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Santa Maria Manuela

Four masted schooner Santa Maria Manuela offers adventure charter, island hopping, ocean voyages, diving and oceanographic expeditions for individuals of all ages and groups. At 223ft long (63 metres) she is the largest tall ship Classic Sailing offers activity holidays on, but the crew to guest ratio is excellent so you will be well looked after. This historic Portuguese tall ship has excellent facilities on board and plenty of holiday toys like dive ribs,  'stand up paddle boards' and kayaks, but this is also a ship where you can take part in the hands on sailing, join a night watch or climb the rigging.

Santa Maria Manuela was once the flagship of the Portuguese cod fishing fleet. Built in 1937, in the same year as her sister ship Creoula, she was designed to fish the Newfoundland Banks and rich fishing waters of Arctic Greenland. She often carries the small rowing and sailing dories that would have set out from the mother ship to fish for cod, so you can continue her fishing tradition from small boats or from her huge wooden decks.

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  • Length overall: 63m
  • Length on deck: 56m


  • Year built: 1937
  • Vessel rig: 4 masted schooner 


  • Guest berths: 50
  • Crew berths: 24


The Experts View: What Santa Maria Manuela Does Best

Santa Maria Manuela under full sail

Blue Water Sailing, Diving & Watersports 

Santa Maria Manuela's new owners have given a lot of though into how to offer unique activity holidays on a tall ship over 200 metres long.  With the deck spaces to store water sports 'toys' and dive equipment on some specialist dive trips, the keen professional crew offer much more than the sail training experience. Adventure charter voyages are open for all age groups. The Portuguese are very hospitable people and want you to have a great time on their flagship

She has been restored to create a comfortable 'mother ship' with well organised hospitality team, but without compromising her ability to offer the real hands on tall ship experience. Even complete novices can be taught to become crew on one of the biggest schooners in the world. The huge gaff sails are traditionally rigged and it will take teamwork to set all sail on her 4 masts and  look magnificent. On passage, guest crew will be in working watches, participating in the sailing, steering the ship and lookout duties.

Santa Maria Manuela has a home port of Lisbon and uses her local waters to advantage. She offers mini ocean passages from Portugal out to the Madeira and the Azores island groups. Once amongst the islands, the ship has large ships RIB (rigid inflatable) to take you ashore to explore. Whether you chose Island hopping or specialist scuba diving voyages there is plenty to do. The ship has kayaks and stand up paddle boards (SUP) and several of the professional deck crew have dual roles as water-sports instructors or guides.

She also sails to Cape Verde (Cabo Verde) for both island hopping and dive holidays, so the fresh trade winds here help her power up under sail and you can watch her mighty bow carve through the blue seas. 

Diving Voyages


Diving Voyage in Cape Verde on Santa Maria Manuela

Golden Era of Deep Sea Schooners

Setting sails on this four masted legendary tall ship reminds us of the size of the ocean going fishing fleets of the early 19th Century. Santa Maria Manuela took part in the international tall ships races in 2018. Her identical sized sister ship Creola is owned by the Portuguese Navy and with bigger topsails than Manuela can still reach 17 knots. In their heyday in the 1930's the fish catch, caught by rod and line in small wooden dories, could be as much as 36 ton of cod in a single day, so every ship would have been very keen to get home  across the North Atlantic first.

The scale of the ship is more akin to the big Russian tall ships than other schooners or barques in Classic Sailing fleet. You can hold a substantial party on her decks, indulge in a bit of deck football or try a thrilling kind of relaxing in the bowsprit netting, way above the sea. If that is not enough vertigo for you then the view from the top of the mast is an adrenalin inducing 113ft above the sea.

stowing sails - only three more masts to go!
stowing sails - only three more masts to go!

The meals cooked on board are a mix of traditional Portuguese and international tastes, but fish and seafood feature strongly.

The giant bows were strengthened for ice conditions in Greenland fishing grounds. Santa Maria Manuela has offered fishing and sailing voyages in the Arctic Circle. She may repeat these voyages in future. Guests took sailing dories out in the waters of Lofoten to re live past times. They have oars and a lug sail, but watch out for Moby Dick.

Trying out the ships dory in the Lofoten Isles in 2018
Trying out the ships dory in the Lofoten Isles in 2018

National Geographic Expedition Base

For Portugal, the sea is our history and it has to be our future" National Geographic

Santa Maria Manuela aims to be involved with at least one oceanographic or marine conservation expedition a year as part of the ships ethos. In June 2018 she was the floating base for the Oceano Azul Foundation expedition with National Geographic Pristine Seas, Waitt Foundation and partners.  

This involved diving and new research around the Azores to conserve sea life. The ships crew benefits from being involved in this contemporary research each year, and takes full advantage of the knowledge the professional divers and researchers bring on board, when they are running adventure charter voyages. For example on their diving expeditions in the Azores and Cape Verde your dive master is one of the divers from the National Geographic Expedition this summer.

Santa Maria Manuela - guest crew getting involved
Meals on deck on a 200 ft schooner

The professional crew are mostly from Portugal, so the main working language is Portuguese, but English is the second language. The ship has crew manuals translated into English, and any verbal briefing or sailing instruction can be translated into English by the deck crew or officers as English is the international language for seafarers worldwide.

Santa Maria Manuela - Layout & Accommodation

The cabins are described in detail in this section, but in summary the ship has a mix of cabins for 2, 4 or 6 people

All the shared cabins have:

  • toilet and shower ensuite
  • porthole with a view to the sea
  • air conditioning. 


Main deck on Santa Maria Manuela has room to store dories, RIBS etc
Main deck on Santa Maria Manuela has room to store dories, RIBS etc

Main Deck and Watersports 'Toys'

 You won't get lost on the main deck, but it is almost large enough for a game of football. There is plenty of room to store dories that can be sailed or rowed, water sports equipment and 2 large RIBS (Rigid Inflatable Vessels with outboards) that can take up to 14 people each  ashore or on a dive.

The ship also has sit on kayaks and stand up paddle boards for guests to use when the ship is anchored somewhere suitable.  Most of the deck crew have a secondary recreational role in addition to sailing knowledge, so you can go to an expert on a kayak or ask a technical question about diving 

The bridge and navigation room is on the main deck. The main companionway is in the centre of the deck, but there are at least 3 other access points to lower decks.The galley is also at deck level, which is very handy when meals are served on deck.

You can see from the layout below that you could hold quite a large party on the main deck, so if you want to hire the whole ship, she does have dates around her sailing programme where she can be in port and provide a very stylish venue. Contact Classic Sailing for details on 0044 1872 580022

Santa Maria Manuela main deck - outside
Santa Maria Manuela main deck - outside

Layout Below Decks

Santa Maria Manuela is one of the larger tall ships based in Europe. She has two decks levels. There is a bar on board for when you are off watch. The ship has WiFi and there is a screen for watching movies in one of the communal areas.

Deck 1

This is the first deck you come to as you go below. Here are located the recreational areas and some of the cabin accommodation. 

The Captain and deck officer accommodation is towards the stern.

The guest crew (trainees) have cabins in the middle of the ship. This is a designated quiet area and doors are off a central corridor, with access to the outside main deck. All cabins have a port hole so you can see the sea.

There is a multi purpose room with chairs and tables for guest crew to relax in, meals, use for lectures etc.

There is a scullery for the galley forward of the recreational room and has another companionway to access outer main deck.

stewards and ratings have accommodation near the bow

Deck 1 - below decks on Santa Maria Manuela
Deck 1 - below decks on Santa Maria Manuela
Santa Maria Manuela - multi purpose communal space on deck 1
Santa Maria Manuela - multi purpose communal space on deck 1

Deck 2

There are two sets of steps down to deck two, where there are further trainee cabins en suite in the middle of the ship. This is a designated quiet area and doors are off a central corridor. All cabins have a port hole so you can see the sea.

The ship has watertight bulkheads separating the accommodation from other areas of this deck, like Engine room, laundry, food stores.



Cabins on Santa Maria Manuela have en suite WC and shower
Cabins on Santa Maria Manuela have en suite WC and shower


More about the Cabins

The ship has a mix of cabins for 2, 4 or 6 people sharing. All the cabin accommodation in in the central part of the ship, which is the most stable part of any ship.

All the shared cabins have:

  • toilet and shower ensuite
  • porthole with a view to the sea
  • air conditioning. 

Quilts and bed linen is provided, as well as towels for use on the ship (you need your own towel for the beach). The beds are bunks in all cabins with a ladder to reach the upper bunks. All beds have privacy curtains. If you are a solo traveller (the majority of our trainee crews come as individuals) then you will be allocated a cabin with other guest(s) of the same sex.

Unless the ship is taking part in a tall ships race it is unlikely that the ship will have it's maximum of 50 guest crew, so there should be reasonable flexibility if, when you find yourself on board, you want to move to a different size cabin or location.

There are 240v 2 pin European sockets in each cabin.


Santa Maria Manuela - Ship Specification

Length Overall: 225ft (68.64m)

Length on deck: 173ft (52.68m)

Beam -  33ft (10m)

draft - 18ft (5.5m)

Year built: 1937

Restored: 2010

Vessel type/rig: 4 masted gaff schooner

Trainee crew berths (guest crew): 50

Max Professional crew: 22

Sail area 1266.4 sq m (12 sails)

Displacement ton - 992 tonne



Satellite Communication System: 

Fleet One

Fleet 33


The ship has a satellite email address which can be provided 

The bridge and navigation room
The bridge and navigation room


Ships Boats

The ships fishing dories are replicas of the originals - trying them near Tromso
The ships fishing dories are replicas of the originals - trying them near Tromso


The ship is run by 18 crew and supported by up to 46 trainee crew – that’s you!

The Captain and his 4 officers oversee the safe and efficient running of the ship and the sailing and learning experience aboard, while his Hospitality Manager ensures that the ships trainees and guests are cared for. The ships two engineers keep the engines running below decks, while on deck the ships boatswain and his team of four able seamen make a point of working with the trainee to get the sails up at every opportunity.

As you would expect from a ship owned by one of Portugal's largest food companies, catering is important and meal time is a chance for trainees and ships professional crew to get together. The chief steward, chief cook and the galley team are used to providing Portuguese home cooking for charter guest crews, hungry oceanographic research teams and corporate events and special functions.

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