April 13-16, 2023

Tall Ships Challenge

Annual Tall Ships Challenge and Festival Coming to Galveston Island

Join us on Galveston Island April 13-16, 2023, for the annual Tall Ships Challenge, a three-day maritime festival celebrating the beautiful tall ships with food, music, sail-away excursions, and numerous special events all in a family friendly environment. This friendly competition spans the Gulf Coast, starting in St. Petersburg, Florida, heading to Galveston, Texas, then on to Pensacola, Florida. 2018 was Galveston’s first time hosting the challenge and we have our very own Tall Ship Elissa joining the challenge. 

Have you ever wanted to join a team on a tall ship, race across the Gulf, and live an adventure of a lifetime? There are over 100 Tall Ships America Member Vessels. Most of the ships in the challenge allow you to join the crew and be a real part of the adventure. You will be a paying passenger, but you will stand watch, help haul lines, do maintenance, and help navigate. There is no experience required and training happens while under sail. Visit Tall Ships America to find out more about joining a team!

What is a Tall Ship?

So, you may be asking, what exactly IS a Tall Ship? How is a Tall Ship Classified? How do you measure a Tall Ship? With these questions we turn to Sail Training International for a deeper look into how a ship becomes a Tall Ship. For the purpose of these races the ships, or vessels, are divided into four classes, which all use the overall length of the vessel, LOA, as a basis, along with the LWL, or waterline length. 

The waterline length, simply put, is a line on the side, hull, of the ship that denotes how much cargo can be loaded onto the ship. The overall length is measured on the centerline of the vessel from front to back. STI breaks these down into two basic groups, those over 24 metres LOA using square rigging, plus all other vessels more than 40 metres LOA regardless of rig. This may seem like a lot, but it’s more like boxing. You have heavyweights, big, bigger, and biggest all grouped together. Then they break down all the smaller ones. Class A are the heavyweights.

Then comes Classes B, C, and D. They are mostly broken down by rigging, and instead of diving too deeply into each rigging, what they are called, and what they look like, suffice it to say, they’re all cool-looking ships. The rigging comes in all different sizes, configurations, number of masts (the vertical pole that supports the sail), etc. Rigs can have up to seven masts…Wow!! That’s a lot of material and a lot of rope.

R/V Weatherbird II

Basically, a Tall Ship does not have a minimum height requirement, and some have sails that tower almost 300 feet in the air. Participating in this year’s challenge is a ship that is not powered by sail and is certainly a heavyweight. The R/V Weatherbird II is operated out of Saint Petersburg, Florida and is a Research Vessel (R/V) used by the Florida Institute of Oceanography for Marine Science, Marine Environment and Ecology. It was launched in 1982 and is the flagship of the FIO fleet. One of the goals of the Tall Ship Challenge is to not only delight the fans, but also educate them on history and what we can do to better our future and that of the planet. Learn more about the RV Weatherbird II.

Who is Competing?

There are eight Tall Ships participating in this year’s Tall Ships Challenge. They are as follows and in no particular order:

Tall Ship Elissa

The Tall Ship Elissa, docked right here in Galveston, TX, is cared for by the Galveston Historical Foundation and is sailed by youth and adults. She was launched in 1877 and is the oldest tall ship participating in the annual challenge this year. She has an iron hull and is 99 feet 9 inches tall. Restoration began in 1978 and by 1982 she was a sailing museum. 


Ernestina-Morrissey is based out of New Bedford Massachusetts, has a wood hull, and a rig height of 115 feet. She first launched in 1894 and was used as a survey/supply vessel during WWII. She is certified as a Sailing School Vessel, Passenger Vessel, Near Coastal, and Ocean ship. Contact the Massachusetts Maritime Academy for more information.

When and If

When and If is based in Key West, Florida, was launched in 1939 and intended to be sailed by George Patton and his wife Bea. Today it is used for sail training, taking on apprentices throughout its journey and donating portions of its proceeds to a sailing scholarship program. You can learn more about the When and If here.

Suncoast Horizon

Suncoast Horizon is a schooner based out of Saint Petersburg, Florida, has a steel hull, and is 47 feet tall. She was previously sailed by the famous “Captain Kidd” in Galveston, TX and was used in several travel magazines and commercials. She can hold up to 28 passengers but for comfort they limit their capacity to around 21. Learn more about Suncoast Horizon.

Pride of Baltimore

The Pride of Baltimore is a wood hull ship commissioned in 1988 designed like an 1812-era Baltimore Clipper. Her mission is to educate the public on Maryland’s maritime history, tradition, and commerce opportunities. If you want to be part of her “working guest crew” between ports of call, then you’re in luck. She is operated by the nonprofit organization Pride of Baltimore. Learn more about Pride of Baltimore II.

NAO Trinidad

The NAO Trinidad is another wood hull ship and probably one of the most recognizable by anyone who studied the history of North America or Spain. It launched in 2018 and is a replica of the ship The Nina used to sail to the new world by Christopher Columbus. It was the largest of the three and referred to as “nao” in the diaries of her expeditions. Lean more about the NAO Trinidad.

Jolly II Rover

Launched in 1994 the Jolly II Rover sails from Key West, Florida, originating in Ft Myers, Florida. She is 80 feet tall and takes you back to an era of pirates, rum runners, and privateers. You can bask in the beauty of a Key West sunset during a 2 hour sunset sail and sail past the Mallory Square Sunset Celebration. Discover a view like no other. Learn more about the Jolly II Rover.

Glenn L. Swetman

Dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Glenn L. Swetman is a replica of and pays tribute to the oyster schooners of a bygone era. Built in 1989 she spends her time educating young and old through the Maritime & Seafood Ind. Museum in Biloxi, Mississippi. She is available for day sailing or charter, and is something special for those who have the chance to sail under her. Learn more about the Glenn L. Swetman.

Join Us In Galveston

Ultimately we hope you can join us here in Galveston or at another port of call to experience the beauty and majesty of these Tall Ships. Each has a character of their own, telling a story woven together like the halyard and downhaul. Cast off the docklines, grab the main halyard, hoist the mainsail, and set sail on an adventure under wind powered sails. If you and need a place to stay you can find a hotel through StayGalveston.com. We hope you will join us in Galveston this year for a wonderful time at the Annual Tall Ships Challenge.

Schedule of Events:

Thursday April 13, 2023

12:30PM Parade of Sail – Ships muster at start line off East Beach

1:00PM – Parade of Sail begins with ships traveling west down Seawall Blvd

2:00PM – Ships turn around near 35th and Seawall Blvd

3:00PM – Parade of Sail ands back at East Beach

Friday April 14, 2023

10:00AM-6:00 PM – Tall Ships Festival

7:00PM – Salute to Sunset Party (Tickets Required)

7:30PM – Movie Night on the Pier: Muppet Treasure Island – (Free Admission – No Ships Tours)

Saturday April 15, 2023

10:00AM-6:00PM – Tall Ships Festival

7:00PM – Salute to Sunset Party (Tickets Required)

7:30PM – Movie Night on the Pier: Master & Commander – (Free Admission – No Ships Tours)

Sunday April 16, 2023

10:00AM-6:00PM – Tall Ships Festival

7:00PM – Salute to Sunset Party (Tickets Required)

7:30PM – Movie Night on the Pier: Captains Courageous – (Free Admission – No Ships Tours)

Find Other Great Things To Do In Galveston

When you visit Galveston there is so much to do. We do hope you come for the Tall Ships Challenge and while you’re here explore Galveston and all the island has to offer. Find What To Do, Attractions, Bars & Pubs, Restaurants, Nightlife, Places to Stay, Beautiful Beaches, and much more at StayGalveston.com. We look forward to seeing you here.


Tall Ship Elissa Port Stern Docked
Tall Ship Elissa Port Bow Docked with Evening Lights

*PLEASE NOTE: TALL SHIPS® GALVESTON tickets are non-refundable. The festival is open, rain or shine. GHF is not responsible for independent transactions between visitors and vendors. All ships are viewable from the pier. However, on-board tours are not handicap accessible. If we can assist with arrangements, please contact us at 409-765-7834 in advance of your visit.

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