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What is sail training

Tall ship sailing is like no other summer camp or group experience. You and your new shipboard friends, who we call trainees, become part of the crew from the first day. Trainees will learn to navigate the ship, have turns at the helm (steering), climb aloft to ready the sails, swim from ship and help in every way to sail the vessel.


Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain


From hauling anchor to furling sail, cleaning up the galley or even working together to determine course of direction, teamwork skills are practiced in all aspects of life aboard.  One cannot move this vessel on their own. Working as a team also means everyone is looking out for each other, important to ensure not just safety, but also an inclusive environment for all.


Sometimes just leaving the house is hard. Stepping aboard a ship with a bunch of strangers, most of whom also know nothing about sailing, is the first step. You will live in tight quarters and become fast friends.  You may find yourself harnessed in, 30ft above deck furling sail or helming (steering) a 60+ tonne vessel under the direction of the Captain.  Swim call at anchor means a leap from the ship into refreshing waters and learning new terms and manoeuvres gives you something to brag about when you return home.


The entire ship’s company (crew and trainees) are divided into watches; smaller groups that work, eat, sleep and play together.  The Leader of each watch can often be a peer who has been sailing for several years.  While their job is similar to that of a camp counsellor, it is different because they are leading and mentoring their peers, and have the added marine duty responsibilities. Everyone has the opportunity to become leaders during their voyage through various activities aboard. And if you discover you LOVE life aboard, there is always the opportunity for you to grow into a crew position!

Sail BRF 2
Self and Other Awareness

Tall ShipsCAN is committed to ensuring that all Canadian youth, regardless of age, cultural background, gender identity, ethnicity, ability, income status, sexual orientation, or faith, have the opportunity to experience the joys of tall ship sailing.  Tall ships are a place for personal development and adventure. We continually strive to present a safe space for youth of all backgrounds and identities onboard our member vessels.  As a trainee, you become aware of your abilities and those of others around you. The nature of sail training ensures you work together to support one another.

Appreciation of History

Unless you count when the engine is used, the stove, or the radios, there is not much that happens with the push of a button on a sail training vessel.  Crew and trainees hoist and douse sail by hand, haul the anchor as a team, swab the decks the old fashioned way, learn to use a sextant and navigate a direction using charts (waterway paper maps). 

Tall ShipsCAN and member offices are situated on traditional Indigenous lands, and countless Canadian youth sail on vessels operating on waterways that were traditional trade routes. The waterways and land have a long history predating the establishment of European settlements.  We thank Indigneous people and communities for their care and stewardship and are committed to sharing this stewardship moving forward. Tall ShipsCAN and partners are actively working to have programming that recognizes this history, is reconciliatory in nature and builds lasting relationships with Indigenous peoples and communities.

Environmental awareness

Tall ShipsCAN has a pre-boarding kit that introduces trainees to water, waste and electrical conservation while aboard.  Marine wildlife is respected and crew follow recommendations for environmental protection of shorelines and marine wildlife.