Safety at Sea

Safety is the Priority

Safety at sea in the Picton Castle

In the Barque Picton Castle, we have an excellent and powerful ship of proven design, well found and fitted out, with a high standard of professional manning and training. We have enormous faith in the Picton Castle as a seaworthy and safe ship that can transit the world’s oceans safely; indeed as of this writing we believe her to be a safer ship than ever. The very nature of the sail training voyages of the Picton Castle in which all onboard are there to help sail the ship effectively (in contrast to passenger voyages) lends itself to well-trained, safe crews. This ship makes longer voyages than most vessels with her focus almost exclusively on seamanship and seafaring without the distraction of non-marine, added-on programs or agendas. Her program is the ship and the voyage.

It is a fact of maritime life that no ship that puts to sea is invulnerable or immune from incident. That is why we must be constantly vigilant, never complacent, continually re-evaluating safety gear, training and operational and safety procedures, commited to risk reduction and management, and accident prevention. Qualified and trained leadership marine staff is essential. Ongoing training and review while at sea is part of any voyage’s routine.

There are a number of factors that contribute to making the Picton Castle an intrinsically safe ship and historically safe operation.

A Safe Vessel

Hull Form

The Picton Castle‘s hull is that of a rugged British 130’ North Sea trawler. This ship was selected following a three-year search and examination of about 40 vessels looking at their strength, condition, sailing lines and stability of hull form. The North Sea hull form is generally considered to be one of the most seaworthy types. The stresses, strains and stability demands on an ocean-going side trawler are virtually identical to that of a sailing ship making the Picton Castle an ideal candidate for conversion of the former to the latter (when combined with her easy sailing lines). Other examples of this North Sea type include: full rigged ship Danmark, German Navy Barque Gorch Fock, Brigantine Yankee, and the Schooner Westward.

Hull Construction

Her construction is of the finest quality pre-war riveted steel with full steel decks under 3″ pine; plating 1/2″ to 3/8″.

Hull Construction

The Picton Castle was built for the grueling North Atlantic trawler fishery sailing winter and summer. This service puts enormous demands on a vessel’s stability and strength of fabric. These ships were designed and constructed accordingly. During the Second World War the Picton Castle served in the British Royal Navy as a mine sweeper and armed convoy escort.

Rigging; Design and Construction

The Picton Castle‘s barque rigging design was based upon numerous very successful vessels, Captain Moreland’s years of ship refitting, rigging and seafaring experience since 1972, and was carried out in accordance with Germanischer Lloyd’s tables for masting and rigging of ocean-going sailing ships. While not suitable for fore and aft rigged vessels, these are the only proven and internationally recognized guidelines for square-rigged ships. Vessels drawn upon for the rig design of the Picton Castle include: Full-Rigged Ship Danmark, Full-Rigged Ship Georg Stage, Full-Rigged Ship Sorlandet, Barque Belle of Lagos, Barque Elissa, and the Brigantine Romance.

Watertight Bulkheading and Watertight Compartments

Picton Castle has six watertight compartments separated by steel watertight bulkheads. The middle three bulkheads are equipped with quick acting, hand-operated watertight doors.

Bulwark Height and Freeing Ports

Bulwark heights range from 4′ to 4’8″, well above classification minimums. Freeing ports let water off the deck consistent with SOLAS standards. SOLAS stands for Safety Of Life At Sea. It is an international agreement for all vessels that sets the standards for design, safety and construction of vessels.

Deck Penetrations on Centerline

All hatches and skylights to areas below decks are on the centerline of the vessel; all have 18″ sills and are secured with watertight covers.

Escape Routes from Accommodation Areas Below Decks

All areas below decks have two or more access or escape routes.

Stability and Inclining Test

As calculated by Webb Institute Naval Architect/Marine Engineer Daniel Blachley of Mattapoisett, MA, USA, the stability of the Picton Castle was calculated and designed to meet intact stability requirements for US sailing school vessels carrying 50 persons in ocean service. An inclining experiment was conducted by Mr. Blachley in September 1997 in New Bedford, MA, USA to confirm his stability calculations.


Ballasting is in conformance with the above calculations and consists of steel plate welded and cemented in place.

Ground Tackle

Ground tackle consists of starboard anchor (Navy stockless), 1000 lbs on 1 1/4″ stud link tested chain (new 1997). The port anchor, a traditional bower of 1500 pounds, new 1996, is also on 1 1/4″ stud link tested chain. There is a spare 1500 lb anchor in the cargo hold. Aft on deck is a 200-lb Danforth kedge anchor with hawser for emergency use. The anchor windlass is a new, hand-operated Lunenburg Foundry A1 unit. It was designed for vessels up to 500 tons. The Picton Castle is 284 tons gross.

Safety Equipment


Picton Castle carries four Viking ocean certified, SOLAS approved 25-person life rafts; two fitted on port, two on starboard quarterdeck, as well as two Viking 6-person life rafts. These are fitted for ocean service and repacked annually according to life raft inspection requirements.

Rescue Boat

The Picton Castle carries a dedicated rescue boat, which is a 23-foot seaworthy fiberglass boat. It is equipped to SOLAS standards for rescue boats, and in addition to required gear, also carries a SART (Search and Rescue Transponder), a GMDSS Survival craft VHF radio, a backboard, Mustang floater coats for the boat crew, and a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) for each member of the boat crew. In drill situations the ship has been stopped, boat launched and manned and object recovered in under four minutes. The Picton Castle also carries a Cape Island style launch for transportation to and from the ship. Both boats are hung in radial davits and hang directly over the water for quick launch, and are equipped with man-ropes for an abandon-ship situation. They don’t need to be swung out or prepared in any way for launch.

Fire Extinguishers, Fire Pumps and Firefighting Equipment

Picton Castle carries 26 portable fire extinguishers, as well as a fixed foam system in the galley and a fixed carbon dioxide system in the engine room with two trigger locations. The paint locker is fitted with a carbon dioxide system. We have three fire axes, a fire blanket in the galley, two hose stations on deck and one in engine room, a primary and secondary fire pump in the engine room, as well as a portable fire/bilge pump forward. The ship carries four sets of fire fighting turnout gear, and two SCBA sets with a total of six air tanks.


Picton Castle carries a total of 10 lifebuoys on deck, all of which carry strobe lights, 30 meters of buoyant line, and a whistle. Two of these carry poles with flags and two carry buoyant smoke signals.

Fuel Shutoffs

Picton Castle has port and starboard emergency fuel oil shutoffs on deck that go to the main fuel tanks. There is also an emergency fuel shutoff to the fuel oil day-tank.

Communications Gear and Navigation Equipment and Supplies

The Picton Castle carries two Furuno radar units, one with ARPA, as well as Class A Furuno AIS and a digital stabilized compass. Electronic chart plotting is run by TimeZero, which also overlays AIS and ARPA information. A second Furuno GPS is used for routine navigation, and two handheld GPS units are carried for survival craft. A Navtex unit and depth sounder are also installed in the charthouse. The ship carries a full set of required charts and publications for her intended area of operation, as well as three high-quality sextants, four training sextants, and all associated publications and tables.

Communications gear consists of two fixed DSC VHF ship-to-shore radios, single side band radio ICOM M802 with DSC, Iridium satellite phone and data service, Iridium GO, three hand held VHF radios for the boats, five ACR 16/6 survival craft radios; one Kannad EPIRB with hydrostatic release, and one Kannad Manual+ EPIRB with GPS. 

Weather Monitoring Equipment

Picton Castle is equipped with an Alden fax-mate II weather fax receiver, Lo-kata Navtex II weather report and warning receiver, weather reports via single sideband radio, surface analysis charts sent via Iridium system, and full set of pilot charts indicating long-term trends.

Signaling Equipment

Onboard signaling equipment includes; flares, searchlights, Iridium GO distress signal, voice and data service via Iridium satellite system, single sideband radio distress signal, DSC VHF distress signal, two EPRIBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), three SART (Search and Rescue Transponder) units, five Personal Locator Beacons with GPS, five survival craft radios, full suit of signal flags, and signaling mirrors.

General Alarm

The Ship is fitted with a FURUNO L-H 3000 loud hailer, ship’s alarm system and intercom capable of alerting and directly communicating with all manned compartments.

Bilge Pumping System and Emergency Pumping System

For bilge pumping systems the Picton Castle has a compartment manifold controlling bilge suction in all compartments. These can be pumped by four pumps in the engine room, three of which are electrically driven and one of which is mechanically driven. Additional to this is one #3 hand-powered deck pump to a two-inch suction, as well as a portable powered “trash” pump with three-inch hose and suction that can reach the deepest part of the vessel.

Deck Grablines for Heavy Weather

In rough conditions, 7/8″ lines are stretched taut the length of the main deck and quarterdeck for use as grab-lines for keeping balanced and secure. They can also be hooked into with a harness. Under the overhead of the port and starboard breezeways alongside the cabin trunk are two jack-line wires for hooking into in this area in very heavy weather.

Prepared Abandoned Ship Gear

Additional to the Class A gear packed in the life rafts, watertight abandon ship canisters are stowed in accessible, float-free locations on the quarterdeck and in the ship’s boats. The gear in these canisters consists of flares, extra food rations, oil and oil bags, sunscreen, survival manuals, thermal blankets, compasses, whistles, fishing gear, signaling mirrors, hot pads, waterproof matches, waterproof notebooks and pencils, first aid supplies, twine and repair kits, and extra battery and manually powered flashlights. There are a total of nine such canisters, as well as three waterproof bags of gear and flares.

We also have at hand extra jugs of fresh water, handheld GPS units, SARTS, survival craft radios, sextants, blankets, and all the supplies from the ship’s boats, one of which is outfitted to meet the gear requirements for SOLAS rescue boats.

Damage Control and Repair Equipment

Damage control and repair equipment consists of wooden plugs for small leaks, heavy timbers, plywood and cement for various contingencies. Rope, chains, wire, spare timber for spars, tools, etc, as well as on-board welding rigs. The ship is equipped with an emergency tiller and steering tackle should the extremely strong main steering gear fail.

Medical Kit

Medical supplies on board include: an AED (automated external defibrillator), medical oxygen, antibiotics, analgesics, medications for treating common ailments, splints, instruments for minor procedures, wound cleaning/dressing, and intravenous fluids. The grab and go medical kit includes: basic examination tools, intravenous fluids, splints, wound care products and medications. On extended voyages the ship carries a professionally trained Medical Officer. Many of the crew have first aid training and certificates.

Maritime Health Services Medical Consulting

We are assisted in medical advice to our ship physicians by telex-voice with AEA International USA Maritime Health Division, a 24-hour medical consulting and reference service.

Training, Drills and Inspections

Comprehensive Training in Emergency Safety Procedures

Training and instruction is conducted or available in all appropriate areas of ship operations. Some areas—for example, the engine room—are not appropriate for all trainees. In the Picton Castle the specific focus is entirely on seamanship, sailing ship and seafaring skills and therefore we do not carry out non-marine or academic classroom studies (English, literature, history or science classes). All training and instruction aboard focuses on practical matters of seamanship and related subjects, such as navigation and introductory meteorology. Actual material covered depends on the length of voyage. The ship provides in-depth instruction in sail handling, steering, boat handling, sail making, offshore and coastal navigation, and traditional rope and wire work. Prior to initial sailing, daily drills and workshops in sail handling are given. As the voyage continues training exercises and drills are carried out following SOLAS standards. Upon joining a voyage, new crew are given an initial comprehensive orientation by experienced crew, followed by our standard exercises and drills.

General Quarters and Drills

The following drills are conducted frequently and realistically:

  1. General Alarm
  2. Fire Drill
  3. MOB Drill
  4. Abandon Ship
  5. PFDs, Exposure Suits
  6. Damage Control preparation and instruction

Policy and Training on Use of Harnesses

Harnesses are required to be worn at all times when going aloft or out on the head-rig. Harnesses shall also be worn when working on the rail or leaning over the rail. Harnesses shall also be required to be worn by all on deck in heavy weather. Instruction in their use and potential misuse and dangers are important in the Picton Castle.

Defensive Measures and Training

Defensive measures have been established with appropriate protocols to deal with the possibility of sudden hostile events. These measures are trained in at sea, and documented contingency plans are outlined in the ship’s safety manual.

Surveys, Inspections and Certificates

The Picton Castle is rigorously inspected and surveyed annually by professional, internationally-recognized marine surveyors.

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