Great Lakes 2019

The World Voyaging Picton Castle Sailing To The Great Lakes For The Summer Of 2019

In the summer of 2019, the Barque Picton Castle will sail up the St. Lawrence River and into the Great Lakes, the huge inland fresh water oceans of North America.  Picton Castle will be the largest Class A Tall Ship in a majestic fleet of classic and beautiful sailing ships.  Together the fleet will participate in the Tall Ships Challenge and a series of enticing port festivals celebrating the Great Age of Sail, and the ships and the crew of today who sail them.

In contrast to our usual deep sea saltwater passages, this summer Picton Castle will sail in the clear fresh water of the Great Lakes.  Not small ponds, but large bodies of water with passages to reckon with, often out of sight of land.  At either ends of all such passages, Picton Castle and her crew will find extremely friendly and welcoming ports.

There is so much to experience: small boat sailing in our four small boats under sail, oars and power.  Ports, ships, festivals celebrating ships and crews.  Folks so excited to see your ship.  Music concerts, fireworks, starry nights, balmy days, all in a summer voyage over these inland seas in the heartland of North America.

You will learn the skills of a sailor: steering by compass at the 5' teak wheel, transiting some amazing lock systems, maybe seeing the aurora borealis on night watch, witnessing all kinds of big ships at work in the trades across these lakes, helping host visitors as they check out your ship in wonder, days free to explore these ports and visit and make friends in the other ships, and the chance to learn a lot about what makes a classic sailing ship like Picton Castle work.  What starts out a mystery turns into confidence and skills.

Picton Castle will take part in tall ships festivals in 10 different port towns and cities in the United States and Canada on the coasts of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and the St. Lawrence River.  On this momentous voyage, Picton Castle will return to the Great Lakes for the first time in 13 years. 

Join the Crew

You too can be part of this amazing voyage.  By signing up to join the Picton Castle as a trainee crew member, this can be your summer of sailing ship memories.  Sign aboard for as little as one week, two weeks, or for the full three month voyage.  The longer the better, we always say.

No experience is necessary, the ship will take care of that, you just need good health, a good attitude and the desire to be part of the working crew of the ship.  With the guidance of the professional crew, you will steer the ship, stand watches, lay aloft or out on the bowsprit, and pitch in with ship's maintenance: tarring the rig, painting and varnishing, splicing new lines and whatever comes along.  All the while learning the ways of a square rigger at sea on these inland seas.

Imagine sailing into port in your tall ship, proudly wearing your crew shirt and following the officers' orders to get the ship safely tied up alongside the dock, while thousands of spectators watch from shore.  Then welcoming the public aboard your ship for tours, sharing your excitement with visitors of all ages.  Everyone stands watch at sea and in port in turns, so you will get to enjoy time off duty in port, exploring new cities and towns, and participating in crew-only events while mingling with fellow sailors, crew in ships of the fleet. 

When Picton Castle is not open to the public, you'll focus your attention on learning seamanship skills, gaining proficiency through hands-on practice. On this voyage the distances you'll cover over water may not be great, but you will gain experience and insight into the inner workings of a real square rig sailing ship by being part of the crew and taking part in skill-building workshops.  There will be heaps of sail handling, ship handling and chances to sail our small boats.  Focus on learning new skills (or brushing up on old ones) while working together with your shipmates to care for the ship. 

The Voyage Plan

Just returning from our seventh around the world voyage, Picton Castle will set off in June 2019 from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada.  You'll sail the Atlantic Ocean up the coast of Nova Scotia and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence (keep an eye out for whales as they're plentiful here), before heading up the St. Lawrence River and entering the locks of the St.Lawrence Seaway at Montreal where we will take pilots.  You will then head up through the beautiful Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River before arriving at Toronto on the Canada Day weekend to kick off the Tall Ships Challenge.

Sail across Lake Ontario and through the  amazing and daunting Welland Canal, the short cut designed to bypass the immense Niagara Falls, before your second port visit in Buffalo, New York.  Buffalo is hosting the Tall Ships Challenge for the first time and couldn't be more excited to welcome this ship and her crew.  It will be an interesting rigging job to get the yards cockbilled and boats swung in for these canal transits. 

Farther west in Lake Erie, your next port is Cleveland, Ohio, home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and no shortage of excellent music venues.  Then it's on past Detroit, through the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, and the Detroit River before arriving in Bay City, Michigan, on Lake Huron.  Because of their legendary hospitality, Bay City often wins the award for the crew's favourite port and we can't wait to visit again.

Then it's a good long lake passage from Lake Huron through the Straits of Mackinac to Lake Michigan and to the port of Green Bay, Wisconsin for a visit (and maybe some cheese?).  Carry on from there through the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal farther south in Lake Michigan to Kenosha, Wisconsin, another city that is hosting the Tall Ships for the first time.

Our big white square-rigger will make her way from the south part of Lake Michigan to the southern end of Lake Huron, via the Straits of Mackinac again, to Sarnia, Ontario for another port visit.  Go with the current through the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River back to Lake Erie, making a visit to Kingsville, Ontario, near the southernmost point of land in Canada. 

Cross Lake Erie to the city of Erie, Pennsylvania, home of the US Brig Niagara and Tall Ships Erie.  Back in 2006, Erie is the only port that Picton Castle visited twice. From there, we'll head for home, continuing on our own through the Welland Canal, Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, then through the locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway, across the Gulf of St. Lawrence, along the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, returning to Lunenburg by mid September. 

Great Lakes 2019 Itinerary

LegLocationPort Date
Leg 1Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, CanadaJune 10, 2019
 Port to be determined, USA 
 Toronto, Ontario, CanadaJuly 1, 2019
Leg 2Toronto, Ontario, CanadaJuly 1, 2019
 Buffalo, New York, USAJuly 7, 2019
Leg 3Buffalo, New York, USAJuly 7, 2019
 Cleveland, Ohio, USA 
 Bay City, Michigan, USAJuly 21, 2019
Leg 4Bay City, Michigan, USAJuly 21, 2019
 Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA 
 Kenosha, Wisconsin, USAAugust 4, 2019
Leg 5Kenosha, Wisconsin, USAAugust 4, 2019
 Sarnia, Ontario, CanadaAugust 11, 2019
Leg 6Sarnia, Ontario, CanadaAugust 11, 2019
 Port to be determined, USA 
 Kingsville, Ontario, Canada 
 Erie, Pennsylvania, USAAugust 25, 2019
Leg 7Erie, Pennsylvania, USAAugust 25, 2019
 Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, CanadaSeptember 11, 2019

*All ports and dates are subject to change

Life as a Trainee Crew Member

As a trainee, you are involved fully in daily life aboard Picton Castle to the best of your ability.  While most trainees want to climb aloft in the rigging, it is not a requirement at all.

When the ship is at sea, you will stand watches of four hours on duty and eight hours off duty, around the clock.  When in port, you'll have one day on duty for every day off duty ashore.  You will quickly become accustomed to the sounds of your shipmates snoozing in the main salon, what it's like to wash dishes for 50 people by hand, and to fill your coffee cup only halfway so that you don't spill while traversing the ship's rolling decks.

Even the most mundane of tasks needs to be adapted and relearned when you live on board. 

Our professional crew, who are certified, experienced mariners, are there to guide you through your days and nights on deck.  With their instruction, you'll take the helm, stand forward lookout, handle lines and sails, handle mooring lines, get practice in the small boats, and maintain the ship. 

Who Can Sail in Picton Castle?

This voyage is open to people of all nationalities and genders, ages 16 and up (our oldest trainees currently are in their 70s).  You don't need any previous sailing experience (although you're welcome if you do have experience).  You do need to be in good health and capable of moderately strenuous physical activity.  And you need to be the kind of person who is a good shipmate - flexible, tolerant, willing to lend a hand - and ready to learn. 

Sail for two or more legs and receive a 10% discount on your fee.  


Prices for the voyage, in US dollars (USD), are as follows.

Entire Voyage: $10500
Leg 1: $2500
Leg 2: $1100
Leg 3: $1800
Leg 4: $1800
Leg 5: $1100
Leg 6: $1800
Leg 7: $2300

Uncertain about the cost? Look more closely at our voyage fees.

Apply Now

Step aboard for this adventurous journey. Start by filling out the online trainee application form. For more information, contact the voyage coordinator. We look forward to receiving your application.

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