TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® Series Official Blog

Sea stories, scuttlebutt and fantastic photos covering America\’s official Tall Ships® Races!

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Guest Blogger on USCGC EAGLE: School of the Ship

Posted by Tall Ships America on October 16, 2014

Guest Blogger2

For the past few years, Tall Ships America members have been invited to participate in the USCG OCS (Officer Candidate School) cruise on board the Barque EAGLE. Guest Blogger Lance Fairbanks participated this Fall  and provides a glimpse into the guest crew experience. You can see more of his photos on our Flickr page. Thank you, Lance!

Welcome Aboard: Gloucester was the first port where both Officer Candidates of the US Coast Guard and Members of Tall Ships America joined hands, before setting sail in the USCGC EAGLE. While we did not expect to win the Esperanto Cup during the 30th Annual Schooner Festival; we did however make a grand statement leaving the harbor, “We are America’s Tall Ship!” Officer Candidates and Members alike, we were all assigned to a division. We quickly made friends and found our way about the ship, what would be our home away from home for the next two weeks. As shipmates aboard a Coast Guard vessel, we were engaged in every aspect of life according to the Plan of the Day. As a sail training vessel, all of us took part in School of the Ship.

School of Ship Photo: Lance Fairbanks

School of Ship Photo: Lance Fairbanks

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in 2014, Guest Blogger, Member Programs | Leave a Comment »

Niagara Rig RATS

Posted by Tall Ships America on October 2, 2014


Join U.S. Brig NIAGARA for the free pilot program, “Rigging and Advanced Topics in Seamanship“, 17 October – 22 November.

This five week program will emphasize marlinspike seamanship and practical experience working in NIAGARA’s rig shop. Topics include basic ship’s carpentry, fundamentals of navigation, and vessel management best practices.

Lodging is provided and the crew kitchen will be available.

Contact information is here.

Posted in 2014, Member Programs, NIAGARA | Leave a Comment »

SSV Oliver Hazard Perry Mainmast Stepping Ceremony

Posted by Tall Ships America on September 26, 2014

The SSV Oliver Hazard Perry Mainmast Stepping Ceremony took place on Wednesday morning and Tall Ships America had the distinct honor of being invited to attend.

Photo Credit: Eliza Braunstein

Photo Credit: Eliza Braunstein

The ceremony commenced at precisely 1030 with the ringing of the bell. We listened to remarks  an assortment of speakers involved in the creation of SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, as they spoke about the process of making a dream come true. We also learned about the significance of mast stepping and the significance of Oliver Hazard Perry‘s mainmast. Then, descendants of Oliver Hazard Perry placed a commemorative coin beneath the mainmast and a crane lowered the mast into place. VADM Thomas Weschler, USN (Ret.), had the quote of the day when he stated, “This is the most exciting thing that’s happened to me since World War II!”

Photo Credit: Jen Spring

Photo Credit: Jen Spring

Photo Credit: Eliza Braunstein

Photo Credit: Eliza Braunstein

Photo Credit: Jen Spring

Photo Credit: Jen Spring

Photo Credit: Jen Spring

Photo Credit: Jen Spring

Photo Credit: Jen Spring

Photo Credit: Jen Spring

Upon the stepping of the mast, the gun was fired and the ceremony concluded. The rigging crew, with this achievement now complete, will spend the autumn completing the ship’s rig and getting the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry ready for her first summer sailing season.

Posted in 2007 | Leave a Comment »

Hurricane Season

Posted by Tall Ships America on September 24, 2014

To a native New Englander, an impending hurricane means dark skies, wind gusts with the potential to knock over trees and power lines, and torrential rain. But in Southern California earlier this month, as Hurricane Marie headed out to sea, Hurricane Norbert intensified off of Baja, and Hurricane Odile remained a rumor from Hawai’i, the temperatures were mid-70s and the weather was sunny with blue skies and a gentle breeze. The only hint that hurricanes were off the coast, aside from the murmur amongst the tall ship captains of marine weather updates and worrisome weather faxes, was the surge in Dana Point Harbor.

A surge is “a sudden powerful forward or upward movement, especially by a natural force such as the waves or tide” (Oxford English Dictionary). In the case of Dana Point Harbor, it was a cyclic upwelling of water within the harbor, impacted by current as water flowed up the channel or cascaded over the jetty and intensified by an extreme high tide. Such was the situation at 1600 on Friday, September 5th, as a dozen people stood on Ocean Institute’s new floating docks, watching seven moored tall ships strain against their docklines as the water swelled and fell beneath the vessels. We had gathered a half hour earlier to discuss the last minute details of that evening’s Sunset Parade of Sail. But as the sea state worsened before our eyes, the prudence of getting underway with passengers was now in question.

A gravitas of captains

Photo Credit: Eliza Braunstein

We not only had to consider boarding passengers – many of whom were unfamiliar with a shifting gangway and rolling deck – but what the sea conditions would be like upon disembarkation. At sea, riding the swells, the vessels would be fine. Upon returning to “safe” harbor, however, they would be met with a rising tide to exacerbate the relentless surge. Those waiting to drop off passengers would find it near impossible to hold station in the channel, with the wind catching the bow of the ship. Tying up would be difficult, and prolonged; hauling enough slack out of the docklines to disembark passengers would be harder still. Once securely moored along the three hundred foot long dock, as the ships were at the moment of our disquieted discussion, we would again have to consider the combined potential force of rafted vessels yanking on a small number of well-placed docklines. (To this end, we later set out bow and stern wraps from the offshore vessels.) And lastly, the dramatic roll of the vessels even at the dock launched concerns that the rigging of the smaller ships would tangle in the rigging of the taller ships to which they were rafted, or that the heavy hull of one might send over many pounding blows into the hull of another. All this before the high high tide peaked at more than a fathom in a cove that only charts a mean depth just over two fathoms at mean lower low water.

Throughout this deliberation, as I listened and attempted to absorb the points that these experienced captains were making, I noticed something very impressive. The opinion and decision of every captain regarding the limits of his vessel and crew was considered and respected. Then, in solidarity, having all weighed in, this team of captains determined that the prudent choice was to cancel the sail. It was Integrated Safety Management at its finest. And the best part – they then presented their decision to the public, as a united, visible front, and the public understood. They agreed.

The 30th Annual Toshiba Tall Ships® Festival would continue throughout the weekend. The vessels never would leave the dock with any passengers, although a few captains would eventually decide to leave the cove with their vessels and seek calmer waters elsewhere.

In the end, it was a wonderful festival, complete with maritime exhibits and local musicians (including several well-attended performances by Captain John Kraus); stellar merchandise from N&D and Ocean Institute; a REACH Scavenger Hunt presented by US Sailing and their partners; delicious lunches and an after-hours potluck for ships’ crew; and a fleet of tall ships as the focal attraction.

Thank you to all of the ships, their captains and crew, to Ocean Institute, and to the public, for maintaining such a positive attitude and such composure as we overcame another reality of sailing tall ships in the modern world.

Lining up for Spirit of Dana PointOh my gosh! It's John Kraus and the Goers!Leon!Budding artists


For more pictures, please visit our Flickr Page.

Posted in 2007 | Leave a Comment »

Guest Blogger: Pride in the People

Posted by Tall Ships America on September 18, 2014

September 15, 2014

Pride of Baltimore II, alongside at Constellation Pier, Inner Harbor

Wx: East Force 1, 2/8 Celebratory Cumulus, the rest of the sky a Bicentennial Blue

Today’s dawn ushers in a whole new century of our storied national anthem, and a well-worn Pride II crew has seen to it that the ship and the city have marked the anniversary with style and passion. Some ships have already left, the guns and jets are silent now, crowds of visitors still swarm the harbor. But yesterday’s crescendo has washed over and while we bask in the success and import of “Spectacular,” the typical snap and bustle aboard is slightly leaden with fatigue. And no surprise – during the 25 hours actual hours of the Battle of Baltimore anniversary, crew and ship were in full action themselves. With a rotation of watches and captains, plus lots of work from shore side office staff, we scarcely stopped moving, and never stopped commemorating the incredible events of 200 years ago.

Photo Credit: Captain Jamie Trost

Photo Credit: Captain Jamie Trost

As the guns of Fort McHenry thundered out Saturday morning, we sailed alongside a British-flagged Lynx and waved a truce flag over our Francis Scott Key impersonator as he plead his case across the rail for Royal Marines to unhand Doctor Beanes. When the historically timed “re-enactment rain” came down (nearly to the minute, according to the 1814 accounts), we rigged awnings, waited for the sky to clear, then sailed in sleek silence under the roaring military muscle of the Blue Angels. As the town turned electric for the prelude to the fireworks, Pride paraded through the harbor to blast off a national broadcast with three guns. When the “bombs” of the pyrotechnics bust over Fort McHenry and Baltimore Harbor, 100 viewers joined us on deck. Then, once the dust settled, irrepressibly enthusiastic Ranger Vince Vaise from the Fort narrated a midnight retracing of the final desperate British assault on the batteries up the Ferry Branch of the Patapsco.

From three to six am things fell silent, just as they did in 1814. But the crisp morning ushered in a new flurry of action. The culminating moment of the weekend would feature Baltimore’s 1812 historic triumvirate – the Maryland Historical Society’s hand-sewn replica of the Star-Spangled Banner would be hoisted over the Fort while Pride II stood in the offing as Key’s truce ship President and a collected squadron of Tall Ships around here presented the invading British.

Photo Credit: Captain Jamie Trost

Photo Credit: Captain Jamie Trost

With Pride II booked full of enthusiastic passengers and logistics of the ship movementsrattling in my mind, Captain Miles and I decided it would work smoothest if he sailed the ship and I marshaled the squadron from a vantage ashore. To foster that plan along, Ranger Vaise welcomed me, along with my wife and parents, to survey the scene from the commanding perch of the Fort’s Bastion 5. Equipped with a handheld VHF and copies of the pages of notes and schematics I’d issued to the ships, we set off for the Fort’s dock in Pride II’s rescue boat. The physical bustle and tangible excitement at the Fort stewed with amazement – this was it, the very morning, the day when the focus of so much 1812 education, programming, efforts, and toiling over months and years was about to float in the September breeze for Baltimore and the world to see.

Ships trickled out from downtown. The inbound cruise ship Carnival Pride cleared the channel into South Locust Point and left the harbor to historic craft. US Armed Forces, and Sailors and Marines from our 1812 adversaries come allies Canada and England, took up position around dignitaries from local, state, and national governmentin the Parade Ground within the walls. Sun glinted off the black barrels of replica and modern armaments as they stood silently ready for a barrage of salutes. The cool northeast breeze streamed the Fort’s Storm Flag in anticipation.

The pieces started moving. Ranger Vaise, radiating excitement even through a veil of exhaustion, orchestrated the unfurling and preparation of the replica Garrison Flag. The ships slid over glittering water into position under a mantle of low cumulus. As the events of the battle were narrated, a crowd began to gather on the bastion around me, watching the ships. At first I was irritated – with eleven ships and two pulling boats to coordinate, I’d envisioned relative solitude to lay out my notes and coordinate via radio. Having a crowd to eavesdrop and chime in on the necessary communications might offer more than a slight nuisance.

But as the ceremony in the Fort and formation beyond the ramparts continued shaping up, I noticed there were nearly as many people onthe bastion with me as in the parade ground. They whispered questions: What’s that ship? Where are they from? What are they all doing? And I had time, as the squadron deftly arrayed themselves across the river, to answer all the questions. Between radio calls to shift and tighten up the line, I could tell the people, these mesmerized appreciators of history, what they were seeing and how much it looked like what Major George Armistead saw 200 years ago that very minute. I wasn’t alone, and was happy for it. I was surrounded by people who, like me, felt deeply moved by this instance, the commemoration of America’s emergence from a divisive and trying, nearly adolescent, conflict into maturity.

The Army Old Guard fired a salvo. When the smoke cleared and the guns fell silent, the ramparts were teeming with people. A last salute froma replica 24lb gun, and the fifing of “Yankee Doodle” lifted the hand-sewreplica aloft. Lynx and Sultana swapped their British ensigns for American. Salutes and cheers echoed from the ships. Through the smoke, their rigs etched a striking visage of history.

By 0940, Pride II was on station off the water battery and the ships processed in, saluting both her and the Fort. Pride II’s Key impersonator was standing at the rail, cheering in the new era of the Star-Spangled Banner. Up on the ramparts, the crowd around me pressed in, asking more eager questions whenever I wasn’t hailing the passing ships on radio to thank them for their part in this historic event. It got so crowded that we were forced off the bricks and (to the chagrin of the Rangers) onto the grass that sprouted from the earthworks. Like most forts of her era, FortMcHenry is mostly earthwork – largely composed of dirt, held together by bricksheathing. Throughout the 214 years of the Fort’s existence, the bricks have been renewed, but the earth inside is still the same.

Photo Credit: Captain Jamie Trost

Photo Credit: Captain Jamie Trost

And then I realized the truth of the week – that we at Pride, the Fort, and Maryland Historical Society had helped, but history had repeated itself organically. Two-hundred years ago, this week was won by the citizens of Baltimore unexpectedly repulsing the British attack. And as Fort, Flag, and Fighting Sail recreated the events of 1814 on a brilliantly sunny morning, it was we citizens of today’s Baltimore that stood on the very earthworks our counterparts defended two centuries ago. Our feet connected us to the timeline of history, the living earth of the Fort, the very foundation of our “Land of the free,” our “Home of the Brave.”

Captain Jamie Trost

 Click here to keep reading about Pride of Baltimore.

If you want to become a guest blogger, send the link to your blog to Erin @ tallshipsamerica.org.

Posted in 2007 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Hold Fast (It Would Be Silly To Let Go)

Posted by Tall Ships America on September 7, 2014

I was a rigrat until the day I got an office job. But I continued to clamber up every ship’s rig that I could, which is how I ended up aloft on the Star of India last week. It was a sunny day without much breeze, and the San Diego sky was almost as blue as the water. The Maritime Museum of San Diego had generously offered to take a knot of sailors aloft during the Festival of Sail.

First came the physical test, to demonstrate that we had the strength and ability to hold fast in the rigging. Next, we tugged on harnesses and listened to a safety briefing. Then, one by one, we pulled ourselves up onto a rail as high off the deck as I am tall, swung out over the water to grasp the lower shrouds, and began to climb.

IMG_1401 IMG_1393

At 278’ sparred length, the Star of India is the largest tall ship I’ve been on, and the components of her rig are as large as any I’ve seen. Traditionally rigged and iron-hulled, she is reminiscent of an era in which iron was becoming more prevalent in shipbuilding, and her rig reflects this juxtaposition of “old” and “new” materials. With a tight grip and sure footing, I scampered up the served and tarred starboard shrouds after a Star of India volunteer and a recently-acquainted friend from Pilgrim. Just below the futtocks, I paused, and stretched one leg outwards until my toes were resting on the parrel, an iron collar that attaches the mast to the yard. With a thrust of momentum, I drew my body across a gap between the shrouds and the main yard, forty feet above the wooden deck, and balanced myself against the cold metal of the course. With a call of “Laying on Starboard!”, I slid off the parrel and planted the arches of my Converse on the footropes. I was still free-climbing, clasping the solid jackstay as I inched my way sideways along the seventy-two foot long yard. But moments later, as our little group reached the end of the yard, I had a chance to clip in with my harness and pause to survey the view.

Looking down from Star of India

Photo Credit: Taylor McClanahan

 The water was below me, perhaps sixty feet beneath my feet. Within the bay, the water was calm, and the only waves that rocked our ship came from the wakes of passing vessels. On the deck, curious visitors the size of my thumb gazed skyward at us in the rigging. A crew member had gathered several children and adults and was assisting them in hauling lines to set sails. Towards shore, the festival grounds were packed. A line of visitors waited in line to get their souvenir passports stamped with images of the vessels they’d seen. Another crowd of festival-goers had converged on the vendor tents, eager for food and drink in the hot sun. Up on the windward yard, I could no longer smell the kettle corn that had been so enticing at ground level. But it was pleasant to simply be aloft again, for the first time in nearly a year, to swing my feet on the footropes and feel the wind in my hair.

Crew from Irving on Star of India

Photo Credit: Taylor McClanahan

Posted in 2014 | 2 Comments »

Ups & Downs on Irving

Posted by Tall Ships America on September 6, 2014

by Halcyon Spooner



Going to Dana Point on Irving Johnson

Throwing up over the bow on my watch


Feeling Awkward


Volunteering to clean all the heads

My bunk

Ripping my pants

The food

Banging my head

The crew
Walking 6 + miles to see a movie


Tide Pools

Going Aloft

Helping with dock lines


Living on Irving Johnson this past week had its ups and downs. Mainly UPS, but at times I couldn’t help the downs. My first true down was learning that once the sun goes down I get terribly sea sick. It’s the worst possible feeling when you know you threw up practically everything in your stomach but your body still wants to get things out of you. But on the up side, I got to refresh my navigation skills when I helped one of the crew members plot course for the night. Another down was me feeling awkward around the crew. This was my first time being with them for more than 3 hours, so at times you do run out of things to say. I believe the awkward feeling came from me feeling like the new person in the group, which is never good. Once I got over my awkwardness, I started to realize that the crew members on Irving Johnson are very friendly and funny people. A few other downs was me ripping my pants when climbing aloft to untie sails, volunteering to clean all the heads, and banging my head every time I came out of my bunk. Another up was doing maintenance, which involved me doing my two favorite things: sanding and oiling. Also: my bunk, the cook’s food, and the exploring of Dana Point with crew. We walked about 3 miles uphill to see a movie, drove 20 minutes to go snorkeling in what looked like a private beach, and also took midnight walks on a nearby beach to see tide pools. Overall, my time on Irving Johnson was worthwhile.


Posted in 2014, Internship Program | 1 Comment »


Posted by Tall Ships America on September 2, 2014

A view from the water

The waterfront here in San Diego is quiet. Too quiet. After four days of cannon fire reverberating throughout the downtown, crowds of people, and live music, it is disconcerting to hear the everyday sounds of San Diego on a typical weekday morning. Everything is back to normal. Luckily, Eliza, Halcyon and I have one more event in Dana Point next weekend. One more event to spend time with the tall ships and the new friends we have made out here on the West Coast. It’s hard to believe we are even at this point. Yesterday, we said goodbye to Halcyon as she sailed away on Irving Johnson, all smiles (Stay tuned for another blog post about her adventures on board). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in 2014, Festival of Sail San Diego, Internship Program, Tall Ship Events | 1 Comment »

My Tole Mour Experience

Posted by Tall Ships America on August 30, 2014

My Tole Mour Experience

It was about 0800 when Erin and Eliza dropped me off at Tole Mour’s dock. It seemed like they were my parents, all happy and excited to see their young daughter go off on a new adventure. After they left, the crew on Tole Mour showed all the trainees which bunk section we would be staying in. I was staying in the section called Santa Rosa, with two other girls. We were able to pick our own bunks, so I choose the forward most bunk with a porthole view, which later became a problem on my part (seasickness).


About 0930, all hands were called forward for a muster. Captain Snark and Holly gave the welcome speech, talked about the boat, and gave information about the race. They showed us the course and explained the rules of the race. At that point I was very excited because I’ve never been part of the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® Race Series. After a clear understanding that we were going to win, they wanted us all to introduce ourselves, so we had to answer 3 questions. What is your name? Where are you from? And what’s your favorite animated Disney movie? With that, I learnt that most of the crew was from the mid-west and there were a lot of animated Disney movies I haven’t seen. By the way, I’m from New York and my favorite animated Disney movie is “The Tigger Movie.” After a round of funny but interesting introductions, we were given our sea watches. I was placed in watch one, with 4 crew members and 5 trainees. The first thing we did was reintroduce ourselves to each other, then did a tour of the boat. While we were touring the boat, the crew members spoke to us about drills and muster stations; within the next 10 minutes, we heard an alarm and the crew shouting “abandon ship drill, abandon ship drill.” Everyone gathered to their muster stations and donned life jackets. After the drill, we all mustered forward again to get divided into two activity stations: line handling and marlinspike & seamanship. My first activity was line handling; they showed us how to make a line off to a pin, take a line off the pin safely and how to coil. Also they taught us the terms they use when handling lines, like ”made ready” which means have a top and bottom turn on the pin and “super ready” which means to only have a bottom turn on the pin.

The race stared at 1400. We crossed the starting line about a minute after the race started with Irving Johnson next to us and Exy Johnson and Bill of Rights behind us. It was a wonderful sight, seeing the cliffs of San Pedro behind us as we sailed towards San Clemente Island and San Diego. We had great wind conditions the whole trip. While we were sailing past Catalina Island, we spotted two whales in the distance. It was an amazing sight, especially for me because I never see any sea mammals in New York Harbor.

My watch that night was from 0000 to 0400; that was my first time sailing through the night. And it was just horrible – from the moment I got on deck, I felt sea sick. A crew member gave me some ginger ale, crackers, and some tips on how to stop feeling sick, but none of that prevented me from throwing up at least 5 times in a red bucket that was labelled “you will feel better :)” but, on the plus side, while I was coming up for air, I noticed about 1000 starts in the sky, and no other boats around us.


We had breakfast at 0700 and I felt much better. Shortly after breakfast, the captain announced that we had crossed the finish line and all the other boats were about 3 hours behind us. So, of course, everyone on board was thrilled on our possible win of the race. We turned on our engines, struck all sails, and began motoring towards La Jolla for some more activities. At 1030, we anchored off of La Jolla to do some snorkeling and some shanty singing. I chose to go snorkeling, so I got fitted for a wet suit, mask, boots, and fins. After a half hour of me struggling to put everything on, I entered the water, feet first to start an underwater adventure. The water was surprisingly warm and clear, so that didn’t stop us from seeing 10 leopard sharks, 2 horn sharks and a lot of sea grass. We got back on the boat in time for dinner, which I can say was amazing, then continued with some lovely shanty singing led by the crew and trainees.

My last moments on Tole Mour were the best. While heading back to the dock, a pod of dolphins followed us for about 2 hours, having fun with their babies, jumping in and out of the water and crossing under our bow. It was an amazing sight that I only got on video and soon hope to share with a lot more people.

I loved the people I sailed with on Tole Mour and looking forward to more adventures on the sail up to Dana Point.



Posted in 2014, Festival of Sail San Diego, Internship Program, Los Angeles, CA, Races, Tall Ship Events | Leave a Comment »

Staying classy in San Diego

Posted by Tall Ships America on August 29, 2014

At the start_Irving Johnson_Tole Mour_Exy Johnson

At the start_Irving Johnson_Tole Mour_Exy Johnson

After a busy week and a great race start in San Pedro, the Tall Ships America Race Team rolled in to San Diego on Tuesday ready for the Festival of Sail. While Halcyon sailed down the coast on Tole Mour (recap coming soon), Eliza and I scouted the site, did some laundry and enjoyed the wonderful waterfront that San Diego Maritime Museum presides over. San Diego Harbor is always full of sailboats and, as two shorebound sailors, Eliza and I can’t help but want to be out on the water enjoying the steady breeze. But the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE(r) requires our attention so we are content with just looking on enviously. San Diego Maritime Museum always puts on a wonderful event and, as the ships arrived at the dock yesterday after the Parade of Sail, the crew was happy to be here. Last night was the crew party on the Berkeley and our Executive Director, Bert Rogers, was on hand to present the awards for the race from San Pedro to San Diego, by way of San Clemente Island. From what I have heard, it was a spectacular run down to San Diego, complete with whale sightings, strong winds, shooting stars and, my personal favorite, dolphins playing in phosphorescence.

Race Results

We had four participants for the race – Tole Mour, Bill of Rights, Irving Johnson and Exy Johnson. The winners of the race are as follows:

Third Place – Exy Johnson
Second Place – Irving Johnson
First Place – Tole Mour

Thank you to all the participants and congratulations to Tole Mour! A huge thank you to LA Yacht Club in San Pedro for their time and help in pulling off a great race start.

For more photos, visit our Flickr page and for more updates follow us on Twitter @tallshipsfleet

Posted in 2014, Festival of Sail San Diego, Races, Tall Ship Events | Leave a Comment »


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