Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Great Lakes 2019' Category

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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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Bound for the Great Lakes

It’s been a bit quiet here on the Captain’s Log for the past couple of weeks while we’ve all been busy getting Picton Castle ready to sail again.  She arrived in Lunenburg on June 1, completing her seventh world circumnavigation voyage, and sailed again on June 15 to start her summer voyage to the Great Lakes.  In between, there was a lot going on. 

Arriving in Lunenburg at the end of a long voyage, especially an around the world voyage, is always a big event.  There were hundreds of friends and family of the crew and friends and fans of the ship on the Lunenburg waterfront on Saturday, June 1 to welcome Picton Castle home.  It makes for a celebratory atmosphere, with people waving, horns honking, and cameras snapping. 

View of the Bluenose II which sailed out to welcome us home

The crew had a little BBQ at the Dory Shop that night, eating a delicious dinner cooked by ship’s cook extraordinaire Donald one last time, then received their sea service certificates in a ceremony on the deck between the two buildings with Picton Castle in clear sight at the next dock over.  On Sunday, we hosted an event at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic for the crew, their families, and friends of the ship in Lunenburg.  Three crew members spoke, Ted, James and Dustin, and we also had presentations from John McGee, Lunenburg’s Deputy Mayor, Suzanne Lohnes-Croft, the MLA for Lunenburg, Mike Rauworth, the Chair of Tall Ships America, Captain Phil Watson, Master of Bluenose II, “Mayor Emeritus” as Captain Moreland calls him, Laurence Mawhinney, and Captain Moreland himself. 

Ted speaking at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic

Shortly after that, World Voyage 7 crew started to go their separate ways.  It’s a somewhat bittersweet time, as they’re all happy and proud of their accomplishments, excited to go on to whatever is next in their lives, but also need to say goodbye to shipmates who are like family and to the ship herself. 

At the same time, we began the work of transitioning from one voyage to the next.  We unloaded the four barrels of Ironworks rum that have been on board Picton Castle since last February and got them back to the distillery where they will be bottled and available for sale.  The rum smells delicious and has a unique flavour that comes from a long voyage at sea in the tropics. 

We also unloaded the ship’s hold, sending some items ashore and generally taking stock of what we have, then re-stowing it in an orderly fashion.  At the same time, ship’s engineer Deyan was tweaking some of the ship’s systems in preparation for a passage into the Great Lakes, cleaning out the bilge, and taking on fuel. 

On June 10, new trainee crew joined us here in Lunenburg for training, orientation, and the final preparations for the voyage.  They helped load a big order of food provisions, got the Monomoy ashore at the Dory Shop where she’ll get some love this summer, and got the ship’s dory, Sea Never Dry, ready to hoist in the davits on the port side. 

On Friday evening, June 14, after officially signing aboard, the crew had a nice dinner in the main salon, then got away from the dock and anchored just a few dozen metres away to get into watchstanding mode before heading out to sea the next morning. 

Earlier in the week, Pride of Baltimore II, a gorgeous topsail schooner from Baltimore, Maryland, arrived in Lunenburg.  Just at the same time, Bluenose II was leaving Lunenburg to visit Halifax for a few days.  We hosted a BBQ at the Dory Shop for the crews of both Picton Castle and Pride of Baltimore II, giving them a chance to get to know one another. 

Pride of Baltimore II in Lunenburg Harbour

Bluenose II came back to Lunenburg on the evening of Friday June 14 in order to meet up with Picton Castle and Pride of Baltimore II, ready for all three ships to sail out of Lunenburg in company, bound for the Great Lakes. 

Saturday morning came in foggy, but the fog lifted before the ships got underway and it turned into a beautiful day.  We had spread the word locally that three tall ships would be making a mini, unofficial parade of sail out of Lunenburg, so we had plenty of spectators lining the waterfront and the coast of Lunenburg Bay.  Bluenose II led the way, getting off the dock first. Pride of Baltimore II sailed off the dock, falling in behind, then Picton Castle heaved up the anchor and followed on.  All three ships had sails set, which made for some beautiful photos and videos of them sailing in company. 

Bluenose II, Pride of Baltimore II & Picton Castle sail from Lunenburg

After the photo op, Bluenose II and Pride of Baltimore II carried on up the Nova Scotia coast, while Picton Castle took in sail so that we could do a compass adjustment.  This involves motoring around in circles while a compass adjuster does something akin to magic to calibrate the ship’s magnetic compass.  With this small but important task taken care of, Picton Castle motor-sailed out of Lunenburg Bay and on her way, bound for the Great Lakes. 

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