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From life at sea to a Summerside B&B: P.E.I. becomes former galley cook's new home

Ceilidh Barnett was presented with this picture, “In recognition of her exemplary service on the Canadian Olympic,” on Nov. 22, 2009. The ship is one of the many she sailed on during her seven-year career as a cook.
Ceilidh Barnett was presented with this picture, “In recognition of her exemplary service on the Canadian Olympic,” on Nov. 22, 2009. The ship is one of the many she sailed on during her seven-year career as a cook. - Desiree Anstey
SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. —

It started as six days of testing the waters with a new career.

It turned into a seven-year adventure.

Ceilidh Barnett, a former resident of Collingwood, Ont., never dreamed about cooking on cargo ships when she was styling people’s hair in the salon.

“I was a hairdresser for seven years – now my lucky number – but the standing became too much for my body. I took time off and did a thing called ‘Willing Workers on Organic Farms’, where you volunteer in exchange for a room and board on a farm,” said Barnett, who moved to Summerside three weeks ago.

Through the volunteer experience, Barnett traversed her way up to Nova Scotia. And while cooking, she met a captain of an ocean liner.

“He said with my cooking I should be working on ships,” said Barnett, who can dish out 200 recipes.

“I thought about what he said and went back to Ontario. At church, I talked about my experience and a woman said her husband worked on a ship. One day, her husband called me up and asked if I would be interested in working on a cargo ship for six days as a trial.”

It turned into a seven-year career as Barnett bounced around the country on 19 cargo ships, working six weeks to three months on contracts as a relief cook.

“It was fun for me. I liked the change of ships, crews, the different ports and people we met while travelling around Ontario, Quebec, the Magdalene Islands and right out to the west.”

            - Ceilidh Barnett

“It was fun for me. I liked the change of ships, crews, the different ports and people we met while travelling around Ontario, Quebec, the Magdalene Islands and right out to the west. And I was never concerned with what we were carrying because my job was in the kitchen cooking three meals a day.”

On many of the ships, Barnett was the only woman, but despite this, it never deterred her.

“I was their daughter, their granddaughter, the niece. And the guys looked out for me. There were never any problems, and it was a very safe environment.”

Barnett looks back on the time with fondness.

“For some people, a job is a job, but this was a whole lifestyle for me,” she said.

However, in 2015 Barnett’s adventure abruptly ended.

“I was in a serious car crash – T-boned – and spent the next three years recovering,” she said, while running her finger along a dramatic scar on her arm

Barnett had begun to dip her feet back in the water hosting food events when Greg and Cate Garant approached her with a new venture – relocating with them to P.E.I.

“They needed a cook for The Warn House Bed and Breakfast in Summerside, and I needed a change of scenery,” she said.

“Ceilidh is our kitchen manager and baker. We all operate in our strengths and do the work that we enjoy the most, so the customers will pick this up,” said innkeeper Cate.

Barnett moved to Summerside, along with Greg and Cate on May 8.

“It’s been a very intense few weeks for me putting the kitchen together, but we’re all very excited for this new chapter,” said Barnett.

Desiree.anstey@journalpioneer.com

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