Captain's Log

Archive for December, 2009

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Dreaming of a White Christmas

With a pile of snow falling earlier this week, Picton Castle may actually experience a white Christmas this year, snugly tied to the dock in Lunenburg. The ship has spent many Christmases at sea in the tropics where the only white is the canvas of the sails overhead. At this time next year, Picton Castle and her crew will be sailing across the Indian Ocean, the little fake evergreen tree strapped to the cargo hatch, yummy smells of cookies and other baked goods wafting out of the galley and the crew going about the daily routine of watches in shorts and t-shirts, thinking of families and friends at home in cooler climates.

The holidays are also a time to reflect back on the past year. Picton Castle has had all sorts of adventures with a fine crew. After crossing the south Atlantic under sail alone, the crew had a great lumber-finding adventure in the forest of Grenada, took part in race week in Antigua and island-hopped in the Eastern Caribbean before sailing triumphantly into Lunenburg harbour in May. With a new gang aboard, Picton Castle sailed south at the end of June for Massachusetts to join up with the fleet of Tall Ships in Boston and Halifax. Picton Castle carried on through Atlantic Canada, first with a smaller group of ships and then on our own, exploring small ports in this breathtakingly beautiful and warmly hospitable part of the world. The Bosun School students were busy ashore this fall, learning everything from wire splicing to caulking, sailing small boats in Wednesday night Hump Cup races and taking field trips in the local area.

From all of us at Picton Castle, we wish you the warmest of holiday greetings and all the best for 2010.

Lunenburg fleet all lit up
Picton Castle with lights at the dock
tree atop the mizzen

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Laying Keels for Twin Schooners

Saturday was an important day on Lunenburg’s waterfront, as the keels for two wooden schooners to be built at the Dory Shop were laid. Laying the keels marks the start of this exciting project, and Picton Castle crew were on hand to assist.

The two schooners, both 48 feet long and built in the Tancook tradition, will be constructed outdoors on the Dory Shop property as twins, frame for frame and plank for plank. Captain Moreland said on Saturday they will be “schooners that are so pretty, they’re make you cry; so comfortable they’ll make you never want to go home; so fast, they’ll make you win every race you’re in.”

Picton Castle crew from the Voyage of the Atlantic have a strong connection to this project as they procured the wood for the keels from the forests of Grenada. With help from Wesley Pilgrim, commonly known as Mr. Bones, an old shipwright friend of Captain Moreland, second mate Paul Bracken and crew member Matt McGraw treked into the jungle to find the right tree that would provide the wood for these keels. The perfect tree was found, a mountain gommier, then cut down and dragged three kilometres out of the forest by hand, with assistance from a team of locals and some reinforcement crew members from the ship. These two 3,000 pound pieces of wood were then towed to the ship and loaded on board, lashed securely on deck for the passage from Grenada to Lunenburg.

The craftsmanship of master boatbuilder Dave Westergaard has turned these two giant pieces of wood into keels for two schooners. And the first spikes were driven into the keels on Saturday, beginning the building process.

With about 250 people on hand for the celebration, Lunenburg Mayor Laurence Mawhinney noted the value of this project for the community. “Many years past, this waterfront was the beam upon which Lunenburg was built. So these two beams being laid today are significant of the revival of the watefront that we know and love and want to see rise again.”

The ceremonial pounding of the first spike into each keel was easily done by distinguished mariners Captain Phil Watson, skipper of the schooner Bluenose II, and 91-year old Captain Matt Mitchell whose long career at sea included a period of time aboard the original Bluenose.

Despite the cold temperatures and biting wind, most of the crowd stuck around for some hot cider to warm themselves up and toast the beginning of this new chapter of boat building on Lunenburg’s waterfront.

To follow along with the project’s progress, check out the Twin Schooner blog at

Captain Matt Mitchell drives in the first spike
Captain Moreland addresses the crowd at keel laying
Captain Phil Watson drives in the first spike
Meredith, Paul and Jackie at the keel laying

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In Memory of Shipmate Laura Gainey


I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

By John Masefield

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Lunenburg Santa Claus Parade

Saturday November 28 was the middle day of Picton Castle‘s three-day Cargo Sale, it was also the first annual Santa Claus Parade in Lunenburg. The theme for the whole parade was “Santa in a Fishing Dory,” a fitting theme for a town with such a strong seafaring heritage. In recent years, Santa has made his arrival in Lunenburg on board a scallop dragger, this year he was part of the parade and arrived in a dory.

The Picton Castle crew entered our unique dory in the parade, Sea Never Dry, with her tropical pink, blue, green and yellow paint job. Because of the power lines over the road on the parade route, we couldn’t put up Sea Never Dry‘s usual sailing rig, so we used the shorter rig from Mr Bones and reefed Sea Never Dry‘s cotton Senegalese sail to fit. The Bosun School students decorated our dory for the parade, going with a tropical Christmas theme. In addition to the things we expect to see at this time of year, like tinsel and garland, Sea Never Dry was decorated with inflatable palm trees and tiki lights.

The crew looked tropical to match Sea Never Dry, with some allowances for November weather in Nova Scotia. Over their pants and long sleeve shirts they wore sarongs and grass skirts, all sorts of brightly coloured clothes. They waved flags from around the world, played drums and handed out candy canes to the parade spectators.

We had a great time in the parade and the crew like being involved in the community while we’re here in port. Many thanks to the parade organizers for the opportunity to participate!

For a video recap of the parade, check this out. You will see us briefly near the beginning of the video.

crew in tropical gear
dressed up in tropical outfits
last minute preparations
parading down Lincoln Street
Sea Never Dry tropical Christmas

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