Monday, 12 December 2016

Up close with Picton Castle

About 15 years ago, there was a Canadian documentary series called Tall Ship Chronicles. It followed Picton Castle on her voyage around the world, and it was totally fascinating. So I was really excited when I found out that there were tours of Picton Castle happening this past Saturday in Lunenburg. I wasn’t going to sail on Picton Castle, but I could see where the people who do sail on her work and live.

You might remember this foggy picture I took this past May when Picton Castle set out for France…

in the mist

I managed to get some better pictures when she returned to Lunenburg a few months later…

picton castle rocks 1 

picton castle crop

And on Saturday, I got to see her up close! The only bad thing was that it was a freezing cold day and stupid me didn’t wear a hat. Bad move! And I only had my iPhone camera because it was too cold to fumble around with my Nikon and somebody still hasn’t bought me the little Olympus point & shoot camera that I keep telling him I want (hint, hint!) So they aren’t the best pictures, but they’re better than no pictures!

So here we go, on board Picton Castle

name plate

I can’t remember all the details about the sails, but I do remember that there are a lot of them! And they’re made out of cotton. No sails on Saturday, but the masts are pretty impressive.

mast 1

lookimg up the mast

Gabe was our tour guide. He’s been sailing for quite a few years and is now a Bosun – short for boatswain. Ships have a very defined hierarchy, and the Bosun’s position is pretty much in the middle – ensuring that the lower ranked crew members perform their duties efficiently and effectively so that the higher ranked crew members can perform their duties without any problems. It takes quite a few years of sailing experience to become a Bosun, and a lot more to become a Captain. Gabe said it would likely be another 20 years before he’ll be ready to captain a ship.

It was so cold that I didn’t work up the courage to take off my mitts and snap some pictures till part way into the tour. Here’s Gabe describing the engine controls. Once they’re set, the ship is pretty much on cruise control.

engine controls

Every rope on the ship has a name, and each name is mirrored on the port and starboard sides. At least that way, you only have to remember half the names ;-) Which is a good thing. because there are a LOT of ropes! They’re all made from natural materials, like hemp.


ropes 2

pulleys 2


Picton Castle’s crew members are a combination of experienced sailors and complete newbies. There’s a maximum of about 50 crew members on board at one time. Some crew members stay with Picton Castle for the entire cruise, some join or leave the crew at different ports along the way. Everyone learns how to do lots of different jobs. If there’s a particular job that a crew member really likes and wants to do, he or she can put in extra hour (beyond their required daily work hours) working on that job. The more experience and the better a crew member gets at a particular job, the better the chances of being given the opportunity to primarily do that job.

When they’re not working or up on deck, the crew members are likely down here in the crew’s quarters either eating or sleeping or watching a movie on a sheet that’s strung up across the room. They’re not private or fancy or big, but they’re home for as long as the ship is at sea. And this was a great place to listen to Gabe and not have my ears freeze off! Oh, which reminds me – there’s no heat on the ship. She’s often sailing in places where heat isn’t required.

bunks art 2

There are six chests in the crew’s quarters that hold medical supplies. There aren’t necessarily any specialized doctors on board – sometimes it’s up to a dentist to figure out what to do with an injured crew member. The objective is to provide minimal treatment until the crew member can be transported to a hospital for full medical care.

The most ornate first aid kit I’ve ever seen!

chest 1

I meant to ask if the trunks had been picked up on one of Picton Castle’s voyages, but forgot. I’m guessing they were, along with this bench…

bench end

Some intricate wood work on the ship, adorned with little chunks of ice :-)

scroll work

I’m not sure what the dragon represents, but it’s pretty cool. Oh, I just had a thought - Picton Castle is named after a Welsh castle built in the 13th century. Maybe it’s the emblem for the castle…


The area behind this railing is the Captain’s territory. I don’t know if I would have gotten in trouble if I’d walked over the line that defines his space, but figured I’d play it safe just in case – it was way too cold for walking the gangplank ;-)

view from captains post

Porthole selfie :-)


It costs about $12,000 Canadian to sail on Picton Castle for four months. But man, what an amazing experience it would be! If you want to learn more about Picton Castle or find out about her upcoming voyages, click here.

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  1. Thanks for the tour! Great photos. The first photo of the masts and ropes would also look awesome in black & white.

    1. Thanks Sara :-) The first photo is almost naturally black & white! I think I did create a black & white version of it. It took a LOT of playing around with the original photo to get it to the point where you can actually see Picton Castle through all the fog!

  2. Kelly, the photos are all wonderful but I love the first one in the fog. Looks so mysterious. I think the pics from your phone are excellent and it's great the amount of detail of the tour you convey.

    Did you know about the awful accident from a few years back in which Bob Gainey's daughter died ?

    1. It felt kind of mysterious standing on a cliff and trying to find Picton Castle through all the fog! She was like a ghost! If it weren't for the grey blob that I have to remove from almost all of my iPhone pictures, I'd be much happier with it :-) I did know about Bob Gainey's daughter - so sad and tragic.