Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Miscellaneous' Category

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Holiday Greetings From Lunenburg

Our beloved little barque is snugly tied to the wharf, there’s fresh snow on the ground and work has stopped for a few days while we take time to relax, enjoy the company of those around us and celebrate the holidays.

We can’t help but think of Christmases past, many of which, including last year, have been spent at sea. The roll of the ocean, white canvas sails overhead pushing us ever forward, the little divi-divi tree strapped securely to the cargo hatch, delicious aromas wafting from the galley all day and all night, shipmates covertly working on secret projects, holiday decor pulled from the dark recesses of storage areas and hung festively from any available surface and never-ending Christmas music floating from the well deck. Those Christmases, spent in the company of shipmates, where the thought counts more than the gift and the best present is a giant meal with more food than the whole crew can eat, have a very special place in our hearts and memories.

To all of our shipmates and friends, we wish you warmest Christmas greetings and continued adventures in 2012.

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Danmark Crossing the Atlantic

Picton Castle‘s Chief Mate on the Atlantic Voyage and World Voyage 5, Michael Moreland, is now sailing aboard the Danmark, Denmark’s national sail training ship. He joined the vessel in Lisbon in July and the ship is bound across the Atlantic to Philadelphia with a full ship of cadets on a sail training voyage, before heading back across again to Europe.  Mike has been keeping us up to date on his current adventure, which we share with you here.

24 North
58 West

September 1st, 2011

The healthy trade winds which have carried this old girl more than half way across the Atlantic Ocean have begun to ease up a bit.  We found our southing end at about 25 north and have been making straight westing for the last 800nm or so.  Tropical waves, depressions, and storms seem to be sprouting up all around us but not in our way, and we watched a potentially historic hurricane rip up the eastern seaboard from the safety of our weather charts.  The only contact we have had so far is catching the top of a tropical wave a thousand miles ago. It was just as a surfer catches a wave, with the isobars building up right behind us which blessed us with steady 30 knots right on the starboard quarter for three days and 20-25 for another 3 days, with only grey skies and the occasional wave breaking on deck as a side effect.  Now the seas and seaweed seem to indicate calmer winds upon us, a nice respite for all 100 souls aboard this old full-rigger, as well as the bosun to catch up with the painting and varnishing. 

All sails are flying these days, with a devoted team of quartermasters and trainees bending the last of the kites and even throwing up the forgotten crossjack, which is just an old main topmast stay’sl, set like a triangle with the top down.  We all agree it completes the mast.  Lots of tarring aloft, splicing up new wire braces, knocking rust off here and there, scraping and sanding endless teak furniture and fixtures aboard, and the usual bracing, stowing and teaching all keeping this group of sailors content and happy.  We have also had a run of luck with fishing off the stern, with a number of mahi mahi and one wahoo thrown onboard and onto our plates.  The Danes say those names of fish are strange sounding, I tell them that the words they say sound strange too.  But none the less, a good opportunity to teach proper fish cleaning and filleting techniques.  

Seaman’s Sunday fell on a Monday this week, which meant no teaching or ship’s work, but instead time for the cadets to air out their hammocks, organize their lockers and a special treat this week, we inflated our training life raft and made a kiddie pool right on the main deck.  Nice to have a day with no knock-a-rust noise and a little extra time to sit on the foc’sle or poop deck and have a chat.  But the days are going by at a nice pace everyone agrees and this collection of cadets and crew keep learning and improving in all the countless tasks and jobs that keep this ship going forward. 

And forward we go now, maybe with a bit more urgency as the next hurricane in line, Katia, is nipping at our heels a bit.  Should be well ahead of it, as we are motor sailing west at good consistent clip, but a little close for comfort.  Seems like we are in the midst of an active hurricane season.  But all is well aboard the Skoleskibet, almost all aboard are serenely unaware of the potential maelstrom lurking over the horizon.  But that’s fine, no need for extra grief.  Just focus and attentiveness to our daily routine, classes, and ship’s work, and maybe enjoying the last light of day as the sun slips below the horizon just ahead off the starboard bow.

Picton mate Mike plays with a local kid
Skoleskibet DANMARK

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Aboard the Danmark

What do our crew do after signing off the Picton Castle at the end of a long voyage? Well, a great many things. But here is one story.

Chief Mate Michael J. Moreland was recruited by the S/V Danmark to become one of their petty officers. The Danmark is the state sailing school ship of the Kingdom of Denmark training seamen and officers for the huge Danish merchant marine. She is known as the Royal State Danish School Ship, and has been steadily at sea since 1933. During the Second World War after Denmark was invaded by Germany her captain turned his ship and her crew over to the US Coast Guard and gave basic sea training to about 5,000 young Americans. Having built ships for the express purpose before, and with an active small vessel program, after WWII the USCG decided that they had better get back into the business of training under sail again and put the big Barque Eagle into commission. Both ships sail today doing what they do better than any other method, preparing young mariners for a life at sea. The Danmark is about 260′ long, with a rig height of about 133′. She carries about 98 crew and trainees and she is a full rigged ship.

D. Moreland

From Michael Moreland at sea in the Danmark:

Here is final revised log. All is well here, riding the top of a tropical wave, strong trades 25-30, 200nm day yesterday, catching some fish, overhauling the malerum (paint locker), and the sun shone long enough today to spread some paint around. Looks like a nasty hurricane coming up the east coast, glad we’re not there.
That’s all from here for now.

Aboard the Full Rigged Danish State Training Ship Danmark
August 22, 2011,
700 nm SW of Canaries

Sailing along just perfectly since leaving Madeira 7 days ago, steady 20-25 kts right out of the NE, t’gallants and big courses pushing this race horse along at 8-9 knots with hardly a splash on deck. All of the cadets are over their sea sickness and self pity and the extensive orientations are all through now, letting us put them to work and handling the sails. The quartermasters essentially run the deck and get to do all the fun stuff, sail handling and deck work, chasing the cadets around and keeping them in line. A good lot of trainees though. Most keen and follow all the rules amazingly well. It is fun working with a bunch of goofy, young kids, easy to get them motivated. And some of them get a big kick out of trying to teach me Dansk. It’s coming very slowly, but coming none the less.

The transition to English as the working language onboard is interesting in many aspects. All the crew is behind it and I believe, all genuinely glad that I am here help it along, but most of the time the old crew will revert back to Danish amongst themselves when working on deck, which is understandable. However, I think they are all glad to expand their maritime English, as it is the universal language in the shipping industry. It is funny, sometimes, to hear all the trainees running around jabbering in Danish with English maritime words thrown in, as all of the marine teaching has been in English. Overall, I think the decision to switch to English will be viewed favourably at the end of this tour.

The ship lives up to her great reputation and is incredible in every respect. The design, layout, construction, and systems are all top notch and she really feels like a big ship. The rig is immensely stout and powerful, with design and scantlings coming straight from age of sail shipbuilders of the 1930s. It is interesting in that you can see where new things have been added and changed and where the original rig layout is still preserved. What is impressive is that over the years they have been switching to products that keeps reducing the maintenance and upkeep in the rig, which can be valuable for a training ship as it allows more time to teach and train the 80 cadets. Still, plenty of good work to be done up aloft, and we have been enjoying the work while the strong Atlantic trade winds blow.

The organization of the Danmark is very well compartmentalized and good communication is facilitated by the mate and captain. All the crew is given free-range to work in their own areas with little micromanagment. Very good to see new styles. I am getting inspired in a lot of ways, such as teaching and crew management, as well as ship organization. It is refreshing to be teaching hands-on again and I am sharpening the effectiveness of my communications as I am teaching to trainees who don’t speak the best English. Besides teaching, the Bosun and I run the deck work all day and discuss all the ongoing maintenance daily. A good ship’s Bosun, about my age and like minded on proper work and organization. The two other quartermasters have been focusing on work aloft with small groups of cadets, while we have been running the deck work. I have started overhauling all the wire ‘baendsler’ (standing rigging seizings) and will have them all perfectly painted by the time we get to the States. A lot of rust busting, varnishing, painting, cleaning, so on. Nice to have 20 trainees all afternoon. I have also been leading a lot of the sail maneuvers and the commands and tempo I brought from the Picton Castle have been working here nicely. I have been complemented on the fast pace and clarity with which I push the cadets around hauling on ropes, keep them moving. Didn’t try to push my way of sail handling onboard, but was asked several times by the Overstyremand (Chief Mate) to just do it like I am used to.

Keeping my mouth shut about Picton Castle as much as possible, but most crew want to know more. A few ideas thrown out here were to advertise the Bosun School and the next voyage to Georg Stage trainees (the other Danish full rigged training ship) as they will be signing off shortly before then. And some good crew here are wondering about the possibility of joining Picton Castle for the next voyage. All I tell them is to just apply and see. As for the next voyage around the Atlantic, it looks really good. Good route, lots of new places, less miles, more sailing. A good mix of northern latitude European coastwise sailing and sweet trade winds from the shores of Africa to the Caribbean. I am convinced that this kind of Atlantic voyage is the superior voyage for a square rig training ship, not that I am alone in this thought though.

Trying to be more social onboard, as she is a European ship, they like to talk a lot, but hard to join a conversation when you don’t understand what they are saying. All in all, I think it is going very well, and you were right when you said it was just fun, because I am having a blast, and feel beyond honored to work on this age-of-sail full-rigger.

Anyway, hope all is well back in Nova Scotia and you’re having a good summer. Give my best to everyone.


Picton DSC06106
Picton DSC07366

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Name That Newfoundland Tune

I’m always better at remembering something when I can sing it. Learning the alphabet? Much easier with the alphabet song than to remember a long string of letters. Canadian provinces? The tune started with “the provinces of Canada are fun to remember, fun to remember…” and it still helps me get them in the right order from east to west.

Studying Newfoundland charts has caused me to pause at times, uncertain of why the name of a community or body of water sounds familiar. And then I realize it’s from a song.

Imagine my delight when a councillor of the town of Harbour Grace phoned to invite Picton Castle for a visit this summer. My mind immediately went to “Excursion Around the Bay” in which the man whose wife becomes ill on board a vessel seeks something to give her to make her better.

I tried every place in Harbour Grace, tried every store and shop…

In researching icebergs and where we’re most likely to encounter them, Iceberg Alley and the town of Twillingate are mentioned in all of the tourism brochures and websites. Sure enough, like in the song “I’se the B’y”, Fogo and Moreton’s Harbour are right nearby, or “all around the circle.”

While we’re not planning to stop, we will sail past the ecological reserve at Cape St. Mary’s, a famous point of land on the south coast of the Avalon Peninsula that inspired the hauntingly beautiful song of the same name.

But when we sail to old St. John’s, will all the girls be dancing? Guess we’ll have to wait and see, or take it upon ourselves to make it true.


Spaces are still available on Picton Castle‘s Newfoundland voyage this summer. Sail for two, four, six or eight weeks in July and August 2011.

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Canada Games Opening Ceremony

What an honour it was for the crew of the Picton Castle to light the cauldron at the Canada Games opening ceremony on Friday night!

The ship is still in Cape Town, but back in Nova Scotia we were invited to be part of the opening ceremony for the Canada Games, Canada’s biggest multi-sport competition for young athletes from every province and territory. The Games are held every two years, alternating between winter and summer, and Halifax is hosting the winter Games this month. To welcome the athletes to Nova Scotia and kick off the two weeks of competition, the opening ceremony on Friday night had a distinctly nautical flair and the organizers decided they wanted the crew of a tall ship to be involved. It was a call we were thrilled to receive! We assembled a team of alumni crew currently in the local area who responded quickly and enthusiastically to the invitation.

After some rehearsal in the days leading up to the big event, Friday night arrived. During rehearsal there had been just a few people in the arena at the Halifax Metro Centre, mostly production staff and performers, getting things ready for the show. Friday night was different – when we walked in through the backstage entrance the atmosphere was electric. Groups of athletes were assembling backstage, all dressed in their provincial uniforms and carrying flags and noisemakers. We made our way to the dressing room that we shared with the rest of the torch team, passing people with headsets rushing around, the big trailer with all of the broadcasting equipment and countless volunteers marshalling athletes and performers. The audience was starting to fill in, we could hear the sounds of thousands of footsteps in the stands over our heads.

At 7pm the event began and the noise in the hallway outside our dressing room reached a crescendo as the parade of athletes began. The team from Manitoba had assembled just outside our door and our conversation in the dressing room was drowned out by shouts of “Mani-Mani-Mani-Toba-Toba-Toba-Mani-Toba-Mani-Toba!” The athletes entered the stadium from the tunnel just down the hall from us, so we watched the procession on its way, giving a particularly loud cheer ourselves as Team Nova Scotia, the last team to enter the stadium, passed by us. Once the athletes were all seated, we knew it was time to put on our matching outfits and get ready to be called for our entrance.

Admittedly, we were a bit nervous as we stood just outside the tunnel where we’d make our entrance, but mostly we were excited. Waiting with us was the band Grand Derangement and also Jimmy Rankin and his band. Grand Derangement performed first, there were a few speeches, then Jimmy Rankin took the stage. During his performance, the four Canada Games torches were brought into the stadium, down the aisles through the audience and onto the floor of the stadium, carried by young people representing Nova Scotia’s founding Acadian, African, Gaelic and Mi’kmaq cultures. When Jimmy Rankin’s song was finished, Paul Tingley, Paralympic gold medallist in sailing from Halifax, made his entrance carrying the Roly McLenahan Canada Games torch. This was our cue to enter the opposite end of the stadium and get into place under the cover of darkness.

As we took our positions, we could see the audience begin to rise to their feet, a standing ovation for Paul and the torch started by Team Nova Scotia. When Paul reached the centre of the stadium floor, the four Canada Games torches came together to light the torch he carried, earning a giant roar from the crowd. By the time Paul got to where he would start to pass the torch to our crew, the entire audience was standing and cheering. Receiving the torch from Paul Tingley was Erin (World Voyage 4, Summer 2006, Caribbean 2007), who passed it along the floor to Kathleen (Summer 2004, World Voyage 4, Summer 2006), Alex (Summer 2006, World Voyage 5), Ryan (World Voyage 4, Summer 2006, Atlantic Voyage) and Erin (Atlantic Voyage, Summer 2009). Erin handed it up to me on stage, then I carried it across to Bub (Summer 2009), who started passing it up to Helle (Summer 2002, World Voyage 3, Summer 2004) and Danie (World Voyage 3, Summer 2004, World Voyage 4, Summer 2006) who were standing in the metal scaffolding, designed to resemble a ship’s mast. Julie (Summer 2006, Summer 2007, Summer 2009, World Voyage 5) was on a separate truss ladder at the level of the cauldron in the crow’s next and when Danie passed the torch up to her, the volume of cheering in the stadium was almost deafening and cameras were flashing like strobe lights. Timed perfectly to the music, Julie reached out at just the right moment and ignited the giant flame in the cauldron!

Being on stage with thousands of people cheering, doing something that makes them feel proud and inspired, is a real rush. Not quite the same rush as furling the flying jib out at the end of the jibboom when the wind pipes up, but despite not currently being aboard this gang of alumni crew pulled together to make this a success. It was an absolute pleasure to be invited to participate in the opening ceremony – many thanks to the organizers of the Games, the producers of the show and to all of the Games volunteers who made this such a fun and exciting experience. Best of luck to all of the athletes who will be competing here in Nova Scotia over the next two weeks!

For anyone who missed it, you can see the opening ceremony online here (skip ahead to 4:47 to start the torch part):

Julie lights the cauldron
just before going on stage at the Canada Games opening ceremony
the crew with Paul Tingley just outside our dressing room
the whole torch team after our performance at the Canada Games opening ceremony
waiting behind Jimmy Rankin and his band to go on stage

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Picton Castle to Participate in Canada Games Opening Ceremony

While the crew are having a fantastic stay in Cape Town, South Africa we have some exciting news from our home office in Lunenburg as well. We’ve been keeping the news under wraps for a while, but now we can share with you that Picton Castle will be participating in the Canada Games opening ceremony. We can’t really share any details yet, but a group of crew alumni who are based in Nova Scotia will be taking part in the ceremony on Friday night in Halifax. Held every two years, alternating between summer and winter, the Canada Games is the country’s largest multi-sport competition for young people from every province and territory (over 1800 young athletes will be participating in 15 sports!). The opening ceremony will be broadcast across Canada on TSN2 and online at We hope you’ll tune in and keep an eye open for some familiar faces!

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New Film Featuring Picton Castle!

Last August, while Picton Castle was anchored at Summerside, Prince Edward Island, we were approached by film maker Susan Rodgers who asked if she could make a short film about the ship and about people following their dreams. We quickly agreed. I’ll admit I haven’t thought much about the film again, until I saw the results yesterday online. It’s fantastic (although I don’t think I’ll be leaving my job as Voyage Coordinator any time soon in favour of life on screen in Hollywood)! Many thanks to Susan, who directed, filmed, edited and produced the film, for allowing us to share it with you all.

Picton Castle, Summerside 2009

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In Rarotonga -Waiting for the Ship

I stumbled onto the tarmac at 5:30 am, steadying myself and blinking. Sweet smoke hung in the air -mingling with the scent of ripe fruit – papayas and mangoes and breadfruit… The sun was scraping the horizon, arriving just in time to fuel my excitement. We were here! Eight of us will meet the Picton Castle here in Rarotonga when she arrives. Frankie, Megan, Alison and Robert were already on island and three of us just arrived on this flight from LAX. Paulina will arrive next week- ready to jump into her watch on board.

I could see Vicky and Stein ahead of me in line as I entered the customs line. All around me uniformed officials each wearing a Tiare (flower) in their hair greeted me warmly -despite the early hour- and live ukelele music filled the room.

So far we have all resisted sleep on our first morning. Everything seeming too alive and yet too surreal to allow for it right away. It is almost painfully beautiful here. The sort of place where one cannot help but exclaim in amazement every few minutes, “We truly are here-in the middle of the South Pacific”-or something more profound than that. The sunlight sparkles off the water and lulls you into a relaxed state. Whales breach on the edge of the reef. The lagoons offer ideal locations for snorkeling and scuba diving. The beach bars a wonderful place for an afternoon cocktail or a late night dance party. The locals are friendly and welcoming. The towns have everything you could need and more.

Everyone has been enjoying what this island has to offer. Frankie and Alison have done the cross island hike. Stein hiked to the needle-an imposing peak on one of the mountains. We have all rented bicycles and have taken advantage of the relatively flat roads round the island. Vicky, Alison, Megan and Frankie all rode the 32 km circumference one afternoon, stopping to have a swim and snorkel to cool off. While it is technically winter here in Rarotonga they are having a bit of warm spell and the temperatures are averaging 28 C in the afternoons. Robert-being a world music master student-has discovered the music scene on the island – recording local string bands and church choirs with a gismo he brought with him for this very purpose. We are all soaking in the climate, the culture, the people, the food, the activities and the music.

We’ve managed to meet up for a night of dancing and a BBQ since we have been here. All strangers brought together by a common passion -to sail the world on a tall ship. To sail the seas on the Picton Castle.

And while we spend the days (rising at 8 am to a breakfast of fresh squeezed juices, cereal and coffee on the veranda of our hostel before embarking on the excursions of the day) happily, contentedly even -there is an undercurrent of anticipation. Our ship is coming. Is she sailing now or -still lacking the unpredictably illusive south pacific trade winds -motoring along? What will be our place on the ship? What will we need to know right away and what can we learn with time and the patient teaching our crew and trainees? Will we be good shipmates? We wait, happily and anxiously, for our new home to sail into the harbour. And however we greet her – be it on a canoe or in a traditional vaka or sitting by the dock refreshments in hand -we will greet her with joy and great cheer. Kia Orana and welcome to Rarotonga.

local paddle boats at Muri Beach
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Passage to Rarotonga-Tradewinds gone astray #3

South Pacific south-east tradewinds, as pleasent and fine to sail in as they are, and depend on them we do to get across this ocean, are not quite as reliable as say South Atlantic tradewinds, which never seem to quit. Due to a low between two highs far to our south, yesterday the wind built and built to near gale force strength out of the NNE and then petered out all together, great sailing while it lasted. Then last night the wind went around and blew from the west for about 10 hours! The 8-12 evening watch had to wear ship (a controlled jibe with lots of hauling of braces) to steer north which was not so bad – then in the early AM the 12-4 and the 4-8 watches wore ship again as the wind came back out of the north so we could steer west again. Then the wind gave up and became light headwinds. On went the ALPHA with a deep rumble. We shall steam under power and head in the general direction of Rarotonga about 800 miles away until the wind makes up again as it surely will. We want to get to Rarotonga on time anyway, all sorts of folks meeting the ship and some of our gang have to head home to jobs and schools, all very sad. We just passed south off Atoll Hereheretue, too low to see. Been catching fish pretty well lately since Paul got the squid lures Steve and Olive at Pitcairn recomended…

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Passage To Rarotonga, Strong Tradewinds still with us #2

Mid-day, 20-16s/141-46w

The Picton Castle is about 400 miles NE of Manga Reva sailing along in strong NNEly winds. Seas are moderate and not too lumpy. The ship is shortened down to upper topsails and still we>are making a comfortable and swift steady 7-8 knots. I suppose that we can expect the breeze to die down soon enough as NEly winds we are getting are the normal easterly trades being bent and accelerated around a low to our south I think. Soon I expect the winds to lay down some and go back more into the east. Meantime we are sailing along just fine. As we get further north on this heading the weather is also getting warmer. Rebecca and her sailmaking gang laid out a new royal on the dock at Rikitea which they are hand seaming up now and the 5-6 year old fore-t’gallant got a rip in the clew last night so that sail is sent down for fixing – don’t need or want it set now anyway in this breeze. If we were further off the wind we would be happy to have it set.

All around is the Pacific is a deep rich blue and covered with white caps – the ship is easy to stear under this sail combination and she is romping along. If anyone is interested in what weather we have or what might be coming our way you can check out for ocean routing weather forecasts or for island forecasts. There are of course, many other weather forecasting sites but these two are simple and clear and do not require any interpretation or training to grasp.

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