Picton Castle wrapped up a two-week stay in Toronto this past Sunday, casting off the mooring lines and heading out into Lake Ontario and then down the St. Lawrence River towards Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada, which is our home base.
You may have noticed that Toronto wasn’t on our original itinerary for this voyage. We were approached just a few months ago with an interesting project opportunity, so we extended our voyage to include it. Although we can’t tell you much about it now, we promise to divulge more details at a later date when this project is shared with the public.
Many of our crew extended their time aboard as the voyage end date extended, gaining some additional sea time as well as experience with coastal navigation, seamanship in close quarters, identifying marine traffic, and transiting locks. There were some crew who had to sign off before the end of the voyage, so a few of our veteran Picton Castle crew have joined us for the passage from Toronto back to Lunenburg.
While in port in Toronto, watches were arranged so that each group had two consecutive days on duty and two consecutive days off duty. This allowed the crew to get a longer break and to make plans ashore for their days off duty. The crew enjoyed various attractions in Toronto including a Cirque de Soleil show (which was a ten minute walk up the street from where the ship was docked), the Distillery District (about a 20 minute walk up the street), the Royal Ontario Museum including the exhibit on tattoos, and a Toronto Blue Jays game.
While on watch, the crew also accomplished a lot. We started oiling the decks in Quebec City, getting the quarterdeck, foc’sle head, well deck and main deck amidships done. In Toronto, we completed the project by oil on the deck in the breezeways and the aloha deck. Varnish was a big focus of our stay in Toronto, where the main deck pin rails, pin rails on the quarterdeck, the top of the box that covers the steering gear and one of the tables in the main salon all got sanded down and coated with fresh shiny coats of varnish. We also sent down the spanker gaff for inspection and overhaul, then reinstalled it aloft. It rained quite heavily on a few of the days of our visit so we also had to dry sail, loosing each sail and flashing it out for the day so the sun could do the drying, then stowing it again at the end of the day once the cotton canvas was dry. We did all of the usual provisioning as well; filling the galley propane tanks, grocery shopping with the cook, and taking on diesel fuel for the main engine and generators.
After our work was completed, Picton Castle got underway on Sunday morning. We had a good sail in Lake Ontario with favourable winds pushing us along. We made a brief stop in Clayton, New York, USA, on the south side of the St. Lawrence River in order to make our preparations for the St. Lawrence Seaway. Once again we tied on big 8’x8’ wooden fenders, five of them arranged vertically along each side of the ship to take the brunt of the contact between the ship’s steel hull and the cement lock walls. The upper yards were braced up sharp and the main and fore yards were cockbilled (meaning they were moved horizontally as far as they could go, then also moved vertically to bring them inside the width of the ship). Our ship’s boats are now all inboard and the davits they usually hang in have been turned in as well. When going through the locks, nothing can protrude beyond the width of the ship.
Captain Sikkema wanted to go through the series of locks, starting with the Iroquois lock and ending with the St. Lambert lock, with as much daylight as possible. In order to arrive at the Iroquois lock at dawn, Picton Castle got underway from Clayton at midnight. Today is the day that Picton Castle will transit through the locks, and we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of ship-watchers online who have been contacting us to share photos and ask questions. To follow Picton Castle’s progress through the St. Lawrence Seaway, look here: http://www.greatlakes-seaway.com/en/navigating/map/index.html
Picton Castle’s next stop is Lunenburg, which is our home base. As always, there’s a certain excitement aboard before the ship comes home. Ship’s crew are looking ahead to their next personal adventures, shore crew are looking forward to having the ship home for a while.