To say that this voyage feels over, three weeks after arriving back in Lunenburg, 14 months after the voyage began, would be a falsehood. To say that anyone who was crew during the 5th World Circumnavigation Voyage can yet explain what we saw, what we felt, what we experienced, would be untrue. The Captain warned us of this reality. He warned us it would take months before we can even begin to tell the stories that beg to be told; before we realize that nothing will ever be the same. Being somewhat of an authority on the subject, we believed him, of course. Yet to experience it for ourselves was something none of us could have prepared for…
On the morning of June 18th, after a good passage mostly under sail from Bermuda we had dropped anchor in Rose Bay Nova Scotia, mere miles from the mouth of Lunenburg harbour. Knowing that the inevitable task of clearing into Canada still awaited us, we opted to do so far enough away from our loved ones already gathering. And customs & immigration Canada agreed. The process was a potentially lengthy one and the general consensus was that it would be much more distracting within eyesight of all those welcoming arms. Far better, we felt, to sail triumphantly into the harbour, get moored all ready to greet the crowd without apparent delay.
In had been a good six day sail from Bermuda. As the Captain wrote in a previous Captain’s Log, we did encounter a squall or two. Fortunately they came from the west and the south, helping to push us up the coast toward Nova Scotia, aiding our journey home. North of Bermuda the weather had seemed to make a seasonal shift overnight – from hot summer in shorts and t-shirts into fall – though we knew that true fall was still months away. Out of the tropics for the first time in months, we adapted to the temperature drop by unpacking our blankets and donning wool sweaters. It had been a long time since any of us had felt even remotely cold, and most relished it, sort of…
The forecast had called for rain on June 18th, but as we waved goodbye to the Canadian officials after clearing in and hauled up the anchor, the sky remained overcast but dry. The air was thick with anticipation as we sailed down the few remaining miles of coastline. Some of the crew stood by the rails, craning their necks as they searched for familiar landmarks. Others couldn’t contain their excitement. All stood ready to handle sail. The Captain said the ship required our FULL attention until AFTER we were tied up properly. The wind had picked up throughout the morning and while the Captain is quite familiar with docking the ship in Lunenburg, a stiff breeze from the wrong direction would complicate the task exponentially.
Sophie was at the helm and as we grew closer and could see the pretty town around the corner and began to take in sail. The ship had grown silent, but for small seas along the waterline and the Captain’s orders, called and repeated, “Take in the royals!”, “Take in the spanker!” “Midships!”
Several local boats had come out to greet the ship and a convoy of supporters followed us as we rounded Battery Point and Lunenburg harbour opened up before us. An incredibly vibrant and picturesque town, Lunenburg seemed all the more alive with colour due to the reality of the day. We had come full circle. We had come home. The voyage, or at least the sailing part of it, was almost over.
We heard them before we saw them – the cheering was almost deafening. The community had shown up en masse. Our families and friends held banners and screamed our names, their bodies filling two community docks. Ships horns going off up and down the docks. We smiled and waved back, but the moment seemed almost dreamlike, but for the goosebumps on our skin and the butterflies most of us felt. I was almost thankful for the nausea, for it rooted me to the reality of the tasks at hand. We still had a barque to dock and secure. We were still crew on the Picton Castle and that felt very real indeed.
After the ship was secured, there were the inevitable tearful embraces. Even to write this brings back the raw emotions of that day… and yet, as I mentioned at the beginning of this log, my descriptive words are still missing. Most of the crew have left by now. The sails and most of the lines have been sent down and stored for inspection and/or repair. The ship is still my home for now, though in the mornings I am greeted by a crew of 5, not 50. What I do know is that the Captain was right. This journey did not end when the World Voyage came to an end. This voyage will continue in the way we now look at the world; in the ways we will now treat those around us; in the ways we approach the next challenge in our lives. My brother, who has also sailed around the world on the Picton Castle, hugged me upon my return and said, “I’m sorry, but now you understand.” I think that I do. Nothing will ever be the same.