San Diego’s Star of India is the ‘world’s oldest active sailing ship’. When many were still being created out of wood, this iron ship built in 1863 was a great experiment. Beginning the stages of her life known as Euterpe, this full-rigged ship continued until changes were made almost four decades later. The ship’s sailing began with rough seas. Within two trips to India she endured a cyclone, the death of her first captain, collision and a mutiny. Surviving this difficult beginning, she was turned into a cargo ship and returned to India four more times. In 1871, her ownership turned to London where she began a 25-year run of moving British emigrants to the South Pacific. In that quarter century, she circumnavigated over twenty trips. Her log suggests those trips often found her ‘laboring and rolling in a most distressing manner’, but she was the little iron ship that could. Life for the ship was as difficult as it was for those aboard. Emigrants spent time in cramped quarters, with limited rations and suffering disease and malnutrition. Although some perished during the journey, most saw a successful life in their new home of New Zealand.
Later sold to the Pacific Colonial Ship Company of San Francisco, today’s Star of India gained Hawaiian registry and later American registry – which was a true feat for a foreign-built ship. Nearing retirement, she became a salmon hauler regularly making the journey from Alaska to California until coming to a complete rest in 1923. Rescued by James Wood Coffroth in 1926, she was given to the Zoological Society of San Diego with the idea to be made into a floating museum. Taking years to cultivate a following and enough funds necessary, her restoration continues as she spends more and more time in the water she adores. Today, the Star of India shares her story with hundreds daily. She stands as the centerpiece to San Diego’s Maritime Museum and proudly flies her restful sails in the southern California sunshine.
Tickets can be purchased for the Star of India alone or a full visit to the Maritime Museum. In it’s near seven-decade existence, this downtown museum has shared its maritime expertise with millions. February is Macy’s Museum Month, and all participating museums are half off. Known for giving much needed love to historic ships the museum is thought to have one of the greatest collections. If you’re looking for a great time on the water, check out San Diego’s Festival of Sail. Annually held over Labor Day weekend, this festival of tall ships turns even the most determined land lover into a sailor. Head on down to wave at pirates, shop at stalls, try your hand at old school sailing or just sit in awe at the life at sea and the mighty ships who continue to wow visitors.
Searching for sea life, visitors aboard the Star of India see the harbor from every deck. Climb aboard and get blasted back in time to the land of tall ships, riggers and nautical linguistics. Try your hand at playing captain and steer the ship straight into port. Take your family on a no-holds-barred educational tour of life at sea touching upon all aspects of the Star of India’s history. Check out the Poop Deck’s ladder, hatch overs and boats. Wind your way to the ‘Tween Decks to see a typical bunk, anchor chains and pump pipes. Or spend your time on the Main Deck to observe the chart room, galley, passenger cabins and more. Read charts, swab the deck, attempt to raise the mast, find your compass, talk to volunteers filled with detailed knowledge of the ship’s history and take in the quarters of those who spent their time aboard the ship.
Whether you take in an urban hike along the Embarcadero, shop for trinkets at nearby Seaport Village or hop aboard the USS Midway, the downtown area of San Diego has much to offer. Almost directly opposite the Star of India, sits Lane Field. The original local field to today’s San Diego Padres, who were previously called the Hollywood Stars, this historic green space, named for the Stars’ owner Bill Lane, is equipped with bases, plaque and mound. Channel your inner Padre and try your hand at pitching a curve. If you’re willing to wander a bit further, you’ll find yourself in San Diego’s Little Italy. Every Saturday, amidst stalls of street food, cold pressed juices, fresh sea urchin and breads of all kinds, you’ll find grown ups, dogs and little ones meandering the aisles in search of a special treat at the Farmer’s Market. If it’s not a Saturday, wandering the streets of Little Italy is still worthwhile. Wiggle your nose past aromas of oregano, mozzarella and all things sauce amidst eclectic international fare as you stroll the blocks of this downtown region.