Captain's Log

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Hurricane Dorian – the day after the day after…

Monday September 9, 2019
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Hurricane Dorian blew through here over the weekend. A beautiful sunny day here in Lunenburg. Cool fresh west wind blows across the harbour. Streets are getting cleaned up of branches and gravel. Power has been back on since last night in many places.

The weather forecasting for this hurricane was about as precise as can be. This has been a building trend we have seen in recent years; increasingly accurate weather forecasts.

On Saturday building east winds all day and rain. Lots of rain. Plenty of rain. Filled the wells too. Good that. Just around midnight the eye of the storm passed nearby and the winds calmed, went into a lull, then switched to the north, then to the northwest and picked up to plenty of breeze, maybe 60+ knots, maybe more. Then gradually died down throughout Sunday morning, still blowing fresh. Nearby east and southeast ocean-facing Hirtles and Kingsburg beaches saw 30-40 foot breakers. Rocks, big rocks, thrown pretty far up the shore. A couple boats broke loose here and there but most folks were well prepared. The lovely Schooners Avenger and Arcadia hung to their big moorings in Lunenburg Harbour throughout the storm and did just fine. Other schooners found places to hide.

As the wind was not in the south or southeast, no real swell or surge came inside Battery Point. Strong winds but no swell. The A&K scallop dragger Cachalot got back to port in good time to avoid the storm. We all knew they would but you can’t stop worrying until she is tied up, secure.

Picton Castle, Bluenose II, Pride of Baltimore II and Noa Santa Maria are all on the other side of the Canso Straights looking to lock through. Problem is, due to power being out the locks do not work right now. Should be fixed soon. The ships were hoping to get here the 11th but are likely to be delayed. No sense in sailing around Cape Breton at this point.

No damage hereabouts. All the apple trees are stripped from the trees at Bayport and seaweed came pretty high up on the shore in some waves.

At our home at Bailly House we had good kerosene lanterns, candles, and chowder off the woodstove. All very comfortable and cozy. Plenty of ice in the cooler for all that needs ice. Blew hard all night. The Dory Shop and our wharf came through just fine although the water got pretty high. Young Dawson and I pulled on our oilskins and checked on the harbour a couple times during the storm while it was still light and before it blew really hard. Bluenose Drive was flooded.

Otherwise, all is well here in Lunenburg after this hurricane Dorian.

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Homeward Bound from the Great Lakes

After a busy and exciting summer visiting ports in four of the five Great Lakes, Picton Castle is on the final leg of this voyage, bound down the St Lawrence seaway for Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.  In fact, we visited nine lakes this summer (Lakes Michigan, Huron, St Clair, Erie, Ontario, St Francis, St Pierre, St Louis, Lake St Lawrence), plus the Thousand Islands, the American Narrows, and the Richlieu Rapids.  

Our last tall ships festival took place in Erie, Pennsylvania, on the south shore of Lake Erie.  From there, we sailed across Lake Erie to Port Weller, then carried on directly through the Welland Canal, which was built to bypass Niagara Falls (we definitely DON’T want to take Picton Castle down the Niagara River and over the falls).  After a short rest at Port Weller while waiting for our next pilot, we motored across Lake Ontario and into the St. Lawrence River to Clayton, NY. 

Clayton hosted us for a few days, giving the crew a chance to stretch their legs ashore before the final push downbound in the St. Lawrence and back to salt water.  We passed through all the locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway, then paused in Montreal to downrig all of the preparations we had made to go through the locks, making the ship skinny so nothing protrudes horizontally beyond the hull; un-cockbilling the yards, swinging the davits out, lifting boats off the hatch on the main deck and hoisting them in the davits, and removing the 6×6 wooden vertical fenders.  By the time Picton Castle returns to Lunenburg, we will have passed through a total of 32 locks – seven in the St. Lawrence River, eight in the Welland Canal, and one at Canso. 

As we’ve been making our way down the St. Lawrence, we’ve been keeping a close eye on the weather.  It is hurricane season in the North Atlantic, so as we approach the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Nova Scotia coast, we’re paying particular attention to the conditions and forecasts.  We’ve paid close attention to Hurricane Dorian since last week, and continue to keep a close eye as it approaches the Canadian Maritimes. 

Knowing we might need to find a safe harbour, we’ve looked into ports of refuge for where we could put in if necessary.  Under Captain Lorenzen’s guidance, the crew have done safety drills including for heavy weather.  He reports that the crew is prepped, the ship is prepped, and the importance of observance of heavy weather protocols will be stressed.  More than anything, we’re planning to avoid the high winds and high seas by tapping the brakes and slowing down well to the west of the system, allowing it to pass in front of us while we stay to the west of the area of Baie Comeau (or a different point if the forecast track changes), then carrying on once winds and seas abate.  Schedules can be changed, hurricanes cannot.

What a summer’s voyage!  So many ports, each outdoing the other for hospitality.  What passages in fresh water!  And what a treat sailing along with vessels like the huge schooner Bluenose II and the rakish Pride of Baltimore II as well as the US Brig Niagara, HMCS Oriole and others.  While the ship had to motor a good deal for purposes of keeping pilotage time short, the Picton Castle crew got a lot of experience docking and undocking their ship, and sail handling in close quarters in the ports. This crew knows all about a Tall Ship port now. And up and down the entire St Lawrence Seaway with all the locks and climbing up to the Great Lakes and back, that is a pretty rare voyage for anyone.

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Captain’s Log – Fiji

If you happened to be on social media on 29 or 30 August, you no doubt will have read Fiji’s latest tale.

For those of you who don’t know (though considering her fame I imagine there are few who do not) Fiji is our ship’s cat. She first joined the ship at the magical island of at Fiji on our Westward Bound Voyage back in 2014. 

Ship Cat Fiji helping out in the ship’s office

She then sailed more than halfway around the world to Lunenburg, and since then has sailed one complete World Voyage, crossed the Atlantic five times, and taken part in dozens of tall ship festivals. Everywhere we go she seems to be the star. News reporters love to take her photo and write up stories about her – the cat with a barque. 

Her latest dance in the limelight was one that had us all worried. This summer Picton Castle took part in nine tall ship festivals as part of Tall Ships America TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE ® Great Lakes 2019. When it was time to sail from our very last event of the summer – in Erie Pennsylvania – Fiji was nowhere to be found. We searched, we called, we shook bags of kibble; all to no avail. The time came for us to cast off and head for Clayton, New York; the pilot was on board and Fiji was not, and we couldn’t wait.  Captain Lorenzen had no choice but to call the command to get under way.

Fiji the Ship Cat – assisting our boat builder

Picton Castle left the Port of Erie without Fiji. Our very good friends aboard the US Brig Niagara and in the Erie Maritime Museum, said they would keep their eyes open and get her back home if they possibly could. The crew on the ship worried. We here in the office fretted. All sorts of pictures popped into our imaginations of where she might be and in what state.  We got the word out to all the rescue centres, veterinarians and animal hospitals we could find in Erie. The call went out in Erie via a local news report and social media, and locals came out in their droves trying to find our lost ship cat. We are so grateful to every single person who tried to help.

We were all relieved to get the official word today that some friendly people of Erie saw Fiji and thought perhaps she was lost so took her in. When they discovered we were frantically looking for her, they helped get her back to the Flagship Niagara who, in turn, called us to let us know that she had indeed been found and was safely with them.  Picton Castle is in Clayton, New York, and the Niagara crew will deliver her to us tomorrow. 

We will probably never know all of the adventures Fiji took part in on her 2-day shore leave, but I’m quite sure this won’t be the last of her adventures both on the ship and ashore. (I sure wish I could read cat minds.)

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Applying for the Atlantic Voyage 2020-2021

Every voyage Picton Castle makes is different – partly because of the itinerary or the weather conditions, but most significantly because of the people who are aboard.  Each voyage has its own unique character because of the crew. 

We’re gearing up for our next big voyage, which will start in the spring of 2020.  It’s a year-long voyage around the North Atlantic, starting and ending in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Along the way, we’ll visit ports in the Azores, England, France, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Portugal, Morocco, Senegal, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe, St. Bart’s, Anguilla, and Bermuda.  The voyage includes two Atlantic crossings, some amazing sailing festivals in Europe, a pilgrimage to what we think of as “square rig mecca” in the Aaland Islands, and a winter of island-hopping in the authentic West Indies. 

While we’re working on all the logistics of ports and the sailing passages between them, we’re also building our crew for the voyage.  In this entry in the Captain’s Log, we want to highlight the new and improved application process we’ve implemented for this voyage. 

All crew members in Picton Castle, including trainee crew members, must be accepted through an application process in order to sign aboard.  The application process is started when an applicant fills in the application form on our website.  From there, we ask for two things; first, a doctor’s note that says you’re in good health and can do moderately strenuous physical activity; and second, a deposit towards your trainee fee to hold your spot.  We hold spots in the order in which we receive deposits. 

Once we have the deposit and doctor’s note in place, the next step is the interview.  This is where things are a bit different for this voyage.  In the past, for voyages of 3+ months, we have required applicants to come in person to see Picton Castle, usually while she’s between voyages and docked in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada.  While we still think it’s important for people to make an informed choice about what they’re signing on for, we have adjusted the process and will now require interviews by phone or Skype instead.  There are a number of videos on YouTube that show Picton Castle and what life aboard is like (and we hope to add some new ones soon).  There will be some required viewing for applicants so you have a good understanding what the bunks are like, how we eat meals, how to flush the head (marine toilet), what standing a watch and doing galley duty is like, and all the other little things that go together to make up the experience of life aboard.

By doing interviews by phone/Skype instead, we’re hoping to make it easier to sail with us.  You don’t need to incur the extra expense, either in money or time, of traveling to Lunenburg.  And we’ll still have time to talk and to get to know one another, to talk about the voyage and to see if it’s a good fit for both of us. 

Following the interview and video watching, we’ll carry on as we normally would with reference checks, followed by a second interview if necessary. 

So, if you’ve been on the fence about applying for the next voyage, this just made it easier for you!

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Day’s Run – 23-25 August 2019

Position: Alongside Erie Maritime Museum, Erie PA

Weather: Sunny and warm with a light Easterly breeze. Saturday turned partly cloudy and a bit cooler, and on Sunday much of the same with the winds changing to Southeasterly.

Ship’s Work:

We continue the work on the little wooden dory ANN on the dock next to the ship. Last plank fastened to starboard side; commenced fairing floors.

Preparation for the Canal Passage began full swing on Sunday.

Friday Visitors:  2405 during deck tours; 224 visitors during evening function

Saturday Visitors:  2807 visitors

Sunday Visitors:  2590 visitors

Captain’s Comments: We were made to feel very welcome by the Erie Maritime Museum, our ‘home’ while we were in Erie. Our final Festival of the summer concluded 1800 on Sunday the 25th and once again we had a wonderful time. Taking part in these festivals is a lot of work for all involved (the ships & their crew (both on ship and on land), the event organizers, the volunteers and the vendors), but judging by the happy faces we’ve seen milling about from ship to ship all summer, it’s certainly worth the effort.

Off-watch and Captain were lucky enough to go twilight sailing in LETTIE G. HOWARD. Marvelous!  A pilot is booked for Wednesday 0800 when we still start our voyage home to Lunenburg.

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Day’s Run – 10 August 2019

Position: Alongside Government Dock, Sarnia

Weather: Mostly sunny and warm with light Westerly breeze. Forecast steady until late Monday (possible thunderstorm).

Ship’s Work:

Some spot painting and cleaning

ETD Sarnia 0800 Monday 12 August. Pilot is booked.

Captain’s Comments:

Trainee Drea finished making a new Cook Islands flag. It is superb. Work on ANN continues. Shaping of floors and frames has commenced. The final plank (for now) has come off her starboard side. Ship’s Carpenter Mark will shape it today (Sunday). After that, frames and floors will be replaced. Trying something new during this tall ship event and set up on the quarter deck to do some interactive sailmaking. This proved to be popular with visitors. Sent most of the crew and trainees off on Friday to sail on Appledore 4 during the Parade of Sail. Things are ticking over nicely.

Fiji and Tigress have received a big “Welcome” present from the VCA (Blue Cross Animal Hospital). It contains collars, toys, dental dry food and a scratching post for their claws made from cardboard.

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Day’s Run – 7 August 2019

Position: Anchored St James’s Harbour, Beaver Island

Weather: AM partly cloudy and sunny with light Southerly winds; PM Cloud increasing & winds filling in from the Southwest. Forecast isolated thunderstorms late afternoon lasting till early AM.

ETD Beaver Is 1730 Wed

ETA Sarnia 0800 Fri

Ship’s work:

Painting & Varnishing

Shape #11 floor for ANN

Training & Workshops:

New hands safety aloft and up & over

New hands “Meet the Captain”

Security drill all hands: Security awareness, crowd management, restricted areas, threat identification, communication channels, individual responsibilities & threat response.

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Day’s Run – 5 August 2019

Current Position: Manitou Passage, Lake Michigan

Weather: Sunny and cool with moderate Northerly winds. Earlier passage of cold front and thunderstorm with cool and gusty Northwesterly winds and heavy rain.

Training:

Ratline seizing (for advanced hands)

Ship familiarisation for new hands

MOB, Fire & Abandon Ship drills

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Day’s Run – Kenosha

2 – 4 August 2019

Position: Alongside Wolfen Buettel Park, Kenosha WI

Weather Saturday: Sunny & warm with light Easterly winds. Forecast gentle Westerly winds with a chance of a thunderstorm.

Weather Sunday: Very warm with cloud increasing and a gentle Southerly breeze. Light shower of rain in late afternoon. Cooler.

Visitors Friday: 3589

Visitors Saturday: 3000

Visitors Sunday: 3300

Ship’s work:

Continue planking ANN

Spot paint

Installed 4x new house batteries

Workshop & Training:

Overhauling blocks

Ship familiarity with new hands

Captain’s Comments: Semi Dory went out for a row. It was fun for the people who did all the repair work to get to enjoy the fruits of their labour!

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Day’s Run – 30 July 2019

Position: Alongside Fire Dock, Sturgeon Bay             

Weather: Partly cloudy and cool with a gentle westerly wind; clearing and warming in afternoon with light winds tending Northeast to East. Southerly winds forecast for tomorrow.

Ship’s work:

Some varnishing & painting

New door handle for foc’s’le door installed

Continue semi dory repair

Install lifting chain for bow of semi dory

Clean & oil rigger’s vice on well deck

Patch servings

Overhaul complete port mainsail clew garnet

Slush fore & main top- and t’gallant masts

Greasing rounds

Captain’s Comments:  Fiji has new tags after she “lost” her harness/ tag in Bay City. It now includes the ship’s phone number. The phone’s ringing hot ever since.

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