Hi. I'm now looking for opportunities to sail tall ships this Winter. As a kid I saw the USCGC Eagle, a 295 foot barque, when it was docked in Miami. I attached a picture of her below. It make a lasting impression on me. It's still used today by the Coast Guard Academy as a training vessel.
Since then I've maintained an interest in sailing with day sailing and reading books including the "Master and Commander" novels written by Patrick O'Brien (reading I'd recommend to any sailor).
From some basic searching it seems like these ships are rare birds. Any advice is appreciated.
Flagship Niagra, sailed by Oliver Hazard Perry (a faithful replica, incorporating some original timbers that were salvaged) is docked in Erie, Pa, and is a USCG licensed sailing school. they have day sails, week long, and longer trips. Google search and they're easy to find. Good luck wherever you end up.
Are you looking to be a paid crew member, an apprentice, or a passenger/trainee? This has a lot to do with your experience level.
There are a handful of tall ships around that you can sail on although the number does go down significantly in the winter. If you really want to play with square sails, some boats to look at include the Picton Castle, Niagra, Europa, Tole More, etc . If a square topsail schooner is interesting, check out Pride of Baltimore, Lynx, Shenandoah, Californian, etc. If a schooner will do, there are a ton to choose from including any of the boats in the Maine Windjammer association, Zodiac, Adventuress, Roseway, Alabama, Liberty Clipper, Spirit of Mass, Harvey Gamage, etc. I would recommend looking into ASTA to get an idea of what the boats are and what they do. If you are willing to do day sailing, that also opens up a lot more possibilities but there are downsides.
There is no shortage of boats and they are not hard to get on if you show that you are a quick learner and hard worker. If you have any questions on a specific boat, one of us who used to work on these types of boat might be able to answer it.
I am seeking a winter sailing ship, so the Flagship Niagara and few other good looking vessels must be removed from consideration.
Ideally I hope to find a vessel where I could volunteer for awhile, and if the fit is right, work as a paid crew member in an apprentice type situation. I have some basic inland sailing experience, but I would come aboard as a hard working beginner willing to learn.
The ASTA website provides a great listing of hundreds of tall ship member vessels. Yet I do not have the personal experience to interpret the detail into meaningful information that will help me choose the right ship. i.e. Wood or steel hull? Small or large tonnage? More sails or fewer sails?
I like the idea of a topsail ship. I have intermediate experience with indoor rock climbing, so topsails might be alot of fun. I would also bring experience in carpentry and a love of surfing.
I want to become a competent and versatile sailor, so I may be looking for a more technically rigged ship. A fast sailer would be a definite plus.
I've been aboard the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain...I was less than impressed. The boats were great...but...the surly, pot smoking, dirty, unshowered crews attitude showed through in the upkeep of the boats...both boats were rusty and filthy...obvious and easy maintenance was neglected. I actually put my hand in grease on the rail near the anchor winch...
I was beyond dissapointed...I watched these boats sailing into Grey's harbour while I was duck hunting...I could feel the awe the natives must have the first time they saw such a sight. To see the crew so blatantly not give a crap made me sick.
My experiences in getting aboard and meeting the crews of a few different tall ships, replicas, etc. has been at the opposite end of the spectrum. I've been very impressed with the level of order and shipshape-ness (I know, I know, not a word) of the crews, especially considering there are usually volunteers with a wide range of experience levels involved.
I had to start working on a smaller schooner before I was able to get on a tall ship. Once you get involved in the traditional sailing community, opportunities begin to open up. I would recommend getting on with a schooner doing day sails for a season to build experience and make connections. Then go from there. I know it is not winter sailing, but you can do it part time while holding down a land job as well. Being in Fla, you should be able to find something like that.
Like most opportunities in life timing and connections go a long way.