A family enjoys a breathtaking view from the bow of the Adventuress as the tall ship plys Washington's Puget Sound in much same way as when it first set sail more than 100 years ago. (JON ANDERSON/Staff)
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From World War II PT boats to tall-masted sleep-aboard vessels from the Age of Sail, historic ships aren’t just relegated to dusty textbooks. With the wind in your face and a swaying deck at your feet, you can make history come alive aboard these 10 ships.
1. Schooner Victory Chimes
Homeport: Rockland, Maine
Price: Starting at $625 (25 percent discount for active-duty military and families)
Cruise length: 3 to 7 days
The ship: Launched at the dawn of the 19th century, this three-masted, 132-foot windjammer has plied the Eastern Seaboard for 214 years and is one of only a few still-active sailing ships designated an American National Historic Landmark. It has berthing for up to 39 passengers. You can also become part of the crew, hauling rigging and standing watches, in between regular ports of call to quaint fishing villages and historic sites.
More info: victorychimes.com
2. Warship Constitution
Homeport: Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston
Cruise length: Pier-side tours, Tuesdays to Sundays
The ship: Launched in 1797 packing 44 big guns, “Old Ironsides” was among the first warships to enter the new fleet of our fledgling nation — and remains the Navy’s oldest active warship. Constitution is normally a pier-side museum with active-duty sailors serving as guides, but the public occasionally can come aboard for special sailings. On July 4, for example, 150 passengers chosen by lottery will celebrate Independence Day in a memorable way. But hurry if you want to experience this amazing ship; early next year it goes into a three-year dry dock overhaul.
More info: www.history.navy.mil/ussconstitution/
3. Schooner Clipper City
Homeport: New York
Price: Adults from $39; children from $17
Cruise length: 1.5 to 2 hours
The ship: New York’s largest and most elegant sailing vessel is 158 feet long with masts and rigging soaring 120 feet from the deck. It can accommodate up to 134 passengers. Built in the 1980s from Smithsonian designs, it’s a replica of the lumber-hauling schooners that drove America’s industry more than a century ago. Spacious and comfortable decks, ample seating, a full bar amidships and a raised quarterdeck aft allow for unparalleled views of the city and its harbor.
Manhattan By Sail also operates the 82-foot schooner Shearwater, built in 1929 and offering daily sailings from Manhattan’s North Cove Marina.
More info: manhattanbysail.com
4. Liberty ship John Brown
Homeport: Maryland Cruise Terminal, Maryland
Cruise length: Full-day sailings
The ship: One of more than 2,700 cargo vessels built to ferry troops, supplies and ammunition through sub-infested waters in World War II, “The Brown” is one of only a handful still seaworthy. Dubbed a “Liberty ship” because the first in its class was named after Patrick “Give me liberty …” Henry, the 441-foot-long, steam-driven ship has a volunteer crew that takes passengers on regular voyages in summer, complete with USO-style entertainment.
More info: ssjohnwbrown.org
5. Schooner Inland Seas
Homeport: Suttons Bay, Michigan
Cruise length: Varies
The ship: This 77-foot, two-masted schooner is one of three ships operated by the nonprofit Inland Seas Education Association near Traverse City in northern Michigan. While usually an at-sea classroom for local schools, a variety of sailing opportunities are offered to the public in summer, ranging from free or low-cost three-hour trips to full-day “Great Lakes Discovery” sailings ($35/adults, $30/children) and regular after-sunset star-watching cruises ($45/adults only). Periodic trips also are available on the sloop Liberty and former Navy tender Lake Sturgeon.
More info: schoolship.org
6. Steamboat Natchez
Homeport: New Orleans
Price: Starting at $25 for adults, $12.25 for children 6 and up, free for younger kids
Cruise length: 2 hours
The ship: Billed as the “the last authentic steamboat on the Mighty Mississippi,” the Natchez was launched in 1975. Its three passenger decks and massive 25-ton white oak paddle wheel are designed to resemble early 19th-century sternwheelers. Steam engines power the riverboat, and a variety of other fittings, from copper bell to antique whistle, have been crossed-decked from earlier ships. The ship departs from the Toulouse Street Wharf in the French Quarter, with a live jazz band providing the soundtrack for its daily river and harbor cruises. The galley serves optional buffet-style meals.
More info: steamboatnatchez.com
7. Schooner Adventuress
Cruise length: 3 hours to several days
The ship: This 101-year-old, 133-foot, two-masted schooner regularly sails the Puget Sound from Olympia to Canada’s Vancouver Island. Whether you’re aboard for a three-hour sail or multiday trip, keep watch for whales, porpoises and bald eagles — not to mention Navy sub and aircraft carriers — as you help raise sails, sing shanties and learn about the area’s maritime heritage and ecosystem.
More info: soundexp.org
8. PT Boat 658
Homeport: Portland, Oregon
Cruise length: Usually about 1 hour
The ship: Built in 1945 as World War II was waning, this 78-foot Higgins-class Patrol Torpedo boat was designed as a fast-attack ship. After serving as everything from a rescue boat to a remote-controlled target to a privately owned pleasure craft, it was restored to its original configuration in 2004 by volunteers and former PT-boat crew members. Pierside tours and high-speed rides for up to 12 people are available at waterfront festivals and other local events in the region.
More info: savetheptboatinc.com
9. Liberty ship Jeremiah O'Brien
Homeport: San Francisco
Price: Pier-side tours $12/Adults (active-duty military free), $6 children (under 5 free); prices vary for underway cruises
Cruise length: Usually full-day
The ship: This cargo ship, built in 1943, is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its role in the D-Day invasion as part of the Allied armada that shuttled troops and equipment into France. These days, moored at Pier 45 on Fisherman’s Wharf, O’Brien is a year-round pierside museum, but in summer months offers periodic opportunities to get underway for a day at sea.
More info: ssjeremiahobrien.org
10. Victory ship Lane Victory
Homeport: Los Angeles
Price: $5/Adult; $3/children
Cruise length: Full day
The ship: A faster upgrade from the World War II Liberty-class cargo ships, the Victory series was built to serve long past the war. Launched in May 1945, the 455-foot Lane Victory has served the longest, with duty as a merchant marine vessel extending into the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Since its rescue from the scrapyard in 1988 and a three-year restoration, the ship has served as a floating museum in Los Angeles Harbor with year-round pier-side tours and regular day cruises. Given its proximity to Hollywood, it’s no surprise the ship has become the go-to set for at-sea footage, with dozens of film and TV credits, from “Pearl Harbor” to “Baywatch” and “NCIS.”
More info: lanevictory.org