Friday, January 13th, 2012
The holiday season is over, we’ve all recovered from eating far too much and it’s time to look ahead to what 2012 has to bring. Here in the Picton Castle office, we’re already working months ahead, fast forwarding to April of this year when we’ll start our next year-long voyage.
After a week or so in Lunenburg for orientation and training, we’ll sail south, crossing the Gulf Stream on our way to Bermuda. We’ll make a right turn there, bound for the coast of the United States where we’ll meet up with a fleet of gorgeous international tall ships and their crew. Sailing into Savannah will be breathtaking as we see these ships, with which we’ll sail in company for the next couple of months, for the first time. As a fleet, we’ll make our way along the American coast, stopping in port cities, towns and villages that love tall ships. What a treat it will be to be embraced warmly by people who are already looking forward to the summer when the tall ships come to their home town. And to sail in as crew? Truly an incredible experience.
After Tall Ships Nova Scotia, Picton Castle and her crew will part ways with the other vessels, setting out on our own for a transatlantic passage. After a series of shorter passages along the coast, we’ll be ready for the wide open spaces and endless water and sky that a deep-water, ocean-crossing passage provides. By late August, we’ll make landfall in Ireland, calling first at Baltimore, a tiny town with lush green hills and cozy pubs, then Dublin, in time to catch up with a different international fleet of mostly European-based ships as we wrap up Leg 1 of the voyage and begin Leg 2.
The late summer and early fall will see Picton Castle explore Europe, calling first at Milford Haven, Wales, the closest port to the actual medieval Picton Castle for which our ship is named. We’ll sail up the English Channel to the Kiel Canal and, after a brief stop in Germany, it’s up into the Baltic to square-rig Mecca in the Aaland Islands. We’ll get to know Mariehamn, the port from which Gustaf Erikson’s fleet of square-riggers, which continued to operate commercially into the 1940s, sailed. Bringing our square-rigger there to join the Pommern, which is a permanent exhibit at the maritime museum, won’t replicate the twenty-or-so square rigged vessels that shared the harbour only 65 years ago, but it’s a good start and Picton Castle will fit right in.
From the Aaland Islands, the most northerly point in the entire voyage, we’ll begin our slow move south, stopping at Copenhagen before leaving the Baltic behind in favour of the North Sea and then the English Channel. We’ll put in to ports in Spain and Portugal, heading ever south toward exotic Africa. During Picton Castle‘s last visit to Morocco, the crew made friends who were heading out into the desert by camel shortly after we sailed away, we hope to maybe join them this time around. And the strong-willed saleswomen of Dakar are sure to welcome the crew, especially Donald (who, luckily, likes souveniers anyway).
Just as the idea of exploring all of Africa becomes overwhelming, we’ll head to sea once more. The mid-Atlantic tradewinds will guide us along, perhaps we’ll be able to set stuns’ls and, with the right conditions, we may not have to use the engine at all as we cross from the Old World to the New. When we reach the islands of the Lesser Antilles on the other side of the Atlantic we’ll change modes again, with short passages between islands that call for lots of sail handling and almost constant exercising of the anchor. These are islands that Picton Castle knows well. We look forward to seeing old friends, checking in on some of our favourite boats (Carriacou sloops!), and visiting places again that kind of feel like home to us.
Passages will get longer as we criss-cross the Caribbean Sea, south to Bonaire and Curacao, north to the Dominican Republic, south to Cartagena, Colombia. Along the rarely-explored Spanish Main, we will begin to see the Old World firmly tied to the new, in architecture, art, music and culture that strongly resembles what we experienced first-hand in Spain only months before. In Panama we’ll explore the Canal Zone, one of the most amazing man-made geographical features in the world. Following the coast of Central America we’ll visit islands off Honduras and then Cozumel, from which the crew can explore the magic of the Mexican Yucatan peninsula. Then comes Cuba, with its gorgeous old buildings and captivating rhythms.
The islands of the Bahamas will be the final port of call before heading north again, bound for Lunenburg, where it all began a year ago.
The places we’ll go in 2012 (okay, and 2013) will be amazing. What’s even better is sailing there yourself. Being part of the crew, earning your way to each of these incredible international gems, is what makes this voyage unique. Anyone can fly to most of these spots but I guarantee they’ll have a different experience than those of us who stepped off the ship and onto land.
Maybe 2012 is your year. Your year to see the world, or at least a part of it, to finally do something that you’ve been dreaming of forever.
Sail for the full year, a four-month leg of the voyage or for as little as two weeks.