Contributed                                Celina Diaz, from Kelowna, attends to the Sørlandet, a Norwegian tall ship. She is the only Canadian to have received training from Training Ship Denmark to maintain the ship.

Contributed Celina Diaz, from Kelowna, attends to the Sørlandet, a Norwegian tall ship. She is the only Canadian to have received training from Training Ship Denmark to maintain the ship.

Kelowna woman first Canadian to train in Danish sailing program

A Kelowna sailor compares her life at sea to manning an old museum.

Celina Diaz is the first Canadian to complete the Training Ship Denmark program, which allows her to sail around the world on 100-year-old Norwegian tall ships.

The 22-year-old lived in Kelowna until she was 17, then she jumped aboard the Sørlandet through a program called A+ World Academy to complete her final year of high school.

“I had no interest in sailing, never really had been on a sailboat before and didn’t really know what to expect. When I got there I wasn’t impressed with the whole thing. I thought sailing wasn’t going to be for me but it was a cool way to travel and we were 50 young people travelling together,” she said.

Diaz attended école de L’Anse-au-sable, but with her small number of classmates, she developed a desire to travel. She began researching exchange programs online when she found High School at Sea.

“Imagine going to school with the same 20 people and by Grade 11 there were three, so there was a need for some stimulation,” she said.

It didn’t take long before she developed a fondness for the lifestyle.

“I was just interested in that we were travelling to 25 countries. There’s not very many high schools that can offer you that.”

After nine months onboard the Sørlandet, which was first launched as a school ship in 1927, she decided to pursue navigation as a career.

Danish sailors encouraged her to complete her training through the program, and she became “the first non-European to have studied there,” she said, as she learned the basics of sailing

The day after she completed her training, she was hired onto the Sørlandet to teach students, moving from student to teacher.

“It’s a really fun adventure, I think it’s the best job I could’ve picked out for myself,” she said.

And the adventure continues. Recently, Diaz travelled with students across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, from Norway to Hong Kong.

The ship is without hydraulics, so everything is maintained by rope and hand, she said. “It’s like sailing a really old museum around.”

No longer used to carry cargo, the ships are used for touring and teaching purposes. Although old, they can handle the rough winds and waters.

While crossing the North Atlantic last year, Diaz faced hurricane-force winds, while racing against another training tall ship.

“I wasn’t scared because I had a good adrenaline trip,” she said.

Diaz has made a stop in Kelowna until the end of the month to visit family but lives in Denmark. She sets sail at the end of January until June for her next teaching adventure.

In her down time, she continues to pursue a career in navigation and attends the Marstal Navigationsskole in Denmark, where she is the only Canadian to have studied there.

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