Word has been spreading about Picton Castle’s next world circumnavigation voyage with a sailing date planned for next spring and naturally we’re getting lots of questions from prospective trainee crew. Understandably, keen would-be seafarers want to know as much of what they can expect in the first few days or weeks aboard the ship. The answer partly depends on where you’ll be joining the Picton Castle.
Most of Picton Castle’s new trainee crew will join us here in Lunenburg at the start of Leg 1 when we are getting ready to set out to sea, outward bound. Others will meet the ship in Tahiti or Bali or Cape Town for Legs 2, 3 or 4. The crew from all the legs of the entire voyage are welcome to join us in Lunenburg for this initial training period regardless of when they will actually sail in the ship. The orientation period in Lunenburg is particularly long in part because almost everyone is new to the ship and there is lots to learn, partly because there’s lots to do before we set sail. In addition to all of the basic orientation, training and drills, there will be a fair amount to do in rigging the ship up and getting her ready for sea, as we must do before any long voyage. But no matter where and when you join the ship, there is a comprehensive orientation process for all new crew.
A Picton Castle orientation has two main agendas: establishing operational safety protocols and getting people sorted to live pleasantly in a ship. You’ll participate in this orientation no matter where you sign aboard. It all starts by giving you a tour of the ship to get you familiar with your new seagoing home, pointing out all the parts of the ship, what they’re called and what they’re used for. You’ll learn the basic things you need to know in order to live aboard, things like how to flush the head (what we call the toilets on board), how meal time and dishwashing works, where to unpack your bag, and basic initial instructions on what to do if there’s an emergency. You will learn about the basic watch systems, a number of do’s and don’ts, and there will be plenty of time for questions.
As you start to get settled aboard, we’ll go into a more detailed tour of the ship and start to introduce you to all of the life saving and fire fighting gear we have aboard. We’ll practice donning life jackets and immersion suits and learning how to use fire extinguishers and life rafts. After some instruction and walk through exercises, we’ll be able to practice things like a fire drill and a man overboard drill.
For those joining the ship in Lunenburg, we’ll also have plenty of work to do to get Picton Castle ready to sail. Sending yards up, sending blocks and lines up, bending sail, hoisting boats and so much else. As we work together, we’ll be learning and practicing some of the things we need to know and use once at sea. Loading the tons of supplies we’ll need for the voyage (and for delivery to some islands) teaches us how to work together as a team, how to use mechanical advantage for heavy lifting, and how to properly stow the ship for sea, including making lashings to tie things down. There’s a lot to learn, too, about how the ship works. There are about 205 lines that come down to deck and you will need to learn the name and purpose of each, and how they work together to set and take in the sails. We’ll practice bracing yards and setting and taking in sails at the dock. All hands will also get a good first orientation in the ship’s boats in lovely Lunenburg Harbour in preparation for sailing the coral lagoons in the South Pacific. It will seem overwhelming at first.
We’ll get those who are keen to climb up in the rigging aloft for the first time following well established best practices for safety aloft. No one is required to go aloft, but most folks want to and we have a specific training program for this that we take very seriously. The rigging of a square-rigger is designed for human habitation. And what better chance to get practice working aloft than to bend on sail on our barque’s ten yards?
In Lunenburg, we’ll have a couple of weeks of orientation, training and preparation before we set sail. This time helps the crew get to know one another and start to form a team that can work together, it helps individual crew members get used to the routine of life aboard and get settled in, and it helps us know that we can set out into the North Atlantic with a crew that has a good understanding of much of what we will need to do to sail the ship. And by the time the other crew show up in Tahiti and elsewhere there will be that many more teachers for them to learn from!