“So You Want to be a Sailor?”
Sure. Who do I make the check out to? Keep it. Elissa has an all-volunteer crew. That means you don’t get paid - and you don’t pay.
What does it involve? It involves whatever you are willing to put into it. If you want to be eligible to crew during our annual daysails, however, you must work a minimum of 130 maintenance hours and attend a series of weekend sail training sessions.
When is sail training, and for how long? Twenty sail training sessions are held on Saturdays, beginning in July and ending the following March.
Is sail training difficult? It requires concentration, sweat and study, but it’s not a killer. Learning and reviewing a few key concepts will ensure that you are ready for each weekend’s sessions.
Are crew slots competitive? That depends entirely on how many volunteers go through training. If candidates outnumber slots, crew will be selected based on quizzes and performance. Realistically? In previous daysails, each volunteer who went through training was able to sail at least 3 of the 7 days.
Do you have to be in good shape? Simple answeryes. Sailing a 19th Century square-rigger involves a lot of pulling on lines. Our crew, however, are all agesfrom early teens to retirees.
What will I be doing, really? Each class consists of half sail training instruction and half maintenance instruction. You will be chipping rust, sanding teakwood, seizing manila lines, painting, tarring [pine tar, not coal tar], sweeping, scrubbing, carpentering, oiling. During sail training, you will be pulling lines, tying knots, climbing 90 feet into the rig, straining with your crewmates at the capstan and windlass, singing sea chanties as 10 people raise a yard in unison, walking around the ship over and over while memorizing the placement and use of 180 lines. You will also be getting to know a lot of new people from every conceivable walk of life.
What was that about climbing 90 feet into the rigging? Elissa is a square-rigger which means that volunteers are needed to work the sails. Any volunteer is welcome to become a member of the climbing crew, but if heights are an issue for you, there are a limited number of crew slots for non-climbers available.
Are there any additional benefits to working the Elissa? After volunteering for 20 hours or more, you are welcome to spend the night on Elissa’s open deck.
Okay, I want to volunteer. Now what? Come straight to the Texas Seaport Museum, at Pier 21 [Harborside Drive at 21st Street] in Galveston, Texas, any day of the week except Thursdays between 9am and 5pm. The sooner you begin volunteering, the faster your knowledge of the ship and volunteer program will grow, and of course the sooner your fun begins! If you plan to sign up for the next sail training course, your volunteer service prior to that time will be a big help to you in learning about a square-rigged ship.
I love the ship, but I’m interested in something more docilewhat can I do? There are plenty of things to do at Elissa that don’t actually involve sailing. Being a museum, she is always in need of dedicated folks who love giving tours, working on collections and research, giving talks to students in area schools, teaching overnight groups of young people aboard Elissa, demonstrating seamanship and sailor’s arts, participating in our speakers bureau, or simply putting in a few hours with a paintbrush.
Your website is great, but I’d like to speak with the museum about volunteering. Call 409-763-1877 and ask about the volunteer program. Or write: Texas Seaport Museum, Pier 21, No. 8, Galveston, Texas 77550; or e-mail the Museum directly.