Irving Johnson (ship)

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United States
Name: Irving Johnson
Owner: Los Angeles Maritime Institute
Builder: Allan Rawl/Brigantine Boatworks
Launched: 2002, San Pedro, CA
Commissioned: 2003
In service: 2003
Homeport: Los Angeles, CA
Status: Active
General characteristics
Displacement: 129 t
Length: 113 ft (34 m)
Beam: 21 ft (6 m)
Height: 87.6 ft (26.7 m)
Draft: 11 ft (3 m)
Depth of hold: n/a
Sail plan:
  • Brigantine
  • Sail Area: 5,032 sq ft (467 m2). Two Masts, 13 Sails
  • Note: While it is customary to refer to these vessels as "brigantines" today, the classic definition of that rig would require one or more square sails on the mainmast. As rigged, these vessels would have been called "hermaphrodite schooners" in the 19th century and earlier.
Armament: n/a
Notes: Design by: Henry Gruber/W.I.B. Crealock

The twin brigantines Irving Johnson and Exy Johnson are the flagships of the Los Angeles Maritime Institute's (LAMI) TopSail Youth Program,[1] a non-profit organization that helps at-risk youth learn discipline and teamwork through sailing. They join LAMI's topsail schooners the Swift of Ipswich and the Bill of Rights. The boats are named for sail training pioneers Irving and Electa "Exy" Johnson.


The brigantines are based on original plans designed in the 1930s by Henry Gruber but never built. Noted yacht designer W.I.B. Crealock was brought in to adapt the plans to meet modern Coast Guard regulations and to fit LAMI's own stringent specifications based on their years of trial and experience. Master shipbuilder Allan Rawl was retained to oversee the project.

With the arrival of a truckload of South American Purpleheart hardwood for the keel in 2000, the Twin Brigantine project began in the parking lot adjacent to LAMI. The hulls were built in public, and framed out with American White oak and fastened with bronze. Launched on 27 April 2002, they were proclaimed as the "Official Tall Ship Ambassadors of the City of Los Angeles" by Mayor James Hahn and witnessed by one of their namesakes, Exy Johnson, before motoring out to a fitting-out berth where the interiors were finished and completed as their masts stepped, rigged and sails bent on. The fitting of all Electrical systems was designed and re engineered by Robert Mule of RJ's Marine Repair based In Wilmington California. The restoration was made by a Californian company, led by Philippe d'Anière : They were commissioned on 28 March 2003.

Layout and facilities[edit]

Within its 90-foot (27 m) length on deck and 21-foot (6 m) beam the ship is divided into three cabins called "A", "B", and "C" compartments. In "A" compartment, 12 bunks, a head and enclosed shower are forward. In "B" compartment, 18 bunks, two additional heads, another shower and a large common area amidships can be found. Also amidships to port are a large refrigerator and freezer and access to the deck through the galley above.

The galley features a six-burner propane stove forward, a day fridge to port and counter space with two deep sink wells to starboard. There are ports all around, providing light and ventilation.

To aft lies the chart house with a large chart table and a wraparound settee that can be used for teaching, eating or charting. The nav station to port is readily accessible from the helm. It includes radar, GPS, VHF and SSB. Below in "C" compartment lies the master's cabin, an officer's cabin with two bunks, four crew bunks aft, a head with enclosed shower and access to the engine room below. An on-deck cockpit provides additional teaching space as well as a location for al fresco dining.

A 3208 V8 Caterpillar diesel engine provides auxiliary power producing 315 brake horsepower (235 kW) at 2600 rpm while a Northern Lights 16 kW electrical generator powers the amenities on board. Coupled with a Village Marine 50 gph water maker, it renders the ship capable of extended passages off shore.

Two-and-a-half miles of running rigging support a total of 5,032 square feet (467 m2) of canvas on two masts and 13 sails, controlled by 85 lines on deck.


Irving Johnson aground, March 23, 2005

On March 21, 2005, Irving Johnson went aground on a sandbar outside the entrance to Channel Islands Harbor. The sandbar was the result of heavy rains, which washed debris and silt into the channel, and was thus uncharted.[2][3] All crew and passengers were rescued safely, but initial attempts by the Coast Guard to tow the vessel off the bar failed[2] and the vessel was stranded on the beach for several days before being pulled off.[4] Suffering from serious damage which compromised the forward portion of the vessel and flooded the vessel with seawater, she underwent an extensive $2m reconstruction and was returned to service in early 2006.[2]

In Pop Culture[edit]

  • Appeared in an episode of the 4th season of The Bachelor.
  • The opening sequence to Sharknado was filmed on Irving Johnson.
  • Irving Johnson portrayed the vessel used by the president of the United States in episode 216 of the television series Revolution.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Our Ships". Los Angeles Maritime Institute. Retrieved 2015-06-24. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b c "Grounded tall ship back in service". Soundings Magazine. Cruz Bay Publishing Inc. 6 September 2006. Retrieved 2015-06-28. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Coty Dolores Miranda (19 April 2006). "Irving Johnson Repairs Continue". The Log. Duncan McIntosh Company, Inc. Archived from the original on 2006-11-16. Retrieved 2015-06-28. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Kelley, Daryl; Alvarez, Fred (March 22, 2005). "20 Rescued After Ship Runs Aground". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2015-06-24.

External links[edit]