Konnor Chater is spending his Christmas holidays sailing the seven seas.
The 18-year-old Westview Secondary graduate is taking time out from his studies to sail the world's oceans aboard a tall ship.
Chater is currently sailing as trainee crew aboard Barque Picton Castle, a three-masted sail training ship based in Lunenburg, N.S., but best known for her voyages around the world.
The Picton Castle set sail from Nova Scotia in early November bound for the islands of the South Pacific Ocean.
Chater was signed up to sail on another tall ship to the South Pacific when he heard about the Picton Castle.
As fate would have it, the other ship encountered problems with getting permission to leave so the trip was cancelled.
"My parents and I luckily found the Picton Castle after some searching and I immediately signed up," Chater said.
After completing a questionnaire, Chater travelled to Nova Scotia for a week to work on the ship and have an interview with its captain.
"Evidently he decided that I had the work ethic and character to become a trainee and now here I am," Chater said.
Aboard Picton Castle, professional sailors teach trainee crew members the skills they need to safely operate and care for their ship.
They stand a watch, scrub the deck, and take the helm, as well as learn skills in traditional rigging, sail-making and navigation.
"It's a very fulfilling experience," Chater said. "Climbing aloft on a sweet trade-wind evening to stow sails, steering at the big teak wheel, exploring Pacific islands and tropical beaches - how could I pass up an opportunity like that?"
He added, "Not many opportunities pop up like this in a lifetime and I know from the moment I was told that I had to do this."
During an average work day, Chater could be doing anything from ship maintenence such as sanding, painting, and rust-busting to handling the ship itself - setting and taking in sail, and steering the ship.
"Occasionally we are also required to cook for the ship, on the cook's day off," Chater added. "It lets you wake up every day and have no idea what to expect from the day. [I get] a real sense of what's out there in the world as well as what real hard work is like."
At first glance, Chater, who plans on becoming a filmmaker, said the voyage likely won't factor into his vocational future. But that may change.
"As I spend more time at sea, the more the marine industry and a place among the waves calls to me," he said. "Maybe someday I'll work in the industry."
The eight-month voyage will see the ship and her crew transiting the Panama Canal before exploring such destinations as the Galapagos Islands and Pitcairn Island.
The voyage continues across the Pacific Ocean with ports throughout French Polynesia including Tahiti, Mangareva, Huahine and Bora Bora, a half dozen calls in the beautiful Cook Islands, plus visits to Samoa, Fiji, and Tonga.
It's hardly new territory for the 179-foot square rigged sailing ship, which has crossed the Pacific five times as part of her famed, 30,000-mile circumnavigation voyages.
But this eight-month voyage, which ends in Rarotonga, Cook Islands in May 2013, allows much more time for exploration.
"The reality on a world voyage is that we have a year or 14 months to get around the entire globe, so for every tropical island paradise we visit, we have to bypass another, or two, or three," said Daniel Moreland, Picton Castle's captain and founder of the ship's sail training program.
"On this voyage we are taking the time to see even more of this fascinating part of the world. We'll sail to places where the ship has lots of history and reconnect with our old friends, but we'll also be visiting new places and making new friends, all while taking full advantage of the finest trade-wind ocean you could ever wish to explore under sail and learning the ways of a ship and the sea."
No previous sailing experience is required to sail with the Picton Castle.
"Just a strong back and a willing heart," said her captain.
"Though a fascination with ships and the sea helps too."
Chater said the experience has been incredible, so far.
Trekking deep into the Grenadian jungles to see the waterfalls, and riding back down the mountain in the back of an old pickup truck driven by a friendly local merchant is something he won't soon forget.
"I've met so many extraordinary people and seen some of the most diverse landscapes and cultures on the planet," Chater said.
@ Copyright 2013