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It is October 1850, talk of the discovery of gold in California is rampant, and sixteen-year-old Sam Nelson has just made a lifechanging decision. After he sneaks away from his family in the middle of the night with nothing but a carpetbag and a desire for more in life, he arrives at the bustling Newburyport harboranxious to find a job on a ship and sail to California to join the Gold Rush.
After he finds the captain of a square-rigged sailing ship, Sam quickly secures a job as a cabin boy. As the Callao sets sail on an anticipated four-month voyage to San Francisco, Sam is thrilled. His journey to freedomand potential fortunehas begun. But it is not long before reality sets in. The demands of the job, loneliness, and unforeseen hardships soon propel Sam into a dark place, where he is forced to grow up quickly and wonders if he made the right decision. But after he is befriended by Jack, the ships kindly carpenter, and Ben, a young passenger, life begins to look up for Sam. Unbeknownst to him, he is sailing straight into manhood.
In this adventurous tale based on true events, a young man with a big dream soon learns more about himself than he ever imagined as he takes the voyage of a lifetime.