Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Summer Trip 2006' Category

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Off Africa

Las Palmas

Las Palmas is a huge modern port. Of everywhere we have gone in the past few months we have been impressed by the Spanish port infrastructure as being solid and up to date. The Picton Castle put in here to see what the place was like and because there really aren’t many anchorages in the Canary Islands for a ship like this one. On an overcast day the ship sailed right up to the huge breakwater under topsails in good sized seas before ducking around the corner into the smooth shelter of the large harbour. We had a good passage from Essaouira, Morocco. We dropped the hook in the designated anchorage inside the breakwater but it became immediately clear that with all the yachts anchored there as well that this would not be a good, secure berth for the Picton Castle. It would have been fine if we had it to ourselves, but this was, naturally, not to be. If we dragged or even swung one way we would damage yachts, another direction lay a stone breakwater and in the last direction lay the harbour limits where anchored ships could not be. The weather, although getting warmer, was predicted to be unsettled, making our swing around all the more likely. Soon enough we arranged to go along side at the head of the harbour. After we got safely moored it picked up to blow pretty hard for a few days. There was a certain amount of surge at the wharf keeping the duty watch busy with chafe gear and replacing a parted hawser, even though our hawsers are quite oversized. This condition was partly due to our location in the basin – but that is where the port authorities wanted us as other ships were coming and going and there was no place to anchor. So it goes.

Full Rigged Ship Danmark and Best Dressed Dogs

To our delight and surprise the Danish State Full Rigged Schoolship Danmark was in port too, along with the English Barque Tenacious. It turns out that the Danmark was in winter lay-up in climes a bit more benign than winter in Denmark. Our crew met up and traded ship tours. Also the German Brig Roald Amundsen pulled in for a day with a medical issue to attend. Again crews traded ship tours. Las Palmas was great for Christmas shopping, getting laundry done, phoning home (very cheap), catching up on emailing and internet stuff which is so important today, people watching and generally hanging out with your shipmates. We had to get some visas sorted out for Senegal for some of our crew and, of course, there was minor shopping for the ship. Las Palmas seems to be a Mecca for every manner of bohemian and alternative lifestyle. You see some of the most remarkable outfits on people and the little dogs too. Best dressed dogs we have ever seen. All was friendly and peaceful and pleasant.

Isla Gomera

We just sailed from the island of Gomera in the south of the Canaries group here. After a fine overnight sail from Las Palmas we anchored at a little place called Vueltas or Punta Trigo on the SW coast which was quite dramatic. We have the Christmas music playing all the time in the hopes that it will become annoying to all onboard, therefore fulfilling a longstanding Christmas season tradition. We have a little tiny Picton Castle Christmas tree with little red maple leaves on it and all the ship pins collected at tall ship events on it as ornaments including Schooner Bluenose II pins and a little uniform-cap gold fouled anchor from the Russian 4-masted bark Sedov at the top – looks pretty sharp. It is, however, a bit odd to listen to the Platters sing Jingle Bells out here at sea off Africa, this is so on so many different levels. Crew have been baking on night-watches so there are plenty of Christmas cookies about.

Work Onboard

Sailmaking is proceeding apace with the bending of a new hand sewn spanker, just finished. The forward head on the port side of the focsle got stripped down to bare metal and is being smoothly overhauled. Soon at work on a new topmast studding sail boom. Our 20 foot wooden skiff just got a complete overhaul bottom-side up on the hatch and caulking, now tight like a drum. We have a good gang aboard, all keen about the ship and seagoing. We should be on the edge of the tradewinds but we have an upper level low developing over us promising light southerly winds. So we may need to motor a day to get to a breeze. It’s about 800+ miles to Senegal and should be a good sail and conserving fuel is a huge priority these days. We topped up on diesel at Gibraltar and want that gas stop to last the rest of the trip… this just in – winds have faired and picked up and now the ship is bowling along to the SSW as she should be.

Canaries – A Classic Transatlantic Port of Call

All said and done the Canaries are alright – all the eastern Atlantic islands are weak on good anchorages and are very European even off Africa. Our crew have had a really good and interesting time here. Pretty logical to put in here if making a western-bound Atlantic passage from Europe or the Med and do not really have a taste for adventure. There really is not a hint here that you are off Africa – this is a Spanish Mediterranean sorta place with all the tiled piazzas, architecture and sidewalk cafes. More Africans in Copenhagen than here. Lots of dramatic scenery, though. Gomera reminds us of St. Helena, which is not a complete shock as it’s part of the same geological system, the mid-Atlantic ridge. High steep volcanic rocks (astern of us not more 150 yards the cliff goes straight up to 1400 feet in dry striated brownish rock). It’s all dry and shrubbery except curious little damp micro climates here and there with both cactus and palm trees. Seems that there is a patch of unique pre-Ice Age forest on the top here, the last anywhere, very special woods is this. We can only imagine what rare Galapagos type uniqueness must have been specific to all these islands a long time ago. Mauritius had the Dodo, what was on these islands including Madeira and Azores a heap of years ago before we paddled our canoes out here? Plenty of northern Europeans trying to stay warm here, a few stalwarts from the 1960s holding fast to lifestyles and ideals, winter and full time residents here, all very nice and friendly though rarely a word of Spanish to be overheard. Exquisite wooden fishing boats here, 20-30 foot open launches beautifully modeled and put together and beautifully painted and kept up.

Back at Sea

Now, in good winds out of the ENE and fine balmy temperatures of 22c /71f and sea temps to match we are happily at sea under all sail. Seas are modest and the sky is plenty blue with a enough puffy white clouds to be encouraging. The mates are starting celestial navigation classes. We have broken off ‘daymen’ to work and thus learn more about sailmaking, rigging and engineering. Christmas preparations are moving ahead as we sail onwards.

Bound Ever South and Westward

Many vessels, when sailing for the West Indies, make the Canaries their last eastern Atlantic port before heading off to the west. This was Columbus’s plan and route and he made four such voyages over twelve years. There must be ruts in the ocean hereabouts from all the ships of the 19th century and yachts later from this passage.

Beautiful valley and beach, La gomera
Danmark and Picton Castle alongside in Las Palmas
Dave lays out a t gallant, Las Palmas
Dry, terraced hills, La Gomera
La Gomera countryside
Local craft, La Gomera
Putting the finishing touches on the skiff, Las Palmas
The stunning anchorage at La Gomera

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If You Are What You Eat, We’re Caribbean!

Donald Church, cook on the Picton Castle, is from Grenada. He worked as chef on eight cruise ships over a 20-year period. We met him through the Captain’s mutual friends when we were looking to hire a cook in the beginning of January while the ship was in Grenada. Having a cook from the Caribbean is a huge benefit for us for several reasons. Donald knows the local ingredients and how to use them to make tasty dishes. Not only does he know what to do with foods like soursop, plantain, sweet potato, and coconuts, he also uses lots of different spices to flavour his dishes. He knows the appropriate price to pay for fruit and veggies in the markets, and if the price is too high he can bargain or walk away, knowing that he’ll get the same thing for a better price elsewhere. He still talks about the outrageous price of coconuts in Antigua, $5 EC for one there and $1 EC almost anywhere else in the Caribbean. EC is Eastern Caribbean currency, which is about $2.50 to $1 Canadian.

Donald has developed a few signature dishes—things he makes often and well. He prefers to cook chicken and fish over beef or other red meats. Donald’s fried chicken is legendary amongst the crew, as are the potato wedges he often makes to go with it. Rice and peas are a Caribbean staple, as is cabbage salad. Plantain can be fried, baked or boiled (in the skin). Macaroni and cheese, which Donald calls “macaroni pie,” is often served for lunch. He almost always cuts up fruit to serve with breakfast, including grapefruit, oranges, soursop, watermelon, mangoes, papaya or whatever else we have at the time. Nadja showed him how to make crepes, which he often does along with oatmeal or cornmeal porridge.

Every meal has a great variety of things to eat. The long counters on top of the veggie lockers on the aloha deck are brimming with bowls and pans of different things; there’s hardly enough space for it all. Meals on the Picton Castle are served buffet style, starting with cutlery and plates or bowls (most people choose bowls, especially on swelly days at sea, so they can keep their meal from sliding off), then all the different dishes that make up the meal with serving spoons so we can choose what we want and serve ourselves. The scullery is full of a variety of condiments, everything from hot sauce to chutney, salt and pepper to salad dressing—anything someone could possibly want to add to their food. Condiments appropriate for the meal go at the end of the buffet line. It’s always interesting to see how people combine what’s offered at each meal, and it’s rare for two bowls or plates to look the same.

To give you an example of what the crew eats, here’s what was served today:

  • orange wedges
  • grapefruit wedges
  • watermelon slices
  • crepes
  • hard boiled eggs
  • garlic toast (a bit unconventional, but really tasty)
  • macaroni pie
  • mixed beans
  • leftover cabbage salad with pickles
  • leftover couscous
  • canned peaches
  • rice and black beans
  • mixed beans with tomato and onion
  • boiled plantains in the skin
  • plantain cake with raisins
  • fruit cocktail
  • leftover macaroni pie
  • leftover cabbage salad
  • leftover couscous

And we may see some awesome fried chicken…

And Mr. church is a great shipmate to boot!

Donald in the scullery
Donald negotiates in the market
macaroni pie, boiled plantain, and plantain cake

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Arrival at Roseau, Dominica

Shopping at the market in the West Indies with the Picton Castle‘s Grenadian cook, Donald, is a whirlwind experience. We had been told by everyone we asked that Friday and Saturday were the best days of the week to shop at the fresh produce market in Roseau, Dominica. Our driver first suggested he pick us up at 0600 because all the best fruits and vegetables were available first thing in the morning, but we compromised and went after breakfast. Asking around paid off as we found the market was full of vendors and shoppers on Friday morning. There were a number of cement buildings, but most stands were outdoors under brightly coloured patio umbrellas. Each vendor had a table about 6 x 6 feet, piled high with fruits and vegetables of all sizes and shapes. In and amongst the stands were crowds of people—those busy selling their wares and those even more busy buying. Donald got right to work, spying some good-looking cabbage and watermelon at a stand in the middle of the action. He negotiated while the vendors weighed what he chose, each tomato and pepper picked out because it was the best in the bunch. I followed along behind, distracted by all the noise of people asking how much for a bunch of this or a kilogram of that, paying for our purchases, and helping to carry the growing number of bags. We bought everything from parsley to hot peppers, watermelon to watercress. Our final purchase was a branch of 18 young coconuts, filled with sweet coconut water.

The Picton Castle is anchored just south of Roseau, the capital city of the island nation of Dominica. The anchorage is a bit difficult because the bottom is very deep, even close to shore. Logan took sounding after sounding on the way into the anchorage, the end of the lead line not even touching bottom until a couple of hundred feet off shore. We were guided to the only spot that would be suitable for us by some local guys who came out to meet us in their small but fast motorboat. (Sea Cloud, a four-masted barque, was anchored here when we arrived on Wednesday afternoon but left that same evening.) We finally found a useable anchorage and the off watch wasted no time getting ashore. We found out that the big party that evening was going to be at a hotel right near where we anchored, and it featured live calypso music by a band warming up for Carnival. The biggest, month-long event on the island begins on Saturday evening with a huge party in the streets of Roseau and runs through until just before Ash Wednesday with competitions for bands, beauty pageants, and “jump-ups.” We have seen preparations for Carnival everywhere—people walking through the streets with shiny costumes in hand, fields being turned into music stages.

Dominica’s best asset, besides the people, is its natural environment, with 365 rivers on the island and plenty of freshwater lakes, waterfalls, and hot springs. Many of our crew have been to see Trafalgar Falls, the biggest on the island. It features two natural pools right near each other, one with cool refreshing waterfall water, and one with warm relaxing water from a hot spring. Trois Pitons, a national park right outside of Roseau, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island is extremely mountainous and lush, with very few people living in the interior. One of the island’s most famous features is the boiling lake; to hike to it and back takes a full day.

There has been plenty of action on the ship for the crew on watch. We all take turns looking after the ship on anchor watches at night, and we have been particularly vigilant here because of our proximity to land. During the days we have had a variety of projects going on. Joe continues to work on the ship’s main skiff, making repairs with body filler and fiberglass. A number of crew were in the spare skiff today, painting along the waterline. Emma has scraped, sanded and varnished the wheel box cover. New hands received instruction in tackles as we shifted boats on top of the galley house. Chief Engineer MacGregor went for a swim to examine the propeller, while Andrea has done a monthly check on the batteries. Nadja continues to practice her boat-driving skills as the coxswain of the skiff. All of this has happened as crew are continually standing by in this unusually deep anchorage close to the shore. It is beautiful here under the tall mountains covered with jungle.

Donald in the galley, Martiniqe
Kip at the wheel with Sea Cloud behind us
PC at anchor, Dominica

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Back In Lunenburg

As I write this Captain’s log the Picton Castle is tugging on her moorings at her old wharf in Lunenburg with a southeasterly gale roaring along the coast. The fishing vessels Primo and Zebroid, who share our wharf, do the same. Violent rain squalls are blowing hard horizontally across the harbour. Skies and white-cap-spattered seas in the harbour are a uniform battleship grey. The black scallop draggers of Adams & Knickle steamed in and discharged their catch this morning, and they too are having a bit of a ride at the wharf. The ships have all their hawsers doubled up, as well they should. Out in the harbour a couple of small schooners and even an old black Newfoundland schooner are bucking and jerking at their moorings. But inside our office at 132 Montague Street, overlooking Bluenose Drive and the wharves, all is warm and dry. Nice not to be clawing off a lee shore just now.

The Picton Castle has her sails off, sent down and stowed below for the time being. All her yards are still crossed; the running rigging is still rove off in anticipation for her passage south to the Caribbean, planned for the end of November. It is quite amazing to think that only two or three days’ sail due south from Nova Scotia a vessel crosses the Gulf Stream and sails into beautiful warm waters and then soon into the northeast trade-winds followed by some of the best islands in the world in the West Indies. Sign ups are coming along nicely. Wouldn’t you rather spend a sweet Christmas time in the Grenadines wearing shorts, tee-shirts or a sarong? And skipping the madness and commercialism of the holiday period? Bring a pal and sail with us this Yule time in the Christmas Winds of the Windward Isles of the Caribbean. My favorite Christmas-times have always been with a tropical sun and a trade-wind blowing to cool me, barefoot and suntanned, in the lee of a beautiful coconut-palm-covered island.

Along the waterfront

The Schooner Bluenose II

is hauled out at the Lunenburg slipways for her annual dry-docking. One glance at her sleek hull-form below the waterline and any mystery concerning her swift sailing capability should be quickly dispelled. The gang from Snyder’s Shipbuilding over in Dayspring is doing some routine caulking. The ring of caulking mallets against iron, driving tarry oakum in between her hard oak planks, fills the air of the shipyard once again. It is an interesting opportunity for our crew to go over to the slipways, watch and learn something about the trade and hard work of caulking. The Bluenose II is “flat-roofed,” that is, she has her topmasts sent down. In the old days this was sometimes called the “winter-rig,” as the fishing schooners rarely carried their topmasts in the winter fishing season. Anyway, it is quite a sight to see that big, sleek powerful schooner out of the water.

The Old Dory Shop…

right next to the Picton Castle wharf in the east end of the waterfront is still making wood-chips and putting out dories and other small wooden boats. Jay, the boatwright, is working on a “transom dory.” This is simply a regular dory but with the high tombstone stern replaced with a broad transom that will take an outboard easily. This will make a good run-about utility recreation-fishing workboat. I always had a boat like this (bought 2nd-3rd hand for a short song from the local boat livery) when I was a kid for messing around the islands nearby. It was seaworthy, fast, easy to handle, and could carry a ton of stuff—we will be interested to see how it comes out (

Schooner Races

The Great September Classic Schooner Race has come and gone. About a dozen schooners from the area sailed off their moorings in Lunenburg Harbour a week and a half ago, out into the bay, rounded Cross Island and made a majestic sight sailing back in with the well-named Schooner Comet II taking line honours.

Many sweet schooners sailed into Lunenburg for this gathering. The day broke fair and clear with a fine westerly breeze. While the schooners were out racing, some Picton Castle crew were setting up the big barbeque and roasting the mutton at the Dory Shop. Our old dugout served once again as beer cooler. The post-race feast lasted into the wee hours with music, plenty food and drink and good time had by all at this salty corner of Lunenburg Harbour. We want to see schooners being built here once again.

Chibley the Cat…

Is moping around a little without her shipmates. She is used to having 40-50 people around to adore her. Now she is down to four, none of whom are on night watch when she comes out to prowl. She has been modeling clothes lately but with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm. She is waiting for the new gang to show up, I suppose.

A working waterfront
Bluenose II cleaning, Lunenburg, mid October 06
Bluenose II in drydock, lunenburg, mid October 06
Kathleen, Ian, Scott, Nadja and Chloe carry a sail lunenburg
Lunenburg Dories with Picton Castle
PC, Primo, and Zebroid docked in Lunenburg

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Summerside to Lunenburg

The Picton Castle is once again securely tied up in her home port of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. The ship sailed in Friday, September 22, rounding Battery Point on the way into Lunenburg Harbour at 1800. The Captain brought the ship in across the top of our dock then backed in alongside, starboard side to. We made all the dock lines secure before squaring the yards and stowing the sails for the last time this voyage. There was a small crowd on the dock to meet us, giving the usual cheer once all the dock lines were fast and the main engine was shut off.

We had an interesting last week of the summer voyage. Shortly after leaving Summerside we passed under the Confederation Bridge, which connects Prince Edward Island to the mainland. We passed under this 13-km bridge going the other way about 3 months before, but it’s still amazing to see how long and narrow it is. We motored through the Northumberland Strait, heading towards the Strait of Canso, which separates Cape Breton Island from mainland Nova Scotia. At Canso we went through the final lock of our journey. Because there is only one shallow lock at Canso we didn’t make all our usual lock preparations, but instead had tire fenders standing by to keep the ship off the lock walls. It went smoothly, as it should have after all the lock experience we earned in the St. Lawrence River and Welland Canal.

On the Picton Castle, as on any ship, we are constantly concerned about the weather. We had received reports that the wind would blow quite hard from the direction we planned to head, so on Tuesday night we sought shelter in Arichat Harbour on the SW coast of Cape Breton. The wind picked up to gale force, as expected, so on Wednesday morning we went alongside at the wharf of Premium Seafoods Ltd. in Arichat before it really started to blow. They were kind enough to allow us to stay, and the crew experienced the generosity and hospitality for which Cape Bretoners are famous. People kept showing up at the wharf to check out the ship and offer rides or assistance.

Thursday morning we headed out of Arichat to make the final part of our journey down the Nova Scotia coast towards Lunenburg. The wind was still coming from dead ahead of us, but we pushed on under motor anyway. The swells were quite large compared to what we have been experiencing lately inland, and it was truly a reminder that we were in the ocean again. A number of folks on board were feeling a bit green because of the motion of the ship, but there were hardly any complaints. Early Friday morning the swells began to lay down a bit and people started to get used to it, although it was still overcast and cold. The highlight of the last week of the voyage was actually sailing for a few hours on Friday afternoon, heading towards Cross Island and Lunenburg. The sun had come out by then and, although it was still cold, the crew got one last chance to enjoy the wind in our hair, the sun on our faces, and salt spray on our skin as the ship heeled over to port and wind filled the sails.

Most trainees left over the weekend. Those who have stayed are being put to work along with the experienced crew. Saturday all the cargo from the hold was unloaded and moved it into the warehouse. This is always a big job that requires lots of organization, people, and muscles. The job was finished by the middle of the afternoon and the crew got to start their day off a bit early. This weekend the Pride of Baltimore II came into Lunenburg to wait out some rough weather on their trip towards home. The Pride II participated in all the tall ship festivals with us this summer and it was good to see some familiar faces again. The crew had a chance to relax on Sunday, getting to visit our favourite places and people in Lunenburg. The work list for this week is long, and all hands were back at it again Monday morning, starting with a reorganization of the warehouse to make space to unload more things from the ship and loosing sails to dry. The sails are all cotton canvas, which needs to be kept dry when not in use, so they will be sent down and stored in the warehouse until they are needed again. We have to clean and empty the hold and sole, overhaul our living spaces, paint the masts and yards, put a topcoat of paint, varnish, grease or tar in the appropriate places, and take care of all sorts of other loose ends.

The Picton Castle certainly had a busy summer, traveling a total of 4,500 nautical miles. The ship participated in 5 tall ship festivals, visiting 6 states and 4 provinces. We had more than 135 trainees on board along with 25 experienced crew. We ate 260 fantastic meals, heaved up the anchor 13 times, went through 32 locks that brought us 600 feet up and back down, and had over 100,000 visitors tour the decks. We had a good time this summer getting to know new shipmates, meeting crew from other ships, and introducing people to the Picton Castle on tours. Most important, our 135 trainees on board got to know the magic of sailing this beautiful barque, to stand watches, to steer the ship, and to learn more about the sea and themselves in the process.

Confederation Bridge over the taffrail on the way to Lunenburg
Dale, Bentley, and Kolin brace on the way to lunenburg
drying sails in lunenburg
Erin, Greg, Andrea, Amanda, Julie, Sue and Ian unload the hold in lunenburg.
Lynsey and Alex unload the hold in Lunenburg
Sails fill on the way to Lunenburg.
Scott and Ryan are ashore to catch lines.
Staff crew on the way to Lunenburg
View of Lunenburg on the way home

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Gaspe, Quebec to Summerside, Prince Edward Island

The crew of the Picton Castle enjoyed a short stay in the town of Gaspé, sailing in late Monday afternoon and leaving Wednesday morning. The ship was anchored in the middle of the bay and skiff runs dropped us off at the yacht club behind a stone breakwater. From there it was a short walk over the bridge into the commercial centre of town. Most of the downtown area was under construction, which slowed tourism for this summer, but they have hopes of drawing more people in future summers with the improvements. Many of the crew found the local bakery and a few other shops, and had a chance to practice speaking French. Those who can’t speak French didn’t have much worry though; most people in Gaspé also speak English very well.

The whole Gaspé peninsula was a beautiful sight from the ship, with leaves on some of the trees just starting to turn bright red and orange. We were lucky to have light wind from the northwest for most of the day on Wednesday, which meant we could sail out of the Bay of Gaspé. Most hands felt it was a slow sail, especially compared to the speed we had been making in the St. Lawrence River, but were happy to sail nonetheless. Just before dinner the wind shifted and we took in all sail, turning on Big Blue (the trusty diesel engine) once again.

We motored through the night and most of Thursday, arriving in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, late on Thursday afternoon. We received quite a welcome in Summerside from Ron Casey of Downtown Summerside and the Youth Ambassadors who were dressed in period costume. Ron, who is a great friend of the Picton Castle and of the Captain’s, had a ton of great things planned for us. He offered to take people out to dig clams, pick potatoes, and see the island. He also arranged a dinner on Saturday night, showers at the Silver Fox Yacht and Curling Club, and burlap potato sacks full of local maps and information for every crew member.

Friday morning I went digging for clams with Ron, the Captain and Dave (the cook). Ron took us to a good spot near the Confederation Bridge at low tide and taught us to look for the holes in the sand, stick our shovels in and carefully extract the clam. It is more difficult than I imagined because it takes a while to find the clams, and it’s tough to not crunch their shells with the shovel. Imagine hiding raw eggs in a wet sandbox and having to find them and dig them out whole with a spade. After two hours of work we had almost two buckets full of whole clams and a scattered mess of wet, sandy holes and smashed shells. We went farther down the coast to see if we could also get some oysters and mussels. They attach themselves to rocks, so instead of digging we were prying them off. Filling the bucket went more quickly this time. We took all three buckets back to the ship and let them sit with water added to them for 24 hours so the sand would come out of the shells and settle to the bottom.

On Saturday and Sunday afternoons we opened the decks for tours, and we had a huge turnout of visitors. We also happened to be in Summerside the weekend of the air show, which ran both Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 1430 until 1530. The show began with a demonstration of a sea rescue by the Coast Guard; then a single F-18 did a series of acrobatics, followed by a show from the Snowbirds—the Canadian military precision flying team of nine planes who do all sorts of tricks while flying very close together. A number of the crew watched the show from aloft, and at times the planes flew so close to the ground that people aloft on the royal yards were looking down on them! We had to stop deck tours during the air show, but we were a very popular attraction before and after the show.

Saturday night we enjoyed a traditional PEI corn and mussel boil. The corn and mussels were boiled and steamed in giant pots on propane burners on the pier, then brought aboard for people to eat. The mussels and the corn came from a local farm, and the food was fantastic. Almost the entire crew was there, along with a few invited guests. We even had entertainment with a local musician set up on the bridge to sing and play while dinner was prepared. The whole dinner was a great treat for the crew because the company was interesting, the food was hot and tasty, we could eat the whole meal with our hands, and the cleanup was minimal because we had paper plates.

Most of the crew were able to get away from the ship and see some of the island. With its red sand beaches, farms everywhere, and small fishing villages, PEI really is a beautiful place. The whole island province has only about 135,000 people. Fishing, farming and tourism make up their main economy, with most of their tourists coming in the summer. They have a few different driving routes laid out on tourist maps to include the best sights—everything from Anne of Green Gables attractions to natural scenery and quaint settlements. Definitely there is a lot to see and do on PEI.

Unfortunately it was time to say goodbye to our new friends in Summerside on Monday afternoon, as the Picton Castle headed out on the final leg of our summer voyage. We steamed out of Summerside harbour into a light easterly wind and headed out into the Northumberland Strait, passed under the new Confederation Bridge, and are now headed for the Strait of Canso and eventually Lunenburg.

Andrea, Ryan, Alex, and Ian
Being welcomed at summerside by Ron Casey and youth ambassadors
Captain Dan cuts the welcome to Summerside cake
Dave digs for clams, Summerside
Music from the bridge, Summerisde
Mussels booiling, Summerside
PEI coast
Ruth has mussels in Summerside

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Motoring Towards Gaspe

The Picton Castle is back where she belongs—at sea level in salt water. We made our way down the St. Lawrence River, passing through seven locks that brought us about 300 feet lower. As was our experience in the Welland Canal, most aspects of going down the locks are easier than going up. The only part that was significantly trickier this time was actually getting the ship positioned in the lock. On the way upbound in the locks ships enter an enclosed space where current and wind have little effect on getting the ship alongside and stopped in the appropriate place. Entering a full lock on the way downbound there is no protection from wind or current, and with the wind on the stern for most of our passage it made it tricky to get the ship to stop in a specific location (and before the gates that mark the end of the lock). Thanks to the ship handling skills of the captain, along with Danie’s quick response on the engine controls and Kathleen and Andrea M. on the helm, we made it safely down. The rest of the crew were quick to get hawsers ashore to the seaway’s line handlers, hauling and easing as required.

We had the luxury of taking the St. Lawrence at a more leisurely pace than we did on the way into the Great Lakes in July. Wednesday we passed through the Iroquois Lock, then anchored shortly after for the night. Thursday we made it through the remaining American locks, Eisenhower and Snell, as well as two Canadian locks, Upper Beauharnois and Lower Beauharnois, then stopped and anchored again for the evening. On Friday we tackled the two remaining locks (both Canadian), Côte Ste. Catherine and St. Lambert in Montreal. In the St. Lambert lock we picked up our first pilot, who got us safely across Montreal harbour. We had four more pilots with us, two who worked alone and a pair, who got us from Montreal to Escoumin. The pilots were all excellent—cheerful and friendly, and most of all very knowledgeable about the river. One of them, from Quebec City, had been on the Picton Castle going the opposite way two months ago.

We had some excitement on Friday evening as we spotted a small boat that seemed to be in need of assistance. The pilot asked the captain if we wanted to help. Yes, of course, he answered, so we slowed the ship down and gave a hand. The channel in that part of the river is reasonably wide, but just outside the channel towards shore the depth shallows considerably to only 3 or 4 feet. The channel is well marked, and we were very careful as we turned within it to go back and assist the little pleasure craft. It turns out that they just needed a jump to start their engine, which we provided gladly before continuing on our way.

One of the highlights of the trip down the St. Lawrence River has been traveling with the current. On the way upriver two months ago we were lucky to make 6 knots, often only 5, motoring against the current. Heading down means the current is with us, and pushes us faster. It’s been quite normal for our speed to hover around 9 knots, and Saturday night we may have set a new Picton Castle record as the GPS reported our speed at 15.6 knots!

We slowed down a bit on Sunday afternoon, but it didn’t matter much to anyone as we set sails and turned off the main engine for the first time at sea in a few weeks. The trainees have been hard at work studying their lines and how to set and take in sails, but there’s nothing that can compare to the experience of actually doing it. There was a normal amount of confusion for a group that has only ever practiced sail setting in port, but they are starting to really grasp how it all works. There is a lot that can be seen better once the sails are set and yesterday afternoon and evening saw lots of people looking up and pointing, often with notebooks in hand to record the details. The watch had the experience of taking in and furling all sails in the dark late Sunday night as the wind shifted and we had to turn the main engine on once again.

There has been lots of ship’s work going on lately, from tarring the rig to spot painting. There have also been a number of opportunities for impromptu workshops to happen as jobs come up that need to be done. This group of trainees is particularly keen on ship’s maintenance and are eager to learn new skills and try them out.

The weather was wet and chilly on Friday and Saturday, turning downright cold on Sunday and Monday. I believe the temperature Monday morning was 3 degrees Celsius, and the forecast was calling for a risk of frost. Crew have been digging out extra blankets to keep warm in their bunks, and trying to layer clothing for maximum warmth on watch. This has led to some interesting fashion statements, but it doesn’t matter much if it keeps the wearer warm. Long underwear has become valuable, along with layers of sweaters, jackets and socks, hats, scarves and even gloves. People have been comparing numbers of layers worn, and the average number on top seems to be somewhere between five and eight. Even the world voyage crew have all broken down and put on socks and shoes or boots, which means it’s really cold. They hate wearing anything on their feet.

Just now we are motoring along, turning towards the northwest into the Bay of Gaspé. The coastline here is stunningly beautiful. We plan to pay a short visit to the town of Gaspé, which should be beautiful. The coastline is high and rocky, lots of cliffs covered with seabirds and forested green hills rising behind.

After Gaspé the Picton Castle will head to Summerside, PEI on the weekend and then home to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Thoughts are quickly turning towards home especially for the world voyage crew, many of whom haven’t been home in almost a year and a half. As at the end of the world voyage, crew conversation has turned to airplane tickets, luggage, and future plans. Of course we’re also looking forward to seeing our friends in Lunenburg soon, enjoying dessert at the Grand Banker and a pint at The Knot. It won’t be long, and now that we’re back in salt water it feels like we’re homeward bound.

Bentley takes a break from paiting the overhead.
John on helm on the way to Gaspe
Kolin s warm coat and gloves on the way to Gaspe
Look at the speed! On the way to Gaspe
Pania teaches how to overhaul a block on the way to Gaspe
Tarring the rig on the way to Gaspe

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Chibley’s Summer Adventures

While all of you were on summer vacation, Chibley was hard at work being the ship’s cat on the Picton Castle. She traveled to some places she has been before (like Chicago) and also to some new cities and towns as the Picton Castle took part in a series of tall ships festivals in different cities on the Great Lakes. Chibley certainly had lots to keep her busy—checking out all the new trainees, promoting the hats and note cards with her picture on them, doing media interviews and greeting visitors. She is looking forward to getting home to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, so she can meet up with old friends, hang out in the warehouse, see her buddy Rocky the famous Dory Dog and relax for a while.

By the time this summer voyage is over, the Picton Castle will have been home to 136 trainees and 25 staff crew. That means a lot of work for Chibley because she needs to meet each person when they arrive. She usually approaches quietly within the first few minutes that they’re on board to introduce herself. Once they have their bunks made up and their gear unpacked and put away, she will do a thorough bunk inspection to make sure everything is neat and tidy, and to see if anyone has brought cat treats (not many people do). She tends to spend more time with the people she knows well and has been particularly excited to have Erin back on board for a few weeks. Chibley shows her excitement by sleeping in Erin’s bunk most nights, curling up on top of Erin’s feet to help keep them warm.

Chibley likes to meet visitors who come to the ship to take tours, but usually is shy with large crowds. All summer long people have been amazed that a cat has sailed around the world four times. It is a pretty amazing accomplishment and Chibley occasionally shows up on deck to greet people who have just been talking about her. Lots of guests this summer have told the crew that they have cats at home, but none as brave as Chibley. One of the highlights of Chibley’s summer was meeting the governor of the State of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm. All of the ship’s officers lined up next to the Captain to welcome the governor, and Chibley joined the line in Pania’s arms. The governor was suitably impressed by Chibley’s accomplishments and Chibley only squirmed a little in Pania’s grasp.

The Picton Castle was selling t-shirts, hats, sarongs, and a bunch of other things this summer and Chibley helped promote her own line of apparel and merchandise. There are baseball hats with her profile on the front and note cards with her picture and the words “Chibley, the only cat with a barque.” People are surprised to find out that there really is a Chibley and get quite excited when she walks through the tent where we sell stuff. Chibley decided she should be more involved with the sale of her merchandise while we were in Port Huron, Michigan, and she jumped up on the table and lay down next to her note cards. She attracted quite a crowd but refused to sign autographs.

Appearing on the evening news in Chicago was another highlight of Chibley’s summer. The reporter and camera operator arrived at the ship in the morning to interview both the captain and Chibley. The captain’s interview went smoothly, but when it was Chibley’s turn she decided to play hard to get. She jumped off the ship and ran down the dock, faster than the news crew could follow her. They waited about an hour until they saw Chibley again, and then followed her through the gardens on the dock with the camera held at human knee height. They probably got about 20 minutes of film which they edited into a news story that aired that evening. Later that night and all the next day, people stopped by to ask about the amazing sailor cat. Chibley was famous!

This summer hasn’t been all work for Chibley; she has had a chance to do some of her favourite playtime things as well. There aren’t any flying fish to catch in the Great Lakes but there have been lots of birds to chase. Chibley has also played tag with some squirrels and rabbits. With all the crew around there has been no shortage of people to rub her belly and dangle strings in front of her. Of course she has also taken plenty of naps in the sun. And she has enjoyed walks in the green grass. Chibley the sailor cat has a very good life!

Captain and officers greet Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan in Bay City.
Chibbley does her stretches, too!
Chibley checking things out on the way to Green Bay
Chibley sits beside her merchandise, Port Huorn.
Chibley, the only cat with a barque.

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Kingston and the Cargo Sale

Kingston was a busy port stop for the Picton Castle, the highlight of which was our South Seas Cargo Sale. On the world voyage, the ship collects all sorts of interesting treasures—cannibal brain-forks from Fiji, whale carvings from Tonga, Zulu beaded jewelry from South Africa, teak-wood furniture and sea chests from Bali, and so much more. We sold a lot of these things at our cargo sale in Lunenburg in June (the same weekend that the ship returned from the world voyage), but still had a number of fantastic items left and decided Kingston would be a great place to host another of our famous Picton Castle “Your Ship Has Come In!” dockside sales.

The ship arrived on Wednesday afternoon and went alongside the old stone wharf and dry-dock behind the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes. The wharf looked a little tight and there were no soundings on the chart so the captain anchored the ship first and we sent in a boat to take soundings. All was well so in we went. First order of business was to get our cotton sails dry and get a little practice in setting and furling them, too. The folks at the museum were generous hosts and helped out greatly with many of our pre-arrival details, and then got us oriented once we were there. Across the grassy pier from us was the Alexander Henry, a Canadian Coast Guard ship that is permanently moored at the museum. She served, among other things, as an icebreaker and now is open daily for tours and overnight as a bed and breakfast for those looking for an authentic marine sleepover. The collection and exhibits of the museum are truly excellent as well, and the staff and volunteers were helpful and friendly.

Thursday the crew set up for the big event, unloading cargo from the ship’s hold and from the truck that met us there from Lunenburg. It was hard work for all, but worth it once the tents were set up and the cargo was arranged inside. As the day went on the world voyage crew got a bit nostalgic, remembering when certain items were bought or traded and telling stories about where they came from. On Friday the sale finally opened to the public, and it was a very busy day. Thursday evening we hosted a reception for museum members (it was very well received), and on Friday we hosted the crew of the St. Lawrence II, a brigantine based in Kingston that offers sail training for teenagers. They offer an excellent program for young people ages 14–18 that has been going for more than 50 years. Over the few days we got to see Kingston, which is a beautiful small city that was once capital of Canada—lots of busy shops, cafés, diners, restaurants, pubs, bookstores, and things to do.

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great on the weekend; in fact it was terrible. Kingston was expecting a gale on Saturday, the remnants of Tropical Storm Ernesto. Winds of up to 60 km/hr/h were predicted and in preparation for it we had to take down one of the tents and the banners, and generally secure the ship. Because of that we weren’t able to open the sale for the day, but did open the decks for tours later in the day. The wind and rain came Saturday evening, and because of our preparations the ship and the cargo were safe. By Sunday morning things had settled a bit (although it was still drizzly and overcast) and we were able to open for business again.

Sunday and Monday we were back on track with the cargo sale all day and deck tours in the afternoons. Extra experienced crew assisted with the sale during the days, and we found that the new trainees we picked up in Toronto are quite a friendly bunch and good with visitors on deck tours. In fact, all the trainees sailing with us from Kingston to Summerside, PEI, are men, which may have never happened before in Picton Castle history. Tuesday we took most of the day to pack the hold again, filling it up with unsold cargo and rearranging the regularly used items we keep there. The packing process went very smoothly, and to my amazement everything fit in easily.

With the hold packed, we backed out from our berth at the museum late in the afternoon, heading for a quiet anchorage off Cedar Island just east of Kingston. We anchored there for the evening and most of the crew went ashore to have a big barbeque. We sent the grill (a “braii” as Danie, our South African engineer, calls it) ashore in the skiff along with hamburgers, corn, and potatoes. After a filling meal people found some firewood for a small fire. It was no late night, though; the crew were back early to get ready to tackle the first lock in the St. Lawrence on Wednesday.

Alex Brooks assists at the gangway, Kingston
Bali quilts for sale, Kingston
Browsing in Kingston
Busy shoppers in Kingston
Cargo sale at Kingston
Ian talks with guests on deck tours.
Kathleen at the cash register, Kingston
Learning to furl sail, Kingston
Shopping for sea chests and cinnemon dishes, Kingston.

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Toronto and Beyond

After a smooth transit of the Welland Canal the Picton Castle stopped for the night in Port Weller, alongside a wharf at the north end of the canal. We were pleased to find that going down the locks seems to be easier than going up. The ship was jostled around much less, and easing head and stern lines is much easier than hauling them in. It did take us most of the day to pass through the Welland Canal, including three stops where we had to pull over and go alongside to wait our turn in the flow of traffic. We locked through with a sailboat much smaller than we are—better company in a lock than a giant lake freighter. In the course of one day we descended 300 feet closer to sea level, and closer to home. At Port Weller we tied up at a salvage yard with two tugboats and lots of ships’ gear lying about. Chibley went ashore but we did not.

As soon as the Picton Castle got out into Lake Ontario on the morning of Saturday, August 26, we had a clear but distant view of Toronto’s skyline. We also felt the easterly wind that was causing 5–6 foot waves on the lake. Normally waves of that size aren’t anything to be too concerned about, but the shape of the waves in the Great Lakes means that a 6-foot wave here feels like a 12-foot wave in the ocean. The waves come much more quickly and make for a weird motion on board. Quite a few folks found that the conditions didn’t agree with their stomachs and soon their breakfasts were coming back up. They were especially glad when we entered the inner harbour at Toronto about 3 and a half hours later.

Toronto’s inner harbour is protected by the Toronto Islands, which curve around opposite the downtown core. There is quite a bit of traffic in the inner harbour; we were surrounded by small boats in a race, sightseeing cruises, small yachts, little motor boats and police boats. Just after noon we were alongside at John Quay, Harbourfront Centre, a recently renovated dock on some of the best real estate in Toronto, nestled between Pier 4 restaurant and the Toronto Police Marine Unit. Clearing in with Canada Customs was quick and efficient, and the crew got right to work on the usual tasks when arriving in port—stowing sails, getting chafe gear on the dock lines, setting out the gangway and net, coiling down all the lines evenly, and generally tidying up the ship. We were greeted warmly in Toronto by former shipmates and family members of crew aboard. Lots of followers of our “Tall Ship Chronicles” television show from the second world voyage came to see the Picton Castle, too. The Captain even has “fans.” Chibley has more fans. Famous little kitty-cat in Canada is Chibley. We had crew from all four world voyages stop by and catch us up on their doings.

There was a lot of activity on the Picton Castle in Toronto, including a business reception hosted by Steve Nash (a trainee on WV4 from Cape Town to Lunenburg), two afternoons of open decks, two live broadcasts on local television, and lots of maintenance. We made the ship look like she normally does again, taking down all of the fenders used in the locks, putting the skiff on the dock to be hoisted into the davits just before we left, and leveling the fore and main yards back to their normal horizontal positions (they had been cock-billed to reduce their width to less than that of the hull).

The crew found lots to do away from the ship on time off as well. A few groups found their way to Niagara Falls to see what they missed by going through the Welland Canal instead. Others took in a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game, ate at different ethnic restaurants, went shopping, and discovered Toronto’s night life. Many of the crew have friends and family who live nearby who came down to visit the ship.

I was particularly excited to be in Toronto because it’s very close to my home town of Brampton, Ontario. My sisters greeted us on the dock with big colourful signs welcoming the ship and welcoming me home. I was inundated with visitors all weekend, going home to sleep in my own bed at night and waiting at the ship all day to see who would show up next. Going home after being away so long (16 months!) was overwhelming and surreal, but also kind of comforting. The Picton Castle sailed from Toronto on Tuesday morning, and I stayed home until Friday to spend some extra time with my family. With help of an excellent friend of the ship Captain Adrian we “swung ship” and adjusted our compass on Tuesday morning, which, after sailing around the world twice and in both north and south hemispheres, was getting a bit dizzy. On our way out the three-masted schooner Kajama gave the Picton Castle a canon-shot salute.

Kingston was the next stop for the Picton Castle, and an exciting one as we held one of our famous “South Seas Cargo Sales”. The ship arrived in Kingston on Wednesday afternoon and docked behind the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes. This is a lovely city and quite a remarkable museum, but this will wait for the next log entry.

Andrea Moore on helm, Toronto
Gates open at lower level in Welland Canal
Getting headline out in Welland Canal
Locking through with sailboat in Welland Canal
Nadja and Brandon stand by to ease in Welland Canal.
Pania eases the headline in Welland Canal.
Toronto skyline
Toronto skyline 2
Welcome Home signs in Toronto

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