The Gapper Series: Lessons from Sailing a Tall Ship with Eloise

Updated: 12 hours ago


Imagine being at sea, on a Pirates of the Caribbean Esque Tall Ship, surrounded by marine wildlife, exploring the natural wonders of the world, visiting new countries, and being able to see the world through unique perspectives. In this episode, Michelle Dittmer speaks to an Alumni of Class Afloat, Eloise, about her fascinating experience aboard a Tall Ship.




She learned about Class Afloat when she was only 14 years old and as someone who loves the ocean, traveling, and learning. Eloise was committed to earning a spot on this program. Despite her parents not being completely on board with this idea (pun intended), she persevered and was committed to this idea.


Michelle Dittmer said that “these grand adventures ideas have been brewing for such a long time and it's part of their soul that’s calling them to take part in these things”.


What is a Tall Ship?

Picture one of the magnificent tall ships from the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean, Elosie took her gap year and spent it on a Tall Ship, called the Golden Leo. Traditionally, a tall ship is a rigged sailing vessel and is identified by the number of masts, shape, and size of the tall ship.


A Day in the Life

Class Afloat provides a unique experience to a handful of individuals every year, but it is definitely not like spending time on a relaxing cruise! Typically, students will have class during the day, where they complete schoolwork or work on personal projects, and on the weekends (which are extended) they are able to explore the various ports the ship stops at.


Students explore in groups of four, wandering the beautiful ports, meeting new people, hearing their stories and perspectives on life. Class Afloat also has excursions, for example in Senegal, students went to a park with beautiful baobab trees.


While this sounds like the absolute dream, in reality, being on the ship is hard work. Every day, you have “watch”, two hours during the day and two during the night, where you are out on deck attentive at sea. Eloise recalled, “being woken up at 3:30 am, to watch from 4 am to 6 am, this was one of the hardest things I have to do”.


Throughout time on the Golden Leo, students are able to pick up on unique skills, including going up and down the risking, working alongside sailors for the maintenance of the ship, in the bridge standing watch ensuring that the ship gets to the destination as safe as possible and that the conditions on sea are as safe as possible.


Days are taxing physically and mentally, “you have to really want [the experience] to enjoy life on a tall ship”.


Developing transferable skills

Eloise reflects that this was an opportunity for growth, she entered the program with the mentality that “on this ship, this is my year, I am going to take chances that I wouldn’t normally take”. This includes taking the initiative to be the watch leaders, who have more authority and tell crew members to complete certain tasks and achieve their daily goals.


One of Eloise’s personal goals was to talk to everyone on board at least once a day. Not only did she break out of her shell, make lifelong friends, but also ensure that no one is to be left out, because having been in the position before, it is alienating.


Learning about yourself and the world

Being able to board the Golden Leo and spend 7 months exploring the world’s natural wonders is exhilarating. This is as free as one could possibly be, seeing what nature has to offer and being immersed in the beauty of marine wildlife, and stepping onto different ports every couple of weeks is a dream.


In addition, visiting other countries and being able to meet people with different backgrounds and seeing their perspective on life, along with having conversations with people all around the world and seeing how they choose to live life is an enriching experience. This is one of the factors that has projected Eloise to keep on learning about different cultures and seeing different perspectives on life.


Truly a marvelous experience, that is one for the books!


Class Afloat