Before the Mast


Sailing on a tall ship or schooner can be a thrilling, life changing experience  (published March 2014)

There is something exhilarating, fascinating and even romantic about sailing on a tall ship or traditional schooner. Maybe it is the deep history of explorers traveling across oceans to find new lands, or the simple excitement of filling a ship’s massive sails with wind to move it across the water. No matter what you find it to be, when you get to experience firsthand the adventure and thrill of sailing on a traditional vessel of yesteryear, it may be one of the most rewarding sailing experiences you ever have.
Getting out and enjoying blue water doesn’t have to be limited to the confines of your own boat. Adventure, environmental stewardship, education, seamanship and taking a unique vacation are all reasons to try a schooner or tall ship program or excursion. Here are some ways to get out for a day, weekend, week or longer on a tall ship or schooner.

Picton Castle
For the truly adventurous lot looking to learn the intricacies of sailing on an ocean-going tall ship, the Picton Castle might be just what you are looking for. The Barque Picton Castle is a three-masted tall ship that provides sail training as it sails around the world. No previous sailing experience is necessary to become a crewmember on the ship and you can sign up for one leg or an entire voyage. Currently exploring the wonders of the South Pacific, in July 2014 the Picton Castle plans to set sail westward from Fiji for its homeport of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Along the way the ship will visit Vanuatu, Bali, Madagascar, South Africa, Senegal, the islands of the Eastern Caribbean and more. For more information on joining the crew of the Picton Castle visit

Deep Green Wilderness:
SV Orion
Learning about the wonders of the natural maritime world is best done by boat, and by taking an educational voyage on the classic wooden sailing yawl Orion you can do just that. Deep Green Wilderness owns and operates the well-kept Orion—which was built in 1934 and extensively restored and refit in 2010—and operates her as a floating classroom for students of all ages. Based in Seattle, the Orion explores the Salish Sea basin of the Pacific Northwest while teaching environmental stewardship and traditional seamanship. Offering a variety of programs from day, overnight, weekend or weeklong trips for groups and families, to two-week college accredited marine biology courses for teens, Deep Green Wilderness has a way to get you learning on the water. For more information about Deep Green Wilderness and sailing on the Orion visit

Oliver Hazard Perry
Affectionately know as “Rhode Island’s Tall Ship,” the Oliver Hazard Perry is a nearly 200-foot three-masted tall ship that provides youth education at sea while working to advance the rich maritime history of the Ocean State. Named after the War of 1812 naval hero Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the ship is slated to be finished before summer 2014 and is the first full-rigged ship to be built in the U.S. in 100 years. The first educational programs aboard will take place this summer and can be customized to meet the needs of any group of students. Opportunities to volunteer as shore side help and aboard the Oliver Hazard Perry are also available. For more information visit

Pride of Baltimore II
Built as a historical representation of America’s rich maritime history and as a symbol of Maryland’s spectacular natural beauty, The Pride of Baltimore II is an 1812-era topsail schooner privateer that that has sailed some 250,000 nautical miles in the past 25 years. Pride of Baltimore, Inc. operates the Pride of Baltimore II and is a non-profit maritime institution established to promote the history of the Chesapeake Bay while providing education on traditional seamanship via hands on sail training. There are a number of ways to get aboard this incredible schooner including tours, day sails, through “guest crew opportunities” and more. To see the Pride of Baltimore II’s sailing schedule and to learn more about their programs visit

Lewis R. French
Nothing says schooners like Maine, and the Lewis R. French is poised to take you on a journey through the famous Maine coast. The oldest commercial sailing vessel in the U.S. and designated as a National Historic Landmark, the French was launched in 1871 and can host up to 21 guests on each trip. Run in the most traditional ways, the schooner has no inboard engine, relies on the 3,000 square feet of sail for propulsion and the crew operates a manual windlass to raise the ship’s anchor. Your trip aboard the Lewis R. French will begin in beautiful Camden, Maine before setting off to some of Maine’s famous destinations such as Acadia National Park or towards Eggemoggin Reach, depending on weather. Plus, each cruise includes an island lobster bake and two small wooden skiffs for you to row or sail. For more information visit

Star Clippers
Quite possibly the most famous tall ship cruising experiences in the world, Star Clippers operates ships in destinations from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean and also offers ocean crossing and Panama Canal cruises. Not quite a cruise ship, the Star Clippers are fully rigged and crewed clipper ships that range from 360 to 439 feet and offer a luxurious vacation type voyage. Beautifully appointed with polished brass and gleaming brighwork, the ships are a reflection of nautical heritage that harkens back to the days when ships like these ruled the oceans. To find out more about a vacation with Star Clippers visit DIGITAL CAMERA

Author: Blue Water Sailing