Class Afloat [klas əˈflōt] - noun
1. an unconventional school which takes place on a three masted top sail schooner tall ship
[as noun] : I was a student on Class Afloat, nothing ever goes as planned there, but I had so much fun, and I grew so much as a person.
[as noun] : You never know what to expect in a typical day with Class Afloat.
Welcome back to another glorious day in the life of a Class Afloat student. After 8 months of sailing and travelling the world we’ve learnt, if nothing else, that nothing is ever set in stone. Whether it’s your ETA (estimated time of arrival) or a sure spot to dock in port, it will probably change about a million times, and not always in your favour. Murphy’s law states that if something can go wrong, it will go wrong; let us be the ones to tell you that Murphy knew what he was talking about.
For example, because it’s not impossible to fly new maritime members in just a day before your planned departure, you’ll have to. Due to some unexpected staff rearrangements, our crew was unable to depart from the Azores as scheduled for our sail to Ireland. No one was complaining though, because as a result we had another two days of contact with our friends and families back home, more time to explore and make memories on the breathtaking Faial Island. To top it off, we wouldn’t yet need to hold onto our plates for dear life as we ate.
However, with there being merely a month left with Class Afloat, it’s getting to be crunch time with our classes. This means that we absolutely cannot miss any class time, or else there’s no way that we’ll finish our courses and be prepared for our dreaded final exams. Due to our obligation to our education, we had a normal departure day schedule, minus the whole being back at sea part. It almost felt like a day of school back at home because for once we could actually leave the building, or vessel in our case, during a spare block. Us students revelled in the opportunity to go grab a coffee from Peter’s Sport Bar Café, or a creamy ice cream from Atlantico, or just go for a nice walk along the water during a free period. With freedom in our day to day lives being so rare, it was quite refreshing.
Following a departure day always comes your normal 08:00-18:00 hours school day schedule. However, much to our excitement, Steve announced at muster that we had a choice to either have a normal school day with shore leave in the evening, or use our Snow Day on land and have another full day off in Horta. The initial vote was majority for our Snow Day as planned, during the sail to France. However, once us students realized the fatal flaw in our decision making, we did everything in our power to withdraw our conclusion and ask for a revote. It was pointed out by some most astute individuals that when at sea, Idle Hands calls and mirror watches requiring the entire watch group to be present would greatly take away from a “day off”. At this revelation, all those who were in favour of the Snow Day in Horta took it upon themselves to convince all of the opposing opinions to change their vote. This revolution was lead strongly by Daniel, who even went as far as to bribe people to change their vote in exchange for chocolate bars. Ah, Class Afloat students and the things that they will do for sugar.
At evening muster on the would-have-been departure day, we were granted a revote, and the moral of the students was lifted even higher as it was decided to have our Snow Day the following day, in Horta. When you think of a Snow Day, you may see in your mind a picturesque winter wonderland scene complete with some friends, hot chocolate, and a Christmas movie marathon. On Class Afloat however, we hear Snow Day, and we practically start to drool over the thought of multiple hours in a row of precious, hard to come by, sleep. Maybe throw in a couple of TV shows or a movie while cozied up in your bunk because, hey, we’ve finally got the time. What I’ve just described is a normal Snow Day, a Snow Day at sea. But give us students the chance to have a Snow Day on land, and everything changes.
With another full day in the Azores from 09:00 to 23:00 hours, the opportunities were endless. A group of faculty and students alike took the ferry across the water and hiked to the top of Mount Pico together; a once in a lifetime experience they wouldn’t have otherwise got to participate in. My group used the day to hike around the edge of the Caldera, which is the inside of the volcano which formed the island of Faial. The view was absolutely gorgeous. The hike, which was more of a walk with a few hills, was 8km along the top of the volcano. When you looked down over the grassy edge and into the once-was volcano, it was just 2km deep of different shades of green. We would have loved to attempt to make our way down into the abyss if we had had the time. Thanks to this one of a kind Snow Day, I was able to partake in everything I could have possibly wanted to do this port. Everyone also had ample time to just relax with a hot chocolate at Peter’s Sports Bar, or chill on the ship with a blanket and a few movies.
Of course, a gangway schedule still had to be upheld as per usual, but the two hours always went by quickly as students painted our mural on the key-side. Though our design was painted over and changed many, many times, the final result was a background of a Dutch flag, a wave, and the fierce face of a lion.
Every half hour or so someone would come check out our vessel and admire the beauty of her three masts. With Horta being a unique and international community for sailors, the atmosphere of the dock was relaxed and safe; this allowed the individuals on gangway to be free to cozy up on the breezeway benches and read if they so chose. Our time in the Azores helped me to see exactly why someone might choose to commit their entire life to tall ships or sailing. The community and connections are always there, and the history and love for it all is what keeps drawing people in. Even though it may be hard work, the reward is travelling the world, continuously getting pushed out of your comfort zone, and making powerful friendships, the kind that you hear about in stories.
All in all, I think it would be safe to say that sometimes when things don’t go as planned, it actually turns out so much better than it would have been otherwise.
Written By: Class Afloat Student, Mya Bacus