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Los Angeles Maritime Institute

Rating: 4.96 stars   26 reviews 1,104


Berth 73 Suite 2 San Pedro CA 90731 USA


The Los Angeles Maritime Institute (LAMI) serves to empower youth to discover their greater potential through extraordinary at-sea experiences. We envision a thriving community where every child can look to the future with confidence and hope. Sail training uses the experience of being at sea as a means to help youth learn about themselves, discover hidden strengths and talents, and understand the value of working as a team.


Sail training requires youth to confront many demanding challenges, both physical and emotional. It inspires self-confidence and personal responsibility. It promotes an acceptance of others whatever their social or cultural backgrounds, and develops a willingness to take controlled risks. For most youth who undertake sail training on a Tall Ship, it is a positive life-changing experience. Since our founding in 1992, we have served more than 50,000 youth in under-served communities throughout the Greater Los Angeles Area with transformational experiences at sea.

Target demographics:

young people develop the skills and character needed for adult life.

Direct beneficiaries per year:

2,600 youth

Geographic areas served:

Title 1 schools and low-income communities throughout Los Angeles.


The TopSail Youth Program, Volunteer Youth Crew and Science at Sea (STEM program).

2014 Top-Rated Nonprofit
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Reviews for Los Angeles Maritime Institute

Rating: 5 stars   Featured Review

2 people found this review helpful

I've been volunteering with LAMI for four and a half years. The program gives the children and teenagers we work with practical skills, real responsibilities and essential experience in what community means.

I am sometimes discouraged with what our society offers kids: slogans like "No Fear," or blood-and-thunder movies that equate courage and swagger. I think lots of times, we give kids little chance to find out what they can and can't do or to learn how to do things, and then when they flounder on their own, we blame them.

LAMI gives kids the structured, orderly chance to learn about themselves and the world in very practical ways. The ships are beautiful, but they're not spectacles: they're working machines. Some of the kids are afraid to go aloft at first, but they learn that nobody's forcing them. There's plenty of useful work to do on deck. If they do climb, nobody will disrespect them if they decide to come down, and if they stay up, the very reasonable fear of falling is a tool they can use to take necessary precautions and keep themselves and their shipmates safe in order to do the work aloft. They learn to care for the machine and their shipmates in other ways, from coiling lines properly to preparing and cleaning up meals to cleaning the heads. They learn to use their hands, and also to follow orders, because we're a team. There's a chain of command based on skills. It really doesn't matter how old you are or what you do ashore: what counts is commitment to the ship and seamanship. The kids learn to live by the old seagoing rule of first the ship, then one's shipmates, then oneself.

My son grew up in Youth Crew. When he was little, he had problems with depth perception that could make him afraid to walk down a flight of stairs. But a couple weeks ago, while we were furling after a day of sailing, I glanced over and saw him almost horizontal in space about 40 feet over the deck, his foot braced against a footrope, pressing his body hard against the yard as he secured a clew lashing. Needless to say, he's comfortable and competent aloft. I was proud of him, but the really great thing about it was that it wasn't an extraordinary moment. What he was doing was just part of the work of furling. I was proud of him, but more importantly, I was and am sure of him. We've always had a good relationship; LAMI made us shipmates.

I've seen others benefit enormously from this program. Our mission statement says that we work with "at risk" kids, a term I've never been entirely comfortable with because I think we're all at risk, but still, some of the groups we take out on day sails or several-day trips do come from pretty rocky backgrounds, with drug-addicted parents or from gang-plagued neighborhoods. Over and over again, I've seen kids make little changes in themselves over the course of a day or so. I've seen them gain confidence and, in little ways, start to grow up.

I only wish more of them came back, because those changes take time and repetition to become a permanent part of a person's character. I think one of the reasons some don't continue has to do with funding. It would be great to be able to subsidize more transportation to and from the ships and scholarships for trips, and to wrap up repairs on our topsail schooner so that we can offer more programs.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Give us several million dollars, refit the ships we have as necessary and buy more, hire more standing crew, sponsor more long trips

Would you volunteer for this group again?


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Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

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Rating: 5 stars  

LAMI is based in my home town, and I started sailing as a student at 14. Through high school, I spent the bulk of my summers sailing and volunteering through the youth crew program. That time away from school, shore and parents, working so hard with great people; was what kept me in my home town for the rough points of high school. Essentially, my great, angsty, teenage rebellion became sailing with this wonderful alternate family, and I am so lucky for the experience. I'm now finishing up a graduate degree at Northwestern University, and I doubt I would have traveled the same path if I had never gone sailing.

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Rating: 5 stars  

I've been a volunteer with LAMI for nearly 3 years. In that time I've observed the effect the program has on often surly or reserved youths, sure they "know it all". When confronted by the Brigantines, with their mass of confusing lines, new language and unfamiliar tasks, this organization quickly transforms these youths into eager participants. We very quickly can see the kids who are eager to learn, to take the helm, challenge themselves to go aloft, to try something new, to step into a leadership position and "lead" a team tacking sails or preparing a meal. It's an analogy for life; you can choose to participate, or you can choose to observe. The Brigantines Irving and Exy Johnson allow all participants, whether youth crew or adult volunteers, to find exhilerating new opportunities for personal growth in a wonderfully unique environment. From seeing dolphins cavorting at the bow of the ship, to going aloft or taking the wheel, to just being on a boat for the first time and experiencing natures bounty, the Brigantines of the Los Angeles Maritime Institute are the vehicles for opening windows into a whole new world for the youths that have the opportunity to sail with us.
This is an invaluable organization providing countless happy memories and educational moments to the youth of Los Angeles. I strongly encourage support of this fantastic organization!

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Rating: 5 stars  

This is one of the most effective youth programs I have ever seen!

I can't count how many youth I've seen turn from borderline angry when they came on deck, to peaceful teenagers with more perspective on their lives, when they left. And all inside a single day...

There is something very special going on at LAMI, whose traditions I hope will continue for years to come. How I hope I can conrtibute to the on-going community service that blooms at LAMI!

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Rating: 5 stars  

I have worked with kids, in the school setting, for about 17 years. Although I have always found my work rewarding, I was looking for a different opportunity to support our youth. I just recently started volunteering with LAMI and have been absolutely blown away at the positive impact this group makes every day. In large part, I attribute this to the passion and dedication of the organizers, coordinators, and boat crews. Top notch all the way.

Best of all, they are planting seeds of success that will sprout for generations.

Mike V.

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Rating: 5 stars  

LAMI has captivated our heart for a long long time... their amazing work and their amazing spirit flows on the waves of the Pacific... We are so lucky to have been involved in several occasions with you guys, thanks for the friendship, thanks for the community involvement, thanks for your high spirit...
Marcia + Jorge Vismara

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Rating: 5 stars  

I volunteered for LAMI full-time for six months and I couldn't have spent my time a better way. The people who work for LAMI are dedicated, intelligent, and really interested in the education of young people. On the voyages we took out to sea I noticed a huge difference in the attitude, confidence, and energy of the kids within a few days of leaving port. Many of them didn't want to leave a the end of the week, and we hated to see them go (until a new group arrived!). The mentoring and skill-building that happens with this organization is unique among educational institutions that I've seen. I would work with LAMI again anytime I'm in the Los Angeles area.

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Rating: 5 stars  

I served aboard the tall ship Lady Washington during the winter of 2008-09, and with our sister ship the Hawaiian Chieftain one of our ports of call was at LAMI in Los Angeles. I say 'port of call' but LAMI became our second home for several weeks during the winter school break. We double-moored before the LAMI offices, both ships together, and those are some of the fondest memories of my life.

LAMI worked with us to bring in the public and the schoolchildren that we served, fed us, threw us roving sailors a beautiful Christmas and New Year's, gave us use of their shower and took us for a spin on the Lexi Johnson when we felt so cooped up in our own ships we were fit to burst. I learned to make a monkey's fist there, how to sing Mingulay. And one of my shipmates was a graduate of LAMI's program, one of the best sailors and one of the best men you could ever hope to know. If he's what LAMI produces...then LAMI isn't just a good organization to work with, or a good organization for sailors, it's a good organization for our country and the world.

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Rating: 5 stars  

I discovered LAMI three years ago and have been thrilled to not only work with the kids, but discover that a landlubber such as myself could soar as well. The volunteers and LAMI personnel are top notch, hard workers, and a hoot to be with....always much fun! This non profit changes lives....the lives of the school children it serves, as well as the lives of the volunteers and staff that "get it done"!

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Rating: 5 stars  

I have worked with LAMI in way that empowers and improves myself over the past year and have never been anything but impressed by their ingenuity, integrity, and love of what they do. In a crowded Los Angeles nonprofit landscape, LAMI has been able to brag for more years than most of us remember that they've found a great niche providing priceless skills and formative experiences to the young people who need these things most. As if that weren't enough, it's clear that the students impacted by LAMI's Topsail program are taking steps towards future intellectual challenges: the STEM enrichment of every activity on their vessels is evident, and presented in consistently fun ways that are age-appropriate.

During a time when classrooms are hard-strapped to find even the most basic resources they need to function, much less take young people out for a day or more of stimulating experiences that add up to a great adventure, let's just say that "the price is right" for LAMI's services – they are making education in a maritime setting accessible to the public education system, and I hope they will continue to do so for many years to come. Great work!

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