Outdoor Adventures

Drop Shadow

Tall Ship Sailing off the California Coast

Irving JohnsonThis sailing expedition will be one of your most unique experiences at USD. Once you step aboard the Irving Johnson, a 90 foot-long and 129 ton Brigantine, you become the crew that will sail this ship.

During this continuous sailing expedition in the open Pacific ocean you will be assigned a watch (a group of 4-6 sailors and 1 crew from the ship) that will take turns running all aspects of the ship 24 hours a day. From standing bow watch to plotting a course at the navigation table or taking a turn at the wheel steering the ship at night your crew will run the ship during a 4 hour watch duty.

You will learn about all aspects of tall ship sailing: navigation, astronomy and off-shore marine ecology all the while becoming more familiar with the life of a sailor. Learn a new vocabulary as you trim and furl the sails and learn knots, splicing and a variety of seamanship skills.

This will be an amazing experience where you will learn what it really means to work as a team, understanding the importance of both giving commands and the ability to follow them. Your watch will be like an alternate family as you cast away for this high seas adventure.

Designated as one of the Official Tall Ships and Maritime Ambassadors of the city of Los Angeles, the Irving Johnson was built to "give tens of thousands of young people the opportunity to experience self-discovery, life changing adventure and education found only on a tall ship at sea." It is part of the Los Angeles Maritime Institute's TopSail program. The LAMI was recently honored as one of the 2013 Top-Rated non-profits awarded by GreatNonprofits.


Day 1

Check in at the Outdoor Adventures office before early move-in. Meet your small group. Review clothing and make final preparations before departure.

Day 2

Board the Irving Johnson on San Diego Bay and after a ship orientation we will set sail for the blue horizon.

Day 3

Take turn sailing in small watch groups. When you are not on watch you will sleep, learn about the marine environment, learn about life at USD and enjoy life on a boat.

Day 4

Continue to take turns sailing with your watch.

Day 5

Today is the final day aboard the Irving Johnson. Return to land at 4:00pm and celebrate our sail with dinner on the waterfront.

Day 6

Get settled in your residence hall before we return to the waterfront downtown to take in the San Diego Tall Ship Festival before the trip concludes at 5:00 pm.

Risks, Hazards and Difficulty

Participants will sail the tall ship 4 days continuously in the open ocean. Risks include motion sickness, dehydration, sunburn, heatstroke and hypothermia from high winds and cold nights, and prolonged exposure. No previous sailing experience necessary. Participants need a moderate level of conditioning.


"You, the Pacific Ocean and the wind is such a freeing experience! Staring beyond the bow of the ship at the endless watery horizon glistening under the light of the moon is a life altering experience. " - Catie