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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.


The trip was memorable and tiring! A big highlight was the cooking. The chef Hannah was amazing and was always cheerful. Well, actually, the whole crew was cheerful and always there to help with all the different knots and coiling and belaying ropes. The bathroom or “head” was crazy! There were so many levers and pumps! But beyond the head sailing was incredible even when we had to hoist the sails which was super hard. But I do not think it would have been the same without my class. And it is a good thing I did because it was one of the most memorable times in my life.
Many different terms were used on the ship: The “whiskers” were located under the “bowsprit” to keep people from falling in the water when hoisting the “forestays”. A bowsprit is a long thick pole sticking out the front of the boat. ( … ) Now that we have covered everything with the mast and bowsprit we can move on to the night watch since the boat has to be watched 24 hours a day. Night watches start at 10 pm and go until 7 am. Every shift is an hour long and there were always 2 people on watch. It was not easy to get up again at 1 am or 2 am once you were sound asleep!


The trip was great! I got to steer the ship and the skipper was a jolly nice man. On the ship, you could stare at the sea until you got sleepy. You can climb up the shrouds so high that your feet have nothing to grip on. You can stand at the helm and watch the islands go by. How beautiful it is at sea!
The ship was big! It has 2 masts which both carry gaff-rigged sails. The masts were supported by shrouds on both sides and you were allowed to climb them. (…) At the bow, there is an anchor on both sides. Lifting the anchor in the morning was really tiring and hard and the steering wheel was much heavier than I thought.


S.A.L.T.S. is a non-profit organization that teaches kids how to sail and work together on a tall ship. (…)
During our 4-day trip, we learned how to tie knots for securing the sail to the boom, tying two ropes of equal diameter together, making a figure eight stopper knot, a sheet bend, a bowline and many more.
We also got to climb and go out under the bowsprit with a harness that has 2 clips attached to it. When you are climbing you clip onto secure ropes as you are going up or down and if you fall there will be always at least one of the 2 clips attached to a secure rope of the rigging. We all had to stand watch at night to make sure we are not dragging anchor if it got windy. It was fun to race with the other 2 rowboats called Dories to shore to explore and play games.
Back on the ship, we hauled the Dories back on the deck by attaching ropes which were on pulleys to the bow and stern of the Dories. Like hoisting the sails there was a little bit of struggling involved.
We scrubbed the deck at 7 am before breakfast, spraying it with a hose and cleaning all the windows and railings as well. (…) Sailing this big ship, the Pacific Grace, was one of my favourite parts of the trip after the hard work of hauling the huge sails up the 2 masts. Mainsail and Foresail were the hardest to hoist despite all the pulleys because they had gaffs. A gaff is a piece of wood smaller than the boom that runs along the top of the sail to increase its surface area. When we were sailing, it was really peaceful and quiet, and when I climbed up the shrouds it felt like I was alone on the ocean.


Our trip on the Pacific Grace, a S.A.L.T.S. tall ship, was very exciting and fun. The crew was really nice and all the activities were great. The bunks were the best! Below decks was very comfortable. The boys were stationed in the main hold and the girls in the Fo’c’sle (aka the Forecastle). The crew shared the aft cabin (that is the back of the boat). The Hold and the Fo’c’sle together had 31 bunks. (…)
We sang songs every night and got treats. The weather and wind were good. We headed up to Salt Spring Island, sailed to South Pender Island and cruised between many other islands. I loved it when the ship tilted side to side when we tacked.


A S.A.L.T.S. trip is a very fun and memorable experience. It is a great opportunity to make new friends and learn new skills. Climbing the rigging is a whole new experience and helps a lot with one’s self-confidence. I got to steer the ship back into the harbour of Victoria which was very special! (…)

Hans-Peter Mothes and the grade 7 students would like to thank everyone who contributed to making this trip possible.
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