South Tahoe native sets out for a high seas adventure |

South Tahoe native sets out for a high seas adventure

Rob Bhatt

The Barque Picton Castle was built in 1928 and used during World War II by Britain’s Royal Navy to sweep for mines at sea.

In 1995, it became the largest vessel in 50 years to become a commercial square rigger, following a $1.5 million renovation and retrofitting project.

When the ship sets sail Nov. 1 from its port in Lunenburg, Novia Scotia, South Lake Tahoe native Bob Kingman will be among those hoping that the 69-year-old vessel can stay afloat for at least 18 more months.

Kingman, 33, grew up sailing on Lake Tahoe and will among the 45 men and women sailing Picton Castle along the equator to ports around the globe on an 18-month adventure tour.

When crew members are not furling or patching the sails, scrubbing the deck or performing the other duties to keep the vessel ship-shape, they will have time to enjoy the pleasures of life at sea.

At the end of November, for instance, the crew will sail through the Panama Canal, giving them the chance to marvel at one of the world’s great engineering wonders.

In December, the crew will in the Galapagos Islands and get to see exotic marine species including equatorial penguins and rare turtles.

Three days on and around the sandy beaches of Bora Bora are scheduled for next March.

If it sounds like the adventure of a lifetime, that’s because it is.

“I don’t know that I’ll have another opportunity in my life to do this again,” said Kingman, no stranger to adventures in exotic places.

Earlier this year, Kingman went on a cross-country ski expedition in Siberia in conjunction with the South Lake Tahoe Sister City Program with Baikalsk in the former Soviet Union. In 1989, he went on an extended backpacking trip through the Himalayas.

And several times, he has captained boats in the Caribbean during vacations with friends.

But clearly, this trip outdistances the others in scope and duration.

For Kingman, finding the time and finances for such a trip may have come down to circumstances.

A victim of what he calls the “travel bug,” and going through a divorce, he came upon an advertisement in May in a sailing magazine about crew members needed for an 18-month trip around the world.

“The ad spoke to me,” he said.

After contacting the trip’s organizers, Kingman submitted a lengthy application. He was required to undergo a physical and was invited to Nova Scotia to meet the captain and 10-member professional crew.

It was sometime in late July that he was notified that he had been accepted as the 34 cost-sharing crew members for the trip. Unlike the professional crew and captain, the cost-sharing crew is paying to participate in the voyage.

For the past three months, Kingman has prepared for the trip by closing his landscaping business and selling off most of his possessions – with the exception of his house.

All the clothes and supplies he will use during the next 18 months will be carried in a duffel bag. Since Kingman has been designated as one of the ship’s divers, he has to figure out how to make room for his SCUBA gear with other necessities.

He expects life to be a “little slower” for him during the next 18 months. Instead of submitting bids on jobs and paying bills, the priorities will be staying afloat, keeping the ship in order, eating and sleeping.

Besides the adventure of navigating the high seas, the crew intends to haul cargo between some ports. The 178-foot vessel is also being used to promote alternative energy technology in conjunction with Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Institute.

Unlike today’s triangular sailed boats, square riggers are designed to sail downwind. The Picton Castle’s route was designed to coincide with trade winds that have typically blown from east to west for centuries along the equator. Possibly complicating the journey may be El Nino conditions along the equatorial Pacific that have seen a reversal in the traditional wind patterns.

As of this week, however, the trip was scheduled to begin as planned.

Unexpected delays and unforeseen circumstances are about the only thing that Kingman is sure that will occur on the trip.

But being part of a seafaring tradition that dates back for centuries and conjures up images of pirates, traders and conquerors is part of the excitement.

“It (sailing) is an old profession that’s been around for hundreds of years,” Kingman said. “The history of it is really romantic to me. When I get back, I’ll probably be destitute. But I’ll be rich in experience … and maybe have a good tan.”

Bob Kingman has agreed to share the experiences by allowing The Tahoe Daily Tribune to print his letters to the community throughout his journey. Anyone wishing to communicate with Kingman during the next 18 months can contact him via e-mail:


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