Lunenburg captain to take Picton Castle on 8th and final world voyage


The first time Capt. Daniel Moreland left Lunenburg, N.S., to sail around the world, he remembers people betting he wouldn’t make it past nearby Cross Island. 


“Now, seven world voyages later people think we’re going to do it into the next century,” said the 64-year-old mariner. “So it was really something in the middle. You really can’t do this forever.”

Moreland is preparing for his eighth and final world voyage. He begins the year-long journey later this month when he and his family join the rest of his roughly 40-person crew in New Orleans. 

The sail-training tall ship is on its final world voyage, which will take the crew to the Cook Islands, Indonesia and South Africa before returning to Lunenburg. (Submitted by Picton Castle)

The Picton Castle will continue to do shorter trips around the Atlantic, and Moreland said he’ll focus his efforts on developing the Bosun School, a seamanship training program in Lunenburg. 

“I’m not sure I can even explain all we’ve learned. I’m not sure I understand all we’ve learned but I know it’s good,” Moreland said.

Friends around the world

For 25 years, Moreland has been at the helm of the 54-metre, three-masted barque.

He’s raised his son on board, dealt with the tragedy of losing a crew member and made lasting friendships with people on remote islands.

The Picton Castle is a teaching ship where crew members learn how to sail. (Submitted by Picton Castle)

“You made friends with the chief of the village and his family and you exchange gifts…. You’ve got kids named after you out there,” he said. “It’s heady and that is simply going to become a memory and there’s nothing I can do about that.”

On voyages that can last over two years, the hardest part isn’t the rough seas, but the days and days of endless sunshine and blue skies.

“Because people always pull together in strong weather. But the 40th day in a row that person snoring next to you, you think maybe I can smother him and no one will know it’s me,” he said.

Moreland’s five-year-old son grew up on the ship, and his godfather is the cook. (Submitted by Picton Castle)

Moreland, his wife, Tammy, and their five-year-old son have spent a good deal of time living at sea. 

He says the ship is a safe place for his young son because it’s surrounded by rails and there are about 40 babysitters on duty at any given time. 

“He doesn’t know anything about hockey yet … but he knows a lot about coconuts and crabs and he knows a lot about how to dance a haka,” Moreland said.

‘Nothing worse than that’

As part owner of the Picton Castle, Moreland has also had to deal with tragedy.

In 2006, Laura Gainey, a 25-year-old crew member, was swept overboard during a storm when the ship was on its way to the Caribbean. An investigation was done by the Transportation Safety Board, which found the decision to sail given the forecast and the lack of training among the crew contributed to the accident.

Moreland says his favourite part of any voyage is reconnecting with friends in far-off places such as Pitcairn Island and Rarotonga. (Submitted by Picton Castle)

“It’s a fact of life that we had this fatality,” Moreland said. “I don’t know how to say it except there’s nothing worse than that, except you could have more of it. That would be worse.”

Moreland wasn’t on board when Gainey was lost at sea, but said things weren’t running the way they should have been.

Now that Moreland won’t be taking year-long trips around the world, he said he will focus his efforts on developing the Bosun School, a seamanship training program in Lunenburg. (Submitted by Picton Castle)

“I think there were a lot of deviations from our standard operating procedure…. Some of them came to my attention well after a lot of the discussions, researches and inquiries were done,” he said. “I think the ship was poorly run at the time.”

He said there were no accidents before and have been none since Gainey’s death. 

Doesn’t dwell on the challenges

Moreland said he’s often asked when he returns home after a long voyage what the hardest part is. But he’s not particularly interested in dwelling on that.

“I can go on a litany about things that are uncomfortable about this. I can go for hours about the challenges and the sacrifices but that’s not really why we do it, is it? We do it for the other reasons.”

For him, it’s the moment when he sees young crew members celebrating what they’ve accomplished.

“That is one of the most powerful things they carry forward. They know that if they have a dream, they can pursue it,” he said.