Being on the oceanside, it is fair to expect San Diego to have some attractions that pay tribute to the sea.  There’s a museum on the aircraft carrier THE MIDWAY, and there’s the memorial statue out on Point Loma that pays tribute to Cabrello, who discovered the bay – and there’s the Maritime Museum, just north of the MIDWAY- that is a unique and compact collection of ships that have a history with San Diego and its watery times.  Parking is all subject to parking meters, so bring your quarters.


Drive to the waterfront in downtown San Diego – all the way to the waterfront.  On the northeast corner of the harbor lies the Maritime Museum … two tall ships, two submarines, a pilot boat, a ferry, a luxury yacht, and a collection of smaller watercraft, including a few yachts that participated in the AMERICAS CUP races at one time or another.  With the exception of the yachts, all ships are on the water, docked and moored in place, with access accorded by a gangplank.


The two tall ships are THE STAR OF INDIA and THE SURPRISE.  The SURPRISE is presently closed to the public since it is being restored and refurbished after it had been used on the movie MASTER AND COMMANDER.  So, after buying our tickets at the booth just in front of the STAR (under 20 bucks, which included a harbor tour on the pilot boat), we headed for the STAR OF INDIA, a full-blown, seaworthy tall ship.  In fact, the STAR still goes out with crews rather regularly even these days.

jan 24 MM Star of India abeam     SONY DSC jan 24 MM Star  of India rear Jan 24 MM the Pilot cruise jan 24 MM the Surprise


It’s all there.  Tall masts, complete with riggings, ropes, lines, sheets and pegs.  Name all the nautical language you know, and it was there.  All was shipshape and neat.  The main deck had the typical wooden floor, allowing us to walk the ship from stem to stern.  We went below deck, where a good many historical pictures hung, along with a good amount of posters explaining the workings of the ship, its travels, and some models of its sister ships … including, I might proudly add, the Swedish VASA, a mighty ship that I had the privilege of seeing on a trip I took to Sweden in 1976.  It impressed Wilma to know that I had seen it.

jan 24 Mm Star of India mast  jan 24 MM Star of india the stove   SONY DSC

Anyway, plenty to read and examine down there… and then one more deck even further down.  We took in the living quarters, the galley, and the captain’s room, among other things.  Indeed, we learned a great deal about the shipping world back in the day of the tall ships.


Down the dock a bit, and there’s the Berkeley.  This large boat was used as a ferry between the San Diego downtown and Coronado.  Looking at it, one would think it would be a paddlewheel ship – it looks like a riverboat on the Mississippi… but no, there is no paddlewheel.  This baby is unique is so many ways…..  But I’ll get to that.


Upon walking the gangplank onto the Berkeley, we found the entry of the ship serving as the gift shop and another ticket area.  The gift shop had the usual tourist items, shirts and hats, mugs and cups, books, puzzles, toys for the kiddies ….  So we passed the checkpoint (where the lady at the counter makes sure your hand was stamped at the ticket booth where we bought our tickets) and entered the wonderful, gorgeous interior of the Berkeley.


We’re talking roomy and open.  Passengers used to ride here, strolling the wide decks or sitting in the ample oak benches that filled the main deck of the ship.  To make it more of a museum, display cases were available, filled with all kinds of seagoing matter – models of ships, fishing items, small working steam engines – one interesting item after another.


We followed along and took the stairs to the lower deck – and hey, there’s the entry to the engine room.  Down below, we were greeted by a gentleman who had the job of explaining the workings of the engine of the Berkeley – and this was no ordinary engine.  Steam driven, yes, originally fueled with wood, then coal, then fuel oil… but the big difference?  The Berkeley never turned around – it never had to.  It had propellers on both ends, so all the engineer had to do was put the lever in the correct position and one propeller would pull the ship over to Coronado… and then throw the lever the other way for the other propeller would pull it back to the San Diego waterfront.  Pretty dang clever, and very neat to see.


We completed our trip through the Berkeley, and it was time for our harbor tour aboard the pilot boat.

This small ship held maybe 30 passengers – and off we sailed after an explanation of safety from the tour guide.  We boarded the pilot ship, passing out the side of the Berkeley, across the deck of the MEDEA (the luxury yacht – more coming…) and then onto the pilot boat.

Jan 24 MM the Pilot cruise   SONY DSC  SONY DSC

We cast off, and head across to the navy yards, then parallel the Coronado shore, nearing the tall bridge, turning back to the San Diego side, passing the shipyards, a couple city parks, the Fish Market restaurant (where we had been the other day – by the way we met a couple from Massachusetts – he was a SAUNA/HOT TUB salesman, of all things), past the Midway, (and almost UNDER it … see the picture…)

And then back to the side of the Medea.  It was an okay tour … the tour guide pointed out where the modern-day aircraft carriers usually are berthed, but nothing was in town, so we got to look at a big empty dock… oh well, other folks will see one.


Once off the pilot boat, we walked through the small yacht, the MEDEA .. lots of oak, a smaller sailing craft meant for a small group of people – definitely a sweet piece of watercraft for its day.


Off to the aft of the Medea, and onto the dock behind the Berkeley to the Russian submarine.  It need some work outside, but inside … after we had cleared the gangplank and descended the steep narrow steps… was very interesting.  Small work areas, small bunks, small galley; things stored in every possible cranny.  The passageway between the different sections required us to pass through small doors.  Even Wilma, short as she is, had to duck to get through the hole.  It took us some time to walk through the bowels of the Russian sub, but we made it without butting our heads on anything too sharp or hard.

Jan 24 MM russian sub 01  jan 24 MM russian sub interior 02  jan 24 mm russian sub interior 04

Back on the dock, we walked past the SURPRISE – clearly it would have been as interesting as the STAR OF INDIA, but it was closed.  We got a good chance to check it out from the dock.  It’s a fine craft, I’m sure.


We passed on the other submarine .. it was in front of the MEDEA, but we couldn’t go in it anyway, so we left the museum through the gift shop and felt like we got our money’s worth.  Good job on this one, San Diego.