A student has a birds-eye view from the mast of a tall ship

‘S.A.L.T.S.’ stands for Sail and Life Training Society, and that acronym rings very true for me.

Last August, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in the final SALTS sailing trip of the summer—a 10-day, tall-ship excursion from Port Hardy to Victoria, on the outer coast of Vancouver Island.

Having heard countless SALTS trip reviews using phrases from “life-changing” to “like nothing ever before,” I went into this adventure with high expectations. What I didn’t expect was to have my wildest dreams completely blown out of the water, quite literally.

From porpoises brushing the boat to multiple orca sightings, there was no shortage of wildlife on our adventure. Throughout the first part of our trip, for example, we sailed past multiple sea otters. Nearing Ucluelet, we gazed at a sunfish basking on the water’s surface. We also witnessed a massive sea-lion colony and a circus of puffins huddling just past the northern tip of Triangle Island.

Being surrounded by such an abundance of truly wild nature was a magical experience—one that now serves to remind me of nature’s beauty in simplicity. Since being back in the city, I'm finding myself noticing such simplicities as the varying shades of green in the trees; the white noise of traffic; or even a simple clean line. Essentially, I am absorbing all the small details, while at the same time, seeing the wider picture of life. 

As it has been doing for nearly 50 years, SALTS brings people of all backgrounds together to become a community unlike any other. On my trip, for instance, I could laugh, I could cry, I could be silly, or I could be quiet and, no matter what, everyone supported each other to be themselves, without shame.

That sensation of togetherness is one of the most genuine feelings I’ve ever known.

When I climbed the rigging to the foremast’s crosstrees the very first day we set full sails, I was absolutely enthralled. To be so high up, surrounded by immense sails, and seeing the hull cut through the water, was marvelously breathtaking. With the wind in my hair and the sound of laughter on-deck below, freedom seemed mine for the taking. Within only a couple of days being on the boat, I felt like I’d found my place in the world.

Throughout the trip, everyone learned and grew together. We launched dories and went on shore excursions, including swimming in crystal-clear freshwater pools. We learned how to weigh anchor and set out for our next destination, using the compass and charts. No matter the task, we were doing it together, even if it was cleaning the head or doing dishes. 

Within only a couple of days of being on the boat, I felt like I’d found my place in the world.

- Sophie De Launière

Sailing is a sport that takes hard work, dedication, and passion. Over my time sailing on the race team at Royal Victoria Yacht Club, I’ve learned so much—both about boats and friendship. From learning about sail trim to bonding with teammates, these are life- and social skills that can be applied to any boat ride.

Sailing with SALTS allowed me to gain a deeper sense of life experience; I know, for example, what can happen when total strangers seem to become family within an instant, and each of my nautical expeditions has enforced my love for sailing even more.

Life training. It changes the way you see the world. Next time you’re stuck in traffic, or rushing to your next class, try taking just three seconds to appreciate the beauty of the world around you. So often, we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It’s surprising when we realize that the things in front of us, all the time, are what matter the most.

Sophie De Launière’s 10-day trip from Port Hardy, B.C., around the top of Vancouver Island, down the West Coast, and ending in Victoria's Inner Harbour, was indeed ‘life-changing.' Sophie will graduate from SMUS with the Class of 2026. When she’s not participating in nautical activities, she likes to discover the outdoors with her friends, trekking through forests and conquering rock faces.

SMUS Outdoor Education - Along with organizing hiking, sea kayaking, surfing and rock climbing outtrips, SMUS’ Outdoor Education program has been connecting with organizations like SALTS for outtrips for decades, according to Craig Farish, SMUS Head of Outdoor Education. He notes the Grade 10s have been on outtrips this past week—with the Grade 11s having paved the way for their younger cohorts with their own outtrip adventures last month. In fact, at time of publication, Craig adds the entire Grade 10 class is away enjoying 12 different three-to-five-day trips. 

Stay tuned for a more detailed article on SMUS’ Outdoor Education program in upcoming issues of the Weekly and on the SMUS website!