In the late 1960s, a group of passionate New Yorkers lobbied the city to set aside a collection of city blocks in the South Street Seaport as an area worthy of care, attention, and preservation. They became the South Street Seaport Museum’s first volunteers, and laid the foundation for the work the Museum does today in sharing the incredible story of the rise of the port of New York with our visitors and community.
Volunteers support every aspect of the Seaport Museum but are most often seen working on the waterfront at Pier 16. Our crew works tirelessly to restore and maintain the fleet of historic vessels using traditional maritime skills while enjoying the unique atmosphere of a busy waterfront that makes the South Street Seaport Historic District so special. The Seaport Museum is excited to increase the opportunities available this year to volunteers on the waterfront as well as reintroduce the volunteer sailing program. These programs are one-of-a-kind, offering one of the only ways to interact with ships from a bygone era.
Ship Restoration & Maintenance
This is a year-round program where volunteers help maintain and restore both the Museum’s stationary and operational vessels. We welcome all levels of experience and offer the chance for new volunteers to learn and preserve these precious skills.
Entry level: No special skills are required, just a willingness to learn and be part of a team. During every month of the year, volunteers and staff work together to care for the ships. Work includes: cleaning and organizing, repairs, painting, polishing, varnishing, and general maintenance. In the Spring, the operational vessels are fitted out and re-rigged for the coming season, and in the late Fall they’re down-rigged for Winter. Most labor can be unskilled. Training is provided.
Specialized skills: We welcome any volunteers that have more specialized skills––all ships need carpenters, electricians, engineers, riggers, and metalworkers from time to time. There are also opportunities to learn aspects of these trades during work days and special workshops.
- Physical stamina, skills as described above, and an ability to work in a team.
- Projects can often be dirty and require wearing PPE, volunteers must be willing to work in this kind of environment.
- Be 16 or older. Anyone under 18 must have parent or guardian permission.
All volunteers must be at least 16 years old to participate. Click below to get in touch and learn about volunteering at the Seaport Museum.
Volunteer Sailing Crew
Our historic 1885 schooner Pioneer has opportunities for volunteer crew members to help sail her during weekdays, weeknights, and weekends from April to October. Previous sailing experience is helpful, but not required. Training is provided. This opportunity is physically demanding but extremely rewarding.
- Go on two training sails. These are held most Saturdays from 8:30am–12pm during the sailing season.
- After the second training sail, take a U.S. Coast Guard mandated drug test.
- Work as crew on at least four sails a month and one training sail a month (during the season) to maintain your active status.
- All volunteers must be at least 16 years old to participate.
Click below to get in touch and learn about volunteering at the Seaport Museum.