Community Voices
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LAMI students enjoying a day out on the ocean. (photo: LAMI)

A local rite of passage for students over the last 30 years has been a sail on a tall ship in San Pedro Bay. Thanks to the Los Angeles Maritime Institute, budding sailors of all ages have discovered the wonder and joy of the ocean, as well as the chance to see the amazing port complex from a unique vantage point on the water. 

On Sunday, March 26, beginning at 2 p.m., the Los Angeles Maritime Institute will celebrate the culmination of its 30th anniversary with a fundraiser event — Seaside Shindig will take place at their shoreside campus at Berth 73.

Get your tickets now for this great FUNdraising event. For more details, visit

In 1992, a retired science teacher and Coast Guard-licensed captain, Jim Gladson, organized a small group of his friends and associates and formed the Los Angeles Maritime Institute (LAMI, as it is affectionately known). 

The idea for the institute came about several years earlier when Captain Gladson witnessed the positive effect the experience of sailing at sea had upon even his most challenged alternative school students, even those with dyslexia. LAMI’s new TopSail Youth Program mission would be to use sail training to provide youth with real-life challenges that would develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to stay in school and become healthy, productive adults.

With less than $5,000 in donated funds and a one-room office in the depths of the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, they sought a suitable vessel for purchase. A short time later, the 92’ topsail schooner Swift of Ipswich was purchased with the help of a loan from the CJ Foundation.

In 2000, the TopSail Youth Program continued to demonstrate such notable success that LAMI began constructing two 110’ brigantines, Irving Johnson and Exy Johnson, designed and built specifically to address the educational needs of the program. Launching in April of 2002, L.A. Mayor James Hahn and the City Council proclaimed these state-of-the-art tall ships and their youth crews “The Official Tall Ships and Maritime Ambassadors of the City of Los Angeles.”

In the 30 years since the founding of the Los Angeles Maritime Institute, more than 130,000 young people from throughout Southern California and beyond have had the opportunity to directly benefit from participation in hands-on learning experiences through the TopSail Youth Program. LAMI continues to give “real-life” context to subjects like science, mathematics, engineering, history, and literature, and to raise awareness about environmental impacts to our oceans and local waters.

LAMI has an exciting future as the organization brings back into service their beloved tall ship, Swift of Ipswich. In addition, the twin brigantines, Exy Johnson and Irving Johnson, will sail from Berth 78 in the new West Harbor development. The most recent ship joining the fleet, American Pride (the Official Tall Ship of the City of Long Beach), sails from Pine Avenue Pier at Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach as part of LAMI’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Children’s Maritime Institute. 

Los Angeles Maritime Institute offers a full range of activities to create the perfect tall ship experience to match your interests: 

  • Day programs and voyages (sponsorships for Title I schools available)
  • Hands-on STEM learning
  • Maritime skill-building and sea-time certification for United States Coast Guard licensing
  • Boatbuilding
  • Private charters for team building, birthdays, weddings, retirements, funerals, and filming
  • Monthly community sunset sails and bilingual eco-education sails
  • Volunteer Youth Crew Program through our co-ed Sea Scout Ship 1992
  • Adult volunteer program (voted one of the best places to volunteer in Los Angeles). spt

For more information, visit


Alice Taylor

Alice Taylor is the director of sales and marketing for the Los Angeles Maritime Institute (LAMI).