View/Download the Program Brochure

For more than 30 years, we have been changing the lives of youth in Los Angeles County through our award-winning TopSail Youth Program, a highly-interactive educational program at-sea aboard the twin brigantines, Irving Johnson and Exy Johnson, out of the Port of Los Angeles, and our three-masted schooner, American Pride, out of Long Beach. Recognizing the extraordinary value of hands-on learning, the Los Angeles Maritime Institute’s founder and retired science teacher Jim Gladson designed an innovative program that incorporates every aspect of operating a large sailing vessel to engage youth in a real-world classroom at sea. In addition to bringing subjects like science and math to life, the shipboard environment challenges youth to work together, improves communication skills, stimulates critical thinking, builds confidence, and provides a safe environment to address feelings of inadequacy. The experience of learning at sea is an educational adventure many young students never forget and instills a love for lifelong learning.

Kids at the helmThe TopSail Youth Program is an education and adventure experience aboard a tall ship consisting of day sails, multi-day voyages, or both – perfect for field trips, youth groups, local organizations serving youth, and more. Participating youth gain skills including team-building, problem-solving, decision-making, planning, self-reliance and leadership. The program is offered out of San Pedro aboard our twin brigantines, Irving Johnson and Exy Johnson, traditionally rigged 110-foot vessels and the Official Tall Ships of the City of Los Angeles. The program is also available aboard our three-masted schooner, American Pride – the Official Tall Ship of the City of Long Beach – under the auspices of the Children’s Maritime Institute, our Long Beach-based division.

We are proud to expose underserved youth to a world beyond their communities through the TopSail Youth Program, where they are provided with real-world challenges not available in the traditional classroom. Founded in 1992, we have served over 130,000 young people with transformational experiences at sea and changed the course for thousands of youth who were on a path leading to dropping out, joining gangs, drugs and/or crime. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, we provide sponsored or subsidized sails to underserved youth through individual, corporate and foundation support.

Pulling lines

From the beginning, our goal has been to help youth develop the problem-solving skills and attitudes that might be difficult to teach in the classroom, yet are necessary to stay in school and become healthy, productive adults. This experience will allow them to better understand who they are and their responsibilities as involved and informed members of society. Participating youth also explore and gain an understanding of the marine environment through hands-on experiences during their time aboard our vessels. They raise and trim sails, stand lookout in the bow of a rolling ship, take the helm and steer the course they’ve set, and climb the rigging to furl sails. This helps them develop leadership and team-building skills, which include personal values such as respect, patience, self-discipline, integrity, and tenacity. Our program has a rich history of fostering environmental awareness and ocean literacy, while inspiring young people to pursue maritime and STEM careers or vocations.

Our TopSail STEM Program builds on our signature TopSail Youth Program and leverages the STEM framework inherent to our program. Click here to learn more. We also collaborate with the teachers and youth group leaders on the program’s curriculum and experiential activities, because they customizable to meet the educational priorities of the school or group. In addition, they can choose to include activities that expose students to physics, marine biology, watershed ecology, plastics in the ocean, and food supply – all designed to reinforce classroom learning in full support of the Next Generation Science Standards. See more details in our Program Brochure.

If you have questions or would like more information about booking your class or group, please contact Alice Taylor, Director of Sales and Marketing, at 310-833-6055 or You can also reach out to Alice for questions regarding program scheduling, contracts and payment.

Irving Johnson and Exy Johnson


About Irving Johnson and Exy Johnson: These 110-foot, traditionally-rigged tall ships were built by crew and volunteers in the San Pedro Harbor specifically for our organization. The ships were named after experiential learning pioneers who sailed around the world seven times with young crews in the 1930s and 1950s, with a short hiatus as a result of World War II.