Man living dream by sailing the seas after retiring

Peter Berdinka is scheduled to sail until early February, returning home from Tahiti

MONTAGUE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A West Michigan native is living his dream as a crewmember on an intercontinental sailing trip.

Muskegon native Peter Berdinka said he’s always wanted to sail the world’s oceans, and after retiring from the B.C. Cobb power plant last July, he’s doing just that.

“It’s amazing when you can sail halfway round the world,” Berdinka, a 55-year-old resident of Muskegon County’s Montague Township, said in a shipboard email to “Sailing part is done by you and others like you all by your own work and vigilance, day and night, with your back and your conviction — it’s very rewarding.”

Berdinka is a member of the crew of Barque Picton Castle, a three-masted sail training ship based in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

The Picton Castle is sailing around the world with Berdinka serving as a trainee crew member and deckhand.

Sailing can be complicated, and Berdinka received some training before the ship left port. Aboard Picton Castle, professional sailors teach trainees the skills they need to safely operate and care for their ship, including standing watch, scrubbing the deck, taking the helm, rigging, sail-making and navigation.

Berdinka began training in September, and the ship left Nova Scotia in early November for the islands of the South Pacific. Berdinka is scheduled to sail until early February, returning home from Tahiti.

“You are sailing the sea with no engine, generating no noise, looking up and all the sails are set, you can hear the water rippling past,” he said. “You and your watch, together with the other two watches, have heaved and set and trimmed them all by hand, the way that has been done for hundreds of years — muscle and sweat and teamwork. It’s amazing.”

There are 43 people aboard the ship. He has sailed to Carriacou and Grenada in the Caribbean and has passed Bonaire, Curasol and Aruba to pass through the Panama Canal.

“The Panama Canal is amazing — an unbelievable feat of engineering,” Berdinka said.

In mid-December, the ship left Panama for the Galapagos Islands. The voyage continues across the Pacific with ports of call throughout French Polynesia, including Tahiti, Mangareva, Huahine and Bora Bora. The ship also is to visit to Samoa, Fiji and Tonga.

“It quickly becomes apparent that the U.S.A. is not the only melting pot of cultures,” Berdinka said.

Berdinka said he hopes the adventure will not be the end of his sailing experience.

“I am sure that I will maintain at least some connection to the sea, maybe part time relief work on sailing ships in the future,” Berdinka said. “I don’t know if I will do this exactly again, but yes in a part-time, more leisurely mode, it is an amazing, fulfilling and educational experience.”