Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Atlantic Voyage 2012-2013' Category

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Spring In Full Gear

By Chief Mate Michael Moreland

A true Nova Scotia Spring is in full effect here in Lunenburg with all the seasonal weather swings and general flurry of activity that accompanies the lead up to another Picton Castle voyage. The waterfront seems to get a little livelier each week as more crew and friends of the ship show up to join the effort of up-rig and voyage outfitting. The Picton Castle voyage crew showed up in Lunenburg about three weeks ago from all parts of the world with their seabags on their shoulders and knifes and spikes ready to go. Together, we have hit the ground running and have been getting a good deal of work done.

Heat is on in the warehouse and reggae music accompanies the crew as they varnish spars, overhaul wire running rigging, and sort and organize ship’s supplies during our random bouts with winter and snow. But every few days the sun comes out and heats up the wood on deck and aloft, allowing us to get as much coating on as possible before winter comes around again. We have several new crew and a few returning crew that we believe are shaping up nicely and working strong together. We will be posting full crew biographies on the website soon.

We also had a group of 6 students from the Maine Maritme Academy who chose to come and rig on Picton Castle in cold Lunenburg for their school Spring Break instead of say, sitting on the beach in Jamaica or Florida. Our kind of people. We had interesting projects lined up for this keen group of aspiring tall ship sailors, including sending down the mizzen topmast, setting up the fore t’gallant mast, oiling and tarring masts and rigging, as well as many other maintenance jobs that the ship was grateful for. They also had the opportunity to get a full tour of the Bluenose II, currently being rebuilt right here in Lunenburg, as well as a thorough tour of the Twin Schooners at the Dory Shop, and lastly a fully guided tour of the famous Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic by the head curator, Ralph Getson. We were very pleased the outcome of this week-long visit and are hoping to further the connection between Picton Castle and the Maine Maritime Academy.

We also have a contingent of former trainees from the Danish State Training Ship Danmark coming to sail and serve aboard the Picton Castle this summer during our Tall Ships tour of North America. We think this will be a good addition of aspiring mariners from Denmark who will bring with them three months of experience onboard a world class full-rigged square-rigger and add to our growing Danish contingent onboard.

Currently the Picton Castle is in drydock here at the great shipyard, Lunenburg Foundry. Our normal haul-out with the usual maintenance program is going along smoothly, including power washing the hull, sand-blasting the waterline, coats of epoxy paint on spots of the hull, two coats of strong anti-fouling paint to keep her clean below the waterline as we sit in tropical lagoons, audio gauging of the hull for our records and so on. The Picton Castle crew have been using this past week’s unseasonably warm, sunny weather to get lots and lots of varnish, paint, and oil on all parts of the ship that have been weathering the cold Lunenburg winter, all the while the Foundry gang goes at their work 30 feet below on the slip. It has truly been a flurry of activity and good work that the ship loves.

We plan to be off the slip this Wednesday and then we will switch into up-rig mode with yards to cross, manila running rigging to reeve off, cotton canvas sails to bend, and supplies to load. As well as safety drills and orientation, annual survey and checking of all systems. Our gang of crew and trainees will steadily grow until we cast off in the middle of April, bound for warm Savannah, Georgia to begin our summer voyage of the East Coast of North America.

MMA crew
sending down the mizzen topmast
Siri, Sam and Susie priming our starboard anchor
swaying down mizzen topmast
the gang working turnbuckles for the headstays
tour of Bluenose II
warm day at the shipyard

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Going Into Drydock

Getting into dry dock is an interesting process that started yesterday morning with heaving up the port anchor and four shots of chain. That anchor was set last June, so you can imagine the amount of muck we lifted as the anchor was raised. With just a small crew on hand and no substitutes on the windlass, let’s just say the crew got some exercise and slept well last night.

After a short trip down the waterfront, the Captain got the ship lined up in the cradle, lines were adjusted until the ship was dead centre, then the cradle was hauled out of the water by giant chains. After a check by the scuba divers to make sure everything was properly aligned, the blocks under the bilge were put in place and the cradle continued to be hauled up until it was on solid ground, and the ship completely out of the water.

We expect to have the ship out of the water for about a week for routine inspection and maintenance. Use the link below to see a short video of moving the ship into drydock.

Picton Castle Going Into Drydock

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The Countdown is On!

The countdown to the start of the Atlantic Voyage is on. By this date one month from now, trainee crew members will have gathered in Lunenburg to begin orientation, training and preparation before setting sail for Bermuda. That’s exciting! It also means that we have a lot of things to do in the next month to prepare for the start of the voyage. With most of the professional crew arriving last week and this week, we’re really going to see progress happen quickly.

Last week we were also been joined by a group of students from Maine Maritime Academy, here in Nova Scotia on a reading week field trip that has involved some hands-on adventures with Picton Castle. Yesterday they joined with our professional crew to learn how to send down the mizzen topmast so it can be properly inspected and overhauled.

Winter has been generally quite mild here in Lunenburg, with today being almost spring-like at 12 degrees Celsius and sun shining brightly. Weather like this allows us to work on some of the projects that are easier and more comfortable in warmer weather, things like scraping, sanding and varnishing the jibboom, scraping down and greasing the t’gallant masts.

Of course, we’re also working with the crew, including those who are new to Picton Castle and those who are returning, on training and orientation. There’s the ship herself with which to become familiar, and also all of our standard operating procedures and policies, emergency drills, training outlines and more.

The anticipation is certainly building – we’re getting excited about the voyage!

alongside with work happening aloft and no mizzen topmast
scraping the jibboom
scraping the main t gallant mast
the mizzen without the mizzen topmast

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Announcing The Summer 2012 Itinerary

We love when a plan comes together. Especially when that plan is full of fun, interesting ports, some we’ve been to before and some new places, adequate time for sailing and lots of opportunities to share our barque with people. Bring on the summer of 2012!

It’s been a busy time here in the Picton Castle office as we’ve been working out the details of our voyage plan. Making arrangements with ports, measuring distances and calculating speed of advance, weighing the options for how best to give people a chance to join us on board this summer. I must admit I’m pleased with the results. Here’s how it has all worked out:

Leg 1A – Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada to St. George’s, Bermuda – April 9 to April 21

Leg 1B – St. George’s, Bermuda to Savannah, Georgia, USA – April 21 to May 5

Leg 1C – Savannah, Georgia, USA to New York City, USA – May 5 to May 19

Leg 1D – New York City, USA to Greenport, New York, USA – May 19 to May 26

Leg 1E – Greenport, New York, USA to Norfolk, Virginia, USA – May 26 to June 9

Leg 1F – Norfolk, Virginia, USA to Newport, Rhode Island, USA – June 9 to June 23

Leg 1H – Newport, Rhode Island, USA to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada – July 7 to July 21

Leg 1I – Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada to Dublin, Ireland – July 21 to August 25

Most of the legs of the voyage are two weeks in length, with one one-week leg from New York City to Greenport, on Long Island. These are ideal opportunities for anyone who has been dreaming of sailing a square-rigger to give it a try. As always, everyone aboard is a working crew member, standing watches and participating in all aspects of sailing the ship. This could also be an introduction to tall ship sailing – maybe you’re considering a longer voyage and want to take a taste test first to make sure you like it as much as you think you will. Or perhaps you’ve sailed with us before and want to get back to it again!

And, for the first time ever, you could join us on a transatlantic passage. Step aboard in Halifax, then spend the next week sailing along Nova Scotia’s coast while being fully trained and prepared for the transatlantic crossing from Nova Scotia to Ireland. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be out of sight of land for weeks at a time, able to focus solely on the ship and increasing your level of skill in traditional seamanship, this is your chance.

Applications are now being accepted for this summer’s offerings, and we continue to accept applications for Legs 2 and 3 of the voyage in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and the Spanish Main.

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The holiday season is over, we’ve all recovered from eating far too much and it’s time to look ahead to what 2012 has to bring. Here in the Picton Castle office, we’re already working months ahead, fast forwarding to April of this year when we’ll start our next year-long voyage.

After a week or so in Lunenburg for orientation and training, we’ll sail south, crossing the Gulf Stream on our way to Bermuda. We’ll make a right turn there, bound for the coast of the United States where we’ll meet up with a fleet of gorgeous international tall ships and their crew. Sailing into Savannah will be breathtaking as we see these ships, with which we’ll sail in company for the next couple of months, for the first time. As a fleet, we’ll make our way along the American coast, stopping in port cities, towns and villages that love tall ships. What a treat it will be to be embraced warmly by people who are already looking forward to the summer when the tall ships come to their home town. And to sail in as crew? Truly an incredible experience.

After Tall Ships Nova Scotia, Picton Castle and her crew will part ways with the other vessels, setting out on our own for a transatlantic passage. After a series of shorter passages along the coast, we’ll be ready for the wide open spaces and endless water and sky that a deep-water, ocean-crossing passage provides. By late August, we’ll make landfall in Ireland, calling first at Baltimore, a tiny town with lush green hills and cozy pubs, then Dublin, in time to catch up with a different international fleet of mostly European-based ships as we wrap up Leg 1 of the voyage and begin Leg 2.

The late summer and early fall will see Picton Castle explore Europe, calling first at Milford Haven, Wales, the closest port to the actual medieval Picton Castle for which our ship is named. We’ll sail up the English Channel to the Kiel Canal and, after a brief stop in Germany, it’s up into the Baltic to square-rig Mecca in the Aaland Islands. We’ll get to know Mariehamn, the port from which Gustaf Erikson’s fleet of square-riggers, which continued to operate commercially into the 1940s, sailed. Bringing our square-rigger there to join the Pommern, which is a permanent exhibit at the maritime museum, won’t replicate the twenty-or-so square rigged vessels that shared the harbour only 65 years ago, but it’s a good start and Picton Castle will fit right in.

From the Aaland Islands, the most northerly point in the entire voyage, we’ll begin our slow move south, stopping at Copenhagen before leaving the Baltic behind in favour of the North Sea and then the English Channel. We’ll put in to ports in Spain and Portugal, heading ever south toward exotic Africa. During Picton Castle‘s last visit to Morocco, the crew made friends who were heading out into the desert by camel shortly after we sailed away, we hope to maybe join them this time around. And the strong-willed saleswomen of Dakar are sure to welcome the crew, especially Donald (who, luckily, likes souveniers anyway).

Just as the idea of exploring all of Africa becomes overwhelming, we’ll head to sea once more. The mid-Atlantic tradewinds will guide us along, perhaps we’ll be able to set stuns’ls and, with the right conditions, we may not have to use the engine at all as we cross from the Old World to the New. When we reach the islands of the Lesser Antilles on the other side of the Atlantic we’ll change modes again, with short passages between islands that call for lots of sail handling and almost constant exercising of the anchor. These are islands that Picton Castle knows well. We look forward to seeing old friends, checking in on some of our favourite boats (Carriacou sloops!), and visiting places again that kind of feel like home to us.

Passages will get longer as we criss-cross the Caribbean Sea, south to Bonaire and Curacao, north to the Dominican Republic, south to Cartagena, Colombia. Along the rarely-explored Spanish Main, we will begin to see the Old World firmly tied to the new, in architecture, art, music and culture that strongly resembles what we experienced first-hand in Spain only months before. In Panama we’ll explore the Canal Zone, one of the most amazing man-made geographical features in the world. Following the coast of Central America we’ll visit islands off Honduras and then Cozumel, from which the crew can explore the magic of the Mexican Yucatan peninsula. Then comes Cuba, with its gorgeous old buildings and captivating rhythms.

The islands of the Bahamas will be the final port of call before heading north again, bound for Lunenburg, where it all began a year ago.

The places we’ll go in 2012 (okay, and 2013) will be amazing. What’s even better is sailing there yourself. Being part of the crew, earning your way to each of these incredible international gems, is what makes this voyage unique. Anyone can fly to most of these spots but I guarantee they’ll have a different experience than those of us who stepped off the ship and onto land.

Maybe 2012 is your year. Your year to see the world, or at least a part of it, to finally do something that you’ve been dreaming of forever.

Sail for the full year, a four-month leg of the voyage or for as little as two weeks.

camel, ready for riding
donald in panama
PICTON CASTLE at anchor in Anguilla~0
Tall ships!

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