Some 180,000 visitors a year come to the Maritime Museum of San Diego to see how sailing vessels are restored, maintained and operated. The museum possesses one of the finest collections of historic ships in the world, including the oldest active ship on the seas - the barque "Star of India,'' built in 1863.
Also known as the San Diego Maritime Museum, this facility was originally founded in 1948 to display both permanent and temporary exhibits related to maritime history, commerce and exploration. Apart from the Star of India, acquired in 1927, the museum features the steam-driven 1898 "Berkeley'' and the 1904 "Medea.'' The former was the West Coast's first successful propeller-driven steam ferry, later declared a state and national historic landmark. The latter represents the steam yachts built during "the age of conspicuous wealth.''
There is a replica of an 18th-century Royal Navy frigate on display, the HMS Surprise, which appeared in an award-winning film, "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.'' Another fine ship on exhibit is the "Pilot.'' Built in 1914, it is the oldest pilot boat still in service on the West Coast. Also kept here are two submarines: 1968's USS Dolphin with the record for the Navy's deepest dive and a 1967 B-39 Soviet attack submarine, which was designed during the Cold War to track U.S. and NATO warships.
Among the museum's permanent exhibits are five interactive displays: Age of Sail, Age of Steam, San Diego's Navy, Charting the Sea - Ocean Exploration, and Harvesting the Ocean: San Diego's Commercial Fishing Industry. Public events, such as "Movies before the Mast'' and family sleepovers aboard the Star of India, also help fulfill the museum's mission.
The museum arranges daily voyages on San Diego Bay and weekend adventure sails to Catalina. These outings take place aboard the museum's own schooner, "Californian,'' which is a replica of a mid-19th century revenue cutter. Additionally, the museum's ships host more than 200 private events each year, from weddings and private parties to meetings, seminars, corporate events and charters.
A variety of dockside and at-sea educational programs are conducted, too. Located on the premises, the MacMullen Library & Research Archive serves museum members, educators, maritime scholars, and researchers from around the world. The museum also publishes a peer-reviewed quarterly, "Mains'l Haul: A Journal of Pacific Maritime History,'' to enhance and encourage the study of maritime events.
The museum's hours of operation are 9am to 8pm daily, every day of the year. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, summer hours apply, and the museum closes at 9pm.
The San Diego Maritime Museum is located at 1492 North Harbor Drive, San Diego, California 92101-3309. For those coming by public transportation, the County Center/Little Italy trolley station on the blue line is only two blocks away.
By car, take Interstate 5 to the Airport Exit and look for signs directing you to "Embarcadero-Maritime Museum'' near the corner of Ash Street. Parking is available in metered spaces directly in front of the museum from 8am to 6pm, Monday through Saturday, at a cost of 25 cents per 12 minutes. Several day lots are also nearby.