Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Past Voyages' Category

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The Making of La Grande Traversée

Back in the summer of 2016, Picton Castle sailed on a transatlantic voyage where we filmed a television series on the way from La Rochelle, France to Quebec City, Canada.  The show was called La Grande Traversée and followed the lives of 10 “colonists” who lived life on board as it would have been for their ancestors coming from France to the New World circa 1700.

Well, mostly as it would have been for passengers crossing the Atlantic circa 1700. At that time, passengers wouldn’t have been involved in sailing the ship. But for the sake of television, the “colonists” stood watches alongside our crew and spent a lot more time on deck than their ancestors would have.

The passage from La Rochelle, France to Caraquet, New Brunswick, Canada, the ship’s first port of call in Canada, was 39 days. From there, Picton Castle sailed up the St. Lawrence River to Quebec City, where the “colonists” and film crew disembarked.

Picton Castle was crewed by her usual professional crew complement plus a number of trainees. They sailed the ship from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada to La Rochelle, then sailed back to Canada with the “colonists” and the film crew. In addition to the ten “colonists”, we also had eight film crew aboard.

The film crew had the main salon as their living and working area. We took out one of the tables that it usually there and replaced it with a sturdy plywood table so that they could screw their equipment down to it. The rest of the salon with filled with camera and sound equipment.

The “colonists” lived in the area where the cargo hold is, in a special set that was built for this project to resemble the area below decks on a wooden sailing ship circa 1700. The set was built sturdily in Lunenburg, finished on the way across the Atlantic to La Rochelle, and fitted out with all the items the “colonists” would need before they boarded in La Rochelle. It had doors and ports that could open so cameras could look into the set from a number of different angles. There was a temporary wall built just forward of the foot of the stairs down to the salon so that the “colonists” would be kept separate from the salon and could not see the film crew and their equipment.

Our professional crew and trainees had their accommodations in the foc’sle, forepeak and aft cabins.

The director, Francois Balcaen, has put together a few short films from this voyage that show a bit of what it was like behind the scenes.

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La Grand Traversée Airs Starting April 11, 2017

Picton Castle played the role of L’Esperance last summer as the French-language documentary La Grand Traversée was filmed on board while crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

We will get to see the first episode when it airs tomorrow night, Tuesday April 11, 2017 on Radio-Canada.

La Grand Traversée tells the story of ten “colonists” who made the voyage from France to New France much as their ancestors would have done in the 18th century.  They wore clothing, lived in accommodations, cooked and ate food appropriate to the period.

Colonists sailing from Europe to the Americas at that time would not have participated in sailing the ship, but on this recreated voyage they certainly did.  The colonists stood watches alongside Picton Castle crew and contributed to sailing the ship.

The passage from La Rochelle, France to Caraquet, New Brunswick, Canada, which was the ship’s first port of call in the Americas, took 39 days.  From there, Picton Castle sailed on to Quebec City, where the colonists signed off.

We’re eager to see how this exciting voyage is portrayed on film.  Be sure to tune in tomorrow night to watch!

Picton Castle as L’Esperance in Quebec City 2016


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Tall Ships America Conference

Captain Moreland and I were at the Tall Ships America annual conference in Boston last week.  Picton Castle is a member of Tall Ships America, whose mission is “to encourage character building through sail training, promote sail training to the North American public, and support education under sail.”

We try to make sure that Picton Castle is represented every year, especially in the years leading up to a tall ships event summer.  Picton Castle will be taking part in a number of tall ship festivals and events in the summer of 2017, so it was important for us to be there for the general learning that takes place at the conference as well as some specific sessions that relate to planning and logistics of these upcoming events.

And, my goodness, are we excited about the upcoming voyage this summer!

There is still work to be done, but we were able to meet with port organizers from many of the ports we’ll be visiting as part of the Rendezvous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta.  Meeting them in person and talking with them about the events they have planned makes us think our crew are going to have a fantastic time this summer.  From a reggae concert in Bermuda to the hospitality of Charleston, the crew parade in Boston to fireworks in Quebec City, we’re in for a treat!

The packed conference schedule kept us on our toes.  Sessions started at 0745 or 0800 and ran until about 1800 most days, followed by receptions or dinners most evenings.  Wednesday’s safety forum and education forum, which are aimed specifically at ship operators, covered topics ranging from ship stability to managing crew fatigue to individual donor fundraising.  On Thursday and Friday, ship operators were joined by host ports, suppliers and others interested in the business and sailing of tall ships.  Session topics included tips on sailing to Cuba, financial management and shared resources, how to produce a series of promotional videos (go check out SeaMester’s webpage for some videos that made me want to go sailing!), human resources, weather for passage planning, and so much more.

The Captain often tells me that while the sessions are good, meeting and talking with people is what it’s really all about.  We both had a chance to catch up with old friends and colleagues, find out what they’re doing now and share some old memories.  We also both met lots of new people and made new connections.

As I kept seeing shipmate after shipmate, I realized that this particular conference had a high concentration of current or former Picton Castle crew present.  Although I may have forgotten someone, I counted at least 21 Picton Castle sailors either attending the conference or visiting during the conference.  While I didn’t quite manage to coordinate a photo with all of us, it was great to see so many people who have spent time aboard with us still working or somehow engaged in the industry.

Captain Moreland was asked to speak twice during the conference.  Once was a lunchtime presentation about Picton Castle’s upcoming seventh world circumnavigation voyage, which I recorded and hope to get uploaded soon to share with you.  As he spoke, a slideshow of tropical images from previous voyages played behind him, in sharp contrast with the snowstorm that kept us all inside the hotel and conference centre that day.  His second talk was at the very end of the conference, wrapping up the official business of the conference before the gala dinner.  In that short talk, he wisely pointed out that every ship and every program does something better than you, so you should learn what that is, adapt it and adopt it on board.  One of the points of a conference like this is to talk with our colleagues to find out how they do things, share how we do things, and learn to do things better.  As I’ve heard Tall Ships America Executive Director Bert Rogers say a number of times, “the rising tide floats all ships.”

The conference ended with a gala dinner and dance, commonly referred to as the “prom.”  Those of you who have seen photos from crew parties or receptions know that sailors clean up well, and those at this conference were no different.  Everyone put on their finest outfits for a classy sit-down dinner (did I mention that the food all week at the Seaport Hotel in Boston was wonderful?), followed by dancing to music by a live band until well into the night.


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January 30, 2017 – Sending Down the Mizzen Topmast

Yesterday was as good a day one could ask for in Lunenburg in January to do some rigging work.  The temperature was above freezing, the sun was shining and there was almost no wind.

Picton Castle is currently in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada and we’re getting some maintenance work done aboard.  We had sent down most of the running rigging as part of Bosun School last fall.  The one remaining thing that we wanted to send down for inspection was the mizzen topmast.

Picton Castle’s fore and main masts are made up of three parts, the lower mast which is made of steel, the topmast which is also made of steel, and the t’gallant mast which is made of wood.  The mizzen mast, the one farthest aft, is made up of two parts, the lower mast which is made of steel, and the topmast which is made of wood. 

We have sent down the mizzen topmast a few times in the past few years, always inspecting it, repairing it as necessary and sending it back up.  Our intention this time is to send it down, inspect it, and likely replace it.  We have a telephone pole aboard, lashed in the port breezeway, that is an excellent blank spar for this kind of project.

Although we only had a small number of hands to help get the mizzen topmast down, they used mechanical advantage to get the job done.  The majority of the weight of the mast was supported by a line that ran all the way from the mizzen mast to the capstan on the foc’sle head.  Anything that could be removed from the mast was removed and sent down to deck, then started the slow and careful process of lowering the mast through the cap while working the rigging secured around it to the top so it could eventually be removed by lifting it over the top of the mast.

Now that the mizzen topmast is down at deck level we can assess its state, look at the previous repairs and how well they’re holding, and likely use it as a pattern for making a new one.

Why not watch the video!



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Conference Time in Sweden

Captain Moreland and I just got home to Lunenburg from the Sail Training International conference in Halmstad, Sweden.

This is an annual conference, held in various places around the world, for tall ship operators, owners, crew, host ports, and anyone else interested in sail training.  We try to participate, representing Picton Castle, as often as possible.  Halmstad will host the Tall Ships Races this coming summer so the conference was also hosted there, in the Tylosand Hotel, a pretty swanky hotel/resort with a huge modern art collection overlooking a beach on the Kattegat, an extension of the Skagerrak and the North Sea, that’s seven kilometres long. 20161126_143859-reduced20161122_130136-reduced

To get there, we flew to Copenhagen.  Since the Captain and I are both big fans of Copenhagen and we have shipmates and friends living there, we arranged to stay a day or so there to adjust to the time zone change and do some visiting before heading for Halmstad.  I love all things festive and I have to say that the Danes have holiday spirit figured out, especially at this time of year.  We strolled along the canal in Nyhavn, which used to be where all the sailors came ashore and is now a tourist area, and found all sorts of little booths selling warm drinks, snacks, gifts and souvenirs, all under the glow of Christmas lights and garlands. 20161122_155320-reduced

The day before the conference officially began, we attended a meeting of the Ships Council.  The Ships Council is made up of all ships that want to be members and we communicate, both in person and electronically, about issues of importance to sail training.  Within the Ships Council there is a Tall Ships Forum (of which we’re a member) and the Small Ships Forum (for smaller sail training vessels).  While there are some issues that affect all sail training ship operators, there are some that are more common to larger or smaller ships.  All of Thursday was spent as a whole Ships Council, tall ships and small ships together, discussing things like learning from case studies of accidents and near misses, emergency response plans, and marketing to attract trainees. 20161127_101936-reduced

One of the initiatives Sail Training International has undertaken recently is the website  which is designed to help trainees with no sailing experience or prior knowledge of tall ships find out what the experience is all about, then help them choose a ship to sign aboard.  If you’re in Canada, you may have already seen or heard TV or radio advertising sending people to this website.  We’re excited about any initiative that helps to spread the word about what ships like ours do and gets people on board!20161126_153228-reduced

The conference itself began on Friday November 25 with an update on what Sail Training International has done in the past year and what is coming up in the next few years.  After the one general session for everyone, there were a number of sessions offered at the same time so we were able to choose which to attend.  We received more information about next summer’s Rendezvous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta, we met with a variety of ports that we could potentially visit in the future at a series of speed meetings (like speed dating), and we took in a number of other presentations and discussions throughout Friday and Saturday.20161126_165303-reduced

The last official business of the conference was to present awards to various individuals, ships and programs.  A full list of winners is available here [].  We’re particularly proud of Captain Moreland’s old friend and shipmate Captain Jarle Flatebo who was awarded the Lifetime Achievement in Sail Training.  Captain Flatebo was most recently the master of the Norwegian ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl, but the two met while they both worked on the Danish state training ship Danmark.20161126_171543-reduced

While we certainly learned from the sessions and workshops offered, perhaps the greatest value in attending a conference like this is the opportunity to meet and talk with people who do things similar to us.  Each ship has its own unique operations and challenges, but there are certain common elements.  By discussing what we each do, asking questions and talking about situations, we can learn from one another, share good ideas, share ideas that didn’t quite work out, and combine resources and knowledge.  It was great to see old friends, catch up with them and what they’re working on now, and to meet new people and make new connections.  We look forward to seeing many of these friends and colleagues again this summer as Picton Castle joins an international fleet of tall ships for the Rendezvous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta.





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Captain’s Log – Early September in Lunenburg

12 September, 2016

Early September in Lunenburg

On the morning of the last day of August, Picton Castle sailed quietly in to Lunenburg Harbour.  As Captain Sam Sikkema explained in the last Captain’s Log, royal yards, the mainsail, t’gallants and all upper staysails had all been sent down before the ship made her entrance, so although there was less canvas to set, the ship came in under what sail she had and looked good doing it.    20160831_092107_resized

The crew wasted no time once alongside the wharf in Lunenburg.  We knew that many crew members had to sign off the ship very shortly after their arrival in Lunenburg, so we wanted to get sails sent down right away while we still had many hands.  It’s possible to send down sails with a smaller gang, but the sails were good and dry so we wanted to take advantage of the conditions and get it all done in a few hours.

Picton Castle’s sails are made of cotton canvas.  This means that when they get wet, and particularly when they’re stowed wet, they start to mildew which causes them to rot.  In order to prevent this, we have to dry the sails.  When the sails are bent on and we have a big crew, it’s easy.  We just go aloft, loose the sails from the gaskets that secure them to the yards, shake them out and let them hang in their gear, then the sun and wind do their work to dry the canvas.  At the end of the day, we stow the dry sails again.  When the ship will be in port for an extended stay and we have a small crew, rather than constantly drying sails we simply send them down and stow them away in a dry storage place.  It’s one less thing for the crew to look after, and allows us to turn our attention to other projects aboard.  It has the added benefit of allowing us to do proper inspections and inventory of our sail collection, making note of the condition of each sail and any repairs that may be required.

By mid afternoon, all sails were stowed away properly below decks.  We had a ceremony aboard where everyone officially signed off, receiving their sea service certificates.  Particularly for the cadets who sailed with us this summer from the Nova Scotia Community College’s Nautical Institute, these certificates are valuable.  To earn certifications as a mariner, classroom work is important but documented hands-on practice aboard ships is also essential.  These cadets will return to class this September with a significant portion of their required sea time earned.

Over the next few days, crew packed their sea bags and dispersed by car, plane and train, on to their next adventures.  We have a small crew still aboard, working away at various projects including preparations for the Bosun School which begins next week.  We’re looking forward to welcoming a number of young aspiring mariners who are coming to spend three months in Lunenburg in a land-based skills development program.  They’ll do a combination of classroom learning and hands-on practice (with heavy emphasis on hands-on practice), covering a wide variety of seamanship topics.  We’ll bring you more updates on Bosun School and what the students are doing throughout the next three months while they’re here studying in Lunenburg.


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Captain’s Log – 30 August, 2016

At 2230 this evening Picton Castle dropped anchor in Rose Bay, in the same spot we lay four months and a little under 10,000 nautical miles ago. Quite a contrast to the blustery cold morning when we set out into the North Atlantic in May, the ship now lays calm and still, the only noise around being the occasional low rumble of the long northwest swell rolling into the other side of the bay. The peace and the long glow of the anchor light on the water gives us our last moment to reflect with the ship, a lot of miles coved this summer and a lot of sailing.

We left another secluded harbour early this morning, at sunrise, sailing off the hook. Gliding out with sail set to the t’gallants, we got under way from Sheet Harbour, Nova Scotia where we had holed up for a night to let a fresh southwest wind blow through before continuing down the coast. Having been anchored there for the better part of a day we got a head start on down rigging soon to follow, down came the royal yards, off with the mainsail, upper staysails and gaff topsail.

Sailing off in the morning was the perfect way to have our last sail of the voyage, and we have been lucky the last week, every time we got sailing we were sure it was going to be the last chance. Crossing the Gulf of St. Lawrence with every stitch set going 6kts with a quartering breeze and a lovely sunny day, or running out of Toronto down Lake Ontario at 8kts sailing all the way up into the mouth of the river and sliding in under Sodus Point late at night under a clear starry sky.

Thing got pretty busy at the end of our west bound Atlantic crossing, one last gale off Cape Breton shot us up into the Cabot Strait, then around into Caraquet, New Brunswick. After a short stop we went screaming out of Chauler Bay under topsails after sailing off the hook, then up into the St. Lawrence River, for a stop to enjoy the old world feel of Quebec City and then on up through the Seaway to the new world of Toronto.

And so now we sit with just the occasional shuffle of the anchor, watch diligently looking after the ship, to reflect on all the different moods we have seen in the ship; crossing the Grand Banks in the fog, up and down with the sails, studding sail booms and yards, sailing on the same tack set to the royals for two weeks strait, short tacking the ship out of the roads leaving La Rochelle, 50 people busy about the ship then only 22 crew, getting the ship through 15 locks and another flurry of activity for a special project in Toronto, sperm whales quietly swimming across the path of the ship and humpbacks breaching in heavy weather off Cape Breton, the roar of the gales in the rig to the still calm of a quite anchorage.

At anchor in Rose Bay - Photo by Grant Oxner (thank you!)

At anchor in Rose Bay – Photo by Grant Oxner (thank you!)


Tomorrow morning we heave up the anchor one more time and work the ship back into her berth in Lunenburg harbour and the voyage is complete. Many of our cadets are right off back to school with some of the best seatime a young mariner could hope for. A few crew will stick around to get the down rigging complete and then Picton Castle will go into drydock for some much deserved love. And in a few months time a new group of people will come onboard to bring her back to life again and begin in the ship the next voyage to come.

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Toronto then Bound Down the St. Lawrence River

Picton Castle wrapped up a two-week stay in Toronto this past Sunday, casting off the mooring lines and heading out into Lake Ontario and then down the St. Lawrence River towards Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada, which is our home base.

You may have noticed that Toronto wasn’t on our original itinerary for this voyage. We were approached just a few months ago with an interesting project opportunity, so we extended our voyage to include it. Although we can’t tell you much about it now, we promise to divulge more details at a later date when this project is shared with the public.

Many of our crew extended their time aboard as the voyage end date extended, gaining some additional sea time as well as experience with coastal navigation, seamanship in close quarters, identifying marine traffic, and transiting locks. There were some crew who had to sign off before the end of the voyage, so a few of our veteran Picton Castle crew have joined us for the passage from Toronto back to Lunenburg.

While in port in Toronto, watches were arranged so that each group had two consecutive days on duty and two consecutive days off duty. This allowed the crew to get a longer break and to make plans ashore for their days off duty. The crew enjoyed various attractions in Toronto including a Cirque de Soleil show (which was a ten minute walk up the street from where the ship was docked), the Distillery District (about a 20 minute walk up the street), the Royal Ontario Museum including the exhibit on tattoos, and a Toronto Blue Jays game.

While on watch, the crew also accomplished a lot. We started oiling the decks in Quebec City, getting the quarterdeck, foc’sle head, well deck and main deck amidships done. In Toronto, we completed the project by oil on the deck in the breezeways and the aloha deck. Varnish was a big focus of our stay in Toronto, where the main deck pin rails, pin rails on the quarterdeck, the top of the box that covers the steering gear and one of the tables in the main salon all got sanded down and coated with fresh shiny coats of varnish. We also sent down the spanker gaff for inspection and overhaul, then reinstalled it aloft. It rained quite heavily on a few of the days of our visit so we also had to dry sail, loosing each sail and flashing it out for the day so the sun could do the drying, then stowing it again at the end of the day once the cotton canvas was dry. We did all of the usual provisioning as well; filling the galley propane tanks, grocery shopping with the cook, and taking on diesel fuel for the main engine and generators.

crew work aloft aboard PICTON CASTLE to loose wet sails to dry

After our work was completed, Picton Castle got underway on Sunday morning. We had a good sail in Lake Ontario with favourable winds pushing us along. We made a brief stop in Clayton, New York, USA, on the south side of the St. Lawrence River in order to make our preparations for the St. Lawrence Seaway. Once again we tied on big 8’x8’ wooden fenders, five of them arranged vertically along each side of the ship to take the brunt of the contact between the ship’s steel hull and the cement lock walls. The upper yards were braced up sharp and the main and fore yards were cockbilled (meaning they were moved horizontally as far as they could go, then also moved vertically to bring them inside the width of the ship). Our ship’s boats are now all inboard and the davits they usually hang in have been turned in as well. When going through the locks, nothing can protrude beyond the width of the ship.
Captain Sikkema wanted to go through the series of locks, starting with the Iroquois lock and ending with the St. Lambert lock, with as much daylight as possible. In order to arrive at the Iroquois lock at dawn, Picton Castle got underway from Clayton at midnight. Today is the day that Picton Castle will transit through the locks, and we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of ship-watchers online who have been contacting us to share photos and ask questions. To follow Picton Castle’s progress through the St. Lawrence Seaway, look here:

Picton Castle’s next stop is Lunenburg, which is our home base. As always, there’s a certain excitement aboard before the ship comes home. Ship’s crew are looking ahead to their next personal adventures, shore crew are looking forward to having the ship home for a while.

PICTON CASTLE in the St Lawrence, photo by Brenda Benoit

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Captain’s Log – Bound for Toronto

Picton Castle set sail from Quebec City on Tuesday August 2nd, bound for Toronto.  The ship gained a number of admirers in Quebec City and some were on the wharf to see the ship get underway and wave goodbye.  We’ll be back in Quebec City again in 2017 for a big tall ships event called Rendezvous 2017, along with a fleet of other tall ships.  Although we weren’t able to welcome the public aboard on our visit this year, next year our decks will be open for people to come aboard.

Anywhere in the St. Lawrence River west of Les Escoumins and throughout the Great Lakes, vessels with a foreign flag that are over 35 metres long require a pilot according to Canadian regulations.  Picton Castle is flagged in the Cook Islands, which makes us a foreign flagged vessel, and is just over 47 metres long on deck (54 metres including the bowsprit), so we require a pilot.  Pilots are experienced, licensed ship captains with specialized local knowledge who come aboard to advise each ship’s captain on local conditions, currents, hazards to navigation, traffic schemes and harbours.  Every time Picton Castle has been underway since Les Escoumins, we have had a pilot aboard.  There are a few places in the world, like in the Panama Canal, where the pilot actually takes command of the ship, but in most places, like the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes, the pilot is an advisor and the ship’s captain has the conn (meaning he or she is in command).

We had pilots aboard from Quebec City to Trois Rivieres where we did a pilot exchange, and those pilots carried on to Montreal with us.  Picton Castle anchored in Montreal for an afternoon so we could have our inspection for the St. Lawrence Seaway.

All ships that go through the locks of the Seaway need to be inspected for seaworthiness and to make sure the ship is ready to transit the locks.  For Picton Castle, one of our biggest jobs to prepare for the seaway is to make sure nothing protrudes beyond the width of the ship.

The boats we usually have hanging in davits over the sides of the ship needed to be brought aboard so the monomoy was lifted atop the galley house and the skiff was lifted on top of the main cargo hatch.  The davits were then swung in to be flush with the sides of the ship.  All of the yards were braced up sharp to get them within the width of the ship, but even fully braced the main yard and fore yard still protrude so they had to be cockbilled.

Yards Cockbilled Photo credit to @SeawayNNY on Twitter

Yards Cockbilled
Photo credit to @SeawayNNY on Twitter

We also had to add fenders to the sides of the ship to keep the ship off the lock walls.  These fenders are made of 8″x8″ pine cut into lengths of about 5′ with holes drilled in the top and bottom.  The fenders are then placed vertically, four on each side of the ship, and securely lashed over the rail and through chocks or freeing ports.  The fenders take quite a beating, scraping along the cement lock walls as the water fills each lock chamber raising the ship, but it’s better to beat up your fenders than your ship.

After a successful inspection in Montreal, the crew went to bed early, spending a night at anchor in anticipation of a long day of transiting locks.  The next morning, all hands were woken early to raise the anchor and get underway, with another pilot aboard, at 0445.  We started the day early in order to use all the daylight for transiting the locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway.  Before dawn, Picton Castle was at the first lock, the St. Lambert lock.

The locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959 to allow ships to pass from the Atlantic into the Great Lakes.  The locks work like a series of elevators, raising ships from sea level to the level of the Great Lakes.  Each lock has two sets of doors.  On the way up the locks, the bottom doors are open, the ship advances into the lock and the bottom doors close behind it.  The lock is then filled with water to raise the ship.  When the lock is full, the upper doors open and the ship advances out of the lock.  While in the lock, there are lines going from the ship to the shore which are constantly tended.  As the ship rises, the lines aboard need to be heaved in to keep the ship snug against the lock wall.  Picton Castle passed through seven locks starting with the St. Lambert lock and ending with the Iroquois lock and the transit took a total of 22 hours.

Once through the locks, the ship carried on sailing in Lake Ontario and arrived in Toronto harbour on Saturday August 6th.  We’re docked at the eastern gap entrance to Toronto harbour, which means we see most of the traffic coming and going from the harbour including all of the bigger vessels.  There have been many tugs and barges, lots of sailboats, canoes, kayaks and other pleasure craft. From our berth we see the ferries going from the mainland to the Toronto Islands and we have an excellent view of the iconic Toronto skyline.

in Toronto

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Captain’s Log – Quebec City

Picton Castle made a grand entrance at Quebec City on Thursday July 28th.

As you may remember, we have been working on a project that involves a historical re-enactment, and this is the final port for that project.

Families of those aboard were standing on the shore at the harbour entrance, watching Picton Castle pass by with sails set up to the royals, shouting and waving at their loved ones aboard.  The ship continued up the St. Lawrence River to do a sail-past of Old Quebec, creating an iconic image for anyone taking photographs from the south shore of the river with a square rigger pictured in front of the old city walls and fortifications.  The ship then turned and came down the river, into the outer basin of the harbour, turned 180 degrees and came alongside the commercial pontoon at Quai 19 starboard side-to.


Picton Castle’s arrival in Quebec City marks the culmination of an epic voyage.  The passage from La Rochelle, France to New Brunswick, Canada took 39 days, following a route that took the ship as far south as 28 degrees latitude.  After a brief stay in New Brunswick, it was another six days at sea to reach Quebec City.  While this was a re-enactment, it was also very much the real thing.  Sailing transatlantic in a square rigger is rare these days and everyone aboard seems bolstered by the confidence of having done just this.20160728_095245_resized

Quebec City is a fitting end for a “historical” voyage.  It’s one of the oldest European settlements in North America, founded in 1608 by explorer Samuel de Champlain and it maintains much of its historic architecture and layout today, making it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Quebec is also the site of one of Canada’s few battles, the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, where in 1759 the British defeated the French.

The walls around the old city, which still exist now, were first built in the 1600s and built upon and improved over the coming centuries by both the British and the French, including the construction of a citadel.

It’s also a fantastic port for a sailor on his or her day off duty.  The narrow streets and old stone buildings have many hidden corners and alleyways to discover.  The food and drinks are excellent and there seems to be something interesting going on at every corner.  We’ve seen street performers in the evenings juggling fire, slacklining and doing acrobatics (although not all at the same time).  Quebec attracts thousands if not millions of tourists every year so people are welcoming and readily offer assistance.


Our ship is drawing quite a crowd in Quebec, with a photo in the local newspaper on Friday with a brief story about our arrival.  Picton Castle will be back in Quebec in 2017 for the Rendezvous 2017 tall ships event, as part of a large fleet of ships.  Although we haven’t been able to welcome the public aboard during this visit, we look forward to doing that next summer.

As usual, ship’s work continues as the crew on duty look after our ship.

As I type this in the ship’s office aboard (my favourite work location!), the crew are taking advantage of the good weather to oil the decks on the quarterdeck and foc’sle head, after yesterday’s on duty watch sanded and varnished the two aft deck boxes and the taff rail at the forward end of the quarterdeck.20160730_114409_resized


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