Once again this April 27-30, thousands of people from the Gulf Coast and beyond will line the sidewalks and streets around Pensacola Bay, armed with binoculars, cameras, and telescopes for an extraordinary sight: five historical ships sailing at full mast in a parade to our city’s port.
The Tall Ships Pensacola festival returns to the Port of Pensacola this April 27-30. The Tall Ships® Pensacola festival is a rare chance to see, step aboard, and even set sail on the 2023 fleet of tall ships. The four-day, family-friendly event includes sailing adventures, onboard ship tours, food trucks, craft beer, music, a festival marketplace, and special events. A favorite event amongst all ages, if you haven’t attended this festival in the past, you must attend it this year!
Well known for its maritime history, Pensacola hosted the first challenge in 2018 and was voted “Port of the Year.” Pensacola is again an “Official Port” and the final stop on the Tall Ships Challenge® Gulf Coast Series, including St. Petersburg, FL, and Galveston, TX.
The Pensacola fleet includes five ships: The Nao Trinidad from Spain, The Pride of Baltimore II, Ernestina-Morrissey, When and If, and the Glenn L. Swetman.
The festival will commence at Plaza de Luna with the Parade of Sail and Landing Party on Thursday, April 27. According to event director Michelle Sarra, the welcoming parade into the port on April 27 can be viewed from land or by boat, and from multiple locations such as the new multiuse path along the Pensacola Bay Bridge, Maritime Park, and Ft. Pickens. Recreational boaters are invited to join in the Parade of Sail. The ships will muster at the pass at approximately 3 pm and sail into the bay.
At the Landing Party held at Jaco’s Bayfront Bar & Grille, you can meet the captains and crew members of the fleet. Three ships will take passengers for the Parade of Sail. Tickets are $185 and include a four-hour sail, food, drinks, and an unlimited three-day ticket to the festival. Landing party tickets are $150.
On Friday, April 28, the festival and sail adventures open. Visitors can tour ships, enjoy sailing excursions, or attend special events that include sunset parties, sunrise yoga, and more. General Admission tickets start at $10, and sail trips start at $65.
Sail Away Adventures include 75-minute day sails and the two-hour sunset sail on When and If or Glenn L. Swetman. The Pride of Baltimore is offering sunset sails only. These opportunities put you onboard the vessel and out in the Gulf of Mexico. You can interact with the crew and see first-hand how these incredible ships operate in the water.
“Of the five ships, three of them are boarding ships, so they are available during the day throughout the festival to go onboard, do tours, check them out, get up close, and the captains and crew are there to interact with the kids and teach them about sailing,” says Michelle Sarra. The educational aspect of the festival is phenomenal!
Tall Ships® America is a nonprofit dedicated to adventure and education under sail. The Tall Ships Challenge® is a series of annual race events organized by Tall Ships America. The series began in 2001 and has involved dozens of North American cities, with millions of spectators. In addition to organizing the Tall Ships Challenge® Series, Tall Ships America manages scholarship programs to make sail training experiences more affordable for young people, grant programs to assist the crew of Tall Ships America member vessels with the costs of professional development courses and licensing requirements and publishes “Sail Tall Ships”.
The event will be rain or shine, and event directors are looking for volunteers. There are some paid opportunities as well.