The Youth Seamanship Program has been specifically designed to train youth from the greater Houston-Galveston metropolitan area in the art of 19th century seamanship. This program has proven to be an enormous success. Each year, one of ELISSA’s day sails is set aside so that the members of the youth crew can work side by side with the adult crew to sail the ship.

ELISSA Youth Seamanship Classes are open to anyone ages 11 to 17. We have also been known to train an occasional parent or two. Classes are patterned after the US Coast Guard-approved adult sail training program administered by the Texas Seaport Museum, with variations to make the program more fun and appealing to teenagers.

Lessons include, but are not limited to knot tying, line handling, life at sea, history of seamanship, Elissa’s history, safety drills, coiling, sail setting, ship specific mathematics, chart and compass navigation. All of these lessons come together on the Youth Crew sail day where they work the ship alongside the adult crew out in the Gulf of Mexico.

In addition, this program also allows students to develop lifelong friendships with other teenagers from around the Galveston-Houston area.

2019/2020 DATES


  • Class 1 – August 17th, 2019
  • Class 2 – September 28th, 2019
  • Class 3 – October 12th, 2019
  • Class 4 – November 23rd, 2019
  • Class 5 – December 21st, 2019
  • Class 6 – January 18th, 2020
  • Class 7 – February 15th, 2020
  • Class 8 – February 29th, 2020
  • Class 9 – March 7th, 2020
  • Class 10 – March 14th, 2020

Sailing Date will most likely be on March 29th, 2020 (subject to change). Classes are limited to 20 total youth and begin promptly at 10 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. Plan your rides accordingly. A Parent’s meeting will be held on August 17th as part of Class 1 Orientation. Parents should attend this meeting to learn what to expect from the program and to have the opportunity to have questions answered.

Once arriving on site, no one is allowed to leave until the end of the day. Participants are encouraged to bring a sack lunch. Dress according to weather. Training will take place rain or shine


Youth Crew program costs $50 which includes the Youth Crew T-shirt and if you complete the program, the Youth Crew Polo for wear during our Day Sail.

There are some personal costs that should be considered before joining the crew. The biggest cost is that of time. Anyone considering joining the Youth Seamanship program should remember that there are 10 classes to attend. This can be difficult when juggling sports commitments and other weekend activities. 7 of those classes are mandatory, not only to get the Youth Crew well acquainted with the ship, but also to keep everyone safe.


Traditional seamanship skills build a strong foundation for any career. Knot tying, the physics of a block and tackle, navigational methods, and the marlinespike sailor skills offered through the Youth Crew are important not only for interested parties but anyone actively involved in the maritime industry. Additionally, character values are developed while learning to sail a 19th century ship. These values include:

Teamwork – Sailing a square-rigged ship cannot be done alone. Anyone who tries to take on too much will find that they are simply wearing themselves out. When ELISSA was sailing as a merchant vessel her full crew compliment was 13. Currently we sail with at least 34. It takes a great deal of coordination to make the ship work and students learn quickly that they must work together or else nothing will be accomplished. Games and team building activities are built into the program.

Leadership – Sailing ships have long been known to bring out the best leadership qualities in people. The Youth Seamanship Program is designed to encourage those who have specific knowledge to help those who are still struggling to learn that knowledge. Returning students are expected to help the new students learn how to sail.

Commitment – One thing anyone who has ever sailed on a sailing ship can attest to: it requires a degree of commitment. Anyone who is not wholly committed to being the best sailor they can be will not last.

Self-Reliance – In addition to teamwork, sailing traditionally rigged ships has a tendency to teach the sailor how to stretch their limits. When they learn this, it builds their self-confidence and teaches them how to better themselves.

For more information and to register, please contact Susan Vanderford, Coordinator of Maritime Education and Museum programs, at 409-765-3432 or

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