Captain's Log

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Hiring Staff Crew for Rendezvous 2017

Picton Castle carries a full complement of 52 people, which includes 40 trainee crew and 12 professional crew. While trainee crew don’t need to have any experience sailing, our professional crew are qualified, certified, knowledgeable mariners with hands-on experience. Because Picton Castle is a training ship they have to not only be excellent seafarers, they also have to be able to teach and lead by example.

We’re now accepting applications for staff crew positions on our Rendezvous 2017 voyage which takes place next summer. We’re looking for mates, engineers and lead seamen.

All applicants must have, at a minimum, STCW Basic Safety Training and at least a year of experience on traditional sailing vessels (preference is given to those with square rig experience). We prefer to hire lead seamen with their AB (USA), Bridge Watch Rating (Canada) or their national equivalent. Mate applicants must have at least a 500 ton oceans license. Mariners of all nationalities are welcome to apply.

To apply, please email your CV and a cover letter that tells us more about you, your experience and why you want to work aboard Picton Castle to

Taking in topmast studdingsail 2

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Snowy Day in Lunenburg

We’re not used to seeing the decks of our mostly tropical-sailing barque covered in snow, but that they are today. It’s not a good day to be working outdoors so Bosun School students are indoors, working on wrapping up a number of projects as they begin their last full week of classes.


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Crossing Yards

Thursday December 8, 2016

What comes down out of the rig must go back up! Bosun School students sent down yards back in September, they have overhauled all the standing rigging attached to the yards, overhauled the yards themselves, and are now crossing the topsail yards again. The first one to go up was the main upper topsail yard, which was crossed this morning. Gabe and Kimba guided it up from the wharf, Anne Laure was aloft to receive it, while Ashling, Liz, Niko, Jason, Aaron and Polina worked the capstan to do the heavy lifting, all under Captain Moreland’s watchful eye.






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Conference Time in Sweden

Captain Moreland and I just got home to Lunenburg from the Sail Training International conference in Halmstad, Sweden.

This is an annual conference, held in various places around the world, for tall ship operators, owners, crew, host ports, and anyone else interested in sail training.  We try to participate, representing Picton Castle, as often as possible.  Halmstad will host the Tall Ships Races this coming summer so the conference was also hosted there, in the Tylosand Hotel, a pretty swanky hotel/resort with a huge modern art collection overlooking a beach on the Kattegat, an extension of the Skagerrak and the North Sea, that’s seven kilometres long. 20161126_143859-reduced20161122_130136-reduced

To get there, we flew to Copenhagen.  Since the Captain and I are both big fans of Copenhagen and we have shipmates and friends living there, we arranged to stay a day or so there to adjust to the time zone change and do some visiting before heading for Halmstad.  I love all things festive and I have to say that the Danes have holiday spirit figured out, especially at this time of year.  We strolled along the canal in Nyhavn, which used to be where all the sailors came ashore and is now a tourist area, and found all sorts of little booths selling warm drinks, snacks, gifts and souvenirs, all under the glow of Christmas lights and garlands. 20161122_155320-reduced

The day before the conference officially began, we attended a meeting of the Ships Council.  The Ships Council is made up of all ships that want to be members and we communicate, both in person and electronically, about issues of importance to sail training.  Within the Ships Council there is a Tall Ships Forum (of which we’re a member) and the Small Ships Forum (for smaller sail training vessels).  While there are some issues that affect all sail training ship operators, there are some that are more common to larger or smaller ships.  All of Thursday was spent as a whole Ships Council, tall ships and small ships together, discussing things like learning from case studies of accidents and near misses, emergency response plans, and marketing to attract trainees. 20161127_101936-reduced

One of the initiatives Sail Training International has undertaken recently is the website  which is designed to help trainees with no sailing experience or prior knowledge of tall ships find out what the experience is all about, then help them choose a ship to sign aboard.  If you’re in Canada, you may have already seen or heard TV or radio advertising sending people to this website.  We’re excited about any initiative that helps to spread the word about what ships like ours do and gets people on board!20161126_153228-reduced

The conference itself began on Friday November 25 with an update on what Sail Training International has done in the past year and what is coming up in the next few years.  After the one general session for everyone, there were a number of sessions offered at the same time so we were able to choose which to attend.  We received more information about next summer’s Rendezvous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta, we met with a variety of ports that we could potentially visit in the future at a series of speed meetings (like speed dating), and we took in a number of other presentations and discussions throughout Friday and Saturday.20161126_165303-reduced

The last official business of the conference was to present awards to various individuals, ships and programs.  A full list of winners is available here [].  We’re particularly proud of Captain Moreland’s old friend and shipmate Captain Jarle Flatebo who was awarded the Lifetime Achievement in Sail Training.  Captain Flatebo was most recently the master of the Norwegian ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl, but the two met while they both worked on the Danish state training ship Danmark.20161126_171543-reduced

While we certainly learned from the sessions and workshops offered, perhaps the greatest value in attending a conference like this is the opportunity to meet and talk with people who do things similar to us.  Each ship has its own unique operations and challenges, but there are certain common elements.  By discussing what we each do, asking questions and talking about situations, we can learn from one another, share good ideas, share ideas that didn’t quite work out, and combine resources and knowledge.  It was great to see old friends, catch up with them and what they’re working on now, and to meet new people and make new connections.  We look forward to seeing many of these friends and colleagues again this summer as Picton Castle joins an international fleet of tall ships for the Rendezvous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta.





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Bosun School Does the Holidays!

It’s been an incredibly busy week here in Lunenburg. Captain Moreland and Maggie travelled to Sweden for a Sail Training International conference and Gabe has been busy doing workshops with the Bosun School in Captain Moreland’s absence. I had to interrupt, though, for something slightly different … this weekend is the first huge big weekend in the build-up to the Holiday Season here in Lunenburg. Tonight there is the lighting of the vessels down at the harbour which includes lighting up some ships, a bunch of Christmas trees and the Holiday Buoy (of course!). One of the Christmas trees is ours. Normally Maggie and I decorate it, but this year I left it up to Gabe and the Bosun School (and Purser Bob who is visiting from the UK) and together they have created a beautiful tree decorated with nautical knots, mini ditty bags and candy canes.



Tomorrow Santa Clause is coming to town in style and will be the star of the annual Christmas Parade through town. We will have a float in the parade so if you happen to be here keep your eyes open for the thoroughly decorated Dory Shop dory with the lovely Christmassy sails – the Bosun School will be handing out chocolate, suckers and candy canes to all kids young & old. After the parade, there will be markets throughout town, a live nativity (complete with donkey) and then Christmas carols by the bandstand as they light the trees on the hill. If you ever feel like you’ve lost the magic of Christmas, come and spend the last weekend of November in Lunenburg and recharge your magical spirit with a great old fashioned Christmas weekend. It feels like you’re stepping back it time.

Captain Moreland and Maggie will return on Monday, but until then we’ll celebrate a little bit of Christmas here in this beautiful old town.


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Visiting Canada For Rendezvous 2017

Close to a year ago, we decided to sign on for the Rendezvous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta.  This means that in the summer of 2017, Picton Castle will join an international fleet of tall ships for a series of festivals and races.  The Regatta actually starts in Europe, in the UK and Portugal, but we’ll meet up with the fleet in Bermuda in early June and remain with the fleet until the end of August.

We’ve been eagerly awaiting news of which Canadian ports we’ll be assigned to visit.  As you can imagine, it’s a lot of work for the organizers, Sail Training International, to coordinate the visit of 40+ ships to 30+ ports in Canada.  A few weeks ago we were given our list of ports and dates for Picton Castle.

In the summer of 2017, Picton Castle will visit the following ports:



Summerside, PEI

Sept Iles, Quebec

Baie Comeau, Quebec

Quebec City

Norris Point, Newfoundland

Louisbourg, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Digby, Nova Scotia

sail past Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia

Saint John, New Brunswick

Some of these ports we know and love.  Some will be first-time visits for us.  We’re excited about them all!

Anyone age 16+ can sign on as a trainee on this voyage, no sailing experience necessary.  Dates, legs and costs are available here.

Picton Castle in Quebec City 2016

Picton Castle in Quebec City 2016

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HMS Picton Castle

With a hull form derived from the famous Brixham sailing trawlers, our Picton Castle started her life as a fishing vessel after she was launched back in 1928, fishing from the ports of Milford Haven and Swansea in Wales.  The actual castle for which she is named is quite close to Milford Haven.  When World War II came, many fishing trawlers vessels were pressed into service in Britain’s Royal Navy including our Picton Castle.  She became HMS Picton Castle, was fitted with minesweeping equipment and became a minesweeper and convoy escort.  Her crew were usually made up of fishermen who knew that type of gear so well and a few regular navy ratings to handle the guns and mines she carried, all in the command of a fairly junior Naval Reserve officer. These small former fishing vessels and their rough and ready crews made up a flotilla known as “Harry Tate’s Navy” after a dishevelled vaudeville entertainer of the times. Maybe a bit similar to “McHale’s Navy”.

Picton Castle as a minesweeper in WWII

Picton Castle as a minesweeper in WWII

In 1942, HMS Picton Castle took part in the Saint Nazaire Raid.  The object was to destroy the drydock facilities in German-occupied Saint Nazaire.  This was the only large drydock on the Atlantic coast that the Germans could use to drydock their vessels.  If this facility was unavailable, the large German ships would have to go up the heavily guarded English Channel and all around Denmark to get to the north coast of Germany in order to drydock.  This was a very vulnerable passage for a German naval vessel. The raid was successful, with the former US WWI Lend-Lease destroyer HMS Campbeltown  smashing into the lock gates and later exploding with such force to take out the drydock for the remainder of the war.  This also resulted in Hitler calling for shooting such commandos upon capture and skipping the prisoner-of-war scenario.

RN veteran and telegraph operator Tom Gamble who sailed in the HMS Picton Castle throughout the war tells of a time that his ship was blown clear out of the water by a mine. They steamed to port and drydocked her but found no damage. Back to sea she went.

Later in WWII, while sweeping for mines in the North Sea, HMS Picton Castle developed a problem and had to put in to the nearest port, which happened to be Bergen, Norway.  The Germans had just decided to abandon Norway rather than fight and so decamped.   The next day the HMS Picton Castle appeared in the desolate empty harbour flying the Union Jack, was greeted by some two officials and has since been hailed as the “Liberator of Norway.” From the VE Day May 8, 1945 until December of that same year our ship swept the waters of the recent hostilities for mines. We can be confident that she found many. Mines pop up to this day in the North Sea and coastal waters of Europe.

On this Remembrance Day, we laid a wreath at the ceremony in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia in memory of one of Picton Castle’s early supporters (early as a sailing ship), Lunenburg’s Martin Eisenhauer and all, like him, who served in the Royal Navy and took part in some of the most grueling convoys of the Battle of the Atlantic.  He may have seen the little Picton Castle sweeping for mines or escorting a convoy on its last miles into safe harbour.

Remembrance Day ceremony in Lunenburg, 2016

Remembrance Day ceremony in Lunenburg, 2016

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Bosun School Learns Sailmaking

For the past few weeks, Bosun School students have been focused on sailmaking.  It’s a good skill for a bosun to have – by making a sail, you understand how it works, why each part is the way it is, how to use it and how to look after it.  There aren’t very many sailing ships making their own sails aboard anymore (Picton Castle is one of the only ones), but the understanding of how it’s done makes you a better mariner.

Captain Moreland demonstrates patching techniques

Captain Moreland demonstrates patching techniques

Repairing sails is a skill a mariner is much more likely to use on a sailing ship.  From time to time, sails rip.  Catching it early and repairing it properly extends the life of the sail.  As Captain Moreland explained when he was introducing sailmaking to the students, there are times when different kinds of repairs need to be done.  Sometimes you need the perfect repair, done so well you’d hardly know it wasn’t part of the original sail.  Sometimes you need a quick and dirty five-minute job that will hold for a few hours or a few days so the sail can be set again immediately.  Sometimes you need something in between. Ashling sews in a window patch

Ashling sews in a window patch

Throughout this unit of study, Bosun School students have had the chance to practice all kinds of repairs.  They have sewn in lovely window patches, they have also done ugly-but-effective rubber cement patches on a synthetic fabric sail.

Anne-Laure working on the sewing machine

Anne-Laure working on the sewing machine

Bosun School students have also been involved in making some new sails.  They did some hand seaming on a new main topmast staysail to prepare it for a second layout.  We also have a main deck awning that was ready for a second layout.  And we wanted to do a first layout of a sail with the Bosun School, so we chose to lay out an outer jib.

Kimga put a corner patch on the new outer jib

Kimba put a corner patch on the new outer jib

For two afternoons last week, we used the gym floor at the Lunenburg Community Centre for laying out sails.  We’re not the first people to use the community centre gym for this purpose – Michele Stevens Sailloft laid out the sails for the schooner Columbia there.  The space is so large that we were able to lay all three out at once.

Liz and the main topmast staysail

Liz and the main topmast staysail

laying out sails at the Lunenburg Community Centre

laying out sails at the Lunenburg Community Centre

Both the main deck awning and the main topmast staysail were laid out for the second time.  On the second layout, we even out the edges of the canvas, cut off the outside edge to be used as the material for the tabling (which we accounted for on the first layout) and make sure the shape of the sail is as we want it.

To do the first layout of the outer jib, we marked the dimensions of the sail plus the part we would later cut away in green masking tape on the floor, then rolled out the canvas over top of the shape and cut the cloths to the appropriate lengths, then marked them in the correct order.  To give the Bosun School students some experience with machine sewing, we did the seaming for this sail with our big industrial Singer sewing machine.

Ashling, Polina, Liz & Kimba seam the outer jib

Ashling, Polina, Liz & Kimba seam the outer jib

Kimba, Anne Laure, Ashling, Fiji & Aaron seam sails on the Singer

Kimba, Anne Laure, Ashling, Fiji & Aaron seam sails on the Singer

Once a sail is sewn together, there is still a lot of work to do, and most of it is by hand.  The tabling, which is an extra layer of canvas that sandwiches the outside edge of the sail, is sewn on by hand, as are corner patches and any other patches the sail needs (bunt patches, reef patches, sun patches, etc).  Canvas sails are then roped, meaning a rope is sewn around the outside of the sail to help strengthen it and ropes are often covered with canvas or leather rope coverings.  Grommets need to be sewn in to any point where the sail needs to be attached to the yard, the stay or any running rigging.

Sewing grommets into the luff of the new outer jib

Sewing grommets into the luff of the new outer jib


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Captain’s Log: Introduction to Sailmaking – Ditty Bags

One of the best first projects for any beginner sailmaker is a ditty bag.  What is a ditty bag and why would one want to make one, you ask?

Well, a ditty bag is a canvas bag, typically shaped like a cylinder, that’s used to hold a sailor’s tools.  We have no idea why it’s called a ditty bag, it just always has been.  On Picton Castle, we typically make the bottom of the bag out of wood cut into a circle to help give the bag some structure and durability, but the bottom could just as easily be canvas or leather.

By making a ditty bag, a sailor not only get a practical bag in which to keep their tools, they also get an introduction to a variety of concepts and skills required for making sails.

The first step is to measure and cut the canvas.  What eventually becomes a cylinder starts as a rectangle, with extra width and height added for amount of canvas that will be folded over for the seam and the tabling.  Next, the short edges are folded under and rubbed to make a crease.  The canvas is then made into a cylinder and the two ends are seamed together.

This is, for many sailors, the first time they use a needle and a palm.  A palm is like a thimble for the palm of your hand, worn around your hand, with a metal surface that can push the end of the needle through the canvas.  Palms come in right- and left-handed versions and varying grades of sturdiness.


On a sail, the tabling, which is an extra layer of canvas around the perimeter of the sail, is a separate piece of canvas sewn on.  When making a ditty bag, the tabling is made by simply folding over the top of the bag and sewing it down.

The next step is to add two small grommets where the becket (the handle) will be attached.  We make the grommets ourselves out of waxed marline, wrapping strands of it together in a circle then using a fid (a cone-shaped tool) to shape them into a circle.  The grommets are then stitched into the tabling on opposite sides.

Then it’s time to make a big grommet for the top of the bag.  This grommet is usually made of manila rope and must be made to fit exactly.  Canvas sails typically have roping around the outside of the sail to help give the sail strength and structure.  The large grommet around the opening of the top of the cylindrical bag does the same.  Once the grommet fits exactly, it gets sewn on.


The last step before attaching the bottom is to make the becket, or the handle of the bag.  It’s typically made of manila rope as well, and the length is chosen by the individual depending on how they want to use their bag.  Some choose a long becket so they can wear their bag across their body and take it aloft into the rigging, others prefer a shorter becket so their bag can be carried by hand or possibly looped over one shoulder.  The becket needs to go through both grommets, then has an eye spliced in each end.  We like to use the sailmaker’s splice, a splice that goes with the lay, on beckets so that sailors can learn another splice that’s useful in sailmaking.  The splices are then served to strengthen and protect them, and to make the bag look more finished.



As I mentioned earlier, we typically make the bottom out of wood cut into a circle.  There’s more measuring and cutting involved, a bit of sanding and applying something to protect the wood, then the canvas is turned under at the bottom, the wood circle is placed into the bag and the canvas is nailed to the wood.

Bosun School students started their ditty bags on Saturday morning and finished them on Monday as part of their current focus on sailmaking.







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Captain’s Log – Wire Splicing

Last week, after having served a number of footropes, Bosun School students moved on to wire splicing.  Specifically, splicing an eye into the end of a wire rope.

There are a number of uses aboard a ship for a wire rope eye.  Aboard Picton Castle, we have wire sheet pennants for many of our fore and aft sails, our brace pennants are made of wire, there are wire guys connected to the davits, and the clewlines on some of the heavier sails have wire rope components.  So, it’s very useful for a mariner to be able to splice wire.

The splice the Bosun School students were working on is the Liverpool eye splice.  This is a splice that goes with the lay.  Students started by setting up the wire in a vice to hold it steady, tying the ends to the classroom ceiling so they were held straight up and seizing the two pieces of wire together to form the eye.  Then, with the use of a large marlinspike, strands of the rope were separated and other strands woven in to form the splice.  When it was finished, ends were cut off.

Captain Moreland says that someone with experience and lots of practice should be able to do ten of these per day.  Our Bosun School students are working on their second or third wire splices in as many days, so more practice to come.

wire splicing - photo by Melissa Boulanger

wire splicing – photo by Melissa Boulanger

wire splicing - photo by Melissa Boulanger

wire splicing – photo by Melissa Boulanger

wire splicing - photo by Melissa Boulanger

wire splicing – photo by Melissa Boulanger


wire splicing - photo by Melissa Boulanger

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