Course Overview

National Historic Ships UK is pleased to offer an introductory course for newcomers aged 14+ who wish to gain an understanding of sailing on board traditionally rigged vessels.

Working with delivery providers, who operate a full range of traditionally rigged historic craft and replica vessels, this exciting course provides an opportunity to gain hands-on sailing skills whilst improving your knowledge of the United Kingdom’s rich maritime heritage.


What Will I Learn?

Module one: Traditional Sailing Vessels - is all about the traditionally rigged vessels that you haveWorking at the mast opportunities to sail on. You will understand the wide range of vessel types that exist as part of our maritime heritage. Each was designed and built to perform a particular task, depending on the role they were to perform, the areas in which they worked, the weather and sea conditions they would face, and the number of crew required to man them.

Module two: The Seafarer’s Life - You will gain an insight into the lives of the original crews of traditional vessels. What tasks did they perform and what were conditions like for them living and working on board,  often for an extended period and far from home.

Module three: Know your vessel and how to keep safe We want to ensure that your voyage is successful and that you gain confidence sailing these vessels. Knowledge of the terminology for parts of the vessel, and a full awareness of the safety aspects of the vessel enable you to become a valuable member of the crew.

Module four: Operating a Traditional Vessel - In this module we really start to have fun as we go sailing. During your time on the vessel, you will experience leaving port, mooring or anchoring, getting the sails ready and then hoisting or adjusting them. You will steer the vessel and participate in some of the manoeuvres necessary to get the vessel to your destination. At the end of the day or trip you will bring the sails back down, stow them away and assist in taking the vessel back to harbour, onto a mooring, or safely anchored.

Course participants will be issued a useful logbook which enables you to track your learning and keep a note of your voyage details. Upon successful completion you will be awarded a National Historic Ships UK certificate.


Where Can I Take the Course?Blue Mermaid, by Jeff Welch

This course is newly launched for the 2024 sailing season and initially is being offered by a limited number of delivery providers only, with whom National Historic Ships UK has partnered.  A list of these is included below. If you don’t find the vessel you are planning to voyage on, then let us know by emailing us at

The course is designed to be completed during a 3–5-day liveaboard voyage on a traditionally rigged vessel. It can also be completed over several separate weekends, providing a minimum of 3 nights are spent onboard the vessel.


How Much Does It Cost?

Costs for participants are set by individual delivery providers so please view their websites to find out the course fee and when sessions are timetabled.


Delivery Providers

The below list links you to organisations and vessels currently approved to conduct the course. New vessels are being continually added.

  • Sea-Change Sailing Trust operate the Spritsail Thames Sailing Barge Blue Mermaid from Maldon, Essex. Their sailing area is the tidal rivers and coastline of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent, including the River Thames and London.
  • First Class Sailing operate the Gaff Cutter Golden Vanity from her home port of Shamrock Quay near Southampton, which provides easy access to the Solent and some excellent cruising destinations along the South Coast.  Experience sailing a traditionally rigged vessel whilst learning more about this fascinating craft built in 1908 for the artist Arthur Briscoe.
  • Pioneer Sailing Trust, who are based at Brightlingsea on the River Colne, Essex, offer sailing experiences to youth & community groups, corporate events and private charters onboard Pioneer, a Gaff Ketch Essex Smack.  Able to accommodate groups of up to 12 persons, she is a powerful example, originally built in 1864, of a once large local fishing fleet.
  • Provident Sailing operate the very popular Gaff Ketch rigged Brixham Trawler Provident  on unique sailing holidays in the Scottish Islands. There can be few more perfect locations for learning to sail a traditionally rigged vessel than the West Coast of Scotland.  2024 is her centenary year, so how about joining her for the return trip to Brixham and complete the course as part of your voyage!
  • Blyth Tall Ship operate the 36m Gaff Rigged Ketch Williams II from Blyth, Northumberland. Built in Denmark in 1914, she is an amazing example of a trading ketch, with an exciting programme of voyages and events, including a future voyage to Antarctica! 


If you are a historic vessel operator currently hosting training experiences and would like to sign up as a delivery provider of this course, please email: to express your interest and receive further details


Introductory Film hosted by Tom Cunliffe

For more of a taste of what to expect on this course, watch our introductory film, hosted by sailor, yachting journalist, author and broadcaster Tom Cunliffe: