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Bonding with Tall Ships

Written by: Betsie Gambel, President

From a family of sailors, I grew up racing one design boats in Lake Pontchartrain and boating on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It seems vacations always centered on the next regatta. So, when Tall Ships New Orleans 2018 approached Gambel Communications to handle public relations for the Tricentennial, I eagerly agreed to Gambel Communications being one of the sponsors, and as lagniappe, I got the chance to work with my niece, Hartley Meric Crunk, a vice president at Hancock Whitney, also a Tall Ships’ sponsor.

About Tall Ships

Tall Ships are typically restored vessels, each operating as its own non-profit organization. They travel the world, often with student crews who learn firsthand not just how to sail, but more importantly an appreciation of mankind’s relationship with the sea.

There will be six ships visiting New Orleans:  four moored near Woldenberg Park and two at Pontchartrain Landing (Industrial Canal at Lake Pontchartrain). The ships convene Tuesday, April 17, near the mouth of the Mississippi River having completed the Tall Ships challenge in the Gulf of Mexico. The four ships are travelling upriver to Woldenberg Park and the other two ships are heading to Lake Pontchartrain.

The Tall Ship most interesting to me is Oosterschelde from the Netherlands. At the time of writing this blog, I am eagerly awaiting sailing on this ship (indeed, a highlight of my life!), along with nine friends, from Pensacola to New Orleans, April 15-19. As Tall Ship “sail trainees,” we will be responsible for supporting the seven-person crew with all aspects of managing a 164-foot schooner.

Built in 1918, Oosterschelde is the largest restored Dutch freight ship and the only remaining Dutch three-masted topsail schooner. Her home port is Rotterdam.

The oldest vessel coming for the Tricentennial is Elissa, a fully-rigged barque from Galveston, TX.  Launched in 1886, she is now a museum ship at the Texas Seaport Museum after being lovingly restored by the Galveston Historical Foundation.  She was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1990. Of note, she used to ply her trade between Galveston, Pensacola and New Orleans. The last time she was in New Orleans was the early 90s, and she is of the oldest ships still sailing today.

Tall Ships Picton Castle and Oliver Hazard Perry round out the fleet in the Mississippi River. Built in 1928 as a trawler and re-configured as a 3-masted barque, is the Picton Castle from the Cook Islands.  She will be carrying 10 cadets from the New Orleans Military and Maritime Academy as crew from Galveston to Pensacola to New Orleans.  This is not unusual as the ships are all about education at sea, a form of learning called sail training.

Since the ships cannot actually sail in the Mississippi River, two Tall Ships, with drafts of nine feet, will be providing day sails from Lake Pontchartrain.  One of the ships was General Patton’s beautiful schooner, the When and If (WHEN this war ever ends and IF I get a chance to sail) and built in 1945.  He died before he was able to sail her.  Last, but not least, Tall Ship Lynx will join When and If for sail training and day sail opportunities on Lake Pontchartrain.

While at the dock, these ships will be on display sharing their missions and their histories with the thousands of people who cross their decks-at no charge.

Having the Tall Ships come to New Orleans for the Tricentennial is such an auspicious occasion. This event is made possible not only by the generosity of local businesses but also through the tremendous commitment by community volunteers, especially those whose love of sailing is central to their lives.

April 19-22, Woldenberg Park will be the place to be, with activities and refreshments to enjoy while viewing the real stars of the weekend -- the Tall Ships.

Saturday night is the Tall Ships Gala--a night of music, rum, fireworks and cake. For ticket information, visit

For more information, visit

Rosalind Hall