Schooner Fame

Raise the Sails in Salem, MA with Schooner Fame

Get out on the water this summer in Salem, Massachusetts with a sail aboard Schooner Fame, a full-scale replica of the ship thought to be the first privateer to send in a captured vessel during the War of 1812. Start your visit to Salem on the water with a weekend sail before lunch or cap off your trip with a sunset sail aboard Schooner Fame. Visit Salem select dates this summer and plan a half day sail for even more time on the water!

Schooner Fame offers daytime and sunset sails throughout the summer. Order tickets online at schoonerfame.com, and keep reading to learn about Schooner Fame‘s history ahead of your next sail:

Schooner Fame and The War of 1812

In case you need a bit of a history refresher, the War of 1812 was the result of American grievances against the British who were adding trade restrictions during a time when the U.S. was planning territorial expansions. British impressment (the forcing of American sailors to join the Royal Navy that at the time was struggling to maintain enough manpower) was a major cause of the war, along with restrictions by Britain that blocked American trade with France, and the British support of Native Americans prior to and ultimately throughout the war.

By 1790, Salem had become the sixth largest city in the US, and the richest per capita. When the War of 1812 began, Salem was still an exceptionally busy port city, however it’s wealth was becoming less and less predictable compared to its illustrious past. As a port city, a number of Salem vessels became involved in the war, including The Friendship, which was captured as a prize of war by British Sloop of War HMS Rosamond in September of 1812. (The Friendship you can see at Salem Maritime National Historic Site today is a replica of the original.)

The men who originally sailed Fame were made up of captains, merchants and shipowners who could not afford the luxury of staying home and investing in privateering when the war broke up. Instead of the only other option of potentially losing their financial standing by staying put and waiting for the conflict to end, a group of 25 men worked together to purchase and sail the Fame.

Schooner Fame ultimately became the first American privateering ship to head out to sea during the War of 1812, and she is believed to be the first to send in a captured vessel, eventually seizing  20 ships during her time in the war. The merchant captains behind Fame (led by Captain William Webb and Lieutenant John Becket Jr.) first sailed to ports along the northeastern seaboard where they met two British ships near the Canadian border. The two ships both surrendered to Fame without firing a shot, making up the first American privateering prizes of the war. (The two ships, Concord and Elbe, were later sold at auction, netting the owners of Fame about 10 times what they had paid for their own vessel.)

Fame went on to sail under eight different captains, completing 12 cruises and capturing 20 prizes before being wrecked in the Bay of Fundy in 1814. While the true “winner” of the War of 1812 is often a debate, what’s clear is that some of the most successful privateering strategies of the war were led by middle-class merchants from port cities like Salem, and ships like Schooner Fame.

Sailing Schooner Fame Today

The replica of Schooner Fame we have in Salem today was constructed in 2003 at the H.A. Burnham Boatyard in Essex, Massachusetts. (You can read more about the construction of Schooner Fame here.) Today, a sail aboard Schooner Fame offers one of the most immersive experiences rooted in Salem’s history, as visitors are invited to join in on raising the sails, cruise through the same waters as privateers of the past, and see what sailing in 1812 was like first hand with the firing of the ship’s canon.

Fame sets out May through October offering day sails and sunset cruises, plus special programming for kids and families. Each sail comes with an opportunity to help raise the sails and learn more about Fame‘s history while relaxing on Salem Harbor. In 2018, Schooner Fame began partnering with Salem rum-maker Deacon Giles Distillery to offer “Salem Swizzles” and “Deacon Stormies,” offering a perfect way to toast your visit to Salem at sea.

We recommend booking ahead to ensure your spot– Tickets can be purchased online at schoonerfame.com. During your sail, be sure to pack your sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses (but hold onto them when it’s a little breezy on the water!) And remember that it will be cooler on the water so a light jacket or sweatshirt even if it’s warm on the dock never hurts.

You can find lunch before or after your sail in the restaurants along Pickering Wharf (including Finz, Sea Level, and Longboards), but snacks, soft drinks, and beer and wine are available onboard, too, and we highly recommend Fame‘s signature cocktails.

Schooner Fame can also be a great venue for special events! The schooner has served as a venue for weddings, birthday parties, corporate outings, anniversary celebrations, and more. Contact Schooner Fame here for assistance planning your next event.

Don’t forget to share your sail, we’d love to see your time on the water! Tag @schoonerfame and use #SchoonerFame and #SalemMA in your posts.

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