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.
In December 2006 a crew member, Laura Gainey, was swept overboard from the ship in the Atlantic Ocean and presumed drowned. The death was investigated by the Cook Islands government, 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.
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.
Picton Castle was originally built as a motorized fishing trawler in 1928. 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. 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.
During the early 1990s, Daniel Moreland acquired the ship while seeking a vessel to convert to a barque. 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.
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. 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. When not sailing, the ship operates a "Bosun school", teaching ship-related skills such as rigging and boat-repair.
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.
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. 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. Plans for an eighth voyage in 2020 were postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.