Please find below a letter that was sent to crew of the Picton Castle regarding the postponement of the World Voyage:
Dear crew of Picton Castle’s upcoming World Voyage,
We are writing to you today with important updates about the voyage.
After in-depth consideration, which we will explain more thoroughly below, the World Voyage planned for departure this coming spring will not be able to proceed as scheduled. As disappointing as this is, in fact it is not a terribly difficult decision. There is essentially no choice in the matter. Due to COVID-19, critical issues that need clearing up for us to sail are simply not lining up enough for us to safely plan on sailing in May a few months hence.
When we pushed back the start of this World Voyage last year until the spring of 2021, we had reasonable hope that the world situation would be much closer to returning to “normal” in time to prepare for the voyage and set sail in May. As this pandemic continues, worsening in some places and with new strains of the virus, it has become clear that travel is neither practical nor advisable at this time. In some areas it is not even possible. Crew safety is paramount. Additionally, we must be mindful of what possible effect we may have on places and people we seek to visit. This has led us to making this disappointing but inevitable decision.
We are completely committed to setting sail in the Picton Castle outward bound on an amazing voyage around the world. This is our reason for being. We will sail when it is possible, practical, and wise to do so. Your acceptance to join the World Voyage will still stand. We think that we have a truly great crew signed up for this voyage and we want all of you to sail in Picton Castle. We look forward to having you aboard when the time comes.
Because of the routing of this voyage and the different seasons in the various waters we’ll sail, we can’t simply push the start of the voyage back by a few months. The itinerary has been carefully planned to take advantage of the best and safe seasonal weather conditions, avoiding the hurricane and cyclone seasons, seeking the best weather for passage making. The next practical window of opportunity for decent departure is in the fall of 2021. This would mean extending the World Voyage from about 14 months to about 18 months. There are some attractive features to sailing at that time. We are working on an itinerary for this voyage and will be in touch again in a few weeks with more details.
Alternately, if in the fall of 2021 it’s still not feasible to set sail, we will look towards a spring 2022 start to the voyage. We are optimistic that as vaccines are administered worldwide, a fall 2021 departure looks pretty good. We want to keep you in the loop on what we’re considering as a backup plan depending on the state of the world at the time as things become more clearly developed.
Our team here in Lunenburg has been keeping close tabs on international developments. We are in close contact with our agents and friends around the world. Here are some of the factors that are informing us on this decision regarding setting sail a few months from now:
- Canada’s borders are closed to all non-essential travel. Based on recent national news reports, we expect the border restrictions to actually tighten rather than loosen in the coming days and weeks and then last for a while.
- Panama is under tight quarantine restrictions until the end of March and our local contacts expect the restrictions will be extended further. While we could transit through the Panama Canal, currently there is little to no opportunity for us to go ashore to visit.
- While the Galapagos Islands are open to visiting vessels, COVID-19 PCR testing is required before visiting and in Galapagos before visiting future destinations. Testing is logistically difficult and expensive in the Galapagos.
- Pitcairn Island is closed to all visitors with no projection yet as to when it might reopen.
- French Polynesia has a range of restrictions in place for visitors including curfews, and all visa-granting offices are currently closed.
- The Cook Islands are still closed to all international visitors. The Cook Islands and many other South Pacific island nations tend to follow the lead of New Zealand, which has just announced their borders will be closed to visitors until the end of 2021.
- Niue is still closed to all visitors.
- Fiji is only allowing certain vessels to visit. Crew on visiting vessels must quarantine for 14 days at anchor before going ashore.
- Vanuatu is closed to all visitors right now and is not expected to open until August at the earliest, and possibly not even then.
- Bali is closed to all visitors, visa applications are closed, and our contacts in Bali say there is no good news on the horizon there.
- Mauritius (Rodrigues Island) and Reunion are both open but require negative COVID-19 PCR tests before arrival, as well as some tricky logistics planning.
- In South Africa, some parts of the border are re-opening but domestically travel is being discouraged. Although our arrival is a long way off things are in still flux there.
- Namibia is open to visitors but there are restrictions ashore.
- St. Helena Island has restricted access.
- While a long time off, nonetheless various Caribbean island nations have different rules and requirements, but many are requiring extended quarantine aboard at anchor before coming ashore and/or COVID-19 PCR tests before or upon arrival.
- Bermuda would require us to quarantine aboard for 14 days or have a series of negative COVID-19 PCR tests.
- Many of you all have reported difficulty in finding travel insurance. We have been finding the same problem.
While there is some good news forecast on the horizon with vaccines and improving rates, this pandemic is making it difficult to make medium to long range plans, as you no doubt have experienced in your own lives. While we wish we had a crystal ball that could help us look ahead and make a firm plan, we do not. No one does. We recognize that this change in plan will affect you personally. You may have already put things into motion in order to be able to sign aboard the ship this year. As you might imagine, this also affects us personally, professionally and as an enduring sailing ship organization.
This change in plans means that Picton Castle will continue to remain docked in Lunenburg through the summer of 2021. There is a silver lining to this otherwise unfortunate situation. We will now have the opportunity to run a Bosun School session this summer on beautiful Lunenburg harbour at our wharf. Bosun School is a land-based skills enrichment program for up and coming mariners. There will be classes and workshops, plus plenty of hands-on practice in all things to do with developing skills for being in ships and boats: rigging, ropework, caulking, small boat orientation and handling, and much else besides. Our summer session of Bosun School in 2020 featured plenty of time in small boats under sail, oar and power, making the best of the season on Lunenburg Harbour. We’ll share more details soon for those of you who might be interested and able to travel to Nova Scotia.
We will be in touch again in the coming weeks with a more detailed plan for a fall 2021 departure. In the meantime, please let us know that you received this email.
As always, we’re standing by for questions, which we’ll answer as best we can with the information we have available now.
Sincerely, and fair winds,
Captain Daniel Moreland, Master, PICTON CASTLE
Maggie Ostler, Chief Operations Officer