Captain's Log

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Chelsea’s Story

Have you ever thought about sailing a tall ship? Picton Castle accepts trainee crew members with no sailing experience needed, just a strong back and a willing heart.

The crew on all our voyages is diverse – a variety of nationalities, backgrounds and ages. We’ve asked a few of the crew who are currently aboard to tell us more about why they signed on, what life is like for them aboard and what advice they would have for anyone who might be considering a voyage with us.

By Chelsea McBroom, ship’s purser from Canada

I’ve been asking crew to think of things they would tell someone considering joining the ship and in doing so I am reminded of why I joined. To be honest I had avoided joining the ship for many years, even though it had always been on my mind, which I will attempt to summarize. I should first explain that the idea of being on the ship went against everything people in my life were doing or I suppose what was expected of me to do and it seemed a strange idea to spend my money to do such a thing – getting experience in something I wasn’t sure would apply elsewhere.

It all started when my Mum planted a seed in my imagination at a young age. My family enjoyed asking the question, “If you won the lottery what would you do with the money?” and when my sister and I were kids, my Mum answered it with saying that she would buy a sailboat we could live on, take us out of school because we’d learn more from this than we would from any textbook, and sail around the world following the coastlines. But for the longest time that idea was limited to only winning the lottery and I don’t even buy lottery tickets.

I’d lived all over British Columbia, Calgary, Alberta and Toronto, Ontario and had never known a sailor. As far as I was aware, people had private yachts and sailed those. It wasn’t until I met John Gallagher and Alex Brooks in 2005/6, both crew of one of the Picton Castle‘s world voyages, that the idea even remotely became a reality. I hadn’t travelled at all at the time and their sharing of stories, their confidence in what they’d seen of the world made me very curious and I was full of wonder. That year I was registered to study journalism at Centennial College and when given the opportunity to write about the ship, I took it. I wouldn’t say the story was very good… but it did give me a chance to speak to the office, the conversation ending with “You should come sail with us!” and at one point the Captain even emailed responses to my amateur questions. Even then I didn’t think it was possible to do – I was a starving student, working as a waitress to get me through each attempt (I decided journalism wasn’t creative enough for me) at college. Travelling Europe alone and later, joining Alex Brooks on a rally from England to Mongolia, seemed like goals I could reach and achieved.

Even still I could not shake the ship from my mind! There eventually came a day when a good friend of mine offered to have me work with her in Northern Alberta making really good money. At the time I was comfortable in my predictable food industry life and couldn’t imagine what I would need the money for but then… of course! I could finally sail on the Picton Castle! And so I took the job. And while I was working there I visited the ship in Lunenburg after submitting an application, meeting friends of Alex and John’s and finally meeting the Captain. It was the springtime so it was sunny and still cold. We lifted, tarred, rust-busted, scrubbed and painted – my clothes smelling of trees and ashes, my hands dirty, red and freezing and at the end of the day I was exhausted. I fell asleep feeling accomplished, passed out in a little bunk I couldn’t sit up in with a little foam mattress. In the mornings I got up and sat around a large round table in the neighbouring boat with the rest of the crew to eat breakfast (and later lunch and dinner) feeling like I’d known them forever. As a city girl I’d showered and washed my face every day at home yet I had done neither and somehow felt healthier and cleaner than ever.

I gave a raving review when I returned to my coworkers in Alberta, but then the job changed me (as working in the middle of nowhere for many months will do) causing me to believe that my savings wouldn’t be well invested – in fact I had convinced myself to stay at the job for years more to make the money I would need to become a commercial helicopter pilot (I even tried flying one). But eventually I had to face that the job itself was the most unhealthy thing I’ve ever done – believing that living for money would solve all my problems and make me happy. So I left it. Once again leaving me to wonder what I should do with myself and comforted by my savings.

I started having dreams about the ship. Sometimes they were nice romantic dreams of sails filling with wind, sometimes it was stormy and frightening which only had me waking up confused. I had avoided the ship for years now thinking I would stop wanting to be a part of it, but clearly it called to me and I could no longer ignore it. I checked the website to see if they were somewhere I hadn’t been and if there was a short leg – and there was. So I took a leap of faith; “I’m just going to go for a month, I may not even like it” I told my friends. They were laughing at me then and they’re laughing at me now having been on the ship for four more months. Apart from people in my life that can never be replaced, I don’t miss ‘real life’ at all. Coincidentally after the first month or so, my landlord didn’t like me subletting my apartment and so I was evicted, my friends having to move for me while I was away and I have no home to rush to.

My mom was right, I’ve learned more from this journey then I will ever learn from a textbook – things that cannot be included in curriculum, that a degree or certificate will never do justice. In fact if I ever go home and I explain my current life, they’ll probably all look at me confused, never quite understanding what I’ve been through. But it doesn’t matter, I will – this is for me, this is about my life and the important things I believe it should include – things that people may never have a chance to experience in a lifetime. Sure I’m broke now, sure I don’t have a house or a car or a job with steep ladder to climb, but I’m more happy than I have ever been.

Poem By Lily:

The girl by the name of McBroom,
Was meant to go home soon,
But her landlord was wack,
So she’s not going back,
She’ll continue to sail by the moon.

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