Please select your home edition
RS Sailing 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Sail Canada On Deck: Reuben Qaunaq

by Sail Canada 29 Sep 2022 11:02 PDT

Reuben Qaunaq has taken part in the Tall Ship Expeditions Canada experience which crossed the Great Lakes in July. "On Deck" conversation with the young sailor from Iqaluit, Nunavut, a few days prior to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which will be celebrated on Thursday.

Can you tell us more about this experience?

Tall Ships Expeditions Canada is a youth summer camp for people who are 13 to 18 years old and who want to learn how to sail a tall ship, and trainees get to stay aboard for a week. By the end of the week, the trainees have all the skills needed to sail a tall ship or a sailboat.

And how did it go?

My experience aboard the ship was amazing and an eye opener for myself and other Nunavummiut, I was able to meet and learn so much from people from all walks of life, especially the crew.

It was your second year in a row with Tall Ship Expeditions Canada and this year you were a teacher for the trainees, sharing skills needed to be on the boat. What did you teach exactly?

This year, I was able to come back as a PO (petty officer). I was able to teach so many youths this summer! I was teaching them basic skills such as unfurling and furling the sails by climbing. I was also setting stations so the people in stations could pull the sail or move the sails to the starboard side or the port side.

What did this experience teach you?

What I've learned from this experience is that my time is so valuable and that we can do so much in the little time that we get. Also, I've learned that there's so much about life that we don't see out there in the real world.

You say that this journey has changed your life. In what way?

This journey changed my life because I was able to visit so many places and learn new things from people from all walks of life. I also worked with the best crew of all time, people who really cared about me and understood me in many ways, given that I'm from a small town. It made it easier for me and I felt like I was at home!

Twelve other young people from Nunavut were also part of this year's expedition. Did they see you as a mentor?

These people from Nunavut all relied on my knowledge and trusted me in many ways. I was really happy to pass on the knowledge to my people (Inuit) so that, in the future, the skills can be really useful to these youths and I know that they will pass on the knowledge to other kids in the future so that more sailing can take place in Nunavut.

How were you able to cover the costs of travelling to take part in this expedition?

The Ayalik Fund was able to cover my flights from Arctic Bay, Nunavut, to Ottawa, with a return ticket. Also, last year, during my time as a trainee, the Ayalik Fund covered everything, and they also paid for all the people from Nunavut who went sailing on the St. Lawrence River in 2022.

Had you sailed before?

I had zero experience in sailing last year as it was my first time ever. In fact, it was my first time on that type of ship. I had zero knowledge but now, I have learned and seen everything that happens on board.

Could you tell us more about your community?

I was born and raised in a very small town, Arctic Bay, Nunavut, where there is a population of 1,000. We only have two stores, which are very expensive, and everybody knows everybody here in Arctic Bay. It's very nice and peaceful up here, where my people have lived for over 5,000 years. Our culture is very strong and our language is still pretty strong.

How did you first get interested in the sport of sailing?

I became interested in the sport of sailing because I needed new skills to learn and wanted to open up my world. I didn't know it was going to be sailing, but I'm planning to be sailing forever!

Are there many people in your community who sail?

I'm the only sailor in my community.

Thursday is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. What does that day mean to you?

The biggest thing you can do as an individual, to start with, is to assess your own bias. Every person has implicit bias. These are the things we've learned that are unconscious, that sit in the back of our minds, but have an overwhelming effect on how we experience and interact with the world. When you think of Indigenous communities or Indigenous individuals, what stereotypes might come to mind? Why do you have these stereotypes? Where did they come from? And most importantly, how can you fight against these implicit thoughts to ensure that you act from a place of truth and of reconciliation in your day-to-day life?

Have you had to face any particular challenges during your development as a sailor?

I can assure you the number one problem is "vigilance". You have to give up on sleep and you must always be ready, always be on the watch, and always train and be trained.

Small boats have small crews, which means everyone has to be ready to replace one another if someone should start having problems. And you will have problems! The sea is unforgiving and people lose their skill sets when the stress is on. But you will always be stressed: storms, waves, accidents, illness, hatred, distrust, piracy, mechanical failure, hull breaches, navigation errors, poorly written logs, falling asleep on watch, fires, and, of course, you are always just one wave away from falling overboard or capsizing.

What do you like about sailing?

When you're on the water, you have an unbridled sense of freedom and opportunity, as you can always continue to see what lies on the other side of the horizon. Not only do you feel a strong connection to the elements and nature, but to the entire world. I suppose one could say that about walking in the forest as well, but it just isn't the same, as practically every time you're out sailing, someone suggests (mostly in jest) that "you do realize that we could just point the bow ten degrees westwards and continue on to the other side of the Atlantic" or something equivalent. That sense of freedom just doesn't exist on land.

In addition to all of that, although it is somewhat of an oxymoron, you feel isolated from everything else. The rules and routines of everyday life just don't apply in the same way anymore. One example of this is that most vessels are small enough to be called cramped. You're in constant contact with the other people on board. You learn to know those people well, because being on a boat will inevitably reveal the true nature of your shipmates. I've seen fights erupt due to absolutely trivial matters, but more often than that, I've seen everlasting friendships forged through working together in order to fulfil a common purpose. If you sail long enough with someone, you internalize their thought processes as well, to the point of almost being able to have a telepathic link.

Related Articles

Sail Canada introduces 2023-24 Sailing Team
28 squad members were selected based on the Canadian Sailing Team Sport Canada Carding Criteria Sail Canada is pleased to announce the list of sailors who will be part of the 2023-2024 Canadian Sailing Team and Canadian Sailing Development Squad. Posted on 18 May
Sarah Douglas wins gold in Hyeres
Winning the ILCA 6 class at the French Olympic Week Sarah Douglas from Toronto (ABYC) won the gold medal in ILCA 6 at the French Olympic Week sailing competition which ended Saturday in Hyères, France. Posted on 29 Apr
13 Canadian sailors set for French Olympic Week
Competition starts Monday in Hyères A total of 13 Canadian sailors will take part in the 2023 French Olympic Week competition that starts Monday in Hyères, France, and will continue until Saturday, April 29. Posted on 21 Apr
Canadian sailors qualify to be nominated
Six more for the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games Six additional Canadian sailors have qualified to be nominated for Canada's Santiago 2023 Pan American Games Team following the Princess Sofia Regatta, held last week in Spain, at the last qualification competition for Santiago 2023 in non-Olympic events. Posted on 11 Apr
Canada qualifies a spot in the Sunfish class
For the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games Canada qualified a spot in a ninth class for the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games, this time in Sunfish, after Luke Ramsay from Vancouver (Royal Vancouver Yacht Club) finished fourth at the first qualifier in this class Posted on 4 Apr
Qualification at stake for 30 Canadian sailors
At the Princess Sofia Regatta in Mallorca, Spain A total of 30 Canadian sailors will compete at the 2023 Princess Sofia Regatta, April 3-8 in Mallorca, Spain, a competition where a lot will be at stake as it will serve as a Canadian qualifier for the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games Posted on 30 Mar
Canadian Sunfish sailors set for US Nationals
Looking to qualify Canada for the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games Luke Ramsay from Vancouver and Lee Parkhill from Oakville, ON, two Canadian sailors who have represented Canada at past Olympic Games, will take part in the Sunfish United States Nationals at Midwinters, March 30-April 1 in Pensacola, Florida. Posted on 28 Mar
Sarah Douglas top Canadian at ILCA Europeans
With a 21st-place finish in Andora, Italy Sarah Douglas from Toronto was the top Canadian sailor at the 2023 ILCA 6 and ILCA 7 Senior European Championships, which ended Friday in Andora, Italy, as she came up with a 21st-place finish. Posted on 21 Mar
Emily Bugeja qualifies for PanAmericanGames
Fifth Canadian sailor to be nominated Emily Bugeja from Vancouver (RVYC), B.C., became the fifth Canadian sailor to qualify to be nominated to Team Canada's Santiago 2023 Pan American Games squad after she took part in the 2023 Formula Kite Pan American Championships. Posted on 14 Mar
12 Canadian sailors to face the best in the world
At 2023 ILCA 6 & 7 Senior European Championships Close to 500 days prior to the start of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, 12 Canadian sailors in ILCA 6 and 7, including Tokyo 2020 Olympian Sarah Douglas, will face the best in the world at the 2023 ILCA 6 & 7 Senior European Championships Posted on 9 Mar
Marine Resources 2022 Salary Survey FOOTERJ Composites 2022 - J99 FOOTERLloyd Stevenson - TTSkorpios 728x90px BOTTOM