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Sail a Tall Ship - Yes you can be Tall Ship Crew

Can I really sail a tall ship as crew?  Yes you can. Classic Sailing specialise in tall ship sailing for adults and young people. Whether you satisfy your 'romance of the sea' cravings with a tall ship day sail, escape for some winter sun on a beautiful schooner, or want to cross an ocean, we have the tall ship holiday for you.

It's an active and thrilling challenge and there is something about it that turns ordinary people into super heroes. We have seen a tiny ex ballet dancer in her 70's climb aloft to stow sails. The heady responsibility of steering a mighty square rigger has been seized by many who only 'steer a desk' in their day job. Even if you don't fancy climbing the rigging, most guest crew can't resist a trip out on the bowsprit netting to take a 'selfie' photo of your tall ship in its full glory.

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Inspire me more
Going aloft is not compulsory on a tall ship holiday with Classic Sailing but it is great fun
Going aloft is not compulsory on a tall ship holiday but it is great adrenalin buzz

An Introduction to Tall Ship Crewing

Have you ever imagined sailing on a tall ship as crew? Can you picture yourself steering hundreds of tons of wind powered sailing ship across an ocean with a big ships wheel? Would you get a buzz from climbing aloft and stowing sails standing on a swinging foot rope with your new ship mates?

It’s a myth that only the young or ‘naughty’ youth can sail on square riggers and large traditional sailing vessels. We have are plenty of impressive tall ships of all sizes around the world that offer adventures for adults and young people. You can be the holiday crew on brigs, barques, barquentines, brigantines, luggers large gaffers and schooners. 

If you don't know what these types of tall ships look like, you need our FREE tall ship guide. It has photos to you can learn your brigs from your barques, explanations of watch keeping and tips on how to get the most from your tall ship voyage.


FREE tall Ships Guide (PDF)


Tall ship voyages range from 2 day tasters to week long island hopping or coastal adventures, mini blue water passages or ocean journeys of several legs following the trade winds around the globe. You can go barefoot in the tropics, spot Polar bears in the Arctic, or get up close to Penguins in Antarctica.

Tall Ships Race

International Tall Ships Races

Every summer there is at least one big tall ships race taking place, sometimes several in different parts of the world. Classic Sailing will always have several different size tall ships or smaller traditional sailing ships to race on.

The summer holiday tall ships races have a youth orientated ethos in that they aim to bring thousands of young crews together to promote international friendship and understanding between all the countries of the world. Whatever awful conflicts are going on in the world, these competitive tall ships races seem to always succeed in giving the participants hope for the future and reminding all ages that we have more in common that we think.

These summer races often have berths for over 25 year olds. Classic Sailing specialise in helping adults find the right tall ships adventure for them. There are also often very exciting tall ships regattas and races that occur in term time so crews are predominantly older. In recent years this has included races in Canada, Trans Atlantic Races, Round Cape Horn and Australia and New Zealand. As they take several years to plan, Classic Sailing staff generally know what is in the pipe line.


Where Can I Race Tall Ships?


Out on the bowsprit on Schooner Oosterschelde
Out on the bowsprit on Schooner Oosterschelde. Photo by Arthur Smeets

Day to Day Life on a Tall Ship

What all our tall ships have in common are well practised safety procedures and training programmes. All are classified as Sail Training Ships and vigorously inspected and staffed with enough qualified seafarers to train new guest crews every voyage.  Your role will be described as a trainee sailor, whether you are a beginner or a master mariner on holiday. The professional crews are there to help you get the most out of your adventure, both in terms of the sailing  and the places you visit. Your duties and free time on board vary between ships, but everyone needs to take their contribution as guest crew seriously as these ships are set up to enable a shared sailing experience. It doesn't work if everyone sunbathes and reads a book all day!

Three masted square riggers to smaller classic boats - Check out our vessel pages which describe the sailing style and typical life on board each different ship.


Classic Sailing Fleet - Adult & Youth Berths Worldwide


Relaxing on an ocean passage

Expert advice to help you book

Classic Sailing office staff have sailed over 15 tall ships as crew so we can give your first hand advice –whether you are trying a tall ship sailing holiday for the first time, looking for a challenging square rig experience or a real romantic wanting live out a Patrick O’ Brien novel.

Call Debbie, Becky, or Adam on 01872 580022


Recommended vessels and why
Best for Beginners - A Taste of Tall Ship Sailing

If you are British or Irish, no flights needed for high adventure around the shores of England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland. There are taster tall ship breaks around the UK coast on British square riggers Lord Nelson and Tenacious, and also sometimes on visiting tall ships like Morgenster, Tecla or Oosterschelde.

Three masted barques Lord Nelson or Tenacious are tall ships built to take disabled and able bodied people sailing as crew and have week long voyages and a few short voyages around the UK this summer, including day sails that several generations can join in together from the age of 12 upwards. These British Ships have very comprehensive training programmes to teach you the basics when you first arrive.  Even on a day sail they will go through emergency drills, how to steer to the Captain's orders, how to handle ropes safely and pull as a team, the basics of setting square sails and manouerving the ship.

Best for Day Sails - Try a Smaller Tall Ship

We do have day sails on big tall ships with three masts and lots of yards to brace and square sails to set. If you want something a bit more small scale then we think you would also enjoy being crew for the day on a traditional vessel that can only take about 10-12 guest crew. Our medium sized sailing ships with two or three masts like Grayhound, Leader, Provident, Maybe and Pilgrim also have a lot of short voyages or day sails. They might not have square sails but they do have lofty masts, plenty of sails and offer block and tackle sailing. They tack and gybe faster and are more responsive to sail. 

Day Sails Inspiration Page


Three masted lugger Grayhound offers day sails
Photo by Becky Treneer. Three masted luggers like Grayhound have topsails and t'gallants
Best Tall Ships to learn Advanced Square Rig Skills

If you are an experienced sailor or a ambitious newcomer wanting to go further afield and learn as much about the oceans and seamanship as possible, then we recommend you look at longer, offshore or ocean voyages where there is more time to learn everything from astro navigation to advanced square rig sail trim or oceanography.  We would say Bark Europa or Morgenster fit that ambition the best as they are great floating classrooms for those who want to learn more.

Advanced Trills and Spills

Best Tall Ships for Winter Sun

If you want to enjoy your tall ship holiday in shorts with the feel of trade wind spray on your skin and white canvas against blue skies, then pick your vessel carefully to suit the style of sailing you are looking for.  Three masted schooner Oosterschelde would be our top choice for stylish accommodation and impressive sailing.  She regularly goes to Cape Verde and the Caribbean and has a relaxed style of sailing voyage where you are encouraged to help with the sailing, but without any domestic chores for guest crew.

Morgenster, Blue Clipper, Lord Nelson and Tenacious often have winter sun voyages too.

Winter Sun on Tall Ships

Best Tall Ships for Ocean Passages

Several of the tall ships we offer are ocean wanderers by nature. Their crews are happiest when there is nothing yet on the horizon and they can get into the rhythm of watches day and night. Your self sufficient community on board maintains the ship and everyone learns from each other, enjoys proper conversations and shares a wonder with nature. Classic Sailing recommends Picton Castle Europa, Oosterschelde, Tecla, Blue Clipper and Morgenster as the tall ships that best exemplify a love of the open ocean, trade wind routes and remote anchorages.

Ocean Passages - 8 Days to Several Months

Best for Tall Ship Expeditions For Wildlife

If you want to follow in the wake of 19th century polar explorers like Captain Scott, Shackleton, or Mawson then magnificent barque Europa sails between the Northern and Southern hemisphere each year and specialises in Antarctic sailing and wildlife expeditions. If you have been enthralled by the BBC Frozen Planet then you can share this very special place with a small crew of about 40 sailors. The Southern Ocean, Antarctic Peninsula and South Georgia are teeming with bold wildlife that comes very close to you on a relatively small 56m sailing ship. We have watched humpback whales dive under the ship, killer whales cruising past the bowsprit and penguins almost leaping aboard our ships boats. 

Read our article on how to spot wildlife at sea. 

 Learn 'Block and Tackle' seamanship on our vessels- tall & small

If you have sailed a square rigger and want to find a smaller vessel with blocks and tackles – we can introduce you to our pilot cutters, Brixham sailing trawlers and other traditionally rigged craft where a tall ship sailor will feel at home, but can progress boat handling skills on a more intimate scale. Classic Sailing offer RYA courses on classic boats so you can gain qualifications  from RYA Competent Crew up to RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Exam Prep.  We also sell RYA on line theory courses so you can swot up before a long tall ship voyage.

In the Northern Hemisphere, Blue Clipper, Tecla and Antigua have crews with Arctic and ocean experience and offer wildlife expeditions in places like Greenland or Svalbard with specialist guides. Opal, Donna Wood and Hildur have crews with cetacean expertise.

Adam and Debbie at Classic Sailing office have sailed in Arctic, Antarctica and South Georgia so ring us for a chat 01872 580022

There are so many different types of tall ship voyages you can try. Browse some more of our inspiration ideas or dip into our destination pages. Get to know the different tall ships we offer on our vessel pages. Once you start to get a feel for what you want, then use our voyage search box to narrow down possible voyages...or just give us a ring and we can help you.

You can dip your toe in the water and try a tall ship day sail. These make great family days out or gifts to coax a friend back into sailing. 

If you want to sail at night under the stars, experience a sailors life properly, and gain confidence clambering around in the rigging, then you should sign up for a longer voyage. We have a selection of short tasters, often from UK ports.

For more exotic sailing grounds there is a big difference between say an island hopping voyage in the Canaries or Cape Verde where islands are only a few hours apart, and a Polynesian adventure where it can take days or weeks to travel between island groups. The voyage descriptions for individual voyages should explain typical 'itineraries' and the mix of journey making and shore time.

Perhaps your tall ship choice will be more about a dream destination. We have tall ship voyages in Greenland, the Galapagos, Antarctica and almost every corner of the globe. Our ocean passage routes might enable you to visit a remote island like Tristan Da Cuhna or sail around Cape Horn.

If you are up for a sailing challenge then these ships are pushed hard in tall ships races. During an Ocean crossing you are in Neptune's realm and its more about being part of a tight knit community harnessing the natural elements and experiencing the vastness of the blue planet.

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Why book with Classic Sailing?

The call of the sea

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Over 300 voyages a year

11, 051 customers introduced to

traditional boats and tall ships.

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Office Team of Skippers

6 Times Around the World between Us

Selling Holidays for 22 Years

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