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The Nova Scotia Sea School was founded as a registered charity in 1994 by Crane Stookey, bringing together his passion for boats and the sea, his years as deck officer on Tall Ships, his love of working with teenagers, his training in Buddhist philosophy and meditation and his aspiration for a more contemplative approach to life rooted in the experience of the real world. 


Sea School was officially incorporated as a non-profit and we began construction of our first boat, DOROTHEA, a 30’ Sable Island Pulling Boat launched on Canada Day, 1995.  DOROTHEA’s maiden voyage was a 7-day expedition from Halifax to Mahone Bay with her builders. She has been sailing ever since, and in 2004 we launched a sister ship, ELIZABETH HALL, built on the Halifax waterfront with over 300 friends and volunteers.

Since 1994 the Nova Scotia Sea School has been offering youth, ages 11 to 21, adventure experiences that transform how they see themselves, the world around them and their capacity to contribute to our society. Through the simple experience of life on a small boat youth gain the confidence and awareness to make important decisions about their lives. On a Sea School expedition young people discover areas of personal intelligence they might not have valued or known about, gain firsthand experience of our maritime history and traditions, learn healthy living, build new skills and relationships, and connect with the beauty of Nova Scotia’s coast and see their role in preserving it.


This is the only program of its kind in Canada. The Sea School was founded with the mission to promote the maritime tradition of boats and the sea as a means for young people to learn the values that seafaring has taught for generations: leadership, courage, responsibility, cooperation, generosity and respect. In 2003 the School’s Founder, Crane Stookey, was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal for the Sea School’s contribution to the Canadian community. Since 1994 the Sea School has worked with over 2,000 teenagers, built 14 wooden boats and spent over 9,000 hours on the water in the boats we’ve built. In 2012, 120 youth sailed with us and we reached over 600 youth through leadership workshops and events. We consistently provide over 50% of our participants with bursary support.  Because we prioritize diversity and serving marginalized individuals, youth make friends with peers that they may not have met at school or on their community. 


Our seafaring programs operate out of Lunenburg, NS and offer youth the chance to take command of these boats, and of their lives as they explore the coves and islands of the south shore including Mahone Bay, St. Margaret’s Bay, LaHave Islands and Lunenburg Bay. 



Each of our seafaring expeditions offers transformational learning for young people. We also offer participants a pathway to deeper learning through participation in multiple elements of our programming. We call this approach our Youth Leadership Arc and it creates a powerful way for youth to deepen their leadership and job skills training with the Sea School. As an effective way to bring leadership training to a broader range of youth we also offer group training programs designed for youth and community groups.


Expeditions – Our 5 and 7-day sailing programs are where youth can begin their journey with the Sea School. In all Sea School programs, leadership training is at the root of program design. Our instructors aim to “teach themselves out of a job” by handing as much responsibility as possible over to participants to create the group dynamics, plan their journey and make all the decisions. This learning structure is unlike anything most young people have ever experienced – it is all up to them! Participants grow themselves into a true ship's crew; putting those abilities to work for each other, for the Sea School, and for the community at large. 


During a Sea School expedition youth develop many specific skills. They learn to navigate, which requires the use of measurement and geometry, compass reading (understanding degrees & orientation), chart reading (understanding latitude and longitude, true and magnetic north, chart symbols, and velocity), local geography, tides and currents (and their impact on the vessel). They learn sail handling, which requires being able to sense the wind direction, read the wind shifts on the water, understanding simple aero- and hydrodynamics. They learn knots and rope work and simple rigging. They cook their own meals, a new experience for many, and do all the cleaning up. They learn to create shelter with tarps. They learn to identify local seabirds, they see dolphins and sunfish and whales. They learn to use hand tools and problem solve in a demanding work project.  They have an opportunity to connect with local vendors for materials and create relationships with community members.  They learn to work as a team, even with people they might normally try to avoid, because on a 30’ boat there’s no avoiding anything! The intensity of this experience, the companionship of other participants and the leadership of our high-quality staff-members make each Sea School expedition a life-changing voyage for these youth – where their resiliency, life-skills and career plans are solidly built.

Our Founder 

Crane Stookey

Crane grew up by the water in New York and Massachusetts, sailing and rowing small wooden boats. Being near water always makes him happy. He discovered as an adult that being around teenagers makes him happy too. So in 1994 he combined these joys with the aspiration to do something useful and founded the Nova Scotia Sea School.

Crane has a Masters of Architecture degree from Harvard University and practiced architecture in Boston for 8 years. In 1990 he took time off to pursue his interest in the study and practice of meditation.

However after this Crane returned, not to his architectural practice, but to his childhood love of wooden boats and sailing. He served as deck officer and seamanship instructor on tall ships in the US and Canada, including HMS ROSE, PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II, CORWITH CRAMER and others, and earned his US Master's license as captain of sailing vessels up to 200 gross tons.

In 1994 he settled in Halifax, the best move of his life. He says that Nova Scotia is a sane and decent place, and that his life has really blossomed since moving here, and that the Sea School is the fruit of it.

In 2003 Crane was awarded the Queen's Jubilee Medal for the Sea School's contribution to the Canadian community.

Crane is now taking what he has learned at the Sea School into the business world, with his recent book, “Keep Your People in the Boat – Workforce Engagement Lessons from the Sea,” which is filled with Sea School stories.

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