Check out our 2022-2023 student newspaper-The Mizzen 2nd Edition.

The Mizzen’s Paradigm: consent, diversity, accuracy, quality, student perspective, representing ourselves, our peers, and the people and places we visit with respect.





Get to know Class Afloat faculty and students throughout the ages in our Alumni in the Spotlight series.

What’s your name?

Celina Diaz

Celina Judith Diaz

Where are you from?

Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada

What year did you sail with Class Afloat?

I sailed with Class Afloat in 2012-13, the route was a figure eight of the North and South Atlantic on the Sørlandet of Norway.

Do you still keep in touch with your shipmates?

That’s a bit of a hard question to answer. We keep in touch, but I guess just based on geography – I see my classmates a lot less now than we did the couple of years after graduating. I’ve become closer to some after the school year than while on board, and some of by best friends are Class Afloat alumni from other years, funnily enough.

Where are you now?

Currently I am in Copenhagen, Denmark, where I have lived for the past five years.

What have you been up to following your time at sea?

What I discovered at sea that first year captivated my attention so much, that it literally has become my entire world since. Eager to keep on, in 2014 I worked as a trainee on the training ship DANMARK, and graduated with Ordinary Seaman papers.

I can’t say that there was a point where I consciously chose a career at sea, but one thing lead to another, one job to the next! I spent four years on my favourite ship Sørlandet, sailed three voyages as a quartermaster on the DANMARK and spent some time on a sailmaker’s bench in Denmark.

What impact did Class Afloat have on your life and career?

I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into when I sent an application to Class Afloat. Well, some idea I guess, but I didn’t know how it would change every decision that I’ve made in the following years.

Class Afloat made the biggest impact anything has in my life, mostly because I have made a career out of sailing tall ships and sail training. I consider myself very lucky to have been a Class Afloat student when I was, with the exceptional mix of crew and teachers that were there at the time. They inspired me to go after something very unconventional, without necessarily having the intent to do so.

What is your favourite Class Afloat memory?

It’s impossible to choose. I think one of my favourite memories was sewing bottlescrew boots. Without explaining too much, it’s just a piece of canvas that is stitched around the threads of a bottlescrew, which is used to tighten the standing rigging. In non-sailor words, sewing a piece of fabric around a fixed, cylinder-shaped object. There were hundreds to stitch, so what began as a one-man project slowly became a job that a lot of us students could do.

So over the course of a few weeks, we would get together in our free time, and stitch. It could have been on deck, in the rigging, or out on the bowsprit. It was nice to do something practical and detailed, while chatting a bit with a friend, looking at dolphins swimming alongside, or even just alone using the time to reflect on our surroundings while crossing another ocean.

If you could offer your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

If I could tell my younger self anything, I would probably say not to worry so much. I have spent a lot of time and energy being concerned about the outcome of decisions made, without necessarily having an influence on them in any way. Knowing now that most things work out, it would have been nice to have that insight sooner.

What was your biggest takeaway from your Class Afloat journey?

I can remember just after our graduation, my shipmate Blake said ‘this was the best year of our lives.’ I remember thinking how stupid that comment was. It was impossible that this was ‘it.’ I would surely go on living years that were consistently better than the lasts. But thinking back on it now, it was the perfect and possibly only time in our lives to experience something so big, so great.

There’s just something about the age group being just right. You are independent enough, yet still open, curious, trusting and without so many attachments and expectations about how things should be. So I guess Blake was right, I don’t know if it ever gets better than that, or if we ever will laugh as much as we did while taking so much pleasure in learning something new. It’s not to say that I am less happy now than I was then, but there is something so special about being that age and experiencing such a great adventure unlike anything else. So my biggest takeaway from Class Afloat is a year of irreplaceable and incomparable memories – luckily enough, shared with some of the greatest people I’ve ever met.

Follow our “Know Your Knot” series for how-to tutorials from the experts.

This Week’s Knot: The Bowline

Top tip from our Director of Operations: “There is little chance of this knot slipping before the breaking point of the actual rope itself has been reached. It is also easy to untie, even after being put under load. The bowline’s origins were on board the full-rigged sailing ships, and if you only learn one knot, the bowline is the one.

Can you tie a bowline? Take a photo of your completed bowline or a video of your knot-tying in action and share with us on social! Tag us @classafloat on Instagram or Facebook and use #knowyourknots to be featured.

Get to know Class Afloat faculty and students throughout the ages in our Alumni in the Spotlight series.

Amy Russell

What’s your name?

Amy Russell

Where are you from?

I grew up in Didsbury and Calgary, Alberta.

What year did you sail with Class Afloat? 

I attended Class Afloat for the 2010-2011 year as a university student. We circumnavigated the Atlantic Ocean, including sailing on the North Sea, Baltic Sea, Mediterranean Sea, and Caribbean Sea.

Do you still keep in touch with your shipmates?

I keep in touch with, and get to see, a few of my shipmates regularly, and others not as often as I’d like. But with Floaties, no matter how much time has passed, we always seem to pick up again easily.

Where are you now?

I am living in Nova Scotia (currently near Lunenburg).

What have you been up to following your time at sea?

After Class Afloat I went to Acadia University and completed my degree in biology, which I began on the ship, then my BASc in ecosystem management at Lethbridge College.

I have been working in various areas of field biology (fisheries, bird studies, land management/conservation), except in the last couple of years, when I was a deckhand on the Bluenose II for 8 months and then completed a 5 month sail making apprenticeship, making four new sails for the Bluenose ll.

What impact did Class Afloat have on your life and career?

Class Afloat solidified my passion for travelling and nature, and made me more confident and self-reliant. The following summer, I was part of a crew of three that sailed from Hawaii to Vancouver in a 44 ft. vessel, an opportunity that would not have presented itself without my Class Afloat background.

What is your favourite Class Afloat memory?

It’s hard to pick an absolute favourite memory from my year at sea, but one of them is when we sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar, which lies between Europe and Africa, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. This relatively narrow passage creates a ‘pinch point’ of marine life.

I remember being in biology class and our professor decided that it was too great of an opportunity to pass up, so we went aloft. It was a beautiful clear day and for miles I could see pods upon pods of dolphins, whales, and sunfish.

If you could offer your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

I could never have imagined where I have ended up and all the things that I have have been able to do in my life so far. I would advise my younger self to step outside my comfort zone and to take advantage of every opportunity. You are only young once. That sounds so cliche, but it is true.

Being able to challenge yourself and see the world from the safety of Class Afloat affords more adventures than you could ever accomplish, or even imagine, on your own. I could not have imagined that I would be trekking across the Sahara desert on camels and sleeping in a Bedouin tent village.

What’s was your biggest takeaway from your Class Afloat journey?

Being able to explore many countries and cultures is so valuable in ways that are hard to describe. One of my biggest takeaways is that no matter how different a culture is, at their core, people are the same. Even with language barriers, we can share the same sense of humour and acknowledge our shared interests. It made me realize that we really are part of a global community.

Ever wonder what it’s like to teach math on board a tall ship? Enjoy this guest blog from Class Afloat faculty alumni, Kyle O’Donnell.

As a math teacher, I often found it difficult to make experiential connections to my curricula. However, one experience that sticks with me involved a small favour for the Captain.

As it went, the boat’s deck needed a fresh coat of paint, so the Captain checked his records to see how much they ordered the previous time. In doing so, he remembered that the order was much too big and they were left with a surplus of paint. The Captain decided to reevaluate the area of the deck in order to determine a more accurate number for the subsequent order of paint.

Meanwhile, my Math 11 at Work class was working through a unit on surface area and volume and had previously done work with scale diagrams. I took the opportunity to take the Captain’s task and turn it into a learning experience. I had my class work together to create scale diagrams for the ship’s decks and to calculate the area of both the main deck and the bridge deck. In doing so, students had the opportunity to apply their knowledge in a hands-on way that also served the ship community.

Relation-Ships Matter Most

Beyond this small connection between the curriculum and ship life, the aspect of teaching with Class Afloat that resonated with me the most were the relationships formed with the students on board. Taking part in this program as a faculty member is much different from teaching in a traditional school. You are still an educator, mentor, and leader in the community, but on top of that, you spend almost every waking moment with your students for nine months.

Kyle O'Donnell - Class Afloat

This might frighten some teachers out there, but trust me, it is an incredibly rewarding experience. With such a tight knit community on board, you get a chance to learn so much about all of the students and see just how unique and impressive they are. You work with them in the classroom, eat meals with them, guide them through the experience as a Watch Dog, haul lines together on deck, explore different countries with them, watch them perform (or perform with them) at Coffee Houses, and much much more. These are the moments and the bonds that make being a faculty member with Class Afloat so special. These are the moments and the bonds that I’ll never forget.

Learn more about Kyle and his experience teaching on board Class Afloat in this Alumni in the Spotlight feature.

Get to know Class Afloat faculty and students throughout the ages in our Alumni in the Spotlight series.

Class Afloat Alumni

What’s your name?

Kyle O’Donnell

Where are you from?

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

What year did you sail with Class Afloat? 

I joined the Gulden Leeuw in March of 2015 to finish out the 2014-15 school year. I then returned for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years. We sailed on the Atlantic.

What did you teach on board the ship?

Mathematics (Math 10, Pre-Calc 12, Calc 12, Math 12, Math at Work 11)

Where are you now?

Ottawa, ON

What have you been up to following your time at sea?

After Class Afloat, I moved to Kingston, ON to pursue a Master of Education at Queen’s University. During that time I married my beautiful best friend Liz and we welcomed our son Joël into the world. We maintained our love of travel and the outdoors with camping trips throughout North America and visits to friends and family in the States.

What impact did Class Afloat have on your life and career?

It’s impossible to measure the impact Class Afloat has had on my life. I met my now wife, Liz, onboard the Gulden Leeuw during the 2014-15 year. We developed a strong relationship that continued off the boat and has grown into starting a family of our own! Beyond that, the interpersonal relationships formed through the program feel endless. I still keep in touch with students, fellow faculty, and maritime crew from all of my years onboard.

In terms of teaching, Class Afloat gave me the opportunity to work with intelligent, highly motivated, and interesting students which I appreciate immensely. The experience also helped me develop my flexibility and creativity as a teacher.

How would you describe your experience working as a faculty member with Class Afloat?

Working as a faculty member with Class Afloat is one of the most unique opportunities in the world for educators. You are a part of a small, collaborative team that is responsible for educating, mentoring, and leading a group of remarkable and diverse young adults in an intensely unique environment. It is difficult to describe the experience in words, which I believe is a testament to its impact.

What’s your favourite Class Afloat memory?

There are many to choose from, but a few that come to mind include watching the sun rise from the sand dunes in Morocco, exploring Fernando de Noronha, and furling the t’gallant during a storm in the South Atlantic.

If you could offer your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Every time life gives you an opportunity to step outside your comfort zone, take it.

Read more from Kyle in his blog about the Creative Classroom!

Class Afloat 2019-2020: Navigating COVID-19

Every school year comes with its own set of challenges and our community does everything possible to turn these challenges into learning moments. In 2020, we have found ourselves navigating the uncharted waters of a global pandemic that forced us to bring our sailing journey to an abrupt halt in Mexico this week.

As we have witnessed the COVID-19 pandemic evolve over the past month, our primary objective at Class Afloat has been to allow our students to safely complete their Tall Ship sailing program and academic school year.

From early days, the introduction of a comprehensive COVID-19 prevention plan on board our Tall Ship, Gulden Leeuw, allowed us to continue the experiential component of our program without disruption. Isolation being a key asset in the prevention of COVID-19, few environments would have afforded our students the same protection as remaining on board the majestic Tall Ship they called home.

In contrast, changing policies at various ports presented a unique challenge to our program, forcing us to cancel our port visit to Cuba and our long-awaited parent port in Bermuda, where over 100 family members were expected to greet our student crew. To protect our community from contact in ports, we decided to sail directly from Progreso, Mexico to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, a relatively isolated community on the Canadian coast and home to Class Afloat Head Office.

The Canadian Government announcement on March 16th that closed borders to non-Canadian/Americans, posed new risks to our 28 international crew members. To ensure that every member could make their way home, we made the difficult decision to end the ship-based component of our program at the port of Progreso on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. Arrangements have been made that will enable Class Afloat students to finish up their course work online, thereby completing the academic school year.

Yesterday, our 2019-2020 class disembarked the Gulden Leeuw, marking an end to their incredible 7-month sailing adventure, one that carried them to 17 ports in Europe, Africa, South America, the Caribbean and Latin America covering 11,500nm (21,300km) (13,300 miles) – half the distance around the equator.

Our team of professional mariner crew have remained on board to sail the ship back to the Netherlands. The Gulden Leeuw is fully fuelled and stocked with provisions for a 35-day non-stop sail from Progreso to Amsterdam.

Tears were shed as our students said farewell to their classmates, professional crew mates, faculty and their ship. While their time at sea was cut short, students left for home on land feeling pride in what they have accomplished and gratitude for life-long friendships forged along the way. Their Class Afloat voyage has been one of discovery, exploration and reflection but as we know from experience, their real journey has only begun.

We would like to thank our families in Mexico, who showed great initiative, hospitality and generosity towards our students during this time. The sense of community that bonds each member of the Class Afloat family is a true testament to the values upon which Class Afloat was established over 35 years ago.

Looking forward, we are excited about the exceptional group of students that have been accepted for admission to join next year’s student crew. While spots remain, our Admission’s Team continues to accept and process applications for our 2020-2021 school year. Please note that we will be monitoring the situation as in unfolds and, if required, will communicate any changes to next year’s journey.

If you have any questions during this time, please do not hesitate to contact us via email or by phone at 902-634-1895. We are available to answer any questions you might have.

Sincerely yours,
David Jones
President, Class Afloat

Class Afloat takes this opportunity to inform current and prospective families that we continue to actively monitor the evolving situation relating to the spread of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on both a global and local scale.

The World Health Organization (WHO) continues to advise against “the application of travel or trade restrictions” except in relation to specific locations where local authorities have implemented travel restrictions as part of a local containment strategy in infected communities. Detailed information is available on the WHO website.

In addition, Class Afloat follows the International Maritime Organization (IMO) guidance on operational considerations for preventing and managing COVID-19 on ships,

Please be assured that Class Afloat continues to monitor any risk posed by COVID-19. As always, the safety of our crew remains our top priority.

Onboard, Class Afloat staff continue to stress the importance of healthy hygiene practices, particularly hand-washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, etc. Students exhibiting symptoms of illness will be seen by the Medical Officer and brought to local clinics as required.

Will COVID-19 affect Class Afloat programming?

Class Afloat is closely monitoring the local situation in ports that remain on our 2020-2021 itinerary. At present, Health Canada has not issued any travel advisory warnings for our remaining five ports of call. Should concerns arise in any port on our itinerary, we will assess and, if necessary, revise our route accordingly.

In past years, we have adjusted our itinerary to avoid areas at risk for infectious disease:

  • 2014 – rerouted around West Africa in response to Ebola outbreak
  • 2011 – rerouted around Haiti in response to Cholera outbreak

In both cases, the itinerary was re-routed to alternative ports and the program continued without interruption.

Please note that, as of now, the same precautions will be in place for ports currently listed as part of our 2020-2021 route.

If you have concerns about COVID-19 as it pertains to Class Afloat, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time

At the 47th Annual Conference on Sail Training and Tall Ships in St. Petersburg, Florida, Class Afloat was named Sea Education Program of the Year!

The award is handed out each year by Tall Ships America, an organization focused on youth education, leadership development and the preservation of the maritime heritage of North America.

What is the Sea Education Program of the Year Award?

The Sea Education Program of the Year Award is given out each year to a current member of Tall Ships America in recognition of a program that has significantly contributed to the educational credibility of programs under sail.

Sea Education Award from Tall Ships America

This is a tremendous honour for the entire team at Class Afloat! From our student crew, faculty and mariners traveling on board our tall ship Gulden Leeuw to our Leadership Team at headquarters in Lunenburg Nova Scotia – this award is an accumulation of hard work and a longstanding tradition of academic rigour and sail training.

Our President, David Jones, graciously accepted the award on behalf of our entire crew: “I am honoured to accept this award on behalf of our Class Afloat students, faculty and mariners aboard the Gulden Leeuw. Each year is a new year at Class Afloat. Our crew creates their own community, develops their own values and they live those community values every day while they sail their ship, study and explore the world. I accept this on behalf of our students and professional crew on the ship – it’s their award!”

On September 4th, when students came to the wharf in Amsterdam and they could finally have their first glimpse at the tall ship they would be living on for the upcoming months, the three tall masts took the breath away from the future Floaties. When will the moment come for them to finally reach the top gallant, 40 meters above the deck? For some of us more adventurous students, this thrill was a story of the past only few days after the official departure; for others, the challenge is still alive today.

Above all, reaching the summit is a special moment for anyone having the nerves to climb all the way up. For me, after few attempts to the course, then to the lower top sail – just half way to the top gallant – I strived for the peak of the Gulden Leeuw on a sunny day of the first Atlantic crossing.

Summit Blog Myriam
One of the students making their way up to the platform. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know from this point of view if happiness or fear – or a right mix of both – can be seen on this person’s face climbing up to the sky.

When I woke up on December 12th, I knew that day would be a great day. Maybe it had something to do with the cheerful music the galley team had put for regular wake-up, the full night of rest I had just had, the AC in the dorms finally working against the humidity of the equator, or a sudden change in this atmospheric pressure, who knows. Only, my pinky was telling me that it would be a formidable day on the ocean. Just when I was heading for my breakfast, I heard the rumour from the watch: we would see the Brazilian land today; the Atlantic crossing had come to an end. On that positive note, I went to watch as the sun was already hot, and the breeze was comfortable, the swell was in a rhythmic dance with the hull of our boat, and the ocean was bluer than ever.

On the bridge, Shaila was waiting for us with a list full of projects for the day. First things first, we had to prepare our arrival in Fernando by furling all of the square sails, beginning with the top gallant. It was my chance: today was the day I would accomplish this challenge I had been dealing with since Amsterdam. Before Shaila could even finish her sentence, I was putting my harness on, ready to go aloft. I jumped on the occasion and, with Samantha, we hopped on the foremast’s ladder, beginning to climb to reach the summit.

I was confident; in general, I am not scared of heights. I am simply uncomfortable. However, I knew I could depend on this ladder as much as I could on an old friend. It is steady, wide enough, and I knew I could rely on these three stays running from the deck to the course platform. Even though I was not the fastest to climb up, I still reached this mid-way point easily. Yet, the hardest part was still coming up. The next ladder leading directly to the top gallant is not as friendly. It is made of rope that seems to be there since the ship was built, has some random wood steps – probably where the line tore –is way less steady, and you can barely fit both your feet reaching the top of it. This wobbly ladder was dancing and twisting from left to right as the boat was fighting the waves. My heart started beating harder into my chest, my hands were holding on so tight that my nails were printed into my skin, and my fear reached the summit way before I did.

Summit Blog Myriam2
The distinct silhouette of Fernando taken from our boat at anchor. Fernando’s beauty and serenity were welcomed after a long Atlantic crossing where we had reached the summit of ourselves.

Step after step, I was holding in tears and sticking to the little energy, courage, and confidence I had left to climb those last meters. I would not go down after all the progress I had made, not today. I finally reached the summit, not only after an extensive and exhausting ascension, but after a 4-month trip sailing the oceans of the world under these yards. Of course, I clipped in as soon as I got to the yard. After a few deep breaths and a glimpse at the view from the highest point of the ship, I started furling the sail with Samantha. During an hour, we prepared the top-gallant for our arrival in port. Just before heading down, which seemed as scary – if not more – than going up, we saw a blue silhouette lying on the horizon: Fernando! The feeling of seeing land after a fifteen-day sail crossing the ocean is indescribable. We were cheerful; There was no doubt we were the first ones to see land.

When I finally stepped onto deck, covered in bruises, trembling, out of breath, dizzy, and more tired than I have ever been, my heart was filled with pride. I remember that I could not stop smiling, that feeling inside me was delightful. As we were doing the handover at the end of my watch, a few dolphins appeared on port side. They were jumping, dancing, and swimming in the water, a little bit like my mind in happiness. My eyes were wet once again, but this time they were filled with gaiety and bliss; I knew this day would be exceptional.

The first thing most people think of when I tell them I’m sailing around the world on a tall ship is “Oh what a great adventure” or “you’re so brave to be doing this without knowing anyone beforehand”. Yes, this is all true, but no one really thinks about the bond or community that the whole crew shares; nobody would understand this except for the people who have been in the same situation.

When we are sailing in the middle of the Atlantic on the Gulden Leeuw, we are together 24/7, and it’s hard to have a time when you are by yourself. I started to become really close with some of the people on board. Everyone sleeps in really tight quarters; the aisles between the bunks are around two or two and half feet apart. This makes us get to know each other really well.

When we go to port though, it’s different. In port we go off in groups of four. I went out with Alice, Anastasia, Mairead, and Julia exploring the city of Horta, Failal. The first day in port I went to the beach; the sand and water was cold, but refreshing. The breeze smelled of salty ocean water. The sea was a light marine blue. I only got to experience this with three other people instead of fifty-nine other people. Once I got back to the ship it was like coming home; everyone shared what they did that day and suggests where to go and what to do.

After being in port for three days, I went hiking with a group doing the Duke of Edinburgh Award. The Duke of Edinburgh is an award that anyone can receive. This award is mostly worked on in the Commonwealth countries. One of the parts you need to do to receive the award is to plan and do an adventurous journey. My journey was hiking Mount Pico and camping on the island of Pico. I was really slow because the terrain was really steep and had a lot of loose rock. The air was cool, fresh, and clean. The reason why it was so steep was because we were climbing up a mountain called Mount Pico, which is the tallest mountain in Portugal and an inactive volcano.

Resizedimage600449 Leimei Community Blog 2
This is the view above the clouds from on top of the mountain. In the distance is the city of Horta below the clouds across the water. It was bright and sunny up high.

The rocks on Pico were really rough and a dark greyish black. I was sweating so much because of the heavy bag I had on my back. The bag also slowed me down a lot. As we hiked up the mountain, we passed through a cloud, which got me a little damp. Everyone in our group had to break into smaller groups. I was in the last and slowest group. It was okay because I got to hang out with Emma and Lloyd, one of the teachers on board. Not only did I get to know Emma better as well, but she really encouraged me to climb higher and do more. Unfortunately, we didn’t reach the summit but I felt a strong sense of friendship, understanding, and motivation.

After our Duke of Edinburgh camping trip; I went off with some friends and went around town one last time before leaving; walking into stores and spending most of our time in Peter’s Café. On the way back to the ship, the kids on the German ship offered us a tour of their ship. The German ship was also a sail training vessel for kids in grade 11 and they were in port at the same time as us. I find that there is a community not only within our own ship community, but also within the sailing community.

I was so amazed at how similarly the Gulden Leeuw and the Thor Heyerdral are run. It was also really different in a way. The German students have classes every other day and we have classes every day. A lot of the Class Afloat students connected with the other students on the German Class. Anastasia and I connected with the students on the “Thor Heyerdral” because we are doing some of the same things they are doing and we understand what they’re going through and the vocabulary they use to describe their ship. Thor Heyerdral is entirely made out of wood. This is what I’ll remember the most. I feel a real sense of community and family here; this is something that will always be irreplaceable to me.

Featured image: These are the friends I went hiking with on top of Mount Pico for the Duke of Edinburgh hike; This is near the summit. From left to right (Aiga, Alice, Ingrid, Myriam and in the middle at the bottom is Faren)