Students aboard the training ship Oliver Hazard Perry, which is docked in Portland through Sunday. (Alexa Maslowski | CBS 13) Credit: Alexa Maslowski | CBS 13

While the ship may be beautiful and the program offers trainees a chance to experience the open ocean, the Oliver Hazard Perry’s main focus is on education, and many kids are left wanting to learn even more.

The Oliver Hazard Perry is the largest civilian Sailing School Vessel in the United States, and will be docked in Portland through Sunday alongside the U.S. Coast Guard Barcque Eagle, another tall ship used to train cadets from the Coast Guard Academy.

“Anybody can come on here and immerse themselves in what it means to do this,” Oliver Hazard Perry third mate William Link said. “They learn how to climb all the way to the top of the rigging. … You get to see them progress and become better and better sailors, take more charge of the vessel and discover it’s not only the crew’s home, it’s their home, too.”

Twenty-nine middle school and high school students boarded the Oliver Hazard Perry, named for a U.S. Navy commander known for his heroics in the War of 1812, in Boston.

With a six-day trip ahead, they’re immediately immersed in this unique environment.

More than half of the trainees on board are back for a second time.

Olivia Horton was on board just a few weeks ago. She says it not only sparked her interest in sailing, but she also formed bonds unlike any other.

“It’s crazy to see how fast you become really close with people,” Horton said. “I never thought it could happen like that.”

Trainees say a life in sailing is now something to consider and that they hope to return.

The captain and crew say the primary focus will always be on educating young people, but they are planning future programs for adults and college students.

The first ocean-going full-rigged ship to be built in the U.S. in over 100 years, the Oliver Hazard Perry has overnight accommodations for 32 passengers in addition to her 17-member professional crew.

The Eagle, also in Portland, is a three-masted barque that tours the world as a goodwill ambassador of the United States, while training cadets and officer candidates for future assignments.

Tall Ships Weekend activities will be held at the Portland Ocean Terminal. Public tours start Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. The Eagle is open until 7 p.m. for tours both days, while the Oliver Hazard Perry is open until 5 p.m. for tours both days.