a day at the maritime museum of san diego

by Stacy

We’re still trying to plan outings on a regular basis to explore our new city. The goal last week was to do something not animal-based (unlike the aquarium, zoo, and animal park). We decided to head south towards downtown and the harbor for a visit to the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

The museum has no central building to house exhibits or displays. Instead, they have a floating collection of artifacts: the ships themselves.

The .. uh… flagship is the Star of India, the world’s oldest active sailing vessel which was built in 1863. Pretty impressive!

maritime museum of san diego

There were several school groups on board as we walked around which was really cute. Costumed actors were interacting with the students showing them how to tie ropes and other activities. They were even cooking in the ship’s galley. I giggled every single time the kids chorused, “Aye aye, Captain!”

The most impressive looking ship, I thought, was the HMS Surprise (originally the HMS Rose, but it was renamed for the movie Master and Commander). Unfortunately, the combination of its size and some wake rocking the ship made me a little seasick, so I didn’t spend much time on board.

maritime museum of san diego

Much uglier but more stable was their B-39 Soviet submarine. (Apologies for the ropes, but I am not a Photoshop master.)

maritime museum of san diego

After touring the inside, we decided that we are much too tall to spend much time on submarines. The clearance is a bit low. In order to get from end-to-end, you have to climb through holes less than three feet in diameter. They have one on land to try out before you go down inside, but we came from the other direction and they were a surprise to us. An older gentleman almost got stuck! The lighting and angles inside were terrible, so no good photos came of us climbing through, but it was really interesting. To compensate, I’ll put up this external shot I got – I like the juxtaposition of the Soviet star with the subtlety of the USS Ronald Reagan in the background.

maritime museum of san diego

While the ships and their on-board displays were varied and informative, the best part of the museum is the harbor cruise. It’s an extra $3 per person (or $2 each if you buy your tickets online) and totally worth it. It’s only 45 minutes long, they leave every hour or two, and the crew is very knowledgeable about the area.

First lesson of the day: it’s much harder to take level photographs on a moving boat. Second lesson of the day: don’t be nice and sit on the far side — all that does is let the sleeping kids’ parents stick their heads in all of your potentially good photos.

Like so:

maritime museum of san diego

This is a bait ship with a crazy trail of birds coming after it! I have a whole sequence of awesome photos, except that this dude’s head is in the way. Wah.

Other than that, good tour.

Here is the Maritime Museum as viewed from the harbor with downtown San Diego in the background:

maritime museum of san diego

The tour gives a little history of the area and points out other sites of interest. We saw the location of the Navy SEAL training facility, the port where most bananas enter the United States, and a tourist strip built by Disney. In addition to buildings, the crew also talks about the different ships and vessels in the harbor. The USS Ronald Reagan (as seen in the submarine photo above) was also in port, as were two cruise ships.

There were also a smattering of sailboats, jet skis, and other small water traffic. Then we came across this boat. Can you guess what they’re doing?

maritime museum of san diego

No clue, huh? Our tour guide advised us to keep a close watch on this military vessel. Let’s try again:

maritime museum of san diego

They’re training a dolphin! See it just ahead of the boat? That was fun to be able to see.

Another thing we saw was our alternate harbor destination for the day, the USS Midway Museum. Our next visit to the harbor will probably take us there.

maritime museum of san diego

My husband’s grandfather served on an aircraft carrier during World War II, so it would be an interesting glimpse into life on a carrier.

Overall, it was a nice way to spend a sunny afternoon, especially since you don’t have to spend much time stuck indoors. I’ve never really been that interested in boats or ships, so I learned a lot. I’m especially glad we did the cruise, however, and highly recommend it. Just buy your tickets online before you go!

maritime museum of san diego

I’ll save the rest of the evening for a separate post. Check back later this week for sunset at Coronado Island!

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