A+ World Academy

Update from our Dean - crossing the Atlantic

By kevin | Apr 28, 2020 |

A + World Academy is sailing with the fully-rigged tall ship Sørlandet for the fifth school year. We will cross the Atlantic and the Equator several times before returning to Kristiansand - her home port - in May 2020. Below you can read an update from the Dean.

May 14th update


Dear A+ Family and Friends,

Greetings on Day 27 of our voyage home. It is beautiful sunny day along the Scottish east coast. We have covered 3926 nautical miles and are on a southerly course with the closest land being Kinnaird Head at the entrance of the North Sea – the sea filled with platforms and windmills.  I hear if you follow the waters of the Moray Firth it leads to Lake Loch Ness. Later today we will cross the Greenwich meridian which represents the Prime Meridian of the world at longitude 0º bringing us into the Eastern Hemisphere. As we continue our travel home there is a fair chance that the majestic Sorlandet may break the voyage distance record.

Mia and Nicolina have done a great job as Students of the Watch and Dina, Felix, Chatrine and Rakel will round out our list.

The mood on the ship is that of nostalgia (already!), elation and exhilaration. The ship’s clocks moved forward an hour on May 12th so now we are in the same time zone as Norway and we have 3 more sleeps before we arrive! Chanties are being practiced with full energy and students are going about their normal routines buoyed by the sweet anticipation of coming home.  The packing and sorting of belongings will be happening soon. Saturday evening will be a dress up dinner with the equator crossing certificates being handed out.

Graduation is being planned with much excitement.  It is challenging but we are doing our best to hold the ceremony such that it is visible to those standing on the dock. We will dearly miss our students and colleagues who are off ship. We hope to livestream the ceremony and will email you the link.  Our tentative plan is to begin at 1500 with:

- Greetings from the Dean

- Greetings from the Captain

- Valedictorian Speech – student with the highest-grade point average in senior year - Espen Falskow

- Salutatorian Speech- student will the second highest grade point average in senior year- Polina Kudrova

- Deans’ Award of Academic Excellence winner’s speech - student with highest grade point average in the junior year - Anders S. Bergsvik

- Address to the Graduates

- Presentation of Awards

- Presentation of Diplomas to Juniors

- Presentation of Diplomas to Seniors

As this is my last update for our magnificent voyage, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you, the parents.  It has been such an honour to have been given the huge responsibility of caring for your teenagers.  I had promised you all from the stage on that first day of our meeting in Kristiansand that I would lead, teach, and care for your children from my heart. I believe I have fulfilled that promise. It has been a sheer pleasure and privilege to have been their Dean.  It was not always easy, but it was always rewarding to have been part of their life’s most wondrous adventure.  I am in awe of how far they have come; all those days of being asked to push on even when they felt they couldn’t and they did, all the mornings and nights they had to get up and be accountable even if they felt they couldn’t, all the times they felt like giving up but didn’t. I am sure they will never forget how tough they are capable of being and how much they have learned about themselves, others, and the world.  The class of 2020 is imprinted on my heart and I will never forget them.

Until we meet again, with much love and blessings,  

Ms Gurjit Gill


May 11th update

Dear A+ Family and Friends,

We send you warm greetings on Day 24 of our voyage home. We have covered 3541 nautical miles and have 640 nm left.  Six more sleeps and we are in Norway!! As planned, due to the high pressure system in the NE, we diverted to a north westerly course.  We are sailing west of the Hebrides of Scotland and the closest land is St. Kilda about 86 miles away.  St Kilda is an isolated Scottish archipelago situated 40 miles west-northwest of North Uist in the North Atlantic Ocean. There has been no permanent population in St. Kilda since 1930 The weather has been cooler and everyone has layered up.  The report from the early morning watch is that we had some sleet and even flakes of snow. 

Vegard, Karla and Erlend have worn the badge of Student of the Watch and done a marvellous job.

We had an extra special celebration on the 10th with Selma turning 18!  It was a cold day but Selma is a star….she bore those cold buckets of salt water with her usual bright smile. Today is Emma Marta’s birthday and we wish her a very happy 18th celebration in Estonia.

Students taking AP Exams having received their exam schedule and additional information.  With academics completed for most, students are concentrating on maritime duties and helping with maintenance projects and deck work on the ship.  A few of them have become expert wire splicers in the bosun shop.  Most are spending fun time with friends.  The Yearbook production is going full speed ahead - lots of writing and gathering of memorable photographs. Chanties are being practiced enthusiastically for arrival day under the leadership of Bosun Jens.

Lots of birds have enjoyed our hospitality especially swallows.  And that is rather fitting as swallows represent love, loyalty, good fortune, hope and peace. We have also had falcons perch authoritatively on the ship as if to survey what is happening on the Sorlandet. Of course, Nature has also taken an opportunity to remind us that it is, indeed, survival of the fittest.  A Kestrel bird was observed preying on a smaller bird and carrying it off for food.  Our resident falcon fought a hard battle for food and was unable to survive.  RIP Falcon Frida.  Another bird, the Booby, got caught in a fishing wire and was rescued and set free with great finesse and gentleness by students and crew.  We took some fabulous shots of the Sørlandet from a mob boat (thanks to Maria V and Anders) and were treated to the magnificent sight of several pilot short fin whales.

The Murder Game continues to baffle us all….23 people are still ‘alive’! Break time last week saw Berliners, warm German donuts, and other sweet treats being consumed enthusiastically by one and all (we provided our gluten intolerant students with alternate treat of chocolates!). Friday dinner was very special for me – we got served butter chicken and naan (bread).  I hear that Camilla, Mia, Nicolina, Anders, Bridget and Vegard helped make the naans during their duty at 2:00 am. Such talent and dedication!  Sunday is always special as students get to eat their cherished Norwegian chocolates and we had a lovely Sunday family dinner….our last Sunday one!  The sadness was made sweeter with tons of apple crumble and ice cream. 

The excitement about graduation on board is mounting!  Life is good!

Until Thursday, sending you warm hugs and lots of love, 

Ms Gurjit Gill


May 7th update

Dear A+ Family and Friends,

Greetings on Day 20th of our voyage home. We have covered 3,104 nautical miles and the remaining distance will have to be adjusted depending on weather-routing tactics. The closest land is Ireland and our latitude is at the same level as the Irish mountains of The Twelve Pins or Benna Beola.  It was a foggy sail last night with visibility under 50 m and still a bit cloudy today.  

Since our last update, the Captain’s assessment of the weather and wind situation has made the Sorlandet change course.  We are sailing a northerly course to pass on the west side of Ireland so that we can be following the winds which will change to the NE.  And when the high pressure center passes us on our east side we can make our way for the Shetland Islands.  This route has also made it possible to sail and avoid using the engine to face the headwinds in the English Channel and still come to Norway on May 17th.  Some of the students calculating distances and days were disappointed that we wouldn’t be coming into Kristiansand before May 17th.  However, our message to them is that taking disappointments in stride and showing resilience is what builds a strong character and that is what learning on board is all about.  

On the ship our routine groove and rhythm continues.  Today is the last day that students can do extra work and take tests to improve their grades for the 3rd quarter.  Lena, Victoria and Froydis have been wonderful Students of the Watch.  

As for the ocean we have been excited to see playful dolphins and two schools of short finned pilot whales giving us a spectacular show.  And I heard some magical singing in the middle of the night a few nights ago. Some said it was the Port watch but I believe I heard the mermaids singing!  The majestic Sorlandet has also become a bird sanctuary and a rest platform!  We had a few swallows come inside the aft and were gently guided to their freedom by our students and crew.  Even an owl was spotted one day!  

We have a tentative plan for arrival day to share with you.  We hope to moor just a bit before 1300 on May 17th so that we can pay our respects to the Norwegian national anthem being played at the boat parade at 1300. As we arrive we will be meeting smaller boats along the way.  We have made all prior arrangement necessary for entry into Norway.  The customs/immigration formalities will take place as soon as we come alongside. Students will get ready for graduation and departure. Graduation will be held on deck at 1500 and we are so excited!!!  Departure of graduates will be by 1630.  

Please complete the attached form confirming departure plan for your child and return to me as soon as possible. 

Until next time, please accept our virtual hugs and lots of love,

Ms Gurjit Gill


May 4th update

Dear A+ Family and Friends,

Greetings on Monday, Day 17th of our voyage from Bermuda.  We have now sailed into the last 14 days of the journey home.  We are half through the Bay of Biscay having covered 2260 nautical miles so far and are now south west of Ireland.   Another 366 nautical miles will bring us to the English Channel.  Since the last update Camilla, Tobias and Azul have performed their Students of the Watch responsibilities very well.  The ship's clock moved ahead by an hour today.

For parents who feel their child is not responding soon enough to their emails please remember that our teenager’s priorities are not directly proportionate to ours!  I am reminding them that while they are busy making wonderful memories with their friends they also need to remember parents who gave them the opportunity to have this amazing adventure. You know they love you!

As always with warm wishes,

Ms Gurjit Gill


April 30th update

Dear A+ Family and Friends,

Day 13th and the last day of April brings you greetings from the Sorlandet.  We have covered 1977 nautical miles and have 1801 nautical miles to go. The closest land is the island of Terceira, Azores. Our average speed has been 6.84 nautical miles and we are about a 1000 nautical miles from the English Channel.

The ship's clock moved ahead an hour today making the time difference with Norway 2 hours…..indicating slowly but surely that we are coming home soon!  Maria V, Sophie and Amalia have been our amazing Students of the Watch these past few days.  

There is a distinct rhythm now with our routines on the ship – work, classes, relaxation, sleep.  The evening of April 28th and all day yesterday Mother Nature reminded us that smooth sailing is not always guaranteed in life or a voyage.  But our intrepid young sailors took it all in stride and did not let the rolling interrupt our rhythm.  And true to form, Mother Nature also showed us marvels of the sea – dolphins frolicking! They were lit up by bioluminescence making it all seem very dream like.  One of the students remarked how amazing it would be if they made a heart while swimming.  Lo, behold, we think the dolphins heard because they suddenly swam in a heart formation.  Magic lives! 

Certification classes and AP preparation classes are continuing. There is good news for students writing AP exams.  The College Board announced that students outside the U.S. with nighttime schedules who are not satisfied with their scores will receive a voucher for a free CLEP exam, a second opportunity to earn college credit. They will be sending more information out later.

Finally, alas, many of us have ‘died’.  No, no, no cause for alarm.  In the Murder game we are being ‘killed’ in various places – aft, banjer, galley, decks and by various methods – projectors, bread, teabags, go pros.   It is still a lot of fun and students are planning very clever ways of luring their ‘victim’ to a particular place on the ship.  Students are also busy working on their voyage journals – writing and  painting – so that they can share their amazing experiences with you.

Until next time, sending you warm hugs and lots of love, 

Ms Gurjit Gill


April 27th update

Dear A+ Family and Friends,

Greetings on Day 10 of our voyage home. We have covered 1495 nautical miles and the closest land is island of Flores in the Azores.  We are halfway to the entrance of the English Channel and we’ve crossed the Greenland meridian into the Iceland meridian.  Oda, Ise, Mina and Amanda have been superb Students of the Watch.

The ship’s clocks went forward an hour on April 25th making the time difference with Norway 3 hours. At 10 am on Apr 26 the Captain reported that we passed 40.30.4 N+W which is the same figure for both longitude and latitude….quite a special event!

Students are also continuing to work on finishing their assignments to get extra credits. Bridget continues to lead the AP exam preparation classes.  The Maritime crew has started presenting their special classes for certifications to interested students. AB Karen started teaching interested students how to sew a bag made out of old sails and this has been a real hit with many.  You can find boys and girls diligently sewing all around the ship at various times. 

To keep spirits high on board, Polina and Ise started the Secret Angel campaign.  Each person on board picked a name and became a Secret Angel to someone for whom they will do something special throughout the voyage.  We are also playing the “Murder Game” on board thanks to the planning and preparation by Maria V and Froydis.  There is a lot of fun and laughter in this game with everyone being a bit suspicious of others because you never know who is going to “murder” you, where and how.   

Most students are enjoying themselves – working, reading, painting and writing in their journals and have expressed their desire to want the voyage to be longer so that they can continue to have fun!

'Sorlandet News' has become quite a hit and more students have started contributing articles to make the newspaper even more enjoyable.  

On Day 9, the Norwegian Chocolate Fairy came around to give each watch chocolates which were gratefully received and relished by all.  Chocolate Fairy thanks the chocolate “Godmothers” for this brilliant idea.

Until next time, sending you warm hugs and lots of love, 

Ms Gurjit Gill


April 23rd update

Dear A+ Family and Friends,

Greetings on Day 6 of our voyage home. With the grace of good winds and good sailing, we have covered 903 nautical miles and yesterday we sailed past Newfoundland, Canada (my home, sweet home). The rain has not dampened the spirits of our young sailors…there are still plenty of smiles to go around.  Maria M, Andrea and Erle have done a spectacular job as the Students on Watch.

Let me tell you first about the celebrations we’ve had on board since my last note to you!

On the 21st Watch 4 (Vicky, Dina, Espen, Maria M, Tiana, Karen R, Magnus, Sophie, Karla) received their prize for winning the coveted Watch Wars.  Yours truly set up the crew mess and served dinner to these special winners. They enjoyed a special desert and then watched a movie. It was wonderful to see them enjoying their hard one victory.  It was such a pleasure and an honour to serve these amazing students who usually serve us. 

On the 22nd we had another special 18th birthday celebration…this time for Tiana…and yes, she was given the traditional A+ birthday saltwater drenching while being serenaded with English and Norwegian birthday songs.

Academically, students are working on finishing their assignments and getting extra credits to bring up their 3rd quarter grades.  I am working with students to review their 3rd quarter report cards and then providing them with makeup assignments and/or retakes to give them an opportunity to increase their grades. We have also started special study sessions to prepare specifically to write AP exams.  A little extra incentive in the form of 10 bonus points for attending all special sessions will be awarded! 

In order to give students information about world happenings we’ve started a Sorlandet Newspaper to be published and posted three times a week.  Kate has done an outstanding job in taking a lead on this.

The Maritime crew applauded all the students for the awesome effort they are showing handling sails and all their duties.  Teachers are participating in watches as well. The crew is also preparing materials for students who want to get their ‘brovakt sertifikat’ and ‘båtførerprøve’ certification.  The lectures will be presented during less labour intensive watches. The students are looking forward to these and we will let you know when they begin.

Until next time, sending you loads of love, hugs and prayers for your safety and health,

Ms Gurjit Gill


April 20th update

Dear A+ Families and Friends, 

Greetings from the Atlantic Ocean.

We celebrated Ise's 18th birthday on April 15th, the boys and Kate came back to the ship on April 17th and we said goodbye to Bermuda on April 18th and set sail for home in Norway. There were mixed feelings among students – nostalgia for the last port on the voyage, happiness for spending the last few weeks with special friends and excitement to be heading home.  

The students are divided into a 3 watch system like we had when we first began the voyage in August of 2019 – port, midship and starboard.  Each watch has been carefully curated to ensure the right level and mix of skills to ensure a productive sail home.  The sleeping arrangements in the banjer have been altered to allow students to be organized according to wake up times so that everyone can get a good night’s sleep.  Each watch wakes the next one up.  

In order to develop leadership skills we have a designated Student of the Watch (SOW).  This student leader has the responsibility to ensure that the day and the program go according to plan.  So far we have had Polina, Espen and Hannah Marthe as the SOWs and they were amazing.  We hope to provide as many students as possible with this challenge and responsibility.  

The three teachers on board have been designated as watch leaders for each watch – Alan for Port, Kate for Midship and Bridget for Starboard.

Our program has built in time for self-study hours for students who are completing their missing assignments for 3rd quarter, working to get extra credit and studying for AP exams.  The teachers and I are here for support.

The time has moved one hour ahead for us on board.

Bridget has taken over the responsibility of written communication from students to parents and vice-versa 2-3 times per week.  

The initial days were rough for some as we got our sea legs back.  But we are all back to being our cheerful selves again.  The spirits on board are high and everyone seems to be working very hard to make this last sail a success.

With love and hugs from all of us on board,

Ms Gurjit Gill