Wednesday, September 6th, 2006
After a smooth transit of the Welland Canal the Picton Castle stopped for the night in Port Weller, alongside a wharf at the north end of the canal. We were pleased to find that going down the locks seems to be easier than going up. The ship was jostled around much less, and easing head and stern lines is much easier than hauling them in. It did take us most of the day to pass through the Welland Canal, including three stops where we had to pull over and go alongside to wait our turn in the flow of traffic. We locked through with a sailboat much smaller than we are—better company in a lock than a giant lake freighter. In the course of one day we descended 300 feet closer to sea level, and closer to home. At Port Weller we tied up at a salvage yard with two tugboats and lots of ships’ gear lying about. Chibley went ashore but we did not.
As soon as the Picton Castle got out into Lake Ontario on the morning of Saturday, August 26, we had a clear but distant view of Toronto’s skyline. We also felt the easterly wind that was causing 5–6 foot waves on the lake. Normally waves of that size aren’t anything to be too concerned about, but the shape of the waves in the Great Lakes means that a 6-foot wave here feels like a 12-foot wave in the ocean. The waves come much more quickly and make for a weird motion on board. Quite a few folks found that the conditions didn’t agree with their stomachs and soon their breakfasts were coming back up. They were especially glad when we entered the inner harbour at Toronto about 3 and a half hours later.
Toronto’s inner harbour is protected by the Toronto Islands, which curve around opposite the downtown core. There is quite a bit of traffic in the inner harbour; we were surrounded by small boats in a race, sightseeing cruises, small yachts, little motor boats and police boats. Just after noon we were alongside at John Quay, Harbourfront Centre, a recently renovated dock on some of the best real estate in Toronto, nestled between Pier 4 restaurant and the Toronto Police Marine Unit. Clearing in with Canada Customs was quick and efficient, and the crew got right to work on the usual tasks when arriving in port—stowing sails, getting chafe gear on the dock lines, setting out the gangway and net, coiling down all the lines evenly, and generally tidying up the ship. We were greeted warmly in Toronto by former shipmates and family members of crew aboard. Lots of followers of our “Tall Ship Chronicles” television show from the second world voyage came to see the Picton Castle, too. The Captain even has “fans.” Chibley has more fans. Famous little kitty-cat in Canada is Chibley. We had crew from all four world voyages stop by and catch us up on their doings.
There was a lot of activity on the Picton Castle in Toronto, including a business reception hosted by Steve Nash (a trainee on WV4 from Cape Town to Lunenburg), two afternoons of open decks, two live broadcasts on local television, and lots of maintenance. We made the ship look like she normally does again, taking down all of the fenders used in the locks, putting the skiff on the dock to be hoisted into the davits just before we left, and leveling the fore and main yards back to their normal horizontal positions (they had been cock-billed to reduce their width to less than that of the hull).
The crew found lots to do away from the ship on time off as well. A few groups found their way to Niagara Falls to see what they missed by going through the Welland Canal instead. Others took in a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game, ate at different ethnic restaurants, went shopping, and discovered Toronto’s night life. Many of the crew have friends and family who live nearby who came down to visit the ship.
I was particularly excited to be in Toronto because it’s very close to my home town of Brampton, Ontario. My sisters greeted us on the dock with big colourful signs welcoming the ship and welcoming me home. I was inundated with visitors all weekend, going home to sleep in my own bed at night and waiting at the ship all day to see who would show up next. Going home after being away so long (16 months!) was overwhelming and surreal, but also kind of comforting. The Picton Castle sailed from Toronto on Tuesday morning, and I stayed home until Friday to spend some extra time with my family. With help of an excellent friend of the ship Captain Adrian we “swung ship” and adjusted our compass on Tuesday morning, which, after sailing around the world twice and in both north and south hemispheres, was getting a bit dizzy. On our way out the three-masted schooner Kajama gave the Picton Castle a canon-shot salute.
Kingston was the next stop for the Picton Castle, and an exciting one as we held one of our famous “South Seas Cargo Sales”. The ship arrived in Kingston on Wednesday afternoon and docked behind the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes. This is a lovely city and quite a remarkable museum, but this will wait for the next log entry.