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SUMMER 2019 HOMEWARD BOUND (Part 2 of 7)

We sailed from Lunenburg on June 15, a beautiful sunny day, in company of the magnificent schooners Bluenose II and Pride of Baltimore II in a spectacular departure under sail. And while all that was going on, we had our magnetic compass swung, a necessary thing to do after completing a 30,000 mile voyage spanning 360 degrees of longitude and a majority of time spent in the Southern Hemisphere.

During the run up the Nova Scotia coast, we continued preparations for the upcoming passage of the St Lawrence Seaway with its strong currents and numerous locks: wooden fenders were lashed to the ship’s side, boats stowed on the galley, boat davits and brace bumpkins were housed, the course yards cockbilled and all braced up sharp-sharp. The port bower was triced for’d out of the way. Nothing protruded over the ship’s side. We were ready, albeit looking not quite the ship we all knew. Things a sailor gets to do in Picton Castle!

Picton Castle went through the Canso lock without a hitch. It was but a glimpse of what was still in store for us this summer.

At Les Escoumins, halfway up the St Lawrence River, a Seaway pilot came aboard, and Picton Castle had a pilot aboard from then onwards at all time she was on the move, until her return to Les Escoumins almost 3 months later.  Those are the requirements for a foreign-flagged ship her size, no matter how often she may have done the passage without a pilot required in the past.

The St Lawrence River threw strong currents at us. Winter and Spring had been wet ones. Water levels in the Great Lakes were at record high levels, and the resulting outflow down the Seaway and river was enormous. A quick stop at anchor in Montreal for a Seaway inspection (which we passed with flying colours), and off we went to conquer the locks. Up and up, seven locks in all to bring us to a level close to Lake Ontario. The final lift at Iroquois, at under 6 feet, was only small compared to those prior, being somewhere in the region of 40 to 50 feet. Strong crosscurrents in the approaches to the locks made lock entries a bit like attempting to thread a needle with a gale across the deck, the thread flapping in the breeze.

Having docked at Clayton, NY, we could look back at an eventful 38-hour passage from Montreal. Quick, grab an ice cream, for we must off to Toronto, undoing all the lock preparations as we go.

It was a beautiful, warm and sunny day that saw us coming into Toronto under full sail. Picton Castle ghosted to her dock, taking in the final scrap of canvas as she slid alongside under a canopy of trees. Gangways out, clearing Customs and Immigration, a safety inspection from the Canadian regulator, and off we went, head first into our first tall ship festival for the summer: the Redpath Waterfront Festival held over the Canada Day weekend.

Perfect weather and a steady stream of visitors to the ship made it easy for us to get our festival routine fine-tuned and settled. By the end of the weekend, we had it well and truly sorted.

Next stop: Buffalo, NY. Well, not quite.

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