Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Summer 2017' Category

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Day’s Run – 25 July, 2017


By Purser Allison Steele

With calm waters and a nice breeze, the crew fell back into the ebb and flow of the ship quite easily after our busy time in Quebec. We were able to set sail and practice drills with the new crew to help them familiarise themselves with sail handling. More experienced crew were happy to help spend time teaching newer people their lines and the order in which things are done. In calm waters, it is often easier to show the “why” of things rather than just giving orders so that is easier to remember for next time.

This afternoon was spent in a workshop on splicing, including a sailmakers splice and a chain splice. Crew was able to break off and practice their own splices so that they are able to put it into practice during ship’s work.

Splicing is the way in which you would attach pieces of rope by weaving it back on itself or another rope. In some cases as the Captain explained, you are able to weave a wire on to rope but most importantly is the correct use of splicing and which method is best for which situation. It helps the crew to understand the rigging a little better when you are able to learn why it works better in some applications than others.

The sunset this evening over the now calm waters was spectacular as it has been most nights along the St. Lawrence River as we make our way towards Norris Point, Newfoundland.

Noon Position: 49°17′.1N. 067°10.6W

Course: SExE 1/4 E  4.1kts

Wind Direction and Speed: SE Force 2/3

Day’s log: 90nm

Passage Log: 241.8nm

Voyage: 4615nm

Distance to Port: 382.5nm


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Day’s Run – 17 July, 2017

By Purser Allison Steele

As we make our way up the St. Lawrence Canal towards Quebec, crew is enjoying somewhat warmer weather, sunshine and the ever present curious wildlife! With seals and whales, including the majestic white beluga, there is always something to see looking out over the water. Today the Captain held a workshop on making baggywrinkle. Seafaring is filled with all sorts of interesting terms and for the most part these words can be traced back to some sort of explanation…..except baggywrinkle. These interesting creations guard the sails against chafe on the stays and are best made with manila strands. When finished they look very much like a long, nicely trimmed lions mane but can stand a fair amount of wear before needing to be replaced. Prevention helps keep us in tip top ship shape and learning new things constantly!


Noon Position: 48°34′.0N 068°48′.2W

Day’s Run: 68.9NM

Average Speed: 3KN

Voyage Distance: 4288NM

Wind: Force 3 East

Weather: clear and sunny




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Captain’s Log – Sept-Îles, Quebec

July 10/17 – by Purser Allison

After hoisting anchor at La Petite Basque the morning of July 7th we made our way through the bay towards the Port of Sept-Îles, the largest volume port in the Province of Quebec. We were quite surprised at the welcome we received, it being such a busy port that regularly receives large cargo vessels and cruise ships, we thought the sight of a few more large vessels may not be such an attraction. We were wrong! We were greeted by enthusiastic crowds and townsfolk who had heard the PICTON CASTLE was arriving and came down to greet us.

PICTON CASTLE has gained quite a bit of notoriety in the Province of Quebec since the Radio-Canada television series, La Grande Traversée, aired a few weeks ago. In the show, PICTON CASTLE’s name is changed to L’ESPERANCE to play the part of a ship carrying colonists from La Rochelle, France to New France (which is now Quebec) circa 1700. The television series was filmed while actually sailing across the Atlantic last summer. Several of the current crew were on board during the filming and were immediately recognised and treated as TV stars with pictures snapping. While sharing the dock with other ships participating in the Rende-vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta, over 4000 people (in a community of 26,000) came to see the ships and throughout the town, the crew were treated with warm hospitality.

Sept-Iles lobster!!

Sept-Îles is a lovely port protected by seven small islands: Île Grande Basque, Île Petite Basque, Île du Corossol, Île Petite Boule, Île Grosse Boule, Île Manowin and Îlets De Quen.  First documented by Jacques Cartier in 1535, the area is rich in First Nation, Innu and European cultures surrounded by beautiful, rugged scenery and historical significance. The area is primarily French-speaking but the people of Sept-Îles were eager to help or chat and translate where needed. Sometimes it is just fun to try to figure things out, which leads to some humorous interpretations!

We can’t, however, say enough about the people of Sept-Îles. From the event organizers, Harbourmaster Shawn Grant, Chef d’Escale Marie-Ève Duguay,  and our Liaison and tour guide Guy, to the shopkeepers, wait staff and people of the town, it was truly a delight to spend time here. The joy of smaller ports is the ability to connect with the community if only for a few days. There is mutual appreciation for hospitality shown.

We were somewhat sad to leave this beautiful port but hundreds of people came out to say goodbye so we showed our appreciation by hoisting canvas and sailing past the town under full sail, sounding our horn in farewell.


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Captain’s Log – The Purser’s Summerside

By Purser Allison Steele

The PICTON CASTLE came into Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada after a great passage up from Boston, USA and received a warm East Coast Canada welcome! It was a short visit to this very colourful and pleasant town but was certainly a highlight with several thousand visitors crossing the decks, including former crew members, family and friends.

The PICTON CASTLE is well known throughout the Canadian East Coast but is often on voyages taking her far from home so it was a special treat for our host port. Many visitors were familiar with the ship having followed her for many years so the chance to come and tour her was not to be missed.

Summerside itself is a sweet town with bright coloured buildings, friendly and gracious people and incredible seafood. Everywhere the crew went, residents and visitors were excited to talk about the ship and our travels.

Several crew went into Charlottetown to visit shops, restaurants and visit with other ships and friends we have made along the way. PEI is steeped in traditions of the East Coast and famous for potatoes, Anne of Green Gables, and a rather large lobster that is stationed at the wharf.

July 1 marked Canada Day, a very special one for Canada as it’s the 150th anniversary of Confederation.  With Canada Day celebrations lasting the whole weekend, there were concerts, vendors, attractions and lively street musicians along the walkways. Saturday night in both Charlottetown and Summerside there was a great show of fireworks over the water that went late into the evening rounding out a great weekend.

As we left the town wharf around noon on Sunday, people still came out to get a last glimpse of the ship and her crew as we conducted safety drills in preparation for our voyage. Some of the crew that have been with us for a while now departed to return to their daily lives knowing that this experience has enriched their lives. As much as we will miss them, we take on new crew that will quickly learn the ways of the ship in hopes that they too will learn and develop as sailors.



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Captain’s Log – Boston to Summerside

At about 1300 on the 22nd of June PICTON CASTLE stood out past the Boston Light, set to the t’gallants. After five busy days in the port of Boston we are sailing out to join the Tall Ships fleet for the start of Sail Training International’s race number 4 of the Rendezvous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta from Cape Ann, Massachusetts to the northeastern end of mainland Nova Scotia.

Warm summer weather had been on order while we were in Boston but as we motor sailed out with the light and building southerly into Massachusetts Bay the crew quickly felt the cold breeze off of the 65° F water and ran to put on some warmer clothes. 19 vessels gathered for the race start, which was set about 10 miles to the east of the storied fishing town of Gloucester. It is always quite a sight to see a fleet of ships this size sailing in close quarters, especially on occasions such as this with a moderate breeze that allows the ships to set much if not all of their sail and get a good turn of speed going as well.

In an only somewhat serendipitous nod to the latter half of the Age of Sail, amongst the fleet are the Barque EAGLE, ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT II, GUAYAS, EUROPA, the 4 Masted Barque UNION and of course PICTON CASTLE making seven out of the nineteen ships in the fleet cut quite a scene of square riggers standing offshore until the fading evening light. To cap off the evening a spectacular sunset over Cape Ann bid the fleet farewell from the USA on our way to Canada.

Winds went fairly light on the first night, we kept all but the flying jib and gaff topsail set. Most of the fleet dispersed during the night, a group of ships like this with very different sailing qualities don’t stay together for long. The next day the Gulf of Maine began to show its true colours and as the day went on the wind began to increase, the air got colder and the fog set in.

Of all the times I have been across the Gulf of Maine, I don’t think I have ever actually seen it, there is almost always fog here. By midday we were shortened down to the main t’gallant in a Force 6 breeze. In this sort of weather, charging through the fog, extra care must be taken with the navigation, extra lookouts posted and a close watch kept on the radar and AIS. We are passing just to the north of the George’s Bank, and there are many fishing vessels in the area, over the years more than one vessel has come to grief from not paying close enough attention around these waters. A sobering reminder that we must be on our game.

As the day wore on the seas began to build and by evening we were shortened down to topsails and the foresail. Even though the weather is cold and wet the gang is kept busy about the deck, we had a full third of the crew change over in Boston so there are many new hands to teach the way of the ship to, learning lines, bracing, sail handling evolutions, all of this must be done in order to sail the ship. As it is, the ship comes first and we must sacrifice some comfort for the good of the ship and all onboard.

Two days we spent with a fresh fair wind and almost zero visibility, until the morning of the 25th when off of Halifax the wind eased, hauled southwesterly and the fog lifted. We again set to the royals and as the black hull of the ship began to warm the off watches came up from below to enjoy the sun. After two days of staring into the fog it felt good to get back the fair weather routines of work in the rig and about the deck. The on watch getting tar into the rig, oiling blocks and renewing ratlines, a carpenter finishing up our new fruit lockers and the sailmaker roping our new outer jib. In the afternoon we had an all hands workshop to teach seizings, allowing more of the new crew to get their hands on some of the ship’s rigging work.

On the afternoon of June 26 we crossed the finish line for the race and wore ship to bring us into Chedabucto Bay, the head of the waterway that separates Nova Scotia from Cape Breton Island. As our pilot for the Canso Strait and lock wasn’t due to board until the next morning we stood on towards an anchorage just outside the town of Arichat on the south side of Cape Breton. As the sun got low in the sky over Nova Scotia, PICTON CASTLE took off across the bay. With a fresh breeze but no seas to slow her down in the calm water of the bay we were able to carry every stitch of canvas full and drawing, clicking off 6.5 to 7 kts. It’s in these conditions one can really feel the power of a sailing ship rig like this and the energy it takes to get a heavy ship like this moving under wind power alone.

As we neared our anchorage for the evening the wind began to die off and we squared away for Arichat Harbour. At about 2230, just after last light the ship very quietly glided up to the anchor, apart from the soft spoken commands and the light rattle of sheets as the hands got in all sail forward it felt almost as if the ship were suspended in space, quite a contrast to the afternoon’s sailing. As the main yards squared away and the ship brought into the light breeze the sound of the anchor chain thundered out and all remaining sail was taken in. Arichat is a familiar spot for PICTON CASTLE from years past and it’s always good after a fresh passage to be anchored in a peaceful little spot such as this.

As morning dawned clear and flat calm, the engineer fired up the trusty B&W Alpha main engine and we hove back anchor to pick up our pilot for the Canso Strait. While the Strait is a natural channel it wasn’t really navigable until a lock was put in near the town of Port Hawkesbury to keep the currents down to a minimum. It was a pretty morning running up the Strait and the crew kept busy shining up the ship and getting ready for our next port visit. Just after 1200 PICTON CASTLE cleared the lock and dropped off the pilot as we steamed into St George Bay, now on the Gulf of St Lawrence side of Novas Scotia. Not too long after a light breeze sprang up from the east and the crew, now getting more confident with handling the rig, quickly made all sail and the main engine was shut down.

That evening we wore ship around Cape George and shaped up for the Northumberland Strait to the south of Prince Edward Island. While the Northumberland is pretty wide it’s still a lot more confined than sailing in the open ocean and as a result, it takes a little more effort and attention for everybody onboard. While passing Pictou Island in the night the breeze came on to a southerly Force 5 and the watch on deck quickly got in the royals and upper staysails. But with the wind easing a bit toward morning and the current setting the ship to the north the next watch got all sail set again to keep the ship on course.

Having made good time up the Strait it was decided to anchor for another night before passing under the Confederation Bridge, which connects Prince Edward Island to the mainland at New Brunswick and entering the Port of Summerside. As PICTON CASTLE approached Cape Tormentine all hands were called to be the ship ready for sailing onto the anchor. Though the same manner as had been gone through the other night, there was more wind this time and the evolution had to happen more quickly. But as we approached the anchorage at Rock Reef under Cape Tormentine the wind quickly shifted, in a short scramble the ship was made ready to come about and tack back up to the spot most ideal for the ship to anchor. It’s not an easy task to marshal 46 people to complete a manoeuvre most have never even heard of before. But the mates and lead seaman did a good job and this ship got through stays quickly without a hitch. As the ship began to gain speed on the other tack it was soon time to bring her head to wind, down with the headsails, in fore upper and lower topsails, midships the spanker and hard down the helm, as the ship came up smartly into the wind hands aft squared the mainyards to put on the brakes and the starboard anchor was let go. After all remaining sail was taken in the crew swarmed up into the rig to get sail securely stowed for the night.

As is always the case, a ship like this is more about the journey than it is the destination. As exciting as it is to come into a new place it is always good to be able to have a night at anchor before going into port with the hustle of going alongside and the hectic excitement that can be at the start of a new tall ships festival. It’s important to have a moment, to be able to sit with the ship at rest without any outside distractions, to look up at the rig, ready to spring to life again at the call to loose sail, and say “we did that, we sailed this ship here” and as Irving Johnson said “with our own hands”. That’s the accomplishment, and that is the important part of this journey.


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Day’s Run – 16 June, 2017

By Purser Allison

While anchored at Nahant just outside of Boston, the crew enjoyed a bright sunshiny morning and spiffed up the ship. She is glistening with new paint and varnish and looks beautiful and ready to receive visitors. As the Boston Tall Ship Festival will be a well attended and significant event, the crew was instructed on safety and security. Later in the afternoon, Captain Sikkema gave an informative lecture to a very attentive crew on the different types of rigs on ships, the changes and the role they played throughout history.  The Age of Sail is a fascinating time in history as is understanding the roots of tall ship sailing today.

Noon Position: 42°24.524’N 070°52.207W

Day’s Run: At anchor

Wind: SSE F1

Weather: Good changing to overcast and rainy

Swell height and direction: <1m SExS

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Captain’s Log – Fish On!!


Fish On!!!

The best words shouted while at sea! On our sail to Bermuda or on any other passage, we like to drag a few lines in hopes of catching the elusive Mahi Mahi or any great fish we can lure aboard. Personally, my favourite rig is a 10-12′ bungee cord with 150lb test monofilament and the appropriate brightly coloured lure. With two lines out and two fish on we had no less than five Mahi Mahi (Dorado) on the stern. We got our fish in quickly and tossed the lines back out but were unable to lure the others aboard.

We thanked our catch and sent them off to the Ship’s Cook to be prepared for dinner for a very grateful crew.



Written by Trainee Heather Ritchie

Heather Ritchie


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Day’s Run – 9 June, 2017


By: Purser Allison

Hove to at 0820 for weather and rode out the force 8 winds and 6-metre waves. At 1300 the weather broke and we started to see sunshine and resumed our course, bending on the mizzen topmast stays’l and downrigged the heavy weather gear. We celebrated Matt’s birthday and enjoyed cake and a visit from a small pod of dolphins. A far more peaceful night than that before as we caught up on rest and prepared for the beautiful day to follow.

Bound from: St. Georges/Hamilton, Bermuda

Towards: Boston, MA

Noon Position:  37° 10.8’N 067°23.8’W

Day’s Run: 121.6nm

Passage Distance Run:  146.5nm

Distance Remaining: 370nm

Course and Speed:  NxE

Wind: 7kn WxN

Weather: heavy squalls

Swell height + Direction: 6m WxN


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Captains Log – 13 May 2017 – Approaching Cape Hatteras

Well, the Picton Castle has had a pretty good run down from Lunenburg, bound for Charleston by way of close in to Cape Hatteras.

We have been under power the whole way, sad to say. We steamed out of Lunenburg and headed southwest to skirt south of George’s Bank east of Cape Cod. We did this to avoid all the busy fishing traffic and strange currents of George’s Bank. Then we kept going like this skirting Nantucket Shoals.

Why? The hint is in the name; “shoals”. Don’t want much to do with shoals.

Now it is getting warmer. 2 degrees Celsius was the sea temperature upon leaving fair Lunenburg and in two days it was 5 degrees. Wow! Now as we are off the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay by about 90 miles the sea temperature is up to 20 Celsius or 65 Fahrenheit – much warmer indeed. But the cold was good for crawling under heaps of covers in your bunk and sleeping cozily.

And we have also skirted just north of the Gulf Stream which sets almost due west near here, did not want to get set to the Azores at a rate of 4 knots, now, do we? No, so we stayed north of that meandering hot water river right in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean.

This morning we had a small low-pressure system pass overhead and our strong headwinds became light headwinds and are now veering (aka clocking) around to become a fair sailing breeze. This, of course, is welcome, looks like we can shut down and set sail soon to pass the famous and daunting Cape Hatteras under sail tonight.

Why is this cape so notorious? Well, a lot of factors weigh in. One: the Gulf Stream comes very close in here and the cape sticks pretty far out. And then you have all sorts of weather systems barrelling off the coast. So a cold northeast storm against a hot 4 knot current setting to the ENE is a cauldron of trouble. There is more to it than that, but that’s a good start.

But we have a fair breeze it looks good to slip in between the Stream and the shoals off the Cape for a nice passage south, or so we hope, then around the corner southwest towards Charleston.


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