The Barque Picton Castle will not be sailing this fall for the South Pacific.
As the most recently revised scheduled start of our voyage approaches in September, we have been keeping up with the latest developments and information to do with this COVID-19 pandemic and its spread. We have been following the many international travel restrictions, as well as other factors that go into making a rational supportable decision about when this ship, or any ship, can set sail on a voyage to the South Pacific Ocean, or the Atlantic Ocean for that matter.
We are committed to making our voyages of learning, discovery and adventure – as soon as we’re able to do so both practically and safely. We have been working our way through understanding these risks. And we have been exploring all operational possibilities. As we have mentioned before, quite a bit needs to line up before we can be sure we can sail without undue pandemic associated risk.
This is all to say that we will not be crewing up this autumn for an October 2020 departure for bluewater trade winds and this voyage to the South Pacific Ocean in our Barque Picton Castle. The start of the next voyage will have to be postponed until the spring of 2021. Picton Castle will remain secured to her berth in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada until then.
As of this writing there remain a lot factors over which we have no control, and just as significantly, factors for which we do not yet see any solid reliable forecasts.
- As some countries islands and ports begin to open up, we have no way of knowing whether that will trigger a localized second wave of COVID-19. Other countries remain clamped down and shut hard.
- The W.H.O. continues to warn of a possible second local or pandemic wave of the virus this fall.
- COVID-19 tests that are currently available do not reliably detect early stage infection before symptoms are present. These which would limit our ability to test and monitor our crew.
- Canada’s international borders, including the border with the USA, are still closed to visitors and there is no clear indication of when the closure will be lifted.
- While French Polynesia is making some movement, none of the rest of the islands on the large South Pacific portion of our planned voyage are yet accepting visitors. At this time there is no clear indication of when they will begin to accept visiting vessels and travellers again.
- Some of the countries on the itinerary that are letting visiting vessels enter require a 14 day quarantine at anchor before any people are allowed ashore. Among other things waiting at anchor which would affect the timing of the entire voyage. And who wants to sit at anchor for two weeks waiting to go ashore? Does not make sense for us.
- It is not really practical to think that we can actually ‘socially isolate’ once onboard. This simply can not be done.
- International flights are not yet reliably flying to ports where we are scheduled to have crew changeovers. And, again, no reliable forecasts when this could change.
A localized or pandemic second wave of COVID-19 would cause both a health risk for our crew and a reintroduction of local, national or international lockdown measures which would likely happen even more swiftly than they did in March. Bad enough with the ship moored here in Lunenburg, this would be seriously problematic for Picton Castle and all aboard, whether we were at sea or in some other port far from home at the time.
Aboard Picton Castle, we characterize that good seamanship, in part, is a combination of ‘attention to detail and reduction of variables’. As you can see here, there are a great number of variables in play still. And possibly more on the way. A seagoing voyage in perfectly conventional conditions has challenges enough. The introduction of these other considerations makes the risk too great to expect to proceed with this great voyage in September.
We are naturally extremely disappointed having to cancel sailing this fall but it is the only rational course to take. Now we are looking ahead to the spring of 2021 when we plan to get the voyage started. This amounts to basically putting the voyage off a year from the original sailing date. While at this point we see it as by and large be the same as what we planned for a June 1, 2020 sailing, we will be taking a close look at it in its entirety and update details in short order. We will share those details and any changes as soon as they’re ready.
We at Picton Castle are both grateful and impressed with the patience of all who have signed up to sail with us and we look forward to having all aboard when the time comes.
In the meantime, we are conducting Bosun Schools and work parties on the ship with local shipmates and young mariners in the nice summer and autumn weather.