The sail training ship Picton Castle. *Photo supplied
The sail training ship Picton Castle. *Photo supplied

Erin Greig, age 24, has just returned home from the adventure of a lifetime, sailing the South Pacific as an apprentice aboard a tall ship. 

After a three-month voyage aboard the sail training ship Picton Castle, Erin knows all the ropes, literally.  Everyone aboard participates in all aspects of sailing the ship - everything from hauling on the lines that set and take in sails to taking a turn steering at the big teak wheel. 

Not everyone knows what they're doing when they first sign on.  Trainees need no previous sailing experience at all; they learn the required skills from the ship's professional crew and apprentices like Erin.  Most of the lessons are learned in the day-to-day operations of the ship, plus regular workshops. 

Since 1997, more than 1,000 trainees have learned the ropes aboard Picton Castle. The ship has sailed around the world five times, to Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and the Great Lakes, and up and down the Eastern seaboard.  Erin sailed as part of the ship's sixth world circumnavigation, which will continue until the summer of 2015. 

While Erin was aboard, Picton Castle island-hopped through French Polynesia, calling at Mangareva, Nuku Hiva, Tahiti, Moorea and Huahine, then sailed to the Cook Islands to visit Rarotonga and Palmerston Atoll.  From there, the ship visited the Kingdom of Tonga, then sailed to Fiji, where Erin signed off.

Starting in July, Picton Castle will sail west from Fiji, calling at ports in the western South Pacific, the Indian Ocean, the South Atlantic and the Caribbean before returning to her base of operations in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada, where she started this voyage in November 2012. 

Any crew member could tell you what an amazing experience it is to sail aboard Picton Castle.  They live and work with an international crew that quickly becomes more like a family, visit gorgeous remote islands where they're welcomed with open arms, and experience the beauty of the ocean well away from the sight of land, while challenging themselves and developing skills in seamanship.