All hands on deck: Galveston sailing classes offer ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to learn the ropes aboard the Official Tall Ship of Texas

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01:  Tall ship Elissa, Galveston, Texas (Photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: Tall ship Elissa, Galveston, Texas (Photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images) (Getty)

On an Island jam-packed with artifacts and treasures of the days long past, one particularly large and beloved relic is a must-see -- The Elissa, the Official Tall Ship of Texas. Now, sailing novices, history buffs and gutsy landlubbers enamored by the sea have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sail history.

Beginning this summer, the Galveston Historical Foundation will offer sailing classes aboard the historic tall ship.

Those interested in the course can attend a free, introductory meeting at 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 31 at the Galveston Historic Seaport on Galveston’s Pier 22, located on Harborside Drive between 21st and 22nd streets.

Those who participate in the ELISSA Sail Training program will learn the skills and techniques needed to maintain a square-rigged sailing ship.

Volunteers will learn to climb Elissa’s rigging to set and furl sails and maintain the intricate machinery of wood, wire, and rope, according to the Galveston Historical Foundation’s website. These tasks require skill and bravery; the ship’s main mast towers 99 feet above deck.

After completing the free 20-class course, which will be taught on designated Saturdays August 4 through March 26, 2022, as well as contributing the required hours of work on the ship’s upkeep, participants will be eligible to take Elissa to sea.

The iron-hulled, three-masted barque is one of the oldest ships still sailing. She launched in 1877 from Aberdeen, Scotland, and for the next 90 odd years, the ship lugged commercial cargo to and from North America, South America, Europe and elsewhere. Through the years, the ship changed hands and names multiple times, sometimes going by Fjeld, Gustaf, Christophoros and Achaios, according to the Texas State Historical Association. Elissa docked in Galveston in 1883 and again in 1886.

In 1978, the Galveston Historical Foundation brought the ship from Greece to Galveston, restored the vessel and converted it into a floating museum. Now berthed at Pier 21 in Galveston, the ship is one of the island’s most-visited attractions (aside from its beaches) and receives some 60,000 visitors each year. Fun fact: In 1978 the ship became the first item outside the United States to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to the Texas State Historical Association. ELISSA was named the “Official Tall Ship of Texas” in a resolution signed by Governor Rick Perry in June 2005.

Elissa is docked at the Galveston Historic Seaport on Galveston’s Pier 22. For more information, visit galvestonhistory.org.


About the Author:

Briana Zamora-Nipper joined the KPRC 2 digital team as a community associate producer in 2019. During her time in H-Town, she's covered everything from fancy Houston homes to tropical storms. Previously, she worked at Austin Monthly Magazine and KAGS TV, where she earned a Regional Edward R. Murrow award for her work as a digital producer.