date published: August 15, 2005

Boston is a traditionally seafaring community, and one only needs to look at Boston Harbor on a summer day to see that maritime spirit hasn’t changed much. Whenever fair skies and favorable winds allow, boat enthusiasts young and old can be found raising their sails and taking to the water for daytime sailing expeditions.

Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships has been a key figure on the Boston sail scene since 1992, ferrying guests along the coastline aboard the 125-foot schooner the Liberty Clipper. The Clipper, according to Liberty Fleet owner Greg Muzzy, is a replica of a “mid-1800s Baltimore schooner” that was originally built in Mystic, Conn.

A typical two-hour jaunt aboard the Liberty Clipper takes visitors out to explore the Boston Harbor Islands, or perhaps offers “a swing around the North End and Charlestown to look at the [U.S.S.] Constitution,” says Muzzy.

And guests aboard the Clipper can either take the opportunity to relax and enjoy the sea breezes, or take a more active role in the sailing of the vessel. “All the guests are invited to help hoist and raise the sails,” says Muzzy.

Standard sails depart three times daily, at noon, 3 and 6 p.m., from Long Wharf. However, Liberty Fleet also offers specialty cruises like Friday night steak and lobster sails, Sunday brunches and occasional wine tasting sails. And each Saturday, the Clipper kicks it up a notch by inviting the Freedom Trail Players aboard to take visitors through a re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party. “Guests get to help us dump tea in the ocean and we fire off the cannons,” says Muzzy. “It’s a great way to see all of historic Boston and experience the maritime heritage we have here.”

If nautical warfare gets your heart pumping, you won’t want to miss your chance to hop aboard the good ship Formidable, a brigantine vessel that sails from Waterboat Marina at Long Wharf. This tall ship raises its deep red, square-rigged sails and takes passengers on sailing excursions around Boston Harbor every Tuesday–Sunday. But it’s Saturday’s sails that take the excitement to another level as those trips (at 2 and 5 p.m.) see the Formidable become the victim of an “ambush” by the privateer the Poincare. Become a part of the action as cannons blaze, flags fly, and your ship becomes part of a fantastic harbor battle re-enactment. All the fun of a battle at sea, and nobody has to walk the plank. Call 617-262-1119, or visit, for information and reservations.

Sometimes, the call of the sea is so strong that a seasoned sailor simply needs to hop aboard a boat and strike out on the water away from the cares and worries of life on the land—which is all well and good, but not always practical unless you can get access to a boat. Thankfully, that isn’t a problem on the Boston waterfront, as a bevy of charter options exist for sailing aficionados.

The Boston Harbor Sailing Club (Rowes Wharf, 617-720-0049) is primarily a member club that specializes in teaching novices how to sail and organizing outings for its members. However, the club also offers charters and rentals of its numerous sailing vessels when members aren’t using them. Fully outfitted daysailers, ocean racers and cruisers are available for as little as $25 per hour.

Others offering charter services include the Boston Sailing Center (starting at $110 per hour, 2 hour minimum, 6 person maximum per boat, Lewis Wharf, 617-227-4198); Boston Yacht Charters (Seaport World Trade Center, Seaport Boulevard, 617-723-8810), who provide sailboats and schooners capable of taking anywhere from 12–49 passengers; and My Island Charters (Pier 8 at Charlestown Navy Yard near the U.S.S. Constitution, 802-249-2112), owned by Captain Thomas Blue, who welcomes passengers aboard the 36’ Allied Princess Ketch the Cayo Mio.

For landlubbers who have always been fascinated by the schooners and sloops of yore, but have never managed to get a sturdy set of sea legs under them, you can enjoy these ships from sturdier ground at the annual Antique & Classic Boat Festival at Hawthorne Cove Marina in historic Salem, August 19–21.

Every summer for 23 years, vintage boat enthusiasts from around the country have brought their antique boats to Boston’s North Shore to swap stories with other collectors, talk shop and show off their fantail launches, yawls, schooners and yachts to the public. The festival features boat exhibitions, awards, a nautical parade and blessing of the fleet, crewmen in period costume and a general atmosphere of appreciation for these magnificent ships.

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