In February 2010, the sailing vessel Concordia was off the coast of Brazil when it keeled over, spraying sea water high up the windows of Keaton Farwell’s afternoon biology class. But Farwell wasn’t the least bit afraid. In fact, she welcomed the distraction from her routine. “That’s normal for a sailing ship,” she says.
Farwell and her fellow adventurous teenagers on the Concordia — a custom-built three-masted tall ship — were in the Class Afloat program, based in Lunenburg, N.S. When her parents offered her the chance to finish Grade 12 in a floating school, Farwell had jumped aboard. And what a year for this Torontonian, who was then 17 years old: In her first five months she had hiked a caldera in the Azores, danced an Irish jig in Dublin, ridden a camel through the Sahara and distributed mosquito nets to a village in Senegal.
The Concordia was a working ship: Besides taking classes while travelling, the students had to become proficient sailors. So when the boat keeled over, “we were all excited to get on deck and start working,” recalls Farwell, a practical girl with blunt-cut hair and a nose stud.
The ship righted itself, as expected, but then keeled over again — hard. Everything not bolted down went flying. This time the Concordia
didn’t come back up. Instead, the windows settled into the ocean and shattered from the pressure. Shockingly cold water poured into the classroom and immediately, the tall ship began to sink.