November / December 2022

CALIFORNIAN

A San Diego landmark with a mission
CALIFORNIAN

MARK ALBERTAZZI PHOTOGRAPHY

Though the C.W. LAWRENCE, the inspiration for CALIFORNIAN, was brig-rigged, the designer Melbourne Smith followed the sail plan of the JOSEPH LANE. Because of their height aloft, the fore topgallant and a fore-and-aft main jackyard topsail (not shown) drew the attention of U.S. Coast Guard inspectors; successful stability tests put any concerns to rest.

The foreboding, dark-gray sky looked ready to unleash a torrent of rain at any moment as I hustled along the bustling San Diego waterfront, trying to make it to CALIFORNIAN’s dock on time. It was hardly the weather I had expected when I packed my bag early that morning to race aboard the replica square-topsail schooner. The event was the 34th annual America’s Schooner Cup Charity Regatta, originally conceived in 1987 as a match race between the wooden-hulled schooners DAUNTLESS and BAQHEERA. It has grown over the years to become a celebrated gathering of West Coast schooners.

I slowed my pace from a sprint to a crawl as I observed the fleet moored at STAR OF INDIA Wharf, home of the Maritime Museum of San Diego (MMSD). The museum owns and operates CALIFORNIAN, which was launched in San Diego in 1984 for a separate organization called the Nautical Heritage Society. Unlike any other museum I have visited, MMSD does not occupy any buildings; instead, it is composed of a fleet of floating vessels, each representing a different era: a U.S. Navy submarine; two steamboats; the iron square-rigger STAR OF INDIA; the replica Spanish galleon SAN SALVADOR, which was built by the museum; HMS SURPRISE (ex–HMS ROSE), which came here after a film career; and CALIFORNIAN, the state’s flagship. CALIFORNIAN  and SAN SALVADOR sail regularly, and the museum collections and exhibits are displayed aboard STAR OF INDIA and go to sea with her when she sails.

A long line of ticketholders waited to board the schooner as I neared the pier. I was impressed by the variety of individuals who, like me, were there to race aboard the famous CALIFORNIAN. It was a varied group; no sailing experience was required, and participation in sail handling was optional but encouraged.

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