Designated the “Official Tall Ships and Maritime Ambassadors of the City of Los Angeles” at their launch in 2002, these 110-foot wooden vessels are charged with giving tens of thousands of young people the opportunity to experience self-discovery, life changing adventure and education found only on a tall ship at sea.
Built to last 100 years, the state-of-the-art brigantine design is based on TopSail founder Jim Gladson’s decades of experience with adolescent education and youth sail training programs, years of valuable experience gained from the Institute’s first vessel, Swift of Ipswich, and discussions with sail training experts throughout the world.
Purpose-built by the Institute to meet or exceed all U.S. Coast Guard requirements, the brigantines are named in honor of the late Captain Irving and Electa “Exy” Johnson, character-building sail training pioneers and seven-time circumnavigators with youth crew aboard their sailing vessel YANKEE.
Swift of Ipswich
The TopSail Youth Program’s original vessel, Swift of Ipswich, is a representation of a Revolutionary War privateer. She is a 70-foot wooden topsail schooner designed by Howard Chappelle and built in 1938 by William Robinson.
The Swift of Ipswich was once the personal yacht of actor James Cagney and had been a well-known floating landmark in California for over 60 years. Many who know her say her finest hours have been those spent serving youth.
About two thirds the size of one of our brigantines, “Swift” is especially well-suited for working with younger youth.
Our beloved Swift will be a sight to behold when she returns to San Pedro and will be charged with serving upper elementary and middle school students in Wilmington. You can follow the excellent photo record of her reconstruction being created by Jerry Soto.
The American Pride was built in 1941 at Muller Boat Works Inc. located in Brooklyn, New York as a two-masted eastern rigged trawler and christened as the “Virginia,” built out of the best white oak available. She later became the Araho out of Rockland, Maine as part of the O’hara fishing fleet and then the St. Catherine, out of New Bedford, Massachusetts and Lady in Blue(1968-1986) out of Gloucester, Massachusetts captained by Sam and Paul Frontiero, father and son. She spent her fishing career, of over forty years, fishing the waters of the Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank and the Grand Banks in search of cod, haddock, flounder and ocean perch.
In 1986 purchased by Captain Steve Pagels to convert the trawler to a three masted schooner at the Wallace Yard in Thomaston, Maine. The vessel was fitted with 17 passenger cabins each with two bunks with a dining room and lounge in the main cabin, three heads and Forecastle accommodations for a crew of five. All of the refitting was achieved under the guidance of master boat builder David Short. In 1987 she was re-christened the Natalie Todd and sailed to her new homeport of Bar Harbor to sail as part of the Maine Windjammer Fleet. As a reminder of how she looked when she was a working vessel Captain Pagels kept the Pilot house which contained the quarters for the captain and mate, he placed it in his back yard at his residence in Addison, Maine.
In October of 1996 she was purchased by the American Heritage Marine Institute, LLC (AHMI), and began her historic 7,500 mile sail through the Panama Canal to her new home in Long Beach, California where she is operated by the Children’s Maritime Foundation (501(C)(3))
Sparred Length (sprit and stern davit): 129’
Length Over All(LOA) (stem to transom): 105’
Length on Deck(LOD): 101’
Length at Water Line(LWL): 92’
Rig height: 98’
Freeboard Height: 6’
Gross Register Tonnage(GRT): 203
Sail Area: 4,900 Sq ft
Hull: White Oak
Power: 671 Detroit Diesel 250hp (rebuilt and installed 2006)
You can make a tax-deductible donation to the Swift’s restoration HERE.