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.
President, Class Afloat