A Global Circumnavigation Voyage in the Picton Castle
The Barque Picton Castle is a classic Age of Sail square rigged sailing ship making deep-sea voyages. This October we will set sail on a voyage around the world. You can sign on and sail as trainee crew on this incredible voyage. Sailing bluewater while learning the way of a ship is our life for about a year and a half. We'll sail 35,000 nautical miles along the traditional routes of the world's great sailing ships and explorers of old, and yes, pirates too. We put into ports such as Panama, Pitcairn Island, Tahiti, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Bali, Cape Town, St. Helena, Caribbean islands, and Bermuda, sailing across the broad South Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans, all while becoming increasingly accomplished seafarers and learning seamanship skills hands-on through crewing a square-rigged ship. You become one of the crew. No prior sailing experience is necessary as you will get plenty of experience on this voyage. This is the ultimate voyage!
Our ship, the Picton Castle, is best known for her deep water, ocean wandering, tropical voyages of learning and adventure, 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 October 2022. You can sign on for the full year-and-a-half adventure under sail, or for a leg of a few months’ duration. There is an application process we follow to put a great group of shipmates together under the leadership of Captain Moreland, the mates and staff crew.
Set Sail From the Old Seaport of Lunenburg
Our voyage begins in the salty and historic seaport of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada, once home to large fleets of fishing schooners and trading vessels. Here all hands join and prepare the ship (and themselves) for sea. There will be much to do but with sail bent, the ship stowed and crew with a good start on their training, we will set sail due south into the North Atlantic, across the Gulf Stream, 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. Yes, sea lions, marine iguanas, blue footed booby birds and huge land tortoises call this place home.
The passage from the Galapagos Islands to Pitcairn Island is a long spell in the tradewinds. On this passage we get into the rhythms of life at sea under sail. The motion of the ship in deep-sea swells, the routine of watches, helping out in the galley. The morning routine of scrubbing the decks just after dawn, steering at the big teak wheel on the quarterdeck, forward lookout under a canopy of stars, or a slashing rain squall. For many this is a favourite part of the voyage. For all of us this time under sail will be a profoundly memorable time of our lives.
Sailing Across the South Pacific Ocean
On we sail until the beautiful and legendary Pitcairn Island, deep in the South Pacific, rises from the haze of the horizon ahead. Home to the descendants of the mutineers from the Bounty and their island consorts since 1790, it was long abandoned by the original Polynesian settlers when rediscovered in 1767. Many Pitcairn Islanders are great friends of Picton Castle, we can expect half the gang to be taken ashore at a time in the island's big long boats for overnight stays and exploration on this 1 x 2 mile island. There is too much to tell about Pitcairn so we will leave off here. Suffice to say that Captain Moreland's 9-year old son cannot wait to get back for his third visit. He loves running around with the kids and there is his favourite school.
From Pitcairn we sail westward to the islands of French Polynesia. Today's Tahiti is modern and bustling, with still so much to see and do. The venerable old 19th century town market is a short walk from the waterfront and 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 before Papeete was established as a port. The curving black sand beach and bay, and the pounding surf, look much the same as in the old days.
Polynesian Islands of the South Pacific
Leaving the charms of the high, mountainous Tahiti behind for a while, we'll sail north for the atolls (low coral islands) of the Tuamotu Islands - or the "Dangerous Archipelago" as they were once called due to the currents. The plan is to put in at Takaroa Atoll. At this classic palm-fringed coral atoll, we might learn something more of tropical Polynesian out-island living, and also explore the huge wreck of a full rigged iron sailing ship almost ten times the size of Picton Castle. She was thrown up on the reef in 1906 and is there to this day in all her huge iron presence.
After exploring some of the low atolls of the Tuamotus, we'll set sail for Mangareva in the Gambier group of islands. A high island surrounded by barrier reefs, Picton Castle has put into Mangareva many times, carefully piloting between the coral heads to make our way into the secure anchorage just off the village supply-ship dock. The outer islands (motus) are idyllic to visit in the small boats, perhaps to make overnight sailing expeditions in the longboats. Mangareva is home to many black pearl farms, which are fascinating to see should our crew be fortunate enough to be invited to visit.
From Mangareva we'll sail about a week to reach the Southern Austral island of Raivavae, an island we haven't been to before so we are keen to check it out. The waters of the lagoon are emerald-coloured and there's a species of sandalwood that's endemic to rarely-visited Raivavae.
From Raivavae we'll sail for Huahine, a lush tropical treasure that's off the beaten track. Huahine is known for its independent and “old school” island ways, which is exactly why we are headed there. We'll then return to Tahiti for a second visit to finish any provisioning and fueling and to clear out with customs and immigration.
Leaving French Polynesia in our wake we sail for Tonga. This may be a couple of weeks at sea. And back into the groove of being sailing ship seafarers. With the tradewinds blowing over the quarter we sail ever westward.
Sailing Towards the Sunsets
The island kingdom of Tonga is next on our voyage. Tonga is the only South Pacific country never colonized by European powers. We'll visit three different island groups in Tonga, starting at the capital of Nuku'alofa in the south and heading north through the Ha'apai group to Vava'u. The Ha'apai group of islands is everything you imagine a tropical paradise to be. Less than half the islands are inhabited. It's possible we'll see humpback whales in the northern part of Tonga, their birthing and mating grounds.
We sail ever onward, now bound for Fiji. Fiji is a big and diverse country. 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. Visiting a number of islands and ports will allow us to see the wide variety of landscapes and seascapes in Fiji. From big cities, like Suva and Nadi, to small remote villages, Fiji is a magical blend.
Then it’s about a week at sea sailing for Vanuatu. In Vanuatu we'll visit a number of islands where old friends will welcome us. No electricity, small traditional villages, seeing a "kastom dans" (cultural dance) straight out of Jack London stories, lap-lap (a local delicacy), kava (a relaxing drink), trading goods for carvings and baskets, shade-tree medical clinics, delivering donated school supplies, welcoming friends and even former shipmates, 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 scout out. There is too much to say about the four or five islands we will put into. Vanuatu can feel like a step back in time in some ways. In others, just as modern as any of us.
Sailing for the Far East
After sailing out of the South Pacific and a passage across the Coral Sea we make our way through the Torres Strait north of Australia and south of Papua New Guinea, through the Timor Sea, then we'll make landfall at Serangan, Bali, Indonesia – here we dive headlong into the Far East.
Bali is both amazing and delightful. This island and its rich complex culture fill the senses to overflowing at times. Incredible pagoda temples, wooden fishing boats brightly painted, colourful festivals somewhere every day of the year, intricate dancing performances, traditional gamelan orchestras, spice markets, forbidding and ancient sacred volcanos, art and stone carvings 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 Across the Indian Ocean
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 lookout at night, counting the stars. A great passage to master celestial navigation with a sextant, for those inclined. There will be classes in sextant use and shooting the sun and stars for the seriously inclined.
Our plan is to make landfall at the island of Rodrigues after some 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 days off duty. Just a short sail away is the French island of Reunion, complete with shops selling fresh French baguettes, crème brulee and superb cheese (and the best coffee, says Captain Moreland). Reunion has remarkable mountain landscapes seen nowhere else, an active volcano, an interesting colonial history.
But soon we will sail out of the tropics to round the bottom of Africa and the Cape of Good Hope on a true sailor's right of passage. Our destination is Cape Town, South Africa, rightly known as the "Tavern of the Seas." Cape Town is also our gateway to all of southern Africa.
At The Foot of Table Mountain
From Cape Town we can explore South Africa's Western Cape, including Table Mountain, excellent wineries, the southernmost tip of Africa, safaris and Robben Island (the prison island where President Nelson Mandela spent many years under lock and key during the struggle to end apartheid, now a national park with both former guards and inmates serving as guides). We will be able to visit townships and township schools with groups of students, hopefully bringing them some badly needed school supplies from the ship's hold.
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 right in the middle of the South Atlantic where Napoleon was exiled. A fascinating outpost of the old British Empire. We can sail in and sail out of the anchorage at St. Helena.
The South Atlantic tradewinds are the steadiest of the world, some of the best sailing we know will be on this passage. We will also cross the Equator back into the northern hemisphere along the tropical sailing ship route on the way to the eastern Caribbean isles we love so much.
The Real West Indies
The South Atlantic tradewinds 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. Here is where he started to learn his seafaring trade skills such as shipwright skills, spar making, rigging and sail making. But it’s also redolent with calypso music, sugar and spice plantations, reggae music and great welcoming people. The Picton Castle crew will see a Caribbean not available to so many other visitors. Island boat building, dance, steel drum bands, small boat sailing in the Grenadines, turtle sanctuaries. The sooner we get there, the longer we stay.
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 and a half 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. Everyone is crew, and the ship comes first.
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 to give our saintly cook a break, and to take your turn washing dishes. Off watch there is plenty of time for leisure and solitude onboard; time to read and write letters home; work on your canvas ditty bag or new sea chest; learn the sextant, marlinspike and sewing palm; contemplate the beauty of the sea and sky around you. Some people even still read books. It is surprising how uncrowded the ship feels when we are at sea.
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 - and rapidly deal with - 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 has 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
LEG 1 - Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada to Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia - October 3, 2022 to February 12, 2023
- Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada
- San Blas Islands, Panama
- Portobelo, Panama
- Panama Canal
- Panama City, Panama
- Taboga, Panama
- San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands
- Pitcairn Island
- Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia
LEG 2 - Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia to Suva, Fiji - February 13, 2023 to June 16, 2023
- Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia
- Tuamotu Islands including Takaroa, French Polynesia
- Mangareva, French Polynesia
- Raivavae, French Polynesia
- Huahine, French Polynesia
- Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia
- Nuku'alofa, Tonga
- Ha'apai Islands including Pangai, Tonga
- Vava'u, Tonga
- Savusavu, Fiji
- Suva, Fiji
LEG 3 - Suva, Fiji to Bali, Indonesia - June 17, 2023 to October 7, 2023
- Suva, Fiji
- Nadi, Fiji
- Port Vila, Vanuatu
- Malekula, Vanuatu
- Ambrym, Vanuatu
- Maewo, Vanuatu
- Pentecost, Vanuatu
- Bali, Indonesia
LEG 4 - Bali, Indonesia to Cape Town, South Africa - October 8, 2023 to January 15, 2024
- Bali, Indonesia
- Rodrigues Island, Mauritius
- Reunion, France
- Cape Town, South Africa
LEG 5 - Cape Town, South Africa to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada - January 16, 2024 to June 1, 2024
- Cape Town, South Africa
- Luderitz, Namibia
- St. Helena, UK
- Some or all of the following Caribbean islands:
- British Virgin Islands
- St. George's, Bermuda
- Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada
*Itinerary is subject to change for any reason at any time. Particularly with changing travel restrictions and advisories due to COVID-19, flexibility on the part of Picton Castle and each individual crew member will be required, even more so than usual.
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. Sailing aboard Picton Castle is truly a life changing opportunity and the dream of a lifetime.
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.
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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