Captain's Log

Archive for April, 2007

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Pirate Master

The secret TV shoot the Picton Castle has been working on for over two months is finished. “It’s a wrap,” as they say in TV land. There is still lots of work to be done, editing and so forth but the filming or video taping is complete.

Since mid-February the Picton Castle has been at the wonderful island of Dominica sailing as the “pirate ship” for a new reality television show by Emmy Award-winning producer Mark Burnett and company. Picton Castle sails under her own name in the show but like any actress she was well dressed and made up for the role as a magnificent and haunting Pirate Ship.

After endless 0330 calls, sailing in to sunsets/sunrises and moon sets, manouvering around rocks, many 18-hour days, dozens of 6-point moorings, trying to explain that “no, I cannot stop her under full sail and stay there for an hour…” and “no, we don’t need a dock, a barge and a crane to lift that, we can just rig a tackle to a yard…” and “yes, we can show the cast how to sail the ship a little…”, and also our learning a whole lot of new terms and team work with the production staff, sometimes stumbling into the camera’s view when we were not supposed to and much much more, the final day of the shoot is done. We then had just nine days to restore the ship before heading to Martinique to begin our summer sail training program but with the show’s tremendous Art team of carpenters and painters it all went pretty quickly.

I have to say that working with RED SKY NIGHT Production Company, has been excellent; professional, courteous, competent across the board. I think we all learned a lot, stretched ourselves and saw even more of what our great ship can do. For the trainees who stayed with us for the shoot, they say they learned tons as we served the requirements of the show and relished experiencing one island in more depth than possible when always island hopping.

We have seen some of the edited footage—extremely impressive and engaging, pulls you right in it does. I can’t wait to see the show on the screen. We are all very excited.

CBS has announced the show, PIRATE MASTER, to premiere Thursday, May 31 in the coveted 8 p.m.[EST] time slot. Do not miss it.

Chibley in a Pirate Master crew camera case
Picton Castle as the pirate ship
Picton Castle as the pirate ship at sunset

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If You Are What You Eat, We’re Caribbean!

Donald Church, cook on the Picton Castle, is from Grenada. He worked as chef on eight cruise ships over a 20-year period. We met him through the Captain’s mutual friends when we were looking to hire a cook in the beginning of January while the ship was in Grenada. Having a cook from the Caribbean is a huge benefit for us for several reasons. Donald knows the local ingredients and how to use them to make tasty dishes. Not only does he know what to do with foods like soursop, plantain, sweet potato, and coconuts, he also uses lots of different spices to flavour his dishes. He knows the appropriate price to pay for fruit and veggies in the markets, and if the price is too high he can bargain or walk away, knowing that he’ll get the same thing for a better price elsewhere. He still talks about the outrageous price of coconuts in Antigua, $5 EC for one there and $1 EC almost anywhere else in the Caribbean. EC is Eastern Caribbean currency, which is about $2.50 to $1 Canadian.

Donald has developed a few signature dishes—things he makes often and well. He prefers to cook chicken and fish over beef or other red meats. Donald’s fried chicken is legendary amongst the crew, as are the potato wedges he often makes to go with it. Rice and peas are a Caribbean staple, as is cabbage salad. Plantain can be fried, baked or boiled (in the skin). Macaroni and cheese, which Donald calls “macaroni pie,” is often served for lunch. He almost always cuts up fruit to serve with breakfast, including grapefruit, oranges, soursop, watermelon, mangoes, papaya or whatever else we have at the time. Nadja showed him how to make crepes, which he often does along with oatmeal or cornmeal porridge.

Every meal has a great variety of things to eat. The long counters on top of the veggie lockers on the aloha deck are brimming with bowls and pans of different things; there’s hardly enough space for it all. Meals on the Picton Castle are served buffet style, starting with cutlery and plates or bowls (most people choose bowls, especially on swelly days at sea, so they can keep their meal from sliding off), then all the different dishes that make up the meal with serving spoons so we can choose what we want and serve ourselves. The scullery is full of a variety of condiments, everything from hot sauce to chutney, salt and pepper to salad dressing—anything someone could possibly want to add to their food. Condiments appropriate for the meal go at the end of the buffet line. It’s always interesting to see how people combine what’s offered at each meal, and it’s rare for two bowls or plates to look the same.

To give you an example of what the crew eats, here’s what was served today:

  • orange wedges
  • grapefruit wedges
  • watermelon slices
  • crepes
  • hard boiled eggs
  • garlic toast (a bit unconventional, but really tasty)
  • macaroni pie
  • mixed beans
  • leftover cabbage salad with pickles
  • leftover couscous
  • canned peaches
  • rice and black beans
  • mixed beans with tomato and onion
  • boiled plantains in the skin
  • plantain cake with raisins
  • fruit cocktail
  • leftover macaroni pie
  • leftover cabbage salad
  • leftover couscous

And we may see some awesome fried chicken…

And Mr. church is a great shipmate to boot!

Donald in the scullery
Donald negotiates in the market
macaroni pie, boiled plantain, and plantain cake

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Summer Plans

Sailing around the Eastern Caribbean this winter has been an amazing experience for the crew of the Picton Castle, but now we’re looking ahead to the next exciting voyage. Starting in Martinique on May 1, with an island stop or two on the way, we will make a deep-sea passage to Charleston, South Carolina. In Charleston we will meet up with a fleet of traditional vessels that will sail in company together to Norfolk, Virginia; Newport, Rhode Island; Halifax, Nova Scotia; then Port Hawkesbury and Sydney, Nova Scotia. These vessels will all be taking part in the American Sail Training Association (ASTA) 2007 Tall Ships Challenge, in partnership with festivals in the host ports. This is a unique opportunity to be part of a large gathering of tall ships, and we’re looking forward to it.

When the tall ships show up, as I learned last summer in the Great Lakes, the host ports embrace the ships and their crews and make us feel welcome. Every port does something different, but they always work to show off their city and help us explore it. Each ship has a liaison officer or two who not only help with ship logistics; they also point the crew in the direction of whatever they’re looking for. Often we get complimentary tickets to local attractions or events organized for us to attend. During the day the ships offer deck tours to the public and many of the visitors go out of their way to welcome individual crew members to their home town.

Meeting crew from other ships will be a highlight of this summer’s events. Our friends and families at home can’t necessarily discuss the proper way to furl a t’gallant, but when you put a group of traditional sailors together they spend a lot of time talking about their ships and how to sail them. Besides, sailors are a lot of fun to hang out with, and when there are a lot of us it’s always a party. Picton Castle crew are used to meeting people in ports, spending a few days with new friends and moving on, but voyaging in company with other vessels means that we get to see many of the same people again in the next port, which is a lot of fun.

There’s no better way to learn about different vessels or rigging than by seeing them yourself. Most ports begin their event with a parade of sail, which is a chance for each vessel to be on display to people watching from ashore while underway. Before the parade begins, all ships are mustered outside the harbour, and that’s when we get to check each other out. Crew often get out binoculars to see the other ships as we mill about under sail. Each vessel on its own is beautiful. A whole group of them together can be breathtaking.

After the excitement of the tall ship events, the Picton Castle will continue on sailing around the Canadian Maritimes. From Sydney we will spend a few days relaxing and drilling in small boats in the Bras d’Or Lakes of Cape Breton before making our way to Newfoundland. We’ll start in Port Aux Basques and head north to the Bay of Islands and the stunningly gorgeous Gros Morne National Park. From there the ship will cross the Gulf of St. Lawrence with a stop in the remote Iles de la Madeleine en route to the friendly and welcoming town of Summerside, PEI. The final passage of the summer will see the ship transit the Canso canal on the way back to our home port of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia at the beginning of September. This part of the voyage will be an excellent way to explore Canada’s Maritime Provinces, and to experience the hospitality for which they are famous around the world.

Come and sail with us! We are currently accepting trainees for this summer’s voyage, and we would love to have you join us. No experience is necessary, just an adventurous spirit, a desire to learn, and the attitude to be a good shipmate. Sign up for a few weeks or a few months to experience life as a working crew member of the Picton Castle. Everyone on board stands watches, both at sea and in port, contributing to the ship’s operation and maintenance. Our experienced and qualified crew will teach you the ways of the ship, and before long you will be standing at the helm, climbing the rigging (optional), and setting and taking in sails.

Alongside in Lunenburg, NS
Small boat practice
Under sail~0

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