Skip to main content

Down to the Sea — in Tall Ships

As a boy growing up in southern Indiana, magazines (including SAIL, of course!) and books were pretty much it in terms of the “sailing” I did in between summer trips to my grandparents’ place in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Among my favorites were C. S. Forester’s “Hornblower” series, Rudyard Kipling’s Captains Courageous, Jack London’s The Sea Wolf and, my personal favorite, Eric Newby’s The Last Grain Race. This in turn created an abiding love of pretty much anything having to do with schooners and square-riggers, a bittersweet love given the fact in the early ‘70s it seemed only a matter of time before the last of these kinds of vessels went the way of the dodo bird. I can still remember visiting the frigate Constitution as a kid in Boston and thinking, “We’ll never see its like again.”

Of course, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Even as I was mourning the end of this kind of old-time sailing, a community of sailors, boatbuilders and naval architects was doing its utmost to make sure it hung on. The result has been more barks, schooners, sloops and brigantines than I would have ever thought possible as a kid. Better still, this same fleet of vessels now offers a wealth of opportunities for sailors of all ages to get out on the water and see what this kind of sailing is truly like—whether for an afternoon or on passage. I’ve long believed sailboats and sailing represent much of what is best in humankind, and it can also be argued the modern tall-ships movement represents much of what is best in sailing. On the one hand, you have an effort to both recognize and rediscover the history of sail, a noble cause by any measure. On the other, you have a group of mariners with a passion for sharing both this history and their love of ships and the sea with as many sailors and non-sailors as they can: in the process making the world a better place overall.

Putting together our overview of some of the tall ships currently sailing, I was amazed at how many of them there are out there. Same thing working with managing editor, Lydia Mullan, on her story covering the ongoing efforts to build yet another historic square-rigger up in Maine. It’s truly incredible the amount of hard work that goes into making this kind of thing happen. The entire sailing community owes these dedicated sailors, riggers, boatbuilders and historians a word of thanks. The same is true for those individuals who through their hard work and generosity literally and figuratively help keep these fine vessels afloat financially. As was the case in the Age of Sail, today’s tall ships need to find a way to satisfy the bottom line to keep sailing, and whether it’s through donations or carrying passengers, it ain’t easy. I’m sure they’d love any kind of help you can give them.

Finally, as some readers may have noticed, a number of fine vessels out there, like the aforementioned Constitution in Boston and the Wavertree of New York, are not to be found in the pages of the issue you now hold in your hand. The reason is we had to draw the line somewhere and decided to only cover those ships still actively sailing. There are just too many tall ships out there these days to include every last one of them, a good problem to have. Look for us to make amends in a future issue of SAIL

January 2022



Charter: Lake Tahoe

A sail on Lake Tahoe has been on my bucket list since the day I first laid eyes on it, and come hell or high water, I decided I was going to someday charter a boat there. North America’s largest and deepest alpine lake, Tahoe sits at 6,225ft above sea level and straddles the more


Escape from New York Part 1

I was never supposed to take my boat through New York City. After getting sucked backward through the Cape Cod Canal on my way south from Maine, when the speed of the current exceeded the maximum speed of my little electric auxiliary, I wanted nothing to do with Hell Gate and more


A Watermaker Upgrade

As a classic-boat sailor, I’ve long held that simpler is the better. I still think this is true: a simpler boat is cheaper, she has less gadgets to break down and there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing you’re able to handle a bit of discomfort. Thus, for a long time, I sailed more


Sailing Speed Records

Although the 1903 defender of the America’s Cup, Reliance, was deemed a “racing freak”—the boat pushed design rules to their limit and couldn’t be beaten, at least in very specific conditions—designer Nat Herreshoff was nonetheless onto something. A century later, purpose-built more


Chartering with Non-sailors

Three tips on managing the madness First-time charterers and first-time sailors aren’t at all the same thing. One group may struggle with beginner chartering issues, like sailing a multihull, catching a mooring or dealing with base personnel. For the other group, though, more


A Gulf Stream Crossing at Night

Even the dome of light glowing above the city behind us had disappeared as if swallowed in a gulp by Noah’s whale. The moon was absent. Not a star twinkled overhead. The night was so dark we could have been floating in a pot of black ink. The only artificial lights to be seen more


Summer Sailing Programs

Every year, countless parents find themselves navigating the do’s and don’ts of enrolling their children in a summer learn-to-sail program for the first time. While the prospect of getting your kid on the water is exciting, as a sailing camp program director, there are a lot of more


Notice to Mariners: U.S.A! U.S.A! (Well, sorta…)

Some thoughts on a couple of recent developments on the U.S. racing scene that are more than a little at odds. To start with, congratulations to the US Sailing Team (USST) and its outstanding showing at the 53rd French Olympic Week regatta in Hyeres, France, with not one but more