Destination Area: Ocean Crossings
Length: 96 NIGHTS
Vessel: Picton Castle


Balboa, Panama on July 24, 2020


Papeete, French Polynesia (Tahiti) on October 28, 2020

$14,000 USD per person.

Call for air fares.

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Time to sail a long deepwater passage in the Pacific Ocean. On the way to the Galapagos Islands, we'll cross the Equator, which is a rite of passage for crew of a sailing ship. The Galapagos Islands are renowned for appearing barren but actually teeming with life. There is incredible biodiversity here and it's impossible not to observe some of the flora and fauna. As we approach, we may see frigate birds flying, and at some point the small boat we use to ferry between ship and shore will inevitably be boarded by a sea lion. Ashore we can get away to see giant tortoises, marine iguanas and much more.

It could be a month at sea to get to Pitcairn Island, the legendary home of the descendants of the mutineers on the Bounty. On previous voyages it has taken us anywhere from 19 days to five weeks to make this passage, we'll have to see what the winds are like this time. When former Picton Castle crew are asked about their favorite port, many will say it's Pitcairn. This small rock protruding from the sea is home to about 50 permanent residents. They are only visited by a supply ship a few times a year, which means they're very resourceful people. If they need something they have to make it, grow it, repair it, re-purpose it, or go without it. We will take turns being ashore and watching the ship while at Pitcairn. The islanders will come and greet us in their powerful longboat, expertly handled, then whisk the off-duty watch ashore where our crew will join into the community.

Saying goodbye to Pitcairn is always difficult, but there is so much more to see and do on this voyage. We'll make a sea passage of about ten to twelve days to the Marquesas islands of French Polynesia where we will visit a few different islands. It will be easy to spot them on the horizon as they are all tall volcanic islands. As we approach, we'll see that they are typically more dry than one might think South Pacific islands are. The Marquesas islands have inspired many artists, writers and musicians over the years, including Thor Heyerdahl, Robert Louis Stevenson, Paul Gauguin, Jacques Brel, Herman Melville, and have made an appearance in TV shows Gilligan's Island and Survivor. We plan to call at Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa and Fatu Hiva.

The colour of the sand will change from black to white when we get to the Tuamotus. Also part of French Polynesia, the Tuamotus make up the world's largest chain of atolls. Atolls are ring shaped coral reefs, islands or islets which are very low in elevation, with a lagoon in the middle. One of the atolls we'll visit in the Tuamotus is Takaroa, which has a particular attraction for sailors. In 1906, an iron hulled four-masted full rigged ship built in Scotland called County of Roxburgh was wrecked there on the beach. Despite the vessel lying on the beach for over 100 years, it still remains intact. At almost 300 feet long, it's big and imposing (and a reminder to mariners of the need for careful navigation amongst these low-lying atolls). From the Tuamotus, we'll sail to the Society Islands starting with Tahiti.

The barque Picton Castle is a traditionally rigged and operated deep water sail training vessel. She typically undertakes long ocean passages, and ha ...

Read more about the Picton Castle     

  • Learn square rig sailing
  • Hands-on practice of seamanship skills
  • Rigging & sail handling
  • Helmsmanship
  • Small boat handling
  • Navigation
  • Personal growth through teamwork & taking personla responsibility
  • Sail to culturally rich ports and islands
  • Simply enjoy being at sea

Deep Blue Pacific Ocean Sailing for 96 days.

Balboa, Panama
Balboa, founded by the United States during the construction of the Panama Canal, was named after Vasco Núñez de Balboa, the first European to explore the eastern shores of the Pacific Ocean. The city is located at the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal, and thrives on the business from Balboa Harbor, it's commercial port. In 1979 the Canal Zone, previously a U.S. territory, was ceded to Panama under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaties. The Panama Canal's Administration Building, former seat of the Canal Zone Government and Panama Canal Company, is located in Balboa Heights. Sightseeing high points include the Canal Administration Building and the fairly well-preserved architecture of the Canal Zone era, the Goethals Memorial, El Prado Boulevard, and the handicrafts markets.

Galapagos Islands
The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, 972 km west of continental Ecuador. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site: wildlife is its most notable feature.

The Galápagos Islands form the Galápagos Province of Ecuador and are part of the country's national park system.

The group consists of 13 main islands, 6 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets. The islands are located at the Galapagos Triple Junction. It is also atop the Galapagos hotspot, a place where the Earth's crust is being melted from below by a mantle plume, creating volcanoes.

The Galapagos Islands are a nature lover's paradise. Isolated from the mainland for thousands of years, some of the most unusual species in the world evolved here, including giant tortoises, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, and even the world's only equatorial penguin. Nearly all uninhabited, these islands can only be visited with a certified naturalist guide on one of the Galapagos yachts approved by the park service.

Pitcairn Island
Pitcairn Island is an isolated volcanic island in the south-central Pacific Ocean, 1,350 miles southeast of Tahiti. It is the only inhabited island of the British overseas territory of the Pitcairn Islands. The island, has an area of just two square miles. It is a rugged half-crater rising to 1,100 feet and surrounded by precipitous coastal cliffs. Its population is descended from the mutineers of the British ship HMS Bountyand their Tahitian Polynesian consorts. In 1789, on a voyage from Tahiti to the West Indies the crew, led by the first mate, Fletcher Christian, mutinied and set their captain, William Bligh, and a few loyal sailors adrift. The mutineers and their Tahitian companions eventually reached uninhabited Pitcairn (1790), went ashore, and burned the ship. The island community survived in obscurity until it was discovered by American whalers in 1808.

At Sea

Nuku Hiva, Marquesas
At 127 square miles, Nuku Hiva is the largest of the Marquesas Islands. In 1846 Herman Melville wrote his first book, Typee, based on his experiences in Nuku Hiva's Taipivai valley. In 1888 Robert Louis Stevenson, on his voyage aboard the Casco, a beautiful 95-foot topsail schooner, made first landfall on the north side of Nuku Hiva. The island is best known for the 1,150-foot high Ahuii waterfall in the Hakaui Valley. There are numerous archeological sites with tiki's and petrogylphs on the island. Nuku Hiva's 2,100 inhabitants live simple lives, many working for the government, the school system, or the Catholic church. Others work for themselves, harvesting copra, fishing, hand-making bowls, platters, Marquesan ceremonial clubs, tiki's and ukuleles, and raising cattle or other livestock.

Hiva Oa, Marquesas
Hiva Oa is the largest island in the southern Marquesas group. This most fertile island has deep valleys, lush plateaus and thickly wooded forests. The sculpted mountain peaks of the island are shrouded in mist. The island was the home of French painter Paul Gauguin and a museum dedicated to him is located there. The town of Atuona is the administrative center for the southern Marquesas, and is the favorite port of call for yachts and copra ships. Behind the village is Calvary Cemetery, where Gauguin and Belgian singer Jacques Brel are buried. Gauguin's descendents live in the village of Puamau. In the jungle above the village are the largest stone tikis statues found in French Polynesia. The tiki Takaii stands 8 feet tall.

Hiva Oa is best known for the amazing Tahuata, the remains of a huge sunken volcano. Not to be missed are the carved stone petroglyphs at Eiaone and Punai, the black sand beach of Taaoa, the me'ae temple, and picturesque Hanaiapa village.

Fatu Hiva, Marquesas, Polynesia
Fatu Hiva is a world lost in time, even within the isolated Marquesas. Some 46 miles from Hiva Oa, Fatu Hiva has a prominent outline, particularly when approaching the Bay of Virgins. The cross-island road is a 4-hour long hike, and has spectacular views and passes through luxuriant tropical vegetation, and exotic fragrances. Roughly 650 inhabitants live mainly from fishing, and coprah production. Talented local sculptors have a variety of mediums from which to choose, including sandalwood, rose wood and coconut wood. Islanders continues to produce tapa or bark-cloth, decorated with traditional designs.

Takaroa, Tuamotus, French Polynesia
The Tuamotus ("distant islands"), referred to as the Tuamotu Archipelago or the Tuamotu Islands are a French Polynesian chain of almost 80 islands and atolls forming the largest chain of atolls in the world. The archipelago in the southern Pacific Ocean stretches over an area roughly the size of Western Europe. The atoll Takaora is about 350 miles away from Tahiti. Some of its inhabitants live in the village of Teavaroa, but others reside in the “sectors”, small land parcels on the perimeter of the atoll. Here, they make their living on pearl oyster culture, copra and fishing.

Rangiroa, Tuamotus, French Polynesia
Rangiroa (rung-ee-roh-ah, Tuamotuan for 'vast sky') is one of the largest atolls in the world, with a lagoon so big that it could fit the entire island of Tahiti inside of it. While visitors will find Rangiroa to be a low-key, middle-of-nowhere sort of a place, this is the big city for folks coming from anywhere else in the archipelago. With paved roads, a few stores, a couple of resorts, plentiful internet and gourmet restaurants, there’s really everything here you need – and in the Tuamotus, that’s a big deal!

Papeete, Tahiti, Polynesia
Normally a no-nonsense guy, even taciturn Captain Cook fell madly in love with Tahiti . When Cook and botanist Joseph Banks landed in Matavai Bay in 1769, they found an untouched Eden. But it was the glowing tales of French explorer Compte Antoine de Bougainville that forever perpetuated the image of Tahiti as a voluptuous paradise of nature, attracting a bevy of followers, notably artist Paul Gauguin and writer Robert Louis Stevenson. Nearly 400 miles square, and almost bisected by the sea, Tahiti is skirted by miles of white and black sands. In the lushly forested mountains, waterfalls gleam and a sacred lake hides the spirits of the gods.

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