Picton Castle is a tall ship used for deep-ocean sail training and long distance education voyages. The ship was the subject of the television series Tall Ship Chronicles which documented her second voyage around the world in 2001. The ship has carried out seven world voyages to date - completing the seventh one in 2019. While flagged in the Cook Islands, the ship's unofficial home port is Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

The barque Picton Castle anchored off of Carriacou in 2009.
Cook Islands
NamePicton Castle
NamesakePicton Castle
Port of registryCook Islands
HomeportLunenburg (unofficial)
General characteristics As sailing ship
Length179 feet (55 m)
Propulsion690 hp diesel engine
Sail plan
  • Three-masted barque
  • Sail area: 12,450 square feet (1,160 m2)
Crew12 professional crew, up to 40 trainees

In December 2006 a crew member, Laura Gainey, was swept overboard from the ship in the Atlantic Ocean and presumed drowned.[1] The death was investigated by the Cook Islands government,[2] which concluded that the death was accidental. A subsequent investigation by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada found that a lack of safety equipment and the ships' master's decision to sail with an inexperienced and untrained crew contributed to the death.[3][4]



Picton Castle is rigged as a three-masted barque, is 179 feet (55 m) long, with a riveted steel hull, clear oiled pine decks, steel masts and wooden and steel yards. She carries 12,450 square feet (1,160 m2) of sail. The ship displaces 565 tons. She has a 690-horsepower diesel engine for the times when sailing is not feasible. The ship has space for roughly 52 people, consisting of about 12 professional crew and 40 sail trainees.

Operational history


As a trawler, minesweeper, and freighter


Picton Castle was originally built as a motorized fishing trawler in 1928.[5] She was built along with four other trawlers for the same company and operated out of Swansea, Wales. The ship was named after the Welsh castle of the same name.

In August 1939, the Royal Navy requisitioned the trawler for use in World War II and refit her as a minesweeper.[6] While sweeping mines near Norway, she made way for the port of Bergen for repairs. The Germans had just left Norway, and the sight of the Union Jack-bearing HMS Picton Castle earned her the title "The Liberator of Norway." Following World War II, the ship was renamed Dolmar and worked as a freighter in the North Sea and Baltic Sea.[7]

Acquisition and refit


During the early 1990s, Daniel Moreland acquired the ship while seeking a vessel to convert to a barque.[8] With the help of a small crew he brought her across the Atlantic Ocean, eventually ending up in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia where she began her multimillion-dollar refit.[7]

As a sailing ship

Line art of Picton Castle

Picton Castle's first world circumnavigation voyage took place from 1997 to 1999. She has since sailed around the world six more times, for a total of seven global circumnavigations.[9] She has also visited the Great Lakes twice, sailed numerous times on tours of the East Coast of the Americas, completed a Caribbean Voyage and in 2008 sailed to Europe, Africa and the Caribbean on a Voyage of the Atlantic.

The ship is used for educational voyages and sail training, with a core crew of 10 to 12 teaching up to 40 trainees basic sailing techniques and ship maintenance.[8] When not sailing, the ship operates a "Bosun school", teaching ship-related skills such as rigging and boat-repair.[10][11]

In the spring of 2007, Picton Castle was featured in Mark Burnett's CBS reality show Pirate Master. The show was filmed in the Caribbean island of Dominica and premiered May 31, 2007.[12][13]

In October 2013 Picton Castle participated in the International Fleet Review 2013, the centennial anniversary of the Royal Australian Navy, in Sydney, Australia along with fifteen other tall ships.[5][8] In 2014 she sailed in the South Pacific before returning to Lunenburg in late May, 2015.

In June 2019 Picton Castle returned from its seventh around-the-world voyage.[9] Plans for an eighth voyage in 2020 were postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[14]

Death of Laura Gainey


On the night of December 8, 2006, as Picton Castle was roughly 475 miles (413 nmi) south-east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the ship encountered bad weather. A wave swamped the ship, sweeping overboard crew member Laura Gainey, daughter of Bob Gainey.[15] Gainey was not wearing a life jacket or a survival suit but was expected to be able to survive up to 36 hours due to warm water temperatures.[15] A search for her by the Picton Castle, aircraft of the United States and Canadian Coast Guards, and nearby merchant vessels, was unsuccessful and called off after three days,[1] and the ship continued on its voyage.[16]

An investigator from Maritime Cook Islands interviewed the crew on its arrival in Grenada.[17] A formal inquiry was established in March 2007,[2] and reported back in July, concluding that Gainey was an "unlucky victim" of an accident and that no changes needed to be made. A slightly rewritten version of the report was issued in August 2007 recommending the use of safety harnesses.[18] In November 2007 the Transportation Safety Board of Canada announced it would conduct its own inquiry into the death.[19] Later that month an investigation by the CBC program The Fifth Estate claimed that the Picton Castle was ill-prepared to sail, discouraged the use of safety equipment, and had doctored statements given to the Maritime Cook Islands inquiry.[20][21] It also alleged that Maritime Cook Islands had ignored the initial investigation report and instead cast blame upon Gainey.[18][22]

In July 2008 the TSB released its inquiry. The report found among the "causes and contributing factors" that the decision to set to sea did not sufficiently take into account the long-range weather forecasts, especially in view of the crew's qualification and experience; Gainey did not get enough sleep in the 1–2 days before the accident; most likely miscommunication on the fatal evening resulted in her still getting up every hour instead of getting rest; the port breezeway of the ship was designated "off-limits" by the ship's master, but due to inefficient communication, Gainey seems to have remained unaware of that order; in the heavy weather, no safety nets were rigged on the ship; safety lines were rigged, but safety harnesses were not worn, and there were no "established fastening points" (other than the safety lines) to which to clip safety harnesses.[23][3] The captain of the Picton Castle accepted the findings, and adopted improved safety procedures.[4]




  1. ^ a b "Picton Castle ends search for Gainey". CBC. 12 December 2006. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Cook Islands to probe Laura Gainey death". CBC. 15 March 2007. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  3. ^ a b Michael Tutton (29 October 2008). "Report questions decisions leading to Laura Gainey's death". The Star. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Canadiens GM vindicated by TSB report on daughter's sea death". CBC. 30 October 2008. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  5. ^ a b Fiona Walsh (4 October 2013). "International Fleet Review: seven to watch for when the ships come in". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  6. ^ "Naval Trawlers, Admiralty trawlers". Battleships-cruisers.co.uk. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
  7. ^ a b "The Picton Castle". The Picton Castle. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
  8. ^ a b c Claire Aird (2 October 2013). "Picton Castle bound for Sydney for International Fleet Review celebrations". ABC. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  9. ^ a b Ron Leonardi (19 August 2019). "After 7 world voyages, Picton Castle heads to Erie". GoErie.com. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  10. ^ Kathy Johnson (28 July 2020). "Lunenburg Dory Shop an authentic heritage business". Saltwire. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  11. ^ "Bosun School". Picton-castle.com. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
  12. ^ "Reality TV springs a leak". Metro. 13 August 2007. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  13. ^ "Captain's Log". Picton Castle. 30 April 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2020.
  14. ^ "Tall Ship 'Picton Castle' To Sail Around The World". BerNews. 2 August 2020. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  15. ^ a b "Gainey's daughter is swept overboard". Easy Bay Times. 11 December 2006. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  16. ^ Unnati Gandhi (16 December 2006). "Grieving ship's crew continue voyage". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  17. ^ "Gainey's ship docks; family searching for answers". ESPN. 4 January 2007. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  18. ^ a b "Gainey slams 'dishonest' inquiry into death of daughter". The Globe and Mail. 28 November 2007. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  19. ^ "TSB to probe Gainey's death off tall ship". CBC. 19 November 2007. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  20. ^ "Overboard : the fifth estate : CBC News". Cbc.ca. 2007. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  21. ^ Dave Stubbs (28 November 2007). "Documentary paints haunting picture of Picton Castle's fatal voyage". Ottawa Citizen. Archived from the original on 6 June 2008.
  22. ^ Chris Zelkovich (28 November 2007). "Gainey charges whitewash at sea". The Star. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  23. ^ "Marine Investigation Report M06F0024:Crew Member Lost Overboard, Sail Training Vessel Picton Castle, 376 nm SSE of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia". Transportation Safety Board of Canada. 24 July 2008. Retrieved 9 August 2020.