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.

Interested in spending your 1st year of university at sea with Class Afloat?

Join our upcoming information session featuring Liam Dutton, Manager of International Recruitment at Acadia University. Learn more about programs available at Acadia and life on campus after your time at sea!

Time: May 7, 2020 03:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 761 9423 0019
Password: 2XNg8X

We hope to see you there!

Join us for an online information session and learn more about spending a semester or year at sea with Class Afloat.
Our Director of Admissions will be joined by Alumna, Amy Russell – avid sailor and Class Afloat Alumna, 2010-2011. Ask any questions you might have! Enjoy a short presentation followed by a casual Q&A.

Can’t make it? No problem! Email us at for a copy of the presentation.

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 729 9899 4448
Password: 3i80Rc

Speak with our Director of Admissions and learn more about spending a semester or year at sea with Class Afloat! Enjoy a short presentation followed by a casual Q&A. Can’t make it? No problem! Email us at for a copy of the presentation.

How to join:
Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 911 180 608

Why take a gap year? What should you expect? How should you plan?

Join our upcoming information session featuring Michelle Dittmer, Co-Founder and President of our official partners at Canadian Gap Year Association. Learn all about the gap year experience! Plus, speak with our Director of Admissions and discover how you can spend a gap semester or year at sea with Class Afloat.

Time: Apr 9, 2020 03:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 960 777 514

We hope to see you there!