Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships: Team Sailing on Boston Harbor

Sometimes, when looking for ways to make your team closer and more tight-knit, it’s good to think outside the box of average get-to-know-you games and bonding exercises. It’s no surprise that one of the best ways to develop strong relationships with a group is to go through a really unique, amazing experience together.

Today, I’m excited to share my interview with Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships with you. Liberty Fleet’s sailing expeditions combine teamwork, hands-on activities, group bonding, and a beautiful view for an all-around amazing experience that is sure to bring your group closer together. Dennis La Komski from Liberty Fleet shared with us information about the logistics of these sailing trips, and how they work as effective team building opportunities.

Liberty Fleet Highlights

Before talking to Dennis at Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships, I really had no idea how sailing worked as a team building activity – but don’t worry, this activity is perfect for team building, even without prior sailing experience! Not only will your team learn a lot together, but they will also experience so much bonding and camaraderie from the hands-on, engaging act of sailing together!

Here are some highlights:

  • Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships has history in Boston – operating for the better part of 20 years now! One of their ships, the Liberty Clipper, has been in use this entire time.
    Sailing is a natural team-building activity because there’s so much work involved in the operation of the boats – there’s plenty for everyone to do!
  • You don’t need any prior experience or a lot of physical endurance to be great at this! “Many hands make light work” at Liberty Fleet. Besides, the expert staff on board is there to make sure everyone is prepared and successful.
  • Team building activities in a beautiful, majestic environment like the Boston Harbor out on the water makes the activities all the more memorable (and perfect for team photos)!
  • This is the perfect outdoor team building activity for late spring, summer, or early fall. Get fresh air while you build strong relationships.
  • The trip is usually around 2 to 4 hours, which is the perfect length for an afternoon out on the water. Longer sailings and overnight engagements are possible.
  • Safety is a top concern for everyone at Liberty Fleet, and the staff works tirelessly to make sure everyone is prepared and safe onboard the ships. They have an exemplary record in regard to safety!
  • Liberty Fleet has a generous weather policy for rescheduling your activity.

So, how do you find this awesome team building activity?

How to Find Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships

Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships is located right on the Boston Harbor at 67 Long Wharf, Boston, MA 02110, USA – an accessible location for any Boston-based company planning an afternoon activity.

Team Building Activities at Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships

Working with Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships for your corporate team building activity is a great choice because of the variety of activities that you are involved in on your outing!

  1. Setting sail! Your team can learn the basics of sailing and how to put up and take down the sails. One of the perks of working with Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships is that while it involves, physical, hands-on activities, the work is very accessible for most ability levels, even amateurs. The staff at Liberty Fleet really live by the philosophy “many hands make light work”! This kind of hands-on, collaborative teamwork is sure to set the scene for a great day of collaboration.
  2. Team building exercises! Once the ship has set sail, you have the option of doing a variety of prepared activities or team building that is tailored for your group. These options allow you to pick the best bonding activities for your particular group of participants.
  3. A beautiful adventure! One of Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships main assets is the beautiful view and unique experience it provides. How many people on your team do you think have had the opportunity to go sailing like this before? With the beautiful backdrop of the Boston Harbor, Liberty Fleet sets the scene for an absolutely unique, gorgeous day of team building activities!

Interview with Dennis La Komski, Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships

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Interview Transcript

Michael: Alright, Dennis, thanks so much for talking with me today. My first question for you is: what is Liberty Fleet? What do you do?

Dennis: Well, Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships is a many faceted tourism company here based out of Boston, and we also do week long cruises during the winter time down in the Caribbean. And our business primarily is about just taking people sailing, and getting them out there with – we have two traditionally rigged schooners that especially during the summertime we take anywhere from, you know, let’s see, it could be anywhere up to 600 people a day, on busy days out sailing in Boston Harbor. And there’s also many different facets of that – we have a pretty vibrant charter business where we bring on anywhere from weddings to corporate retreats to team building exercises. And we’ve been operating here in Boston for the better part of 20 years now under this name. With the- at least one ship stayed consistent: the Liberty Clipper.

Michael: Wow, okay, there’s a ton there, and I’d love to unpack it a little bit to make sure that I totally understand, and so the audience does too. It sounds like you do both public and private sailing-

Dennis: That’s correct.

Michael: So a tourist to Boston could look up things to do in Boston, they see Liberty Fleet Tall Ships, they can book a ticket to go out into the harbor and discover, but you also- sorry, go ahead?

Dennis: No, no I’m yes saying that’s correct.

Michael: Awesome. So you also have this private segment of your business where people can book the ships for weddings and corporate events and I assume other engagements – you know, if someone had a big birthday or retirement party or something, that that could be a thing too.

Dennis: Yep, that’s right

Michael: For this column, I’m specifically interested in the latter part of that. How did the team building business come about?

Dennis: Well, you know, that’s actually probably been the more consistent part of our business, you know, for the longest time we’ve always had a private charter vs public sale business with- that dates back to the beginning of the company but you know it’s a business that has grown and evolved in different ways. I think that with traditionally rigged vessels, you know- tall ships like this – they are sort of naturally good at being able to do team building exercises because there’s a lot involved in the operation of them. So you know so we’ll bring on a group, and we’ll put them to work setting all the sails and cleaning up the deck. And you know if they’re really- you know and there’s a lot of elements involved with team building that are not just the work related elements.

I think too, when you put people into a situation where you’re out on the water for 2-3 hours, you’re pretty much stuck on board and it forces you to get to know the people that you’re working with, that you’re on there with, and you know so I think after that shared experience of helping set the sails- then being able to talk with your co workers or team members or whatever in that kind of nice majestic environment, really lends itself to team building. And you know I think that there’s two facets to that and tall ships are really just – have a nice niche to be able to fill that.

Michael: Got it. So I’m gonna confess, I don’t know a lot about sailing. But it sounds like it is this really collaborative experience. I expect you even have like people pulling the same rope together to combine their strength to get sails up, etc.

Dennis: That’s exactly right.

Michael: So that’s really interesting. And that leaves me with a couple of questions, though. So you have people doing this direct work on the ship: does it take a lot of physical endurance, or is this something the average person could do?

Dennis: Oh, the average person could do it. You know, there’s – we kind of go by the expression “many hands make light work” – you know, when you get everybody involved pulling on the line and they’re working together, the sails come up and they go up really fast. And then when we put people coiling down, we show them how to coil down the deck to get it cleaned up you know so the lines aren’t all over the place. If everybody’s working on something, that can happen really fast. You know, It’s kind of fun to see how, when it all comes together, you can make it happen very efficiently. And it gives people a sense of accomplishment – it’s very much instant gratification which I think again really lends itself really well to team building.

Michael: Right, absolutely. I would expect – and I’m kind of pulling at strings here – that some of the contacts that you work with at these various companies may also have concerns about safety. Maybe partly because you’re on a boat, but also because of this physical element. What, I guess, at a high level, how safe is the activity, and how do you support that to make sure that everybody that comes on board leaves healthy?

Dennis: Well, you know, I can say that, with – knocking on the beam next to me right here – that our record in that regard is exemplary. It’s basic maritime procedures of safety, you know: we have very capable and responsible crew that are keeping a constant lookout, that are being utmost situationally aware about what’s happening, and being able to see when a problem might arise. We make sure that everybody that comes on board is fully briefed about our safety operations. With any of the vessels in Boston harbor, before we even get off the dock, we do a safety briefing for that. And tell them where the lifejackets are located, what are the protocols for an emergency type situation, make sure they know that while this is a boat and we have railings and things, that rowdy behavior, that could result in someone going overboard, is gonna bring the trip to a short and dramatic conclusion. And then from there, usually people tend to fall in line and know what’s going on while still being able to have a good time.

Michael: Right. So people understand and appreciate that safety is a priority.

Dennis: And you know, especially when in situations where there’s bad weather- where things that are out of our control – you know, if we have to delay a departure or even come back early, or – you know, we’ve had not a whole lot but situations where a big big storm will be coming through and we have to tell somebody no you can’t well you know we have to reschedule this for another day it’s a disappointment but I think people appreciate it and the reason we do that is to make sure we keep everybody safe.

Michael: Right, got it. Is the business seasonal?

Dennis: Well, so as I said earlier, the team building business is. Now, that being said, we do have kind of a set up for people to do – I know we get, one example is Drake University comes on down in the Bahamas and as kind of a sail training team building week long trip with us. It’s a whole different set up than the Boston team building is, but you know we’re very open to a lot of different dynamics for how people want to do things but during the summertime, that’s when we’re up in Boston and during the winter time, that’s when we go down to the Caribbean.

Michael: Got it, cool. So a company based in Boston that says “we want to sail in Boston” is probably going to do it in the spring or in the summer.

Dennis: Late spring, summer, early fall.

Michael: Got it. Okay, got it. And then otherwise the Bahamas, which sounds pretty good, too.

Dennis: Right.

Michael: Awesome. Alright, so, you’ve walked me through some of the elements of the event. I’d like to make sure that we capture all of them so that people will know what to expect. So, they get to the pier or the port, and you give them the safety training, and I imagine you get them excited about the stuff they are about to do, the put the rigging et cetera together, the actual set-up of the boat, they’re on the boat, you launch, and you’re out in the harbor. What happens when you’re out in the harbor?

Dennis: So that’s- that’s where I come back to that, you know, that idea that- and you know, I’ve- once the sails are set, then it becomes a little less structured as far as what team building is. That’s where I kind of come back to that idea that I think there’s a real value to being able to have then your own kind of interactions, once we’ve set up the fact that now everybody’s here, you know I think the idea of getting off the dock, listening to the safety announcement, setting the sails, cleaning up the deck, that’s like a giant, built-in ice breaker. Now everybody’s there and attuned to it.

Then we kind of let the group do their own thing. Whether that- that’s a number of things, that could be, you know, structured kind of activities that are that are going on, or just mingling, you know, hanging out, but it’s all, you know- then it- then you’re in that environment where you’re watching what’s happening, you’re seeing- and then you’re seeing our crew being given instructions by the captain, working as a team, working as a unit, and that’s- you’re visualizing that, seeing that happening, and that “oh wow, the things that we’re doing, especially when we’re completely under sail, are moving the ship.” You know.

Michael: Right, right. So they’re out in the harbor, and it sounds like they can kind of plan their own itinerary. So whether that’s specific team building activities, or maybe workshops, maybe things about like leadership or teamwork, and communication, whatever it happens to be – they’re in charge of facilitating maybe even more ice breakers. How long are they usually out for? Is this a two, three hour thing?

Dennis: It can be. Can be two, can be three. You know – generally we try to keep it between two and four hours.

Michael: Got it. Although I believe I also saw on your website that they can charter an overnight experience.

Dennis: It’s possible. Anything- a lot of things are possible. It’s what the logistics of what’s going on that day, you know, when it comes to doing that side of things, it’s a little more- there’s different factors we take into setting those up.

Michael: Got it. And I also suspect that a company with employees is a little bit more difficult to take overnight than, say, a private party or a family group.

Dennis: Right.

Michael: Got it. Okay, so, the team building that you do. What are the main challenges that your clients are facing? I guess this is a question a little outside of Liberty Fleet, but what are the reasons that people come to you? What are they trying to achieve? What’s their goal?

Dennis: It’s an interesting question. I don’t- I mean, I think, I guess I’d have to say for a lot of it – in this world that we live in now, we’re craving unique experiences, something memorable, you know, you can always go to a retreat, you know, in the park or, you know, get away for the weekend, or something like that, but doing it on-board with our ship, with our vessel, you know, where we’re out in the harbor, and we’re all there, and it’s something very unique and not typical that you would do, and gives a memorable experience. I think above all, that’s – what you do during these things is almost less important than the atmosphere in which you do them in.

Michael: Got it. So the companies – specifically, I’m thinking about company team building, are bringing their employees along so that they can have this great experience together, so that through that experience, they can collaborate better, communicate better, get to know each other better.

Dennis: Right.

Michael: Got it. I’ve got a couple more questions specifically about Liberty Fleet, and then we can wrap up. The first thing I’m curious about, is any anticipated changes to the business over- you know, what are you planning for 2017?

Dennis: I mean, you know, it’s an ever-growing thing. We’re already starting to take- you know, start building up a schedule- we start getting this stuff pretty early, and you know this summer, there’s the tall ships festival, which is here, which is a big regatta of lots of different old, traditional vessels, many that are bigger than we are, so that’s going to be a big festival during the end of June, the third week of June, then you know, Harbor Fest and things like that, so it’s going to be a big year. I think, not so much changes, just as word gets out with us, we start building up not just repeat clients, but word of mouth goes around and we start getting more and more and more. You know, we had a stellar year for private events last season – you know, just a lot of people who came and were really satisfied and felt that this was something that they would not only want to do again, but want to tell other people about.

Michael: Awesome. So how far in advance would people need to plan these events?

Dennis: I mean, it’s always better to plan them far in advance. But then there’s inherent risk of planning things far in advance, because you plan them and then you can’t get everyone to commit, and things- life happens, you know? It’s really, you know, as far as- there’s advantages to every different time period of planning them, and there’s disadvantages, you know. If you wait til the last minute, and you know that you can get everybody, you’re risking not having the boat there to be able to do it, but if you plan it way, way far in advance, and you know you got the spot locked down, then you risk having people not be able to come. You know? It’s finding a delicate balance between those two.

Michael: Do you have a weather policy? If let’s say there’s a storm, and they have to reschedule, et cetera?

Dennis: Yeah, that’s complicated. I don’t know if I can necessarily get into that right now. But yes, there is.

Michael: Sure, no problem. I assume when they’re chatting with you on the phone, it’s somewhere on the website, or whatever. What about – what can you tell me about pricing for companies that are booking these kinds of events?

Dennis: Oh, that’s- that, there’s, you know again, that’s one of those things that’s a little, probably more complicated than than this interview. You know I could tell you that if people were interested, we are more than happy to very quickly get a quote drawn up for them. And I think it’s pretty reasonable.

Michael: Got it. If I can do a soft push on that – I expect – a boat is an expensive thing to run, right? To have it in port, and to even own and maintain it- is it safe to assume that a group of say 20-40 people, would probably be over a thousand dollars, maybe even over two thousand?

Dennis: It would be in that range, yeah.

Michael: Got it. And I just want to point that out because there are some team building events out there where it’s, say paintball or something, where it’s $30 a person, so it’s probably going to be a little more, but it’s this incredibly unique experience.

Dennis: I mean- and again, like I said, it really depends on what’s going on. There’s a lot of factors that go into drawing up those numbers. It hugely is right in that range, but, you know- we try to make it so that it’s reasonable, and that it’s – that people feel satisfied. Above all, we want people to feel that what they’re paying for is something they’re going to be satisfied with.

Michael: So folks are getting a good value.

Dennis: Yep.

Michael: Awesome. Alright. That gives me a lot of information – a lot of the questions I’ve had, and that you’ve had answers for. Is there anything else that we’ve missed? Or that we could have gone a little deeper into?

Dennis: I think that we are pretty good!

Michael: That’s great! So thank you so much for doing this interview with me.

Dennis: You got it! You have a great day.

 

Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships Reviews

Many groups have left five-star feedback about their experience with Liberty Fleet! Here are some great reviews from a variety of sources. If you want more testimonials, I highly recommend you check out further reviews on the Facebook page, Yelp, or Trip Advisor.

Some awesome feedback:

..I took my entire staff on board a tall ship with the Liberty crew last year for surprise team building exercises as well as some much needed relaxation and socialization time. The crew was a terrific in teaching the activities and workings of the ship, relating to staff and having them work in many different roles all with the common goal of smooth sailing. The information and experience crosses to any profession, and is a highly recommended activity vs. the old standby catch me if I fall exercises. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip into the harbor and back. The crew was engaging and informative. Will be back for sure!
–Buzz33, 5 star Trip Advisor review

This was amazing. We used these guys for a year end staff outing and it was the perfect experience. Good drinks and good food; highly recommend a the dark and stormy. The staff was fun and entertaining and this is probably the best way to see Boston Harbor. Also, if you’re looking for a way to foster a team-building experience that isn’t contrived they have you raise the sails which is a great team challenge. Also great at an administrative level for planning. Answers come quick and they are very responsive to changes. If you’re doing this as a company outing I would advise getting a bus to the aquarium area, really helped to coordinate the event.
Own L, 5 star Trip Advisor Review

Have you ever worked with Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships?

We would love to hear if you’ve done a team building exercise with Liberty Fleet before! What kind of activities did you do on the boat once you set sail? Did you team enjoy getting to learn about the mechanisms of sailing? How did you team grow closer through the Liberty Fleet events?