Captain's Log

Archive for August, 2017

| More

Captain’s Log – The Bay of Fundy

By Purser Allison Steele

Our final ports of the Rendezvous 2017 voyage are within the Bay of Fundy on Canada’s East Coast. The Bay of Fundy is historically and ecologically significant as it contains the largest tide in the world; a whopping 29-foot change! For mariners, it can be challenging but not enough to keep the PICTON CASTLE from visiting Digby, Nova Scotia and Saint John, New Brunswick.

Picton Castle & Bluenose II Sailing to Digby

The Tall Ship Festival in Digby was also during the annual Crab Fest which brought scores of visitors and entertainment to the small fishing town and made for lively evenings. The local townspeople rolled out the red carpet for the Tall Ships and we were all treated to Digby scallops which this area is famous for. The Town of Digby itself was a very gracious host with events and amenities for all who were in town for the day. It was not uncommon to see costumed pirates, lobsters and the occasional fish wandering down the street delighting children and even a few adults. Despite the significant tides, visitors came out in throngs to tour the ships or just have a look, and the crew is always happy to talk about the ship we have called home all summer.

Crazy Digby Tides

The wharf where we were all alongside was situated in a way that allowed the crews of the ships to gather in the evening to share stories, a barbecue and music. It has been a wonderful but busy summer and it was nice to spend an evening socializing with other Tall Ship crew that we have been sailing with all summer.  A few of the crew were able to spend an afternoon with former World Voyage Four crew member Amanda and her family from Mariner Cruises out of Brier Island to go whale watching. Although the fog started to roll in, that didn’t deter the mighty humpbacks from putting on a performance including a mom and her calf just learning how to entertain the eager guests. Humpback whales are a most magnificent species and it was humbling to be alongside these gentle giants as they fed.

It was a wonderful visit to Digby and in usual east coast fashion, the townspeople were kind and generous but it was time to set sail for our next port, Saint John, New Brunswick.

Getting underway from Digby, the ships proceeded to the Annapolis Royal basin where the town of Annapolis Royal gathered to watch a sail past. It was an incredible sight as there had been significant fog for most of the day but it suddenly seemed to clear a path for the ships. I can only imagine what it looked like from shore, standing in a quaint seaside town that had been home to some of North America’s earliest European settlers and watching huge ships emerge from the fog.

Our final port for Rendevous 2017 Tall Ship Festival was also in the Bay of Fundy and full of beautiful architecture, an abundance of natural resources and, of course, great seafood! Saint John, New Brunswick held an impressive festival for the Tall Ships and their visitors. Despite the wide range in tides and some after effects of Hurricane Gert, the sturdy East Coasters did not shy away. Spectators and visitors came in droves and patiently waited their turn to tour the tall ships, and take in the attractions and vendors.

Allison with the Pirates

Saint John often has cruise ships visit their town but eleven Tall Ships is an entirely different story. The festival was a treat for the senses with food trucks, live music and the Pirates of Halifax wandering the streets entertaining everyone in attendance.

Many of us left our final official port of the summer with mixed feelings.  There is a certain excitement for some of us who will be returning to our ‘land lives’, some staying in Lunenburg to attend Bosun School in the fall and more than a few dreaming of the next and final World Voyage beginning in March 2018. Regardless of our individual paths, there is a sense of sadness in the ship as we come to the end of the summer. It has been a remarkable 4 months with 13 ports, over 6000nm and countless new friends that become part of our “ship family”.  The world is much smaller than it seems for sailors, and often shipmates cross paths throughout their lifetimes in various ships, ports, seas and continents. One thing I have learned over the years and my involvement with PICTON CASTLE is that you never say ‘good bye’… it is always ‘until next time’.

Final Farewell



| More

Captain’s Log – Lunenburg!


By: Purser Allison Steele

It was a wonderful visit to our home base in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Although many of our crew have spent a significant amount of time in this lovely port, some others had only heard of this beautiful little town.  The townspeople did not disappoint. A large gathering cheered us and the other tall ships in and the town was in full swing for our visit. Not only was it a Tall Ship Festival but it was also the annual Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival with music everywhere! Street corners, halls, parks and everywhere there could possibly be a gathering. The entire town seemed to step back into the Age of Sail as the small streets teemed with sailors, residents, tourists, artists, and vendors.

It’s always nice to come back to Lunenburg, and with both festivals in town over the weekend, everywhere you went people wanted to talk about the ships. We are always happy to accommodate as we are very proud of our ship and our connection with Lunenburg. Crew spent their days off biking around the area and neighbouring towns, taking in concerts and generally enjoying the sights and sounds this special weekend had to offer. Even the ship’s cat Fiji was happy to be back for a short time.

PICTON CASTLE and BLUENOSE II hosted an evening at the Dory Shop for crews of the Tall Ships, including EUROPA, WYLDE SWAN, FAIR JEANNE, ST. LAWRENCE II, LORD NELSON, SPIRIT OF BERMUDA, WHEN AND IF, BOWDOIN, and HMCS ORIOLE.  Ralph Getson, a local historian, spoke of what life had been like in Lunenburg many years past when commercial sailing was at its peak.

Lunenburg’s Historic Dory Shop –


Listening to fascinating stories about the old local ships and their travels while we sitting in one of the oldest dory building facilities in North America transported us back in time and made us thankful for those who have paved the way. PICTON CASTLE has always traveled the world with Lunenburg dories steeped in history and it is fascinating to see where it all started …and still continues to this day. 100 years of history is in the foundation of this tiny waterfront building …if only the walls could speak – oh, the stories it would tell.

One of our new crew in particular has been part of Lunenburg for as long as anyone can remember. Bob Higgins (and his lovely wife Rosanna) have been honorary parents for PICTON CASTLE crew that find themselves so far away from home. As former owners of Greybeard’s Bed and Breakfast, they have hosted Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, birthdays and other such occasions when we tend to miss our families the most. They have watched the PICTON CASTLE come and go for 20 years now and we are thrilled to bring Bob along as a crew member for this final leg of the summer. For the first time ever, Bob departed on the ship with his wife Rose waving from the pier. We promise to take good care of him!

Bob & Rosanna Higgins

The ships departed one by one after much too quick a visit, horns blared and hundreds of people waved and bid us safe voyage. This port seems to mark the beginning of the end of our summer and although some of us long for home, we are excited for our final ports, fair winds and more sailing.

Thank you to our gracious hosts, event organizers and sponsors and also to Adams & Knickle for the use of their wharf during our visit. We will see you all again in a few weeks.


| More

By: Purser Allison Steele

With new crew on board, we began training them in basic seamanship techniques such as tying knots and how to handle lines. It can be very overwhelming at first when faced with over 180 lines on board, each serving a different purpose. Once you begin to understand the mechanics of square rig sails it all starts to make sense and the knowledge and understanding starts to click. Often we are asked “do you have to know anything about sailing to sign aboard PICTON CASTLE?” and the answer is always no. We will introduce you to the skills you need and you’ll learn them by actually sailing the ship, all with the careful guidance of our experienced crew.

A view of some of the many lines on Picton Castle

Square rigged ships like PICTON CASTLE are much different than traditional schooner rigged or fore and aft sailing vessels and even seasoned schooner sailors find themselves learning all over again. The wind will always be the wind but how we harness it varies.

Each time we leave port we practice our emergency procedures. It might mean for longer term crew they are performing drills every week or 10 days but it helps to keep us sharp and ready to respond in an emergency. Fire, Abandon Ship and Man Overboard scenarios can often feel hectic but every person has a specific task that needs to be carried out calmly and effectively and repetition helps to establish a good working team. Some of those tasks involve quick line handling so learning where the ropes are and what purpose they serve is important to grasp. Practice makes perfect!


Noon Position: 44°39′.1N 062°02′.8W

Course + Speed: NW 4.5kts

Wind direction + Speed: W Force 3

Swell Height + Direction: W 1m

Weather: overcast and rainy

Day’s Run: 108.9nm

Log: 126 nm

Distance to Port: 105.8nm

Voyage: 5298nm


| More

Captain’s Log – Louisbourg, Cape Breton Island

By Allison Steele

After a wonderful day of small boat sailing while at anchor off of the Fortress of Louisbourg, it was time to head into port in the town of Louisbourg! But in true PICTON CASTLE fashion we launched our boats and they also participated in the Parade of Sail. Sea Never Dry, Jane and our wonderful 80-year-old Monomoy helped to lead the fleet of six tall ships into the harbour. We were greeted by traditional pipe and drum, historical actors and a huge crowd of onlookers waiting for the chance to come and visit us. As expected, ship’s cat Fiji was the first off the ship and did her usual cute posing for photographs and to delight her new friends on shore.

Louisbourg is a wonderful small town surrounded by great hiking trails and of course the famous Fortress of Louisbourg. Cape Breton is proud of their national historic site as it is one of North America’s busiest 18th century seaports. The fortress was founded by the French in 1713 but was demolished after two sieges by the British in the 1760s. In the 1960s reconstruction began of ¼ of the original French town and fortifications, and today it remains as one of the largest in North America.

The crew spent time touring this impressive fortress and immersing themselves in the 1700s. They could also be found puttering about in small boats in the harbour as it truly is one of our favourite pastimes.  Deck tours are an important part of Tall Ships Festivals as we love to open our home to the community and visitors. We are proud of our ship and the hard work we put in to make her look as beautiful as she does.

Another treat for the residents, visitors and ourselves was Louisbourg’s annual Crabfest! Being such a well known event in the province, it was a very busy weekend for everyone but provided some wonderful seafood and great entertainment. As we get ready to depart, I would like to thank the kind people of Louisbourg, especially the ship’s Liaison Lloydette and her team of volunteers. Events like this are often volunteer driven and without those volunteers, it would not have been the success it was!



| More

Day’s Run – 3 August, 2017


SMALL BOAT EXTRAVAGANZA!! Once we were anchored and settled, the crew of PICTON CASTLE launched all of our small boats for a fantastic afternoon of sailing in the great anchorage. With Jane, Monomoy and Sea Never Dry flitting around the bay enjoying some perfect weather, the crew learned the finer points of small boat sailing which, in reality, transfers quite well to larger ship sailing. The basic concepts are the same just on a smaller scale. After a great afternoon, the crew settled into dinner, then more small boat sailing and a swim call. The water is surprisingly warm although there were only a few brave souls as most wanted to continue sailing.

As the evening progressed, other ships in the fleet begin to join us in the harbour.  I can only imagine the view from the Fortress of Louisbourg with all the Tall Ships in the background. Like stepping back in time!

Noon Position: At anchor off of the Fortress of Louisbourg, NS.  45°53′.957N 59°58.985W

Wind: S1/2E

Weather: Good

| More

Day’s Run – 2 August, 2017


By Purser Allison Steele

With ship’s work continuing on, many of the crew are enjoying their new roles and adjusting to new challenges. The New Lead Seaman are leading their watches through line drills and practising stowing aloft. There are different methods to stowing sails and they need to be done quickly and efficiently should weather arise so this is an important skill to be practised at. The Mate also lead a workshop on Ratlines and several spares were constructed and maintenance checks to current ones. The crew lined up along the stretched out wires and enjoyed the messy fun of tarring! The application of tar protects the rigging from the wearing elements from the sea and weather not unlike paint and varnish. This type of maintenance work is vital to a ship not only for aesthetics but to provide protection and treatment. Without varnish, for example, wood would not last nearly as long as it does. There are parts of the quarterdeck that are original from PICTON CASTLE’s construction in 1928 that have been carefully maintained over the years. Sailing a vessel such as ours is not just about setting sails, it’s about how to care for the ship so that she can take you to far flung places in the world. A job worth doing.

Noon Position: 47°12′.9N 060°11′.6W

Course and Speed: SxW 3.6kts

Wind: NE 1/2 kts

Swell: ENE <1kts

Visibility: Good

Day’s Run: 85.8nm

Log: 182.9nm

Distance to Port: 94.9nm

Voyage Log: 5172.4nm


| More

Captain’s Log – Norris Point Part 2

By Purser: Allison Steele

With the heartiest of welcomes, Norris Point laid out the welcome mat for PICTON CASTLE. We were the only ship in a small port so proud of their community and heritage and they definitely made our stop one of the most memorable of the summer! It seemed like the entire town came out to welcome us and they quickly launched into fun activities for all!

Norris Point Came Out To Welcome Us!

Our first evening we were treated to a Community Welcome evening at the local centre where locals could come and meet the Captain and crew. The food was amazing and all donated by local businesses and of course the evening wouldn’t have been complete without a traditional “Screeching In”. In typical Newfoundland fashion, “Screeching In” requires Newfie Screech, bologna, a codfish and a rather humorous ceremony to make you an honorary Newfoundlander. The evening didn’t end there, however. In a neighbouring town they were having a “Coming Home Year” celebration whereby people who have moved away from home are invited to come back and reconnect with friends and family and several of the crew made their way there to partake.

The organizers of the event had made arrangements for several of the crew to go on a guided tour of the Table Lands as well as the Gros Morne National Park Discovery Centre. Many of the crew enjoyed stretching their legs and after several hours (and a lovely packed lunch) of taking in the sites and enjoying the view a few of them stopped for a very cold swim in a waterfall.

Later that day other crew members were treated to a kayak tour along the rugged shore line and were delighted by some very curious whales! I cannot describe how beautiful the landscape is and how lucky we all felt to be able to see such an amazing part of Canada’s rugged eastern shore.

It seems as though the entire community came to see and tour the ship and the restaurant beside the wharf was always packed with live music and people just watching our comings and goings. We were quite the draw with both locals and tourists coming out to see us. Often they would share stories and history about both the area and their own family’s involvement in the sailing of tall ships in the years past. For some it was quite nostalgic especially just to see such a grand vessel come into their home port.

Needless to say again, the events didn’t stop there. The community held a sold out traditional “Jigs Dinner” so that the townsfolk and visitors could have a chance to visit and chat with the crew. All but a handful of PICTON CASTLE crew (someone has to stay and watch the ship) made their way back up to the Community Hall where we were treated to a delicious meal of salt beef, boiled potatoes, peas pudding, carrots and squash. The event ended with yet another “Screeching In” for those who were unable to attend the first night. With our bellies full and our spirits still high, the crew made their way to watch fireworks and enjoy a bonfire on the beach with songs and storytelling to round out a wonderful day.

Visiting the port of Norris Point, in true Newfoundland fashion was like our own little “coming home” as we were made to feel like returning family. Even Fiji came away with new admirers who gifted her with some new toys after making herself comfortable at an event volunteer’s house just by the wharf.

With 40lbs of cod in the cooler and many new friends, we sadly departed after a much too short visit.

Thank you to the Town of Norris Point, the entire community and especially the volunteers who made this memorable event happen. There are so many individuals to thank that I’m afraid to miss someone but our Liaison Officers Shawn and Heather Cooper and all who we had the pleasure of meeting, a warm and heartfelt thank you to you all.




| More

Captain’s Log – Norris Point Part 1

By Purser: Allison Steele

We’ve always known Newfoundland is a beautiful, hospitable province but nothing could prepare us for the incredible welcome we received at Norris Point. The entire community threw open their hearts and hearths for the crew of PICTON CASTLE in true Newfoundlander fashion. From the huge turnout upon our arrival to the warmth and generosity shown the minute we stepped off the ship, this is definitely a port visit we will never forget.

Fishermen’s Flotilla


Against some of the most beautiful scenery as a backdrop for our ship, we wound our way through the fiords to arrive at Norris Point being escorted by a flotilla of small fishing vessels decorated with balloons and streamers, full of people waving enthusiastically as they have not had a tall ship in this port for many years. Captain Sikkema docked the ship in his true fashion, without a hitch or even a nudge to the wharf and received a warm round of applause. Ship’s cat Fiji, of course, was first to depart the ship and began her stay by delighting the crowds of onlookers. Although we are only here for a few short days, we know that it will be a time to remember.




| More

Captain’s Log – Ports O’Call of our Voyage Around The World.

While it is very important for all of us who sail in this ship to understand and appreciate that our voyage around the blue ocean globe of ours is first and foremost a tarry, shippy, seagoing affair with plenty work and rigorous demands on us all; and if you think that spending a good amount of time at sea sailing before the mast in a large classic square-rigger rolling down with the tropical trade-winds pulling us along under canvas, with a crazy bunch of shipmates from all over might be a pretty cool idea, there is no real harm in admitting that we also put into some amazing places with the Barque PICTON CASTLE. Islands and ports you really can not get to any other way – or if you can a plane, it just simply is not anywhere near the same thing flying in, compared to sailing in, taking in sail, yards braced just so, and letting go the anchor as crew in your own sailing ship, having earned every mile of the hundreds and ultimately thousands of miles it takes.

* * * * * * * * * * *

I remember one time as the young mate of a Danish brigantine deep in the South Pacific. The ship was inside the reef after a long sea passage and we were tied up stern to the beach, big anchor and plenty of chain set well out in the lagoon, stern lines secured to a couple of coconut palms and a stout breadfruit tree growing just above the water’s edge, bights of these thick hawsers dipping languidly into the still waters inside the reef with the light swell. We were all cleared-in by the local port authorities. After a wash-down and a swim over the side, the free watch was let go. From the shore looking back at our ship, I saw the brigantine’s yards neatly squared and sails furled in perfect harbour stows up on top of the yards. Her long jutting oiled pine jib-boom was burnished in gold of the setting sun, pointing out to sea and downwind towards the next palm covered volcanic islands over the horizon. We were four or five months into this deep-sea voyage and we had the callouses, tough soles, dirty fingernails and deep tans to prove it. We had not had any real contact with our old world since Panama some months back, I could not be sure how many months that was without figuring it. We had not forgotten where we had come from but it was getting a bit fuzzy for some. Maybe sharper for others. We had sailed and hove-to off steep islands with no harbours, pushed hard against strong rushing currents through narrow passes into obscure coral atoll lagoons, raced sharp wooden outriggers across these lagoons to go fishing, feasted on parrot fish, langouste and goat, dove on shipwrecks, swam with black-tip sharks, rowed big wooden long boats in huge rising surf, eaten far too many mangos and drunk many a coconut, collected carving wood for islanders, heard sea stories from old mariners, gone to churches, engaged in a medical evacuation, shortened down in nasty squalls, set sails in gentle sunny breezes, heaved up our heavy anchors by hand power many many times in the warm waters of the South Pacific. Maybe we had been to an island dance celebration or two. There had been some disappointments but there had been far more moments we had hoped and prayed would never end. It did not seem that they would – or could. And here we were.

This here island, tumbling down from tall steep forested volcanic mountains and surrounded by coral reefs, not far from the dock where some fishermen were selling their catch, had a small bar on the main road where a sailor could get a cold beer. A small scratch band was tuning up for the night’s expected customers in that wonderful fusion of guitar and ukulele you can still hear today in Fiji or Samoa or Tahiti. There may have been a couple ladies in the back having an argument about something. They had been customers all that day I was told. The bar was almost empty. The bartender was sweeping the place up before sunset when the crowd was expected. The light of the falling sun streamed in between the blinds hot and low from the west, almost always the lee side of the island. The abundant tropical flowers and palms lent their heady scents to the afternoon breezes and I had the afternoon off from the ship moored not far away. I was young, lean, fit, tanned, broke and happy as could be, content in my world as only someone who lives and breathes it every day can be. I was amazed at being where I was in these surroundings and at the same time found it completely the norm. Life was good and I was part of this sweet ship on a superlative epic expedition around the world and into my heart. I was nursing the one beer I could afford that day and just taking it all in. The occasional truck or Vespa rattled by from time to time outside on the waterfront road breaking up the quiet. I could see the dust churned up from their wheels in the afternoon sunlight.

This particular island also had an international airport. After a while, a middle aged guy from a country up north and to the east somewhere, wearing a seersucker jacket (yep, really) came in through the door and sat down on the bar stool near to mine. He was sweating quite a bit and seemed in some distress. We got to talking. Where are you from? What are you doing here? And so on. He said, and I paraphrase as it has been a long time since this evening in question; “I don’t know what the hell anybody sees in this place! Hot, cockroaches everywhere, dirty, and a bitch of a flight from San Diego. Airline lost my luggage, and the movies are a month old and can’t get a decent steak. And where do they have the luaus?” Well, I said, I didn’t know. I also didn’t know there were movies. Better check them out. Our conversation trailed off. He did not understand the local lingo. I did not so much either but found I was getting along just fine. After a while it dawned on me that we may be sitting on barstools next to each other, and that by definition this puts us in the same place, but it became clear to me that we were in two entirely different universes, different dimensions, and that try as I might I could not simply invite him or coax him into mine. It was not possible. I did not have the power. His world held no attraction to me. He ordered a second gin and tonic, maybe that helped. He went off somewhere after trying to extract from me what the hell I liked about this island, the tropics in general and this life in ships. I could not explain. I do not remember if I tried too hard to get it all across either. I stayed longer at this ramshackle old waterfront watering-hole. I had made a friend who worked there serving the tables and she had provided me with a second beer so I would not get embarrassed by not having a beverage in front of me. In time there was some good music and locals dancing for fun. Maybe we danced too. When the pub closed we went off on her bicycle to watch a dance troop practice for an upcoming big dance festival. The island was quiet that time of night and stars were sharp in a blue-black sky up above. We could hear the soft booming of the surf a few hundred yards off on the reef towards the ocean as we biked to the church hall where the practice was taking place. As we got closer to the church light coming from the doors and windows showed us a path for the bike and the pulse of the drums deepened. Pretty amazing dancing too. There is no jet aircraft yet built that can fly anyone to where I and the crew of that ship and the friends we had made were that night deep in the South Pacific.

So what ports are we putting into with the Barque PICTON CASTLE?

In addition to sailing about 30,000 sea-miles, crossing the Caribbean Sea, the broad South Pacific Ocean, the Coral Sea, the Arafura Sea, Timor Sea, the Southern Indian Ocean, rounding the Cape of Good Hope, crossing the long way over the South Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, making a north bound passage the length of the North Atlantic Ocean we also expect to put into Panama, Galapagos Islands, Pitcairn Island, Mangareva, an Austral island if we can, Cook Islands of Rarotonga, Palmerston Atoll, Vava’u in Tonga, Viti Levu in Fiji, Espiritu Santo, Malekula, Pentecost, and Maewo in Vanuatu, Benoa in Bali, a couple islands in the Southern Indian Ocean – there really aren’t many islands out there in the Indian Ocean – but great sailing and passage making there is beaucoup; maybe we get to put in at Madagascar, hope so but all depending, but certainly around the Cape of Good Hope to Cape Town, South Africa, the Skeleton Coast of Namibia, Napoleon’s last refuge at St Helena and then ride the southeast tradewinds crossing the equator bound for the magical green islands of the Eastern Caribbean. Islands like Grenada, Carriacou, Bequia, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Antigua, Anguilla and onward to Bermuda and home to Lunenburg.

I often get asked ‘what is your favourite island?’

We only sail to my favourite islands.

© 2003–2020 Windward Isles Sailing Ship Company Ltd. | Partners | Site Map | Privacy Policy