Captain's Log

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Sail Training International Conference

The past week has been a whirlwind of connecting, meeting, learning and networking at the Sail Training International conference in Antwerp, Belgium.  Picton Castle was represented by Captain Daniel Moreland, Tammy Moreland, Bronwen Livingston and myself (Maggie Ostler). 

Based in England, Sail Training International (STI) is the worldwide body that promotes sail training, supports ships, encourages industry best practices, supports ports that host tall ships, and operates the Tall Ships Races and occasionally Tall Ships Regattas.  We don’t make it to the annual conference every year, but we do try to get there every so often.  Being in the presence of ship operators from all over the world helps with cross-pollination of ideas and perspectives.  We can gain perspective there on things we’re doing well and also on things we can take lessons from others to improve on. 

We arrived a day before the start of the conference to get acclimated from the transatlantic flight and rested up before the meetings and sessions began.  The first full day for us was Thursday when we attended a meeting of the Ships Council, a body made up of ship operators from all over the world including those in Europe, North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia.  The Ships Council, made up of the Tall Ships Forum (which Picton Castle is a member of) and the Small Ships Forum, is for sharing knowledge and experience of best practices and addressing international regulatory issues.  At this particular meeting we talked about upcoming races and regattas, the Blue Flag scheme which recognizes environmentally responsible operations, European Union regulations for traditional sailing vessels, and safety aloft.  Captain Moreland led a panel discussing safety aloft along with Helle Barner Jespersen, long term Chief Mate of the full rigger training ship Georg Stage in Denmark (training mariners since 1882), Steve Moss of the Young Endeavour in Australia, and Marcus Seidl, Captain of the Bark Statsraad Lehmkuhl (from 1914) in Norway. 

Both Friday and Saturday were filled with sessions in the mornings and afternoons.  At each time slot there were a number of options offered, allowing each person to choose the session of greatest interest and applicability to their work.  One of the good things about attending with a number of us is that we could split up to attend many sessions at the same time (and share notes later).  Between the four of us we covered topics from social media marketing to security, mariner licensing to corporate sponsorship, scholarships to the environment.  Even more of us would be better yet.

After leading the well-attended session on safety aloft at the Ships Council, Captain Moreland made a presentation about Bosun School in one of the sessions.  Bosun School was designed to assist young professional mariners gain hands-on skills they need for successful future employment.  It also was designed to benefit our industry, as ships need well-trained mariners with solid technical seamanship skills.  We currently have a 100% placement rate for Bosun School graduates – everyone who has wanted to go on to find a berth on a ship or in a shore-based role in the marine industry has done so.  Captain Moreland’s presentation introduced the Bosun School to an international audience of industry peers, which we hope will attract more students in the future and open doors for our graduates.  It was very well received.

For me personally, I had the pleasure of representing Canada at this international conference.  I am on the board of directors of Tall Ships Canada and was recently appointed by the board as Canada’s representative to Sail Training International.  I attended the International Council meeting where every country that is a member of STI sends one representative, along with the trustees and directors of STI.  The meeting was mostly about sharing information, with updates from the Ships Council, the Youth Council, and the Port Advisory Group.  I also got to talk with representatives of other national sail training organizations to find out how they operate. 

Antwerp was a lovely setting for the conference.  The majority of the sessions were hosted in the Flanders Meeting and Convention Centre, also known as Elisabeth Hall, which is right next to the Antwerp Zoo and the Antwerp Central Station.  Elisabeth Hall is impressive from both the outside and the inside.  Parts are new, bright and well lit, parts are quite old and full of ornate décor and marble columns.  The gala dinner and dancing held on Saturday night was at a venue called Horta which is a very interesting art nouveau building.  The food at both venues was very good, especially the desserts that featured Belgian chocolate mousse. 

When we weren’t in conference sessions we got out to see the city and walked for miles.  The Antwerp Christmas market started on the last day of the conference so we got to enjoy the festive atmosphere and hundreds of small wooden booths each with a different vendor.  Most were selling food or drinks, everything from hot dogs to waffles, beer to gluhwein (warm mulled red wine – pronounced ‘glue-wine’), some were selling hats or mittens or jewellery or toys.  Most of the market was centred around the massive and impressive Cathedral of Our Lady, the largest gothic building in all the Low Countries, and for centuries the tallest.  Construction started in 1352 and was completed in 1521.  The outside is imposing and ornate, and the interior is like an art gallery with hundreds of carvings and paintings, including four by famous Flemish baroque painter Rubens.  To get there from where we were staying, we walked up and down the Meir, Antwerp’s pedestrian shopping district.  While I don’t think any of us are bringing home any of the diamonds that Antwerp is famous for, our suitcases on the return trip were a bit more full with Belgian chocolates and other little treasures. 

We want to say thank you to Sail Training International and the conference planning team for putting on an excellent event and welcoming us so warmly.  Although it’s a long way to travel from Lunenburg to Antwerp, it was definitely worth the trip.

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Bosun School – Smells like Winter

Slowly, ever so slowly, it is sinking in that Bosun School is coming to a close. Only one more week! Where have those days and weeks gone?

Coming to think of it, it is, in fact, surprising that time has not run away even faster. The sheer amount of things that we have been up to over the last two-and-a-half months is quite mind boggling. Bosun School, “an intensive skills development program”. Indeed.

Remember? Overhaul, prepare, repair, caulk, paint & launch boats, from small skiffs (and dugout canoe) to decent-sized sailing yachts; use sheer legs to step masts; learn to sail, row, pull and motor; basic rope work; organise workspaces; wire care and wire rigging maintenance; worming, parcelling & serving; wire and fibre rope splices and seizings; work aloft; partially down-rig a three-masted barque, by hand; learn to move heavy things safely; overhaul blocks; learn the fundamentals of sailmaking and sail repair; hand- and machine sewing; make a ditty bag; build an upper tops’l to the second layout stage; absorb shipboard life with all its joys and demands; attend workshops; write a CV and learn how to apply for a job; listen to distinguished maritime and academic professionals and hear their view of our industry; complete an accredited industrial rigging course, and first aid course; get your recreational boater’s licence… the list goes on. And yet, every day brings something new. Never a dull moment.

Today was yet another busy day at Boz Skool. Despite a rather rainy and windy first half of the day, we had the program running along nicely. Rigging overhaul continued apace in the warmish workshop while the weather was miserable before lunch.

The gang had submitted a revised hauling plan for the schooner Calanova and the Blue Sloop yesterday for approval. Yes, it’s that time of year. Not to make too fine a point of it, our two boats are the last remaining on moorings in Lunenburg Harbour. Many moorings are now in use by the Lobster fishermen, and busy it is in the harbour because of it, too.

Are we being tardy hauling boats? No way. In fact, Blue and Calanova were both sailed a few days ago in golden early afternoon sunshine and light winds. A good occasion for the gang to say “Goodbye” after a couple of months of intense small boat work. A last opportunity to practice maneuvering under sail, in perfect training conditions.

Hauling plan. Yes, we do it that formally. Getting on paper what is loosely orbiting your mind. What is important? Where are the possible snags? Much like in a professional environment, the gang had to compile a plan as if they were offering their services to a customer.  And doing it in such a formal way helps greatly to visualise the process.

We launched the boats two months ago, and a lot has happened since. So many new impressions, so much rigging, sailorising, small boat work, sail making, boat repair, you name it. Somewhere down there, deep down, is the memory of the launching. Hauling is much the same, in reverse. So deep down the memory was that we had to reject the gang’s first attempt at a hauling plan. Had they forgotten everything?

No, they had not. After a debrief regarding the failed plan, the gang submitted version 2.0. And much improved it is, too, I would call it an actual hauling plan this time.

After lunch, I quizzed the gang about their plan, had them describe the process, and let them clarify a couple of “soft” points in the plan. The plan was then accepted, and we will set it in motion tomorrow.

 Busy, you said? Oh yes!

Monomoy, our 26-foot ex-rescue pulling surf boat got hauled by the gang, a last hurrah under oars, and her bottom was cleaned while still soft & slimy. Monomoywill be properly winterised at the Dory Shop shortly. Karl, Mr. Bones and the varnished skiff, all part of the Bosun School fleet of small boats that were used during this year’s session, were moved into the “Building Bay”, a large open workshop in the Picton Castle warehouse. Mr. Bones, in fact, got triced up under the overhead steel girder to give us more room for the remaining three boats that have yet to be moved for the winter. And the Building Bay, also serving as stock lumber store, got tidied some in the process. Good Bosun work all of it.

 Christian, Bosun School student from Denmark and Picton Castle hand this past summer in the Great Lakes, conducted a workshop on 8-strand hawser splicing, and he did a good job. Having to explain and demonstrate something to others is a good tool to deepen one’s own skill and understanding. A valuable lesson to learn.

What else? All is laid along to haul at least Calanova tomorrow. Not sure whether we have enough lumber for bearers for both boat cradles, Calanova and Blue at the same time, we’ll have to see. If we do, the plan is to haul both Calanova and Blue tomorrow on the same tide. If we don’t have enough lumber, the Blue Sloop will be hauled the following day.

In preparation, the beach at the Dory Shop boatyard was cleared from seaweed and debris and leveled today at afternoon low tide.

Now that’s a busy day. A good day.

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Bound for the South Pacific

Bound for the South Pacific in the Barque Picton Castle

Here at the Picton Castle office, we have been getting all sorts of questions from folks who have been thinking about sailing in our Barque Picton Castle. They tell us that they are looking for that amazing deep-sea, blue-water seafaring, square-rigger voyaging experience. Kind of right up our alley. They want to haul braces with new shipmates in a proper square-rigged ship in the balmy trade-wind breezes. Sail small boats in among tropical coves and bays to little islands on camping expeditions. And they said they want fine warm breezes in the south seas, frigate birds and flying fish. They want to visit legendary islands and make friends living on these islands. Coconuts and mangos and breadfruit might be on the menu in the shade of coconut palms perhaps. “Why don’t you sail back to Pitcairn Island if it is so great there?” Good question. “Why not sail to Tahiti and Bora Bora too if you can? You have a fine, sail anywhere, steel barque, you know the way, why not sail back the Pacific?” Another few reasonable questions. Got us to thinking. My father always told me “plans are for changing”. So, in late spring of 2020, the Barque Picton Castle will be setting sail for the fantastic South Pacific Ocean, our ship’s (and crew’s) natural seagoing habitat. Europe is wonderful, I love it there, but Europe can wait for another year. The South Seas call, a call that cannot be denied…

New crew join the ship

All new crew and trainee crew will be joining the ship in May next spring at Lunenburg to stow the ship, bend sail and otherwise get the ship ready for sea – and train themselves up too. Lots to do and lots to learn; lots of practice and drills and much to go over before setting out to sea the first time. It can be (will be) a demanding and at times confusing period – all new people soon to become shipmates, ropes and lines everywhere, boxes and crates to load and stow. Tons of food, rope, paint, rigging gear, fuel, lumber and lots else to be hoisted aboard and stowed. Supplies for Pitcairn Island that have been ordered by our friends there to be packed in the 100-ton hold. Figuring out 205 lines, braces, halyards, sheets and downhauls – there is much to be learned – boats to load onboard, boats to get oriented in, ten yards, bending 21 sails, anchor drills, emergency training and follow up drills – fire drills, life-raft drills, man-over-board drills, damage control techniques, and all sorts of other stuff. There is lots to do before setting sail for the first time.

Lunenburg Harbour

Outward Bound

Then on or about June 1st, we will cast off from the salty old seaport of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada, set sail and point our jib-boom due south down the North Atlantic, looking for the Southern Cross. Crossing the Gulf Stream, we are bound for the brilliant tropics and the delightful tradewind islands of the eastern Caribbean about 2,000 miles away before sailing along the ‘Spanish Main’ bound for Panama, the Panama Canal and out into the broad Pacific Ocean. Cool at first, soon we will be in shorts, tee-shirts and barefoot.

The island nation of Grenada – “The Isle of Spice”. Lush and green, the best introduction to tropical seafaring and Caribbean life and one of our favorite islands anyway. A second home to Picton Castle (we have a few of these). Beautiful harbour careenage of St George’s, exquisite silver beach of Grand Anse, reggae and calypso music, 17th century sugar plantations still making rum, Jack Iron, mountain waterfalls, spice tours, roti and home to Picton Castle’s great cook/seafarer Donald. We will also put in to Carriacou, a smaller island to the north, where wooden sailing and fishing vessels are being built to this day (See the film VANISHING SAIL on YouTube).

Grenada

Bonaire – Bonaire is a quiet small Dutch West Indian island off the coast of Venezuela which we will visit as we sail on our way west across the southern Caribbean towards the Isthmus of Panama. Laying in the strong tradewinds belt, beautiful clear waters, low, dry and interesting old structures dating from the age of infamous piracy and slavery. Small wooden ships bring in fruit from the mainland to our dock in Bonaire. A lovely stop for us. Then out and downwind for Panama.

The San Blas Islands of the Kuna – after what could well be a strong trade-wind romp along the coast of South America, along the “Spanish Main”, we will put into the San Blas islands along Panama’s coast. Picture perfect palm-fringed islets in crystal clear sparkling turquoise blue waters. Wooden dugout canoes sailing by, paddling to the ship and some with outboards too. The San Blas islands are n autonomous region of Panama, owned and managed by the indigenous Kuna who have called this area home for centuries. They farm on the jungle-covered mainland and live on these tiny islands, at one time for security and safety from the colonial powers. Looks like it worked as they are still here and still in charge. Beautiful setting, beautiful waters, powerful indigenous autonomy – you’ll see…

Portobello, the ‘Gold Port’  – Columbus anchored here and named it the ‘beautiful harbour’ – this quiet little bay harbouring a sleepy little Latin American waterfront town on the way towards the Canal Zone, was once the main port for Spanish transshipping of melted down Incan gold and mined gold and silver back to Spain back in the days just after conquest – and very much in the ‘golden age of piracy’. And among other things a keen target for the likes of Francis Drake and Henry Morgan depredations. Abandoned stone forts and big iron cannon laying in place where their carriages rotted out ages ago are scattered about the bay. “Drake” is still a ‘dirty’ word in these parts. And a sweet gentle introduction to Panama. A day-sail away from the Panama Canal zone where things ramp up for the seriously ‘awesome’ canal transit. We overuse the word ‘awesome’ today but here the term is quite apt. You’ll see.

The Panama Canal transit. This is a big job to prepare for and then a long but fascinating day as we make a daylight transit of this technological wonder. A study in superlatives in amounts of dirt and rock moved, people dying to disease, the moving of huge populations to make a workforce, the vast volumes of waters to make it work, the tons of ships that go through every day, month, year. Amazing, literally. Hard to imagine pulling anyone building such a canal today. But there it is and it makes this voyage possible. Take the locks up to Gatun Lake, steam through the jungle of Central America and locks down to the other sides and the Pacific Ocean. On day instead of three or four months and we get to skip Cape Horn. And this is a day you can never forget.

Panama is amazing in and of itself and we will spend some time here, and more on the way home. Strong indigenous cultures, clear evidence of piracy of the old style, ancient Spanish fortifications, great food, and lovely folks. The ruins of Old Panama City, sacked by Henry Morgan, are easy to walk through an impressively intact. Once Morgan wrecked the place and stole all he could, this old stone city was abandoned and the Spanish just a new Panama City towards the west and left the old one to crumble. A fascinating visit bringing old pirate history right to us. Old neighborhoods of Casco Viejo, music, dining and markets full of local crafts.

On towards Galapagos. After transiting the techno-wonder of a Panama Canal we will head SW and across the equator for Wreck Bay in the Galapagos Islands. Wreck Bay is a small Ecuadorian fishing town on the island of San Cristobal and gateway to many of the treasures for which the Galapagos is famed. And great Latin American cooking and music. Marine iguanas everywhere and we will have to shoo big sea-lions out of the skiff after they take their naps if we want to get ashore.

Galapagos

Passage to Pitcairn

From these equatorial ecological gems, we set sail for storied Pitcairn Island. Home to descendants of the Bounty mutineers and their island consorts who settled there in 1790, Pitcairn is 2,800 miles away and usually a grand trade-wind sea passage. Here we find the rhythm of the ship at sea. Flying fish join us and maybe a whale or two, perhaps a few pods of dolphins from time to time. And we find our own rhythms too as the ship becomes our world.  Day after day, week after week we steer the ship at the big teak wheel aft upon the quarterdeck, stand forward lookout at night, learn our lines better than ever, practice sail handling, helping in the galley, keeping the ship clean, figure out our knots and splice and really “learn the ropes” as the saying goes. Maybe some will get their sextants out to see if they can find out where we are. For those interested, they will learn to bring down the sun. So far from land, the night sky can be dazzling with stars. We become seafarers on the passage. The sea becomes our world. And then over the horizon, Pitcairn Island grows up in front of us off the bow.

Pitcairn’s Island.

A small island, less than two miles long, it is also quite high and sometimes you can see it from many miles away. The big powerful 40-foot-long launches will come out from Bounty Bay to meet us, take us ashore and if the weather is good enough, unload supplies for the island. Hopefully, we can find a place to put the anchor down. If not the Picton Castle and half the gang will be hove-to offshore as the other half goes ashore – again, if the weather holds. Just out the tropics at 25 degrees South, the weather is not as steady as it is in the tradewinds belt. The weather can be dodgy. But if we are lucky, we will get a few days at Pitkern Island. The gang will be split into two watches, one watch aboard to look after the ship, one watch ashore to mix it up with old friends of mine and the ship. Climb up to Christian’s cave, take the longboat into Bounty Bay. Maybe get to swim at St Paul’s Big Pool, walk the secluded wooded paths first cleared by members of the Bounty’s crew ages ago. Make friends you cannot ever forget. It is hard to get to Pitcairn, but it’s harder to leave, but sail on we must.

On to the Marquesas.

1,200 miles to the northwest lay the Marquesas and back into the tropics. Sail-making, rigging, ships carpentry, celestial navigation, and other skills will be pursued by the ambitious seafarers aboard this passage. Herman Melville jumped ship here almost 200 years ago from a whaleship and gathered enough stories to write TYPEE and other books and stories. Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa, and Fatu Hiva are on our list of Marquesan islands to put into. Tall mountainous islands, even today the populations have not caught up with pre-contact days. But walking through the quiet forest you can stumble on lone tikis in the woods, part of old house foundations. Of particular charm to me as captain, is the fact that some of the anchorages are actually pretty good, a rarity in the South Pacific. Google these islands up and learn more. We are keen to see these islands again.

Onward we sail…ever deeper into the islands and atolls of the South Pacific Ocean and into French Polynesia.

The Tuamotu Archipelago – The “Dangerous Archipelago”

From Marquesas, we sail southwest through the Tuamotus – aka, the Puamotus or the “Dangerous Archipelago”. Known as the ‘Dangerous Archipelago’ as these islands are low, low, I mean, low, coral atolls, sometimes hard to see until only a few miles away – quite a change from the high islands like Pitcairn and Nuku Hiva visible almost 40 miles away when the atmosphere is clear. Combine low islands with poor charts and plenty currents, at times no wind, and dubious navigation you could be forgiven in thinking these islands are a bit ‘dangerous’ to navigate about. We’ll be OK though, not our first rodeo. One atoll for sure we will try to get to is Takaroa. A classic Polynesian atoll living the enchanted atoll life. And also, high up on the beach almost in the coconut palms is the wreck of the huge iron full-rigged ship County of Roxburgh, lost in a cyclone in 1906. Just sitting there, wrecked and yards and masts laying in the coconut palms just inshore. Much more to say about Takaroa and life on low coconut palm covered coral atolls but enough for now. Better to experience it anyway. Fishing, diving, exploring, making friends, sailing in lagoons, dancing…. don’t forget that big shipwreck either

The ship comes first, life aboard. With all the charms of land and these legendary islands, we are seafarers first and the ship comes before all. If we do not take care of the ship, she cannot take care of us. While we have plenty of time ashore all hands stand watches at sea and in port, sharing out the duties of sea-folk so all hands can both learn the way of a ship and also explore and enjoy the islands. At sea, we are on three watches: 4 hours on, 8 hours off duty around the clock. In port, we also take turns and stand watches onboard while half to 2/3rds of the gang head shore to explore.

Duties at sea on watch: our four hours watches usually include a trick at the wheel, some sail handling, maybe a stint at forward lookout. Certainly, there will be some ship cleaning, washing down the decks followed by some kind of ship’s work such as painting, varnishing, tarring or one and more of hundreds of other tasks that keep the ship moving. Maybe work aloft in the rigging or sail-making on the quarterdeck. Taking turns helping the chief cook in the galley and of course, there will be dishes to wash. Yet out of the 24 hours in the day, only eight hours are regularly called for on deck. Except in unusual moments, the rest of the day is yours to do as you wish.

Duties in port: When the ship is at anchor or alongside a town wharf we always keep a navigational watch aboard. This ain’t no yachting tour. We always look after the ship. And thus the ship always looks after us. And with a watch aboard it allows our shipmates either half or two-thirds at a time to explore ashore at the many amazing ports we visit. Managing the ship’s boats, skiff runs ashore, shopping with the cook, painting, rigging, sailmaking are ongoing. Keeping the ship safe should weather change. Anchor watches at night are standard procedure.

Back at sea…under sail…bound for…

Tahiti and the Society Islands

Tahiti. If ever a name evokes the south seas it must be “Tahiti”. There is nothing quite like making landfall at Tahiti. The mountains break through the skies and clouds. The fragrance of rich land as we get under the lee of land will be in sharp contrast to the salty sea.  Sailors say that you ‘should have been to Tahiti (fill in the blank) years ago’; 10 years ago, 30 years ago or whenever. They have been saying this ever since Captain Cook’s second voyage. But having been to and enjoyed spending time at Tahiti since I was a young man 40 years ago, the right answer is that the time to go to Tahiti and experience and enjoy Tahiti is always “right now”. Thus, we are be bound for Tahiti. Sounds good to me! Yes, much more modern and up to date, and always bustling. The Gauguin Museum is a highlight. Waterfalls in the mountains, surf along the reefs, round island treks, plantations, coconut palm-fringed beaches, black pearls, the beautiful old market, amazing singing in the churches. Of course, the nightlife and cafes in Papeete call us in. Baguettes and the best coffee and French wines. The night market of food caravans near the docks offers the most delicious French and Polynesian cuisine. Matavai Bay, host to Captain Cook’s ships and the infamous HMS Bounty (as well as a few movies of same) is a short bus ride away, curving black volcanic sand beaches with surf rolling in. This is where Bligh and Christian and generations of European sailors landed their longboats and more generations of Tahitians over centuries launched their voyaging canoes, their ‘Vakas’ and set out to sea. Tahiti is also great for shopping for the ship and fueling up. Then we can explore the legendary Society Islands.

Mo’orea. Beautiful, elegant, quiet and serene and quite near to Tahiti. An amazing backdrop of mountains at anchor. Some call it the most beautiful anchorage in the world. Huahine. Bastion of independent traditional and an equally independent Polynesian outlook on life. Friendly in the busy village and accommodating. Small “Chinese Stores”, cafes, farms, and lagoons for exploring. Bora Bora. Stunning mountain skyline, a good anchorage and great place for sailing our ship’s boats all around inside the lagoon.

Huahine

Sailing the ship’s boats.

One of the many excellent things about sailing a ship just the size of Picton Castle is that we can carry a number of sizable ships boats to use when we wish. And what is more instructive (and actually quite fun) than sailing and learning to sail a small sloop, cutter, dory or motor skiff in the lagoons and coves of tropical islands? Whenever we can we launch these boats and sail them in the bays and harbour in which we anchor. Everyone gets a chance to do this and it is highly encouraged for all. There is some book study, hands-on instruction and then lots of practice and exercise around the ship. Sometimes we make expeditions to smaller islands, motus, and cays. Even overnight expeditions when circumstances allow. Small boats are not just good fun but are powerful teachers of seamanship. Small boat competency is essential to the accomplished mariner.

South to the Australs

From Tahiti and the Society Islands, we plan to sail for Rapa Nui, aka Easter island by way of Raivavae, in the Austral Islands, a rarely visited island inside a fine barrier reef of coral and motus. A motu is a small islet, usually on the fringe reef but can be anywhere. Did you see the Disney film “Moana”? Moana means ocean and the island of ‘Motunui’, the home island in the film, means ‘big islet’. I have never been to Raivavae and am extremely keen on visiting this island with Picton Castle and our crew. Looks amazing from here and have heard great things.

Then the long sea passage to Easter Island or Rapa Nui. Big Rapa. Good to get our ‘sea-legs’ back. Good to get into the rhythm of the ship and sea again – steering at the big teak wheel, standing forward lookout, handling sails and braces as needed, tarring the rig, painting, varnishing, making new running rigging here and there. A long passage to be sure but it will go quickly. Rapa Nui is the Polynesian name for this intriguing island. “Nui” means big or greater. There is a Rapa Iti (you guessed it, “iti” means ‘small’) about 2,000 miles away. Everyone has heard of Easter Island and seen pictures of the great and mysterious statues – few have sailed there. But we will. And this is the first time Picton Castle has been to Rapa Nui. After checking out this easternmost outpost of Polynesia, huge statues and all, we will catch the South East Tradewinds again and sail for the islands of the Gulf of Panama.

Easter Island

Lots to learn about ships, boats, and seafaring while going to sea in Picton Castle.

How we learn and teach in the Picton Castle. We will push you pretty hard to gain a competency of the basics that you need to become useful on watch: learning the 205 lines made up of halyards, downhauls, braces, clewlines, sheets and buntlines and what they do; steering the ship, learning the compass and point system, standing a proper lookout, managing a good ship check, helping in the galley and washing up, keeping the ship clean a good deal more will come first. From time to time we hold workshops in a range of practical and theoretical subjects. Some are mandatory some are not. Sail-making, knots and splices, all sorts of wire rigging, ocean winds and weather, ocean currents, small boat sailing, ship handling, cultural insights into upcoming ports, chartwork, celestial navigation, small boat handling, etc. Much will be learned simply on the watches alongside shipmates in gaining the ship’s routines. The important thing to remember is that you get out of this what you put into it.

Heading for the Caribbean and the Spanish Main

After a nice long sail from Rapa Nui and once near Panama we will find Las Perlas, a large archipelago a good long day sail away from the mainland, to check out. We will have sailed by these ‘pearls’ when outward bound. Now we get to head ashore. Put our toes in the sands of these beautiful islands. More to say at a later time.

For some of the gang aboard this will be a return to Panama and they will get to return to familiar haunts or explore what they missed the first time around. The nation of Panama is much more than a canal. On our world voyages, we are all so keen to get out into the South Pacific that I have always felt that we shortchanged our visits to Panama. That and the fact the crew were just learning how to explore tropical places and cultures at the beginning of the voyage we would get paddling pretty quickly for the westward. But now, maybe we will have an excellent chance to take in Panama in some depth and its wide diversity of just about anything you can think of. We could spend weeks, even months in Panama.

Through the canal northbound back into the Caribbean Sea. The first time ever for me and this ship bound this way.

We love them so much we will put into Portobelo and San Blas islands for the second time on this voyage. Why not, they are right there? Maybe explore parts we did not get to the first time. Or visit old haunts familiar. For new crew, it will all be new anyway.

Cartegna, Colombia just to the east of Panama is an amazing old Spanish city with tremendous fortifications and outstanding cuisine and rich Latin American music and culture.  The Spanish were “here to stay”. The city is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its military fortifications, built in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, which are the most extensive in South America and one of the most complete, and for its historic importance as a West Indies port.  The Old Town is surrounded by a high stone wall that’s 13 kilometres long.  Elsewhere in the city, there is a mix of old and new architecture. 

In the past, travelers have had to exercise a great deal of caution for personal safety in Colombia. This naturally has kept people away.  Yet in the past five years, the public safety situation in Colombia has improved significantly and is now once again a welcoming destination.  Nowhere on earth is without risk, but we expect to see a huge increase in tourists visiting Colombia shortly.  We’re looking forward to getting to Cartagena before the secrets of this incredible city are out of the bag. 

The Yucatan. We will sail north to anchor at Cozumel, Mexico. A main reason for choosing Cozumel is to give many of the crew a chance to visit the Yucatan with all the Aztec pyramids, temples and other ruins of this lost civilization.  From Cozumel, there is a ferry that runs many times a day to Playa del Carmen on the mainland of the Yucatan peninsula.  From there, it’s a fairly short trip to see Tulum or a longer trip to see Chichen Itza.  While the area surrounding the cruise ship terminal in Cozumel is quite touristy, the beaches of the east coast are quieter, where the locals hang out and offer some amazing local foods.  Diving and snorkeling in Cozumel are also spectacular. 

The Gulf of Mexico and Tall Ships is where we’re headed next.  We don’t yet know exactly which ports in the US we’ll visit but will update you as the details come together.  The reason we’re headed for the Gulf of Mexico is the Tall Ships Challenge.  This is a series of port visits and sailing races between ports for tall ships. An exciting opportunity for the Picton Castle crew to mix it up with other tall ships in a festive atmosphere. The Challenge is organized every year by Tall Ships America and moves around from coast to coast.  Picton Castle participated in the first-ever Tall Ships Challenge in the Gulf of Mexico in 2018, just before we began our seventh world circumnavigation voyage.  At that time, we visited Galveston in Texas, Pensacola in Florida, and New Orleans in Louisiana.  We expect a similar number of ports will host the tall ships fleet in 2021.  These events are a good chance for our crew, who by then will know Picton Castle very well, to share the ship with the public as we welcome folks from these cities aboard for deck tours.  It’s also an opportunity for our gang to meet some other tall ship sailors.  We’re unlikely to see any other traditional sailing ships until this point in our voyage so it will be a pleasure to meet and interact with other crews. 

The Bahamas After the tall ships festivals in the Gulf have folded their tents, Picton Castle will be homeward bound.  We’ll sail down around the southern tip of Florida, hitch a ride on the Gulf Stream and make our way to the Bahamas.  We all remember seeing videos and photos in the news about how hard Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas in late summer of 2019.  Buildings were flattened entirely, trees uprooted, all manner of things washed away, and many, many people lost everything they had.  A natural disaster like this is tough anywhere, but especially tough in a place like the Bahamas because they depend so heavily on tourism for their economy.  Without visitors, they can’t make any money to survive and rebuild, but visitors are scarce there after something like this.  In the immediate aftermath, there’s not much in the way of infrastructure, and people are scared that the devastation will happen again. 

They’ll be about a year and a half into their recovery at the time we plan to visit, and like so many of the other islands we’ve visited that have been recently hit by a hurricane or cyclone, they’ll be on their way to rebuilding.  It won’t be the same.  But they’ll be making a comeback in their own way.  And our visit will take place before hurricane season starts. 

Bermuda will be our final port call before returning to Lunenburg to complete the voyage.  Bermuda is a sweet spot for a visiting vessel.  Seemingly semi-tropical, its location makes it an ideal place to stop on a passage north or south from Lunenburg.  But more than its geographic location, Bermuda is a welcoming place, especially for a ship like ours.  We’ve made many friends over the years in Bermuda and have a number of Picton Castle alumni who are from there (including the Chief Mate on our most recent world circumnavigation voyage).  It’s also a final chance on this voyage for our crew to visit beaches and swim in tropical blue waters. 

This final passage of this voyage will bring us back to Lunenburg.  Every time Picton Castle sails into Lunenburg after a long voyage is a big event.  Even for those who didn’t join the voyage in Lunenburg, it’s a homecoming.  The working waterfront is always full of well-wishers, including friends and family of those aboard as well as local friends of the ship.  Lunenburg marks the completion of a voyage, the accomplishment of big goals and dreams. 

In many ways, this voyage will be different than any other voyage Picton Castle has made before. But is so many other ways this is a simply classic and unique Picton Castle deep-sea, trade wind voyage putting in at iconic and difficult to get to islands and ports in the tropics. The South Pacific is such an enchanting place for a square rig sailor.  The guys who used to sail in ships commercially around bitter cold and stormy Cape Horn carrying goods all over the world dreamed of a voyage like this.  Lots of time to make the miles under sail, time to explore ashore in both big cities and remote outposts, trade wind sailing on flying fish passages.  Pretty much the dream of any square rig sailor. 

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Marine First Aid

Bosun School Marine First Aid, 15-17 November 2019

People who sail in Picton Castle come from all walks of life and, quite frequently, after settling back into their “normal” lives ashore, they stay in touch and do return for more.

World Voyage 7 Medical Officer Jen White did that very thing. After months of planning, Jen came to Lunenburg for the weekend of November 15-17 to run a fully accredited Marine First Aid course as part of Bosun School, our land-based skills enrichment program for mariners. Three exciting days of full-on, hands-on, get-down-and-dirty, real-life First Aid scenarios, complemented by the necessary theoretical aspects to tie it all together.

When Jen set up for the course on Friday morning, large bags of gear and props came through the door of the second building at the Dory Shop, our base for the weekend. And kept coming. And coming. Now Jen’s car is tiny. How on earth did all that fit in there? Thoughts of Doctor Who’s TARDIS crept into my mind…

Over the next three days, we learned and practiced, sometimes in an orchestrated scenario, sometimes in a surprise scene strewn with all manner of casualties. In daylight and in the dark. Indoors and out. Roles of first aiders and casualties changed among the gang, many of who interpreted their casualty persona with gusto and conviction; noisy or obnoxious at times, but every so often suspiciously quiet.

Jen’s talent of mixing in-your-face flesh wounds (she brought an eerie supply of movie make-up wounds and a bag of goodies containing fake blood, makeup and other paraphernalia) with less obvious traumas or medical conditions made for an extraordinarily real and engaging context: we were fully immersed in the apparent mayhem of an incident that could happen to any of us, large scale or small, in a group or individually.

In between the outdoor events, the gang huddled around the woodstove, following Jen’s discourse on the background and foundations of effective First Aid in the real world, with an emphasis on the marine environment and remote locations (imagine hiking in a small group on a remote Pacific island).

Jen’s course delivery was a match with Picton Castle’s philosophy of planning and prevention, backed up by sound principles of WHY we do (or not do) things, not only HOW.

And at the end of day three, the air was abuzz with communicating our impressions in a feedback session, and I can confidently say that all of us feel much better prepared, and rightly so, when facing the prospect of not only administering and managing First Aid but also preventing a scenario from developing.

Metaphorically speaking, it is good to have a fire extinguisher. And being well trained in using it. But if you have to put out a fire, something has already gone wrong.

Not all First Aid incidents can be avoided. There are factors that are beyond our control, environmental and others. But we can reduce the variables that contribute to, and let a seemingly normal situation deteriorate into, an incident.

Late afternoon on Sunday, everything was packed up and the dying embers in the wood stove failed to radiate sufficient heat to keep the gang around. It was time to call it a day and think about supper.

In addition to getting good at caulking, parceling and serving, wire splicing and sailing small South Seas cutters and old schooners, our Bosun School gang has had a master class in First Aid training, and are all the better mariners for this.

And yes, all those bags and props did make it back into Jen’s car.

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Why South Pacific?

Why the change from the Atlantic to the South Pacific?

Captain Daniel D. Moreland

At the Picton Castle office and aboard the ship here in wintery Lunenburg everyone is pretty excited about the change from sailing to Europe to sailing to the South Pacific. Europe would have been great, but it takes more than me to think so. Europe is great in my view but how can you not get crazy excited about a square-rigger voyage to the best islands in the Caribbean, the Spanish Main, and on through legendary isles of the South Pacific Ocean? Who doesn’t want to sail to Galapagos, Pitcairn Island and Tahiti? And how else can this be done as a real before-the-mast sailor but in Picton Castle?

But why the change from the Atlantic Voyage? Well, there are a couple other reasons but the biggest reason, simply and honestly, is that we were not getting the level of interest in the Atlantic Voyage to give us necessary confidence that we would have enough of a gang to make the trip work. I for one think that this European/African/Caribbean voyage is wonderful, and we will see about setting one up again in the future. But for now, off to the South Pacific it is. As most of us know there is all but no other way to visit these exquisite islands or make these trade-wind passages in a blue-water square-rigger but to sail in Picton Castle.

Our gang, of course, is all excited about getting back to Pitcairn Island! Surf the longboats into Bounty Bay! But they are also really excited to make long trade-wind ocean passages across the warm blue South Pacific Ocean and put into and visit so many islands that we didn’t have time to visit on our earlier world voyages. The tall brooding Marquesas, the low coral atolls and lagoons of the Tuamotus group – shipwrecks and all, Tahiti and so many of the languid Society Islands of French Polynesia, and including some new islands like Raivavae and the famous and ever so iconic Easter Island. We have never been there before. Not many ships sail there. And on the way out and back we will be able to give enough time to amazing and culturally rich Panama and couple other stops in Latin America including a chance to check out the Yucatan. For something new and different, on the way home to Lunenburg it will be a fine thing for our gang to take part in a few Tall Ships port celebrations in the Gulf Mexico. And all beginning and ending in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada.

So, we are off to the South Pacific! Carpe Diem!

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SUMMER 2019 HOMEWARD BOUND (Part 7 of 7)

Just in came the news that the lock at Canso/ Port Hawkesbury is currently out of service due to a power cut as a result of hurricane Dorian. I am happy to say that I feel blessed to be faced with minor issues like fallen branches, trees, damaged motorcars and inoperable locks caused by power cuts. Spare a thought for the Bahamas that endured a sustained and relentless assault from Dorian that lasted more than 48 hours, extremely destructive. Lives are lost. Towns in ruins. No trees standing.

Late evening update has power restored to the area with the lock fully operational. Well done Nova Scotia Power. We are back to Plan “A”.

Cleared the lock on Tuesday morning 0900. This was lock number 32 for the summer, and our final one. Warm, sunny and still. What a gorgeous morning. Our pilot (yes, we need one for this stretch) is having fun and has taken the wheel himself, taking the ship down past Port Hawkesbury and to the head of Chedabucto Bay.

We disembark the pilot late in the forenoon in continuing calm conditions.

Now is the time to forge ahead and cover some distance. Another low-pressure system forming over Maine is forecast to bring strong SW winds to the Nova Scotia coast later the next day. SW’lies mean lumpy seas and headwinds.

Picton Castle raised Cross Island on the morning of Wednesday, 11 September. Seas are getting up, the SW wind is up to Force 5. In another few hours, this will be inhospitable and uncomfortable. A couple of hours later we pass The Ovens, out of the chop. Set up for coming alongside, prepare the semi dory for launching, slow down. Past Battery Point the last sail comes in, the boat is launched, standing by to assist docking if required.

And there is Lunenburg! Its unique waterfront with the bold and cheerful colours of its warehouses and weatherboard homes in stark contrast to the grey skies and dull water. Picton Castle’s dock ahead on the port bow.  Hug the red laterals, then a wide left turn to bring the wind fine on the port bow, ready to back into the berth. Let the wind do the job, take your time. As the ship backs down, light kicks ahead bring her head to wind, then through. Headline ashore so as not to lose the bow. Springs. Sternline. In position, head to the SSE. Finished with engines and the wheel. Boat alongside, gangway out. Double up fore-and-aft. We are home after three months and a voyage of 4407 miles.

Imagine coming home from a successful summer voyage: that warm feeling of accomplishment, the looking back, the winding down and, inevitably, the parting of ways. Then, deservedly, the sitting down and stretching one’s legs in a comfy armchair. Right?

Well, think again. Bosun School is here.

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SUMMER 2019 HOMEWARD BOUND (Part 6 of 7)

We took our leave from Clayton in the early morning of Sunday, downbound the upper Seaway towards Montreal. Seven more locks, somewhat faint in our memories but demanding respect nevertheless. What magnificent pieces of public infrastructure, connecting and forming an enormous highway of shipborne commerce and trade. And enabling a thriving recreational boaters’ community to move freely between the Atlantic coast and the inland ocean of the Great Lakes.

After a 32-hour passage, we dropped anchor at Vickers anchorage (Longueuil) in Montreal, in driving rain. Both anchors down in anticipation of strong SW winds forecast to pass a couple of days later. And they did. We were sitting snug in strong winds and more rain, having undone all our canal prep the previous day.

From here on, our onward passage would depend on the development and path of the tropical hurricane Dorian that had been hovering just slightly to the east of Grand Bahama Island. It was forecast to slowly advance westward, then re-curve and make its way up the east coast of North America. Storm hunters? You must be kidding me! Best heavy weather precaution is avoidance, simple as that. And with the advanced weather forecasting technologies that we do make use of in Picton Castle, avoidance can be planned and executed well. Not all is done shipboard, however. Plans and strategies are communicated between the ship and our office in Lunenburg. Here, extra sets of mariner’s eyes examine the same situation and thus a safe passage plan is informed. Add to that an ongoing discussion of the weather situation between the Captains of a number of the sailing ships (BLUENOSE 2, PRIDE OF BALTIMORE 2 and Picton Castle, in this instance), and one can be reasonably assured that all the relevant information has seen the light of day.

While at anchor, Picton Castle conducted a number of drills and workshops. Heavy weather preparation (rigging of nets, grab lines and additional hatch covers); Donning of immersion suits; Abandon Ship drill; Heavy weather precautions, procedures and protocols (what to do, what not to do, how to move about the ship, operation of watertight doors &c); Man overboard prevention and response; and, lastly, stowing for sea, on deck and below, including double gaskets on the t’gallants and royals. Heavy weather is a condition. But it is also a mindset. Master the mindset and the physical act of timely heavy weather prep (including avoidance), then the crew is ready. And consequently, the ship is, too. Part of the training in Picton Castle.

Thursday morning sees us downbound the St Lawrence River, after spending a good hour to clear our fouled anchors, on the still strong currents. Past Quebec City, we drop off our pilot at Les Escoumins. Salt water again. And tides. We sneak into Baie-Comeau (Baie des Anglais) to anchor and await the passage of Dorian over Nova Scotia and the Gulf of St Lawrence. Late Saturday night, the winds shift NW, a sure sign that the eye of the hurricane has passed and is now well to the east. Winds ease at the same time, so we heave up and go, bound for the Strait of Canso (and its lock), passing Cape Gaspé 24 hours later. Daybreak Monday morning sees the royals and upper stays’ls make an appearance. Sea state and wind have dropped considerably since their peak around Cape Gaspé. Skies are blue, and even the sun is radiating warmth. Smiles all round. The previous two days had been FREEZING cold (water temperature a mere 5 degrees C) after being so accustomed to the summer heat of the Great Lakes. All is looking bright. The forecast is steady with light winds along the Nova Scotia coast for our run from Cape Canso towards Lunenburg.

It is never over until it is over.

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SUMMER 2019 HOMEWARD BOUND (Part 5 of 7)

The ship’s cat. The same cat that had been with Picton Castle since she was a kitten, having come aboard in, well, the port of Suva in Fiji, just prior to the ship’s Westward Bound voyage in 2013. The cat that had been around the globe in Picton Castle one and a half times. The cat that had been to all manner of ports, islands, countries and continents. The street-smart cat that knew by instinct when to come back to the ship, when to finish shore leave and when to report back aboard ready for departure. And the same cat that had touched and delighted so many people during our summer campaign. Fiji failed to appear at morning muster on departure day from Erie. Nowhere to be found.

With a funny feeling in my stomach I took Picton Castle off the dock in Erie, one crew member short. What had happened?

Across the Lake, and back into the Welland Canal at Port Colborne. We made the downbound transit in nine hours, then went to anchor in the lee of the east pier at Port Weller in Lake Ontario. The following morning, our lake pilot boarded at 0700 and we traversed Lake Ontario, arriving in Clayton, NY, at a quarter to five the following morning. Two full days were spent in this picturesque town. Shore leave, ship’s work and training, plus chatting to the locals and tourists who came down to the town dock to see the ship. PRIDE OF BALTIMORE 2 joined us for half a day before proceeding on her passage.

So what of Fiji? Some frantic phone calls, search missions, and even a TV news bulletin later, Fiji remained elusive. A state-wide news flash. The internet went nuts. “Where is Fiji?” was the call taken up far and wide.

Fiji resurfaced in Erie, unharmed, after almost two days had passed since her disappearance. The Captain of Lettie G. Howard and the Erie festival co-chair, Sydnee Groenedaal, offered to chauffeur Fiji up to Clayton and, like a true rock star (minus the dark glasses) Fiji rejoined her ship in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, two-and-a-bit days after her disappearance. With scarce as much as a flick of the tail by way of acknowledging her Captain, Fiji turns around and, well, takes a stroll ashore in the still dark morning hours. Half an hour later, having appropriately surveyed Clayton’s waterfront, she comes back and puts in a nap. Phew. Back to normal, and Picton Castle with a complete ship’s crew. Thank you, Goldie and Sydnee.

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SUMMER 2019 HOMEWARD BOUND (Part 4 of 7)

Highlights of the summer were plentiful. The Great Lakes are a stunning stretch of water, very stunning in fact, and are lined by beautiful nature and coastal communities large and small. The area is rich in cultural heritage and history, stretching back millennia. What is not to like?

Roaring down Lake Huron under full sail. A serene anchorage at St James’s Harbour. Massive clouds and mighty thunderstorms. 1000 ft lakers doing their thing. These are lasting memories.

All of the host communities and festival organisers did a wonderful job welcoming us and presenting the ships to the public. Countless volunteers were only too ready to do anything to make our stay go as smoothly and as enjoyable as possible. Local knowledge and support make all the difference for a ship pulling into an unknown port for a few busy days while engaged in a lengthy campaign spanning three months.

And as the Tall Ships Erie festival drew to a close with a wonderful crew only twilight sail aboard the beautiful schooner Lettie G. Howard, the end of the Tall Ships Challenge Great Lakes 2019 series made itself known. Homeward bound.

We were back on Lake Erie, having come through Lakes Michigan, Huron and St Clair. Lake Ontario just beyond the horizon. And with it, you guessed it, the same Welland Canal. 8 more locks, this time downbound.

The Erie Maritime Museum and the Flagship NIAGARA League extended their welcome and allowed us to stay for a few extra days, giving us the opportunity to undertake the canal prep in a more leisurely fashion. Not that we needed the extra time. We had simply become good at it. Nevertheless, good to have a couple of days up one’s sleeve. More training (we had embarked yet another new lot of trainees, the seventh for the summer) and drills. More maintenance. More daily life aboard a working, living, breathing square-rigger of the old school. I never tire of it.

And then Fiji happened.

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SUMMER 2019 HOMEWARD BOUND (Part 3 of 7)

Next stop: Buffalo, NY. Well, not quite.

There was the slight issue of the Welland Canal. Exactly. As we did not intend to climb Niagara Falls, Picton Castle had to do it all over again: Transform from a sailing ship into a triced up vessel capable of negotiating another eight locks to lift us up another 95 metres or so to the level of Lake Erie. Well, we had done it before, and we were getting better at it. The festival in Toronto ended at 6pm on a Monday, and at 0330 the following morning, we had a pilot boarding. We got underway just after 4am, across Lake Ontario towards Port Weller. A short delay waiting for downbound traffic, and Picton Castle entered the first lock of the Welland Canal at 1230. The transit upbound took us 11 hours. Emerging from the Welland Canal at Port Colborne at 2300, we came to anchor in the open roadstead in Lake Erie just after midnight.  BLUENOSE 2 made the transit later on the same day and came to join us. A beautiful sight, and a memorable occasion having this majestic schooner grace our anchorage.

A day at anchor saw more training and light day work, followed by another night at anchor.

Next morning, heave up and a short passage towards the muster point for a parade of sail into Buffalo. The parade of sail commenced at 1500, taking us past crowds of spectators ashore and a fleet of small craft in the approaches to the port, all there to welcome us to Buffalo. By 1800, we were alongside. Yes, you guessed it: the same procedure as before. Customs and Immigration, plus a US Coast Guard safety inspection scheduled for the following morning.

Buffalo put it on for us (and we for them!) over the July 4 long weekend. Having well and truly mastered our festival routine left us time to interact with the visitors more. Marvellous. And surprising what questions the public throws at you. The sailing ships that had been an integral part of everyone’s lives up until the early 20th century, still just within living memory, were now, only three generations later, a mystery to most.

Buffalo, as Toronto before (and most of the ports to follow), offered a mix of activities for visitors and some especially for the ships’ crews. Good fun. Self paced and self organised exploration of the host city was always an option, too. Niagara Falls was a popular destination for Picton Castle’s liberty watch.

Buffalo saw 3000 or so visitors across our decks daily, a number that remained our average all through the summer. That’s a lot of people. At 9,000 visitors per festival, multiplied by 9 festival ports gives us some 81,000 visitors across the deck, not counting those just walking up alongside for a little chat.

Buffalo was followed by Cleveland, OH. Another parade of sail. More Customs, Immigration and USCG inspections. You see a pattern emerging. This is not to suggest that all ports were blending into one blurry mess, kind of the same. Far from it. Every city or town, US American or Canadian, put their own individual spin and flavour on the festivals they organised. The summer never descended into monotonous boredom but maintained a fast paced and fascinating diversity of country culture. Good for us. And speaks volumes about the spirit and commitment of the host communities: Toronto, Ontario. Buffalo, NY. Cleveland, OH. Bay City, MI. Green Bay, WI. Kenosha, WI. Sarnia, Ontario. Kingsville, Ontario. Erie, PA.

Plus the ports we were lucky enough to visit besides the festival ports: Sturgeon Bay, WI. St James’s Harbour (Beaver Is), MI. Algonac, MI. and Clayton, NY. Great hosts all.

Do I have a favourite? You bet I do. And so has everyone else. And I bet it’s not the same.

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