Learn about the Galveston Bay with Dr. Sid Steffans.


Celebrate the Official Tall Ship of Texas at our annual event!



Forged from pieces of ELISSA’s 1877 hull and available for purchase!


2016 training dates announced – join the crew!



Elissa is a three-masted, iron-hulled sailing ship built in 1877 in Aberdeen, Scotland by Alexander Hall & Company. She carries nineteen sails covering over one-quarter of an acre in surface area. Tall ships are classified by the configuration of their sailing rig. In Elissa’s case, she is a ‘barque’ because she carries square and fore-and-aft sails on her fore and mainmasts, but only fore-and-aft sails on her mizzenmast. From her stern to the tip of her jibboom she measures 205 feet. Her height is 99 feet, 9 inches at the main mast and she displaces about 620 tons at her current ballast. But, she is much more than iron, wood and canvas…


According to the Marjorie Lyle, granddaughter of Elissa’s builder, Henry Fowler Watt, the name was taken from the epic Roman poem The Aeneid, in which the tragedy of Dido, Queen of Carthage, is the unifying theme of the first four books of that tale. Dido was originally a Phoenician princess named Elissa, who fled from Tyre to Africa and founded Carthage.

Unlike some tall ships of today Elissa is not a replica, but a survivor. She was built during the decline of the “Age of Sail” to fill a niche in maritime commerce. Over her 90-year commercial history she carried a variety of cargos to ports around the world, for a succession of owners. Her working life as a freighter came to an end in Piraeus Harbor, Greece, where she was rescued from the scrap yard by a variety of ship preservationists who refused to let her die. The story of Elissa’s discovery and restoration is nothing short of miraculous, and is beautifully retold in photographs and a video presentation at the Texas Seaport Museum.

Today Elissa is much more than an artifact from a bygone era. She is a fully-functional vessel that continues to sail annually during sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico. Thanks to Galveston Historical Foundation and its commitment to bring history to life, combined with the dedication of hundreds of volunteers who keep her seaworthy and train each year to sail her, Elissa and the art of 19th Century square-rigged sailing are alive and well.

Elissa’s wake is over 135 years and counting… Come experience her magic at Texas Seaport Museum, Pier 21, Galveston, Texas.


Open 10am – 5pm daily (last ticket is sold at 4 pm).

Please note: Texas Seaport Museum will be closed, Thanksgiving Day, first weekend in November, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.


Adult [Age 19 yrs and up]: $12
Youth [Age 6 through 18]: $9
Child [Age 5 and under]: FREE
Galveston Historical Foundation members: FREE

Discounts are available for advance group tours. Call 409-763-1877 for prices and scheduling.

The museum galleries and restrooms are completely accessible by wheelchair. There are about 8 steps to go aboard Elissa’s main deck, and a couple of steps (depending on the tide) to board Seagull II. A wheelchair is available free of charge in the museum. Please call 409-763-1877  in advance so that the we can try to accommodate any special needs.

Seaport Package : (TSM, Elissa, and Harbor Tour)

Adult $20
Youth $15
Child Free

You save $2 per person with the package, compared to tickets for the individual attractions

In 1979, GHF brought ELISSA to Galveston. By 1982, GHF staff and volunteers completed what today may simply be called a miracle as it transformed this rare, historic sailing barque into a museum artifact that could still sail. ELISSA is the official tall ship of Texas and a National Historic Landmark. She is the only symbol in Galveston of its historic beginnings as a port and active waterfront and is one of four tall ships in the world that still sails on a regular basis. ELISSA measures the resilience of Galveston Island and is a worldwide ambassador for our community and state.

GHF supports ELISSA through admissions, special events, donations, and grants. The Foundation receives no federal, state or local government financial support and gets no subsidies from any entity to support ELISSA. She does keep a loyal and talented cadre of hundreds of volunteers who maintain and sail her. Each year thousands of tourists cross her deck to learn more about tall ships and maritime history. School children from around the state know the image of ELISSA as their only connection to Texas’ maritime history.

Click here to donate to at whatever amount you choose. Contact us directly at 409-765-7834 or foundation@galvestonhistory.org and find out how you can support.


Own a Plank!By joining ELISSA’s Plankowners’ II Syndicate with the purchase of a plank, you can earn your place in the history of the ship. Your plank donation will be honored with your desired inscription and displayed on ELISSA’s Plankowners’ II Honor Board for posterity. What a legacy for you and future generations of your family! Purchase your plank today by clicking here.

Looking to spend some time with the Official Tall Ship of Texas? You’ve come to the right place. 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 at elissa@galvestonhistory.org for more information.


Interested in learning how to sail the Official Tall Ship of Texas? Learn about our Seamanship Training program and start your journey!


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 answer—yes. Sailing a 19th Century square-rigger involves a lot of pulling on lines. Our crew, however, are all ages—from 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 docile—what 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.

Download the Teacher Resource Packet


This is an hour long program where participants are taken back to 1877, when the Tall Ship ELISSA was launched in Aberdeen, Scotland to begin her 136 year career at sea. Participants are lead on a guided tour around the various decks and compartments on board ELISSA where they learn the history of ELISSA, those who sailed on her, the countries that owned her, her relationship to the Gulf Coast and the Port of Galveston, her purchase and restorations by Galveston Historical Foundation, and the volunteers who maintain and sail her today.

Docent tours are available by request for groups sizes greater than 20. Prices are $4 for children under 18 and $8 for adults. A $20 docent fee is required per group. Available Monday-Friday.


“It’s a Sailor’s Life!” is our special overnight adventure offered to youth groups ages 9-14. Highlighted by an overnight stay aboard the famous 1877 Iron Barque ELISSA, this experience allows young people to live like the sailors who earned their living aboard ELISSA and ships like her. Participants experience the thrill of working together to hoist sails, share the responsibility of keeping a night watch over ELISSA and learn traditional skills required of all seafarers in the Age of Sail.

Trained Texas Seaport Museum staff members and dedicated volunteers assure a favorable balance of planned instruction and shared fun. Standing on the deck of ELISSA, participants have a clear view back into the days of salt spray and squareriggers. After a tour of ELISSA and a special presentation of the Passage to Galveston: The Story of ELISSA, the overnight crew learns by doing – working with volunteers to master knots, line handling, and even setting a sail on board the ELISSA herself.

Throughout the program, adults from your group provide on-site shared responsibility and support. We require the attendance and active participation of at least one adult for every five students. Group sizes must have a minimum of 30 with a recommended maximum of 40. Price is $40 per person and includes breakfast. Available Friday and Saturday evenings. Learn more about it by clicking here!