Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Great Lakes' Category

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Dawn had just broken as I returned home to the Picton Castle after an early morning errand, and somehow the walk down Navy Pier seemed almost tranquil. As I walked past the man with the power washer hosing down the sidewalks, getting ready for another busy day here, I realized why things seemed more calm: I didn’t have to fight my way through a crowd, the music that always plays in the background here was silent, the stages with hourly live performances were empty, the big signs with the flashing lights were off, and even the Ferris wheel had come to a stop. As nice as it was to have a moment’s peace in the big city of Chicago, I have to admit I missed all the excitement that happens every day on Navy Pier here in Chicago.

The Picton Castle arrived in Chicago on the morning of Thursday August 3, participating in the customary Parade of Sail on the way into the port. We had a good Great Lakes thunderstorm early on Thursday morning before heading in, but the ship and her crew had no problems making it through. The morning continued overcast, cloudy, and threatening more rain, but the parade continued anyway. The ships participating in Tall Ships Chicago are more spread out here than we have been at other festivals. We share the South wall of Navy Pier with four-masted schooner Windy as well as the US Coast Guard cutter Mobile Bay. On the Southwest wall of Navy Pier are Nina, Unicorn and Pride of Baltimore II. The rest of the ships had to pass through a lock and head up into the Chicago River, turn around, and go starboard side to along the south bank of the river.

Navy Pier is quite an interesting place that feels like an old seaside amusement park from the 1920s. We were able to spot it from several miles out on Lake Michigan, largely due to the huge white Ferris wheel that kneels in the foreground of Chicago’s impressive skyline. Navy Pier draws thousands of people to Chicago’s waterfront every day with its carnival rides, shops, restaurants, conference and convention facilities, harbour cruise boats, outdoor theatre, and magnificent view of the city. Apparently Navy Pier is the biggest destination in the Great Lakes.

Chicago is the biggest city the Picton Castle will visit this summer, and there’s no shortage of things to see and do here. Lynn and Marilyn, our ship liaisons, are great ambassadors for their city and have all sorts of suggestions on places to go. Lynn calls herself “The Queen of Free,” offering a daily list of suggestions for free local activities. Chicagoans have been universally warm, friendly, gracious, and even funny! Even all the traffic directors have been very personable and friendly. The event organizers have also secured complimentary tickets to a number of city attractions and shows which the crew have taken advantage of during their days off, including the Sears tower, Shedd Aquarium, Art Institute of Chicago, Navy Pier Ferris wheel, Second City and Cirque Shanghai. Chicago is full of interesting buildings, many of which are very tall, and downtown has to work around the winding of the Chicago River. The crew have been busy exploring it all!

Also at Chicago trainees who joined us in Green Bay departed, and new trainees have joined us for the sail to Port Huron, where we arrive on August 17. So goodbye old trainees; hello new ones!

Alongside at Navy Pier
Chicago skyline
Sailing into Chicago
The big Ferris wheel at Navy Pier

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Green Bay

Green Bay is more proud of their football team than any other city could be proud of their local sports team. So proud, in fact, that the Captains’ Breakfast (a big event where the captains of all the tall ships in the festival meet) was held at Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. I don’t know how many tall ship captains are also football fans, but it seemed to work. And a city that loves its NFL entry also loves their tall ships.

Picton Castle arrived in Green Bay on Thursday, July 27, to participate in a Parade of Sail, beginning in the bay and heading up the Fox River to where the ships were berthed. We sailed past areas that looked mostly industrial, and came alongside our berth in Leicht Park just past several giant piles of gravel and a large ship unloading area. The park itself was quite nice and apparently quite new. Green Bay has done a lot in recent years to try and bring some life back to their waterfront, including building three parks on both sides of the river where all the tall ships were berthed. Bringing the tall ships to Green Bay has helped the city attract people to its waterfront.

We had to do some carpentry work in Green Bay to get people on board. The dock was nearly level with the top of the t’gallant rail and our regular gangway would not have worked. We added a wooden step from the dock down onto the ship and that seemed to solve the problem. Through the course of the festival we found that the level of the river rises and falls about a foot, but our design continued to work. We welcomed thousands of people aboard for deck tours during regular opening hours, as well as during two evening receptions. Many of our young guests, as you can see in the photos, were sporting balloon fashions as there were an army of clowns around the festival working their balloon creation magic. People in Green Bay were very friendly and welcoming, especially as this is their first time hosting the ASTA Tall Ships Challenge.

Jay Szymanski, a trainee on the Picton Castle, sailed with us from Bay City into his home port of Green Bay, and we couldn’t ask for a guy with better local knowledge. Jay was the best guide to Green Bay we could have asked for, taking people to the airport and bus station, booking Judy a hair appointment with a hair stylist friend, taking David to the farmer’s market very early Saturday morning, welcoming off-duty crew to his house, and running random errands on our behalf. We were also welcomed in Green Bay by a familiar face from Cleveland—Roberta Kacenjar, ship’s liaison extraordinaire. She did such a fantastic job in Cleveland that they invited her to Green Bay to help coordinate the volunteer ship liaisons there. We had several liaisons for the Picton Castle—apparently more than 70 people from the Green Bay area volunteered for the job and they couldn’t turn anyone away, so they split the job among many. We were lucky to have a great crew, including Robin, Helen, Vanessa, Paul, Jeff, and a few others.

Weather was a popular topic of conversation in Green Bay, where it was sweltering hot all weekend. Even those of us who have spent the past year in the tropics found it oppressively hot. The temperature rose up over 90 degrees Fahrenheit each day we were there, and it was quite humid. We give a lot of credit to the crowds who came out to see the ships in the heat, in a park with precious little shade. We had another extreme of weather on Sunday morning as a big thunderstorm came through around 0700. The wind was strong enough to push the ship out from the dock a foot or two and blow to pieces many of the tents and awnings ashore. All hands responded quickly and closed hatches, took in our awnings on board, put out additional dock lines, and secured flag halyards. After the worst of it had passed, we waded into the now-mucky field to claim the scattered pieces of our merchandise tent and put it back together (including straightening out some bent poles and applying an ample amount of duct tape). We got the gangway and steps secured again, and offered some extra assistance to vendors in the park whose tents and umbrellas had tumbled away in the storm.

We left Green Bay on Tuesday August 1, heading towards Sturgeon Bay to take the shortcut into Lake Michigan and on to Chicago. Just now we’re sailing along in the lake, about 60 miles from Chicago. This short one-week leg from Green Bay to Chicago has been our most popular so far this summer, and we have a full ship. Our 25 new trainees who joined us in Green Bay are all adjusting well to life on board, whether they are giving deck tours in port or walking around a rolling ship out in the lake. They experienced ship handling in close quarters as we passed through the canal in Sturgeon Bay, helped to set all sail this morning as we finally turned off the main engine, and then took in some sails quickly as a thunderstorm approached just before dinner. This short week will give them a taste of life on the Picton Castle, and because they’re a fun bunch we hope they’ll come back for more!

Alongside at Leicht Park, Green Bay
Crew and guests watch for river traffic, Green Bay
Festival in Green Bay
Judy and Kimberly on the way to Green Bay
Kyle ocnducts deck tour, Green Bay
NIAGARA jibboom close to our spanker boom, Green Bay
Ships alongside at Green Bay
Young visitor in Green Bay

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On the Way to Green Bay

We left Bay City as scheduled on Monday morning, and we were sad to leave. The whole crew had a fantastic time there, and we found the people of Bay City to be amongst the friendliest anywhere. We have fond memories of our ship liaisons, the volunteers at the event, good-humored crowds who toured the ship, and welcoming locals everywhere we went in town. The Tall Ships Celebration ended with a Mariner’s Ball—a giant dinner for the crews of all the ships and all the event volunteers. The food was fantastic and we had a chance to say thanks and goodbye to our new friends. The Picton Castle was also honoured to win first place in the Sail Training Rally, a series of organized games. Laura, Ollie, Jackie, Paul, Jay and Logan represented us well. Who knew that these sailors also excel in bowling?

When the time came to leave yesterday morning we went out in an unscheduled parade with a number of other tall ships, including the US Brig Niagara (who led the pack) and the Pride of Baltimore II. There are several bridges that have to lift for us, so it was more convenient for the motorists of Bay City for us to leave en masse. Once we got out into Saginaw Bay and beyond the channel we were able to turn off the main engine and set the sails. We had a great southwesterly breeze, probably the best sailing weather we have had since arriving in the Great Lakes. We sailed through the night, firing up the main engine again this morning to motor sail when the wind became too light for sails alone. Weather can change quickly in this area, and large thunderstorms are not uncommon. Watches were particularly alert last night as we had thunderstorms in the forecast, but all we saw was haze and some distant lightning.

New trainees who joined us in Bay City have been learning their lines at a frenzied pace, along with trainees who have been with us for a few weeks. It’s so much easier to learn when you get to set or take in sails and brace the yards often, and this has already been a great passage for plenty of sail handling. New trainees have been aloft to loose and furl sails, and are getting quite good at coiling lines. The ship has been getting some much-needed maintenance done so that we can look our best when we arrive in Green Bay. New hands are learning how to prepare different surfaces for painting, apply paint without dripping it all over the deck, and how to move around the ship without brushing against anyone else’s freshly painted area. Jordan is painting red in the waterways amidships, while Jackie gets the waterways on the quarterdeck. Judy and Allen are working on the green trim on the galley house.

We love the opportunity to visit all sorts of different cities this summer, but for the moment it’s nice to be back at sea. We’re not even that far from land as we travel around the top of the mitten of Michigan (one of the few places whose residents can explain their geography by sticking out their left hand), but it was great to be gently rocked to sleep last night by the motion of the waves. We are looking forward to two more nights of sea-sleep before arriving in Green Bay on Thursday.

We spied the big Brig Niagara as were sailing around the top of the lower peninsula of Michigan. We dodged a severe thunderstorm last night and the weather was clear. We called the Niagara on the radio and agreed to anchor in the same bay just above Mackinac Island for the night. More thunderstorms and a front were predicted for the night. The Captain invited the skipper of the Niagara, Wes Heerson, and some of his crew over for a visit so we have had an old-fashioned Marlinspike on deck and listened to music and even made some of our own!

Barbara painting the galley house trim on the way to Green Bay
Going aloft to loose sail on way to Green Bay 129
Jackie aloft greasing on the way to green bay 019
Jay with the Pride and the Madeline behind on way to Green Bay 113
Josh and Andrea D furl sail on the way to green bay 009
Judy on helm with the Niagara under full sail behind on the way to green bay 025
Kai on look out on the way to green bay 023
Kyle suppose to be painting...on the way to green bay 022
The Capt navigating and the Niagara in front going down the Saginaw River on way to Green Bay 107
The Pride going under the lift bridge Bay City 120

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Visiting Bay City, Michigan

The Picton Castle has had an astounding welcome into Bay City, Michigan, up on the west side of Lake Huron, as they hosted their third Tall Ship event. Situated up the meandering Saginaw river, it is a maze of navigation through lift bridges, and people lined the way as the ships came into Bay City on Thursday, horns and cheering, and we of course blew our horn back!

Our liaisons for this event have been superb. Standing out in the huge crowds by their yellow tee-shirts, Mark, Lynette, Kathy, and Kent have done a remarkable job in making us feel at home—taking the cook shopping, acting as tour guide, nurse, problem solvers, seekers and finders of all sorts of things from garden hoses to tents! We thank them profusely, and as ever at Tall Ships events, the volunteers are a wonderful help and support to us. They make our job so much easier and a lot more fun! Planning ahead solves all the problems we can think of. Good liaisons solve the problems that pop up or that we and the organizers did not think of. Bay City liaison officers were awesome!

Bay City has been a roller coaster of adventure for crew. Many events have been planed to show us a good time. On Thursday night was a big BBQ for all the crews of the ships, more food than you could shake a stick at! Friday night we had a reception for the Bay City Times newspaper and the Saginaw orchestra played a concert almost directly beside us. They played everything from the “1812 Overture” to the theme song from “The Pink Panther” and were brilliant to listen to. The park beside the ship was packed with people spreading out blankets for picnics and settling back for a good summer’s night of entertainment. The captain and officers stood by the ship to meet the Governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm (and she is Canadian, too), as she walked both the east and west side of the river to welcome the ships to Michigan. Tonight we have a REO Speedwagon concert and the Sail Training games this afternoon, in which Laura, Kyle, Jackie and a few others are taking part—bowling, water fights, races. Tomorrow night is a Mariners’ Ball and then we will be off again, this time to Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The crew changed again here in Bay City and we have welcomed onboard 8 more newbies for our sail to Green Bay. Phew! It’s busy here, that is for certain, but we’re having fun!

Coming under a bridge on the approach to Bay City
Kathy, liaison coordinator and liaison for PC at Bay City
Lorne welcomes people onboard, Bay City.
Mark and Lynette, Liaisons for the City of Bay City
One of our amazing liaisons, Kent, at Bay City
People everywhere!!! Bay City
People waiting to greet the ships in Bay City
The Captain and officers meet the Governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm, in Bay City.

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Bound for Bay City

In these Great Lakes it’s been quite a learning curve for both the old and new crew of the Barque Picton Castle. The old crew are experiencing new maritime challenges and aspects of sailing the ship up the seaway, big huge lakes, and the favorite—HUGE HAIRY thunderstorms. The old crew are now the teachers and the new crew are trying to make sense of all the fathoms of information that is hurtling towards them. But it’s all fun, the weather is mostly great and the enthusiasm of the new crew catching!

After one final glorious sunset over Lake Erie and a final game of Rugby with the other crews, we cast off our lines in Cleveland and set out for Bay City. It is approximately 320 miles from Cleveland, and we have nearly three days to do it—plenty of time! We anchored on Monday night at North Bass Island and dashed straight into the water for a much-needed fresh water swim call and then had a small Kia Orana ceremony to say hello and introduce all our new folks to the old. Then it was up at o’dark thirty, bright eyed and bushy tailed, to heave up our anchor and off we went again. A strong front had blown through at midnight, keeping the Mate and Captain up for a couple of hours, but the anchor held fine. During the day the watches have been busy making the ship shine by touching up paint and making everything sparkle. She looks beautiful.

For a small touch of magic, crew member Andrea Deyling is a blimp pilot, and Andrea’s old blimp and her crew did a fly-by to wave to her as we headed into the Saint Clair River. It’s not every Barque that gets buzzed by a Blimp!

Last night we were welcomed into the small town of Algonac, Michigan. With a 2,200-foot boardwalk, there was plenty of space for us and a very hospitable welcome, indeed! The Cotter, the venerable fire water boat from Rochester, New York, followed in after us—I presume the rest of the Tall Ships had carried on throughout the night. As for us, we put our feet up, played more rugby, went for ice cream, and had a grand time in Algonac. This morning we cast off the lines and will steam full ahead until we reach the rendezvous point outside Bay City (unless we get a sailing breeze, so far not much of that). The Parade of Sail starts at 1500 hrs and we are due to be at the meeting point about lunchtime on Thursday, July 20.

We are already into Lake Huron, which is not the color I imagine a lake to be. It isn’t muddy greeny brown, but a beautiful clear azure blue. It actually looks nearly tropical and at over 70 degrees it almost could be! Dave, the cook, just made BLTs for lunch with the help of his galley staff—Judy, Kai, and Jeremy—and this morning the smell of bacon nearly drove us insane. Logan Livingston is helping Danie our Engineer in the Engine room. Currently the 12–4 watch continues to make pretty, and Jackie is on radio watch. She is plying all those who come into the chart house with M&Ms! Lurvley! Ollie is on the wheel, Kelsey is on look out, David Foxworthy and Nadja are spot painting, and the rest of the crew either rests after watch or they are busy learning their lines.

All is well on the Picton Castle!

Andrea M teaches Paul the lines on the way to Bay City 056
Charlie on the way to Bay City 059
David spot painting on the way to Bay City 054
Jeremy and Kai on galley on the way to Bay City 052
Jordan, Jackie and Maggie watch the crew play rugby cleveland 085
Judy on galley on the way to Bay City 058
Kathleen, Ollie on the wheel and Greg the mate on watch on the way to Bay City 062
Kelsey on look out on the way to Bay City 055
Luc having a nap after watch on the way to Bay City 057
Picton Castle alongside in Algonac on the way to Bay City 048
Playing rugby with the other Tallship Crews cleveland 089
The blimp doing a flyby on the way to Bay City 027
The Cotter coming into Algonac on the way to Bay City 050

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Cleveland, North Coast Harbor

Life on board the Picton Castle has been very busy in the past week. Usually we are busy at sea with sail handling, workshops and maintenance projects but over the past week we have been a different kind of busy with the end of the St. Lawrence Seaway, a quick stop in Erie, Pennsylvania, and then our first Tall Ship festival of the summer in Cleveland. But let me go back a week or so to tell you what we’ve been up to…

We finished with the St. Lawrence River on Sunday July 9, passing Cape Vincent and heading out into Lake Ontario. Our passage through the most easterly of the Great Lakes was perfectly calm. At times the water was like glass on top, no wind coming from anywhere. Crossing Lake Ontario gave us a chance to catch our breath between the St. Lawrence River and the Welland Canal. The world voyage crew in particular were glad to be out of sight of land, at least for a little while. There is a whole different set of concerns when we are in open water, but many of us were feeling a bit crowded in the river. It also gave some people who hadn’t been on helm in the close quarters of the river a chance to get behind the wheel.

Early Monday morning we went alongside the waiting berth at Port Weller, where the Welland Canal begins. The Welland Canal was built to connect Lake Ontario to Lake Erie. Without the canal ships would not be able to go between lakes because of Niagara Falls. The canal has gone through a few different routes over the years and currently consists of 8 locks that bring ships up 346 feet to the level of Lake Erie. It took us about 10 hours to transit the Welland Canal from start to finish. The most dramatic climb happens in locks 4, 5 and 6, which together are known as the “flight locks.” There is no channel between the locks; when the doors of one lock open the ship moves ahead directly into the next lock. The sections between the locks are quite peaceful and pretty with ducks who still seem surprised to see ships passing through their homes, lush green plants along the sides, and clear blue sky overhead. Andrea Deyling once again did a great job on helm through the locks, and the crew—now old hands at this lock business—responded quickly with lines. To pass through the St. Lawrence Seaway is a feather in any mariner’s cap.

Early on Tuesday morning we arrived in Erie, Pennsylvania, after a night of motoring through Lake Erie. We had a few things to take care of in Erie, but nobody was as glad to be there as Second Mate Greg Bailey. Greg, who is from Erie, spent his teenage years volunteering on US Brig Niagara, a ship that also calls Erie home. Each of the crew had a few hours off, and many went to check out the Niagara museum, which is excellent. It is fascinating; it is almost a museum about defining Canada as a nation. Captain Moreland had sailed in the Niagara, too, helping them to get their operational program started after a full rebuild of this 1813 vessel. We attracted quite a bit of attention in Erie, and lots of people dropped by the ship to check it out, including Admiral Charles Curtze, who helped get the Picton Castle started. Just before we left, the crew were treated to a delicious dinner catered by Greg’s aunt Mary, who owns a catering company. Unfortunately our time in Erie was short, and we headed out again Tuesday evening.

As we steered toward Cleveland we started hearing calls on the radio from other ships participating in the festival, and as we got closer we began to spot them in the distance. It’s impressive to see one tall ship, and it’s majestic to see lots of us all at the same time. All the ships gathered just off Cleveland harbour, and then at the appointed hour began to line up to sail inside the breakwater and past the assembled crowd. The weather wasn’t great for the parade: the sky was overcast and light rain was falling, but it didn’t seem to deter the spectators. Severe thunder storms are common hereabouts. The show must go on, and so it did.

As soon as we touched the dock there was a frenzy of activity. The organized chaos of the festival had begun. We had visits from event security, the Coast Guard and US Customs, all before the sails were stowed. Then carpenters arrived to help with gangways, as did all sorts of Liaisons. The officials in Cleveland were incredibly efficient, making our arrival an easy process. The Captain was whisked away immediately after for the opening ceremonies of the Huntington Cleveland Harborfest as the crew finished stowing sails and got the gangways ready. Every ship is assigned one or two liaisons, who act as messengers between the event organizers and the ships; they are also local experts who can point folks in the direction of anything we need in the city. We were lucky to have the lovely Jeanne and the very helpful Roberta. We met them Wednesday night and the crew immediately peppered them with the usual questions when we get to port: where to find internet, laundry, ATMs, restaurants, shopping, etc. The frenzy continued on Thursday morning as we got ready for our US Coast Guard inspection. We got the gangways rigged appropriately with nets below, the deck roped off in certain places, signs up telling people where they can and can’t go, and did both a fire drill and a man overboard drill to demonstrate our preparedness for them. At 1100 we were finally ready to open the decks to the public.

Every day since we have arrived in Cleveland we have had thousands of people walk across the decks. About 125,000 people came to the festival. We have two gangways rigged—one to enter and one to exit. People have been getting on amidships, walking forward around the well deck, aft on the starboard side, up the ladder to the quarterdeck and around to the gangway rigged from there on the port side. Crew members are positioned around the deck in places where visitors have to mind their step, and where they may have questions that crew can answer. Deck tours are just as much an aspect of seamanship as setting sails or splicing rope, and the crew have become Picton Castle ambassadors. The days are long and hot, but it’s worth it, as there are so many people to meet, questions to answer, and opportunities to talk about the ship. It’s interesting to see the people from all walks of life whom the festival has attracted.

One of the best things about participating in festivals like this is that we get to hang out with other tall ships. When we meet crew members from other ships there is an instant understanding despite the differences among the ships. Not many other people would understand a conversation about the best way to furl topsails or the benefits of a certain type of sailmaker’s palm, but it is common conversation amongst the crews. We talk a lot about our ships—what is common to all and what makes each unique. We’re used to being a bit of an oddity, and it’s nice to know that we’re not alone in our choice to sail and do some things the old-fashioned way. Sailors are generally a fun bunch to hang out with, and we’ve been making friends on other vessels that we’ll get to see in a number of ports this summer.

Checking out Harborfest is certainly high on the priority list for our crew, but there are other things to see in Cleveland, too. We are lucky to be at the North Coast Harbor, right behind the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Centre. The Science Centre is a major sponsor of this event and hosting the operations centre for Harborfest. The organizers of the festival have generously given crew tickets to the Science Centre, the Rock Hall and the SS William G. Mather Museum. Picton Castle crew have reported that all three are great, especially the Rock Hall. Of course, all the usual stuff to do in port is here, from shopping to restaurants to movies. Cleveland is also home to Andrea Deyling, and near to home for world voyage trainee Becky Fisher. Both women have brought many friends and family over to tour the ship. Andrea has become a local media darling, giving interviews to local TV and newspaper reporters.

At Cleveland we have said goodbye to several trainees who signed on just for Leg 1, and we have welcomed several more for Leg 2A. They are quickly learning the ways of the ship, and have already become quite knowledgeable and able to answer visitors’ questions. All hands look forward to tomorrow morning when we get to start sail handling drills as we leave Cleveland and head out for Bay City. We must sail past Detroit and Windsor and into Lake Huron. The water in Lake Huron is so pure you can drink it from right over the side.

Alongside at Dobbins Landing, Erie, on the way to the lakes
At Cleveland
Bound for the lakes
Cleveland skyline
Nadja sells ship merchandise,Cleveland
Peaceful Welland Canal on the way to the Lakes
Visitors boarding for open decks, Cleveland
Visitors line up, Cleveland
Visitors on quarterdeck, Cleveland

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Motoring Across Lake Ontario

The past few days have been very busy on the Picton Castle as we have passed through the locks on the St. Lawrence River. We reached the anchorage area east of Montreal around 1000 on Friday, passed the required inspection before transiting the locks, and were heading across the Montreal harbour towards the first lock by 1600. Maneuvering the ship through the locks is tricky business, it requires the crew to respond quickly. Andrea Deyling is our number one helmsman and she steered us safely through all seven locks. The captain depends on her excellent helmsmanship as he pilots the Picton Castle in and out of the locks. The lock operators call the ship into the lock and tell us where they want us to stop. Because we are heading upriver the lock is always at its lowest water level when we enter. Once the ship is in position the line handlers ashore throw us a heaving line, we attach it to our hawsers and they pull the hawsers up and make them fast ashore. Before the lock starts to fill we take the slack out of the lines and make them fast, then as the water rises we continue to take out slack. Most locks give us a rise of 15 meters. After about 10 minutes the water level in the lock is even with the river above, the big steel gates open and we continue on.

Opened in 1959, the St. Lawrence Seaway extends from Montreal to Lake Erie including the Welland Canal. Some of the locks are Canadian, some are American and there seems to be quite a lot of cooperation between the two. Most of the ships that use the Seaway carry cargo such as wheat and other grains, iron ore, chemicals, oil, and manufactured goods in containers. These ships have been designed to just fit in the locks with little room to spare. The maximum size of a laker (as these ships are called) is 740 feet long with a beam (width) of 78 feet. To compare, the Picton Castle‘s sparred length is 179 feet with a beam of 24 feet. Being smaller doesn’t actually help, as it means our ship can bang around; if we filled up the lock we couldn’t. We have had some large ships pass us going the other direction, follow us, or overtake us between locks. Sometimes we have the whole lock to ourselves; sometimes we have to share with another ship. Coordinating vessel traffic in the Seaway is a large task, but they do it well. As we leave a lock the local traffic station will tell us about other ships in the area including their names, direction of travel, and approximate location. There are a number of designated reporting stations, and as we pass we radio in to them and let them know where we are. It would be nice to anchor at night but we are steaming flat out to make sure we get to Cleveland on time. It’s all very interesting but very different from sailing the South Pacific.

The distance from the first lock (St. Lambert) to the last lock before Lake Ontario (Iroquois) is 95 nautical miles, with some locks right next to each other and others up to 44 nautical miles away. We passed through the Iroquois lock at 1430 on Saturday, so our transit of those seven locks took almost 24 hours. Throughout the Seaway we are using the Scandinavian watch system, with two watches instead of our usual three. Today the Port watch is on deck from 0400 to 0800, and 1300 to 1900. The Starboard watch has the deck from 0000 to 0400, 0800 to 1300 and 1900 to 0000. Tomorrow each watch will have the opposite schedule, and so it cycles around. This is a more demanding watch schedule than we usually keep on the Picton Castle but it actually allows for more sleep because otherwise we would have to call all hands to pass through every lock.

We took a short but well-earned rest last evening as we made a stop in Ogdensburg, New York. With the town dock right on the river, it made sense for us to stop there and clear in through US customs and immigration. We must have been quite an event in town, based on the number of visitors who drove past to check out our beautiful barque. We still have all of our Seaway modifications in place—yards cock-billed and greasy fenders all over—so we don’t look quite our usual best, but they didn’t seem to mind. Crew were let loose for a few hours each, long enough to play a game of rugby in the park across from the town dock, stock up on potato chips and maybe find a cold drink. We got a very early start this morning at 0300, leaving the dock and getting underway again. It would have been nice to stay a bit longer, but we must press on. So we have locks day and night. It’s quite something.

Because of our stop in Ogdensburg we were able to pass through the Thousand Islands in the daylight. I don’t think anyone bothered to count, but there certainly are a lot of islands. One of the smallest ones we saw is only about 20 feet by 20 feet with a house covering almost the entire island. The inhabitants could barely take two steps out their front door before going for a swim. On the opposite end of the size spectrum is Boldt Castle, the vacation home built about 100 years ago by the guy who owned the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. It looks like a real fairy-tale palace. There are lots of cottages and summer homes in the area and we were checked out by a number of powerboats and jet skis out for a Saturday morning ride.

At Cape Vincent, where the river opens up into Lake Ontario, we said goodbye to Don Metzger, a Seaway pilot and friend of the ship. Don had joined us at the Snell lock in Massena, New York, and he was a huge help. Like all pilots in the Seaway, he specializes in one area, and he covers the river upwards from Massena and all of Lake Ontario (seems like a VERY large area to me). He regularly guides ships in and out of ports on both the Canadian and American sides. Don was great to us, sharing all sorts of knowledge about the area and making sure the helmsman was informed and comfortable.

Currently we are motoring across Lake Ontario, heading for Port Weller where the Welland Canal begins, which goes around Niagara Falls. We hope to go through the canal in the daylight hours on Monday, and the total transit time should be somewhere between 8 and 12 hours. Then we are headed on to Erie, home of the US Brig Niagara, a ship on which the Captain worked for some time. It is 2nd Mate Greg Bailey’s home town, too.

Andrea and a laker on the way to the lakes
Boldt Castle on the way to the lakes
bound for lakes 053
bound for lakes 057
bound for lakes 080
bound for lakes 108
Greg on 4th of July on the way to the lakes
huge ship overtaking us on the way to the lakes
inside the lock on the way to the lakes
Kim Smith and Don Metzger on the way to the lakes

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