Captain's Log

Archive for the 'Summer 2019' Category

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Day’s Run – 14 July 2019

Last day of the event at Cleveland and we had the most visitors across our deck: 2500. What a day!

Pilot booked for tomorrow morning 1000.  Some early morning fresh provisioning before departure.

Planning an anchorage at Port Huron.

Captain’s Comments:  As seems to be the theme of this summer’s voyage of tall ship celebrations – our ship and crew have been a part of another wonderful event. These multi-day ship festivals are such massive projects run almost entirely by volunteers. It is a significant effort on each port’s behalf to put these plans into motion, with so many moving parts (and I don’t just mean the ships themselves!). We enjoyed ourselves immensely, Cleveland – thank you to all!

Position: Alongside #30 Cleveland

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Day’s Run – 13 July 2019

Ship’s work:

Yesterday we sent down the spanker as it needs repair, so today we bend on the new spanker to replace it.

Spot painting.

Captain’s Comments: More today than yesterday: 2,425 visitors crossed our decks today.

Position: Alongside #30, Cleveland

Weather: Sunny and cooler with a moderate Northerly breeze. Forecast light winds turning Southeast. Yesterday’s forecast front did not eventuate.

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Day’s Run – 12 July 2019

Ship’s work

Send down spanker for repair

Commence Sea Never Dry repairs. Sea Never Dry is a traditional (yet colourful) dory that has sailed around the world with us many times. A lovely wooden dory built by Lunenburg’s Dory Shop.

Dry sail

Prepare Picton Castle for the public – our first day of an open ship for the tall ship event in Cleveland.

Open 1100-1800, and we had approximately 2000 visitors come across our deck.

Captain’s Comments: Another US Coastguard Inspection, all good.  Inspections take place in every port and we take each and every one very seriously.  Fox 8 news did a live broadcast with David Moss.

Position: Alongside #30 Cleveland

Weather: Hot, humid and sunny with a light Southwesterly breeze. Forecast weak cold front in the evening.

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The Welland Canal

Captain’s Log – The Welland Canal

One of our Facebook followers asked a few weeks ago when we were talking about the ports we’ll visit this summer in the Great Lakes, what we do about getting around Niagara Falls.  Going up or downriver there is certainly not an option.  As one of the Wonders of the World, Niagara Falls is an impressive sight, but definitely not navigable.  Here’s the easy answer: the Welland Canal. 

Running from Port Weller on Lake Ontario to Port Colborne on Lake Erie, the Welland Canal runs parallel to the Niagara River, to the west.  It’s made up of a series of eight locks that lift ships by a total of 9.1 metres between the two lakes.  The Welland Canal makes ship traffic between the two lakes possible, and indeed between the Atlantic Ocean and the inner reaches of the Great Lakes. 

On Tuesday, July 2nd, Picton Castle passed through the Welland Canal going upbound.  But the Welland Canal adventure began for us the night before.  On the evening of Monday, July 1st, Canada Day, after finishing with public deck tours at the Redpath Toronto Waterfront Festival, the crew got right to work making the ship ready.  To go through the locks, we need to make the ship skinnier than she usually is.  Everything needs to be inboard of the width of the hull, nothing can stick out beyond or else it risks getting scraped up the cement walls of the lock chambers.  The crew brought the boats onto the hatch, cockbilled the course yards (meaning to brace them as sharply as possible while horizontal, then drop one end and raise the other to get the yard further in), braced the rest of the yards up as sharp as possible, and swung the davits in parallel with the hull. 

With preparations done, it was time to get some sleep before casting off from Toronto at 0400 on Tuesday morning.  The plan was to make our way across Lake Ontario under motor to arrive in Port Weller for 0800 and start our transit up the Welland Canal from there.  Traffic in the Welland Canal was busy and there seemed to be a shortage of line handlers so we had a bit of a wait before we could start our climb up.  By mid-day, we had the approval to go ahead. 

Entering each lock chamber felt a bit surreal for the crew.  One of them showed me a photo he had sent home to his family showing his view of the Welland Canal – the photos just showed a cement wall. At each lock, Picton Castle motored slowly and carefully into the chamber, with cement walls about 30 metres high on each side and a big steel door ahead.  Kind of like motoring into a cave with no roof.  From there, we got a bow line and a stern line up to the top of the lock and secured ashore.  The steel door behind us closed to seal the lock chamber, making it like a bathtub, then when it was all secure, the lock began to fill with water, raising Picton Castle. 

As a spectator, it’s almost eerie to see the ship rise and reveal herself.  At the lowest water level, those on land could only see the t’gallant and royal yards.  As the water filled the lock chambers, more of the ship was slowly revealed – tops’l and course yards, then the top of the engine exhaust stack, the charthouse, then the quarterdeck and the foc’sle head, then finally the main deck and the hull. 

We were expecting the transit of the Welland Canal to take us about 12 hours, and that was a good estimate.  After a long and interesting day with all hands standing by, we finished late at night and went to anchor just off Port Colborne. This is the last time we’ll need to go through locks on this voyage until we come back to the Welland Canal in late August on our way downbound.     

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Day’s Run – 4 July 2019


0800 Pilot boards

1200 heave to off Buffalo

1330 set sails

1500 Parade of sail commences

1615 enter south breakwall, all sails now set except Flying Jib and Royals.

1725 parade ends, so we take in sail

1750 docked with pushboat assistance, port side-to, one gangway out

1755 pilot departs

Launch boats, stow kites, second gangway, rig lights

2030 off-watch stood down. Stand into dock and security watches

Captain’s Comments: The parade of sail into Buffalo today was quite the sight, and the day finished with some amazing 4th of July fireworks.  The crew is ready and excited to meet the people of Buffalo and to be a part of their first tall ship festival ever – what an honour!

Position: Alongside Riverwalk Buffalo New York

Weather: Hot and muggy, partly cloudy and calm

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Day’s Run – 3 July 2019

Ship’s work:

Downrig canal fenders

Square yards

Brace bumpkins & davits

Some spot painting


Safety aloft and up & overs

Fire, Man Overboard & Abandon ship drills.

Walk- through of station bill.

Captain’s Notes: All new hands finally had a formal “meet the Captain” (it’s been a busy few days!).

Bluenose II, St Lawrence II and Denis Sullivan joined us at our anchorage. Pride of Baltimore II and U.S. Brig Niagara are approaching Lock 8. I have a hunch they could turn up here, too. That would make for quite a picture. Empire Sandy, HMCS Oriole & Santa Maria in the first third of the canal.

Position: Anchored Port Colborne

Weather: Light Southwesterly winds, partly cloudy and hot. Distant thunderstorms.

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Day’s Run – 2 July 2019

A very early start to the day indeed, with the pilot arriving at 3:30 (yes – 3:30 a.m.). We departed our berth at Toronto for Port Weller at 0408 and at 1230 we entered the locks – here is the ship’s time log of our passage through the locks:

1230: Enter Lock 1. 1305 exit.

1329: Enter Lock 2. 1403 exit.

1451: Enter Lock 3. 1530 exit.

1605: Enter Lock 4. 1657 exit.

1659: Enter Lock 5. 1740 exit.

1742: Enter Lock 6. 1820 exit.

1840: Enter Lock 7. Pilot exchange. 1923 depart.

2223: Enter Lock 8. Walk-through. 2241 exit.

2310: Exit Welland Canal. 

0017 03 July 2019, anchored in 50 feet.

Captains’ Comments: It was a very long day with little opportunity to rest. Tomorrow we will do light work until lunch (undo canal prep and some spot painting), then spend the afternoon with training.  We will have fun, as the next day is set to be another marathon day.

Position: 42 deg 51 min N / 79 deg 10 min W, Nickel Beach, Port Colborne.

Weather: Overcast and misty. Still. Forecast for light to moderate Southwesterly winds and late showers.

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Day’s Run – 1 July 2019


The final day of Redpath Waterfront Festival Toronto, and there was a steady flow of people all day. The busiest day of the festival. 1800 we closed gangway and successfully completed our first Festival of 2019. Being a part of the Redpath Waterfront Festival in Toronto was a fantastic experience – what a way to start the summer voyage. The entire festival was a success – the events, the organizers, our liaison officers – to everyone we encountered including the public – a massive thank you from the crew aboard Picton Castle.

Captain’s Comments: All new trainees have joined as of 1700, and the pilot is firmly booked for 0400 tomorrow morning. Will hoist the boats this evening. We will need to ready ourselves again for entry into the Welland Canal and make our way through the next set of locks.

Position: Berth 283, Toronto

Weather: Partly cloudy, dry and warm with light and variable winds. Forecast steady.

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Day’s Run – 29 June, 2019

Day 1 of the event in Toronto – the Redpath Waterfront Festival Toronto.

Ship’s work:  Dry sails, Launch both boats, Set up second gangway.

Prepare ship to open to public: Put up signage for visitors, rope barriers across areas where the public is not permitted, crew briefing on what to expect at the first tall ship event of the summer!

Captain’s Comments: All is well, with a moderate flow of visitors across the deck. Several Picton Castle alumni came visiting, and it is always a pleasure to have them come.

Position: Alongside berth 283, Toronto.

Weather: Hot and humid, mostly sunny with light winds. Forecast more of same.

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Day’s Run – 27 June, 2019

The time log of our passage through the locks of the Saint Lawrence Seaway continues:

0100 in Snell Lock

0120 Pilot exchange

0135 clear Snell

0220 in Eisenhower Lock

0238 clear Eisenhower

0620 in Eisenhower Lock

0630 Pilot exchange

0650 clear Eisenhower

1445 alongside Clayton, New York, USA

1605 depart Clayton for Toronto

1805 Pilot exchange

Ship’s work: Remember all the work we had to do to prepare the ship to enter the Canal (yards, davits, etc)? Today’s work was to undo all of that work.

Notes from the Captain: Pilot Steve said his time piloting on Picton Castle was “the best thing I have done this year”. Fell in love with our ship cat Fiji (who wouldn’t!).  Nothing feels quite so good as showing Picton Castle to someone so enthusiastic. It is invigorating. Expect calm passage across Lake Ontario.

Position: 1kt South of Point Alexandria, Lake Ontario

Speed: 7 kts

Weather: Sunny with cool Southwesterly breeze F3. Forecast for decreasing winds overnight, filling in again during the day tomorrow.

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