Los Angeles Maritime Institute

Mission & Vision


Our Mission

The Los Angeles Maritime Institute (LAMI) serves to empower youth to discover their greater potential through extraordinary at-sea experiences aboard educational sailing vessels built to train and equip young people with 21st century leadership skills, and inspire maritime and STEM career paths.


Our Vision

We envision a thriving community where every young person can look to the future with confidence and navigate successfully and responsibly in life.


Our Programs

Los Angeles Maritime Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that uses hands-on experiences at sea to provide an array of social, education and leadership development opportunities to middle school and high school students in San Pedro and Wilmington, and throughout Los Angeles County. Our TopSail Youth Program is offered year-round aboard the Tall Ships SSV Irving Johnson and SSV Exy Johnson, 110-foot traditionally rigged vessels named after sail training pioneers who sailed around the world seven times with young crews. Our purpose-built vessels and their young crews were proclaimed the “Official Tall Ships and Maritime Ambassadors of the City of Los Angeles” at their launch in 2002.

We offer:
• Day programs and voyages
• Hands-on STEM learning
• Maritime skill building and sea-time certification
• Boat building
• Private charters
• Community sails
• Volunteer Youth Crew Program
• Adult volunteer program


TopSail Youth Program

The award-winning TopSail Youth Program is a hands-on education and adventure experience aboard a tall ship consisting of day sails, voyages, or both. Our signature program integrates youth into the ship’s crew where they learn how to operate a large sailing vessel and experience a highly interactive learning environment at sea. Skills gained include team building, problem solving, decision-making, planning, self-reliance and leadership. Our unique learning environment introduces underserved and economically disadvantaged youth to a world beyond their communities where they are provided with real-life challenges not available in the traditional classroom. Founded in 1992 by a science teacher and sailor, Captain Jim Gladson, we have served over 60,000 young people with transformational experiences at sea and changed the course for thousands of youth who were on a dropout path leading to gangs, drugs, and crime.

Science at Sea Program

In the fall of 2013, we partnered with LAUSD’s Office of Outdoor and Environmental Education to promote a cooperative learning atmosphere where students are encouraged to engage in the science inquiry process through experiential education in the natural world. Students build confidence and achieve a sense of accomplishment as they assume the role of the crew and sail the vessel.

TopSail STEM Adventure Program

STEM learning is built into our program naturally. From charting a nautical course, understanding the ship’s anatomy, and being introduced to the laws of physics, a large sailing vessel is the ideal environment to foster young people’s interest in STEM.  To give you an example, imagine learning this concept in a classroom setting:

Four forces act on a sailboat. The two that directly affect her motion are the force of the wind and the viscosity force of the water. The force of the wind propels the boat, and the viscosity force slows her down and helps her stay on course. The two other forces are gravity and buoyancy. Gravity pulls the boat down and buoyancy pulls her up, keeping her afloat.

Now imagine learning this concept at sea! Learning comes to life and STEM is given relevance in a “real world” setting, for which reason, our programs have earned a reputation for engaging students in a more comprehensive manner that can only be achieved on a tall ship at sea.

Our TopSail STEM Adventure Program is designed to:

1) Expand STEM-based understanding of sailing, our oceans, and local marine habitats;
2) Improve the STEM knowledge and skill base of students; and
3) Ignite wonder and passion in students’ interest in STEM.

Learning at sea on tall ships los angeles