Today’s Captain’s Log is written by guest author Mike Rutstein of Marlinspike Magazine:
Serendipity isn’t a word you hear people using a lot in 2020. But towards the end of the summer, two announcements crossed my desk that tied in nicely together.
In the first, Captain Dan Moreland and Maggie Ostler wrote to confirm that Picton Castle would embark next spring on World Voyage 8. This was music to the ears of those who missed World Voyages 1-7 and still harbor dreams of circling the globe on a square-rigger — which is to say, most of us.
In the second, Tell Tale Productions informed us that Tall Ship Chronicles, their epic documentary shot during World Voyage 2, had been picked up by amazon prime video.
Chronicles was produced as a Canadian TV series back in 2001 and 2002. It followed journalist/actor Andrew Younghusband on his 18-month voyage around the world. Hour-long monthly installments followed the barque on her circumnavigation, of course, but also explored the interpersonal relations among the crew and trainees (think The Love Boat).
We gobbled up the first eight episodes — taking Picton Castle as far as Vanuatu — and concluded that what we really need to do for our next issue was to track down the folks we’d been watching (nearly two decades later) to find out what they’re doing now, and how World Voyage 2 changed their lives.
No surprises here — WV2 veterans still had passionate opinions about their likes, dislikes, and takeaways from the experience.
Cheryl Nuttall, who joined the barque in Cape Town and was on board for four months, says WV2 was “instrumental in how I live my life today… it was a formidable experience, where I feel I gained a true sense of seamanship, and a passion for the sea.”
Dan Viglione said that among his takeaways were that “the world is an amazing place, filled with some amazing and wonderful people” and “being on the ship was probably more the ‘Real World’ than what people think is the ‘Real World’ — in the sense that it was a stripped-down, more simple and elemental way of living.”
But he also quoted First Mate Billy Mabie:
“No matter how weird it gets, it’s always going to get weirder.”
Andrew Younghusband, the focus of the Tall Ship Chronicles show, claimed that he “took away enough information and knowledge about the world and geography, about cultures and cuisines, about ship life and personal relationships to fill a book” and also gave a shout-out to Mabie, whom he called “perhaps the best storyteller I’ve ever met.”
Jim Salmon, who really did write a book about his time on the Picton Castle (Rime of the Ancient Underwriter, available through amazon), said WV2 “was a lifelong dream and a life-altering experience that filled a void in my soul.”
Leslie Weiss, who came on as cook in Vanuatu after the original cooks were dismissed, said her chief takeaway was “respect — for other people, their feelings, their space, personalities, nationality, and habits” and cautioned that “things don’t always go as planned. Life is not about numbers.”
Weiss and the other WV2 sailors all say they’ve stayed in touch with several shipmates, mostly online. She and Jill Garland got together and visited their old ship when she was in Halifax for a tall ships event. Andrew Younghusband, Dan Viglione, Pete McNamee, and Jim Salmon went snowmobiling in Wisconsin this past winter.
“It’s been very fun rewatching Tall Ship Chronicles, and subsequently Facebook-stalking people and getting back in touch and hearing what they’ve been up to the last twenty years,” said Kate Hughey.
“One of these years we need to do the big WV2 crew reunion,” said Viglione. “We keep talking about it, but it hasn’t happened — easy for the distractions of life to get in the way, I guess.”
Of course, even Wisconsin pales beside the palmy ports visited twenty years ago. Asked about their favorite stops, WV2 sailors were literally all over the map.
“I definitely lean towards our time in St. Helena,” said Nuttall. “So isolated, so remote.”
“Kilimanjaro looms large in my memory,” said Salmon, “as well as Pitcairn Island’s hospitality, and South Africa’s natural beauty.”
“Carriacou,” said Weiss. “It was a tiny little island where I could chill out — no provisioning! I could relax, go diving. All the places we stopped were interesting, but as cook, I got to see the supermarkets of the world. Best provisioning was in Bali.”
“If pressed, I go with the three Ps: Pitcairn, Palmerston and Puka Puka,” said Younghusband. “Part of the appeal is that these places aren’t visited by ‘normal’ tourists. You can’t fly there, you have to go by sea. But the remoteness isn’t what makes these places great — it’s the people that live there.”
“My eight-year-old just asked me this,” said Hughey, “and I told him Pitcairn Island, Bali, and Cape Town. St. Helena is a very close fourth, though. What an amazing experience!”
“If I were forced to choose…” pondered Viglione, “…maybe Palmerston or Pitcairn to reconnect with the people we met. Maybe Vanuatu or Tonga for the islands themselves.”
One question we posed to all the World Voyagers was: how did your time on Picton Castle impact your life and career?
“I think it has helped me keep things in perspective and to not get too caught up in material/monetary things, political nonsense, and interpersonal drama,” said Viglione.
“Seeing so many different geographies and cultures, and getting to know some of the people in a deeper way than the typical tourist, allows you to see we are so very similar; in our pursuit of happiness, caring for and loving family and friends, helping each other, finding meaning and purpose in life. Time, geography, and cultures may change, but humanity doesn’t seem to.”
“I recall one of my early conversations with Captain Dan, along the lines of how I thought the journey would affect me. His response was something like “Oh no, basically it’s going to mess you up.” He used a different four-letter word than ‘mess.’ I now see he was right. It did mess me up — but in a good way, I think.”
For Nuttall, WV2 started her on a maritime career.
“After my time on the Picton Castle — which continued for many months after WV2 — I reunited with the ship briefly in Bali in 2003, and again on the East Coast in 2004. I continued to gain further experience and sea time aboard vessels such as Irene, which was featured in a Tall Ship Chronicles episode; the Bluenose II; and Tocorimé Pamatojari of Brazil, eventually returning home to Toronto.
“In 2007 I met my husband, Gordon Sloane, aboard the Empire Sandy of Toronto. He was the captain and I the first mate. We shared similar sailing experiences and backgrounds, and our son was born in 2009. We soon realized that we wanted to share our sailing experiences with our son, and give him the world.”
Nuttall and her husband launched their own steel sailboat, Monster, a 47’ Roberts Spray in 2013, and have lived aboard ever since.
“Over the years, I have continued to work in Toronto aboard various vessels, and most recently as mate aboard the schooner Kajama. Unfortunately, a number of life events and COVID-19 have delayed our departure for trade winds and palm trees. However, it’s only a matter of time.
“As Captain Moreland once told me, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’.”
Hughey’s special task during WV2 — collecting school supplies on behalf of WorldWise and then distributing them at stops throughout the voyage — is one that she reprised later on.
“I’ve been a classroom teacher since leaving the ship, and my experiences dramatically affected my teaching and classroom management. My classrooms are always filled with maps and globes. I play ‘Guess the Country’ as a time-filler, and hound my kids to take care of their supplies, because I know how grateful students around the world are for just one pencil — much less a whole box of pencils!
“I became involved with the North Carolina-Moldova partnership project as a result of my passion for global education and held a school-wide book drive for Moldova, much like my book drive for WorldWise.
“I would say [WV2] was the single most impactful experience of my life.”
For Younghusband, of course, the voyage was part and parcel of his career as a Canadian TV personality.
“Being the main subject of Tall Ship Chronicles (and being the writer of that series) put me in a unique position. The impact the voyage has had on me personally and professionally can’t possibly be articulated. Without that experience, I have no idea who, what or where I’d be right now. I’d be a completely different person.”
“Twenty years out, the world voyage is still a large part of my identity. I went on to earn my captain’s license and wrote a book about the voyage, which has been well received.”
Weiss, as the cook, found her takeaways were closely connected to her responsibilities on board.
“Do not WASTE things!” she emphasized. Being the cook means planning for, and being conscious of, many things the crew consumes without much thought — “especially toilet paper!”
“I had to plan menus, so waste came into play. There is no Burger King around the corner. I continued working on ships for six more years and you have to stay within a budget, no matter what kind of cooking you do. You do not want to buy too much and chuck it.
“Learning how to read people and understand them, that’s very important in a restaurant kitchen as well. Twenty years later, I think I really learned a lot from the ship, and these things remain very, very important to me to this day.”
The one thing all the voyagers agreed on was advice for those contemplating signing on for WV8, departing this spring from Lunenburg.
“Stop contemplating and sign up. Now.” — Dan Viglione
“Go for it.” — Andrew Younghusband
“GO!!! And then when you do: Don’t pack too much. Don’t drink too much. Put your whole self into it, because you will only get out of it what you put in. Seek out experiences. Be brave. Appreciate the beauty in small moments and remind yourself that the crappy moments will pass.” — Kate Hughey
“Have a positive attitude. Don’t let the rigors of sea life get you down, and don’t quit! You will be glad you didn’t.”— Jim Salmon
“Go for it.” — Leslie Weiss