Greetings from Picton Castle’s shore office in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada!
The ship is currently in Bali, Indonesia and the Captain and crew are busy getting things checked off the pre-departure list. The next passage is a long one, about a month at sea, as Picton Castle sails across the Indian Ocean from Bali to Rodrigues (an island that’s part of Mauritius), then Reunion (an overseas territory of France), then on to Cape Town, South Africa. There really aren’t any places to stop between Bali and Rodrigues, so we need to be extra careful about our preparations for this passage, making sure we have enough food, fuel and supplies to get us the whole way there.
While our usual Captain’s Log writers are preoccupied with shopping and provisioning in Bali, I’m writing to tell you about what we’re working on here in Lunenburg. We, of course, are always on call for the ship and respond to any immediate needs right away, but we’re also working ahead to get the next things set up. One of our main areas of focus for the past few months is the summer of 2019 and the voyage that will take Picton Castle into the Great Lakes to participate in the Tall Ships Challenge.
The Tall Ships Challenge is a series of events and races organized by Tall Ships America. It moves around and is held in different waters every year. In 2018, the Tall Ships Challenge was held in the Gulf of Mexico and Picton Castle participated, visiting Galveston, Texas; Pensacola, Florida; and New Orleans, Louisiana. In 2019, the Tall Ships Challenge will take place in the Great Lakes. There are 10 host ports, six in the USA and four in Canada, and the ships will visit each one, one weekend after another. In between the ports there are often races for the ships.
We can’t always participate as we’re often in another part of the world sailing to different waters and ports, but we like to be part of the Tall Ships Challenge when our schedule allows. Joining a fleet of majestic traditional sailing vessels, barques, brigs, brigantines, schooners, ketches, sloops and more, is pretty awe-inspiring. We have a lot of fun at sea, sailing in company with these other vessels. And in port, our crew have a great time getting to know their shipmates and crew from other ships, joining a community of people who are passionate about what they do.
The last time Picton Castle was part of the Tall Ships Challenge in the Great Lakes was 2006. So, 13 years later, we decided it was time to do it again. I was on sailing on the ship that summer myself. I had just completed a world circumnavigation as a trainee and somehow convinced Captain Moreland to take me on for the summer as the purser. I remember arriving in Cleveland, Ohio, the first port of that summer’s series of tall ships events, and being overwhelmed. There were thousands of people on the waterfront to watch the ships sail in. At our berth, the crowd was held back by fences while line handlers greeted us and helped get the ship tied up properly. There was a whirlwind of signing security documents, getting the gangway set up so we would be ready for our US Coast Guard inspection, meeting with event organizers to confirm all the details of the event, and then, finally, getting to meet the crowds of people who waited so patiently for their turn to come aboard and tour the decks. There was a real electricity in the air, a combination of anticipation and wonder.
I have so many great memories from that summer; an impromptu game of soccer with crew from a number of different ships on a grassy spot in the festival grounds in Cleveland after the festival was closed to the public; getting a free haircut in Bay City because every business in town, including the beauty school, wanted to be part of the event and give something to the crew to welcome us; watching a TV news camera operator running down Navy Pier in Chicago with his camera held at knee-level to capture some film footage of our ship’s cat for the evening news; a lovely barbeque dinner on the wharf in Erie, provided by the family of a crew member; visiting Lambeau Field, the Green Bay football mecca, when I accompanied Captain Moreland to the Captain’s Briefing; an impromptu crew picnic on an island in the St. Lawrence River; a pre-dinner swim call when Picton Castle was anchored in Lake Erie.
In 2019, we plan to visit ten ports: Toronto, Ontario; Buffalo, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; Bay City, Michigan; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Kenosha, Wisconsin; Sarnia, Ontario; Kingsville, Ontario; Erie, Pennsylvania; and Brockville, Ontario. If you live in or near one of those ports, I hope you’ll come visit! Our decks will be open for public tours and we’d love to show you around.
We have also just recently announced opportunities for trainees to sail in the summer of 2019. If you’ve been thinking of joining us but don’t have the time or money to sail on a long voyage, this is your chance. Some of the legs are as long as three weeks, but we’ve also included a couple of one-week legs just for people like you. Of course, you can also combine legs and sail for a longer time too. All of the dates, ports and costs can be found on our website.
The distances between ports on this voyage are not far and we expect that we will have to motor some passages, but you will still be immersed in the experience of being crew on a square rigger. You’ll stand watches at sea and in port, take your turn at the helm, and take your turn helping in the galley. Because we’re expecting less time under sail, we’ve put together a plan for more seamanship learning opportunities, so lots of workshops and hands-on practice in a variety of skills from the Age of Sail. Put that together with meeting crew from around the world, seeing concerts and fireworks and whatever entertainment the host ports provide and watching other ships sailing by while sailing your own, and it sounds like a pretty great summer vacation plan! Actually, one trainee said it best when he told me, “it’s not a vacation, it’s an adventure.”
We’re just starting to get trainee applications coming in now, which means I will get to start interviewing prospective candidates soon. Trudi usually handles the day-to-day communications with trainee applicants and accepted trainees, as well as collecting all the paperwork. I usually get to do the phone interviews with each of the applicants. We keep track of everyone and where they stand in the process on a big white board on the office wall.
In the meantime, we’re also working with the ten different host ports to confirm all the arrangements and to see how we can work together to make the events a great success. We’re sorting out everything from what kind of electrical plugs we need to provide shore power to the ship, to what day and time we need to arrive.
As always, we’re here if you have any questions or want to talk about joining Picton Castle as a trainee crew member on the last leg of this current world circumnavigation voyage, or in the Great Lakes in 2019!