Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Back-to-Back Transatlantics Voyage' Category

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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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Day’s Run – 8 May, 2016

REMARKS: After a night of sailing in moderate conditions under Topsails and Courses (still with the ever present fog) this morning it came on to blow fresh. By 1100 the wind was up to Force 8 from the South and all hands were called to take in and furl Upper Topsails and the Mainsail. As the conditions continued to build the crew on deck busied themselves rigging more safety gear, nets, heavy hatch cover and straps. This is a lot of weather for the start of a voyage but the officers and crew were well in control of the situation and good work was done by all hands.

Our gale of wind was short lived however, by 1600 it had moderated and we had set Upper Topsails, Mainsail, Spanker and Jibs. Much to everyone’s delight the fog cleared off in the evening to reveal a beautiful sunset. Not a bad way to finish up a long day.


SHIP’S WORK: Watches drill in handling the Mainsail. Replaced the Starboard Foretack.


FROM: Lunenburg, NS, Canada

TOWARDS: La Rochelle, France


NOON POSITION: 43°31.7’N /057°49.8’W

DAYS RUN: 129nm




WIND: S x W , Force 8

WEATHER: Fog and Rain, air temp: 11°C, water temp: 8°C

SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: 10 to 12 ft, from the S and SW

SAILS SET: Lower Topsails, Foresail, Fore and Main Topmast Staysails and Mizzen Staysail

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Day’s Run – 7 May, 2016

This day finds us continuing to motor sail to the ESE with cold rain and fog. What wind there was has gone away and we have taken in all square sail. The sea conditions have calm down too from the day before and most of the crew who were feeling the sea sickness yesterday are looking more alive today. Most of the watches are still engaged in learning to improve their steering skills under the guidance of the watch leaders  and keep a proper lookout. The lookouts have been doubled up most of the time as visibility is reduced in the fog.

As the day wore on the wind gradually filled in and at the end of the afternoon watch we set Topsails, Courses and the Inner Jib and shut down the engine.

Optimized - day 5 - lunenburg

SHIP’S WORK: Repair work to the Fore Topmast Staysail, replace the Mizzen Staysail downhaul.


FROM: Lunenburg, NS, Canada

TOWARDS: La Rochelle, France


NOON POSITION: 43°18.2’N / 060°33.1’W

DAYS RUN: 146nm




WIND: SE, Force 2

WEATHER: Fog and drizzle, air temp: 5°C, water temp: 7°C


SAILS SET: Fore and Main Topmast Staysails

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Day’s Run – 6 May 2016

Picton Castle hove up anchor this morning from Rose Bay outbound for sea. We started our voyage to La Rochelle, France yesterday departing from our wharf in Lunenburg Harbour in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada a little after 3pm. We then anchored up for the night with a view to getting the crew one more night to get used to the ship without the distractions of being tied to land, and getting in one more round of safety drills before setting out across the North Atlantic. With a light southerly wind making up we steamed out of the bay past Cross Island and set some sail to steady the ship out against the confused swell. While everybody is anxious to get the ship sailing, it’s good to get some miles under our belt and get well clear of the coast with its associated traffic and fog.

SHIP’S WORK: Stowing and Lashing down for sea. The crew is otherwise involved in learning lookout and helm procedures as well as learning their lines of running rigging throughout the night watches.

FROM: Lunenburg, NS, Canada
TOWARDS: La Rochelle, France
NOON POSITION: 44°10.3’N /063°47.0’W
DAYS RUN: 22nm
WIND: SSW, Force 4
WEATHER: Fog and drizzle, air temp: 7°C, water temp: 6°C
SWELL HEIGHT & DIRECTION: 8 to 10 ft, from the SW and SE
SAILS SET: Topsails, Foresail, Fore and Main Topmast Staysails and Inner Jib

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Departing Lunenburg – 5 May 2016

We set sail from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada this afternoon, bound for La Rochelle, France to start the first passage of the Back-to-Back Transatlantics Voyage. It’s damp and foggy today, but the weather looks fair for the next few days. Thank you to everyone in Lunenburg who continues to support what we do. We love our home town and look forward to returning later this summer.

Picton Castle departs Lunenburg 5 May 2016

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