For UNSW Canberra alumnus, Scott Reynolds being on or around water has been a huge part of his life. 

His connection with the water began when he was a Maritime Warfare Officer in the Royal Australian Navy and it now sees him sailing yachts with fellow veterans as part of Saltwater Veterans which he co-founded in 2017. 

Scott attended the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) between 1998-2000 and completed a Bachelor of Science in both oceanography and computer science along with a sub-major in physics. 

During his time in the Navy, Scott served on several warships which included seeing operational service in Iraq and on border protection operations. He would also gain qualifications as a Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Officer which led to postings at a clearance diving team and on mine hunters, as well as serving in instructional roles. 

But Scott's time in the Navy took its toll and in 2016 he was medically discharged. 

“At that time I was suffering from significant mental health and physical injuries and I experienced the darkest depths of depression," Scott said. 

“Thankfully, with the support of my family, I realised that I needed to do something to try pull myself out of that very dark hole and that’s when I was introduced to sailing – it has contributed to saving my life." 

Scott first discovered sailing through Soldier On and it soon led to Scott participating in sail racing twice a week and volunteering his time to encourage other veterans to get involved in his newfound passion.   

This led to Scott and a handful of other veteran sailors starting Saltwater Veterans and now the not-for-profit Saltwater Veterans Sailing Project, which is a social network of military veterans and their families who use sailing to be physically and mentally active.   

“Saltwater Veterans Sailing Project is about building a community, and it’s not as simple as having a ride on a sailing boat," Scott said. 

“Saltwater Veterans isn't about fixing people as such – it’s about reducing social isolation. 

“The advocacy and support networks on the sailing boats is just incredible. As you sail you talk and share experiences. The sharing of knowledge and peer guidance supports our veterans with asking for help and navigating the support networks that exist. 

“You can do as little or as much as you like at Saltwater Veterans Sailing Project – you can even volunteer with admin and fundraising if being on the water isn't your thing. It’s really all about staying connected and supporting each other." 

Asking for help and the importance of family 

Scott's life changed direction when he made the decision to ask for help. This is something he wants to encourage anyone who is struggling with their own mental or physical health. 

“That first step – asking for help – is quite often the hardest step, but once you've done that it can really set you down the path of recovery," Scott said. 

“I urge veterans who are struggling to ask for help, and particularly from family.  

“For veterans, family are our biggest supporters - they generally keep everything together when we are on deployment or training. 

“And our families want us to be well; everyone wants us to be well. The deeper you go down the tunnel of depression the greater the impact there is on your family. 

“I'd like all veterans who are struggling to expand their thinking beyond themselves; to realise that their families are in the fight with you. 

“Even though society is getting better at how we deal with depression and mental illness there is still the potential for people to feel shame, but there is absolutely no shame in asking for help or just wanting to talk about things.  

“I'm a case in point – I took those steps to seek help and it pulled me from the darkness of depression." 

Scott is especially thankful for the support of his wife, Jen. 

“Jen has been my greatest supporter and she has been by my side throughout my recovery," Scott said. 

“And Jen has been integral to the success of Saltwater Veterans. None of what we've achieved could have been done without the incredible support and tireless work of my wife. 

“Jen has demonstrated the importance of family and just how crucial it is to seek the help of your loved ones when you are really struggling." 

Stop to smell the roses – advice for trainee officers 

Having experienced the highs and lows during his career in the Navy, Scott urges those just starting their Australian Defence Force (ADF) career to take the time to truly appreciate the unique opportunities provided to them. 

“Take the time to stop and smell the roses, enjoy your youth, enjoy the travel and the places you go and make some really happy and positive memories, because they are one of the few things that last a lifetime," Scott said. 

“Your career, and life generally, is a marathon and not a sprint. There is a constant push we can all feel to do everything and achieve everything really quickly – enjoy the moment, enjoy today." 

Scott says most of the skills and experiences that are developed during a career in the ADF are transferable and useful in the civilian world. 

“I have used a lot of the skills I developed in the Navy to help build the Saltwater Veterans Sailing Project, so what I learnt at ADFA and my experience in the Navy was really important in being able to get our Sailing Project to where it is today. 

“Those defence force skills are certainly transferable and stay with you for life.”

Spreading the word and looking forward 

Saltwater Veterans Sailing Project is a not-for-profit organisation that relies on the generosity of volunteers and limited external funding and sponsorships. 

“We want Saltwater Veterans Sailing Project to be as accessible to as many people as possible and to do that we need to spread the word, and to also ensure we have the funding to run the program,” Scott said. 

“We’d like to at least maintain our current level of operation of supporting six locations around Australia, and our vision is to expand Saltwater Veterans Sailing Project to other regions. In order to do that we’ll need support through sponsorships, in-kind support, and donations. 

“We are currently putting 80-100 people on the water each month, and we’d like that number to increase. 

“We recently became affiliated with Sailing Australia which was a really important step because it means we now have the recognition that Saltwater Veterans Sailing Project is meeting all the safety and governance standards.” 

The importance of social connection 

According to Scott it’s the ongoing benefits from regular connection with the sailing community that delivers sustained wellbeing.  

“Saltwater Veterans works because of the social connections,” Scott said. 

“It is like-minded people with different backgrounds coming together. Our military service is the common thread that connects us, but the most important thing is being around people who have come from different places and experienced different things. 

“Saltwater Veterans Sailing Project brings together good people who are doing good things."

For more information on how you can participate, sponsor or donate to Saltwater Veterans Sailing Project visit