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Setting sail on a mid-life second act

By Melanie Petrucci, Contributing Writer

Many may dream of a second act in life, such as pursuing a new job or hobby, but do not have the resources or commitment to really do so. Several years ago, John Gareri, an avid sailor, dreamed of sailing around the world on a tall ship. And then, with the encouragement of a friend who advised him, “Just go for it,” Gareri did just that. Now, not only does he have the chance to pursue sailing, he has also found he has a talent for the craft of sail making.

A lifelong resident of Westborough, Gareri graduated from Westborough High School in 1980. He then studied engineering at Central New England College and continued on to receive his MBA from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

His career began as a software engineer for Data General on its CLARiiON storage program and then, in 1999, he went to work for Brocade Communications out of San Jose, Calif. After 15 years of service and telecommuting, he semi-retired in 2014 and relocated to Grafton.

Gareri, who is single, has always been interested in sailing, starting when he was a Boy Scout. He later took some sailing classes while at Data General. It was then that he learned of a tall ship, Barque Picton General, based in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, that regularly sailed around the world.

“Someday I’m going to do that, sail around the world in a tall ship,” he recalled telling himself. “I had never thought about it before, but then I thought it would be worth trying, someday!”

But first, in 2004, Gareri joined a sailing club based in New Jersey, which organized a week-long trip on the windjammer Victory Chimes, leaving off the coast of Maine. The three-masted, 100-year-old schooner was the only one of its kind still sailing at the time. Although the trip was only a week long it whetted Gareri’s appetite for sailing and became the genesis for his second act.

On this trip, he also met a crew member who had just come back from the Picton Castle’s World Voyage 3. Upon hearing of Gareri’s interest in sailing with the Picton, she said to him “just do it!”

“She explained to me that it’s easy to convince yourself that you don’t have time and that you’ve got these other things you have to do but you just have to do it,” he added. He took that advice to heart.

He signed on for the Picton’s World Voyage 5 in 2008. The trip was originally planned to sail the world but was scaled back in scope. Nevertheless, it included parts of the Atlantic, Europe, Africa, Brazil, and the Caribbean over a 13-month period.

“I fell in love with the whole experience,” Gareri said.

The Picton Castle, now known for its world sail training voyages, began in 1928 England as a fishing trawler. She was then conscripted into the Royal Navy during World War II as a minesweeper. She was eventually put into service as freighter before being purchased in Norway by Captain Daniel Moreland who brought her to North America in 1996.

Now, the ship’s mission is deep-ocean sail training and long-distance education. She is 179 feet overall, with riveted steel hull, clear oiled-pine decks, steel masts, and wooden and steel yards. She carries 12,450 square feet of canvas sail. There are berths for 40 sail trainees and 12 professional crew members.

Recently, the schooner played a role in a 10-part television series, “La Grande Traversée” which has aired on Canadian television. Gareri was on board during its filming.

After trying all aspects of sailing, Gareri found he also had a talent for sail making. The sails are made of canvas and mostly made by hand while the ship is out to sea. Gareri’s responsibility is to ensure their upkeep and to teach those interested. The Picton is the only ship where the sails are still made on board while in transit. Some work is done in port and they do have a large sewing machine, but for the most part, construction is done by hand.

“We are always making and repairing old sails and there is never a shortage of need,” he said. “A new sail will get about 10 to 12 years of use.” He noted that it isn’t necessarily a dying art but the craft has been moved from ship to shore.

Gareri was on the Picton Castle when it was in Boston this past June for the recent Sail Boston 2017 festival where he was able to spend some time with his 94-year-old mother. After the Boston event, he continued with the tour to Prince Edward Island before disembarking. He is currently on break from the ship for a previous commitment. He will re-rejoin the Picton Castle in October for its Bosun School which is an advanced training course.

Gareri also plans to travel on the Picton’s World Voyage 7 in March of 2018 for a 14-month tour. Ports of call will include Panama, Galapagos, Pitcairn, Bali, Cook Islands and more.

For information on how to sign up for training, sailing and voyages, visit and the ship’s Facebook page.






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