Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Fiji the Cat' Category

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SUMMER 2019 HOMEWARD BOUND (Part 5 of 7)

The ship’s cat. The same cat that had been with Picton Castle since she was a kitten, having come aboard in, well, the port of Suva in Fiji, just prior to the ship’s Westward Bound voyage in 2013. The cat that had been around the globe in Picton Castle one and a half times. The cat that had been to all manner of ports, islands, countries and continents. The street-smart cat that knew by instinct when to come back to the ship, when to finish shore leave and when to report back aboard ready for departure. And the same cat that had touched and delighted so many people during our summer campaign. Fiji failed to appear at morning muster on departure day from Erie. Nowhere to be found.

With a funny feeling in my stomach I took Picton Castle off the dock in Erie, one crew member short. What had happened?

Across the Lake, and back into the Welland Canal at Port Colborne. We made the downbound transit in nine hours, then went to anchor in the lee of the east pier at Port Weller in Lake Ontario. The following morning, our lake pilot boarded at 0700 and we traversed Lake Ontario, arriving in Clayton, NY, at a quarter to five the following morning. Two full days were spent in this picturesque town. Shore leave, ship’s work and training, plus chatting to the locals and tourists who came down to the town dock to see the ship. PRIDE OF BALTIMORE 2 joined us for half a day before proceeding on her passage.

So what of Fiji? Some frantic phone calls, search missions, and even a TV news bulletin later, Fiji remained elusive. A state-wide news flash. The internet went nuts. “Where is Fiji?” was the call taken up far and wide.

Fiji resurfaced in Erie, unharmed, after almost two days had passed since her disappearance. The Captain of Lettie G. Howard and the Erie festival co-chair, Sydnee Groenedaal, offered to chauffeur Fiji up to Clayton and, like a true rock star (minus the dark glasses) Fiji rejoined her ship in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, two-and-a-bit days after her disappearance. With scarce as much as a flick of the tail by way of acknowledging her Captain, Fiji turns around and, well, takes a stroll ashore in the still dark morning hours. Half an hour later, having appropriately surveyed Clayton’s waterfront, she comes back and puts in a nap. Phew. Back to normal, and Picton Castle with a complete ship’s crew. Thank you, Goldie and Sydnee.

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Captain’s Log RDV2017 – Allison’s Final Thoughts

By Purser Allison Steele

As I sit in the comfort of my living room at home in Ontario, having signed off Picton Castle last week after this summer’s Rendez-vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta Voyage, I find this final Captain’s Log somewhat difficult to write. How do you sum up an entire summer of adventure and learning into a short few paragraphs?

I’ve had a few days at home now to reflect and gather my thoughts and I’ve decided that the best place to start is with a list of things I learned and observed over the past four months.

I have watched over 100 crew members learn and grow all summer, despite their age or experience. Some came for a week and felt it wasn’t enough and others came and never left! This life isn’t for everyone and sailing a tall ship isn’t a vacation by any means. Your limits will be pushed and reset and pushed again. You will be exhausted and invigorated, frustrated and amazed, but in the end you will take many lessons learned with you. Not just how to coil ropes, set sails or paint. You will learn how to live in very close quarters with people and accept their idiosyncrasies as there is nowhere else to go. You will learn the protective nature of your shipmates even if you didn’t always see eye to eye. You will learn that you can do something wrong… then do it again until you get it right and will often never do it wrong again after. You will learn that there are no short cuts, just smarter ways of doing things. You will become efficient with your time and energy as the weather and seas can turn at any minute and your ship and shipmates will be depending on you to have their backs as they have yours. You will learn to conquer fears… or not… but you won’t be judged for it. You will learn about community: yours, ours and theirs. And you will learn that it is the small towns and ports that have the biggest hearts and will throw open their doors and pass you their car keys in case you want to drive around.

Each time I sail aboard the Picton Castle the most important thing I come away with is the importance of living your life. That the creature comforts of home are just that: comforts. That you can learn to live without many things in your life and once you don’t have access to them, you start to look around. When you are ‘deprived’ of electronics and internet you start to notice the world. The beautiful sunsets, the small movements of the ship beneath your feet and what they mean, the subtle shift in the wind and how to harness it, the quiet laughter of shipmates, the sometimes not so quiet meow of ship’s cat Fiji, but most of all is the silence. In a world so full of noise and sounds, lights and flashes it is the silence of the ship and the ocean that guides us back to the importance of life. There are no pictures, no matter how beautiful they look on paper or a screen that can convey the feeling you get when whales and dolphins come to investigate the ship. How it’s almost like you can feel the warmth of a sunset through its colours. Those feelings can’t be explained in words or pictures but need to be experienced for yourself.

Each time I leave the ship and get back to my ‘land life’ I find it gets easier. I know now that it’s never ‘good bye’… it’s always ‘until next time’. Don’t forget to stop, open your eyes and take a quiet look at the world around you. It’s there just waiting for you.

Allison – Thanks Chuck! (photo creds to Jason Hoyt)

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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.




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Day’s Run – 27 June, 2017

By Ship’s Purser: Allison Steele

Today we heaved up anchor at 0830 and headed to meet our pilot to take us through the Canso Strait. The Canso Strait is the waterway that divides mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island. The Canso Canal was created between 1951 and 1953 and connects Chedabucto Bay on the Atlantic Ocean to St. George’s Bay on the Northumberland Strait, a sub-basin of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It is 27km long and is around 3km wide and can accommodate any vessel that can travel along the St. Lawrence Seaway. There is a lock system that protects the waterway from the tidal difference between the two bodies of water which can reach up to a meter difference. As we make our way closer to Summerside, the weather has become warmer now that shore is in sight the dark green of land makes a nice contrast to the blue of the water. Days are quiet but busy as we prepare for our next Port and the crew puts their new skills into action with working aloft, rigging and rope projects. Rope mats, in particular, seem to be appearing throughout the day as it is a seemingly simple three step skill but in fact, takes quite a bit of time and attention. Once you start though it’s difficult to put it down until it is complete as there is a certain satisfaction to every task we complete. Not only are rope mats decorative, they also help to protect the deck from blocks that rest on top of it. There is always something new and interesting to learn and the crew is eager to get as much as they can from their time on board.

Fiji the Cat, looking after the rope


Noon Position: 43°44′.3N 061°39′.6W

Day’s Run: 83.9NM

Passage: 519.7NM

Voyage: 3576NM

Distance to Port: 142.3NM

Course and Speed: NW 3.5 knots

Wind: Force 1, variable

Weather: Good



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Day’s Run – 12 June, 2017

By Purser Allison

We are approaching the Boston Harbour Shipping Lanes and have seen quite a bit of activity not just with vessels but with marine life. We were fortunate to see whales today that were quite curious about our comparatively small ship that they came to visit.

Captain Sikkema held workshops on ratline splices, ratlines and additional splicing. It’s much cooler today as we get further into North Atlantic waters and the crew had to dig for sweaters and blankets. The sun, however, is shining brightly and we no longer stand in the shadows to protect us from the heat but search out the sun for its warmth. Especially ship’s cat Fiji.

Noon position: 40°30.30N  068°36.6W

Day’s Run: 111nm

Passage: 540.5 NM

Distance Run: 159.5nm

Course and speed: NWx1\2N 4kts

Wind: WSW Force 4

Weather: fair

Swell height and direction: <1m WSW

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