Back in the summer of 2016, Picton Castle sailed on a transatlantic voyage where we filmed a television series on the way from La Rochelle, France to Quebec City, Canada. The show was called La Grande Traversée and followed the lives of 10 “colonists” who lived life on board as it would have been for their ancestors coming from France to the New World circa 1700.
Well, mostly as it would have been for passengers crossing the Atlantic circa 1700. At that time, passengers wouldn’t have been involved in sailing the ship. But for the sake of television, the “colonists” stood watches alongside our crew and spent a lot more time on deck than their ancestors would have.
The passage from La Rochelle, France to Caraquet, New Brunswick, Canada, the ship’s first port of call in Canada, was 39 days. From there, Picton Castle sailed up the St. Lawrence River to Quebec City, where the “colonists” and film crew disembarked.
Picton Castle was crewed by her usual professional crew complement plus a number of trainees. They sailed the ship from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada to La Rochelle, then sailed back to Canada with the “colonists” and the film crew. In addition to the ten “colonists”, we also had eight film crew aboard.
The film crew had the main salon as their living and working area. We took out one of the tables that it usually there and replaced it with a sturdy plywood table so that they could screw their equipment down to it. The rest of the salon with filled with camera and sound equipment.
The “colonists” lived in the area where the cargo hold is, in a special set that was built for this project to resemble the area below decks on a wooden sailing ship circa 1700. The set was built sturdily in Lunenburg, finished on the way across the Atlantic to La Rochelle, and fitted out with all the items the “colonists” would need before they boarded in La Rochelle. It had doors and ports that could open so cameras could look into the set from a number of different angles. There was a temporary wall built just forward of the foot of the stairs down to the salon so that the “colonists” would be kept separate from the salon and could not see the film crew and their equipment.
Our professional crew and trainees had their accommodations in the foc’sle, forepeak and aft cabins.
The director, Francois Balcaen, has put together a few short films from this voyage that show a bit of what it was like behind the scenes.