Tall Ships
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Captain and Rosie White Spacer Sailing ships with tall masts and plenty of sails are called Tall Ships. Before steamships were invented, these were the ships that sailed the seven seas and great lakes around the world. They served as cargo ships, fishing vessels, passenger ships, naval warships, explorers' ships, and pirate ships. Today they are mainly used for teaching people about ships and maritime history, training sailors, and giving rides to passengers.

Sailing on one of these ships is unlike any other form of transportation. In good weather, the ride is smooth, quiet and gentle. With favorable winds, a good compass, and a hearty crew, you could sail around the world in a ship like this. Want to go for a sail?

Hoisting Sails

Canvas White Spacer Tightening Sail

It's not always quiet on board. From time to time the orders are shouted to the crew to perform various tasks. Hoisting sails and setting them correctly is a lot of work, especially on a four-masted schooner like this one. Note that good sailors secure their lines carefully and coil the ends neatly to avoid problems.

Square Rig

The sails on square-rigged ships are attached to spars, the horizontal timbers mounted on the mast. Crew members have to climb up to each spar and stand on a foot rope to reach over the spar to lower or raise the sail. Notice that they are wearing safety harnesses.

Wide sail

The person at the helm needs to watch for changes in the wind direction and make little steering adjustments to keep the sails full. If he or she doesn't, the sails won't work as well and the ship will slow down. If the wind changes a lot, the sails will have to be adjusted to catch it again. It is the wind filling the sails and moving around them that makes the ship move forward.

Where to see tall ships

If you live in the United States and would like to see a tall ship, you are likely to find one in many ports along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts and on the Great Lakes. Here is a Wikipedia list of tall ships around the world with links to information about most and the names of home ports.

The U.S. Brig Niagra, (above, left) is a historic two-masted, square-rigged ship that fought during the War of 1812. It has been rebuilt three times since then. Today the ship serves as a Sailing School Vessel. During the summer, you might see her at Tall Ships festivals at various Great Lakes ports. Niagra's home is at the Erie Maritime Museum in Erie, Pennsylvania.

At Jamestown Settlement in Virginia (above, right), near the site of America's first English colony, you can tour full-sized replicas of the three ships that brought colonists to Jamestown in 1607.

Tall ship festival

The Tall Ship Festival in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in August of 2013, brought together eight ships for people to enjoy.

Tall ship festival

Tall ship festival

Tall ship festival

Visitors were welcome to tour the ships from bow to stern and below decks into cabins, galleys, and holds. They weren't allowed to fire any cannons.

Tall ship festival

Some even went for a sail.

Questions about tall ships
How do you think it would feel to ride on a ship in a storm?

Why is it important to wear a safety harness in a storm or when climbing the mast?

Point out the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts on a map. Where are the Great Lakes and what are their names? Why are the called Great Lakes?

Who fought in the War of 1812? What happened to the White House and Congress buildings during that war?

Would you like to go to a sailing school and learn to sail a Tall Ship? Why?

More about tall ships:,
To learn more, visit these links:
Tall Ships America
Tall Ships Wikipedia Page
Sorlandet Sailing School
U.S. Brig Niagra
Tall Ship Windy
Tall Ships Tracking Map

Also, search for Tall Ships online to find links to festivals and sites dedicated to individual ships. Happy sailing!

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2014 Jerry Jindrich. All rights reserved. Revised 1/25/2016.

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