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By Cheri Davidson

Picton Castle is now on her way through the Tasman Sea, bound from Sydney, Australia to more Tall Ship festivities in New Zealand.

We spent a whole week in Sydney, and it was such a hub of activity with both ship related work, as well as having fun on our time off. We got a whole new batch of fresh trainees that we had to whip into shape too. With new crew learning the ways of the ship, provisioning for the next leg and deck tours for the Tall Ship Festival, everyone was going at full speed.

We had 21 new trainees join and each of them gets a full hour-long tour of the ship just moments after they step on board. They need to be shown how to use a marine head (toilet), always the very first lesson, where we can and cannot go except at special times (chartroom, engine room), where we eat and how we clean, and what to do in the event of an emergency alongside. These are just the basics for the first day, and even this can be overwhelming.

The next day is spent going into more details about seamanship, such as learning the names of the sails and starting to learn the running rigging. All crew and trainees are part of our all hands “up and over” training which includes the use of harnesses. Crew and trainees that wish to go aloft also get a safety aloft lesson from the Mate, and we take them up the shrouds to lay out on a yard to see how comfortable they are. Some people are comfortable aloft right away, while others may take a few weeks before they feel useful at loosing or furling sail at sea. But everyone can go at their own pace. Some will never go aloft and that is fine.

Getting new trainees also means a new stage for the continuing trainees. They are no longer the new ones and now others are looking to them for answers to questions. They start to realize how far they have come and how much they have learned on the last leg.

Apart from our own small world on board, everyone had a chance to go exploring in the big city during time off. There were 15 other tall ships in Darling Harbour near the Australian National Maritime Museum that we could go aboard and check out. It’s fun to see the different rigs and designs, see what’s the same as our ship, what is different, and meet other crews to swap sea stories.

Right across the pedestrian-only Pyrmont Bridge from our berth at the museum was the Sydney Aquarium. There was a small mall just steps from the ship with many essentials like ice cream, ATMs, fancy coffees and did I mention ice cream? Very key. All around Cockle Bay was restaurant after restaurant of every food imaginable. All this was within a five minute walk from the Tall Ships! Of course we also continued our explorations farther into the city as well with many crew and trainees coming back to the ship with stories of ferry rides to the Zoo, markets in Chinatown, and walking and walking and walking with no destination but a nice sunny patio. Sydney had it all.

Special mention must go to our superb Liaison Officer, John Abernethy, who really went above and beyond for us while we were in Australia. John’s ties to Picton Castle are very unique. His father-in-law sailed on Picton Castle back in 1937 as a 12 year old boy in the North Sea. Halfway across the world and we still manage to find very special friends. John joined us in Newcastle for the short sail into Sydney. Were we ever glad to have him once we arrived! He had much local knowledge, helped us provision, and dealt with all our little hiccups that come with trying to organize so many ships during a festival. All with a positive attitude. It was so great having him.

But onwards we must go. Auckland is hosting it’s very first Tall Ship Festival and we are invited! Not only that but all the sailing ships are part of a 1,000 mile Sail Training International race across the Tasman Sea towards Opua, New Zealand then on to Auckland.

Picton Castle entering Sydney Harbour

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