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Review of a Picton Castle Year

By Kate “Bob” Addison

On the last day of the year, it seemed appropriate to look back at 2012 and all that it brought for the Picton Castle and her crew. I’ve had a great time today looking back through our old log books and re-reading old Captain’s logs – hope you enjoy the review too. Thanks for reading, and happy New Year! Bob

For the Picton Castle, 2012’s adventures under sail kicked off on the 17th April, when she cast off her lines and set sail from her Canadian home of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada, bound for a busy summer of festivals up and down the East Coast of the USA and Canada. Our first landfall was Bermuda on the 21st, and the crew were delighted to find themselves having time off ashore to enjoy the warm weather and palm-fringed beaches so soon after leaving chilly Canada. Of course there is always ship work going on too. The first few days in the North Atlantic were pretty cold and grey – much as you would imagine the North Atlantic to be in spring, but not to worry – from Bermuda onwards it was pretty much non-stop sunshine.

After a few days having a time in Bermuda, we sailed southwest for Savannah, Georgia where we enjoyed a warm Southern welcome, and our first Tall Ships Fiesta of the summer. Enduring memories for me are of endless peach treats, sweating in the hot sun dressed in pareau and straw hat running our Picton Castle treasure store on the wharfside, and dancing up a storm with the crews of the other ships at the crew parties thrown for us. There were ships there from all over the world – Navy sailing ships like Dewaruci from Indonesia and Etoile and Belle Poule from France, USCG cutter Eagle, East Coast topsail schooners Pride of Baltimore II and Lynx, Appledore V, “HMS” Bounty, and Peacemaker. Dewaruci provided one of my favourite moments of 2012 – early in the morning as we made our way into Savannah, our crew half asleep and scruffy, still cleaning and painting the ship when Dewaruci passed us close by to port, her crew all in spotless whites, neatly arranged on the decks and a full brass band playing Jingle Bells!

In Savannah we had open-ship every day with thousands and thousands of people crossing the decks; meeting the crew; taking each others’ pictures at the ship’s wheel and asking questions about the ship: what year she was built, whether she has an engine, and why do we have a computer in the chart house?

Savannah was also where kitten George signed onto Picton Castle as apprentice ship’s cat. Just a tiny bundle of fur and fear he was back then, and hard to believe he’s the same cat now that he is a sleek, heavy hunter, quite at home on his ship and with great skill and cunning when it comes to obtaining illicit feeds.

From Savannah we sailed back up the coast to New York City. No festival for us here, but we thought we’d drop by since our next engagement was in Greenport just up the coast – and mostly because sailing a square-rigger into NYC is just way cool. And of course this was where Captain Moreland brought our very own Picton Castle back in ’94 from Norway before her re-fit into the beautiful sailing ship she is today. So we sailed into the big harbor, swinging close by the Statue of Liberty – hands at the rail entranced by this familiar, iconic panorama gliding past us. And then on to the bottom of the Hudson River, dodging the Staten Island Ferry, container ships, tugs with big barges on wire hawsers and finally docking at Hudson River Park’s Pier 25, near SoHo Manhattan for a very sophisticated city break, Picton Castle style. We spent a fair bit of time hanging out at the South Street Seaport Museum, where we had ‘behind-the scenes’ tours of the huge sailing ships Wavertree and Peking, fine old Cape Horners from the peak of the age of sail – and rigged much like the Picton Castle, though bigger in scale. We did all the tourist stuff in New York too, took in a show in Times Square, coffee in Central Park, and dancing in Brooklyn. Good times!

We had some time to get to Greenport, so we spent a few days after New York cruising in Long Island Sound – tacking about and anchoring every night we got lots of practice sail handling, and got to sleep at night, and then spent a couple of days at anchor having small boat adventures in the Norwalk islands off Rowayton, Connecticut.

The 28th of May was the start of our second Tall Ships festival, this one at Greenport, NY. We spent Memorial Day there, with Bounty opposite us, and topsail schooner Unicorn just along the pier. Topsail schooners Lynx and Pride of Baltimore II, and schooner Summerwind were just across the water. The crowds were pretty big once again, and the queue to visit the ships snaked far down the pier in a colourful, noisy ribbon. Greenport itself we found to be very pretty and friendly – and we had a very nice time there with a crew BBQ, time chilling out on the beach and a party aboard Bounty.

Captain Moreland accepted a trophy on behalf of the ship from Tall Ships America for finishing 4th place in the first of the series of tall ships race from Savannah, Georgia – we were to place higher in later races, although we never made first place… but then, what ship is going to beat the Pride of Baltimore II?

June began with a vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, where we spent the best part of a week alongside in Vineyard Haven, hanging out where Schooners Shenandoah and Alabama are based. I think most of my week was actually spent in the Black Dog bakery, but we also celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee in Martha’s Vineyard with red, white and blue streamers and a very civilized tea party.

Well rested we were by the 8th June, which was fortunate because Norfolk, Virginia was host to the next event of our summer, and this was big one. More or less a Navy event, OpSail 2012 was an impressively large-scale, international event commemorating the 200th anniversary of the war of 1812. Actually this was the first I’d heard of the War of 1812 – seems the Brits were sort of busy closer to home with some chap called Napoleon to notice what was going on on the other side of the Atlantic. That or it’s just not British to talk about a minor tiff in the woods, far away. Either way, we’re all friends again now – Canada too – and the whole event was really just a very classy group hug for Navy types in sparkling white uniforms and our tall ship crowd too. We had many crew from all the other ships visiting us as well.

Picton Castle was one of the smaller ships appearing here, and in a minority as a civilian sail training vessel. There were big square riggers from Navies the world over: barques Guyas and Gloria from Ecuador and Colombia, United States Coast Guard Cutter Eagle, full rigged ship Cisne Branco of Brazil, and barquentine Dewaruci of Indonesia. Picton Castle stood proudly among some of the world’s classiest Class A Tall Ships as a member in good standing. Also among the fleet were the three charming American historical ships: Pride of Baltimore II, Kalmar Nyckel and Godspeed. All of the ships were lit up at night, and dressed overall with bright colorful flags by day, it was an impressive and lovely sight, and the Norfolk fireworks display was spectacular.

The parade of sail into Norfolk was spectacular with all the big sailing ships interspersed with yachts and small boats, their yards and stays dressed overall with flags, party light, and/or cadets. We saluted the VIPs aboard USS Wasp (a big USN aircraft carrier – we were told “no gun salutes”) by dipping our topsails as well as our Cook Islands ensign and then our welcoming entourage appeared – the Pride Boating Club of Hampton Roads came out in force in their boats, all color and music and fun with Picton Castle banners and they threw a great party for all our crew ashore too. There was plenty more to keep the crew busy in Norfolk – as well as deck tours and our Picton Castle shop to run on the dock, there were formal dinners and dances, receptions on board the ship, a gift exchange ceremony with Admirals and more white uniforms, a great crew party, day trips to theme parks, fireworks… the only thing we didn’t do in Norfolk was sleep.

And so we were glad to get underway again, and to get anchored somewhere quiet to do some ship’s work, and some practice with our small boats. It was nice to be just us again. Up the Chesapeake Bay to the Wicomico River was where anchored, in Ingram Bay. From our base here the watches took turns to take the Monomoy on expeditions in and about the bay and small rivers, sailing into the town of Reedsville with auxiliary oar power. We turned some heads sailing onto the dock, and then hopping ashore for an ice cream. A wonderful little old fishing port. We got some much needed work done on the ship too – hard, actually impossible, to get any ship’s work done at these festivals – can’t very well tar the rig or paint steel when the decks are chock-a-block with visitors! And work aloft is verboten with visitors on deck anyway.

We celebrated the summer solstice underway to Bristol, RI where we had a Bosun School session to teach some skills to our crew, and give the ship some loving. We had some pretty cool projects in Bristol – disassembled and overhauled the capstan, laid out and seamed up some new sails and overhauled the spanker boom. There were workshops too on laying out sails, piloting, engineering and practical lessons in skiff driving, handling the Monomoy and the lead line. On other days there were school trips to the New Bedford Whaling Museum, Mystic Seaport, the Herreshoff Museum, and SWOS – a naval officer training school with state-of-the-art ship handling simulators which our gang were very excited to have a go on. Bristol could not have been more delightful or accommodating to us.

Underway again, just as far as Fort Adams, Newport a scant few miles away, for the 4th July celebrations where we were alongside Bounty for a Tall Ships America champagne and fireworks fundraiser reception. Then on the morning of the 5th we moved across to Newport proper at Bannister’s Wharf for the Ocean State Tall Ships event, dodging a host of yachts of all shapes and sizes to come alongside Bannister’s dock, right in the middle of town. Newport looked very pretty with the ships dotted amongst the yachts along the bustling waterfront, and there were receptions and parties here too, including one particularly swanky event at the New York Yacht Club. Then parade of sail out of Newport, back past Fort Adams, and under Newport Bridge in the early afternoon.

We sailed onto the hook for the night, and turned to at 0545 to get underway for the Cape Cod Canal, bound for Gloucester, Massachusetts. We reached Gloucester on the 12th July, and spent a few days alongside the Gloucester Railroad Docks, where a gang successfully rowed around Cape Ann (25 miles?) in the Monomoy, much to the surprise of the locals in their dories, who seemed to think we were crazy for the attempt.

Gloucester was a lovely time, very much a sister port to Lunenburg, and low key, so we felt quite refreshed and ready for the next Tall Ships event. Halifax, Nova Scotia, is the city closest to the Picton Castle’s Canadian home of Lunenburg and we always have a good time there. And so we did, with good food, good music, a fun crew reception at the Citadel, and open-air movies on a big screen. There were deck tours, receptions on board and fireworks too, and this was the last of the big festivals of the summer so we said goodbye to the crew of half of the fleet – ships that had been with us all summer but were peeling off to go to Lunenburg and Shelburne: Pride of Baltimore II, Lynx, Bounty, Larinda, and Unicorn. Just two more festivals left for us too – the Nova Scotia outports of Port Hawkesbury and Pugwash to go… smaller festivals but good fun, with music and dancing, food, stalls, and Gazaela Primeiro, Peacemaker, Theodore Tugboat and Appledore V there with us.

And then, Tall Ships all done we had a good sail home to Lunenburg, arriving on the dock just before noon on August 5th.

Chief Mate Michael Moreland had left us in Newport with a small gang of Picton Castle crew to take up a post as Skipper of the Freedom Schooner Amistad, and they brought her ‘home’ to Lunenburg and were there to catch our lines and welcome us home.

We were pretty busy in Lunenburg too – there was the launch of the lovely Martha Seabury, and then her sails and rigging to finish. Picton Castle crew were asked to sail on her maiden voyage – with Mate Michael as skipper they took her down to a big boat festival at Newport, stopping en route to rescue three distressed sailors. Good karma for the Martha Seabury that. All the crew was invited to take her out for day sails once back in Lunenburg, and much enjoyed sailing such a sweet schooner.

Then there was Bosun School, and the Lunenburg small boat sailing, barbeques, Hump Cup races, schooner races and the September Classic at the Dory Shop (it never happened, I wasn’t there…). Next there was a huge cargo sale selling much exotic treasure from our adventures around the world.

Captain Moreland and Tammy’s baby boy, Dawson, was born on the 14th August 2012, a healthy and happy little thing he is too. Dawson joined the ship with his mother for this South Pacific voyage in the Caribbean – much nicer than the North Atlantic in October – and he’s doing great as ship’s baby, enjoying salt-water bucket baths and coconut water like he was born to a tropical life at sea. Which, I guess he kind of was.

By now thoughts were turning to the South Pacific Voyage, and the new crew was assembled in Lunenburg to prepare the ship and start on their training. Orientation, safety training, bracing, setting and striking sails, firefighting and first aid at the fire station, and sea survival training with life rafts and immersion suits in the swimming pool were all completed before we even left port. The cargo hold was gutted and rebuilt and provisions and supplies were loaded aboard – from manila rope, blank spars and cotton canvas to cat food and cargo for Pitcairn.

And then after weeks of preparation, the ship and her crew were all ready to set sail, all pre-departure checklists ticked off and signed, but frustratingly the weather decided not to play ball. A suspicious low in the Caribbean deepened and developed into tropical depression Sandy, which deepened further over the next few days to become a full-blown hurricane, covering most of the North Atlantic and causing tremendous damage up the East Coast of the USA. Early on, Captain Moreland took the decision to stay snug in port until it was well over, and glad of that we were as we watched the havoc it caused on land and at sea on the news.

Sandy made us two weeks late leaving port, but no damage was done to the ship, and no one was hurt, so we carried on with our program from Lunenburg – plenty more training for the new crew, and a fair amount of time off to chill out, send emails home and enjoy the many cafes and restaurants of Lunenburg.

Eventually the weather turned fair and early on the afternoon of November 3rd, Picton Castle slipped her lines from Lunenburg once again, this time bound for the magical islands of the South Pacific.

The North Atlantic was predictably grey and lumpy, and we had to steam a fair bit to get down into the Gulf Stream and on into the Caribbean sea. By now most people were running round barefoot in shorts and T-shirts, and everything has been pretty much gravy ever since. A rare sweet time we had in Carriacou and Grenada, the laid back, yet vibrant West Indies appealing very much to our gang, who were delighted to have escaped the cold and frost of Nova Scotia in the fall.

As we sailed across the Spanish Main bound for Panama and the Isthmus between us and the Pacific we learnt of the arrival of another Picton Castle baby: Liam and Rebecca’s Finn is another healthy little boy, and we don’t doubt he’ll be finding his sea legs before too long.

The transit of the Panama Canal is a high point of any voyage to the South Pacific – more relaxing than a tour around Cape Horn anyway. We reached the Pacific Ocean late on the 8th December, after a very long day’s transit, crossing the American continent.

On the Pacific side we had a good time in Panama City, endless shopping and a case of dengue fever notwithstanding (the Captain has had dengue twice and says it is no fun), but with all crew healthy and back on board, we sailed from the Panamanian island of Taboga on the 17th December, bound for Isla Galapagos.

We crossed the equator into the Southern Hemisphere at a latitude of 087°11’W on the afternoon of the 22nd December and Neptune and his court came aboard for the traditional ceremonies and acts of benevolent blessings…

We made San Cristobal on Christmas Eve and celebrated Christmas with all hands aboard at anchor. Then there was time ashore to explore the islands, and re-provision before heaving up the anchor and sailing off the hook, bound for Pitcairn Island two thousand seven hundred miles away.

For New Years Eve there was an excellent party with fancy dress and party lights and popcorn and dancing on the hatch. Our position was 03°10’S 094°11’W at midnight.

2013 came in bright and breezy for the Picton Castle, all sails are set to the royals as her hull slips gently through the Pacific Ocean. Our heading is southwest by south, sailing in the trade winds she was designed for. Bound for Pitcairn Island we are and then on to French Polynesia, the Cooks and beyond.

All is well here aboard – we are sailing in excellent SE tradewinds, the flying jib is bent, looking to studding sails soon, the new daymen are busy on deck and aloft working on their projects – Susie and Konnor are rigging on the fore royal, Dan as carpenter is working on the well deck, Pete B as engineer in the engine room and sailmakers Hege and John are making grommets for a new lower topsail on the quaterdeck with third mate Siri. Meanwhile Engineer DB and Brody caught 4 tasty fish this morning – 3 skipjack tuna and a big mahi mahi, which Donald will turn into a delicious supper for us all tonight. Dawson and George are both sleeping; a gang is on the quarterdeck studying celestial navigation; and there is a lot to feel contented with in our little world.

Happy New Year! 2013

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