All-Women Tall Ship to Sail into New Brunswick Festival of Tall Ships in Miramichi

The tall ship Unicorn under sail.

The tall ship Unicorn under sail.

In commemoration of a turning point in North American history, Sisters Under Sail, a non-profit organization that runs leadership programs for teen girls aboard a tall ship, will be sailing along the St. Lawrence and throughout the Great Lakes with teenage daughters of Canadian Forces and United States military families this summer. Sailing up the Miramichi River, the tall ship Unicorn will be in port the weekend of June 1 – 2 before sailing onto the Great Lakes for the summer’s 1812 commemorative events.

Sisters Under Sail has partnered with the Halifax & Region Military Family Resource Centre to promote the program to daughters of Canadian Forces across the county. The scholarship will provide the opportunity for 54 Canadian girls to participate in the leadership and confidence-building program alongside their American counterparts over the next five years.

“The Halifax & Region MFRC is excited to work with Sisters Under Sail on this project,” says Colleen Calvert Executive Director. “It will be a great experience for young women in military families.”

Six girls from Canadian Forces families and six from United States military families will be selected as scholarship winners for this cross-border initiative.

“Sisters Under Sail is an exemplary program for young women at a formative time in the lives. It is a unique experience that builds character and confidence through teamwork and skills learning,” says Krista Slack, Co-Producer, Redpath Waterfront Festival Toronto, about the initiative. “I applaud the organization for recognizing the special contribution that our military families make to our countries by giving back to their daughters. We are proud and honoured to welcome them to Toronto in June.”

Each of these teens will sail – under full scholarship – for two weeks aboard the Unicorn. Girls between the ages of 13 – 18 from families within the eligible pay grade with a parent who is on active status or fallen in the line of duty are encouraged to apply. The application deadline is April 15, 2013.

Cities throughout the Great Lakes and along the St. Lawrence will participate in events commemorating the War of 1812 this summer. Sisters Under Sail is doing her part by raising the scholarship funds to bring aboard 12 daughters from Canadian Forces and United States military families to honour the strength of these courageous teens as well as their shared experiences across national borders. Sisters Under Sail is the only sail training organization to specifically target teen daughters from Canadian and United States military families for leadership development.

Dawn Santamaria, Founder and Executive Director of Sisters Under Sail, explains her decision to recognize military daughters from both the United States and Canada: “With this initiative, we aim to honour girls who face not only the everyday challenges of being teens but also the challenges of seeing a parent deploy for months on end. There is no better opportunity to honour these girls than this summer’s 1812 commemorative events and no better place than the Great Lakes – the shared waters between our great nations.”

Sponsored teens aboard the Unicorn during the 2012 military daughters pilot program in the US.

Sponsored teens aboard the Unicorn during the 2012 military daughters pilot program in the US.

Sisters Under Sail helps teen girls and women of all ages build confidence, enhance their self-esteem, develop social conscience and learn the value of sisters working together towards a common goal through sail training. Sisters was established in 2005, through the inspiration of Dawn Santamaria’s family’s experience sailing aboard their tall ship, the Unicorn. Her four daughters discovered their own leadership potential onboard the Unicorn.

The pilot program for Daughters of Military Families was launched in the United States in 2012. Sixteen girls between the ages of 13 and 18 participated in the scholarship-funded program and sailed out of West Point, NY.

“I love how much the women on the boat worked so hard to teach us about how capable we are of doing things. I really felt this come to life when we all worked together to lift the anchor up and out of the water. I felt very proud about not having men working with us doing all the hard work. No, for once I got to do work! I felt so proud. I know one thing I am leaving with saying, ‘This ain’t no cruise, sister!’”
– Lauren Gibbons ~ Daughter of a U.S. Fallen Soldier

Since inception, Sisters Under Sail has put aboard over 500 teenage girls and 250 women, and 45% of those teenage girls have shipped aboard the Unicorn via sponsorship dollars. The Unicorn is Sisters Under Sail’s “experiential learning lab” for her leadership programming.

Download the 1812 Daughters of the Canadian and United States Military application here.

Donate to this initiative here.

To learn more about Sisters Under Sail’s 1812 Initiative, for more information regarding eligibility or to inquire about sail training programs for women of all ages, please visit, or contact Dawn Santamaria directly at .

Leave a Comment