Friday, April 9, 2010

STI Youth Forum

In November last year STI held their annual conference. One of the major events was the launching of STI's international youth forum (IYF). South Africa was privileged to be invited as a founding member of this organisation, with Luke Gregor from Cape Windjammers Education Trust being the representative. 
At the conference the IYF drafted their mission statement:
The International Youth Forum aims to help Sail Training International fulfill its mission and meet its goals by bringing young people from the international sail training community together; working for youth by youth to provide fresh ideas for the future of sail training
Several Aims were established at the meeting, which are listed below:
  1. Engagement in the development of and a profile within the STI web site
  2. Collecting and posting NSTO youth activities on the site
  3. Collecting and posting exchange activities
  4. Establishing a real youth forum (a virtual place to meet and chat) and set up social networking media, facilitating exchange of programme ideas and activities.
  5. To organize and deliver two workshops for the Stavanger Conference in November
  6. To participate in a programme exit interview process, administered by NSTO youth leaders, the purpose, to assist in building a broad data base (sail trainees) and to offer insight into what youth are truly looking for in a sail training experience
  7. Representation on the Steering Committee charged with building Self-Assessment Tool Kits
  8. Building an IYF logo and designing a promotional T-Shirt for IYF led events
As the South African representative of STI's International Youth Forum I along with my fellow representatives  will aim to achieve these goals

Luke Gregor

Sunday, March 21, 2010

South African Sail-Training for Life-Skills Association

“Assisting the healthy development of youth into mature adults, with sustainable, moral, life skills, in a troubled society, via the medium of sail training at sea”

Main Objectives
  • Promote and assist the provision of opportunities for training under sail to youth and adults to foster the development of life skills, constructive citizenship and the art of seamanship
  • Assist the campaign for a Tall Ship sailing under South African flag
  • Encourage collaborations between existing educational sail-training institutions across South Africa
  • Access information and resources from the international Tall Ship sail training community
Activities of SASLA
  • Facilitation of the participation of two South African youth teams in the international
  • Tall Ships’ Races in 2007 and 2008
  • Awareness raising and lobbying for a South African Tall Ship
  • Support to local sail training organizations
  • Liaison with Sail Training International and international Tall Ship operators
Join SASLA as a Member
Founding members are Cape Windjammers Education Trust and the South African Jewish Maritime League. SASLA invites sailing related educational institutions from across South Africa to join SASLA and to thereby strengthen the campaign for a South African Tall Ship.

Benefits for Members
  • Access to Tall Ship Sailing and partially subsidized tickets aboard international Tall Ships 
  • Access to further development opportunities for trainees over 18 years
  • Strengthen relationships with other sail training organizations, easier collaboration,
  • Sharing of resources and support through shared structure
  • Additional public profile through PR activities of SASLA and increased awareness for the benefits of sail training for life skills development
Year of Foundation
SASLA has been accepted as a member and National Sail-Training Organisation by Sail Training International in May 2008.

Contact Details
Chairman: Patrick Fraser, Ph: ++27 (0) 83 429 77 06, email: 
Seretary: Dr Antje Nahnsen, Ph: ++ 27 (0) 832949495, email:

Experiential Learning

The things we have to learn before we do them, we learn by doing them.
- Aristotle
The knowledge of the world is only to be acquired in the world, and not in a closet.
- Lord Philip Dormer Stanhope Chesterfield

Experiential education is elusive, often paradoxical, a multifaceted jewel with ethical, aesthetic, spiritual, physical social and psychological dimensions, even cosmic dimensions.  Psychological mountain climbing may be the right phrase for what we mean by experiential education.
- John C. Huie

Quotes taken from This site gives a very nice academic overview of experiential learning (including sail training). Worth a visit

Also came across the name Tony Saddington: an ex-UCT lecturer specialising in experiential learning. Again worth a visit. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

SA youth set sail on leadership journey

By Erina Botha

There are few things that can conjure up pictures of romance and adventure as strongly as the mast of a tall ship set against the blue of sea or sky, whether under sail or lying at anchor in a harbour or bay.

It is understandable then that the prospect of a voyage on a tall ship is so alluring to budding young leaders hungry for discovery and exploration. What they don’t realise as they board, is just how profoundly their lives will be changed through the experience.

“We went to sea not only to learn how to sail, but how to live”, Monde Sitole (18), one of four youths from low-income households on the Cape Flats, who made history last year along with six other Western Cape youngsters as the first young people from the African continent to attend school on board a tall ship on a voyage from Cape Town to Bermuda, said on the team’s return to Cape Town.
During the 10-week journey, the ship docked in Walvis Bay, Namibia; at St Helena island; in Natal, Brazil and in Trinidad.
Monde spoke passionately about his conviction that South Africa should get its own tall ship to enable many more youths to experience the programme “so that it can alleviate the sense of lack of identity in this present-day youth”.
“With so much turmoil in the world and so much confused anger, we need more interventions like these to pave new paths for a new future for the new generation.”
The historic shipboard school voyage was initiated by Africa’s only offshore sail training organisations, the Cape Windjammers Education Trust (CWET) and the South African Sail-training for Life-skills Association (SASLA), founded in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

Cape Windjammers and SASLA are both affiliated to Sail Training International (STI), and like the other 200 sails training organisations on 5 continents that are members of STI, their aim is to develop life and leadership skills and environmental awareness among the youth using the power of offshore sail-training voyages, explains Dr Antje Nahnsen, CWET programme coordinator.

Nahnsen is full of praise for Terry Davies, CEO of the Canadian Class Afloat project, who she met at an STI event, for having offered passage at reduced cost to 10 young school-going South Africans between the ages of 15 and 18, so that they could join 25 other learners from Canada, the US, Mexico and Germany, on the first voyage of Class Afloat’s second shipboard school, the SV Concordia.

In addition to school curriculum and environmental education on board, the youngsters also had instruction in sail handling, navigation, passage making, safety at sea and ship management.

Offshore sail training is internationally recognised for being an efficient tool to induce sustainable behavioural change in the youth, says Nahnsen. She recalls her own sail-training experience opportunity as a teenager and how it helped her to overcome a fear of heights, gain confidence and learn how important it was to be able to work in teams, plan projects and execute plans step-by-step.

A research project conducted by the University of Edinburgh in the UK for STI on behalf of its 200 member organisations, confirmed that sea-going sail-training projects with a structured education programme is very effective in transferring leadership and life-skills to the participants. One of the main findings was that young trainees who participate in off-shore sail training programmes show measurable improvements in social confidence and their ability to work with others and that these changes are sustained over time.

Each one of the youngsters who helped sail the SV Concordia from Cape Town to Bermuda, confirms the life-changing impact in their own words recorded in the log book kept during the journey and posted on the website for others to read.

According to Nahnsen, follow-up assessment interviews with the participants and the parents continue to be done a few times per year after such an off-shore voyage. Many of the participants also stay involved as volunteers with Cape Windjammers and SASLA in the on-going sails training programme throughout the year to help train and impact change in the lives of other youngsters.

The ultimate goal of SASLA and Cape Windjammers is for South Africa to own it’s own tall ship, but at the moment they are using the yacht JML Rotary Scout for day sail-training outings from Simonstown harbour over weekends and occasional 5-day voyages mid-week. They also aim to arrange tall ship sail-training experiences in cooperation with sail-training organisations from other continents, at least once a year.

“All other continents have sail-training organisations with their own tall ships, accept Africa. Even South America has six or seven tall ships being used for leadership development through offshore sail training”, says Cape Windjammers president and founding trustee, Dennis Stevenson, who is also a board member of SASLA.

A coastal yachtmaster with 40 years of sailing experience on yachts and tall ships behind him, Stevenson is delighted that CWET recently received a donation of a hull that could be turned into Africa’s first sail-training tall ship.

The first step now is to find a marine surveyor to give the hull a good inspection to see if it will be suitable. If it is, the conditions for the donation are that a team of expert volunteers with proven welding, carpentry and rigging expertise, be found, as well as the necessary funds to build the hull into a tall ship.

CWET envisages that the actual work of building the tall ship will be done – under supervision of the experts - by some of CWET’s current volunteers who’ve already experienced an offshore voyage on a tall ship, as well as young volunteers hoping to do sail-training on CWET’s own tall ship.

“We want the building of our own tall ship to be part of the cross-cultural team experience offer by CWET, as another experiential way of imparting life and leadership skills to the youths involved.”

Like the other 9 participants in project Class Afloat, Monde is committed to continue being involved.

“I thank Cape Windjammers for what they’re giving to the youth. One of the things I’ve learned from Alex, one of the founding members of this amazing programme, is to always give without remembering and to receive without forgetting. I would like to make this philosophy part of my life.”

Hilary Ambrose, a qualified teacher and leader of the SA team in the Class Afloat project, was not surprised by the changes she witnessed in the 10 Western Cape youngsters during the voyage onboard the SV Concordia.

“Much like wilderness activities, sail training sheds the layers and people get the opportunity to discover themselves in a challenging, yet safe environment.
Through the process of building community over an extended period youths are also challenged to review their interaction skills and methods, assess themselves against others, and experience/create relationships unlike any they have in their daily lives.”

Ambrose says the physically demanding nature of a tall ship voyage, the hard work required in spurts and the accumulative lack of sleep, significantly impacted on the youngsters’ abilities and stretched them.

“They started to push boundaries they have previously regarded as limits and most often surpassed those.”

For more information visit

Monde Sitole relates what the experience was like for him
“Life on board is very challenging - physically, mentally, emotionally and psychologically”, Monde Sitole (18) wrote from the SV Concordia during the voyage.
“First of all, our home is in motion most of the time, and it requires meticulous care and observation at all times. The schedule is very demanding. You wake up 6am depending on your schedule. It could be even earlier if you’re responsible for fitness or galley duty. Galley duty is basically to prepare food for the other guys on board, but even though you have to wake up early, at least on that day you’re excused from any watch.”
There are 40 of us students on board and we are divided into five different watch groups. Your number determines when, where and with who you carry out your task. For example, I’m with galley group 2, and when it is our turn, we prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner. When our watch group is on duty, we mop and clean the mess room after breakfast.

We have different watches throughout the day, like navigation watch, night watch and day watch - all these watches govern the choreography of our day. During navigation watch you get to write up the logbook and learn to steer at the helm, both of which I fully enjoy. During day watch you take on external chores like servicing different ropes and blocks, scrubbing and painting the ship so it always stays in top-notch condition.”

At first this was all very overwhelming. There are even rules to be followed and if they are broken there are job jars from which you have to draw as punishment. These jobs, like cleaning the mess room or toilet, you have to carry out in off-duty time. And into this busy schedule we still have to squeeze in class time, study time and leisure time.

During night watch, we have to stand on the lookout for any sign of light from a distance. Or during day watch we look out for anything approaching, even though at times it’s impossible to see clearly because of the heavy mist. We don’t talk to one another much then - we usually use the time when we are in a port to do our talking.

Classes I enjoy are sociology and anthropology, where we get to debate about really compelling stuff, not just concepts in an attempt to be complex. Teaching here is quite spontaneous. Like oceanography, it is practical and in the seamanship class you learn about stuff you practice every day during sailing manoeuvres.

Another factor is seasickness. It hit us all very bad, especially on the first leg to Namibia, but we soon recovered and our bodies adapted. The food is not the most interesting part of the experience – it’s not quite like at home.

You also get to appreciate the smallest things - like land, for instance. On the other hand, if you’re in the port of too long, you miss being at sea. And you feel as if you’re guilty because you haven’t completed your daily duties.

For me time for clubs is another good time. There are various clubs like ethics in action, music, cooking, and also the Xhosa club which we South Africans initiated to teach the guys on board one of our local languages. It is great fun - the people on the Concordia are very inquisitive to learn.

We watch movies maybe thrice a week. A pivotal lesson I learned is money management and realising that one must be accountable for your actions, specially considering the high costs of living.

One of the thrilling aspects of life at sea is the safety drills. One day one of the guys went overboard during a drill. He was left so far behind, we felt a bit anxious about his rescue! That taught me about the three different dynamics or forces that influence the ship’s movement.

I was intrigued by the whole symphony - or cacophony - of the ship and how everything is intertwined like an orchestra with everyone playing their part.

Being at open sea one might think you’d get bored and frustrated not to see land, but no, not with a full schedule and a lot of duties to carry out. The dolphins and seals do cheer up your mood especially when you’ve had a bad day. And we’ve been lucky that we’ve seen a lot of them.

One of the best highlights of all the port activities was building a green house and planting a garden at a school in the township Mondesa outside Swakopmund. I enjoyed meeting and learning about the Herero and Nama people and their culture. Another highlight was climbing Dune 7, one of the highest sand dunes in the world. Sand boarding was really cool. We also saw the Dollar Bush and a Welwitschia plant which we were told was 2000 years old.

This journey so far has been a life changing experience as we the South African team are blending in with the Canadians, Americans, Mexicans and Germans - we are becoming just one Class Afloat family and are learning about one another's cultures. I expect to explore more and learn more about myself and the world around me and to grow into a human being that takes part in creating a positive society.”