The Tall Ship Barque Picton Castle Returns !
Pictures provided for this site by the Picton Castle Director of Information:
Photo 1: Atlantic Crossing
Photo 2: Departing Capetown under escort
The following was written by the Director of Information
Ship's Return Date: Wednesday, June 23, 1999
Tall Ship Picton Castle world
""Bound 'Round the World"":
A 570-Day Odyssey Ends
LUNENBURG, NOVA SCOTIA -- When the Picton Castle at last nuzzles the
dock on Wednesday, some 40 sea-seasoned souls will exult in the magic
moment of arrival. For 570 days their 180-foot, three-masted,
square-rigged sailing ship skimmed and ploughed its way 'round the world
-- a 37,000-mile voyage that spanned 47 ports in 22 countries and
crossed four oceans and three seas.
Stepping ashore in Lunenburg and into arms of loved ones will close the
circle for the crew. For Captain Dan Moreland the exultation stems from
a dream won. A mariner since 18, the 45-year-old skipper graduated from
the Caribbean schooners of his youth, to service aboard such renowned
tall ships as the Phoenix, Pride of Baltimore, Clearwater, Maverick,
Romance, Danmark, Elissa, Ernestina and Niagara, and on to his ultimate
goal: command of his own ship, the Picton Castle.
For Moreland, the odyssey did not begin in Lunenburg but in Vedavagen,
Norway, when he found a neglected Swansea trawler cum freighter in an
out-of-the-way fjord in 1993. It was filthy but Moreland recognized the
sheer beauty of her basic lines beneath the rust and mud. Better yet,
she proved to be as sound as a Greenspan dollar.
Now came the time for heroics and punishing work. Get the engine to
function. Make her ready for sea. Motor to Ipswich in England, thence to
Madeira Island, on to Bermuda, and eventually to "park" her at the South
Street Museum in New York City. In the spring of 1996, following an
intensive round a fund raising, Moreland took the ship north to
Lunenburg to begin a $1.5 million refit. Lunenburg -- a World Heritage
Site and one of few places left in the world that does this kind of work
-- proved to be a chrysalis stage. She limped in a blackened, scarred
trawler and flew away a butterfly.
So ended Part A of the dream. Now began Part B: accomplish a
circumnavigation of the globe as a sail-training ship.
"In November of 1997, we went to sea with 15 experienced crew in the
professional leadership staff and 25 apprentice seafarers -- 50/50 men
and women," recalls Moreland. "The apprentice deckhands, in fact, handle
all of the ship's functions. The professionals are on standby in case
the going gets rough or an emergency should arise."
The Picton Castle has had a remarkably safe voyage around the world.
But early on -- not too many days out of Lunenburg -- an emergency
situation did arise. A crack appeared in part of the ship's new
steering gear and it needed to be fixed before it gave way all together.
"We were a two-day sail from Bermuda, running in high seas and near
gale-force winds and we had to make repairs immediately," says Chief
Engineer Neil "Nobby" Peers, reliving the moment. "The Captain got the
ship on a steady course, decided and organized what to do, and we got
our damage control kit together -- welder, spare steel, clamps and
rods. Without a doubt, it was the toughest welding job I've ever had to
do. I was tied in place and two crew held me still in the rolling seas
so I could get my welds on right, while electrical shocks kept running
up my soaked welding gloves. It took 12 hours in all. It wasn't a pretty
weld, but it was strong -- brutally strong."
"I was proud of the crew," says Moreland, "The new crew got a taste of
what real sailors can take care of and saw the self sufficiency and
resourcefulness of a good ship at sea. And I think a few decided then
and there that's something worth being part of."
Adds Moreland, "All day long you could see sparks flying around Nobby
and the gear. It seemed like everyone was focused on this thing: the
guys holding him, the galley gang bringing him sandwiches and tea, crew
getting bits and pieces, the chief mate and second mate taking care of
navigation and sail trim, and the bosun keeping Nobby supplied with
steel blanks, welding rods, clamps -- whatever. Our second engineer
stayed at her post in the engine room and then some so that Nobby could
get some sleep before going back on watch. Watching this, it dawned on
apprentice seaman what the word 'crew' really means."
Then it was on to the blue Caribbean, to transit the locks of the Panama
Canal, and to make the obligatory stop in the Galapagos. During the long
trade-wind passage to lonely Pitcairn Island, the notion of "crew"
deepened for the ship's 40 men and women. Ranging in age from 18 to 63
and sharing a fascination with the sea, they had come away from a wide
variety of fields: surgeon, Hollywood costume designer, book editor,
stunt man and actor, medical doctor, lawyer, pet hotel operator,
microbiologist, Las Vegas baccarat dealer, advertising salesman, social
worker, cruise ship purser, as well as a number of college students.
It may have been on Pitcairn Island, 4,100 miles southeast of Panama,
that the concept of "service" began to grow into something larger than
merely ship, mates and self.
"The folks on Pitcairn are descendents of the HMS Bounty mutineers and
their Tahitian wives," points out Moreland. "They have very few visitors
each year. Their income comes from the sale of postage stamps and
handicrafts (some actually via the Internet). They also do a thriving
business selling fish and produce to passing ships. In a lot of ways
the Pitcairners are much like a ship's crew in that they share so much
as a group."
"Sea conditions when we anchored in the lee of Pitcairn were extremely
rough. We could hardly sleep with all the pitching and heaving. It
came as a great relief when the island's longboats came out and took the
off-watch ashore for visits in their homes. We slept in their beds and
ate heaps of their food. They are amazingly generous. So, naturally we
wanted to do things to help where we could. Most of us pitched in to
help put a roof on a new house, some worked doing gardening chores or
gathering firewood. The ship's two doctors held clinics for several
days and made house calls to the older folks. By visit's end, they had
examined just about everybody on the island. We also pitched in making
computer repairs and providing our hosts with a variety of ship's
supplies from spare flour to machetes. Some of the crew even joined in
launching their 40' longboat and took carvings, fruit and vegetables out
to a steamship that had hove-to for an hour. The merchant ship's crew
thought they were Pitcairners and for a moment perhaps they were."
For the next five months sailing before gentle Pacific trade winds (and
dodging a cyclone or two), the ship took on an additional mission.
Already sailing as a UNESCO "Year of the Ocean" flagship, the plan was
now to do something of greater educational value.
While sailing the South Pacific visiting legendary isles such as Nuku
Hiva, Tahiti, Takaroa, Bora Bora, Rarotonga, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, the
ship delivered cases and cases of educational materials provided by the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental
Protection Agency. Thousands of posters, earth science lesson plans,
charts, and booklets covered such environmental topics as global
warming, rising ocean levels, and El Niño.
"By the time we had reached the Cook Islands," reports Captain Moreland,
"we had linked up with the South Pacific Region Environmental Program.
SPREP serves as an environmental advisory agency to 22 island nations in
the Pacific region. They added a supply of educational materials to our
own delivery stocks. Their books, pamphlets, and CDs have been
developed to address conditions unique to their ocean realm: protection
of coral reefs, handling of wastes, preservation of endangered species,
stewardship of marine food supplies and the promotion of sensible and
"As the crew delivered these materials to island schools," mentions
Barbara O'Brien, who headed up the effort as ship's community relations
person, "it added a whole new dimension to our visits. We had school
children regularly touring the ship. That led to schools sponsoring
dance performances in our honor; and, of course, making us all join in.
It's hard to describe how touching this was to the crew. To sail all
those miles and to be welcomed in that unique Polynesian manner for
delivering school supplies was enchanting. It shows how hungry to learn
these children are and how much in demand the educational materials
happened to be. The leadership in these countries -- including the
administrators, teachers, and even the children themselves -- fully
realize that their future depends upon having a well-educated
"In Fiji," Captain Moreland recalls with relish, "we worked with
educators and government officials to produce a serendipitous blending
of opportunities. The local schools had launched a poster art project.
We were able to provide each of the winners with a Picton Castle T-shirt
and their schools with a 'ton' of SPREP and NOAA/EPA educational
"From my observations, I can tell you that educators -- as is the case
everywhere -- can use a lot of help. In most places we visited, the
Internet is either completely inaccessible, is still too expensive, or
technologically out of reach, so it's not apt to be a magic fix in the
foreseeable future. In fact, we've been in classrooms idyllically
surrounded by palm trees in which the most advanced pieces of technology
were blackboards -- without chalk. At one such island, the crew
stripped the ship of spare writing paper, magic markers, and pencils --
anything that the children could use. The upshot of that experience is
we'd like to form a non-profit outfit so that we could provide basic
assistance and scholarships in these islands."
By the time the Picton Castle had crossed the Indian Ocean, the crew had
trekked the jungles of Vanuatu, climbed its volcanoes, dove on WWII
wrecks off Guadalcanal in the Solomons, and lost themselves in the
exotic oriental splendor of Bali. More importantly, in terms of the
ship's prime mission, they had become square-rigged seamen. Most of the
crew could now knot and splice extremely well, knew the compass by
heart, and were on speaking terms with the stars of the night sky.
Further, some had become accomplished celestial navigators. All could
steer a 300-ton barque and handle the 175 lines and 17 canvas sails of
the square-rigger they called home.
On the other end of the 35-day, 4,022-mile, Indian Ocean crossing, the
ship's educational mission entered a new phase. In the Seychelles
Islands, four educators joined the crew. Part of the Tidal Passages
Internet program, the team's main task was to file stories from the deck
of the ship and to report on cultural matters in the various ports of
call. Day after day, stories streamed back to Tidal Passages'
headquarters in Poughkeepsie, New York, via satellite telephone and
whatever electronic delivery service could be found ashore. And so, via
the Internet, children in some 2,000 US schools witnessed (once-removed)
Mahé and La Digue Islands in the Seychelles, Zanzibar and Mount
Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Durban and Cape Town in South Africa, the
mid-Atlantic island of St. Helena, and the Caribbean Island of Barbados
as well as learning about life at sea. Ranging in content from the
protection of whale sharks and the exile of Napoleon Bonaparte to the
character of South African penguins, the-three-woman-one-man team kept
up a continuous flow of educational materials to its Internet
"It was in some of the more remote South Sea Islands and in South Africa
that the crying need for educational assistance became most apparent,"
Moreland continues. "The realization of what our role ought to become
came from two stories reported by the Tidal Passages' team. In those
digital articles and accompanying photographs, we saw the stark contrast
between the budgets, equipment, and accommodations enjoyed by a private
school and a black township public school."
"The Picton Castle is a sail-training ship voyaging around the world,"
affirms Captain Moreland, "and on each voyage the ship provides, in my
view, an amazingly rich maritime and cultural education for her crew.
The folks who follow us on our Web site (http://www.picton-castle.com)
have a window into this experience as well. As we plan our next world
voyage we think we can do more people-to-people work. President Mandela
has been quite an inspiration to us in his dedication to peace,
tolerance, racial and political reconciliation, and education for
children. In the end, these are all facets of what we call 'peace.'
And peace is not simply the absence of war. It's peace of heart, peace
within one's family, peace in the knowledge that one can earn a living.
In my opinion, it all begins with education and the creation of
"In that regard we have begun to think of the Picton Castle as the 'Ship
of Peace.' We've entered into exploratory talks with the Nelson Mandela
Children's Fund and a number of education-oriented companies about ways
in which we can serve the children of the world. There is so much that
can be done in this field. Consider this: a grade school of 1,100
students in South Africa operates on an annual budget of less than
$10,000 with parents being required to pay an annual tuition fee. Sadly,
some of them cannot raise that $3.50 fee. On some islands along the way,
there were no schools at all. We think that we can ease such situations
during our next voyage."
Moreland has been quoted as saying, "As seafarers we have to serve the
ship in order for the ship to serve us." It's a saying that can be
applied to a ship, a business, a country, a planet. And Moreland feels
that he's picked up a thing or two in that regard during his world
voyage. "I came aboard as an American and I've returned as an American
with an expanded world view."
During the 5,500-mile Atlantic passage from Cape Town to Barbados, he
wrote these words about the high point of his round-the-world sail.
"My greatest satisfaction is in seeing the crew -- one by one -- 'get
it' -- to discover that special relationship between sea and seafarer
-- of knowing where they fit in that seamless, endless web called the
environment. It's like watching a bud open to the sun: apprentice,
deckhand, shipmate, crewmember, citizen."
Sailing ever west, this crew in the Barque Picton Castle has "seen the
world." They've enjoyed cool trade winds, endured blistering hot calms,
battled gales and danced with squalls. They've served each other in the
tight and privacy-free confines of an old-time, square-rigged, sailing
ship. They did so without shipboard shuffleboard and deckchairs, endless
buffets and nightclub acts. They learned how to take advantage of trade
winds and outsmart monsoons, cyclones and hurricanes. They sampled and
then grew sympathetic to often disparaged Third World cultures. Best of
all, they have learned self-reliance and the art of giving.
The day the ship departed someone on the dock in Lunenburg said,
"They'll come back different people." Prophetic. Not a one of them -
including Captain Moreland -- stepped ashore unchanged. The
metamorphosis was slow -- 37,000 miles slow -- but at journey's end they
flew home on butterfly wings."
The above written and copyright 1999 by Angelo Cerchione.
To obtain further information or photographs, please contact Angelo
Cerchione, Director of Information, the Barque Picton Castle at
828-264-7839 or -7855 (office), 828-264-7899 (fax) or via email:
Web Site: http://www.picton-castle.com