Thursday, April 7, 2022

San Diego Maritime Museum offers ships, history, views, harbor tour


Ahoy, maties! A re-enactor tells tales of a sailor's life, impersonating explorer Juan Cabrillo, aboard San Salvador at Maritime Museum of San Diego. 


Christene "Cookie" Meyers and her brother Rick Cosgriffe
aboard Pilot, which takes visitors on a fun harbor tour.


IF  YOU WANT a taste of the sea, with the vessels which explored the world, you won't find a better place to indulge your sailor side than the San Diego Maritime Museum.
The collection of boats, on San Diego's waterfront, is a treasure trove of all things nautical.
The museum's enthusiastic volunteer force has spent thousands of hours developing a rare collection of vessels. So expansive and well curated is its collection that the facility enjoys a worldwide reputation. 
Named one of the worldwide top three maritime museums, this one needs to be on your bucket list!
Bruce Keller, lifelong sailor, and his
first mate, Christene "Cookie" Meyers,
delight in coming aboard Star of India.
Moored along the waterfront on the Embarcadero, it is one of the delights of the city. The museum sports more than a dozen boats and ships and a nicely researched and well curated array of nautical paraphernalia in a traditional indoor museum. Then outdoors, there's action and entertainment as "pirates" stroll and repairmen do their endless work.
San Diego's fine staff and volunteers are constantly restoring, maintaining and operating these historic vessels to insure that generations to come learn and enjoy.
WE'VE MADE two visits in the last month -- showing off the wonders to family from Montana and friends
from England.
Both sets of visitors were impressed with the beautifully maintained collection of historic ships, including the world’s oldest active ship, the majestic Star of India. Venturing onto some of these ships and exhibits is part of the admission, and tactually stepping inside the vessels is the best way to actually understand the important role ships played in the settling of the world -- not just California.
A handsome view of San Diego awaits in the 45-minute
tour aboard Pilot, built in 1914, after exploring the museum.

We always head first for Star of India, built in 1863. This stately ship -- aptly named -- is the oldest active merchant sailing ship in the world. The museum takes her out on fundraisers from time to time, and we enjoyed a sail on her many years ago -- fingers crossed for an encore as plans are announced.
We took our British friends aboard the Star, with its beautiful wooden decks and English-related stories from her sailing days of yore. Star of India began life during the Civil War, in November of 1863. and her first voyages took her to India where she helped supply to England badly needed jute -- cotton being unavailable from the U.S. because of the war.

 All aboard! The ferry Berkeley has many lovely
appointments, including stained glass windows, a
beautiful bar, and nicely done displays of marine history.
THE FERRY Berkeley is another treat, the first ship you'll enter after you leave the ticket booth. It's full of lore from those who spent time aboard this beautifully restored ferry, brought from the Bay Area.
Among Berkeley's surprises: a vintage upright piano, lovingly cared for and donated by a local family. 
A painter works on a wall
inside the 1898 ferry, Berkeley,
which was moved from
the Bay Area.

We enjoyed a chocolate festival aboard the gorgeous ferryboat Berkeley on one visit.  Another time, we toured the Dolphin submarine (interesting for its design but too claustrophobic for this reporter), watched repairmen working on the tall ship Star of India, and the HMS Surprise, replica of a sturdy British frigate. She has starred in several films, including one of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series and "Master and Commander." 
 DON'T FORGET the Californian, available for an actual sailing.  Built in 1984, she is crafted in the style of the famous cutters which patrolled California's coast during the 1849 era gold rush. Going aboard her is a real sailing adventure, an additional ticket. My sailor beau, child of the sea since birth, encouraged our Californian's sail, a four-hour journey aboard the ship he's admired since it was built. I was thoroughly entertained -- as close as I'll get to "going down to the sea in ships."
Fortunately, we went "down" in the best sense of the word: out into the Pacific and safely back.
 Cookie found the submarine
. Others love it.
FOR THIS reporter-sailor -- with hundreds of hours on small sailing vessels and more than 125 journeys aboard cruise ships -- a visit to San Diego's Maritime Museum feels like the real sailing deal. We highly endorse a
Bruce Keller loves to talk about sailing, and major films
shot at his hometown San Diego's fine Maritime Museum
day of touring this gem.  

BESIDES THE schooner Californian and historic Pride of India, this world class museum offers other vessels to climb aboard or sail at specific times.
The San Salvador is a replica of a 1542 Spanish Galleon like the
first European vessel to reach America's west coast. 

The Californian goes out on weekly, delightful sails which we've enjoyed and will be writing about again. She's a gorgeous, 145-foot long vessel and the state's official tall ship, a must-do sail for 
anyone grounded, like my partner, in maritime history and life on the water.   
Although built fairly recently, in 1984, she is designed in the style of the famous cutters which patrolled California's coast during the 1849 era gold rush. 
 If you have a sailor in the family, a pair of tickets to the museum, or a Saturday sail on the Californian would be a  wonderful gift.
More information:; 

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers explore
aircraft on the USS Midway Museum downtown San Diego.

UP NEXT: While we're in the neighborhood, the USS Midway Museum is right down the waterfront of San Diego. The enormous, historical naval aircraft carrier museum is also in downtown San Diego, at Navy Pier. The aircraft carrier has a proud history -- in the Gulf War and other conflicts --  and is worth a day's visit. way museum consists of the aircraft carrier Midway. The ship houses an extensive collection of aircraft, many of which were built in Southern California. It also has informative and fascinating tours, narrations, exhibits and an impressive outreach and education program which extends into the community and schools. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, theater, nature, family and more:


  1. San Diego LoyalistsApril 8, 2022 at 3:55 PM

    We are so fortunate to have this cultural gem in our town. We've seen maritime museums all over the world and it's hard to beat our own!

  2. Santa Barbara EnthusiastsApril 9, 2022 at 12:38 PM

    Fun story and you are so right that this museum is a cultural treasure. We return again and again. Also looking forward to a sail on Star of India. Have emailed the museum to keep us posted.