Students Embark on 12-Day Sailing Journey

Story by Kelsey Agnew, Cole Demorest, and Tom Potter, School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks & Tourism, Lakehead University, Photos by Cole Demorest

Eleven students and two instructors from Lakehead University’s School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks & Tourism, accompanied by two captains, departed late August on two sailing vessels for a magical 12-day sailing journey along Lake Superior’s north shore. The vessels and sailing expertise was provided by captain Gregory Heroux, owner of Sail Superior, a sailing charter company based out of Thunder Bay. Preparations for the university’s maiden sailing expedition course began last November with the students planning the route, points of interest, meals, risk management, expedition behaviour, as well as learning sailing theory and other important aspects related to their journey.

The voyage included stops at Tee Harbour, Porphyry Island, Battle Island, Rossport, and the Slate Islands, the furthest easterly destination southeast of Terrace Bay. Students had the opportunity to explore some of the geography, biology, culture, history, saunas, and abundant nature-based opportunities of northwest Lake Superior while learning basic sailing techniques and attaining a sail certification. They were also involved in all aspects of the sailing including route planning, navigation, sail trimming, anchoring, daily communication with the Coast Guard, and acting as helmsperson. The group also conducted a variety of research projects including harbour assessments, identifying Arctic-Alpine disjunct plants, invasive species monitoring, and creating videos for tourism marketing. Results from these projects will be shared with respective groups, such as the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area and Tourism Thunder Bay.

Enjoying some downtime in the cabin

The trip, however, was much more than research and skill development for students. It also helped foster an emotional connection to the lake, its islands, and shores. Students experienced majestic landscapes to the north while views southward offered the meeting of lake and skyan incredible lake with unimaginable scale. The group encountered a variety of moods of the lake, from hot and sunny to wet and cold, calm to windy with large waves, and fog so dense one couldn’t see more than a hundred metres. Students were presented with an opportunity to push their comfort zone as new sailors and do an overnight sail. Several students took the plunge, sailing sunset to sunrise over 65 nautical miles (120 km) under a sea of stars and breathtaking northern lights unburdened by light pollution, and navigating by traditional means using charts, parallel rulers and light houses, backed up with modern electronics.

This sailing journey is just one example of the amazing trips that Lakehead University’s School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks & Tourism makes possible for students. This innovative and highly experiential programme is great for anyone looking to step out of their comfort zone and experience new adventures, make new friends, and earn a degree they can be proud of.