Niagara Day Sail Frequently Asked Questions

Posted: December 1, 2017 2:25 pm


Please take the time to read the following FAQs about day sails before contacting us with questions. We’ve tried to address as many of your concerns as possible. If, after reading the FAQs, you have additional questions, please contact us at 814.452.2744 ext. 212 or at


About Niagara and what to expect on a day sail:

Why should I sail on Niagara?

The U.S. Brig Niagara is an historically accurate replica of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s victorious relief flagship during the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812.  Sailing onboard Niagara is an unusual opportunity to experience sailing a wooden square-rigged sailing ship.  The way she sails is unique in an age of steel and schooners.  A day sail onboard the Niagara is an introductory overview of tall ship sailing for the completely uninitiated.

Are there any restrictions on who can sail on Niagara?

You must be at least 12 years old to sail on Niagara.  Children between the ages of 12 and 16 must be accompanied by an adult and if in a group, there must be 1 adult for every 5 children.

While there is a minimum age to sail, there is no maximum age to sail!  However, day sail students should be ambulatory, of average good health, and comfortable with outdoor exposure for at least 4 hours.  There is no protection from the elements on the weather deck and we sail rain or shine. As a Sailing School Vessel, Niagara is not handicap accessible nor ADA compliant.  Niagara has some steep ladders to board, a low clearance below deck, many tripping hazards on deck, very few places to sit down (and only on hardwood at that), and is subject to abrupt motion.  Students will frequently be asked to move about the deck to stay out of the way of crew performing sailing maneuvers.

Please contact us at 814.452.2744 ext. 212 or at if you are at all concerned about these issues and we can discuss if sailing on Niagara would be a safe and enjoyable experience for you.  While we’d rather not deny anyone the opportunity to sail on Niagara, safety is our most important concern.

What is a Sailing School Vessel?

A Sailing School Vessel is a type of U.S. Coast Guard designation.  This means that all of Niagara’s operations are intended to provide an educational program in maritime history and the operation of a square-rigged ship, which answers the question below.

Why do you keep referring to me as a student when I haven’t been in school for several years!?

Sailing School Vessels may charge persons for participation in education programs, but are prohibited from carrying passengers for hire.  Therefore, all persons onboard the Niagara, both legally and practically, are considered students engaged in an educational sail.  What this means in practice is that a day sail on Niagara is an interactive experience and also includes short lectures explaining sail setting, sail maneuvering, and the firing of one of Niagara’s replica (but operational) carronades (cannons).

Will I be put to work during the sail?

While voluntary, there are many opportunities for hands-on participation.  There are certain times during the sail that we will ask specifically for help from day sail students, such as hauling up our small boat and setting the topsails, Niagara’s largest and main-driving sails.  If you would like to have a very active sail, there are plenty of opportunities to haul (pull) on lines (ropes).  You could even possibly steer the ship.  Do not be shy about asking the crew if they could use some help hauling on a line!  The crew will explain what to do.  Additionally, the crew can discuss the process of sail setting and maneuvering so you can learn how the lines are working the sails aloft.  Participation in safety drills is mandatory.

Can I climb aloft during a day sail?

No.  Sorry – we cannot allow day sail students to climb aloft – that takes special training that time doesn’t allow us on a day sail.  However, if you’re interested in more extensive sail training, please remember to ask any of the crew about our live-aboard trainee programs or ship maintenance volunteer opportunities.

What about if I’d rather just sit back, relax, and enjoy the sail?

That’s okay too!  There is plenty of time during a sail to just enjoy being out on the water, listen to the wind in the sails, and see the coast of Pennsylvania from a different perspective.  Please note that, in accordance with Niagara being an historically accurate replica of an 1813 Naval vessel, there are very few places to sit down, and only on hardwood.  Additionally, students will frequently be told to shift location about the ship to stay out of the way of crew performing sailing maneuvers.

What happens on a typical day sail?

Once we have checked everyone in for the sail, we will gather everyone on the bleachers near Niagara and the Captain or Chief Mate will give a short introduction about Niagara and what to expect during the sail.  We will then board everyone and the Captain or Chief Mate will continue speaking by giving a short safety briefing.  Once we are ready to get off the dock, we will ask all daysail students to move to the side of the ship furthest from the dock so the crew has room to maneuver the ship off the dock.  We will use our engines as we are departing from the dock, heading into the bay, and retrieving our small boat.  Depending on the weather we will head into the bay or through the channel to the open lake and prepare to set sail.  Once the sails are set, we will sail following a course, do some work by turning the ship, and will also fire a carronade.  We will also give day sail students a tour of the below deck.  On our way back to the dock, we will take in and furl sail.  As we approach the dock, we will again ask day sail students to move to one side of the ship to give the crew room to get the ship on the dock.  Once we are safely tied to the dock, the Captain or Chief Mate will thank day sail students for sailing and let you know of other ways you can be involved with the Niagara.

This is the general order of events for a day sail, however, please know that, in all circumstances, sailing plans are subject to change.

Do you serve food or beverages onboard?

No.  However, you are welcome to bring any snacks and non-alcoholic beverages you wish in non-glass/closed containers.  Please note that we don’t have enough refrigeration space to accommodate your food and beverages.  We do have potable water available onboard and you can use that to refill a water bottle, if desired.

The basics/logistics (time, location, what to bring and not bring etc.):

When are the sails?

All day sails on Niagara departing from the Erie Maritime Museum are from 1pm-5pm.

What time should I arrive for my sail?

Please arrive at the Museum no later than noon.  We ask you to arrive this early so that we may check everyone in for the sail and run through some safety information before departing the dock promptly at 1pm.

Where is the Museum?

The Erie Maritime Museum is located at 150 East Front Street, Erie, PA 16507.  The Museum shares a location with the Blasco Memorial Library.  Niagara is docked behind the Museum.  For a map and directions please click here.

Where can I park?

There is a gravel parking lot on the west side of the Museum, which is free to park in.  The parking lot is indicated on this map and directions.

Once I get to the Museum where should I go?

To check in for your sail, please head to the North end of the building, near the water and the ship.  There will be a white gate on your right where we will check people in for the sail.  If you arrive through the Museum’s front entrance (through the gift shop), one of the Museum’s friendly guides can direct you to where you need to go to check in for the sail.

Will I have any time to visit the Museum?

If you are here for a day sail you are welcome to visit the Museum at no extra charge.  Just let the person at the gift shop know you are here for the day sail that day and show them your confirmation page.  The Museum’s hours during the sailing season are as follows:

April-September:  Mon-Sat 9am-5pm; Sun 12pm-5pm.

October:  Mon-Sat 9am-5pm; Sun Closed.

Since sails run from 1pm-5pm, it makes the most sense to visit the Museum in the morning from about 9 to 11, get something to eat, and be back in time to check in at noon.

We realize that Museum hours conflict with day sails on Sundays, therefore, you may bring your confirmation page into the Museum at another time to be able to see the Museum as well!

What other things are there to do near the Museum? Are there any places to eat?

There is a small snack bar in the lobby of the Museum run by a very nice woman.  She sells basic but delicious sandwiches, hot dogs, chili, cookies, snacks, water, and soft drinks and takes cash only.  Her hours are:  Mon-Thurs 9am-4:30pm; Fri 9am-3pm; Sat-Sun Closed; closed on Holidays.

There are some sit down restaurants at Dobbins Landing, which is just to the west of the Museum.  Rum Runners Cove Restaurant and Bar is attached to the Sheraton’s parking garage and Smugglers Wharf is across the street from it.  Both the Marriot and the Sheraton have their own restaurants and the Marriot has a small Starbucks in it.  The main drag of downtown is State Street, which is about a 20 minute walk from the Museum or a 5-10 minute drive.  There you can find independent, sit-down restaurants, as well as national chains such as Subway, McDonald’s, and Starbucks.  The large tower you see near the Sheraton is the Bicentennial Tower at Dobbins Landing, which gives great views of Presque Isle from the top (there are stairs or an elevator).  There are also lots of places to explore outside of downtown, including great vineyards just a short drive away in North East, PA and across the New York border; public beaches and outdoor activities at Presque Isle State Park; and Erie is about a 1 ½-2 hour drive from Cleveland, Buffalo, and Niagara Falls, and about a 2 ½ hour drive from Pittsburgh.  These are just a few examples of things to do in downtown Erie and surrounding areas.  You can visit these links for more resources:  The 10 Best Places near 150 E Front St, Erie, PA 16507

Visit Erie:

Places to Eat & Drink:

Visit PA:

Visit PA:

Should I bring anything and what should I wear? Is there anything I shouldn’t bring?

Please see the list below with “Do”s and “Do not”s bolded: 

  • Do bring a copy of your confirmation page, which was emailed to you.
  • Do dress according to the weather report in expectation of spending at least 4 hours outdoors in the elements, as if you were going on a hike for the afternoon.
  • Do realize that there is about a 10 degree temperature difference between being on land and sailing underway, so dressing in or bringing some layers is recommended.
  • Do bring sun protection such as a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen, and rain gear if applicable.  Do not bring umbrellas – if it will look like rain, bring a rain jacket/pants/boots.  Having an umbrella on the weather deck is much like opening one in an enclosed space.  Plus, they are bad luck on ships and our superstitious crew won’t allow it.  We do have a selection of ponchos but most people like to have their own rain gear.
  • Do wear soft, traction giving shoes – no high heels.
  • Do bring your own snacks and non-alcoholic beverages in non-glass/closed containers, as we don’t provide food onboard. Please note that we don’t have enough refrigeration space to accommodate your food and beverages.  We do have potable water available onboard and you can use that to refill a water bottle.
  • Do only bring bags or purses up to the size of a school-sized backpack. We cannot accommodate anything larger.
  • Do bring cameras or video recorders if you’d like. Do not bring radios or any other device that produces excessive amounts of noise.  The crew must be able to hear one another to effectively sail the ship.
  • Do not bring portable chairs.
  • Do not bring alcohol.
  • Do not bring very valuable items or anything you’d hate to have damaged or lost.  The Flagship Niagara League and the Erie Maritime Museum take no responsibility for lost, stolen, or damaged items.

Is smoking allowed onboard?

Yes.  We do allow smoking only on the fore part (near the bow or front of the ship) of the weather deck.  There will be times during the sail when smoking is not allowed at all.  This is during our gun drill, because we have black powder on deck, and any other time the “smoking lamp is out”.  The crew will make sure you know when smoking is not allowed.

Do you have bathrooms onboard or in the Museum?

Yes.  On ships bathrooms are called “heads” and we have 3 of them which day sail students are welcome to use.  Marine toilets flush a little differently than what you are used to, however, there are instructions onboard to guide you through this or a crewmember will be happy to demonstrate.  The instructions are simple but must be followed.  There are bathrooms in the front entrance of the Museum and crew locker rooms in the back of the Museum that we permit day sail students to use.

Is there a first-aid kit onboard?

Yes.  We have an extensive first-aid kit and usually several crew members with First-Aid/CPR certificates and occasionally higher levels of training.  The ship does not routinely carry an EMT, RN, or MD onboard.  On a day sail the ship will usually be 1 to 3 hours away from an ambulance and EMT personnel.

Will I get seasick?

We cannot predict if you, specifically, will get seasick, but we can give you some advice based on prior experience sailing and dealing with seasickness, both in ourselves and others.  The best remedy for seasickness is prevention, which means being well-rested, fed, and hydrated before sailing.  Niagara does not heel (lean over) as much as small boats do but this is of course affected by variable wind and wave conditions.  We recommend you consult your physician if concerned about seasickness.  Medications are permitted and we suggest those that will not make you drowsy.  Keep in mind that most medications are only effective if you take them well in advance of departure.  If you do find yourself feeling unwell during a sail, a crewmember can get you a bucket, and we recommend that you stay on deck in the fresh air, drink small but continuous sips of water, and eat something –  even just a few saltines tend to help settle the stomach.

Bookings, scheduling, refunds, and cancellation information:

How much does it cost to go on a day sail?

$85 per person or $65 per person for members of the Flagship Niagara League.  For more information about the perks of membership and to become a member please click here.

I am a member of the Flagship Niagara League but I want to purchase a day sail for my friends or family who aren’t members of the Flagship Niagara League. Can I use the member rate to purchase their tickets?

Yes.  If you are a member of the Flagship Niagara League wanting to purchase day sail tickets for friends or family, you may use the member rate to purchase them.

Do you have gift cards available for day sails?

Yes, we do!  You can purchase gift card(s) for day sail(s) either online or by contacting us at 814.452.2744.  Gift cards are priced in accordance with our day sail rates of $85 per person or $65 per person for members of the Flagship Niagara League but you can purchase gift cards totaling 1, 2, or 4 people sailing; enter a custom amount to cover the total number of people sailing; or purchase multiple gift cards at once.

Gift cards are issued electronically.  Once purchased, you will receive a confirmation email with an “Add message and send” button.  Click on that button to add a personal message and send the electronic gift card to the recipient.  The recipient will receive an email with their electronic gift card and your message.  The gift card will have a unique alphanumeric code that can be redeemed for a day sail when booking online or by contacting us at 814.452.2744.

Note:  All gift card sales are final.  Gift cards are only redeemable for day sails on the Niagara.  Gift cards are not redeemable for cash.  The price of day sails may change from season to season and according to the port Niagara is in, with or without notice.  Buyers will be required to pay any balance remaining after gift card(s) are redeemed.

How much space do you have available on a day sail?

We have space for 50-60 people onboard a day sail, depending on when it occurs during the season.  Space availability is updated in real-time on the calendar you see when you click the blue “Book a Day Sail” button on our website,  Dates highlighted in green are when sails are scheduled and if you click on a date, it will indicate how many spots are still available.

Why do you ask for all this information on the book form? Why do you need to know my phone number, weight, age, mobility etc.? I just want to go sailing!

We need to know the name of everyone sailing because, as a Sailing School Vessel, participants on a day sail are legally and practically members of the crew and the Coast Guard requires us to have a crew roster when we get underway.  We need to know your phone number in case we need to get in touch with you to cancel the sail or confirm you’re still attending the sail.  We ask for your weight to make sure we have the correct number of safety equipment onboard.  The Coast Guard rates life-saving personal flotation device equipment by a person’s weight.  We ask about your age to make sure you are old enough to sail on Niagara and also ask about your mobility to make sure you are capable of sailing on Niagara.  We’ll contact you if we need to depending on your answers to these questions.

If someone on my original booking can’t make the sail anymore, can I bring someone else in their place?

Yes, as long as they are old enough and physically capable enough to sail (please see the “Are there any restrictions on who can sail on Niagara?” question above).  Please contact us at 814.452.2744 ext. 212 to inform us of the change and we will update your booking.

What is your refund or exchange policy?

We sail rain or shine. Refunds will only be given in the event that the sail is cancelled by management due to weather and/or maintenance problems (weather criterion for cancellation is actual or high probability of winds over 25 knots or severe thunderstorms). No refund will be given if at least 2 hours were spent underway. Whether or not to sail is ultimately the sole decision of the Captain.

What if I can’t make my sail anymore?

If you will not be able to make your sail please contact us at 814.452.2744 ext. 212 to let us know so we can remove you from the roster and will not be expecting you to check in for the sail.  While refunds are only given in the situation described above in the “What is your refund or exchange policy?” question, we can move you to another sail, space permitting.  Please contact us at 814.452.2744 ext. 212 to do so.  We can also issue you a gift card redeemable for a future sail.  The following policy also applies for these gift cards:  All gift card sales are final.  Gift cards are only redeemable for day sails on the Niagara.  Gift cards are not redeemable for cash.  The price of day sails may change from season to season and according to the port Niagara is in, with or without notice.  Buyers will be required to pay any balance remaining after gift card(s) are redeemed.


Can you tell me the likelihood of my sail being cancelled?

You may have read our criterion for cancellation above under the “What is your refund or exchange policy?” question and are wondering about the likelihood of your specific sail being cancelled.  We keep a close eye on the forecast in the days leading up to a sail.  We take every opportunity to sail and rain does not keep us from sailing.  If, however, weather resources are indicating that it will be unsafe to sail, based on the probability of high winds or severe thunderstorms, we will make a definitive cancellation at the latest by 10am the morning of the sail and will inform you of this by calling you at the number listed on your booking form (keep in mind that if we have a full sail it will take a few moments to dial everyone’s number).  The weather patterns on the Great Lakes can change significantly from one hour to the next.  If it looks like some weather will move over us but not completely prevent us from sailing for the afternoon, we may take care of the Captain’s introduction inside the Museum, conduct a below decks tour and/or a tour of the Museum, or do a reefing demonstration (how the crew ties up a portion of a sail to reduce how much canvas is exposed to the wind), while we wait for the weather to pass over, and then get off the dock and go sailing!

What happens if my sail is cancelled?

If a sail is cancelled, we will contact you to see if you prefer a refund or to move your sail to another date by way of rebooking you for another sail this season, space permitting, or issuing you a gift card redeemable for a future sail.  The following policy also applies for these gift cards:  All gift card sales are final.  Gift cards are only redeemable for day sails on the Niagara.  Gift cards are not redeemable for cash.  The price of day sails may change from season to season and according to the port Niagara is in, with or without notice.  Buyers will be required to pay any balance remaining after gift card(s) are redeemed.

I don’t see sails available on the date I will be in town. Why not?

We are sorry if Niagara’s sailing schedule doesn’t fit in well with your summer plans, however it takes a lot of work to get Niagara sailing, therefore, we plan our sailing season months in advance.  We make available as many sailing opportunities as we can to the public.  We may occasionally add sails.  The best way to keep informed about sails available is by consulting the calendar you see when you click the blue “Book a Day Sail” button on our website,  Dates highlighted in green are when sails are scheduled and if you click on a date, it will indicate how many spots are still available.

The sail I want to go on is sold out. Do you have a waitlist?

No.  Sorry.  However, occasionally we may have some space open up due to people moving their sail to another date.  Space available on sails is updated in real-time on the calendar you see when you click the blue “Book a Day Sail” button on our website,  If you click on a date highlighted in green, it will indicate how many spots are still available on that sail.

What about if I want to take a large group sailing?

You have 2 options for taking a large group sailing:  If you have enough people (about 40-60) to fill the ship with your group alone, contact us at 814.452.2744 ext. 212 or at to see if a corporate or school day sail is available and right for your group.  If your group is smaller (about 10-25 people) you can buy a block of tickets for a public day sail either by contacting us at 814.452.2744 ext. 212 or at or by purchasing them online.

What about if I have a large group sailing and am not certain of everyone’s information to enter on the book form? 

That’s okay.  We understand how difficult it can be to organize information for large groups of people.  In this case, please contact us at 814.452.2744 ext. 212 or at  There is a way for us to handle this within our booking system.  We may ask you to fill out some paperwork to gather everyone’s information but it’s not too difficult.

I lost my confirmation page. Can you send it to me again?

Of course!  Please contact us at 814.452.2744 ext. 212 and we will find your booking and resend you the confirmation email.

What is this I hear about needing to sign a waiver?

Each person in your party will need to sign their own waiver.  There is a button that directs you to an e-waiver in your confirmation email.  The confirmation email can be forwarded so that everyone in your party can sign their e-waiver.  You can also find the e-waiver at  The e-waiver is submitted to us electronically so there is no need to print anything out.  If you would rather fill out a hard copy of the waiver, please click here, and bring it with you when you check in for your sail.  Please note that each minor will need a waiver which their parent/guardian must sign.

For group bookings, school day sails, and corporate day sails, we have another version of the waiver which collects some additional information needed for each person sailing.  Please contact us at 814.452.2744 ext. 212 or at to receive the links for the e-waiver and hard copy of this version of the waiver.

After your sail:

Wow I really liked sailing! How else can I be involved with the Erie Maritime Museum or Niagara?

We are glad you enjoyed your sail!  There are so many ways to continue your involvement with the Erie Maritime Museum and Niagara:

  • Please visit here to become a member of the Flagship Niagara League. Your support helps keep Niagara sailing and in return you get a year’s worth of free admission to the Erie Maritime Museum, discounted and advance tickets to events, discounts at the Museum’s gift shop and for Niagara day sails among other perks.  Kids 12 and under even have their own membership option!
  • Please visit here to learn about other giving options or our Daniel Dobbins Leadership Giving Society.
  • If you are interested in even more sailing, by living and working onboard for voyages of 2-4 weeks long throughout the Great Lakes, you can find information about our trainee programs here.
  • If you’d like to volunteer your time, there is work to be done all year both in the Museum and on the Niagara!

Stay connected by signing up for our E-news and keeping an eye on our website for upcoming events!

PHMC logoThe Flagship Niagara League is a 501 (C) 3, non-profit educational associate organization of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), chartered to facilitate citizen participation and operation of the U.S. Brig Niagara and its homeport, Erie Maritime Museum.