Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Day’s Run' Category

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Will I Get Seasick?

Maggie here, from Picton Castle’s shore crew.  I wasn’t always shore crew, I first joined Picton Castle as a trainee back in 2005.  One of the things I was concerned about was seasickness.  As it turns out, my concerns were valid because I did indeed suffer from seasickness. 

There’s no way to know who will be seasick and who won’t.  There’s a pretty good chance that at some point you’ll feel at least a bit queasy.  Even the most experienced mariners have admitted privately that they’ve felt the mal de mer in certain conditions. 

The good news is that except in very rare cases, seasickness doesn’t last forever.  Although you’ll feel awful, it’s comforting to know that you’ll eventually get past it.  The other good news is that there are many remedies for seasickness.  As part of our crew packing list, we suggest bringing what you think will work for you just in case you’re seasick.  You might never need it, but it’s better to have it just in case. 

So what does it look like/feel like to be seasick?  Some people just feel tired.  Some feel nauseated.  Some people throw up, some don’t.  At the time, admittedly, it feels pretty miserable. 

In my case, I started to feel poorly a few hours out from our first port and continued to be seasick for the next four days.  I still stood my watches and participated as best I could, while taking the occasional break to go throw up over the lee rail.  Upon setting sail from our second port, I was seasick for three days.  Then the port after that for two days, then by our fourth port, I was sick only for a day.  Finally, by the fifth port, I felt fine when we set sail.  I do still get seasick every time I go back to sea after a break on land, but at least I know that I’ve always recovered in the past and will again. 

So how do we handle seasickness on board?  We start by asking you to bring whatever you think it is that will prevent seasickness for you.  If you’ve ever had motion sickness before and found something that works to help prevent or treat it, bring that.  If you haven’t had motion sickness before, you could try any number of potential remedies.  Different people have found different things effective, everything from scopolamine patches worn behind the ear to Gravol or Bonamine, wristbands that stimulate pressure points, ginger candies, lozenges or cookies, wristbands with magnets, and on. 

There are some other things that may be helpful too.  Fresh air, and getting on deck where you can see the horizon is helpful for most people.  Smells, particularly strong ones, can aggravate sea sickness, so fresh air on deck helps with that too.  Many people feel more ill when they’re reading, either a book or on a screen, so perhaps avoid that.  Avoid eating or drinking anything on board that ordinarily might upset your stomach on land too. 

We continually monitor the health of our crew, so when people are seasick we’re looking out for dehydration or other possible complications.  If all other options have been exhausted, we have medications in our ship’s medical kit that can be administered other than orally that will help deal with nausea so you can slowly resume eating and drinking. 


Looking for some other ways to prevent or treat seasickness?  Check out this list of 50 methods on the professional mariner blog gCaptain.

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Christmas Afloat and Ashore

If it has seemed a bit quiet around here in late December it’s for good reason, we took a bit of a break over the holidays.  It’s a rare treat for our shore crew to be able to do that – when Picton Castle is on a voyage we’re all on standby, communicating from shore to ship daily and ready to respond to whatever needs the ship has at any time.  At the moment, Picton Castle is securely tied to the wharf in Lunenburg and while we’re keeping an eye on her, there is no immediate, pressing work that needs to be done, so we’ve been able to enjoy a few days away from the office. 

Ship’s cat Fiji has had a bit of a break from the ship too.  She visited office manager Trudi’s house for a while (where Trudi lives with her husband, three children, and cat Aura).  Then she spent some time at the Picton Castle office, attending the annual Christmas open house and mixing it up with our local friends who dropped by.  Between Christmas and New Year’s she moved to my house where she’ll stay for a while in the coldest part of winter.  I am quickly learning that I simply can’t provide the same amount of love and attention as an entire crew can, but I’ll do my best to keep this cute, well-traveled feline happy. 

The holiday season always makes us think of others gone by.  Celebrating Christmas at sea is a different experience.  Each of our crew members have their own family traditions, and while there are some common elements, Christmas at sea in Picton Castle is all about making our own special day with our shipmates aboard.  It usually involves preparing days in advance by baking cookies and pies on night watches in the galley, then putting up some sort of decorations around the deck or in the various living compartments, the setting up the little artificial tree on the cargo hatch amidships.  On Christmas Day, crew members can put gifts they’ve purchased or made for each other under the tree.  After a bit of social time in the afternoon the presents are distributed and opened, followed by a delicious dinner.  And of course, no ship’s work aside from steering, lookout and sail handling as required. 

The holiday season also makes us think of those who have sailed with us.  Once you’re Picton Castle crew, you’re always Picton Castle crew!  We are wishing all of our crew a very happy holiday season, and a year of adventures ahead in 2020. 

Picton Castle’s Tree with sails in the background

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Bosun School Graduation

On Friday, December 13th Bosun School 2019 came to an end, and we held an end-of-year celebration at the Dory Shop here in Lunenburg. There was absolutely delicious food prepared by our Bosun School Cook Chantale, followed by a few speeches (by Luneburg’s Mayor Bailey, Class Valedictorian Gwen, Captain Lorenzen, and Captain Moreland) and then the presentation of certificates. It was a really wonderful night, and we here in the Picton Castle office can’t wait to hear about all of the wonderful things our students go on to do!

Congratulations to all the students, and a huge thanks to the three instructors: Captain Moreland, Captain Lorenzen and Gabe St-Denis, and as well to Mayor Rachel Bailey for taking time out of her very busy schedule to come and celebrate with us.

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Sail Training International Conference

The past week has been a whirlwind of connecting, meeting, learning and networking at the Sail Training International conference in Antwerp, Belgium.  Picton Castle was represented by Captain Daniel Moreland, Tammy Moreland, Bronwen Livingston and myself (Maggie Ostler). 

Based in England, Sail Training International (STI) is the worldwide body that promotes sail training, supports ships, encourages industry best practices, supports ports that host tall ships, and operates the Tall Ships Races and occasionally Tall Ships Regattas.  We don’t make it to the annual conference every year, but we do try to get there every so often.  Being in the presence of ship operators from all over the world helps with cross-pollination of ideas and perspectives.  We can gain perspective there on things we’re doing well and also on things we can take lessons from others to improve on. 

We arrived a day before the start of the conference to get acclimated from the transatlantic flight and rested up before the meetings and sessions began.  The first full day for us was Thursday when we attended a meeting of the Ships Council, a body made up of ship operators from all over the world including those in Europe, North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia.  The Ships Council, made up of the Tall Ships Forum (which Picton Castle is a member of) and the Small Ships Forum, is for sharing knowledge and experience of best practices and addressing international regulatory issues.  At this particular meeting we talked about upcoming races and regattas, the Blue Flag scheme which recognizes environmentally responsible operations, European Union regulations for traditional sailing vessels, and safety aloft.  Captain Moreland led a panel discussing safety aloft along with Helle Barner Jespersen, long term Chief Mate of the full rigger training ship Georg Stage in Denmark (training mariners since 1882), Steve Moss of the Young Endeavour in Australia, and Marcus Seidl, Captain of the Bark Statsraad Lehmkuhl (from 1914) in Norway. 

Both Friday and Saturday were filled with sessions in the mornings and afternoons.  At each time slot there were a number of options offered, allowing each person to choose the session of greatest interest and applicability to their work.  One of the good things about attending with a number of us is that we could split up to attend many sessions at the same time (and share notes later).  Between the four of us we covered topics from social media marketing to security, mariner licensing to corporate sponsorship, scholarships to the environment.  Even more of us would be better yet.

After leading the well-attended session on safety aloft at the Ships Council, Captain Moreland made a presentation about Bosun School in one of the sessions.  Bosun School was designed to assist young professional mariners gain hands-on skills they need for successful future employment.  It also was designed to benefit our industry, as ships need well-trained mariners with solid technical seamanship skills.  We currently have a 100% placement rate for Bosun School graduates – everyone who has wanted to go on to find a berth on a ship or in a shore-based role in the marine industry has done so.  Captain Moreland’s presentation introduced the Bosun School to an international audience of industry peers, which we hope will attract more students in the future and open doors for our graduates.  It was very well received.

For me personally, I had the pleasure of representing Canada at this international conference.  I am on the board of directors of Tall Ships Canada and was recently appointed by the board as Canada’s representative to Sail Training International.  I attended the International Council meeting where every country that is a member of STI sends one representative, along with the trustees and directors of STI.  The meeting was mostly about sharing information, with updates from the Ships Council, the Youth Council, and the Port Advisory Group.  I also got to talk with representatives of other national sail training organizations to find out how they operate. 

Antwerp was a lovely setting for the conference.  The majority of the sessions were hosted in the Flanders Meeting and Convention Centre, also known as Elisabeth Hall, which is right next to the Antwerp Zoo and the Antwerp Central Station.  Elisabeth Hall is impressive from both the outside and the inside.  Parts are new, bright and well lit, parts are quite old and full of ornate décor and marble columns.  The gala dinner and dancing held on Saturday night was at a venue called Horta which is a very interesting art nouveau building.  The food at both venues was very good, especially the desserts that featured Belgian chocolate mousse. 

When we weren’t in conference sessions we got out to see the city and walked for miles.  The Antwerp Christmas market started on the last day of the conference so we got to enjoy the festive atmosphere and hundreds of small wooden booths each with a different vendor.  Most were selling food or drinks, everything from hot dogs to waffles, beer to gluhwein (warm mulled red wine – pronounced ‘glue-wine’), some were selling hats or mittens or jewellery or toys.  Most of the market was centred around the massive and impressive Cathedral of Our Lady, the largest gothic building in all the Low Countries, and for centuries the tallest.  Construction started in 1352 and was completed in 1521.  The outside is imposing and ornate, and the interior is like an art gallery with hundreds of carvings and paintings, including four by famous Flemish baroque painter Rubens.  To get there from where we were staying, we walked up and down the Meir, Antwerp’s pedestrian shopping district.  While I don’t think any of us are bringing home any of the diamonds that Antwerp is famous for, our suitcases on the return trip were a bit more full with Belgian chocolates and other little treasures. 

We want to say thank you to Sail Training International and the conference planning team for putting on an excellent event and welcoming us so warmly.  Although it’s a long way to travel from Lunenburg to Antwerp, it was definitely worth the trip.

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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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Captain’s Log – Fiji

If you happened to be on social media on 29 or 30 August, you no doubt will have read Fiji’s latest tale.

For those of you who don’t know (though considering her fame I imagine there are few who do not) Fiji is our ship’s cat. She first joined the ship at the magical island of at Fiji on our Westward Bound Voyage back in 2014. 

Ship Cat Fiji helping out in the ship’s office

She then sailed more than halfway around the world to Lunenburg, and since then has sailed one complete World Voyage, crossed the Atlantic five times, and taken part in dozens of tall ship festivals. Everywhere we go she seems to be the star. News reporters love to take her photo and write up stories about her – the cat with a barque. 

Her latest dance in the limelight was one that had us all worried. This summer Picton Castle took part in nine tall ship festivals as part of Tall Ships America TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE ® Great Lakes 2019. When it was time to sail from our very last event of the summer – in Erie Pennsylvania – Fiji was nowhere to be found. We searched, we called, we shook bags of kibble; all to no avail. The time came for us to cast off and head for Clayton, New York; the pilot was on board and Fiji was not, and we couldn’t wait.  Captain Lorenzen had no choice but to call the command to get under way.

Fiji the Ship Cat – assisting our boat builder

Picton Castle left the Port of Erie without Fiji. Our very good friends aboard the US Brig Niagara and in the Erie Maritime Museum, said they would keep their eyes open and get her back home if they possibly could. The crew on the ship worried. We here in the office fretted. All sorts of pictures popped into our imaginations of where she might be and in what state.  We got the word out to all the rescue centres, veterinarians and animal hospitals we could find in Erie. The call went out in Erie via a local news report and social media, and locals came out in their droves trying to find our lost ship cat. We are so grateful to every single person who tried to help.

We were all relieved to get the official word today that some friendly people of Erie saw Fiji and thought perhaps she was lost so took her in. When they discovered we were frantically looking for her, they helped get her back to the Flagship Niagara who, in turn, called us to let us know that she had indeed been found and was safely with them.  Picton Castle is in Clayton, New York, and the Niagara crew will deliver her to us tomorrow. 

We will probably never know all of the adventures Fiji took part in on her 2-day shore leave, but I’m quite sure this won’t be the last of her adventures both on the ship and ashore. (I sure wish I could read cat minds.)

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Applying for the Atlantic Voyage 2020-2021

Every voyage Picton Castle makes is different – partly because of the itinerary or the weather conditions, but most significantly because of the people who are aboard.  Each voyage has its own unique character because of the crew. 

We’re gearing up for our next big voyage, which will start in the spring of 2020.  It’s a year-long voyage around the North Atlantic, starting and ending in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Along the way, we’ll visit ports in the Azores, England, France, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Portugal, Morocco, Senegal, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe, St. Bart’s, Anguilla, and Bermuda.  The voyage includes two Atlantic crossings, some amazing sailing festivals in Europe, a pilgrimage to what we think of as “square rig mecca” in the Aaland Islands, and a winter of island-hopping in the authentic West Indies. 

While we’re working on all the logistics of ports and the sailing passages between them, we’re also building our crew for the voyage.  In this entry in the Captain’s Log, we want to highlight the new and improved application process we’ve implemented for this voyage. 

All crew members in Picton Castle, including trainee crew members, must be accepted through an application process in order to sign aboard.  The application process is started when an applicant fills in the application form on our website.  From there, we ask for two things; first, a doctor’s note that says you’re in good health and can do moderately strenuous physical activity; and second, a deposit towards your trainee fee to hold your spot.  We hold spots in the order in which we receive deposits. 

Once we have the deposit and doctor’s note in place, the next step is the interview.  This is where things are a bit different for this voyage.  In the past, for voyages of 3+ months, we have required applicants to come in person to see Picton Castle, usually while she’s between voyages and docked in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada.  While we still think it’s important for people to make an informed choice about what they’re signing on for, we have adjusted the process and will now require interviews by phone or Skype instead.  There are a number of videos on YouTube that show Picton Castle and what life aboard is like (and we hope to add some new ones soon).  There will be some required viewing for applicants so you have a good understanding what the bunks are like, how we eat meals, how to flush the head (marine toilet), what standing a watch and doing galley duty is like, and all the other little things that go together to make up the experience of life aboard.

By doing interviews by phone/Skype instead, we’re hoping to make it easier to sail with us.  You don’t need to incur the extra expense, either in money or time, of traveling to Lunenburg.  And we’ll still have time to talk and to get to know one another, to talk about the voyage and to see if it’s a good fit for both of us. 

Following the interview and video watching, we’ll carry on as we normally would with reference checks, followed by a second interview if necessary. 

So, if you’ve been on the fence about applying for the next voyage, this just made it easier for you!

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Day’s Run – 23-25 August 2019

Position: Alongside Erie Maritime Museum, Erie PA

Weather: Sunny and warm with a light Easterly breeze. Saturday turned partly cloudy and a bit cooler, and on Sunday much of the same with the winds changing to Southeasterly.

Ship’s Work:

We continue the work on the little wooden dory ANN on the dock next to the ship. Last plank fastened to starboard side; commenced fairing floors.

Preparation for the Canal Passage began full swing on Sunday.

Friday Visitors:  2405 during deck tours; 224 visitors during evening function

Saturday Visitors:  2807 visitors

Sunday Visitors:  2590 visitors

Captain’s Comments: We were made to feel very welcome by the Erie Maritime Museum, our ‘home’ while we were in Erie. Our final Festival of the summer concluded 1800 on Sunday the 25th and once again we had a wonderful time. Taking part in these festivals is a lot of work for all involved (the ships & their crew (both on ship and on land), the event organizers, the volunteers and the vendors), but judging by the happy faces we’ve seen milling about from ship to ship all summer, it’s certainly worth the effort.

Off-watch and Captain were lucky enough to go twilight sailing in LETTIE G. HOWARD. Marvelous!  A pilot is booked for Wednesday 0800 when we still start our voyage home to Lunenburg.

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