San Diego Maritime Museum
San Diego Maritime Museum – San Diego has a long maritime history. There’s a naval base in the harbor and a marine base just up the road. The incredible USS Midway is nearby and available to tour. So it’s not surprising that the San Diego Maritime Museum celebrates ships of so many different eras.
There are sailing ships from the 1800s, submarines, even a massive ferryboat that’s a beautiful example of turn-of-the-last-century design and ornamentation.
Two replica sailing vessels offer a glimpse of what ships from historic paintings look like in the real world. Even more amazingly, all these ships are in the water, and most regularly sail.
Star of India
Right up against the dock is one of the coolest ships at the museum. Built in 1863, the Euterpe, as it was then known, was designed for speed and cargo. The metal hull was incredibly advanced for its day and offered more cargo space and the possibility of a larger overall ship compared to its wooden predecessors.
Originally three masts and full-rigged, the Euterpe was sold in 1906 and converted to a barque, which is more economical to run (requiring a smaller crew) and performs better when running upwind. Though well into the age of steam, the Star of India, as she became known, carried salmon from Alaska to California.
Today she’s in beautiful condition and is one of the oldest ships in the world still sailing. Inside, there’s a surprising amount of space, given it’s a sailing ship.
The HMS Surprise is neither old, nor an “HMS” anything. It’s an honorary name taken from her name in the movie “Master and Commander.”
Originally called the Rose, she’s a replica of a mid-1700s Royal frigate of the same name.
Though built in 1970, you wouldn’t know it. It looks and feels legit, other than the modern bathrooms in the bow.
In one of the many fascinating counterpoints at the museum, next to the HMS Surprise is the B-39, a Soviet diesel-electric submarine, one of the largest of its era. Though a big sub, nearly 295 feet (90m) long, she’s not quite as big as the nuclear missile submarines like the Redoutable.
The attack sub has six torpedo tubes in the bow, and four more in the stern. Inside, tight corridors narrow to even tighter hatches, making the tour a challenge for those less flexible.
A video told at different stations throughout the ship tells the story of the sub and its crew.
USS Dolphin, ferryboat Berkeley, and more
Though far smaller than the B-39, the Dolphin has its own big story. A research sub, it holds the record for deepest dive by a traditional submarine: more than 3,000 feet (914m).
A 119-year-old ferryboat might seem like an odd addition to a maritime museum, but the Berkeley has a stunning interior that gives a glimpse of design of the late Victorian-era. She also has museum exhibits, a sort of museum within a museum.
In all, there are 11 ships at the museum.
If you’re at all interested in ships and boats, it is highly recommended to combine this with a tour of the USS Midway. You can walk from one to the other. The two together offer a fantastic look at a century and a half of maritime and naval history.
- Behold the USS Midway
- Cutty Sark: A tour of 147 years of sailing history
- A tour of the ballistic missile nuclear submarine Redoutable