The Maritime Museum in San Diego, California, preserves the memory of Pacific maritime history and heritage through its collections, exhibits, and programs. Historic vessels at the museum include submarines, steam-powered vessels, and sailing ships. The Star of India, built in 1863, is the world’s oldest active sailing ship and was the first to be acquired by the museum.
The steam yacht Medea is a 1904 ship built in Scotland, which served in two world wars, with three different navies, and for six different nations. The steam ferryboat Berkeley was built in San Francisco in 1898 and was the first propeller-driven ferry on the west coast of the United States. The ship is famous for operating all day and night to rescue victims of the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco. The America is a replica of the 139-foot vessel that first won the famous America’s Cup sailing race in 1851. The official tall ship of the state of California, the Californian, was built in 1984 in the San Diego Bay and first launched for the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles that same year. The Californian’s nine sails span an area of over 7,000 feet. The HMS Surprise is a 1970s replica of the Royal Navy Frigate Rose, originally built in the 1700s. The ship was updated in 2003 for the Oscar-winning movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, and today is one of the most detailed and authentic historical recreations. A Soviet era diesel electric submarine, the B-39 is on display. Known as “Project 641,” the submarine served in active duty for more than 20 years, from the 1970s through the 1990s. The lethal submarine carried 24 torpedoes while she patrolled the Pacific Ocean. Another submarine, the 555 USS Dolphin is also on display, and is the world’s deepest diving submarine. The depth record she set in 1968 still stands today. The vessel has been part of many “firsts” in naval research. The PCF 218 Swift Boat hails from the Vietnam era. She served for over 40 years of Coast Guard duty for the Republic of Malta, after having been donated to Malta by the US Navy. The San Salvador is a replica of the first European vessel to reach America’s west coast, at the port of San Diego in 1542. In addition to the ships, permanent exhibits at the museum educate guests on maritime history, including themes such as Charting the Sea to the Age of Sail and the Age of Steam, in addition to exhibits titled Harvesting the Ocean, San Diego’s Navy, and the Brink of War.
History: The Maritime Museum was founded in 1948 with the Star of India at its center. The ship became certified as a National Historic Landmark in 1966. In the 1970s, the steam yacht Medea and steam ferry Berkeley were added to the museum’s fleet. The America, a replica of the 1851 ship to first win the America’s cup, was built in 1995 at a cost of more than 6 million dollars. The Californian, the official tall ship of California, was donated in 2002. The HMS Surprise and the B-39 submarine were added to the fleet in 2004. In 2008, two Monterey fishing boats were added to the collection. In 2012, the Vietnam era PCF 218 Swift Boat joined the fleet, a donation from the Republic of Malta to honor all Swift Boat sailors across the world. 2016 marked the maiden voyage of San Salvador, built at the museum, and the beginning of the Pacific Heritage Tour.
Ongoing Programs and Education: The Maritime Museum’s ships may all be boarded and toured and guided tours are available for groups of 10 or more. Some ships in the fleet take visitors out to sea. On the water adventures include the San Salvador Sailing Adventure, a 4-hour adventure that allows guests to experience the 16th-century galleon in action. The 75-minute high-speed naval history tours are available aboard the PCF 218 Swift Boat. The tall ship Californian takes visitors on a 3-hour hands-on adventure, where guests may haul lines and man the helm while learning about maritime history in San Diego. The luxury yacht America offers 2-hour harbor cruises and sunset cruises as well as seasonal whale watching excursions. Overnight trips include the Pacific Heritage Tour, a 4-night adventure aboard the San Salvador. Popular public events at the Maritime Museum include Pirate Con, a costumed theme party for adults over the age of 21, and Festival of Sail, the largest tall ship event on the west coast, held annually each Labor Day weekend.
1492 North Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101-3309, Phone: 619-234-9153