Novice Sailor Will Follow Drake

Cathy Lawrence and Charles Windsor already have something in common.

Both have the same birth date: Nov. 14.

She's a 19-year-old Queen's University political science student.

He's heir to the British throne.

Next week, they'll share another experience.

Cathy will spend three months aboard the square-rigged brigantine which Prince Charles, 30, wheeled out of Plymouth harbor in England last fall to begin its two-year, round the world voyage.

The cruise marks the 400th anniversary of Sir Francis Drake's circumnavigation of the world.

Recently, the two met in Toronto.

Cathy, a member of the crew, invited Charles, patron of the voyage, to join her on the third phase of the ship's nine-part cruise.

"He declined, but wished me a safe journey," she said. "And we exchanged birthday congratulations when I told him we were born on the same date -- although a few years apart."

Cathy will be among 25 Young Explorers from Canada who will have participated in "Operation Drake" before the 150 ton brigantine, The Eye of the Wind, returns to England. Each explorer crew gets to spend three months on the ship, before the next crews take over.

Another 200 explorers will come from the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, India, the United States, Nepal, Japan and France. Operation Drake is organized by the Scientific Exploration Society, a group of 400 explorers and scientists in London.

Cathy joins the ship Sunday in Panama. But she and three other Canadians, all of them from British Columbia, face five days of training before the gang plank is lifted.

"I've only sailed on the Great Lakes and then, not too frequently, although I've done a lot of canoeing," she said. "And my phase of the ship's route covers an awful lot of water - from Panama to Costa Rica, then to Galapagos Island, Cook Island and winding up in Fiji."

She's not too concerned about acquiring a set of sea legs. It's being drilled in the use of a matchete and the cure for cobra bites that has her a bit ruffled.

Cathy was one of hundreds of Canadians between 17 and 24 years old who applied to Operation Outwardbound, an outdoor educational school, for the chance to participate in the round-the-world cruise.

Twenty-five were chosen.

She said the ship will visit numerous sites throughout the voyage where major historic, scientific and medical research will be undertaken. In addition, community services will be conducted in co-operation with local governments.

"It's been a mad rush." Cathy said. "I've just finished writing all my exams - exams which were given to me separately because of my flight this weekend.

"And I've had to pack, rush to Toronto to meet Prince Charles, take one final look at my text books and re-pack. I forgot my jungle boots."

Click here to read more about Catherine's time on Operation Drake.