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  • Tall Ships America

Swept Away in Algonac

By Candace

The transit to Kingsville, Ontario, on Picton Castle last week was spent, for the most part, docked in Algonac, Michigan. Algonac is a one street town where there are more trees than people and massive Great Lakes tankers transit down the St. Clair River. The journey from Sarnia was accompanied by the rumbling sound of Picton’s motor, taking no more than forty-five minutes to reach the docks of Algonac. Unlike last week, my workload was much greater since many trainees had departed the ship in Sarnia.

Our first day docked, I spent several hours painting the side of the ship. It took the precision of a red tail hawk and the balance of a flamingo to use the palm size paint roller to do touch ups while simultaneously trying not to fall into the water. Almost as soon as we finished painting, there was a torrential downpour, which meant the next morning the crew was aloft unfurling sails to help them dry. Even though the chief mate invited me to go aloft, I declined the opportunity. I felt I needed to be physically stronger in order to feel more in control of my own safety going aloft. Perhaps in a year, I will join a tall ship for a transit and confidently ascend into the shrouds.

On Wednesday morning, all the crew received a lesson on splicing and whipping. Splicing is essentially unwinding a piece of rope to understand its smaller parts and then reconfiguring these parts into a more useable line. Whipping is how someone can finish their splice by using twine to tie off the end of the rope. My splice and whipping were comically messy and unevenly spaced, but I completed it and was proud of the work I did. The rope we were using was worn out and fraying, so tiny segments of rope soon covered the deck and the sweatpants I was wearing. I then became an official broom master, sweeping the deck voraciously along to the music that John Boy blasted from his speaker. Along with one of the other trainees, Amanda, we were a sweeping power duo. Following our sweeping marathon, the crew were all assigned sections of the rails to sand down. Quickly, all the work of sweeping the splicing remnants was undone as a thin layer of dust coated the deck. The power duo returned with the enthusiasm of a bee in a honey store as Amanda and I managed to sweep everything on deck before the other crew began to paint the sanded wood in a fresh varnish.

Thursday morning, we had a punishing 4:40am wake up to have the ship ready for the pilot arriving at 6 am. The morning consisted of hauling in heavy dock lines, general cleaning, and, later, writing. It was the first time I had opened my journal in several days. I had been so busy with different restoration projects and spending time with crew in the evenings that I hadn’t gotten an opportunity to write. We sailed down the St. Clair River until, eventually, we sailed through Detroit, MI, and Windsor, ON, and the blue bridge that connects the two countries.

The weather was impeccable, warm with a gentle breeze which chased away thoughts of overheating. I was smiling at the sun for several minutes sitting on the aloha deck with new friends I had made during the transit. In that moment, I was taken back by how surreal the experience was, I was on Picton Castle, on the border of the United States and Canada, with a complete group of strangers I had befriended a few days ago, on a perfect day in August. I never expected to normalize such an extraordinary experience.

Being on Picton Castle , I have begun to reflect, What have I learned? How has this experience shifted my perspective? With one week left of my internship, I am beginning to become more certain on how to answer these questions. Stay tuned :)