Guides and tips

The Tall Ship Sailing Experience

By Julia Boll
29 May, 2019
Sailing on a tall ship is not like any other type of sailing. It is somewhere between living on board a 12 meter monohull and your standard cruise ship, taking the best from each. Each tall ship offers a slightly different experience. Some trips are designed for purely vacationing, with a full crew on board and the expectation that you will not pick up a line and hoist a sail at any point during the week. Other trips are extremely hands-on, requiring that you step in because the boat really cannot sail without your help. Then there are many options in between those, allowing you a choice in how you want to spend each of your days on your tall ship sailing adventure.
Table of Contents
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  • Are all trips on tall ships part of the Tall Ship Races?
  • Why should I choose tall ship sailing?
  • Do I need sailing experience to go on board a tall ship?
  • Where can I find a tall ship to sail on?
  • How do you spend the time on a tall ship?

Are all trips on tall ships part of the Tall Ship Races?

Not at all! The Tall Ship Races are held to give young people the chance to sail and learn on some magnificent ships. These races bring people together from all over the world in friendly competition and are held annually in various locations in Europe. While the Tall Ship Races are what tall ships are most known for nowadays, vacations and recreational voyages are very common as well. Any trip you sign up for on Sailwiz and most trips you can sign up for elsewhere are not involved in the Tall Ship Races and do not have any competitive component.

Why should I choose tall ship sailing?

Sailing on a tall ship is a very unique experience. Even in the sailing world, I do not know many people who have been on board a tall ship, a fact I expect to change as they become more popular. You have the opportunity to get hands-on learning experience on a boat of a much larger scale than you’re probably used to, with instruction from experienced professionals. There is certainly a lot to learn, but after a few days on board, you will feel comfortable doing your various tasks with your crew by your side. And if you don’t really care about learning to sail, there are options out there that allow you to sit back on board enjoying the sun and the breeze.

You will be on board with a group of more than 20 strangers and maybe more than 150! The size of these ships varies greatly and, at full capacity on one of the larger ships, you could be sailing along with 170 other people. These people will likely come from all backgrounds, bringing unique perspectives and great stories with them on board. The sense of community on board is very noticeable not only because they are the only people you can speak to during your time on the open ocean, but also because sailors often have a relaxed demeanor and eagerness to welcome others.

Another reason to not miss an adventure on a tall ship is the views. If you are lucky enough to climb the rigging, you will see views of the horizon unrivaled by any view seen from the shore or a smaller sailboat on the ocean. Surrounded by nothing but waves in all directions, few if any birds in sight, you will find the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets, followed by a view of the stars like you’ve never seen before. Any view of the stars from the water is magical, but accompanied by the comfort of a tall ship? That’s hard to beat.

Do I need sailing experience to go on board a tall ship?

No, no experience is needed! It’s great if you have experience and many people on board will have some sailing experience, but everyone is essentially on the same level when they begin sailing a tall ship. Since the scale of everything is so much larger, everyone will have a lot to learn, regardless of previous experience. The captain and crew will be more than willing to teach you everything you need to know as well as anything more that interests you! There are no bad questions and you can use your time on board as a real learning experience if you want, taking in everything so you are a more knowledgeable crew member the next time you join a trip on a tall ship.

Where can I find a tall ship to sail on?

There are tall ships sailing all over the world. On Sailwiz, you can find trips that travel through Portugal, France, Cape Verde and Spain. Some of these trips travel through various islands, anchoring so you can go swimming, paddle boarding and exploring the land. Other trips are voyages where you spend all your time on the open seas with your new friends and, if you’re lucky, some friendly sea turtles and dolphins swimming by.

How do you spend the time on a tall ship?

Every tall ship experience is organized differently, with varying degrees of comfort and hands-on work expected. On an educational and hands-on tall ship experience, the crew of the ship needs your help! They are there to teach you everything you need to know so you can be a helpful member of the crew. On a trip like this, you will have a watch. A watch is usually a 4-hour shift that happens twice per day. Everyone on board is assigned a shift and, during your watch, it is your responsibility to work with your fellow crew members to keep the ship going. You may be spending time on the bridge with navigation and radar or trimming sails on deck. If you’re lucky, your watch will be during sunrise or sunset so your “work” is accompanied by some stunning views. Imagine being required to be awake for a sunrise on the ocean!

Not every tall ship experience is like this. If you choose a tall ship that is meant for vacation, you will not be required to spend 8 hours on watch. The only thing holding you to a schedule is the fact that breakfast is only served between 7 and 9am! Even then, you can find a snack on board if you manage to miss a meal. Tall ship vacation trips give you the freedom to spend your time how you wish. Think of a shrunken down cruise ship. You do not have the modern luxury and space of a cruise ship, but you do have the comfort and freedom of one, some even including swimming pools, libraries, spas and lounges. If you wish to spend your days napping on the deck or reading book after book in the sun, you may! All the while, the chefs are cooking up gourmet meals, cleaning the dishes, making your bed, and ensuring you a comfortable stay on board. Many of the luxury vacation-oriented tall ships plan their itineraries like a cruise ship as well. You can choose trips that head into port almost every day so you can explore the islands, taste the local food and enjoy the beaches.

There are also tall ship sailing trips that combine this vacation experience with the learning and hands-on aspects of an educational trip. You can expect to have a lot of time on board to read, chat with other guests and enjoy yourself, but you are also invited to help the crew when it comes time to trim the mainsails. You are not required to take part in any of the work or the watch system, but the crew welcomes your help and they even welcome you on the bridge so you can ask questions, learn about the instruments and contribute like a crew member (to the best of your ability). If you tire of that, head downstairs and play cards with the diverse group of guests in the dining area, hang out at the bar with some strangers to share sailing stories or take a mid-afternoon nap because no one is stopping you. If you are looking for this kind of experience, the Santa Maria Manuela is your ideal tall ship.
  • Julia Boll
    International business development of Sailwiz. An adventurer at heart looking to expand Sailwiz to new corners of the world so you can find your perfect next adventure.
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