Gary Karlsen was a young man just out of high school when he put plans to attend UBC on hold and took to the high seas.
The adventurous months that took him around the world and back home to his native Norway was documented in a journal at the time and now all these years later he’s turned it into a memoir called No Ordinary Seaman.
“I had managed to bluff my way up after three months at sea to an ordinary seaman so the term ordinary seaman is an official rank on those ships, and it still is today,” he told the Chronicle.
“My experiences on the ship where so radical, so full of adventure… but I was not by any means an ordinary type of guy.”
Karlsen’s father was a Norwegian immigrant and the family moved from Toronto to Vancouver when he was nine years old.
The identification with his ancestors and the history of the vikings is an underlying thread in the book.
“By the time I finished high school I figured the only way I was going to get there was to get onto one of these ships,” he said. “A lot of adventures occurred. Times on the ship were perilous. The jobs were very frightening. At the time same there was a real maturation occurring.”
Over the course of only several months Karlsen travelled from B.C. to Japan, New York and eventually Norway.
He recounts his voyages with wit and humour and becomes immersed in a family larger than he has ever known.
His other travels have included circumnavigating North America by thumb, riding the rails across Canada and flying single engine airplanes into mountain lakes.
Catch Karlsen at the Gallery from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday.