Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Rendezvous 2017' Category

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Day’s Run – 26 July, 2017

By Purser Allison Steele

Today the crew enjoyed quite a bit of warm sunshine and took the opportunity to lay in on various projects during their off watch times. Several crew tried their hands at working on sewing canvas cloths together for a new outer jib while others worked on various rigging and painting projects. We were delighted to see a few whales on our passage who were curious enough to come and check us out. We are passing north of Anticosti Island to take advantage of better winds, as opposed to the busier shipping route to the south of the island so it is a much quieter run. We try to sail as much as the wind will allow but we do have a schedule to keep so often at night we will fire up the engine to help get to our next port on schedule. We seem to be having significantly more daylight hours but it is beginning to become cool so today’s warmth and sunshine was an unexpected treat. Perhaps it is the longer days and cooler evenings but the smell coming from the galley of dinner cooking this evening started early as did the grumbling of stomachs.

Cook Donald Church is a rare commodity and keeps us all fed and energized with his latest creations. A well-fed crew is a happy and strong crew and tonight is no different.

Donald in His Galley

Noon Position: 49°59′.8N  064°14.7W

Course + Speed: SWxS 5.2kts

Wind: W Force 3-4

Day’s Run: 124.2nm

Log: 366nm

Distance to Port: 258.6nm

Voyage: 4739nm


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Captain’s Log – Sailmaking

By Purser Allison Steele

Today as we make our way to Norris Point, Newfoundland, Captain Sikkema led a workshop on sail making.  PICTON CASTLE is one of the few ships left that still sews her own sails on board and often by hand, as opposed to sending them out to be made in a sail loft. Occasionally we take over a parking lot or a gymnasium to stretch some of the larger canvas out but for the most part, it is done on either the quarterdeck of the ship or in the hold when the weather is less favourable.

PICTON CASTLE uses only canvas for sails as opposed to the newer synthetic materials and travels with at least one extra full set as well as another set in production. A sailmaker’s job is never ending as there are always maintenance projects to keep current sails in good working order as well as creating new ones. Sometimes an awning, net or bag is required and with help from the crew, it is a sailmaker’s responsibility to create!

A detailed record of all sails is kept as they are not all uniform in shape and size. All waters in the world have varying types and strengths of wind that are typical for that area and a good ship knows how to take advantage of this variance by adjusting the complement of their canvas, using their lighter sails in the trade winds or other places with more favourable conditions and switching them out for the tougher, heavier sails in places where gales or strong gusts are more likely.

The history of sail making has been an important consideration when designing today’s sails. Although materials have changed and technology has streamlined many aspects of the industry, there are hundreds of years of experience and knowledge to rely on in modern sail making. Contrary to many layman’s beliefs, sails are not, in fact, flat but are curved in specific ways depending on the configuration of the ship but one constant is that they are designed to take full advantage of every breath of wind. There is a considerable amount of pride to look up into the rigging and see something that you helped to create and knowing that for years to come, others will rely on this creation to take them around the world.


Sailmaking on Picton Castle


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Day’s Run – 25 July, 2017


By Purser Allison Steele

With calm waters and a nice breeze, the crew fell back into the ebb and flow of the ship quite easily after our busy time in Quebec. We were able to set sail and practice drills with the new crew to help them familiarise themselves with sail handling. More experienced crew were happy to help spend time teaching newer people their lines and the order in which things are done. In calm waters, it is often easier to show the “why” of things rather than just giving orders so that is easier to remember for next time.

This afternoon was spent in a workshop on splicing, including a sailmakers splice and a chain splice. Crew was able to break off and practice their own splices so that they are able to put it into practice during ship’s work.

Splicing is the way in which you would attach pieces of rope by weaving it back on itself or another rope. In some cases as the Captain explained, you are able to weave a wire on to rope but most importantly is the correct use of splicing and which method is best for which situation. It helps the crew to understand the rigging a little better when you are able to learn why it works better in some applications than others.

The sunset this evening over the now calm waters was spectacular as it has been most nights along the St. Lawrence River as we make our way towards Norris Point, Newfoundland.

Noon Position: 49°17′.1N. 067°10.6W

Course: SExE 1/4 E  4.1kts

Wind Direction and Speed: SE Force 2/3

Day’s log: 90nm

Passage Log: 241.8nm

Voyage: 4615nm

Distance to Port: 382.5nm


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Captain’s Log – Tall Ships Rendezvous at Quebec City

With 40 ships, 3,000 sailors, the Prime Minister of Canada and a massive fireworks display, Rendez-vous 2017 in Quebec City was a huge success!  We can’t begin to estimate the number of visitors to the event and our ship as it seemed at times the stream of people was endless.  Picton Castle drew many crowds as our appearance comes on the heels of a popular French Canadian television series, “La Grande Traversée” in which our ship and a few of our crew appeared, Picton Castle playing the part of L’Esperance.  Our own chief mate, Gabriel St. Denis, who was featured in the television show, was very popular and many came out to see him and take a few pictures.

The Tall Ships event itself took place at the foot of Old Quebec and spread upward throughout the city.  Founded over 400 years ago, this UNESCO World Heritage site is unlike any other city in Canada and is the only fortified city north of Mexico. The cobblestone streets lined with beautiful gardens, churches, and heritage buildings housing boutiques, restaurants all teamed with wanderers taking in the sights.  You could spend hours just walking and taking in the European-style culture and so many of the crew did just that.  It’s nice to get out and stretch your legs after being on the ship and the people were always friendly and helpful.  With the shoreline filled with Tall Ships like Picton Castle, it was like stepping back in time.

The tall ship event itself was very well organised and it was great to catch up with friends and shipmates from other ports.  Our Liaison Officers Bob and Marilyn made sure we were set with whatever we needed and Marilyn, being a professional tour guide of Quebec City, provided some extra special insight into the “must dos” in the city including the funicular car connecting the lower town to the upper part for those less inclined to hike up to the Cap Diamant.

After four very busy days, it was time to leave.  As we departed this morning and said goodbyes to Quebec, friends and family, the view was spectacular as the tall ships passed back and forth under sail along the waterfront in the Parade of Sail until we headed back down river to our next ports.  Although we are sad to leave, it’s time for us to get back out to sea, back into the rhythm of the ship and what we are here for.

Next Port: Norris Point, Newfoundland.

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Day’s Run – 24 July 2017

By Purser: Allison Steele

After leaving the busy Port of Quebec at 0700 yesterday, participating in the Parade of Sail as we went, we began making our way down the St. Lawrence River towards our next port. The St. Lawrence has some very strong current so we often don’t make significant distance despite our speed but we enjoyed the opportunity to set sails giving the new crew a chance to learn at a reasonable pace. We try not to motor much as we are here to sail but in times like these, it sometimes becomes necessary. We did, however, enjoy the silence of sailing for the day as we started to shake off our land legs and get back into routines at sea.

Thanks to Ghislain Côté for the photo!

Later in the afternoon Captain Sikkema and Mate Gabe St. Denis held a workshop for the crew on splicing and ropework. It was a chance to introduce new crew to the different ways ropes can be utilised and a good opportunity for other crew to practice. It’s nice to watch the crew who have been on for a while master the skills they have been learning throughout the summer and lend a hand to new crew. It’s the evolution of a sailor and rewarding as a sail training vessel. Often you can see the excitement on a person’s face when certain concepts or skills seem to click and they start to understand the whys and hows of things as when you first sign on things can seem overwhelming. Often we hear departing crew tell us that it was not enough time to learn all they wanted to and are intent on returning… or sometimes they stay on!

As we fired up the engines at 1900 the silence is replaced by the gentle hum and slight vibrations from the engine. We have miles to go to our next port, which will be Norris Point, Newfoundland.

Noon Position: 48°31′.7N 069°04′.7W

Course: E 1/2 S  4kts

Days Run: 115.0nm

Voyage: 4525nm

Distance: 463.6nm

Wind: SxW 2kts

Weather: Warm

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Quebec City – The Pinnacle of the Rendez-vous

Quebec City has rolled out the red carpet, so to speak, for all of the tall ships gathered here now including Picton Castle. This is the largest gathering of tall ships in Canada this year, all here to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation. The last time Quebec City hosted a major tall ships event was in 1984, so this is a rare and special event.

The tall ships’ visit to Quebec City is part of a larger regatta taking place around the Atlantic. Back in April the regatta began in Grenwich in London in the UK. From there, the ships sailed to Sines in Portugal, then to Bermuda, then Boston, then a number of “guest ports” in the Canadian Maritimes and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In the meantime, a separate fleet of ships met up in the Great Lakes and sailed west, making guest port visits as well. All of the ships have met in Quebec City, arriving earlier this week. The regatta will continue on to Halifax, then back across the Atlantic to La Havre, France.

On Thursday, after the crew parade where crews of all the vessels marched through the streets of Old Quebec, some in their formal military uniforms and some in brightly coloured costumes (Picton Castle crew, of course, were brightly, tropically coloured), prizes were awarded in various categories. During the prize giving ceremony, a letter from Her Majesty, the Queen of England, which has been carried across the Atlantic on board a different ship each leg of the voyage, was read aloud. A copy of the letter was given to each of the five ships that are making the full regatta, including Blue Clipper, Jolie Brise, Rona II, Wylde Swan and Peter von Danzig.

Quebec is a fantastic city and the crew are enjoying it. The waterfront area is bustling with activity and our crew have been visiting the other ships. They’ve also been making their way into Old Quebec, checking out the historic walled city and enjoying the festive atmosphere.

We have been welcoming the public on board the ship for deck tours, as much as the tides and the angle of the gangway have allowed. The crew on watch have been keeping a close eye on the gangway – at high tide it slants slightly up from the dock, at low tide, which is 7 metres lower, the gangway is at a fairly steep angle, and because of the difference it requires close tending.

Behind the scenes, we’ve been doing all the usual things we do in port – taking on fresh water, fuel and provisions, saying goodbye to trainees signing off at the end of their leg, saying hello to trainees signing on here and getting them settled and oriented on board.

When we leave Quebec on Sunday, we’ll head down the St. Lawrence River bound for Norris Point, Newfoundland, then to a number of ports in Nova Scotia. Want to join us? Trainee berths are still available, no experience necessary.

Picton Castle gangway at high tide

Picton Castle crew at the prize giving ceremony after the crew parade

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Day’s Run – 17 July, 2017

By Purser Allison Steele

As we make our way up the St. Lawrence Canal towards Quebec, crew is enjoying somewhat warmer weather, sunshine and the ever present curious wildlife! With seals and whales, including the majestic white beluga, there is always something to see looking out over the water. Today the Captain held a workshop on making baggywrinkle. Seafaring is filled with all sorts of interesting terms and for the most part these words can be traced back to some sort of explanation…..except baggywrinkle. These interesting creations guard the sails against chafe on the stays and are best made with manila strands. When finished they look very much like a long, nicely trimmed lions mane but can stand a fair amount of wear before needing to be replaced. Prevention helps keep us in tip top ship shape and learning new things constantly!


Noon Position: 48°34′.0N 068°48′.2W

Day’s Run: 68.9NM

Average Speed: 3KN

Voyage Distance: 4288NM

Wind: Force 3 East

Weather: clear and sunny




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Captain’s Log – Sept-Îles, Quebec

July 10/17 – by Purser Allison

After hoisting anchor at La Petite Basque the morning of July 7th we made our way through the bay towards the Port of Sept-Îles, the largest volume port in the Province of Quebec. We were quite surprised at the welcome we received, it being such a busy port that regularly receives large cargo vessels and cruise ships, we thought the sight of a few more large vessels may not be such an attraction. We were wrong! We were greeted by enthusiastic crowds and townsfolk who had heard the PICTON CASTLE was arriving and came down to greet us.

PICTON CASTLE has gained quite a bit of notoriety in the Province of Quebec since the Radio-Canada television series, La Grande Traversée, aired a few weeks ago. In the show, PICTON CASTLE’s name is changed to L’ESPERANCE to play the part of a ship carrying colonists from La Rochelle, France to New France (which is now Quebec) circa 1700. The television series was filmed while actually sailing across the Atlantic last summer. Several of the current crew were on board during the filming and were immediately recognised and treated as TV stars with pictures snapping. While sharing the dock with other ships participating in the Rende-vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta, over 4000 people (in a community of 26,000) came to see the ships and throughout the town, the crew were treated with warm hospitality.

Sept-Iles lobster!!

Sept-Îles is a lovely port protected by seven small islands: Île Grande Basque, Île Petite Basque, Île du Corossol, Île Petite Boule, Île Grosse Boule, Île Manowin and Îlets De Quen.  First documented by Jacques Cartier in 1535, the area is rich in First Nation, Innu and European cultures surrounded by beautiful, rugged scenery and historical significance. The area is primarily French-speaking but the people of Sept-Îles were eager to help or chat and translate where needed. Sometimes it is just fun to try to figure things out, which leads to some humorous interpretations!

We can’t, however, say enough about the people of Sept-Îles. From the event organizers, Harbourmaster Shawn Grant, Chef d’Escale Marie-Ève Duguay,  and our Liaison and tour guide Guy, to the shopkeepers, wait staff and people of the town, it was truly a delight to spend time here. The joy of smaller ports is the ability to connect with the community if only for a few days. There is mutual appreciation for hospitality shown.

We were somewhat sad to leave this beautiful port but hundreds of people came out to say goodbye so we showed our appreciation by hoisting canvas and sailing past the town under full sail, sounding our horn in farewell.


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Captain’s Log – The Purser’s Summerside

By Purser Allison Steele

The PICTON CASTLE came into Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada after a great passage up from Boston, USA and received a warm East Coast Canada welcome! It was a short visit to this very colourful and pleasant town but was certainly a highlight with several thousand visitors crossing the decks, including former crew members, family and friends.

The PICTON CASTLE is well known throughout the Canadian East Coast but is often on voyages taking her far from home so it was a special treat for our host port. Many visitors were familiar with the ship having followed her for many years so the chance to come and tour her was not to be missed.

Summerside itself is a sweet town with bright coloured buildings, friendly and gracious people and incredible seafood. Everywhere the crew went, residents and visitors were excited to talk about the ship and our travels.

Several crew went into Charlottetown to visit shops, restaurants and visit with other ships and friends we have made along the way. PEI is steeped in traditions of the East Coast and famous for potatoes, Anne of Green Gables, and a rather large lobster that is stationed at the wharf.

July 1 marked Canada Day, a very special one for Canada as it’s the 150th anniversary of Confederation.  With Canada Day celebrations lasting the whole weekend, there were concerts, vendors, attractions and lively street musicians along the walkways. Saturday night in both Charlottetown and Summerside there was a great show of fireworks over the water that went late into the evening rounding out a great weekend.

As we left the town wharf around noon on Sunday, people still came out to get a last glimpse of the ship and her crew as we conducted safety drills in preparation for our voyage. Some of the crew that have been with us for a while now departed to return to their daily lives knowing that this experience has enriched their lives. As much as we will miss them, we take on new crew that will quickly learn the ways of the ship in hopes that they too will learn and develop as sailors.



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Day’s Run – 4 July, 2017

The crew woke to a somewhat chilly morning as we make our way towards the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which is an odd feeling for the 4th of July. We wished our American crew members happy Independence Day from within our sweaters and scarves, but this is typical for North Atlantic waters.

Crew spent the day keeping warm by tacking the ship, rig work, varnishing wood and additional aloft training for new crew. There is always something new even as we wait for the wind to shift allowing us to continue towards Sept-Iles, Quebec. For those of us who have been on board since Lunenburg, it’s rather odd to see land around us but the lights at night just add to the beautiful spectacle above for it’s the more remote areas like the passage between mainland Quebec and Ile D’Anticosti that are best for stargazing. During longer voyages, crew of the PICTON CASTLE learn celestial navigation but on shorter summer voyages we are happy to sit back and enjoy.

Noon: 48°57′.0N 063°13′.4W

Day’s Run: 91.7NM

Passage: 209.5NM

Voyage: 3938NM

Course and Speed: SWxW 2 knots

Wind: WNW <1

Weather: Overcast and chilly

Swell height and direction: WNW 1 metre


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