HOUSTON, March 26, 2008 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- 1877 Elissa, Official Tall Ship of Texas, will visit the Port of Houston on the occasion of Houston Yacht Club's 22nd annual Elissa Regatta. The sailing ship will have completed her annual series of daysails, March 21 to 27, and will be open to the public for guided tours at the Port of Houston Authority's Bayport Cruise Terminal on Friday, March 28 and Saturday, March 29.

Elissa will be the guest of the Port of Houston Authority and the Houston Yacht Club, which has supported the ship and her programs at Galveston Historical Foundation's Texas Seaport Museum through its annual Elissa Regatta. The regatta features sailboat racing in three classes and Cajun buffet on Saturday evening with a live auction and Zydeco music.

"Elissa is nearly unique among historic ships in that she sails," said John Moran, who has served as interim director of the Texas Seaport Museum. "She is not only fully restored to sailing condition, but she has a large crew of volunteers who are trained and eager to sail her. She represents the maritime history of Texas. That's why it's important to take her to other seaports more often, to show the flag and gain wider support than just Galveston." Elissa's last port visit was to Corpus Christi in October of last year.

The ship will be open for tours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students 18 and under. Children 6 and under are free. Tours include a short video about the ship's restoration. A gift shop will be available.

The Bayport Cruise Terminal is located at 4700 Cruise Road in Pasadena, at the end of Port Road off Highway 146. All adult visitors will need a photo identification to enter the terminal gate.

Built in Scotland in 1877, Elissa served as a British, then Norwegian sailing cargo ship until early in the 20th century. She called at Galveston twice while under the British flag, in 1883 and 1885, leaving with cotton in her hold. An engine was installed and her rig gradually reduced under a series of owners. Elissa was at the end of a remarkably long career when maritime archeologists found her rusting in a Greek scrap yard in 1974. She was purchased by Galveston Historical Foundation which set out to restore her as the first phase in the development of the Texas Seaport Museum.

The foundation purchased the ship in 1975, and restoration began in 1977. The restoration, which took eight years and cost more than $5 million, brought Galveston a living connection with her maritime past. In 1982 the vessel was ready for sea and proved the accuracy of her restoration by setting sail into the Gulf for the first of her annual "Sea Trials." The weeklong series of daysails demonstrate her readiness for sea.

Elissa is preserved, maintained and crewed by a group of volunteers who, in addition to contributing over 22,000 hours, are trained in the skills and procedures required to sail a 19th century square-rigged ship. These dedicated volunteers are directed by a small professional staff throughout the year, and commanded when the ship is underway by a professional captain and mates who are specially licensed to operate sailing vessels. Members of the volunteer crew also act as docents for tours when the ship is open to visitors during port visits.

The ship will reopen to the public at her pier at the Texas Seaport Museum, 22nd Street and Harborside Drive, at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, April 1. In her absence, admission to the Texas Seaport Museum, open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., will be half the normal price of $8 for adults and $6 for students 7 to 18. Children 6 and under, as always, are free.

For more information, contact Texas Seaport Museum, 409-763-1877. A gallery of press-ready photos of the ship and her crew is available for download at http://www.galvestonhistory.org/photo_gallery.asp.

Galveston Historical Foundation
Molly Dannenmaier, Director of Marketing and Public Relations