For over 40 years, our Project Director, John Millar (Williamsburg, Virginia), has worked to preserve history and bring it to enthusiasts and the public, nationally and world-wide. While still a teenager, fresh from crewing in the America’s Cup yacht racing series, he raised the money to save the enormous endangered J-class yacht Endeavour, the British 1934 challenger for the America’s Cup; that beautiful craft, once restored by Elizabeth Meyer, has become one of the show-pieces of yachting world-wide. In 1969-70, he raised the money to build a full-sized copy of the 24-gun Revolutionary War frigate Rose
for the Bicentennial (you may have seen her, either in her 16-year sail training career, or starring with Russell Crowe in the movie Master & Commander: to the Far Side of the World); in 1974-6, Millar raised the money to build a full-sized copy of the 12-gun loop Providence, the first vessel of the Continental Navy in October 1775.
At about the same time, he assisted the late Barclay Warburton III to establish the American Sail Training Association (now renamed Tall Ships America), and John Millar founded the Bicentennial Council of the Thirteen Original States, which successfully raised millions of dollars for worthy Bicentennial projects. In 1988, he supplied the basic plans for a group in Aberdeen, Washington to build a full-sized copy of the brig Lady Washington, which was the first American vessel to reach the West Coast in 1788.
He is many times a published author, and has taught history at several colleges. He is the proprietor of Newport House, the historic Bed & Breakfast furnished to museum standards representing 1770 – see the Newport House website.
Sail training was originally developed by governments to provide future officers for navies, coast guards, and merchant marines, whereby these young people could be exposed to an intensive learning program under sail without having to learn on the actual job. Some of that continues today: for example, US Coast Guard cadets may learn aboard the barque Eagle. In more recent years, in response to many people wishing for similar experiences without having to join a navy or coast guard or merchant marine, private organizations have bought or built appropriate vessels and run programs aboard them. Unfortunately, most of those vessels are small and most are not square-rigged, whereas most experts agree that the experience is much more valuable when gained aboard a square-rigged ship.
Some participants sign up to learn about sailing, seamanship, navigation, sea chanteys, or the lore of the sea, or the history, heritage, geography, and oceanography that are part of it. Some sign up because they fancy themselves walking in the steps of John Paul Jones, Horatio Nelson, Hornblower, Errol Flynn, Douglas Fairbanks, famous pirates, or the stars of such movies as Master & Commander and the various Pirates of the Caribbean. Some are moved by the Patriotic experience of sailing on copies of important historical American ships. Others sign up for a character-building experience, to learn how to develop confidence and competence, how to mix independence and inter-dependence to overcome challenges, and build teams based on mutual trust and respect, with some of the attributes of the land-based Outward Bound program. We have already been asked by the US Military to make our ships available for supervised therapy for active military personnel and veterans suffering from PTSD, as sailing in our type of program has been identified as one of the most valuable and effective therapies. All participate in the running of the ship; no one is a passenger. A good program is designed to impart its treasures to all people from age 8 to 80, not just people in their late teens and early 20s. Such programs are run by trained professionals licensed by the US Coast Guard – many of the leading captains and officers currently available for sail training vessels were trained aboard Rose 1985-2000.
A successful adventure sail-training operation must be large enough to provide for an ongoing marketing effort sufficient to keep its ships filled year-round, and to maintain an operations center. This goal can be met by booking 100 to 150 or more trainees per week, at the going rate of roughly $1600 per person per week.
Rose, which was licensed to carry 31 trainees at a time, is no longer available; a new Rose would cost about $12 million – not an economic proposition. The new large British [non-historical] wooden sail-training ship Tenacious cost about $20 million, and is licensed to carry only 40 trainees, which is not an economic proposition by our standards. However, ships 65 feet long on deck and 20 feet beam can be licensed to carry 12 trainees each, and can be built at the right shipyards and equipped for less than $2 million apiece. Accordingly, Millar has identified up to 10 historical American vessels of that size from 1680 to 1780 that can be suitably reproduced full-size for the program: 2 full-rigged ships, 1 barque, 3 brigs, 1 square-topsail schooner, 1 square- topsail ketch, 1 square-topsail sloop, and 1 square-topsail cutter. These vessels will normally be operated in flotillas of 4 to 6 together on the East Coast, the Gulf Coast, the Caribbean, and the Great Lakes.
In addition, a similar program is contemplated for the West Coast, but using reduced-size copies of up to six important 19th-century clipper ships (clipper ships were essential for putting San Francisco on the map as a major city). These would be 95 feet long on deck and 23 feet beam, and each would be licensed to carry 24 trainees. They can be built and equipped for less than $3 million apiece.
We have identified a North American shipyard capable of producing all these vessels in numbers, using the latest in long-life, high-strength wood-epoxy “cold-molded” construction at less than half the price charged by most other shipyards.
Other advantages of a program with several smaller vessels rather than a single large ship are: that trainees will have excellent photo-ops of the other vessels at sea and in port; when the vessels reach harbor, inter-ship rowing races, swimming races, and soccer matches can be held (as is often done in European sail training); there is safety in numbers, so other vessels in the squadron are available to assist in a difficult situation; if one or another vessel is chartered for a movie, the others can take up the slack evenly; seaport maritime festivals and re-enactments receive more value from the presence of several vessels than from a single ship.
Our ships will cooperate as much as possible with events scheduled by Tall Ships America (formerly the American Sail Training Association), with scheduled port festivals, and with scheduled colonial and Revolutionary War re-enactments. Our ships intend to sail in company when possible with other historic period ships when they are in the same waters, such as Providence, Friendship, Sultana, Welcome, Godspeed, Kalmar Nyckell, Pride of Baltimore II, Niagara, and the new Oliver Hazard Perry, and such European ships that may visit eastern North America – the frigate l’Hermione and the cutter le Renard from France, the frigate Schtandart from Russia, the Czech brig La Grace, and the East Indiaman Gotheborg from Sweden.