Sail Training Program

Sail Explore

TSA Logos_combine2010 Recipient of Tall Ships(R) America Sail Training Program of the Year

Sail, Explore, Experience- Sign on for Adventure!

While underway, Niagara operates as a Sailing School Vessel. This means that we accept paying trainees, who are, both legally and practically, considered part of the crew. Trainees eat, sleep and work with the crew, while living on-board the ship. While sailing on Niagara does have a classroom component, most of our training is hands-on. By becoming an active part of the crew, trainees learn the skills of traditional square-rig seamanship, through sailing, maintaining, and living on the ship. The nineteenth-century maritime environment is far enough removed from our own lives that simply living on board the ship, and helping her make her way from place to place, is an education in and of itself. We prefer that trainees stay on board for a minimum of three weeks. This is because it takes time to learn the fundamentals of square-rig seamanship: terminology, physical skills, familiarity with the vessel, and the social structure of shipboard life. By the end of three weeks, most trainees are comfortable operating in this new world, and can recognize that they have become a valued part of a close knit community. The stated goals of the Flagship Niagara League and the Erie Maritime Museum include preserving and presenting Erie’s maritime history, and one of the ways this is accomplished is by sailing Niagara to various ports. By doing this, we broadcast our message to thousands of people every year. At our port stops, as many as eight thousand visitors a day can board the ship and get a glimpse of a world two centuries passed. Our Sailing School Program helps foster a deeper understanding of the same world. Preserving the ship as an artifact is important, but it is just as important to preserve the skills and technical understanding which make it work. At the end of the day, the ship is just a tool. The knowledge and practice of seamanship are the works for which it was built, and are the greater human accomplishment. Trainees participate fully in all aspects of the life and work of the crew. This work includes both the romantic and the commonplace: making and striking sail, washing dishes, painting and varnishing, giving deck tours, steering by compass in the gathering dawn, and charging along under a quartering breeze. Niagara does not take passengers – she makes mariners. A trainee berth includes room and board, whether the ship is underway or in port. Life on board is somewhat spartan, but no more so than a camping trip. Trainees sleep in hammocks and stow all their gear in a sea bag each. The galley provides three meals a day, all cooked on a wood-burning stove. Niagara’s seamanship program is intended for healthy adults, ages 16 and up, who are citizens or legal residents of USA, Canada, or of member states of the European Union. Anyone sailing on Niagara in live-aboard programs who does not legally reside in the USA or Canada must present to the Captain upon arrival, a valid Passport and B-2 Tourist Visa (as required by the Department of Homeland Security, US Customs & Immigration).

2015 Trainee Schedule

How much does it cost?

Tuition for the Niagara Seamanship Training Program is $1,500.00 for two to four weeks, per individual student. Tuition for students enrolled in group programs, such as with partner institutions, may vary. This covers room and board on the ship, but does not include travel to and from the vessel. Trainees who wish to remain on-board after the end of their scheduled term in the Niagara Seamanship Training Program may do so only with the Captain’s approval, and on a space available basis. An additional fee of $300 per week will be charged for any time on board beyond the first four weeks. Returning trainees (who do not enroll in the Apprentice Seaman Program) will receive a 15% discount on tuition during their 2nd season, and a 25% discount if they return as a trainee during any summer sailing season thereafter. The Flagship Niagara League strives to make our Seamanship Training Program as affordable as possible. To this end, we use our port appearances and other programs to, effectively, subsidize sail training. Scholarships may be available. Check our website, or call for details.

How do I apply?

Step 1-Obtaining the Application: Download and print the application below, which includes the Preliminary Information Packet. Applicants who do not have access to the internet may contact Marine Operations at 814.452.2744 ext. 214 to request a hard copy be sent by mail.

Step 2-Submit Application, Application Fee & Tuition Deposit: Each potential trainee must complete the Trainee Application, Medical History and Examination Form (Student Medical Record Form) and the Student Contract. He/she must then submit all forms to the Marine Operations Coordinator for review along with the non-refundable $75.00 application fee via check, money order or credit card. (This fee covers the $40 medical review, a security background check of any adults, and the processing of the application). In addition, a $300 initial deposit payment (deducted from the total tuition due) is required upon signing this contract and is non-refundable unless the application is denied by the Medical Review Officer for medical reasons.

Step 3-Physical Examination and Submission of Medical Forms: As soon as possible, but at least by 30 days prior to joining the ship, the trainee must submit to a physical examination and return the Medical History and Physical Examination Form to the FNL Office for review. This form must be completed by a Physician, certified Physician Assistant, or certified Nurse Practitioner. The trainee will submit this form to the Marine Operations Coordinator, who will forward them to the Medical Review Officer for his/her review and acceptance or denial. The Medical Review Office will reply within 2 weeks of receiving the form. Refund and Cancellation Policies: These policies are clearly defined in the Student Contract.

Application Forms

Preliminary Information for Niagara Students [PDF] Student Enrollment Application Form [PDF] Preliminary Accommodations Form [PDF] Student Contract [PDF] Medical Record [PDF] Packing Guidelines [PDF] Welcome Aboard [PDF]

Additional Application Forms for Minors

International Travel and Guardianship Form [PDF] OTC Medication Authorization [PDF] Prescription Medication Authorization [PDF]


For more information about Niagara’s Sail Training Program, contact Joseph Lengieza, Marine Operations at 814.452.2744 ext. 214 or