Day Trips: The Elissa, Galveston

Tall ship returns as sailing school and museum

Photo by Gerald E. McLeod

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.

Photo by Gerald E. McLeod

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.

Photo by Gerald E. McLeod

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,, for a chance to be one of the lucky few who have sailed on the Official Tall Ship of Texas.

1,446th in a series. Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog:

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Day Trips
Day Trips: Knolle Dairy Farms, Sandia
Day Trips: Knolle Dairy Farms, Sandia
South Texas farm offers fresh Mexican cheese and the chance to pet a Jersey cow

Gerald E. McLeod, May 26, 2023

Day Trips: Singing Ringing Tree, Abilene
Day Trips: Singing Ringing Tree, Abilene
Soundless sculpture still impresses

Gerald E. McLeod, May 19, 2023


Elissa, Galveston, Texas Seaport Museum, Galveston Historical Foundation

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle