To me, nothing is more exhilarating than sailing a tall ship with the ocean waves crashing over the bow, especially if we’re in a cannon battle with other tall ships. I regularly sail tall ships here in Los Angeles as a volunteer with the Los Angeles Maritime Institute’s TopSail Youth Program in which we teach inner-city kids how to sail these ships.

I’ve also sailed internationally as voyage crew on a couple of tall ships. But did you know that anyone can sail tall ships around the world? And you don’t need to know anything about sailing. You can sail to exotic places like Tonga and Fiji, or around cities like Sydney and Auckland. You can cross the Atlantic with the trade winds from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean and even sail from Argentina to Antarctica. All you need is an adventurous spirit and a can-do attitude.

Below is information about several ships that take voyage crew (for a fee).

Barque Europa:

14 professional crew and 48 voyage crew of all ages and nationalities sail the barque Europa all over the world, includingAntarctica. No sailing experience is required.

A barque is a sailing ship with three or more masts on which the foremasts are rigged with square sails and the aftermast is rigged fore-and-aft. It takes a large crew to manage all those sails!

Learn to navigate, take the helm, hoist the yards, and make friends from around the world. The schedule and voyages change each year, so check their website at for more information.

Irving Johnson:

The brigantines Irving Johnson and her twin Exy Johnson are owned and operated by the non-profit organization Los Angeles Maritime Institute (LAMI). A brigantine is a sailing vessel that has two masts and is square-rigged on the foremast. Through their TopSail Youth Program, LAMI provides sail training opportunities to inner city youth on day sails around the Port of Los Angeles and multi-day voyages to Catalina Island.

Normally, you can only sail on these ships if you’re part of the non-profit sail training program. But in January 2014, the Irving Johnson will take off on a two-month “Voyage of Discovery” along the west coast of Mexico, stopping in places like Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. For a reasonable fee, you can join them as voyage crew on one or more legs of the voyage 

I’ve sailed these brigantines many times as a program volunteer, and believe me, they’re a blast to sail. Check out this opportunity of a lifetime to explore the Mexican Riviera the old-school way at Or you can download their brochure at

Tenacious and Lord Nelson:

The Jubilee Sailing Trust (JST), a registered charity in England, owns and operates the Lord Nelson and Tenacious, two barques that are 54.7 meters and 65 meters in overall length, respectively (see my article on my Canary Islands voyage on the Tenacious).

The Tenacious and “Nellie”, as the Lord Nelson is fondly called, are the only two square-rigged tall ships in the world that have been purpose-designed and built to allow disabled crew to sail alongside able-bodied crew. People with a whole range of different physical abilities sail side-by-side as equals.

This year (2013), “Nellie” has been on a voyage around the world. Usually, both the Lord Nelson and Tenacious spend the summer months sailing along the UK coast. In the winter, the ships cruise the waters of the Canary Islands or theMediterranean. At the end of December, the Tenacious makes her crossing to the Caribbean for the remainder of the winter and then back to the UK in the spring 

Voyage crew is needed on all of these sails. You’re expected to help maintain the ship, raise sails, do watches and help out in the galley. In return, you’ll have an experience to treasure the rest of your life. For more information, including sailing schedules and fees, visit the JST website at

Picton Castle:

From their website: “The Barque Picton Castle is a three-masted tall ship based in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada but is best known for our sail training voyages around the world. You can sign aboard as a trainee to sail from the Cook Islands to Australia starting in August 2013, join an international tall ships race from Sydney to Auckland in October 2013, or explore the legendary South Pacific including Pitcairn Island, French Polynesia, Samoa and Fiji from this October to May 2014. No previous sailing experience is necessary, just a strong back and willing heart.” Please see their website to join in the fun:

 Tallship Soren Larsen:

 The Soren Larsen is a gorgeous 145’ wooden brigantine that had been the star of the BBC television series “The Onedin Line.” She was previously based in Auckland, New Zealand (see my article on my New Zealand voyage on the Soren Larsen). In 2011, she moved to her new home in Sydney, Australia, where she does charters and day-sails over the summer months.

 From April to November, she voyages around the tropical islands of the South Pacific and seeks out hidden treasures in the unspoiled waters of the more remote islands and communities of Polynesia and Melanesia. All ages are welcome and no sailing experience is necessary. Visit her website at to schedule your dream voyage.

 If you brave the waters of the world on some of these ships, you’ll have bragging rights and stories to last a lifetime.

 I bid you fair winds and following seas.