Bosun School

There is nothing better than real sea time under sail to gain experience and the skills of a mariner. But sometimes on these hard working ships there is little time to focus on particular advanced skills, such as wire work and sailmaking. And rarely does the opportunity roll around to actually help rig a ship from the keel up or lay a sail out with a professional sailmaker.

Advance your Skills without the Distractions of the Sea

The purpose of the Picton Castle’s Bosun School is to provide an opportunity to young dedicated mariners to advance their skills in a concentrated fashion without the natural demands and distractions of being underway at sea. Conducted by Capt. Daniel Moreland, the crew of the Picton Castle and special guest instructors, the Bosun School allows you to significantly advance your skill level, making your chances at the best berths in good ships of your choice all the more likely. Once signed aboard your next ship you will have that much more to offer and will be a greater contributor to helping the ship on her mission – which is, after all, what being crew is all about.

Build Skills, Tools and your Résumé

bosuns chairSling your sea bag over the rail and join us for the next running of this highly valuable, unique offering. This particular session of the Bosun School will focus on small boat handling under sail, power and oar; sailing boats of various rigs including a small schooner; sail theory and practice; rigging; sending yards down and crossing yards the safe, efficient and traditional way without using a crane; advanced rope-work; wire seizings; wire splicing; basic sailmaking and sail repair; worming, parceling and serving; wooden boat repair and new construction; first-class varnish work; tar and oil mixtures; proper bosun chair work and more!

Dip your arms in Stockholm Tar, learn tons, have fun, flesh out your resume, become well acquainted with the seaport's excellent pubs, and meet marine artisans and craftspeople with generations of ship work behind them. When you join your next vessel, you’ll take with you an enriched set of skills and actual tools you made yourself.

Enrollment is limited

This program is designed for people preparing for a career at sea with previous experience in traditional vessels or who have sailed in ships and vessels of some kind as either a student or crew member.

Upon completion of the course you will receive a certificate of completion from the program and a letter of recommendation from the Bosun School.

Bosun School 2019 - Big Rigging

At Picton Castle's Bosun School in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia the object is to get across valuable (and hard to acquire) seamanship skills to young ambitious mariners so that they can advance their careers at sea. To accomplish this over about a 3-4 month period we carry out extensive instruction in rope splicing, wire splicing, wooden and fibreglass boat repair, coatings, sailmaking and repair with a lot of repetitious practice to get good - and a great deal of small boat handling and much more besides. This is all hands-on.

This year, this autumn of 2019, we have something big and rare planned for this session of Bosun School. Fully down-rig the Barque Picton Castle, and rig her up again. This is a big job and it is a young rigger's dream. And a rigging job like this on a proper deep-sea, ocean going, square-rigged sailing ship does not come along very often.

As soon as the ship gets back from her voyage to the Great Lakes in early September we begin; send down sails, unreave running rigging, send down blocks, label and stow, all in a "properly seamanlike way." After that, down come yards and topmasts. All with tackles, smarts and capstans, in the time honoured and safest way. No cranes allowed, no accidents. This is seamanship. Like all seamanship, this requires judgement. Then all spars, shackles, blocks and wires get closely examined and surveyed. Then we get to the wire work. We will be overhauling and no doubt replacing some wire rigging. This means getting good at examining a piece of rigging and assessing what needs to be done, and getting good at measuring, parcelling, serving, wire splicing, and wire seizings, then setting it up in proper tension. This will all get done at our dock and rigging loft in Lunenburg right next to our ship-fitting carpentry shop and new ship chandlery on Bluenose Drive.

And we will still have lots of small boat handling, sailmaking, boat carpentry and all the rest. We will be busy, very busy. And tarry.

Sometimes I get asked how I learned to be a rigger. Two parts to the answer: first, I sailed in two pretty good sized sailing ships that got dismasted, so the opportunity to learn rigging on the fly was pretty much there. However, dismasting ships is maybe not the best way to get a chance to learn rigging. Secondly I sailed under skippers who were themselves age-of-sail trained master mariners in sail and these guys knew their stuff. They pushed me and my shipmates to learn as well. Made me learn actually. These guys did not know about ISPS codes and had never heard of a GPS, but seamen they were. And riggers and sailmakers. They had to be. This where the term "master" starts to make sense.

I do not see us doing such a comprehensive down-rig for many years to come so if rigging is what you want to learn and do, and you want to get good at rigging, now is the time. Carpe Diem.

- Captain Daniel Moreland

Dates and Details

sewing grommetThe next session of the Bosun School will run from September 12 to December 13, 2019 at Picton Castle's home base in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada.  

The fee of $6,000 Canadian dollars plus HST (15%) includes room, board, instruction, and course materials. 

Applications are accepted from mariners of all nationalities.  For those requiring a visa to enter Canada, only a temporary resident visa is required, not a student visa. 

In order to apply, please send your CV and a letter to that tells us more about you, your seagoing experience and your motivation for wanting to become a Bosun School student.  For more information on the School, please call us at +1 902 634 9984 or send us an email.    

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