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A Grade 7 Trip on a Tall Ship

by Hans-Peter Mothes

In Grade 7 history we have arrived at the Renaissance and the Age of Explorations and Discoveries, we study the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and the Age of Enlightenment. New discoveries in astronomy, improved navigation, and a Zeitgeist of "I want to know what is there" resulted in thousands and thousands of ships sailing across the oceans of the world: Merchant ships, warships, privateers. For centuries it was a stepping out of the "known" into the "unknown" and wanting to learn about new things on all levels, taking risks. One has to study the positive aspects as well as all the negative impacts of these historical events - it is still ongoing!
And isn't the 7 grader a bit like that? Stepping out into the "unknown" zone? Wanting to explore, taking risks, overcoming fears? Climbing the rigging of a tall ship up to 35 meters above the deck? Experiencing the hard work to hoist a ridiculously big main sail?

Sailing on a tall ship manifests a direct connection of the 7 grader to the activities and life on a sailing ship centuries ago. Being exposed to and working with the elements, wind and waves, with the only things a sailor needed: brains and muscles. Brains to understand what must be done and muscles to get it done.

But it is not sailing on a tall ship that make these trips so special. The 7 graders are running the ship, learn how to steer, navigate by compass, learn how to tack and jibe under the command of a very experienced and knowledgeable master. This unforgettable experiential education at sea feels like "interactive history" at its best. They share their experiences, below.


S.A.L.T.S, Sailing and life training is a non-profit organization that lets you experience the thrills of sailing. The food is amazing and even though the trip is tiring it is still an amazing experience. Some of the activities include climbing the rigging, hoisting the sails, going on land excursions, and getting together at night to sing songs and eat dessert. You get to steer the boat, coil the ropes, and go for a refreshing swim. You have a night watch and a day watch where you watch for objects in the water that might be dangerous, listen for radio calls, and steer the boat. The deck is a good place for playing games, and if you are tired you can take a nap in your bunk when you are not on watch. It is good to bring a book or cards in case you get bored, which is very unlikely. The staff is very nice and includes the captain, the cook, the bosun, the first mate, and the medical officer. If you are lucky, you might see porpoises or even whales. We saw porpoises and caught 180 prawns which we ate for a snack cooked in ginger-garlic butter. All in all, it was an amazing, gratifying, memorable experience. It is only for youth 13 to 25 unless you are a chaperone. If you are a parent getting this, sign your kid up quickly!


S.A.L.T.S stands for Sailing and life training society which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing young people between 13 and 25 onto a sailboat. On board, you learn how to navigate by compass and landmarks, how to tie knots, how to climb the shrouds, how to catch and prepare prawns and what different parts of the ship are called. On the ship, there is a captain, a cook and three officers who are the first mate, the bosun and the medical officer. I really enjoyed climbing the rigging up to 25-30 meters above the deck of the ship, the food and I liked jumping off the shrouds for a swim. We got to go to land in dories which we had to get safely in the water first. On land, we explored and played games. On the boat, we got to raise the sails, learned how to belay and coil lines, what to do in a “man overboard” situation, learned some radio language, how to lower and raise the dories, and how to steer the ship.


My class just got back from our 4-day sailing trip looking windswept, sunburnt, and exhausted, but grateful that we had just had one of the greatest experiences and adventures field trips have to offer. This trip had a variety of memorable moments that ranged from sailing out of the harbour and looking up at the giant bridge that had lifted for our passing, or climbing the shrouds whilst staring out at the sparkling water and endless blue sky that steadily flowed past us as the Grace, our boat, cut an endless line through the water. During some night watches, we could even hear wolves and owls howl and hoot at us from the shore. I can say that there were many moments that I will remember for years to come. Another great pleasure on this trip was the food, prepared by our cheerful cook Hannah in a small and densely packed kitchen called a galley. The food was excellent and very flavourful with seconds at every meal to keep us sustained through the day. In total, we sailed with three crew members, one cook and of course the captain, all of which were helpful and supportive throughout the trip. A normal day on the grace went as follows: breakfast at around eight, followed by either a watch or free time until lunch, after which we usually set sail and made our way to the next anchorage where we cast the anchor, had dinner, a few hours of rest, then “mug up” a sort of communal gathering involving singing and dessert and finally at around ten thirty bedtime, which was quickly interrupted a few hours later by our nightly one hour shift. All in all a tiring but fun trip full of learning and adventure. Over the course of our four-day trip we went ashore only once, though this is not a big surprise considering the task of lowering the dories and getting a bunch of inexperienced kids into them is quite a time-consuming feat. A few of my friends and I went swimming on two occasions, though to my disappointment, out of twelve kids, only four took the plunge. That, along with a second-degree burn that I acquired on the third day were probably my only cons to a trip that in my opinion went very well with only a few very minor hiccups along the way. Through the course of the trip, I learnt many useful skills and terms, from coiling and belaying a rope all the way to learning the “man overboard” drill. Before I went on this trip my attitude toward sailing was a bit hesitant if not outright uneasy. But I am proud to say that this trip has cured me of my hesitance and led me to believe that if stranded on a boat in the middle of the ocean I would be able through many trial and error experiences to either be rescued alive or even limp my way to the nearest coast. If you are considering sending your kid on a S.A.L.T.S. trip I would highly recommend you do it as it is a great experience for anyone between 13 and 25 which is the S.A.L.T.S. age range for trainees.


The S.A.L.T.S. trip: Amazing, tiring, enjoyable!
I sailed with S.A.L.T.S. for 4 days on a tall ship. I had a lot of precious experiences like watching the ship speeding up all by the huge sails that we hoisted or pulling up the traps that we had set that were full of prawns which we enjoyed as an afternoon snack. I loved the delicious food that was made fresh every day by our lovely cook Hannah. I thank everybody who supported us to make this trip possible. I really enjoyed it.


Why should parents send their children on a S.A.L.T.S. trip?
Doing a sailing trip on a tall ship is an awesome experience and can build many fond memories to look back upon in years to come. To go on one of these trips you have to be at least 13 years of age and the days you can spend at sea vary from 4 to ten or more. Some of the many great things you can do while onboard are: climbing the rigging, steering the ship, hoisting the huge sails which is very tiring but satisfying to look upon when done, rowing the dories, or learning to tie a variety of knots.
We started our trip in the harbour of Victoria and sailed around the Gulf islands for 4 days. The crew divided us into 3 groups also called watches. We took turns doing chores and watching over the ship. One member of the professional crew is in charge of a group and is called a watch officer. The groups rotate every 4 hours and everybody not on watch has free time to play games, take a nap, or read. If you are on bow watch you have to report any object in front of the ship that might potentially cause damage like logs. The second is called stern watch (stern means the back of the ship, and the bow is the front) where you basically steer the ship, listen to traffic radio, and look out for Man overboard.