Fact Sheet

The Los Angeles Maritime Institute is a 501(c)(3) public benefit corporation founded in 1992 for the purpose of providing character-building sail-training to youth. The Institute is an affiliate of the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, a facility of Los Angeles City Department of Recreation and Parks.

The Institute was founded by Captain James Gladson, who currently serves as the president of the Board of Directors. A retired teacher, Jim Gladson pioneered sail-training programs for L.A. Unified School District schools.

Primarily a volunteer organization, the Institute utilizes the talents of over 200 volunteers to create, administer, and carry out the programs of the organization, including the TOPSAIL Youth Program, boat building, and maintenance. The Institute employs two full-time and one part-time staff.


The Institute is located at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, Berth 84, Foot of Sixth Street, in San Pedro. The Swift of Ipswich, the Institute’s primary sail-training vessel, is docked at the museum’s south dock, accessible from the back deck of the museum



The Institute uses sail training to provide youth with the opportunity to learn the skills and behaviors needed to live successful, healthy lives as contributing members of our society.

The TOPSAIL Youth Program is a two part experiential education program aboard the 70' Topsail Schooner Swift of Ipswich . The first part of the program typically consists of five one-day sails, in and around the Los Angeles/Long Beach harbor area. Each day’s activities build on the skills and knowledge gained during the preceding days. These skills include problem-solving, decision-making, planning, self-reliance, and leadership.

In the second part of the program, participants utilize their new-found sense of empowerment and teamwork on a five-day voyage, usually to Catalina Island.

TOPSAIL does not train youths for lives at sea, but uses the sea to educate youth for life. Using the unique environment of a sailing vessel, the program changes behavior through the development of positive self-concept and interpersonal skills, as well as nurturing understanding and respect for others and the environment.


The Institute hosts a variety of classes and workshops on educational and maritime subjects, such as oceanography, navigation, working with kids, and bosun art.

The Boat-Building program is a workshop in which community youth participate with mentors to build dories, the small boats that tender to Swift.

All Institute programs operate year-round, with the five-day voyage component of TOPSAIL running May through October.


TOPSAIL is available to all youth groups and organizations, from schools to informal neighborhood coalitions. The program is suitable for ages 8 and up. In 1996 the TOPSAIL program served nearly 1000 youth, from local, regional, and out-of-state organizations. Projected figures for 1997 are even higher. TOPSAIL is booked on a first-come-first-served basis.

The Institute’s programs, and specifically TOPSAIL, are notably effective as intervention for "at-risk" youth. These are youth who are not coping well with the demands of society and are at risk of dropping out of school and/or giving up the quest for a successful and productive life.


Standard TOPSAIL fees are $700.00 per day sail and $1000.00 per day of overnight trips. Group size typically ranges from 20 - 30 students. The Institute is dedicated to providing TOPSAIL to groups on an ability-to-pay basis. Groups which cannot afford the full cost of the program are given partial or full fee waivers.

The Boat-building program is free of charge. Other programs such as workshops and classes may have nominal fees attached to them.


The Institute is funded though private donations, grants and other fundraising activities. Major supporters include the Crail Johnson Foundation, the Norris Foundation, and restaurateur Charles (Chipper) Pastron. In-kind donations, including volunteer services, enable the Institute to keep costs down, providing approximately $4.00 of program for every dollar spent.


The Swift of Ipswich was awarded the American Sail Training Association’s prestigious Sail Training Ship of the Year award for 1995.

The TOPSAIL Youth Program was the subject of an installment of "Schwarzkopf’s America" an occasional feature of the nationally broadcast NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw. Retired General Norman Schwarzkopf sailed with the Swift to film the segment, which aired November 27, 1996.

For more information, contact Annie at the Los Angeles Maritime Institute (310) 833-6055





"...nothing we do in class can ever compare to the lessons (the children) learn on a working sailing ship such as the Swift. ...They strained and stretched, focused and wondered. They learned." – Robert Gregory, teacher, 96th Street Elementary School.


"I really enjoyed everything, and I liked everything, especially you guys were great. You helped us learn how to work things, showed us how to do things, and how they work, and most important you guys treated us with love and respect." – Sylvia Sanchez, student L.A. High School


"...(our group) included the superintendent of a large school district, four men who have worked for over twenty years with youth in church and scouting, and one who has worked for over ten years with youth, and we had come to consider ourselves somewhat skilled and experienced in dealing with young men. None of us had ever seen the level of skill, understanding, patience, cheerfulness, and leadership you and your crew demonstrated all the hours we were together." David Robinson, Group leader, Explorer Post #9581, Arizona


"I enjoyed everything of the sailing trip and don’t have no negatives, but I wish it was a longer time we stay there because is like a dream that you never want it to end." – Kimberly Guarclado, student, L.A. High School


"It was gratifying to see the dedication and complete absorption into shipboard life that our kids made...We overheard many conversations during the week, but the most rewarding had to do with how they were going to change their attitudes and actions at home – that there was just too much to do and live for on the outside world, to be stuck in the gang or drug scene." – Chip Hipkins, teacher, Lloyde High School


"Thank you for taking us on a field trip. That ship was big! Tell the crew that they were great leaders. Also tell the captain that he was very nice. I liked the captain because he let me steer. I give you all lots of thank yous!" – Sarah, student, Naples Elementary


"All of the kids from our school that sailed with Swift last year – we did two full programs – are still in school now. You have no idea how atypical this is of our student body. And remember, those kids were picked because we didn’t think they’d make it without intervention...Overall, the grade point averages of these students rose by a full third." – Armand Almarez, teacher, Kranz Intermediate School.



Our goal is never to be in port when we ought to be at sea, never to turn a kid away for lack of money, and never to sail with an empty berth.