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Nova Scotia tall ship excited to share connection with Waipu


Nova Scotia tall ship excited to share connection with founders of Waipu

AUCKLAND – More than 160 years after Reverend Norman McLeod and a group of 140 followers set sail from Nova Scotia in search of a new life that would ultimately result in the founding of Waipu, another Nova Scotia sailing ship – one remarkably like McLeod’s vessel, the Margaret – is bound for New Zealand.

The Barque Picton Castle, currently en route from Australia as part of the Sydney to Auckland Regatta, does not carry Highland immigrants, though her onboard complement does include people from 10 different nations.

Instead, the 179-foot Picton Castle carries trainees, many of them first-time sailors who sign aboard the three-masted ship to learn the ropes – all 175 of them! – and all the skills and duties required to sail this vessel to ports throughout the world.

Since 1997, this 85-year-old ship – which served as a steam trawler, Second World War minesweeper and freighter before she was converted to a sailing ship – has completed five circumnavigations of the globe as well as a year-long voyage around the Atlantic Ocean, two trips to the Great Lakes and countless runs along the Atlantic coast of North America.

Having departed her Canadian home base of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia last November, the ship has sailed more than 15,000 nautical miles, calling at more than 18 ports in eight countries, including Panama, the Galapagos, Pitcairn Island, Mangareva, Tahiti, Huahine and Bora Bora in French Polynesia, Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Penrhyn, Palmerston, Atiu and Manihiki in the Cook Islands, American Samoa and Tonga.

Still the ship’s captain, Daniel Moreland, also founder of the Picton Castle’s award-winning sail training program, says he can’t help but admire the faith and fortitude of the immigrants who founded Waipu.

‘While our ship and program is based on a very traditional seamanship training experience, we carry modern safety and telecommunications equipment, we have the benefit of modern weather forecasting and the means to receive information of many kinds. Those early settlers of Waipu had none of those things at their disposal. It was truly a great leap of faith.’

After participating at Tall Ships celebrations at Auckland, the Picton Castle will sail North to visit Waipu and the community museum that preserves the story of the migration. They also carry greetings on behalf of the Government of Nova Scotia. After that, the ship and her crew will enjoy some coastal sailing before departing on a lengthy sea passage through the Roaring Forties (the name given to the strong Westerly winds found in the Southern Hemisphere, generally between the latitudes of 40 and 50 degrees) en route to Pitcairn Island, home to descendants of the HMS Bounty mutineers. Christmas will be marked at sea.

From Pitcairn, the Picton Castle will once again sail through French Polynesia calling at Mangareva, the Marquesas, Nuku Hiva, the Tuamotus and the Society Islands, then on to Aitutaki, Rarotonga and Atiu in the Cooks, followed by Samoa and Fiji.

In July, the ship will depart Fiji and begin the journey back to Nova Scotia. Sailing ever westward, the Picton Castle will call at Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and Bali. From Indonesia, she’ll cross the Indian Ocean to visit Rodrigues, Reunion, Madagascar and Mozambique before rounding the Cape of Good Hope and arriving at Cape Town, South Africa. Leaving Cape Town, ship and crew will be off to Luderitz, Namibia, the island of St. Helena, Dakar, Senegal and Cape Verde before embarking on a transatlantic crossing to the Caribbean where she’ll sail through the islands stopping at Barbados, Grenada, Carriacou, Bequia, Les Isles des Saintes, Dominica, Martinique, Anguilla, St Bart’s and the Virgin Islands before heading North for home. It's expected to be June of 2015 before the ship returns to Lunenburg.

Trainee berths are still available to sail with Picton Castle from New Zealand or to join the ship at other points in her travels. The program accepts men and women, ages 18 and up, of all nationalities. Applicants must prove they are in good health and be physically capable of participating in all ship’s work. A sense of adventure is definitely an asset.


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