safely back to port might be more of one. Of course it isn’t always foggy hereabouts but isn’t all that scarce either. I remember sailing back to Gloucester from Newfoundland by way of Lunenburg in the 1894 Essex built grand banker schooner Ernestina ex Effie M. Morrissey. Some old fishermen in Brigus, NL had showed us how to jig for cod and set us up with some jigs. Jigs are simply chunks of lead shaped kind of like fish with some big hooks sticking out. Any corner store used to carry them and twenty years ago every corner store in small Newfoundland waterfront towns certainly did. You scrape the lead jig with the blade of your knife to make the jigs shiny and you drop your jig to the bottom, raise it up just a bit then snap it up quickly with your arm again and again and this snags the fish which may be attracted to the shine of the jig and swirl around it trying to figure out how to eat it. In Lunenburg some other old fishermen told us that we might get some fat cod if we went close into Brazil Rocks near Cape Sable, launched a dory and got closer still and jigged for a spell. This we did and sure enough we got enough cod for a nice feed for the crew of that big black schooner. This must have been in 1987. We put our cod jigs away after that satisfied in the knowledge that once again a few cod were slapping over the decks of that famous old high-liner fishing schooner. Made a good supper too what with fired onions and potatoes and smoked salt fat back rendered down into scrunchings all cooked on the big black cast iron Shipmate stove down in the focsle. Didn’t pack any away in salt though, those times are past, just enough for one meal, besides we had no salt. The fish feed followed by black coffee and blueberry pie.

Now here we are off Brazil Rocks in another old fishing vessel, this time big, square-rigged and built of riveted steel, bound once again in the fog for Gloucester. We have a new gang aboard fitting in just fine, “learning the ropes” a couple getting past a brush with mal-de-mer, learning to steer their ship, keeping a good look-out, already handy at the braces. Soon we round the corner here and sail across the Gulf of Maine. Yes, we have fog, but we also have a fair wind from the east which is not so common so we figure we are pretty fortunate right about now and everything is altogether pretty good. Happy Canada Day.

Battery Point lighthouse
Catherine on lookout in the fog
Erin and Randy aloft on the fore
Leaving Lunenburg in the fog

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