The adventures of the Picton Castle and her crew on this voyage have been followed closely by elementary school students all over the world. One school in particular has been working very hard to send art projects and letters filled with wonderful questions about what it is like for us to live and work at sea. For some background information, the students are from Jubilee Elementary in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and the school’s vice principal is Erin’s (onboard educator) proud father.
Erin wanted to share with everyone her replies to the student’s letters because they answer many of the questions that have often been posed to our crew throughout our voyage.
We have sailed through the North Atlantic, the Caribbean Sea, the Panama Canal, the South Pacific, the Torres Straits, the Indian Ocean, have rounded the Cape of Good Hope and are now in the South Atlantic, bound for Nova Scotia (with some nice, tropical stops along the way).
At the end of our 12-month voyage the Picton Castle crew will have sailed 28,000 nautical miles and will have circumnavigated the world! We crossed our half-way point about a day before we arrived in port at Bali, Indonesia.
When we leave port, Joe the cook sees to it that we have plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables aboard, as well as fresh meat stocked in our five freezers. We have plenty of canned and dried foods in our cargo hold—enough to feed a crew of 50 for a month if we have to stay at sea longer than we planned. The food is very good. We have all the sorts of things that we eat at home—but tropical fruit like bananas and mangoes taste way better where we’ve been than they do coming out of the grocery stores at home.
It is sometimes easier to write or email home than it is to call our families because the Picton Castle has been on the other side of the world. That means that recently it has been difficult to call when we would like to because the time zones are so different that we are not even on the same calendar day as North America!
Chibley took a good sniff at your letter. I think that means she says Hi back.
Thanks for your questions!
I love being out at sea. I love the routine and I love my shipmates. I love being strong and doing hard work and I love that I learn new things every single day. We do get to go ashore quite often. We spend about three weeks at a time at sea, and then we spend anywhere from three days to four weeks in each port. This eats up the 12 months it takes to sail around the world! I like meeting all sorts of new people and learning about their cultures and learning new words in their languages. Did you know that in many of the places we’ve visited, the children typically speak a minimum of two or three languages? I think that is quite extraordinary, and they thought we were strange for only speaking a little bit of a second language like French or Spanish.
Captain Moreland is a very good captain and he treats his crew well. He is not the type of scary old-timey sea captain we read about sometimes in books, who would have crew members flogged with the cat o’ nine tails if they displeased him. The only cat I’ve ever seen in his hands is Chibley! He teaches us many things about sailing ships and being a good sailor, and he takes us to all of his favourite places in the world and shares his experiences and friends with us. We are very lucky to have such a nice Captain.
On a ship we navigate using a sea map, called a chart. A chart ‘maps’ out the ocean so that we know where we are at all times. Each hour we plot our position (which we take from our GPS or Global Positioning System) and measure how far we’ve gone since the last plot. The Mates use the plots and the chart to help determine what course we will sail to get us where we want to go.
Thank you for your questions and your well wishes. We are having quite a lot of fun and the Captain and the entire crew enjoyed reading your letter as well. Thank you for putting so much thought and effort into it!
It is a very interesting experience living on a ship. I had to learn how to walk again because the deck is always swaying in one direction or another, and I had to learn an entirely new language! Nautical words and instructions sound like gibberish at first, and it takes a while to get used to hearing them and understanding what is being said. When my parents came to visit me on the ship before we sailed, my father mentioned right away that I was speaking with an entirely new vocabulary. It works for us when we are aboard our ship, but when we go ashore, sometimes we forget how to use regular English and often confuse the people we are talking to—and ourselves as well!
Chibley is doing really well. She had a sore tail last week, courtesy of a nasty dock cat; she is nearly all better now because she has been getting extra attention and Ollie gives her tons of extra treats.
We’ve sailed in I think six different oceans so far and have visited just shy of 20 countries, I think! I’ve lost count! We are in the South Atlantic now, sailing up the coast of Africa to our next port of call in Namibia. We will be home in three months. It will be over so soon!
Thank you for your questions!
When we left Lunenburg last May it was very cold at sea. We hit warmer waters within a week and traded our foul weather gear for shorts and t-shirts and bare feet. Within 11 days we were in the Caribbean Sea, and it was beautiful, hot, tropical sailing from then until about a month and a half ago, when we made the three-week passage from the Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope (the southernmost point on the continent of Africa) and into the South Atlantic. The South Atlantic is as cold as the North Atlantic, and we are wearing layers of pants and sweaters again. Two months ago it was 44 degrees outside and now the water rolling across the deck is so cold on my bare feet that it makes my bones ache!
I love sailing on the sea! We see all types of marine life! We’ve had whales play alongside our ship, but most frequently we have dolphins playing in our wake and seabirds perching on our yards! I really love watching the dolphins play. I think they might be magic—I’m not sure. I should go to sea again and do more research on it!
Thank you, Melissa, for your questions!
I do look after Chibley and I have help from other crew who love her, like Pania from Pitcairn, Ollie from the USA and Kimberley from the UK. I am in charge of feeding her every morning (she prefers canned food, and makes me chop it up for her too!) and I clean out her litter box every Sunday (Eeww!). She is a good cat, so I am happy to do it for her. She is also very persuasive and talks many of the crew into sneaking her treats all day and night.
I have had a lot of fun sailing aboard the Picton Castle, Megan, but it isn’t always pretty! Boys and girls, pony tails or not, our hair gets so tangled in the wind that we do not always bother to brush it anymore! The sun and salt water has also bleached our hair quite a bit. I am afraid that it all might just crack off any minute. It would save us all the trouble of getting a haircut!
I love to climb high in the rigging and I love fetching pails of water from over the side. I love teaching new crew the things I’ve learned and I love standing forward lookout at sunset. I’ve never seen prettier sunsets in my life as I have in the Indian Ocean. I wouldn’t be able to say these things if I’d never gone to sea!
Thanks for your letter, Megan. I enjoyed reading it.
Chibley is doing very well, Shealene! We’ve had nine new trainees join us in Cape Town, South Africa, and she has been breaking them in nicely. Chibley has a habit of testing new sailors by napping in their bunk. When they try to climb in too, she refuses to budge and forces you to sleep in awkward positions shivering without your blanket! But, the ship is her ship, so the cat gets her own way.
We are all doing very well; thank you for asking! We’ve been having a lot of fun learning to sail. We’ve been gone ten months already! It’s hard to imagine! In only three short months we will be in Nova Scotia again, and it all feels like it is happening too soon for me. I miss Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island. I miss my family, but I really, really love our ship. I am not ready to get off yet, Shealene! Many of our crew are feeling this way.
A ship is a great place to live because it is big and there are always tons of people around to talk to. There is always someone to help you do your chores and you learn new things every day. You get to sail in the hot sunshine and in the warm rain when the wind is blowing a holy hooley. You get to visit tropical islands and learn ten different ways to get into a coconut. You also learn to never, ever sit or nap under a coconut tree! You get to stitch every seam in every sail with your own hands if you want to, and you get to climb high into the rigging to make sure that the sails will always work properly. It’s pretty cool to live on the Picton Castle.
I hope that you have the opportunity to visit the ship someday when we get back to Nova Scotia! Thank you for your questions!
Thank you for saying so, and yes the Picton Castle is a very cool ship! She’s big and she’s safe and she’s a great place to live and work. Do you think you’d like to sail some day? Do you think you’d like to climb up the rigging and work almost 100 feet above the deck? My shipmates look like Lego men when I look down to deck from that high aloft!
The crew works very hard, but the Captain gives us Sundays off so that we do not have to complete any ship’s work, and he always encourages us to have fun with our work and when we have time off. We have costume parties and dance on our cargo hatch. We baked nine pies and more than 500 cookies at Christmastime and ate them all (the entire crew felt sick for days from all the sugar)! We live with our 50 closest friends and get to explore exotic islands with them and we help one another learn to be better sailors.
I like hearing the wind and the waves folding into themselves. I like that when I walk, it is impossible to walk in a straight line because the deck is always moving. I do not like when it is rolling so badly that my body cannot lie still in my bunk, but thankfully that does not happen too often!
What sorts of things do you want to do when you are all finished school? Is there anything that you are as excited about as our crew is about sailing?
Thanks for your questions, Brandon!