Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Summer 2017' Category

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Captain’s Log RDV2017 – Allison’s Final Thoughts

By Purser Allison Steele

As I sit in the comfort of my living room at home in Ontario, having signed off Picton Castle last week after this summer’s Rendez-vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta Voyage, I find this final Captain’s Log somewhat difficult to write. How do you sum up an entire summer of adventure and learning into a short few paragraphs?

I’ve had a few days at home now to reflect and gather my thoughts and I’ve decided that the best place to start is with a list of things I learned and observed over the past four months.

I have watched over 100 crew members learn and grow all summer, despite their age or experience. Some came for a week and felt it wasn’t enough and others came and never left! This life isn’t for everyone and sailing a tall ship isn’t a vacation by any means. Your limits will be pushed and reset and pushed again. You will be exhausted and invigorated, frustrated and amazed, but in the end you will take many lessons learned with you. Not just how to coil ropes, set sails or paint. You will learn how to live in very close quarters with people and accept their idiosyncrasies as there is nowhere else to go. You will learn the protective nature of your shipmates even if you didn’t always see eye to eye. You will learn that you can do something wrong… then do it again until you get it right and will often never do it wrong again after. You will learn that there are no short cuts, just smarter ways of doing things. You will become efficient with your time and energy as the weather and seas can turn at any minute and your ship and shipmates will be depending on you to have their backs as they have yours. You will learn to conquer fears… or not… but you won’t be judged for it. You will learn about community: yours, ours and theirs. And you will learn that it is the small towns and ports that have the biggest hearts and will throw open their doors and pass you their car keys in case you want to drive around.

Each time I sail aboard the Picton Castle the most important thing I come away with is the importance of living your life. That the creature comforts of home are just that: comforts. That you can learn to live without many things in your life and once you don’t have access to them, you start to look around. When you are ‘deprived’ of electronics and internet you start to notice the world. The beautiful sunsets, the small movements of the ship beneath your feet and what they mean, the subtle shift in the wind and how to harness it, the quiet laughter of shipmates, the sometimes not so quiet meow of ship’s cat Fiji, but most of all is the silence. In a world so full of noise and sounds, lights and flashes it is the silence of the ship and the ocean that guides us back to the importance of life. There are no pictures, no matter how beautiful they look on paper or a screen that can convey the feeling you get when whales and dolphins come to investigate the ship. How it’s almost like you can feel the warmth of a sunset through its colours. Those feelings can’t be explained in words or pictures but need to be experienced for yourself.

Each time I leave the ship and get back to my ‘land life’ I find it gets easier. I know now that it’s never ‘good bye’… it’s always ‘until next time’. Don’t forget to stop, open your eyes and take a quiet look at the world around you. It’s there just waiting for you.

Allison – Thanks Chuck! (photo creds to Jason Hoyt)

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Captain’s Log – The Bay of Fundy

By Purser Allison Steele

Our final ports of the Rendezvous 2017 voyage are within the Bay of Fundy on Canada’s East Coast. The Bay of Fundy is historically and ecologically significant as it contains the largest tide in the world; a whopping 29-foot change! For mariners, it can be challenging but not enough to keep the PICTON CASTLE from visiting Digby, Nova Scotia and Saint John, New Brunswick.

Picton Castle & Bluenose II Sailing to Digby

The Tall Ship Festival in Digby was also during the annual Crab Fest which brought scores of visitors and entertainment to the small fishing town and made for lively evenings. The local townspeople rolled out the red carpet for the Tall Ships and we were all treated to Digby scallops which this area is famous for. The Town of Digby itself was a very gracious host with events and amenities for all who were in town for the day. It was not uncommon to see costumed pirates, lobsters and the occasional fish wandering down the street delighting children and even a few adults. Despite the significant tides, visitors came out in throngs to tour the ships or just have a look, and the crew is always happy to talk about the ship we have called home all summer.

Crazy Digby Tides

The wharf where we were all alongside was situated in a way that allowed the crews of the ships to gather in the evening to share stories, a barbecue and music. It has been a wonderful but busy summer and it was nice to spend an evening socializing with other Tall Ship crew that we have been sailing with all summer.  A few of the crew were able to spend an afternoon with former World Voyage Four crew member Amanda and her family from Mariner Cruises out of Brier Island to go whale watching. Although the fog started to roll in, that didn’t deter the mighty humpbacks from putting on a performance including a mom and her calf just learning how to entertain the eager guests. Humpback whales are a most magnificent species and it was humbling to be alongside these gentle giants as they fed.

It was a wonderful visit to Digby and in usual east coast fashion, the townspeople were kind and generous but it was time to set sail for our next port, Saint John, New Brunswick.

Getting underway from Digby, the ships proceeded to the Annapolis Royal basin where the town of Annapolis Royal gathered to watch a sail past. It was an incredible sight as there had been significant fog for most of the day but it suddenly seemed to clear a path for the ships. I can only imagine what it looked like from shore, standing in a quaint seaside town that had been home to some of North America’s earliest European settlers and watching huge ships emerge from the fog.

Our final port for Rendevous 2017 Tall Ship Festival was also in the Bay of Fundy and full of beautiful architecture, an abundance of natural resources and, of course, great seafood! Saint John, New Brunswick held an impressive festival for the Tall Ships and their visitors. Despite the wide range in tides and some after effects of Hurricane Gert, the sturdy East Coasters did not shy away. Spectators and visitors came in droves and patiently waited their turn to tour the tall ships, and take in the attractions and vendors.

Allison with the Pirates

Saint John often has cruise ships visit their town but eleven Tall Ships is an entirely different story. The festival was a treat for the senses with food trucks, live music and the Pirates of Halifax wandering the streets entertaining everyone in attendance.

Many of us left our final official port of the summer with mixed feelings.  There is a certain excitement for some of us who will be returning to our ‘land lives’, some staying in Lunenburg to attend Bosun School in the fall and more than a few dreaming of the next and final World Voyage beginning in March 2018. Regardless of our individual paths, there is a sense of sadness in the ship as we come to the end of the summer. It has been a remarkable 4 months with 13 ports, over 6000nm and countless new friends that become part of our “ship family”.  The world is much smaller than it seems for sailors, and often shipmates cross paths throughout their lifetimes in various ships, ports, seas and continents. One thing I have learned over the years and my involvement with PICTON CASTLE is that you never say ‘good bye’… it is always ‘until next time’.

Final Farewell



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Captain’s Log – Lunenburg!


By: Purser Allison Steele

It was a wonderful visit to our home base in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Although many of our crew have spent a significant amount of time in this lovely port, some others had only heard of this beautiful little town.  The townspeople did not disappoint. A large gathering cheered us and the other tall ships in and the town was in full swing for our visit. Not only was it a Tall Ship Festival but it was also the annual Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival with music everywhere! Street corners, halls, parks and everywhere there could possibly be a gathering. The entire town seemed to step back into the Age of Sail as the small streets teemed with sailors, residents, tourists, artists, and vendors.

It’s always nice to come back to Lunenburg, and with both festivals in town over the weekend, everywhere you went people wanted to talk about the ships. We are always happy to accommodate as we are very proud of our ship and our connection with Lunenburg. Crew spent their days off biking around the area and neighbouring towns, taking in concerts and generally enjoying the sights and sounds this special weekend had to offer. Even the ship’s cat Fiji was happy to be back for a short time.

PICTON CASTLE and BLUENOSE II hosted an evening at the Dory Shop for crews of the Tall Ships, including EUROPA, WYLDE SWAN, FAIR JEANNE, ST. LAWRENCE II, LORD NELSON, SPIRIT OF BERMUDA, WHEN AND IF, BOWDOIN, and HMCS ORIOLE.  Ralph Getson, a local historian, spoke of what life had been like in Lunenburg many years past when commercial sailing was at its peak.

Lunenburg’s Historic Dory Shop –


Listening to fascinating stories about the old local ships and their travels while we sitting in one of the oldest dory building facilities in North America transported us back in time and made us thankful for those who have paved the way. PICTON CASTLE has always traveled the world with Lunenburg dories steeped in history and it is fascinating to see where it all started …and still continues to this day. 100 years of history is in the foundation of this tiny waterfront building …if only the walls could speak – oh, the stories it would tell.

One of our new crew in particular has been part of Lunenburg for as long as anyone can remember. Bob Higgins (and his lovely wife Rosanna) have been honorary parents for PICTON CASTLE crew that find themselves so far away from home. As former owners of Greybeard’s Bed and Breakfast, they have hosted Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, birthdays and other such occasions when we tend to miss our families the most. They have watched the PICTON CASTLE come and go for 20 years now and we are thrilled to bring Bob along as a crew member for this final leg of the summer. For the first time ever, Bob departed on the ship with his wife Rose waving from the pier. We promise to take good care of him!

Bob & Rosanna Higgins

The ships departed one by one after much too quick a visit, horns blared and hundreds of people waved and bid us safe voyage. This port seems to mark the beginning of the end of our summer and although some of us long for home, we are excited for our final ports, fair winds and more sailing.

Thank you to our gracious hosts, event organizers and sponsors and also to Adams & Knickle for the use of their wharf during our visit. We will see you all again in a few weeks.


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Captain’s Log – Louisbourg, Cape Breton Island

By Allison Steele

After a wonderful day of small boat sailing while at anchor off of the Fortress of Louisbourg, it was time to head into port in the town of Louisbourg! But in true PICTON CASTLE fashion we launched our boats and they also participated in the Parade of Sail. Sea Never Dry, Jane and our wonderful 80-year-old Monomoy helped to lead the fleet of six tall ships into the harbour. We were greeted by traditional pipe and drum, historical actors and a huge crowd of onlookers waiting for the chance to come and visit us. As expected, ship’s cat Fiji was the first off the ship and did her usual cute posing for photographs and to delight her new friends on shore.

Louisbourg is a wonderful small town surrounded by great hiking trails and of course the famous Fortress of Louisbourg. Cape Breton is proud of their national historic site as it is one of North America’s busiest 18th century seaports. The fortress was founded by the French in 1713 but was demolished after two sieges by the British in the 1760s. In the 1960s reconstruction began of ¼ of the original French town and fortifications, and today it remains as one of the largest in North America.

The crew spent time touring this impressive fortress and immersing themselves in the 1700s. They could also be found puttering about in small boats in the harbour as it truly is one of our favourite pastimes.  Deck tours are an important part of Tall Ships Festivals as we love to open our home to the community and visitors. We are proud of our ship and the hard work we put in to make her look as beautiful as she does.

Another treat for the residents, visitors and ourselves was Louisbourg’s annual Crabfest! Being such a well known event in the province, it was a very busy weekend for everyone but provided some wonderful seafood and great entertainment. As we get ready to depart, I would like to thank the kind people of Louisbourg, especially the ship’s Liaison Lloydette and her team of volunteers. Events like this are often volunteer driven and without those volunteers, it would not have been the success it was!



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Day’s Run – 3 August, 2017


SMALL BOAT EXTRAVAGANZA!! Once we were anchored and settled, the crew of PICTON CASTLE launched all of our small boats for a fantastic afternoon of sailing in the great anchorage. With Jane, Monomoy and Sea Never Dry flitting around the bay enjoying some perfect weather, the crew learned the finer points of small boat sailing which, in reality, transfers quite well to larger ship sailing. The basic concepts are the same just on a smaller scale. After a great afternoon, the crew settled into dinner, then more small boat sailing and a swim call. The water is surprisingly warm although there were only a few brave souls as most wanted to continue sailing.

As the evening progressed, other ships in the fleet begin to join us in the harbour.  I can only imagine the view from the Fortress of Louisbourg with all the Tall Ships in the background. Like stepping back in time!

Noon Position: At anchor off of the Fortress of Louisbourg, NS.  45°53′.957N 59°58.985W

Wind: S1/2E

Weather: Good

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Day’s Run – 2 August, 2017


By Purser Allison Steele

With ship’s work continuing on, many of the crew are enjoying their new roles and adjusting to new challenges. The New Lead Seaman are leading their watches through line drills and practising stowing aloft. There are different methods to stowing sails and they need to be done quickly and efficiently should weather arise so this is an important skill to be practised at. The Mate also lead a workshop on Ratlines and several spares were constructed and maintenance checks to current ones. The crew lined up along the stretched out wires and enjoyed the messy fun of tarring! The application of tar protects the rigging from the wearing elements from the sea and weather not unlike paint and varnish. This type of maintenance work is vital to a ship not only for aesthetics but to provide protection and treatment. Without varnish, for example, wood would not last nearly as long as it does. There are parts of the quarterdeck that are original from PICTON CASTLE’s construction in 1928 that have been carefully maintained over the years. Sailing a vessel such as ours is not just about setting sails, it’s about how to care for the ship so that she can take you to far flung places in the world. A job worth doing.

Noon Position: 47°12′.9N 060°11′.6W

Course and Speed: SxW 3.6kts

Wind: NE 1/2 kts

Swell: ENE <1kts

Visibility: Good

Day’s Run: 85.8nm

Log: 182.9nm

Distance to Port: 94.9nm

Voyage Log: 5172.4nm


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Captain’s Log – Norris Point Part 2

By Purser: Allison Steele

With the heartiest of welcomes, Norris Point laid out the welcome mat for PICTON CASTLE. We were the only ship in a small port so proud of their community and heritage and they definitely made our stop one of the most memorable of the summer! It seemed like the entire town came out to welcome us and they quickly launched into fun activities for all!

Norris Point Came Out To Welcome Us!

Our first evening we were treated to a Community Welcome evening at the local centre where locals could come and meet the Captain and crew. The food was amazing and all donated by local businesses and of course the evening wouldn’t have been complete without a traditional “Screeching In”. In typical Newfoundland fashion, “Screeching In” requires Newfie Screech, bologna, a codfish and a rather humorous ceremony to make you an honorary Newfoundlander. The evening didn’t end there, however. In a neighbouring town they were having a “Coming Home Year” celebration whereby people who have moved away from home are invited to come back and reconnect with friends and family and several of the crew made their way there to partake.

The organizers of the event had made arrangements for several of the crew to go on a guided tour of the Table Lands as well as the Gros Morne National Park Discovery Centre. Many of the crew enjoyed stretching their legs and after several hours (and a lovely packed lunch) of taking in the sites and enjoying the view a few of them stopped for a very cold swim in a waterfall.

Later that day other crew members were treated to a kayak tour along the rugged shore line and were delighted by some very curious whales! I cannot describe how beautiful the landscape is and how lucky we all felt to be able to see such an amazing part of Canada’s rugged eastern shore.

It seems as though the entire community came to see and tour the ship and the restaurant beside the wharf was always packed with live music and people just watching our comings and goings. We were quite the draw with both locals and tourists coming out to see us. Often they would share stories and history about both the area and their own family’s involvement in the sailing of tall ships in the years past. For some it was quite nostalgic especially just to see such a grand vessel come into their home port.

Needless to say again, the events didn’t stop there. The community held a sold out traditional “Jigs Dinner” so that the townsfolk and visitors could have a chance to visit and chat with the crew. All but a handful of PICTON CASTLE crew (someone has to stay and watch the ship) made their way back up to the Community Hall where we were treated to a delicious meal of salt beef, boiled potatoes, peas pudding, carrots and squash. The event ended with yet another “Screeching In” for those who were unable to attend the first night. With our bellies full and our spirits still high, the crew made their way to watch fireworks and enjoy a bonfire on the beach with songs and storytelling to round out a wonderful day.

Visiting the port of Norris Point, in true Newfoundland fashion was like our own little “coming home” as we were made to feel like returning family. Even Fiji came away with new admirers who gifted her with some new toys after making herself comfortable at an event volunteer’s house just by the wharf.

With 40lbs of cod in the cooler and many new friends, we sadly departed after a much too short visit.

Thank you to the Town of Norris Point, the entire community and especially the volunteers who made this memorable event happen. There are so many individuals to thank that I’m afraid to miss someone but our Liaison Officers Shawn and Heather Cooper and all who we had the pleasure of meeting, a warm and heartfelt thank you to you all.




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Day’s Run – 27 July, 2017

By Purser Allison Steele

We made some good distance today with a combination of sailing and motorsailing, taking advantage of the winds when we could. Through the Anticosti Chanel, the winds can be variable and switch often so it is a good opportunity to run sail handling drills. Practice makes perfect and the new crew is catching on well. It often takes a while to become quick but they are catching on fast under the guidance and instruction of more seasoned crew. PICTON CASTLE has a few cadets from marine training schools sailing with us this summer, and with a month left to go thoughts are leaning towards completing the documentation that is expected from them at the end of the voyage. Second Mate Luis has been working with the cadets testing their knowledge as well as instruction on chart plotting and documentation requirements. Right now we have cadets from Canada, USA and Belgium representing their individual schools and taking advantage of some great sailing.

As we make our way towards Norris Point, we have made good time so we plan to head to anchor tomorrow evening to spend some time getting ready and perhaps if weather permits, enjoy some small boat sailing or rowing with the beautiful and rugged backdrop of the Newfoundland coast.

Noon Position: 49°25′.2N 061°04′.9W

Course and Speed: SE 3/4S 5.5kts

Wind: SW at Force 5

Swells: WSW 1/2 metres

Weather: Overcast

Day’s Run: 131.4NM

Log: 497.4NM

Distance to Port: 127.9NM

Voyage Log: 4870NM


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Day’s Run – 26 July, 2017

By Purser Allison Steele

Today the crew enjoyed quite a bit of warm sunshine and took the opportunity to lay in on various projects during their off watch times. Several crew tried their hands at working on sewing canvas cloths together for a new outer jib while others worked on various rigging and painting projects. We were delighted to see a few whales on our passage who were curious enough to come and check us out. We are passing north of Anticosti Island to take advantage of better winds, as opposed to the busier shipping route to the south of the island so it is a much quieter run. We try to sail as much as the wind will allow but we do have a schedule to keep so often at night we will fire up the engine to help get to our next port on schedule. We seem to be having significantly more daylight hours but it is beginning to become cool so today’s warmth and sunshine was an unexpected treat. Perhaps it is the longer days and cooler evenings but the smell coming from the galley of dinner cooking this evening started early as did the grumbling of stomachs.

Cook Donald Church is a rare commodity and keeps us all fed and energized with his latest creations. A well-fed crew is a happy and strong crew and tonight is no different.

Donald in His Galley

Noon Position: 49°59′.8N  064°14.7W

Course + Speed: SWxS 5.2kts

Wind: W Force 3-4

Day’s Run: 124.2nm

Log: 366nm

Distance to Port: 258.6nm

Voyage: 4739nm


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Captain’s Log – Sailmaking

By Purser Allison Steele

Today as we make our way to Norris Point, Newfoundland, Captain Sikkema led a workshop on sail making.  PICTON CASTLE is one of the few ships left that still sews her own sails on board and often by hand, as opposed to sending them out to be made in a sail loft. Occasionally we take over a parking lot or a gymnasium to stretch some of the larger canvas out but for the most part, it is done on either the quarterdeck of the ship or in the hold when the weather is less favourable.

PICTON CASTLE uses only canvas for sails as opposed to the newer synthetic materials and travels with at least one extra full set as well as another set in production. A sailmaker’s job is never ending as there are always maintenance projects to keep current sails in good working order as well as creating new ones. Sometimes an awning, net or bag is required and with help from the crew, it is a sailmaker’s responsibility to create!

A detailed record of all sails is kept as they are not all uniform in shape and size. All waters in the world have varying types and strengths of wind that are typical for that area and a good ship knows how to take advantage of this variance by adjusting the complement of their canvas, using their lighter sails in the trade winds or other places with more favourable conditions and switching them out for the tougher, heavier sails in places where gales or strong gusts are more likely.

The history of sail making has been an important consideration when designing today’s sails. Although materials have changed and technology has streamlined many aspects of the industry, there are hundreds of years of experience and knowledge to rely on in modern sail making. Contrary to many layman’s beliefs, sails are not, in fact, flat but are curved in specific ways depending on the configuration of the ship but one constant is that they are designed to take full advantage of every breath of wind. There is a considerable amount of pride to look up into the rigging and see something that you helped to create and knowing that for years to come, others will rely on this creation to take them around the world.


Sailmaking on Picton Castle


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