Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Festival Of Sail

 It is no secret that I don't play well in water. I don't like to wear shorts and my fare skin likes to change twenty shades of red when left unprotected for longer than five minutes. But there is a part of me that wishes that I did enjoy water sports because I find old sailing ships to be fascinating. 
  I could possibly blame Steven Spielberg for this in some way. What kid that grew up in the 1980's didn't have grand visions of adventure after watching The Goonies? We all wanted to find a long lost pirate ship full of riches that had been plundered by "One Eyed Willie." Yep, defying our parents, seeking adventure and listening to Cyndi Lauper was all we could think about. Well maybe not the Cyndi Lauper part but hey, she had some catchy tunes. Anyway, when I found out that there was a meritime museum in San Diego and that they were hosting a festival full of these sailing ships I knew we had to go. So we loaded up the car and headed south for Labor Day weekend.
   The Maritime Museum of San Diego is where the Star of India resides as well as the Berkley. Both of these vessels are historic landmarks and the stars of the museum. During the Festival of Sail, however, there were twenty one ships to visit each with its own ship look, feel and story.
  Now, to be honest, I know absolutely nothing about boats or how to sail them. I know it isn't easy and that there is a lot to all the ropes and pulleys that operate the sails. But I wish I had some knowledge about how they worked. It looks like a lot of fun as long as I didn't have to make a living at it. There isn't a lot of room or privacy on board these ships and the head clearance left a lot to be desired for a person over six foot tall. Looks like it wouldn't be a pirates life for me. It's hard to imagine the conditions that people lived in as they traveled the world in those early days of exploration. These ships are obviously younger than that but the concept remains the same.
  We weren't there long before the peaceful docks erupted in loud booms that made most everyone jump right out of their boots. It was canon fire. Yes, two of the ships were giving harbor tours and as they passed by each other they let loose on their canons. These of course were not using live ammunition but the sound, fire and smoke were enough to give you a very uneasy feeling. You defiantly wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of one of those guns. I would however, really like to fire one. Those ships sailing the harbor were the only two ships we didn't get on which was okay. It may have sparked a desire to start another hobby that I can't afford. It looked like a blast, though. (Ha! That wasn't intentional but I like it.)
  One ship is kind of a star in its own right because Hollywood has used it for roles in the films Master and Commander and Pirates of the Caribbean.  Below deck of this ship we heard stories of how they used the ship during filming, what was and wasn't on board during shooting and there were photos hanging on the walls of the actors during the shoot. It's not often that you get to interact with Hollywood history in such a hands on way so I thought that was pretty cool.
  The Star of India was the main reason I wanted to visit the Maritime Museum and it did not disappoint. I learned of the ship from an episode of the series Ghost Hunters a few years back and I've wanted to visit ever since. She was built in 1863 in the United Kingdom and sailed for under her flag until 1906 when she was sold to the United States. During her career she has survived a collision and a terrible wind storm. She was used to carry different types of cargo from the UK, India, Alaska and New Zealand. She is the oldest iron hulled merchant ship still in existence and still sails regularly. She is also rumored to be haunted as you may have figured out. However, if it is the ghosts were silent or at least drowned out by the large crowds of people that toured her decks that day.
  The Festival of Sail was expected to bring in around 125,000 people for Labor Day weekend. Yes it was crowded but it's not everyday you can see that many old ships in the same place. It was like visiting twenty one floating museums. If you get the chance to visit San Diego during the Festival of Sail you should make the effort to stop by. If not you don't make it during the festival then at least stop by the Maritime Museum to see the Star of India. The history of that ship alone is worth the stop. Perhaps next time I'll let them take me out and show me how to sail. That could open me up to all kinds of new adventures.


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