Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Miscellaneous' Category

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Getting Ready for Sea

By: Captain D. Moreland

A pretty deep, snowy and proper winter here in Lunenburg these days. The PICTON CASTLE is snugly moored to her wharf; 1,500 pound anchor and 300 feet of big anchor chain out in the harbour holding her against SE gales and storms to which this harbour is exposed, many big lines on to the dock. She has not budged an inch nor parted a hawser in even the strongest gales. And we had a whopper of a hurricane force storm recently. We had a long, long summery autumn and then it seemed like it skipped autumn altogether and went straight to full tilt winter. Well, we are halfway between the equator and the north pole here in Nova Scotia…no palm trees ringing the bay here.

Lunenburg is certainly a year-round port and we are getting ready to head off to sea soon. A few days south from here a ship will have crossed the Gulf Stream and the crew will find themselves peeling off the sweaters and quilted gear and pulling on shorts and t-shirts. It is a pretty astonishing transformation. Of course, a mariner has to be pretty mindful of getting a decent weather window to sail from here safely but that is true any time of year. Our plan is to sail from Lunenburg here in February and make our way to St Georges Bermuda and get our anchor down there. This time of year, Bermuda is quite a bit better place to get some painting done on the ship and any number of other things to make her look nice over a couple week period. The gang is keen on this too.

Now we are getting the PICTON CASTLE ready for sea again. Of course, when she sailed in to Lunenburg last fall she was ready for sea, wasn’t she? Logic dictates as much. So, what would we be doing? We are attending to a range of items on our list to both care for the ship and get ready for sea. Right now we have the faithful 24’ monomoy long boat hauled up at the Dory Shop for an overhaul. This venerable and able craft is getting well scraped, sanded, primed and painted as well as some minor carpentry here and there, a new rub-rail and stern sheets (a seat in the stern). This work is difficult to do aboard when sailing as we use the boat so much. But now is a good chance what with the good wood stove going and plenty hands hard at it.

What else? Down in the nice warm engine room we are looking after a few things. Floor plates are getting re-bolted down, water maker gauges being replaced, starting air bottles getting fine tuned, engine mounts for our single cylinder SABB getting replaced, a nice cleaning job done in the engine-room as well as adjacent ER supply room getting nicely stowed and cleaned up. Galley supply inventories as well as medical kit inventories are getting done. We have welders coming in to look after a few small projects on deck. Lots of buying is in order: paint, rope, food, lumber, canvas, all sorts of stuff for both the next few months as well as an entire world voyage ahead to consider. Now, we can get much that we need along the way – we are sailing AROUND the world, not away from the world – but some things are pretty hard to find and we need to have with us when we sail. And we need to make sure all our navigation gear, communications gear, safety gear is all in good order. We need to revue all charts and publications. All auxiliary equipment like welders, emergency pumps, emergency satellite comms, damage control supplies need to be aboard and in good order.

So, while it is cold outside and plenty snow, things are heating up on the good ol’ Barque PICTON CASTLE.


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Winter Weather Woes

12 January, 2017

It is an incredibly mild day here in Lunenburg today. It’s actually  +12°c/54°f which is incredibly warm for us on a mid-January day in Nova Scotia. The harbour is almost perfectly calm; this morning as I was walking down Bluenose Drive is was a sheet of glass. Just perfect. You would never guess this is the same place that was mid-storm only one week ago.

We had an outrageous winter storm in Nova Scotia last week – as did much of the Eastern Provinces of Canada, and Eastern States of the USA.  Truth be told, we fared far, far better than many other places. Even other places within Nova Scotia. This was partially due to good luck; partially to good management.

Late on Wednesday afternoon the Captain and Liam went down to the ship and, along with the few crew who remained on the ship over the Christmas holidays, they doubled up on the hawsers and lashed various rigging and things on the ship and the wharf. There were ropes everywhere: the storm was going to be a bad one, we had plenty of warnings about it. Winds up to 140k/hr. That’s massive. They were predicting snow, freezing rain, rain and a huge storm surge. We were worried.

When things started getting bad, Captain Moreland had the crew come set up sleeping bags at his house in his living room, and taking turns they made hourly treks down to the ship to check on things. It was a long, cold, windy, wet & powerless night.  The rum seasoning barge that sits out in Lunenburg Harbour, ageing Ironworks’ next batch of extremely good rum, lost its anchors and ended up on the rocky beach next to Picton Castle. There are so many vastly worse places it could have ended up, but it wedged itself onto our beach and stayed there throughout the storm.

The storm raged all Thursday and through Thursday night, but when all was said and done, and the sun came up on Friday, we fared pretty well. There is an old trawler tied up opposite Picton Castle called Primo. The easterly winds pushed against Primo throughout the storm – pushing her away from the wharf in a way wharves are not used to. The winds were strong; so were the hawsers we set up. Something had to give way, and eventually, it was actually the wood of the wharf that gave way. The ship and hawsers were all fine; the wharf needs a bit of t.l.c.

The next few days we had temperatures of -12°c/10°f with a windchill of minus too cold to even think about. Everything iced up and we were in a deep chill. From unusually cold all the way up to unusually warm for this time of year. Something is going on with Mother Nature.

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Christmas is on its way – Need a last minute gift idea?

If you’ve been with us a while, you know we don’t often send out cheesy requests that you purchase our merchandise. It’s always available, but we usually sell it on the ship. Christmas is nearly here, though, and we have some of our super popular “We May Be Slow” shirts available. At only $25CAD each including tax and shipping (within USA & Canada), these shirts are a steal!

We have a variety of colours and sizes available this year:

Youth XL – Apple Green & Indigo Blue

Adult Small – Sky Blue, White & Apple Green

Adult Medium – Light Brown

Adult Large – Sky Blue & Light Brown

Adult XL – Teal, Light Brown, Sky Blue, Orange/Red & Apple Green (please note: since original posting, teal has sold out!)

Adult 2XL – Grey, Khaki Green, Royal Blue & Black

Please refer to the photos below to get an idea of the colours

If you would like to make an order, please send Trudi an email and she’ll get one out lickety split. Keep in mind there are less than four weeks until Christmas, so if the shirt is to go under the tree you’ll need to order asap!

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Now Hiring Mates

Picton Castle is now accepting applications for Mates/Watch Officers for the upcoming voyage. The voyage begins early 2018 and runs until May 2019. This is a sail training voyage for adults and will consist of significant blue-water passages.

Qualification requirements vary by position, but all professional crew must have STCW Basic Safety Training and extensive experience working on traditional sailing vessels. Mates must have, at a minimum, a 500 ton oceans mate certificate.

Please apply by sending an email with your CV and cover letter to

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Who Would You Want To Sail With?

Each Picton Castle voyage has its own character, its own inside jokes, its own on-board culture. One of the exciting parts of planning a voyage is putting together the crew and trying to imagine how everyone will interact together.

While there are different individuals on each voyage, there are some common themes. People who sail in Picton Castle are pretty adventurous. Some have had other big adventures in their lives, for some sailing on Picton Castle will be their first big adventure. All have a strong desire to be a part of the crew, doing their part to get the ship from port to port.

Picton Castle crew come from all over the world. We like having an international crew. We tend to have a number of Americans and Canadians, but also quite a few Europeans and people from a variety of other countries. Most people are on the younger side, but there are always those in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and sometimes 70s. Our trainees come from a variety of backgrounds and have done all sorts of interesting things in their lives before sailing on Picton Castle. Some are recent graduates, some are taking a break from jobs, some are retired.

When we select our trainees, the most important question we consider is what each person will be like as a shipmate. The crew live, work, play and eat together in a fairly small space that, when at sea, they can’t leave. Imagine the kind of person you would like to share the experience with and you’ll start to paint a picture of what it means to be a good shipmate. Someone who is considerate, respectful, and friendly, with a good sense of humour, who is willing to do their share and then some.

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Erin Greig First Bermudian Woman to be Navigator

Former Picton Castle crew member, Erin Greig, was featured in The Royal Gazette in Bermuda yesterday.  Erin is the first woman in Bermuda to gain the Junior Navigator’s Certificate from Warsash Marine Academy in England and become an Officer of the Watch.  Her sea time on a number of sail training ships, including Picton Castle, helped to get her there!

Congtatulations, Erin!

The full article is available here.

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Doing Laundry At Sea

People ask all sorts of questions when they’re considering signing on board Picton Castle as a trainee. One we’ve been hearing a lot lately is about laundry. How do trainees wash their clothes on the voyage?

There is no washing machine on board, so any laundry you do on the ship needs to be done by hand. Because we do our best to conserve fresh water, the washing and rinsing is done in salt water, with a final rinse in fresh water.

Salt water soap is on the packing list, laundry is primarily what you’ll use it for. You can buy salt water soap at camping and outdoors stores. Alternately, we’ve found that many kinds of lemon dishwashing liquids also foam up in salt water and can be used for laundry.

Captain Moreland says the best way is to put your laundry in a bucket of salt water and soap and let it sit overnight. The next day, give it a light scrub, then rinse in salt water. Your final rinse can be in fresh water, to get the salt out.

To dry your laundry, we have laundry lines hanging over the well deck. Depending on wind conditions, you may need a number of clothespins to make sure your favourite t-shirt doesn’t blow overboard as it dries! We generally clear the laundry lines every evening before it gets dark so they’re empty overnight.

Alternately, many of the ports we visit have laundry services ashore, so some people on board will take their laundry ashore and drop it off on their day off duty, then pick up their nice clean, dry, folded clothes before returning to the ship.

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What is Ecotourism?

A very long time before Ecotourism was cool – before it was even a word – Picton Castle was an active ecotourism operator. But what does that mean?

Ecotourism is a word that seems to be popping up all over. The latest trend in travel, it is rising in popularity on an international level as we humans are finding it increasingly difficult to ignore the damage we have done and continue to do to this beautiful planet, and start trying to devise ways to lessen our footprint.

But what exactly is Ecotourism? People tell me it all relates to sustainable travel. Okay – but sustaining what: The environment? Animals? Cultures? The International Ecotourism Society defines Ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education” (TIES, 2015). And for to be clear: “Education is meant to be inclusive of both staff and guests.”

So Ecotourism is about travelling responsibly. It’s about having a minimum impact on the planet, while visiting and learning about destinations around the world. This means being educated regarding local cultures however unusual they might seem to the traveller; it means doing your utmost to not inflict any sort of damage to the local flora and fauna; it means helping out where there is a need, without any of the associated harm that can sometimes come from uneducated or misguided assistance.

Whenever possible, Picton Castle travels under sail and not engine; we have a water maker system on board the converts salt water to fresh; we bring aid to countries in need including delivering supplies and school books to remote islands; we know the remote islands and motus we visit quite well and have workshops dedicated to each stop as we head there, so that when we arrive each trainee is well-informed of any unique customs or traditions, and as well as any actions which might cause unintended offence; we barter and trade on these islands so that the local economy is getting a boost from our visit that is fair to all involved without any negative impact.

So what is Ecotourism? Well, when you boil it down to its simplest form I’d say Ecotourism is a fancy word for respect. Respect for the planet, for animals and plants that live on her, and for each other. And yes, it’s a very good thing.

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Post Hurricane Relief in the Eastern Caribbean

Picton Castle has spent a lot of time sailing the Caribbean in the past 20 years. We tend to stick to the Windward and Leeward Isles of the Eastern Caribbean and have visited our favourite islands many times. The trade winds are sweet, anchorages are mostly quite good, the islands are beautiful and the people are warm, friendly and welcoming.

The recent hurricanes in the Caribbean have hit our friends hard. We’ve either been in touch or are waiting to hear news from friends in Anguilla, Antigua, Dominica, St. Maarten, and the British Virgin Islands. Many have had homes and businesses destroyed, but thankfully those we’ve heard from and their loved ones are still alive, uninjured and ready to rebuild.

We want to help rebuild. Over the past few weeks, as we’ve seen photos and videos of the devastation, we have been talking about how to help. Picton Castle has a big cargo hold and additional room in the main salon and on deck to carry more than a hundred tons. We could carry a load of supplies. We would want to go to an island we know, to help people we know, in a place where the need is greatest and other help is not on its way.

Although a port visit in the Caribbean is not scheduled for the first leg of the upcoming world circumnavigation voyage starting in March 2018, we have been talking about adding a stop to the itinerary in order to bring supplies. We would have to know where we would go and what they need most there, then either raise funds or goods on our own or partner with another organization to get the supplies to bring with us.

We have been asked whether we would go now, immediately, to carry a load of supplies. We think we could find professional crew who would volunteer their time for a mission like this, and there is the possibility that we could organize a drive locally for supplies. However, it still costs money to operate the ship and unless those costs are covered, we aren’t able to do it. Even with donated time and supplies for the islands, the ship’s costs of fuel, insurance, food and materials to maintain the ship are very real costs that Picton Castle simply can’t absorb.

Rebuilding after these hurricanes, after everything has been flattened, is going to be a long process. Building supplies and other items will still be required months and years down the road. As we figure out how and when best to assist, we’ll keep you posted. In the meanwhile, any comments, suggestions and input you have are welcome.

For what it’s worth, our hearts and minds are with those who have been affected by these hurricanes. Hopefully we’ll be able to provide some on-the-ground help within the next year.

Picton Castle at anchor stern-to in Dominica

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Reasons NOT to sail around the world in the Picton Castle….

I’m fairly certain I’ve heard every reason in the book to NOT sail away on a tall ship. Not only heard them, but stated them myself. That’s my deep, dark secret – my own personal shame: Even though I work for this ship on shore I’ve never sailed a tall ship. Despite never having sailed in one, I’m drawn to them and am insanely jealous of everyone signing up for this world voyage coming up soon. I want to go too. I wish I could go back in time and sail when I was younger and more adventuresome and minus the three kids who seem to think that as their mother I should be looking after them – that’s my list of reasons not to go right there.

One thing I have come to learn is that all the reasons not to sail aren’t reasons at all: they’re just excuses. Little roadblocks that I (and other people like me) put up to make the choice not-to-go an easier choice to make.

I’m too old: Rubbish. I’m not too old. At 46 I’m about mid-way through the age range of people coming to sail. We have people in their 70s coming along on the World Voyage.

 I’ve got too many people relying on me: Right. Because I’m so great at life, the entire Town of Lunenburg can’t bear to have me go away for a few months. I might be good, but I’m not that good. Nobody is.

It’s expensive: Yeah, okay. That’s real. It costs a pretty penny. But it’s basically the same price as many other major adventures you can experience, and a lot less than others. Price out a two-month trip to the top of Everest. You can sail around the world in Picton Castle twice for that ticket. And if you’re talking value for money, it won’t get much better. Cost is real, but if you can scrape it together, it’s just another excuse.

Rough weather: The one reason I was sure was a valid reason not to sail was extreme weather. It’s pretty simple: I don’t want to be in a ship in the middle of the ocean during a hurricane. Who in their right mind would?

I’ve always been in awe of the ships that sail across vast oceans – not just the ships but their crew as well. It seemed to me that to sail out into the endless ocean on a relatively tiny ship and be tossed about at the whim of King Neptune and Mother Nature was .. well crazy, but also brave beyond words. Braver than I could ever hope to be. For me the idea was as intoxicating as it was scary. Going to sea was a ‘when’ something goes wrong and not an ‘if’ something goes wrong. Seems like a valid reason not to sail to me.

As we roll through the month of September, the Atlantic Ocean appears to be doing a stellar job of demonstrating why a person should not ever go to sea at all. Ever. I can’t imagine there is a single person reading this that hasn’t heard about the crazy and terrifying string of hurricanes pummeling the Caribbean. Until I came to work here in this office, weather seemed a very random and scary thing. What I never seemed to notice was this: there aren’t any big ships (cruise ships, tall ships, cargo or otherwise) near those hurricanes. It’s because as wild and random as the weather seemed to me to be as a layman, it actually follows fairly reliable worldwide patterns that take us through the 12 months of the year. Captain Moreland – in fact, any experienced mariner who knows what he’s doing – can readily tell you where you DON’T want to be at fairly specific times of the year, and voyages are planned accordingly. For instance, you don’t want to be in the mid-Western Atlantic right about now during what is called ‘hurricane season’. This is between June and December with June and November not really counting much. Why? Well, hurricanes need certain things to be created: very warm water, warm air, earth’s rotation, appropriate ocean currents and lots of open space. Right now – August, September and into October – all things align to make the formation of hurricanes far more likely in the mid-Atlantic, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, and the currents are going to pull those storms westerly across the Atlantic toward the Caribbean and the Americas.  And it’s the same every year. There aren’t devastating hurricanes every year, but every year at the same time (right now) it becomes far more likely that they’ll form. So smart ships avoid those areas this time of year. Sailing around the world and avoiding catastrophic weather isn’t actually magic at all. Or luck. It’s logic. And the World Voyage is following a very logical and well-timed route – to take in all of the incredible and amazing ports Captain Moreland has fallen in love with over his many years at the helm, and to avoid all of the reliably severe weather patterns.  One world voyage the ship did not even have one gale.

So cross that off your list of reasons NOT to sail. It’s not a reason, it’s just another excuse that is stopping you from taking part in what will be the most amazing adventure of your life.


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