Tall ship Picton Castle visits Martha’s Vineyard

The Picton Castle, with the Shenandoah in the background, welcomed visitors Friday. — Photo by Ben Williams

The Picton Castle, a 179-foot barque, sailed into Vineyard Haven harbor Wednesday and docked at the Tisbury Wharf on Beach Road.

Visitors have until 6 pm, Friday, May 30 to take a tour of the globe-circling sail training ship.

The Picton Castle is captained by Daniel Moreland, who won the Sail Trainer of the Year award from Sail Training International in 2011. Originally a steamboat, the Picton Castle was refitted in 1997 as a sail training vessel.

The ship can carries a crew of 52, according to a press release. The crew includes 12 to 14 experienced sailors, a few office staff such as cooks and carpenters, and a compliment of trainees, 18 years old and up.

In a conversation Friday, second mate Sam Sikkema referenced the Black Dog’s local tall ship Shenandoah, anchored just off the Picton Castle’s starboard stern.

“The trainees learn knots, traditional seamanship, and deep sea voyaging,” Mr. Sikkema said. “The Picton Castle teaches a lot of what you would learn aboard the Shenandoah, but the scope of the voyage is more comprehensive.”

The Picton castle is currently participating in the Tall Ships Challenge Atlantic Coast 2012. She will next travel to Norfolk, Va., to participate in OpSail 2012 Virginia where she will help commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and help foster interest in maritime history.

The Picton Castle was built in England in 1928 as a steel-hull steamboat. The ship has served in many roles.

She was a minesweeper in World War II and has been used for fishing, coastal trading, and cargo carrying in years since. It now sports three steel masts and 13,000 feet of sail, and can carry 100 tons of cargo.

The 600 ton vessel can reach speeds of 10 miles per hour under wind power alone. In the fall, she will put her storage space to use transporting school supplies to islands in the Pacific Ocean.

The ship has circumnavigated the globe five times, The trip to Pacific Islands such Cook Island, French Polynesia, and the Pitcairn Islands will be an eight-month voyage, a leisurely pace charted so as to allow a maximum number of stops around the Pacific.

The voyage will include a full compliment of trainees. Mr. Sikkema likened the voyage to a vocational semester of college.

In the meantime, the crew of the Picton Castle is enjoying the relaxing atmosphere of Martha’s Vineyard, taking opportunities to go on bike rides and talk to locals. “There are a lot of people here who understand what tall ships are about. The Picton Castle has lots of friends here and we’re getting a lot of support,” Mr. Sikkema said.

For more information, visit http://www.picton-castle.com/ or call 902-634-9984.