Captain's Log

Archive for September, 2019

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Around the World Rum

Lunenburg is known for many things, not least of which is rum-running. Those days are long gone, and while rum-running is no longer a part of our daily life here in Lunenburg, we certainly consider this to be a nod to our former glory days.

Since shortly before Picton Castle sailed from Lunenburg back in February of 2018, you’ve been hearing about Lunenburg’s Ironworks Distillery and their Around the World Rum. From the day it was brought to the ship hoisted aboard and stowed below decks, to the day Canadian Customs Officials came and sealed & locked the beautiful old oak barrels, and then continuing throughout the entire 16 months it took Picton Castle and crew to sail first to The Gulf Of Mexico and then the circumnavigation of this entire world, we have been posting photos and updates – whetting your appetite for the arrival of this unique rum.

Why unique? Well, partly because it was made right here in Lunenburg at Ironworks Distillery and then sailed 30,000 miles around the world, seasoning in the hold of a sailing ship as she crossed all the oceans of the world.

But wait, there’s more: the vast array of things that affect the taste & quality of a rum is beyond my own basic knowledge – though some are quite obvious: What spices are used (of course). Which type of wood the barrel it is to be aged in is made from, and whether that barrel is new or was used before. Whether it is sitting still to age in the dark completely undisturbed or if it is being maneuvered & jostled about throughout the aging process. The temperature and humidity levels. So much.

Well, this rum? It went in a beautiful oak whiskey barrel from the frigid North Atlantic in February, to the steamy Mississippi in April, to the tropical heat and tradewinds of the South Pacific and humidity of the Indian Ocean, and then on to the balmy Caribbean before heading back up into the chilly North Atlantic once more; all the while rocking, rocking, back & forth at the whim of King Neptune (who visited the ship himself on two occasions). Many things have influenced the aging of this particular rum, and what is left is an entirely unique rum, never to be reproduced ever again. Even if someone were to try to make a rum and sail it around the world, it will be different: it won’t be made by the award-winning Ironworks, nor sailed in Picton Castle. This is the first and the only Ironworks Around the World Rum.

While the rum was locked up tight, doing what needed to be done inside those old oak barrels, back in Lunenburg Pierre & Lynne were working the magic we’ve all come to expect from them:  they handpicked local artists to take part in the project, designing a bottle that evoked Picton Castle’s tall ship silhouette, a pine box beautifully etched not only with the name of the rum but to include the ports around the world the rum visited while aboard Picton Castle, and a painted canvas bag designed to carry both box and bottle. The end result is a beautiful work of art, limited in number. And yesterday was the day – the complete design was unveiled at the Picton Castle wharf here in Lunenburg.

From their very first visit to our offices in Lunenburg with a crazy notion of sailing some rum around the world, I can say that working with Lynne & Pierre was a joy – professional, informative, interesting, exciting and entertaining.

Pierre & Lynne

If you are interested in owning one of these limited edition bottles, contact Ironworks here in Lunenburg CRAFTED@IRONWORKSDISTILLERY.COM  It’s important to note that 50% of the profit of each bottle sold is will got to scholarships for people to take part in sail training aboard Picton Castle. Nearest & dearest to our hearts here at Picton Castle is the sail training experience that has such an enormous and positive impact on the lives of every person who has an opportunity to take part.

Full video of the rum launch in Lunenburg on 18 September 2019
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First Day of School

Captain’s Log

Over the past few weeks, my social media feeds have been filled with photos of adorable kids heading to school for the first time, or heading back to school, to a fresh start for a new year.  September brings a sense of starting anew, and that’s no different here in Lunenburg.  Picton Castle returned from her summer voyage to the Great Lakes, and now we have just begun the Bosun School.  I’m happy to report that the first official day, Monday, went well.  Students seem excited, focused, and only a bit nervous. 

Bosun School is our land-based skills development program for rising mariners.  It’s a three-month program that takes place in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Students get instruction and hands-on practice in a variety of skills that will make them more valuable employees in the marine industry in the future.  The focus for this particular session of the Bosun School is rigging.  Students will use Picton Castle as a classroom and workshop, learning to handle heavy loads aloft while sending down yards, t’gallant masts and topmasts, then learn to inspect, repair, and replace rigging components as necessary.  In addition, we’ll be instructing small boat handling, sailmaking, wooden and fibreglass boat repair, and general ship maintenance skills. 

There’s a real diversity amongst the backgrounds of the students who are attending this year.  One gained her sailing skills as a Royal Canadian Sea Cadet, another on a sail training ship based in Ontario, some on extended voyages on Picton Castle, one on dive boats in Hawaii, one on tankers sailing worldwide. 

The first week’s focus is site preparation, getting the sail loft, rigging workshop, carpentry shop, and boat launching area organized and ready to work in.  We’re also drying Picton Castle’s cotton canvas sails, getting them perfectly dry so they can be sent down and stored for the winter in the sail loft, ready to be inspected and repaired. 

We’ll keep bringing you updates from Bosun School over the next three months so you can see the projects our students are working on and the progress they’re making. 

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Hurricane Dorian – the day after the day after…

Monday September 9, 2019
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Hurricane Dorian blew through here over the weekend. A beautiful sunny day here in Lunenburg. Cool fresh west wind blows across the harbour. Streets are getting cleaned up of branches and gravel. Power has been back on since last night in many places.

The weather forecasting for this hurricane was about as precise as can be. This has been a building trend we have seen in recent years; increasingly accurate weather forecasts.

On Saturday building east winds all day and rain. Lots of rain. Plenty of rain. Filled the wells too. Good that. Just around midnight the eye of the storm passed nearby and the winds calmed, went into a lull, then switched to the north, then to the northwest and picked up to plenty of breeze, maybe 60+ knots, maybe more. Then gradually died down throughout Sunday morning, still blowing fresh. Nearby east and southeast ocean-facing Hirtles and Kingsburg beaches saw 30-40 foot breakers. Rocks, big rocks, thrown pretty far up the shore. A couple boats broke loose here and there but most folks were well prepared. The lovely Schooners Avenger and Arcadia hung to their big moorings in Lunenburg Harbour throughout the storm and did just fine. Other schooners found places to hide.

As the wind was not in the south or southeast, no real swell or surge came inside Battery Point. Strong winds but no swell. The A&K scallop dragger Cachalot got back to port in good time to avoid the storm. We all knew they would but you can’t stop worrying until she is tied up, secure.

Picton Castle, Bluenose II, Pride of Baltimore II and Noa Santa Maria are all on the other side of the Canso Straights looking to lock through. Problem is, due to power being out the locks do not work right now. Should be fixed soon. The ships were hoping to get here the 11th but are likely to be delayed. No sense in sailing around Cape Breton at this point.

No damage hereabouts. All the apple trees are stripped from the trees at Bayport and seaweed came pretty high up on the shore in some waves.

At our home at Bailly House we had good kerosene lanterns, candles, and chowder off the woodstove. All very comfortable and cozy. Plenty of ice in the cooler for all that needs ice. Blew hard all night. The Dory Shop and our wharf came through just fine although the water got pretty high. Young Dawson and I pulled on our oilskins and checked on the harbour a couple times during the storm while it was still light and before it blew really hard. Bluenose Drive was flooded.

Otherwise, all is well here in Lunenburg after this hurricane Dorian.

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Homeward Bound from the Great Lakes

After a busy and exciting summer visiting ports in four of the five Great Lakes, Picton Castle is on the final leg of this voyage, bound down the St Lawrence seaway for Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.  In fact, we visited nine lakes this summer (Lakes Michigan, Huron, St Clair, Erie, Ontario, St Francis, St Pierre, St Louis, Lake St Lawrence), plus the Thousand Islands, the American Narrows, and the Richlieu Rapids.  

Our last tall ships festival took place in Erie, Pennsylvania, on the south shore of Lake Erie.  From there, we sailed across Lake Erie to Port Weller, then carried on directly through the Welland Canal, which was built to bypass Niagara Falls (we definitely DON’T want to take Picton Castle down the Niagara River and over the falls).  After a short rest at Port Weller while waiting for our next pilot, we motored across Lake Ontario and into the St. Lawrence River to Clayton, NY. 

Clayton hosted us for a few days, giving the crew a chance to stretch their legs ashore before the final push downbound in the St. Lawrence and back to salt water.  We passed through all the locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway, then paused in Montreal to downrig all of the preparations we had made to go through the locks, making the ship skinny so nothing protrudes horizontally beyond the hull; un-cockbilling the yards, swinging the davits out, lifting boats off the hatch on the main deck and hoisting them in the davits, and removing the 6×6 wooden vertical fenders.  By the time Picton Castle returns to Lunenburg, we will have passed through a total of 32 locks – seven in the St. Lawrence River, eight in the Welland Canal, and one at Canso. 

As we’ve been making our way down the St. Lawrence, we’ve been keeping a close eye on the weather.  It is hurricane season in the North Atlantic, so as we approach the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Nova Scotia coast, we’re paying particular attention to the conditions and forecasts.  We’ve paid close attention to Hurricane Dorian since last week, and continue to keep a close eye as it approaches the Canadian Maritimes. 

Knowing we might need to find a safe harbour, we’ve looked into ports of refuge for where we could put in if necessary.  Under Captain Lorenzen’s guidance, the crew have done safety drills including for heavy weather.  He reports that the crew is prepped, the ship is prepped, and the importance of observance of heavy weather protocols will be stressed.  More than anything, we’re planning to avoid the high winds and high seas by tapping the brakes and slowing down well to the west of the system, allowing it to pass in front of us while we stay to the west of the area of Baie Comeau (or a different point if the forecast track changes), then carrying on once winds and seas abate.  Schedules can be changed, hurricanes cannot.

What a summer’s voyage!  So many ports, each outdoing the other for hospitality.  What passages in fresh water!  And what a treat sailing along with vessels like the huge schooner Bluenose II and the rakish Pride of Baltimore II as well as the US Brig Niagara, HMCS Oriole and others.  While the ship had to motor a good deal for purposes of keeping pilotage time short, the Picton Castle crew got a lot of experience docking and undocking their ship, and sail handling in close quarters in the ports. This crew knows all about a Tall Ship port now. And up and down the entire St Lawrence Seaway with all the locks and climbing up to the Great Lakes and back, that is a pretty rare voyage for anyone.

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