Our Trainee Program

No sailing experience required!


The Picton Castle training program offers paying sail trainees an opportunity to sail around the world as deckhands on a traditional square-rigged ship.

Everyone on board participates in the ship’s operation: handling sails, scrubbing the deck, taking a turn at the wheel, raising anchor, hauling on lines, helping in the galley, going aloft (optional), or keeping lookout. There are training classes in seamanship and navigation, plenty of opportunity to learn square-rig sailing and to explore exotic tropical ports and islands.

No sailing experience is needed.

Picton Castle offers a global sail training program and is committed to providing healthy, respectful, deep multicultural experiences and exchanges during our port/island visits and while at home at sea. We know that diversity is a strength and we are committed to inclusion across race, age, gender, religion, identity, experience, culture and nationality. This commitment is reflected in the average make-up of our crew and in the safe and healthy environment we create on board for all our crew to learn and thrive.

Who can be a Trainee?


Qualified trainees are those who can meet the essential eligibility criteria for joining a voyage on the Picton Castle.

Trainees must be able to:

  • Provide a doctor’s note attesting to good health and physical fitness
  • Climb up and down steep ladders and stairways
  • Maintain balance on slippery or uneven surfaces
  • Lift, push, or carry
  • Crouch, kneel, or crawl
  • Stand for up to four hours on watch with minimal rest periods
  • Distinguish objects and shapes at a distance
  • Understand instruction and direction in English
  • The ship is an English-speaking ship, and while full fluency is not a requirement, safety requires a minimum level of competency
  • React to alarms (visible or audible) and instructions and follow emergency procedures
  • Understand and comply with all provided health, safety and security information and directives
  • Manage self-care including nutrition, hydration, personal hygiene, dressing appropriately for environmental conditions, health, prescribed medication
  • Behave respectfully toward diversity on the ship and/or in the countries the ship visits, which includes people of all genders, sexual identities, races, ages, religions, politics, and cultural differences

On Voyages Over Three Months In Length:

Individuals age 18+ (no couples, please*). We prefer trainees under age 40, though we accept older persons who are healthy and fit. It is a strenuous life. Trainees work hard on board and live in close quarters in tropical weather, so some discomfort is to be expected.

On Voyages Under Three Months In Length:

Individuals ages 15+. Couples are welcome, as are parents with teens.

* Please review the Picton Castle Couples Policy for more details.

Erin Greig 2

What is Life at Sea Like?

In the tropics we live, work and often sleep on deck in the tradewinds – a barefoot healthy outdoor life.

We are on a three-watch system, four hours on duty, eight hours off. Occasionally we will hear the call for “all hands” but not often. Everyone is crew, and the ship comes first.

On our daytime watch we will spend our time steering, handling sail, doing rigging projects, maybe some sail making and keeping our sea-going home clean, orderly and shipshape. Sanding, painting, cleaning, tarring the rig, oiling the spars are all traditional duties of seafarers before the mast. You will also be called upon to help the cook in the galley to give our saintly cook a break, and to take your turn washing dishes. Off watch there is plenty of time for leisure and solitude onboard; time to read and write letters home; work on your canvas ditty bag or new sea chest; learn the sextant, marlinspike and sewing palm; contemplate the beauty of the sea and sky around you. Some people even still read books. It is surprising how uncrowded the ship feels when we are at sea.

Frequent workshops in ropework, rigging, seamanship, rules of the road, celestial navigation, ocean winds and weather and other nautical subjects, as well as safety drills, are carried out during long sea passages. Naturally much of your learning is simply absorbed while carrying out daily tasks and useful work sailing the ship.

Most often in the tradewinds that carry us along the weather is fair. From time to time we will see – and rapidly deal with – squalls and perhaps the occasional gale.

Exploring Ashore

While first and foremost we become deep-water seafarers, nonetheless a run ashore is near and dear to the mariner’s heart.


In port, crew members are divided up to stand anchor watch, take the longboat out on expeditions to an uninhabited cay, explore ashore on free watches, meet folks in their own lands and on their own terms. We swim off the ship if it’s warm enough, invite new friends to see our ship, give tours to school children, host a reception to share the lore of our ship, and whatever else our imaginations can come up with. Every island and port has much, and many different things, to offer.


Becoming a Seafarer Under Sail

When you sign aboard Picton Castle, you become part of the crew that sails the ship. Don't have any sailing experience? That's okay!

As a training ship, it’s Picton Castle‘s mission to teach you the ropes – literally. Under Captain Moreland’s direction, our professional crew are here to instruct you and guide you as you learn the intricacies of square rig sailing. While we offer frequent workshops on a variety of educational topics, much of the learning happens in the hands-on process of sailing the ship. Your interest and motivation will drive your learning.

As you learn seamanship skills that will help you become an effective crew member, like rigging, sail handling, later maybe navigation, and definitely small boat handling (we’re big on that), you will also develop the skills and characteristics it takes to be a good shipmate. The ship is an incubator for learning to work together, personal responsibility, and teamwork. Crew members of each voyage develop family-like relationships with one another while creating memories that last a lifetime. It’s hard at times, joyous at times, and pretty amazing most of the time. 

Sign aboard for an extraordinary voyage that combines authentic, internationally recognized seamanship training, personal growth that comes with living and working closely with others, and voyage under sail to culturally rich ports and islands that simply can’t be duplicated. Sailing a ship like Picton Castle on a global circumnavigation is truly a once in a lifetime voyage.

in skiff ship under sail
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