Canadas Investigation Report into PICTON CASTLE Incident Released

Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigation report details the cause and circumstances of a crew member lost overboard from a sail training vessel in the North Atlantic Ocean on 8 December 2006.

Incident Report Summary

On the afternoon of 05 December 2006, the barque Picton Castle departed Lunenburg,
Nova Scotia, bound for St. George’s, Grenada, in the eastern Caribbean Sea. On board were 12 crew and 16 other persons who had signed on as trainees. On the evening of December 8, shortly before 2235, while in heavy weather, a deckhand was swept overboard from the leeward side of the vessel. An air and sea search ensued, but it was unsuccessful.


The investigation revealed, among other things, that the vessel’s safety was adversely affected by certain factors. Additionally, the report says:

The decision to sail, in order to meet scheduled commitments, did not take into full consideration the available long-range forecasts indicating impending adverse weather—particularly given the limited training of the crew in emergencies and the limited experience of the trainees.

•The master was unaware that the deckhand had been ordered to carry out hourly ship checks, and it is likely that the deckhand understood the master’s order to go below only in the context of getting rest in between ship checks.

•In the absence of effective and timely coordination of onboard communication, it is likely that the deckhand was unaware of the order not to enter the port breezeway, the area where it is believed she was carrying out a ship check when she was swept overboard.

•The deckhand was likely affected by fatigue and a loss of alertness at the time of the occurrence.

•The deckhand was swept overboard when a large wave shipped water along the port side of the vessel.

•Despite the large amount of water being shipped on deck, safety nets were not rigged above the bulwarks of the main deck and breezeway.

•Safety lines had been rigged inboard on the main deck, but their effectiveness was diminished because safety harnesses were not worn. The absence of established fastening points to which safety harnesses could be attached also negated the effectiveness of wearing a harness.