Thursday, September 1st, 2016
At 2230 this evening Picton Castle dropped anchor in Rose Bay, in the same spot we lay four months and a little under 10,000 nautical miles ago. Quite a contrast to the blustery cold morning when we set out into the North Atlantic in May, the ship now lays calm and still, the only noise around being the occasional low rumble of the long northwest swell rolling into the other side of the bay. The peace and the long glow of the anchor light on the water gives us our last moment to reflect with the ship, a lot of miles coved this summer and a lot of sailing.
We left another secluded harbour early this morning, at sunrise, sailing off the hook. Gliding out with sail set to the t’gallants, we got under way from Sheet Harbour, Nova Scotia where we had holed up for a night to let a fresh southwest wind blow through before continuing down the coast. Having been anchored there for the better part of a day we got a head start on down rigging soon to follow, down came the royal yards, off with the mainsail, upper staysails and gaff topsail.
Sailing off in the morning was the perfect way to have our last sail of the voyage, and we have been lucky the last week, every time we got sailing we were sure it was going to be the last chance. Crossing the Gulf of St. Lawrence with every stitch set going 6kts with a quartering breeze and a lovely sunny day, or running out of Toronto down Lake Ontario at 8kts sailing all the way up into the mouth of the river and sliding in under Sodus Point late at night under a clear starry sky.
Thing got pretty busy at the end of our west bound Atlantic crossing, one last gale off Cape Breton shot us up into the Cabot Strait, then around into Caraquet, New Brunswick. After a short stop we went screaming out of Chauler Bay under topsails after sailing off the hook, then up into the St. Lawrence River, for a stop to enjoy the old world feel of Quebec City and then on up through the Seaway to the new world of Toronto.
And so now we sit with just the occasional shuffle of the anchor, watch diligently looking after the ship, to reflect on all the different moods we have seen in the ship; crossing the Grand Banks in the fog, up and down with the sails, studding sail booms and yards, sailing on the same tack set to the royals for two weeks strait, short tacking the ship out of the roads leaving La Rochelle, 50 people busy about the ship then only 22 crew, getting the ship through 15 locks and another flurry of activity for a special project in Toronto, sperm whales quietly swimming across the path of the ship and humpbacks breaching in heavy weather off Cape Breton, the roar of the gales in the rig to the still calm of a quite anchorage.
Tomorrow morning we heave up the anchor one more time and work the ship back into her berth in Lunenburg harbour and the voyage is complete. Many of our cadets are right off back to school with some of the best seatime a young mariner could hope for. A few crew will stick around to get the down rigging complete and then Picton Castle will go into drydock for some much deserved love. And in a few months time a new group of people will come onboard to bring her back to life again and begin in the ship the next voyage to come.