We hope and trust that for all of you who follow the voyages and activities of the Barque Picton Castle the new year is off to a good start. Pretty raw and cold here in Lunenburg just now. With the ship lashed to our wharf with many strong hawsers and a big anchor out in the harbour should it come to blow hard.
We are cautiously optimistic and even excited about the prospects for the year ahead. But it does look like we will have to wait until later in the year to set sail on our long-anticipated and exciting voyage in the Barque Picton Castle, bound round this blue ocean world of ours.
From our many COVID-19 updates and the latest information from our contacts in all of the ports on the planned itinerary all over the globe, it looks like borders are starting to open up. But this is not happening rapidly enough, or with enough certainty, for us to responsibly plan on setting off in the spring. We are not there yet. We are getting there though.
Some countries are well vaccinated now. Some which have wisely been locked down for a long time, some have announced that they are open – or have forecasted when they expect to open. Wonderful Pitcairn Island is planning to open up, Galapagos has made great progress. Amazing and diverse Fiji allowed visitors to enter starting in December. Tahiti and French Polynesia are still locked down, but we are advised that this will be easing up in due course here. The friendly Cook Islands are expected to re-open to travelers from New Zealand soon and is likely to open to all by mid-year. Vaccination percentages are up all over. This is critical too. It looks like things are getting sorted, slowly, but getting sorted for the better and for the longer term. And all these ports have manageable restrictions in place for visiting.
Another critical issue that precludes us from sailing is that the Canadian government reinstated a blanket advisory against all “non-essential” international travel in mid-December, with no projected timeline for lifting it. This has bearing on our sailing. We may think that a world voyage under square sail in the tradewinds is “essential”, essential to our souls, but the powers-that-be do not. This advisory, as plainly as it is worded, creates significant knock-on effects. It prevents our ship’s insurance from underwriting the coverage that is necessary to keep the ship and her crew fully supported. Our trusted insurance agents, who have been part of many successful world voyages, have assured us that once this advisory is dropped, we will be in the clear to sail with that base covered. Further, and also critically, if for any reason after we have sailed from these shores out in the South Pacific, and Canada were to reinstate their advisory at a later date, our insurance would remain in effect. That’s positive news for us.
We deeply appreciate that there is a powerful desire to get beyond this pandemic and get going with living life. We feel this keenly here as well. However, while we are looking at COVID-19 itself reducing, governments and their associated bureaucracies managing their response to this worldwide pandemic tend to move slowly, to lag behind events. These regulatory agencies naturally follow trends, they do not lead them. Even as the world evolves into a much healthier, safer situation by May and later, we can safely expect that the lifting of borders and associated restrictions will take some time to catch up.
In order for us to push the green button to set in motion all the myriad plans that are required to commence this voyage, we need a very high degree of confidence that we can see it through. There is no sense in taking off in an airplane if the pilot is not pretty sure that there is also a place to land, eh? Our confidence in being able to carry out the voyage, even with significant flexibility, will be higher once we see that there is increased stability and consistent trends in borders re-opening. We are already seeing trends in this direction. The new plan to sail this autumn of 2022, in October, looks very promising for a number of reasons.
Sailing in the coming autumn brings with it some interesting new elements and opportunities to this voyage. In order to seek out and enjoy the most desirable weather patterns in various parts of the world when setting off in autumn time frame, the overall voyage will need to be a few months longer. Among other things, this means more amazing islands and ports, more island groups and longer stays at some islands. And more good sailing time in the tradewinds.
In addition to keeping an eye on both short term and long-term forecasting, we sail Picton Castle with serious attention to global weather patterns and seasons around the world. A ship planning a circumnavigational voyage should not simply set off at any particular moment that anyone may just feel like it. Instead of the World Voyage being just somewhat over a year long, a fall sailing date means that it will be more like 18 months in length. We are also looking at adjusting some of the legs of the voyage. Stay tuned.
With the decision to set sail this fall in hand, we are reworking the planned route, ports, itinerary and other details. We have made this longer world voyage before. We will have more information to share on this soon.
Sailing in the autumn also allows for another summer session of Bosun School. A summer in Lunenburg Harbour learning seamanship and messing about in boats. Not half bad. More on that soon too.