When Picton Castle World Voyage crew sign off the ship and see their friends and families again, one of the questions they’re most often asked is “what was your favourite port?”
A voyage around the world in the Barque Picton Castle covers an awful lot of ocean, about 30,000 nautical miles worth. And on this ocean way we put in to and visit 20 or more ports and islands. Some of the ports we love to return to voyage to voyage, some vary. They’re all amazing, each in their own way. Each of the crew have their own unique experiences in each of the ports. All of which leads me to say that it’s impossible to pick a favourite.
The ports Picton Castle visits on a World Voyage range from urban like Cape Town, South Africa to remote like Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific or St. Helena in the South Atlantic. In many of the ports we visit, English is the language spoken, but we will also hear Spanish (Panama and Galapagos), French (French Polynesia, Rodrigues, Reunion and some of the French Caribbean islands), Bislama (Vanuatu), Afrikaans (South Africa), Pitkern (Pitcairn Island), a few different versions of Polynesian Maori, and a few different versions of Creole or Patois.
The ports and islands, even within the same ocean area, can be wildly different in terms of their topography. In the South Pacific, Pitcairn Island while small, is a tall mountainous island surrounded on almost all sides by high black and grey cliffs rising up from the sea. Takaroa, also in the South Pacific, on the other hand, is an atoll which is low, very low, and covered in white sand, rising only a few metres above sea level. Both have palm trees, yes, but different species.
What often makes a port a favourite of a particular crew member is the interaction they have with the people who live there. Maybe they connected with a particular student at Christel House in Cape Town when that school came to visit the ship on a field trip, maybe they spent an unforgettable day with a boatbuilder in Carriacou in the West Indies, maybe they felt like an adopted family member on Pitcairn Island. One of the unique aspects of sailing into a port is that our crew have earned their way there, which opens doors to personal interactions that just aren’t the same for a fly-in or cruise ship tourist.
While the travel experience is certainly an attractive part of this voyage, it is primarily a seafaring voyage. When we pull into these magical far off places we sail in as seafarers. For many of the crew, much of the time, the best place is at sea, out of sight of land, sailing along in the tradewinds in our trusty square-rigger with our shipmates. At sea we often see wildlife like whales, dolphins and sea birds. With no light pollution at night the stars shine more brightly than anywhere else. At sea. We are sailing the seas, and that is about the most amazing port there is.