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Outward Bound for the South Pacific

Not long ago some of the crew were sitting around a fireplace here in Lunenburg on a blowing late winter’s night. All were veterans of one or more voyages through the South Pacific in the Picton Castle and were contemplating the next voyage and all that it would bring. As attractive as the planned voyage was, the thought floated up, not quite sure how, and I do not know who first put it into words, but it came out fully formed: what would it be like if we never sailed in the Pacific again? A dark shudder went through the crew. Heads hung and an awkward silence filled the room.

What is it about the South Pacific that so tantalizes sailing ship sailors? Well for one, you can’t imagine a finer tradewind ocean to explore under sail while learning the ways of a ship and the sea, nor more exciting and evocative islands to draw us over the horizon. Any number of old school deepsea sailors would have given anything to sail a small trading square-rigger among these storied isles, particularly when the alternative was hauling on frozen braces in the icy seas in the lee scuppers off the pitch of Cape Horn.

Maybe they were right, we thought. The South Pacific is the sea in which to range far and wide. Sailing in the tradewinds of the tropics across the broad blue Pacific Ocean. And what ship is better suited to roam among these South Pacific islands and archipelagos than this same barque Picton Castle who knows these isles and atolls so well? The answer is a little bit obvious, isn’t it?

And so once again we will square our yards and sheet home our canvas and set sail for the South Pacific this fall. We are bound for Panama, Galapagos, Pitcairn Island, French Polynesia and the Gambier Islands, Tuamotus, the Society Islands of Tahiti, Morea, Bora Bora and then on to the delightful Cook Islands. Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Palmerston Atoll and others will give our crew a chance to deliver the mails and try their hand at catching parrot fish and learning to dance island style in the sands by the lagoon.

The deep Polynesian island groups of Samoa and Tonga are on our voyage path as well. We will be seeing old friends of the ship in the islands and making new ones when we anchor or heave-to in the lee of these atolls. We will be taking educational supplies and actually delivering real cargo to some very isolated islands. The crew will be taking long boats into Bounty Bay and will perhaps take our own long boat on an overnight expedition around stunning Bora Bora. We have plenty of sails to make up on the quarter deck from bolts of snowy cotton duck as we traverse the tradewinds. Ropes and wires to splice, decks to oil, the rigging to tar, a ship to look after, safety duties to study and learn, and perhaps fish to catch. If the gang does not learn celestial navigation and shooting the sun and stars after days at sea it won’t be for lack of opportunity.

More on this all in the coming days and weeks. We have a wonderful summer planned too, sailing with an impressive fleet of Tall Ships from Savannah, Georgia, and other ports, on to Halifax, Nova Scotia. We also have two Bosun Schools with some exciting seamanship learning opportunities planned this summer, so stay tuned.

Alex gives a piggy back ride
assembling cargo on the wharf at avatiu
at anchor drying sail
camping expedition in the monomoy
Georgie demonstrates how South Africans climb coconut trees
rigging the swing rope for swimming while anchored off the reef
Skiff ride
south pacific sunset
students on the bridge

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