View/Download the Program Brochure

Kids at the helmFor more than 30 years, we have been changing the lives of youth in Los Angeles County and beyond 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, Captain Jim Gladson – the Los Angeles Maritime Institute’s founder, who was a retired science teacher and sailor – designed an innovative program that incorporates every aspect of operating a large sailing vessel to engage youth in a real-world classroom aboard a tall ship. 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 that many young students never forget, and it instills a love of learning.

Kids raising sails

An education and adventure experience design for upper elementary, middle and high school students, the TopSail Youth Program can consist of day sails, multi-day voyages, or both – perfect for school field trips, youth groups, youth-serving organizations and more! The students practice valuable skills on board, including team building, critical thinking, decision-making, planning, self-reliance and leadership.

From the beginning, our goal has been to help youth develop the problem-solving skills and attitudes that are difficult to teach in the classroom, yet are necessary to stay in school and become healthy, productive adults. This experience focused on sail training allows them to better understand who they are and their responsibilities as involved and informed members of society. As 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, the experience helps them develop leadership and team-building skills, which include personal values such as respect, patience, self-discipline, integrity, and tenacity.

Joy on the bowsprit

The youth also explore and gain an understanding of the marine environment through hands-on experiences during their time aboard our vessels. 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 about TopSail STEM.

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.

Contact us for availability and other booking details!

If you have questions, want to check on scheduling/availability, 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 contact Alice for questions regarding contracts and payment.

Tall Ships American Pride, Irving Johnson and Exy Johnson

Our Tall Ships

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.

Our 110-foot, traditionally rigged twin brigantines, Irving Johnson and Exy Johnson, were built by crew and volunteers in the San Pedro Harbor specifically for our organization. Launched in 2002, 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.