A Global Circumnavigation Voyage in the Picton Castle
The sail training ship, Barque Picton Castle, is bound around the world. You can sail as trainee crew on this incredible voyage. Sailing deep sea and learning the way of a ship is our life for just about a year. Sailing 30,000 nautical miles and putting into ports like Panama, Pitcairn Island, Tahiti, Fiji, Bali, Cape Town, St. Helena, Grenada and Bermuda, all while becoming an accomplished seafarer and learning seamanship skills hands-on through sailing a square-rigged ship is the ultimate voyage. You become one of the crew. No sailing experience is necessary as you will get plenty of experience on this voyage!
Our ship, the Picton Castle is best known for her deep water, ocean wandering, tradewind voyages to legendary ports of call in the tropics of this world. Our deep sea and tropical world is calling to us again, so we will set sail on this monumental voyage around the world starting in April 2021. You can sign on for the full year-long adventure - or for a leg of a few months’ duration. There is an application process we follow to put a great gang of shipmates together under the leadership of Captain Moreland and the mates and professional crew.
*At this time, the start of the voyage has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. We are hopeful that we'll be able to set sail in September or October 2021. A decision about a fall departure will be made by mid-summer. In the meantime, we are still accepting trainee applications.
Set Sail From Canada's East Coast
Our voyage begins in salty and historic Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here all hands join and prepare the ship (and themselves) for sea. There will be much to do and get done but with sail bent, the ship stowed and crew with a good start on their training, we set sail due south and bound directly for the tropics and the Panama Canal and onward into the Pacific Ocean. After a brief port call in Panama City, we'll sail for the enchanting Galapagos Islands, made famous by Charles Darwin's epiphanies gained there. The passage from the Galapagos Islands to Pitcairn Island is a long, deep sea, tradewind passage where we all learn to get into the rhythms of life at sea under sail. For many this is a favorite part of the voyage. For all it will be memorable.
Deep Into The South Pacific
On we sail culminating in our arrival at this tiny rock of a beautiful and legendary island deep in the South Pacific. Home to the descendants of the mutineers from the Bounty and their island consorts since 1790, and great friends of Picton Castle, we can expect half the gang to be taken ashore at a time in the big island long boats for overnight stays and exploration. There is too much to tell about Pitcairn so we will leave off here. Suffice to say that Captain Moreland's 8 year old son cannot wait to get back for his third visit.
From here we sail westward into the Tuamotu Islands to put in at Takaroa Atoll. At this classic palm-fringed atoll in the Tuamotus of French Polynesia, we might learn something more of tropical Polynesian island living- and also explore the huge wreck of the full rigged iron sailing ship thrown up on the reef in 1906. There she is to this day.
Onward bound for storied Tahiti. Today’s Tahiti is modern and bustling and with so much to do. The venerable market a short walk from the waterfront is a must-see. Pubs and clubs, island and western music is most everywhere. Island dance performances and feasts are not to be missed, same for the botanical gardens and the excellent Gauguin museum. Matavai Bay, a short bus ride away, is where Captain James Cook and Captain William Bligh made anchor many times setting in motion so much of post European contact history in the South Pacific. The beach and bay look much the same as in the old days.
Polynesian Islands of the South Pacific
From Tahiti we'll sail for Huahine, a lush tropical treasure, off the beaten track. Huahine is known for its independence and “old school” island ways, which is exactly why we are headed there. After leaving French Polynesia astern in our wake, we'll catch the tradewinds again bound for Palmerston Atoll in the Cook Islands. Palmerston has become a favourite place for Picton Castle crew. We fondly remember drinking cold coconuts and learning Polynesian island dance on the beach under the palm trees. Here we are at anchor right on the edge of the reef. Fishing, dancing, picnics, guitar around the bonfires on the beach and being extremely friendly is the way of life at Palmerston Atoll. They will be waiting for us.
The next port, Niue, will be a first visit for Picton Castle. We are keen to experience this new island together with our crew. A raised coral atoll, it has caves, high cliffs, no crowds, crystal clear water for diving, whales passing close by, spinner dolphins and we are told, old-time hospitable Polynesian outlook on life. No city lights will give us stars like we rarely see.
Sailing Towards the Sunsets
We sail ever westward now bound for Fiji. Here we'll find a mix of tropical city, gorgeous nature and a wide range of cultures all cobbled together, and quite peacefully too; Fijian, East Indian, Melanesian, Polynesian and European all mix together to make a fascinating and exciting land and country. Then it’s about a week at sea sailing for Vanuatu. In Vanuatu we'll visit a number of islands and small traditional villages, seeing a ‘kastom dans’ (cultural dance) straight out of Jack London stories, trading goods for carvings and baskets, welcoming people paddling dugout outrigger canoes to the ship. The Second World War had a major impact on these islands leaving behind wrecked ships to dive on, crashed war planes here and there in the bush and old bomber and fighter strips to reconnoiter.
Bound for the Far East
Then after a passage across the Coral Sea we make our way through the Torres Strait over the top of Australia, down the Timor Sea, then we'll make landfall at Bali, Indonesia – here we enter the Far East.
Bali is both amazing and delightful. This island and its rich complex culture fills the senses to overflowing at times. Incredible pagoda temples, wooden fishing boats brightly painted, colorful festivals somewhere every day of the year, intricate dancing performances, gamelan orchestras, spice markets, forbidding and ancient sacred volcanos, art and stone carving everywhere. At Night Markets we'll enjoy delicious foods, some quite unrecognizable, sleep in homestays next to serene rice paddies and fabulous markets full of everything you could imagine. Roadside stands with the best satay you will ever have. We will be sad to sail from Bail. But sail we must.
Deep Water Blue Ocean Passage
From Bali we head out across the broad Indian Ocean. This will be one of the longest deep water ocean passages of the voyage, thousands of miles of fair tradewinds and blue rolling ocean. Day after day of living life at sea, a barefoot seagoing life, standing watch, keeping the ship up, maybe making some sails, steering the ship by compass and wind from the big teak wheel on the quarterdeck. Keeping a forward look out at night, counting the stars. A great passage to master celestial navigation with a sextant, for those inclined. There will be classes.
Our goal is to make landfall at the island of Rodrigues after perhaps about four weeks at sea. Rodrigues is a small island that's part of the country of Mauritius, a quiet charming island and a great place to relax ashore on your day off duty. Just a short sail away is the French island of Reunion, complete with shops selling fresh French baguettes, crème brule and superb cheese (and the best coffee, says Captain Moreland). Reunion has remarkable landscapes seen nowhere else, an active volcano, an interesting colonial history. But soon we will sail out of the tropics to round the Cape of Good Hope at the bottom of Africa and head into Cape Town, South Africa, rightly known as the "Tavern of the Seas."
At The Foot of Table Mountian
You can explore South Africa's Western Cape on your free time, including Table Mountain, excellent wineries, the southernmost tip of Africa, safaris, Robben Island where President Nelson Mandela spent many years under lock and key during the struggle to end apartheid. We will visit townships and township schools with groups of students, hopefully bringing them some badly needed school supplies. We will spend as long as we can at Cape Town. Eventually it will be time to set sail again, this time for St. Helena, the British island in the middle of the South Atlantic where Napoleon was exiled.
The Real West Indies
The South Atlantic trade winds blow steadily, pushing us up towards the Equator, then across it and into the Caribbean Sea. We'll visit a number of Eastern Caribbean islands, sailing between each, and getting to know each for its own unique characteristics beyond what the usual tourist sees. Picton Castle is known in these islands and our crew are welcomed. The Captain cannot say enough about how great these islands are and here is where he started to learn his seafaring trade skills such as shipwright, spar making, rigging and sail making. But it’s also redolent with calypso, sugar and spice plantations, reggae music and great welcoming people.
When it's time to sail north we'll be bound for Bermuda, and then to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada, returning to where we started just over a year ago.
What is Life at Sea Like?
In the tropics we live, work and often sleep on deck in the tradewinds – a barefoot healthy outdoor life. We are on a three-watch system, four hours on duty, eight hours off. Occasionally we will hear the call for “all hands” but not often.
On our daytime watch we will spend our time steering, handling sail, doing rigging projects, maybe some sail making and keeping our sea-going home clean, orderly and shipshape. Sanding, painting, cleaning, tarring the rig, oiling the spars are all traditional duties of seafarers before the mast. You will also be called upon to help the cook in the galley and to take your turn washing dishes. Off watch there is plenty of time for leisure and solitude; time to read and write letters home; work on your canvas ditty bag or new sea chest; learn the sextant, marlin spike and sewing palm; contemplate the beauty of the sea and sky around you.
Frequent workshops in ropework, rigging, seamanship, rules of the road, celestial navigation, ocean winds and weather and other nautical subjects, as well as safety drills, are carried out during long sea passages. Naturally much of your learning is simply absorbed while carrying out daily tasks and useful work sailing the ship.
Most often in the tradewinds that carry us along the weather is fair. From time to time we will see squalls and perhaps the occasional gale.
While first and foremost we become deep-water seafarers, nonetheless a run ashore is near and dear to the mariner’s heart. In port, crew members divide up to stand anchor watch, take the longboat out on expeditions to an uninhabited cay, explore ashore on free watches, meet folks in their own lands and on their own terms. We swim off the ship if it’s warm enough, invite new friends to see our ship, give tours to school children, host a reception to share the lore of our ship, and whatever else our imaginations can come up with. Every island and port have much, and many different things, to offer.
Becoming a Seafarer Under Sail
When you sign aboard Picton Castle, you become part of the crew that sails the ship. Don't have any sailing experience? That's okay! As a training ship, it's Picton Castle's mission to teach you the ropes - literally. Under Captain Moreland’s direction, our professional crew are here to instruct you and guide you as you learn the intricacies of square rig sailing. While we offer frequent workshops on a variety of educational topics, much of the learning happens in the hands-on process of sailing the ship. Your interest and motivation will drive your learning.
As you learn seamanship skills that will help you become an effective crew member, like rigging, sail handling, later maybe navigation, and definitely small boat handling (we're big on that), you will also develop the skills and characteristics it takes to be a good shipmate. The ship is an incubator for learning to work together, personal responsibility, and teamwork. Crew members of each voyage develop family-like relationships with one another while creating memories that last a lifetime. It's hard at times, joyous at times, and pretty amazing most of the time.
Sign aboard for an extraordinary voyage that combines authentic internationally recognized seamanship training, personal growth that comes with living and working closely with others, and voyage under sail to culturally rich ports and islands that simply can't be duplicated. Sailing a ship like Picton Castle on a global circumnavigation is truly a once in a lifetime voyage.
Planned Ports and Route
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada
Balboa, Panama City, Panama
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Takaroa, Tuamotus, French Polynesia
Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia
Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia
Huahine, Society Islands, French Polynesia
Palmerston Atoll, Cook Islands
Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu
Banam Bay, Malekula, Vanuatu
Asanvari, Penrhyn, Vanuatu
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa
St. Helena, UK
British Virgin Islands
St. George's, Bermuda
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada
*Itinerary is subject to change for any reason at any time.
Who Can Sail
This voyage is open to people of all nationalities and genders, ages 18 and up. No sailing experience is required. You will be part of the working crew of the ship, so prepare to roll up your sleeves and dive in cheerfully!
Trainees choose to sail with us for a variety of reasons. Maybe you're looking for a gap year expedition, either after high school or during or after college or university. Maybe you want to do something unique for your big overseas experience. Perhaps you're looking to develop seamanship skills to help start a career as a seafarer. Maybe you are already working in a maritime career and want to gain deep-water sea time and square rig experience. Or this is the right time to take a break from your job and life ashore to make the voyage in the tradewinds you've always dreamed of. Or maybe you're retired and want to travel and learn and immerse yourself in a South Seas adventure. Whether you're seeking adventure or a unique way to travel to exotic, iconic places, a foundation from which to launch a maritime career or an authentic square rig sailing experience on a vessel similar to one in the Great Age of Sail, there is a place for you on board.
Whatever your reason, we want to be clear that signing aboard as a trainee crew member is a big commitment. On this voyage there will be long stretches where signing off is simply not possible. We encourage anyone who is interested and curious to contact us to discuss the voyage and whether it might be a good fit for you.
There is an application process that starts when you click Apply Now below and fill in the online application form. From there, we'll request a note from your doctor that says you're in good health and can do moderately strenuous physical activity on a remote, oceangoing voyage. We'll also request payment of a deposit which will hold your spot.
On previous voyages we have required applicants to come visit the ship in person for an in-person interview. On this voyage, we'll save you the time and expense of a trip to Lunenburg and arrange an interview with you by phone or online video conference instead. It's still important for you to see Picton Castle, including what the accommodations are like, how we eat meals, what the bathroom/shower situation is, what you'll be doing when you stand a watch, and so on, so we'll recommend some videos for you to watch that give you the full tour.
How Long to Sign On?
Depending on the amount of time and money you have available, there are a number of options for signing on. We always say that longer is better, but recognize that not everyone can make a year-long voyage.
Sailing for as long as you can afford, both financially and time-wise, is the best option.
Lower Fee For Younger People
The fee below for the full voyage, $49,000 USD, is for those ages 31 and over. For those ages 30 and under, the full voyage fee is $46,000 USD (your age is counted on the day your submit your application).
Prices for the voyage, in US dollars (USD), are as follows.
Uncertain about the cost? Look more closely at our voyage fees.
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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