Day Trips: The Elissa, Galveston
Tall ship returns as sailing school and museum
The Elissa was no stranger to Galveston when she was towed to the Texas harbor to become a museum piece in 1979.
Forty years later, the 141-year-old iron-hull tall ship is a sailing school and monument to the days of wind-powered commerce at the Texas Seaport Museum.
Launched in 1877 in Aberdeen, Scotland, Elissa is one of the oldest hulls still sailing. Records show she left Galveston in 1883 and 1886 hauling Texas cotton. An engine added to the three-mast sailing ship in 1918 extended her career. By 1969, she moldered away in the salvage yard until being rescued by the Galveston Historical Foundation in 1975.
Volunteers have put thousands of hours into replacing the teak wood decks and polishing brass fixtures. When she sails, volunteers and students make up the crew, with the exception of the officers. She made her first voyage out of her new home port in 1985. After major repairs in 2010, she's back on the high seas.
When moored at the Texas Seaport Museum, the Elissa is open for self-guided tours, offering a unique view into the history of sailing ships. Seamanship classes for children and adults begin in July and include a chance to help sail the 205-foot ship.
The Elissa and the Texas Seaport Museum are at Pier 21 on Galveston's harbor front at Harborside Drive. The museum chronicles the city's maritime history and offers boat tours of the harbor. For two weeks a year, usually in April, Elissa takes guests on day sails to renew her certification. Watch the museum website, www.galvestonhistory.org, for a chance to be one of the lucky few who have sailed on the Official Tall Ship of Texas.
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