Captain's Log

Archive for July, 2017

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Day’s Run – 27 July, 2017

By Purser Allison Steele

We made some good distance today with a combination of sailing and motorsailing, taking advantage of the winds when we could. Through the Anticosti Chanel, the winds can be variable and switch often so it is a good opportunity to run sail handling drills. Practice makes perfect and the new crew is catching on well. It often takes a while to become quick but they are catching on fast under the guidance and instruction of more seasoned crew. PICTON CASTLE has a few cadets from marine training schools sailing with us this summer, and with a month left to go thoughts are leaning towards completing the documentation that is expected from them at the end of the voyage. Second Mate Luis has been working with the cadets testing their knowledge as well as instruction on chart plotting and documentation requirements. Right now we have cadets from Canada, USA and Belgium representing their individual schools and taking advantage of some great sailing.

As we make our way towards Norris Point, we have made good time so we plan to head to anchor tomorrow evening to spend some time getting ready and perhaps if weather permits, enjoy some small boat sailing or rowing with the beautiful and rugged backdrop of the Newfoundland coast.

Noon Position: 49°25′.2N 061°04′.9W

Course and Speed: SE 3/4S 5.5kts

Wind: SW at Force 5

Swells: WSW 1/2 metres

Weather: Overcast

Day’s Run: 131.4NM

Log: 497.4NM

Distance to Port: 127.9NM

Voyage Log: 4870NM


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Day’s Run – 26 July, 2017

By Purser Allison Steele

Today the crew enjoyed quite a bit of warm sunshine and took the opportunity to lay in on various projects during their off watch times. Several crew tried their hands at working on sewing canvas cloths together for a new outer jib while others worked on various rigging and painting projects. We were delighted to see a few whales on our passage who were curious enough to come and check us out. We are passing north of Anticosti Island to take advantage of better winds, as opposed to the busier shipping route to the south of the island so it is a much quieter run. We try to sail as much as the wind will allow but we do have a schedule to keep so often at night we will fire up the engine to help get to our next port on schedule. We seem to be having significantly more daylight hours but it is beginning to become cool so today’s warmth and sunshine was an unexpected treat. Perhaps it is the longer days and cooler evenings but the smell coming from the galley of dinner cooking this evening started early as did the grumbling of stomachs.

Cook Donald Church is a rare commodity and keeps us all fed and energized with his latest creations. A well-fed crew is a happy and strong crew and tonight is no different.

Donald in His Galley

Noon Position: 49°59′.8N  064°14.7W

Course + Speed: SWxS 5.2kts

Wind: W Force 3-4

Day’s Run: 124.2nm

Log: 366nm

Distance to Port: 258.6nm

Voyage: 4739nm


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Captain’s Log – Sailmaking

By Purser Allison Steele

Today as we make our way to Norris Point, Newfoundland, Captain Sikkema led a workshop on sail making.  PICTON CASTLE is one of the few ships left that still sews her own sails on board and often by hand, as opposed to sending them out to be made in a sail loft. Occasionally we take over a parking lot or a gymnasium to stretch some of the larger canvas out but for the most part, it is done on either the quarterdeck of the ship or in the hold when the weather is less favourable.

PICTON CASTLE uses only canvas for sails as opposed to the newer synthetic materials and travels with at least one extra full set as well as another set in production. A sailmaker’s job is never ending as there are always maintenance projects to keep current sails in good working order as well as creating new ones. Sometimes an awning, net or bag is required and with help from the crew, it is a sailmaker’s responsibility to create!

A detailed record of all sails is kept as they are not all uniform in shape and size. All waters in the world have varying types and strengths of wind that are typical for that area and a good ship knows how to take advantage of this variance by adjusting the complement of their canvas, using their lighter sails in the trade winds or other places with more favourable conditions and switching them out for the tougher, heavier sails in places where gales or strong gusts are more likely.

The history of sail making has been an important consideration when designing today’s sails. Although materials have changed and technology has streamlined many aspects of the industry, there are hundreds of years of experience and knowledge to rely on in modern sail making. Contrary to many layman’s beliefs, sails are not, in fact, flat but are curved in specific ways depending on the configuration of the ship but one constant is that they are designed to take full advantage of every breath of wind. There is a considerable amount of pride to look up into the rigging and see something that you helped to create and knowing that for years to come, others will rely on this creation to take them around the world.


Sailmaking on Picton Castle


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A Voyage Under Sail Around The World

A voyage under sail around the world – setting out, the skippers view.

Captain D.Moreland

Next spring I plan to cast off in the Barque PICTON CASTLE, from her old wooden pier on Lunenburg’s historic working waterfront and set sail with a new gang outward bound on a grand voyage around the world in square-rig. But this will be our last world voyage.

A long time ago in my early 20’s I signed off the beautiful Danish built wooden Brigantine ROMANCE in the Caribbean after four years aboard and as the mate at the end of a world voyage. Her skipper, Captain Arthur M. Kimberly was an age-of-sail trained master mariner and was as capable a mariners as could come. After that ship, I carried on and went to sea in other fine vessels. When ashore between voyages folks wanted to know what that world voyage was like, I found it hard to explain. Still do. Life goes on. Ships come and go. At some point since that point, accepting that I could not explain what all that time as crew in a cool sailing ship meant to me, under the most able of old school ship masters, sailing with the trade-winds through the islands of South Pacific, the Far East, the Indian Ocean, the coasts of Africa and the West Indies, over all those blue-water ocean miles, I figured that the best answer was just to get the finest square-rigged ship together I could imagine and do it again. With another gang or two of young people having the times of their lives – quite literally – and let them try to explain it all afterwards.

I remember when we set out on our first world voyage back in the bitter cold autumn of 1997. This was after a huge refit in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. It was all a very big and exciting project just getting the PICTON CASTLE rigged up and into shape to sail as a square-rigger for deep sea passage making. It began in 1991, first searching for and then finding the perfect ship up a fjord in Norway and steaming her across the North Atlantic to Nova Scotia by way of Denmark, England, Spain, Madeira, Bermuda, Connecticut and Pier 15 South Street Seaport Museum, Isla Manhattoes, New York City.

It was a big job in Lunenburg fitting out this 300-ton barque. Kind of took over all the shipyards of this sea-girt town for most of a year; surveys, engine overhauls, dry-docking, checking the hull, welding sparks flying, new freshwater tanks, piping, wood chips everywhere, new decks, new water-tight bulkheads, lots of new bunks, new heads and showers, new galley, all kinds of safety and fire-fighting equipment fitted, new wiring, stability studies, of course lots of rigging and making masts and yards, pin-rails and fife-rails, new blocks and sails, charts and stuff, putting a crew together and so much else. What a project! Then finally all the work was done, or done enough. We would polish her up at sea while sailing ever westward in the warm tropical trade-winds. Plenty of time for all that. It came time to sail. We had a keen gang aboard eager to see what was over the horizon, sail the seas, explore tropical islands and story-book ports.

As we set off from our wharf there were any number of folks in town who harboured the notion that we would not get past Cross Island. I didn’t blame them. They had seen a few dreamy projects die to nothing at the docks in Lunenburg. But I also did not pay them too much mind. Joshua Slocum got the same treatment. I knew we had a great ship, an excellent crew and warm weather was just on the other side of the Gulf Stream not so far away, only 3 or 4 days out. Off we sailed in early December. It blew and was cold enough for a few days but soon we were peeling off the sweaters and getting into shorts and tee-shirts. By then that epic ocean voyage was well under way.

A few years later, with the ship back in Lunenburg all snuggly moored between such voyages, after the doubts by the shore ‘experts’ whether this ship could even make it past Cross Island were long dismissed – Cross Island being just seven miles out of Lunenburg harbour- never mind a 30,000 mile world voyage or two or three, occasionally young families would be pushing their strollers down our dock on a south westerly breezy summer’s day and they might comment to me that when their bambino was old enough he or she was going to sail with me around the world in PICTON CASTLE. I was charmed. My thoughts would wander to those days just before our first voyage and I would wonder… I was impressed how a healthy and reasonable scepticism had transformed into a vision of granite-like and never-ending perpetual world voyages for me and the PICTON CASTLE. I really did not think that I would still be setting out like that again twenty years on. But I am, and we are, and this wonderful ship is making one more world voyage under my command. And I am as excited as anybody.

Picton Castle under stuns’ls


Why climb Mt Everest? And I am telling you that for all its challenges – and there are plenty – our voyage has got to be more fun than that. And warmer. Better food…and by way; someone told me when we started out that there were more men alive that had walked on the moon than there were folks who had sailed around the world in a square-rigger like PICTON CASTLE in the last 50 years. That, of course, what with six world voyages racked up, has changed now. But there are still more people today that have been dragged up to the top of that highest mountain of the world, Mt Everest, than have sailed a square-rigged ship like PICTON CASTLE on a global circumnavigation. Think about that.

Why again?

I could go on about the many rich rewards a crewmember reaps from such a voyage in PICTON CASTLE; skills, strengths, meeting folks and experiencing cultures in far distant ports first hand and just the accomplishment itself – and I will at some point maybe – but the question is ‘why?’ for me, the now quite mature captain who has that circumnavigation box pretty well ticked? Good question.

Well, for one, if I knew that I could make this voyage happen for a new generation of adventurers one more time, and chose not to, well then, that would be a crying shame. Every voyage is its own unique odyssey.  A voyage around the world is never routine.

And still, it remains for me an amazing a privilege and indeed an honour to be the master of such a fine staunch proven blue-water sailing ship, a ship that has never let us down in over 250,000 miles at sea, and to be called upon to lead such a grand blue-water voyage, the ultimate voyage, and an adventure for a new gang of PICTON CASTLE seafarers. And it’s just too damn cool.

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Day’s Run – 25 July, 2017


By Purser Allison Steele

With calm waters and a nice breeze, the crew fell back into the ebb and flow of the ship quite easily after our busy time in Quebec. We were able to set sail and practice drills with the new crew to help them familiarise themselves with sail handling. More experienced crew were happy to help spend time teaching newer people their lines and the order in which things are done. In calm waters, it is often easier to show the “why” of things rather than just giving orders so that is easier to remember for next time.

This afternoon was spent in a workshop on splicing, including a sailmakers splice and a chain splice. Crew was able to break off and practice their own splices so that they are able to put it into practice during ship’s work.

Splicing is the way in which you would attach pieces of rope by weaving it back on itself or another rope. In some cases as the Captain explained, you are able to weave a wire on to rope but most importantly is the correct use of splicing and which method is best for which situation. It helps the crew to understand the rigging a little better when you are able to learn why it works better in some applications than others.

The sunset this evening over the now calm waters was spectacular as it has been most nights along the St. Lawrence River as we make our way towards Norris Point, Newfoundland.

Noon Position: 49°17′.1N. 067°10.6W

Course: SExE 1/4 E  4.1kts

Wind Direction and Speed: SE Force 2/3

Day’s log: 90nm

Passage Log: 241.8nm

Voyage: 4615nm

Distance to Port: 382.5nm


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Captain’s Log – Tall Ships Rendezvous at Quebec City

With 40 ships, 3,000 sailors, the Prime Minister of Canada and a massive fireworks display, Rendez-vous 2017 in Quebec City was a huge success!  We can’t begin to estimate the number of visitors to the event and our ship as it seemed at times the stream of people was endless.  Picton Castle drew many crowds as our appearance comes on the heels of a popular French Canadian television series, “La Grande Traversée” in which our ship and a few of our crew appeared, Picton Castle playing the part of L’Esperance.  Our own chief mate, Gabriel St. Denis, who was featured in the television show, was very popular and many came out to see him and take a few pictures.

The Tall Ships event itself took place at the foot of Old Quebec and spread upward throughout the city.  Founded over 400 years ago, this UNESCO World Heritage site is unlike any other city in Canada and is the only fortified city north of Mexico. The cobblestone streets lined with beautiful gardens, churches, and heritage buildings housing boutiques, restaurants all teamed with wanderers taking in the sights.  You could spend hours just walking and taking in the European-style culture and so many of the crew did just that.  It’s nice to get out and stretch your legs after being on the ship and the people were always friendly and helpful.  With the shoreline filled with Tall Ships like Picton Castle, it was like stepping back in time.

The tall ship event itself was very well organised and it was great to catch up with friends and shipmates from other ports.  Our Liaison Officers Bob and Marilyn made sure we were set with whatever we needed and Marilyn, being a professional tour guide of Quebec City, provided some extra special insight into the “must dos” in the city including the funicular car connecting the lower town to the upper part for those less inclined to hike up to the Cap Diamant.

After four very busy days, it was time to leave.  As we departed this morning and said goodbyes to Quebec, friends and family, the view was spectacular as the tall ships passed back and forth under sail along the waterfront in the Parade of Sail until we headed back down river to our next ports.  Although we are sad to leave, it’s time for us to get back out to sea, back into the rhythm of the ship and what we are here for.

Next Port: Norris Point, Newfoundland.

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Day’s Run – 24 July 2017

By Purser: Allison Steele

After leaving the busy Port of Quebec at 0700 yesterday, participating in the Parade of Sail as we went, we began making our way down the St. Lawrence River towards our next port. The St. Lawrence has some very strong current so we often don’t make significant distance despite our speed but we enjoyed the opportunity to set sails giving the new crew a chance to learn at a reasonable pace. We try not to motor much as we are here to sail but in times like these, it sometimes becomes necessary. We did, however, enjoy the silence of sailing for the day as we started to shake off our land legs and get back into routines at sea.

Thanks to Ghislain Côté for the photo!

Later in the afternoon Captain Sikkema and Mate Gabe St. Denis held a workshop for the crew on splicing and ropework. It was a chance to introduce new crew to the different ways ropes can be utilised and a good opportunity for other crew to practice. It’s nice to watch the crew who have been on for a while master the skills they have been learning throughout the summer and lend a hand to new crew. It’s the evolution of a sailor and rewarding as a sail training vessel. Often you can see the excitement on a person’s face when certain concepts or skills seem to click and they start to understand the whys and hows of things as when you first sign on things can seem overwhelming. Often we hear departing crew tell us that it was not enough time to learn all they wanted to and are intent on returning… or sometimes they stay on!

As we fired up the engines at 1900 the silence is replaced by the gentle hum and slight vibrations from the engine. We have miles to go to our next port, which will be Norris Point, Newfoundland.

Noon Position: 48°31′.7N 069°04′.7W

Course: E 1/2 S  4kts

Days Run: 115.0nm

Voyage: 4525nm

Distance: 463.6nm

Wind: SxW 2kts

Weather: Warm

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Quebec City – The Pinnacle of the Rendez-vous

Quebec City has rolled out the red carpet, so to speak, for all of the tall ships gathered here now including Picton Castle. This is the largest gathering of tall ships in Canada this year, all here to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation. The last time Quebec City hosted a major tall ships event was in 1984, so this is a rare and special event.

The tall ships’ visit to Quebec City is part of a larger regatta taking place around the Atlantic. Back in April the regatta began in Grenwich in London in the UK. From there, the ships sailed to Sines in Portugal, then to Bermuda, then Boston, then a number of “guest ports” in the Canadian Maritimes and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In the meantime, a separate fleet of ships met up in the Great Lakes and sailed west, making guest port visits as well. All of the ships have met in Quebec City, arriving earlier this week. The regatta will continue on to Halifax, then back across the Atlantic to La Havre, France.

On Thursday, after the crew parade where crews of all the vessels marched through the streets of Old Quebec, some in their formal military uniforms and some in brightly coloured costumes (Picton Castle crew, of course, were brightly, tropically coloured), prizes were awarded in various categories. During the prize giving ceremony, a letter from Her Majesty, the Queen of England, which has been carried across the Atlantic on board a different ship each leg of the voyage, was read aloud. A copy of the letter was given to each of the five ships that are making the full regatta, including Blue Clipper, Jolie Brise, Rona II, Wylde Swan and Peter von Danzig.

Quebec is a fantastic city and the crew are enjoying it. The waterfront area is bustling with activity and our crew have been visiting the other ships. They’ve also been making their way into Old Quebec, checking out the historic walled city and enjoying the festive atmosphere.

We have been welcoming the public on board the ship for deck tours, as much as the tides and the angle of the gangway have allowed. The crew on watch have been keeping a close eye on the gangway – at high tide it slants slightly up from the dock, at low tide, which is 7 metres lower, the gangway is at a fairly steep angle, and because of the difference it requires close tending.

Behind the scenes, we’ve been doing all the usual things we do in port – taking on fresh water, fuel and provisions, saying goodbye to trainees signing off at the end of their leg, saying hello to trainees signing on here and getting them settled and oriented on board.

When we leave Quebec on Sunday, we’ll head down the St. Lawrence River bound for Norris Point, Newfoundland, then to a number of ports in Nova Scotia. Want to join us? Trainee berths are still available, no experience necessary.

Picton Castle gangway at high tide

Picton Castle crew at the prize giving ceremony after the crew parade

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Day’s Run – 17 July, 2017

By Purser Allison Steele

As we make our way up the St. Lawrence Canal towards Quebec, crew is enjoying somewhat warmer weather, sunshine and the ever present curious wildlife! With seals and whales, including the majestic white beluga, there is always something to see looking out over the water. Today the Captain held a workshop on making baggywrinkle. Seafaring is filled with all sorts of interesting terms and for the most part these words can be traced back to some sort of explanation…..except baggywrinkle. These interesting creations guard the sails against chafe on the stays and are best made with manila strands. When finished they look very much like a long, nicely trimmed lions mane but can stand a fair amount of wear before needing to be replaced. Prevention helps keep us in tip top ship shape and learning new things constantly!


Noon Position: 48°34′.0N 068°48′.2W

Day’s Run: 68.9NM

Average Speed: 3KN

Voyage Distance: 4288NM

Wind: Force 3 East

Weather: clear and sunny




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Captain’s Log – Sept-Îles, Quebec

July 10/17 – by Purser Allison

After hoisting anchor at La Petite Basque the morning of July 7th we made our way through the bay towards the Port of Sept-Îles, the largest volume port in the Province of Quebec. We were quite surprised at the welcome we received, it being such a busy port that regularly receives large cargo vessels and cruise ships, we thought the sight of a few more large vessels may not be such an attraction. We were wrong! We were greeted by enthusiastic crowds and townsfolk who had heard the PICTON CASTLE was arriving and came down to greet us.

PICTON CASTLE has gained quite a bit of notoriety in the Province of Quebec since the Radio-Canada television series, La Grande Traversée, aired a few weeks ago. In the show, PICTON CASTLE’s name is changed to L’ESPERANCE to play the part of a ship carrying colonists from La Rochelle, France to New France (which is now Quebec) circa 1700. The television series was filmed while actually sailing across the Atlantic last summer. Several of the current crew were on board during the filming and were immediately recognised and treated as TV stars with pictures snapping. While sharing the dock with other ships participating in the Rende-vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta, over 4000 people (in a community of 26,000) came to see the ships and throughout the town, the crew were treated with warm hospitality.

Sept-Iles lobster!!

Sept-Îles is a lovely port protected by seven small islands: Île Grande Basque, Île Petite Basque, Île du Corossol, Île Petite Boule, Île Grosse Boule, Île Manowin and Îlets De Quen.  First documented by Jacques Cartier in 1535, the area is rich in First Nation, Innu and European cultures surrounded by beautiful, rugged scenery and historical significance. The area is primarily French-speaking but the people of Sept-Îles were eager to help or chat and translate where needed. Sometimes it is just fun to try to figure things out, which leads to some humorous interpretations!

We can’t, however, say enough about the people of Sept-Îles. From the event organizers, Harbourmaster Shawn Grant, Chef d’Escale Marie-Ève Duguay,  and our Liaison and tour guide Guy, to the shopkeepers, wait staff and people of the town, it was truly a delight to spend time here. The joy of smaller ports is the ability to connect with the community if only for a few days. There is mutual appreciation for hospitality shown.

We were somewhat sad to leave this beautiful port but hundreds of people came out to say goodbye so we showed our appreciation by hoisting canvas and sailing past the town under full sail, sounding our horn in farewell.


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