West Island College
The West Island Colleges are a set of private Canadian junior high and high schools, one of which is located in Montreal's West Island, and the other in the south-east of Calgary. The school offers a program known as Class Afloat that provides students with an educational experience while sailing around the world.
In 1984 the United Nations, under the banner of "International Youth Year", invited schools and agencies worldwide to interpret the themes of "participation, development, and peace". Founder Terry Davies interpreted those themes by taking a group of WIC students and teachers on an extended field trip aboard the chartered Sailing Vessel Pogoria to visit other students in countries around the world. Students may sail for one or two semesters during which time they learn seamanship and work as crew members while earning high school credit with help from their on board teachers. Port programs in the cities visited provide the students with an opportunity to meet and interact with other cultures, giving them an international perspective on their education. Since that date, more than 1500 West Island College Class Afloat alumni have continued to commit themselves to those original themes. They have sailed more than 700,000 nautical miles to over 250 ports of call worldwide.
In 1992 the school commissioned the building of their own ship, the SV Concordia.
During the 2008/2009 year, the school operated a second vessel named the SY Frederyk Chopin in addition to the SV Concordia. Students enrolled in the high school program were placed upon the Concordia, while students in the gap year program were placed on the Frederyk Chopin.
On February 17, 2010, The Concordia was knocked down in a squall and subsequently sank, about 550 km from the coast of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. All the passengers and the crew were rescued without serious injuries by two merchant ships after being located by the Brazilian Navy.
Since 2010, the Class Afloat program has taken place aboard the SS Sørlandet, a fully rigged Norwegian vessel, built in 1927. In 2013 students of the Class Afloat Program will make three trans-Atlantic crossings visiting ports such as St. Helena, Tristan De Cunha and Fernando De Nohorona.
To this day, Class Afloat continues to be a co-educational sailing program that provides high school credit to students while living aboard a tall ship. Students may sail for one or two semesters during which time they learn seamanship and work as crew members while taking high school classes with teachers on board. Port programs in the cities visited provide the students with an opportunity to meet and interact with other cultures, giving them an international perspective on their education.
The ship operates with a full complement of professional crew, administration, teachers and students. It sailed a different route every year and it circumnavigated the globe many times. In 2008-2009, the Concordia crossed the Atlantic three times, sailing through Northern and Western Europe, South America, Western and Southern Africa, and the Caribbean before finishing the year in Nova Scotia.