A castle on the sea

Juris Graney
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Square-rigged barque will visit St. Anthony

Sailing training ship Picton Castle.

There’s nothing quite like crewing a sailing ship. It takes not only an adventurous spirit, but determination and teamwork.

“You have to earn every inch, every mile of progress forward in a sailing ship. You have to earn it,” says Daniel Moreland, captain of the sailing training ship Picton Castle.

“This is about being a mariner voyaging.”

It is that classic battle with the elements, the rolling ocean, the wind. It is an experience of a lifetime.

“The skills you learn you can use throughout your life,” adds former crew member Maggie Ostler, who is now a staff member with the operation.

“It’s about getting along with people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities, about teamwork and challenging yourself, going on an adventure and doing something you maybe never thought you could.”

Currently completing its fifth circumnavigation of the globe, the Picton Castle is headed for Newfoundland this summer, stopping in St. Anthony on July 30 for several days before moving on to Red Bay.

Its arrival will be part of an eight-week program starting and ending in Lunenburg, N.S.

Under the guidance of 14 professional mariners and captained by Moreland, the program will allow a team of up to 38 trainees to learn the basics of sailing in stints as short as two weeks.

“This provides that deeply rare experience of deep water square rig and it has a positive impact on lives,” Moreland said.

“The crew has a sense of ownership on the progress that they wouldn’t normally get on a motor ship.

“They are a community. They own the passage but they also have to learn, which is one of the reasons sailing ships died — they are complex, where every crew member  had to learn a great deal.

“In essence, the rig is the engine and the crew is engineers, so if something breaks you have to fix it. You also have to prevent it from breaking but if it does you have to make it.”

Moreland, who started his career sailing in the West Indies on island schooners, brigantines and passenger windjammers, is no stranger to the waters off Newfoundland.

“I’ve taken the Effie M. Morrissey up there twice — we had the time of our lives,” he said.

“It is such a rich heritage in Newfoundland for sailing ships, even to this day, there’s a deep abiding sense of tasking yourself at sea.

“I think if Newfoundland was in the tropics it would be the go-to island on the planet. It’s not the tropics, it’s in the north and that has its own charm, but it means you only have two months to enjoy it.”

Intriguing as the adventure sounds on the high seas, the ship has an interesting story of its own.

While its namesake, a medieval castle in the southwest county of Pembrokeshire, Wales, harks back to the 13th century, the three-masted barque sailing ship isn’t as old.

Built in 1928 as a motorized Swansea fishing trawler, it operated out of Wales for many years. Then it was conscripted into the Royal Navy and became the HMS Picton Castle, a minesweeper during the Second World War.

Known as the “Liberator of Norway” for its role in sweeping mines in Norwegian waters, after the war it began hauling freight in the North and Baltic seas before being discovered by Moreland when he was scouring ports looking for a ship that could be converted into a square-rigger.

In 1996, it was taken to Lunenburg to begin a $2-million refit.

A clipper bow was welded in place, three steel masts added, and slowly — like a caterpillar undergoing metamorphosis — the Picton Castle became a square-rigged barque.


The Northern Pen


— Submitted photo  

Organizations: Royal Navy

Geographic location: St. Anthony, Newfoundland, Lunenburg Wales West Indies Pembrokeshire Norway

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