Thousands Cheer on 150th Anniversary of Dana’s Arrival : Tall Ships Sail to Commemorate a Bygone Era

Times Staff Writer

Re-creating the days of wooden ships and iron men, crews hoisted sails and fired cannons aboard tall ships Sunday as they cruised from Newport Beach toward Dana Point.

Numbering six ships in all, the fleet was part of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the arrival in Dana Point of Richard Henry Dana, author of “Two Years Before the Mast.”

Ironically, Pilgrim II, the replica of the ship that carried Dana and that was to have been the centerpiece of the armada, remained in dry dock Sunday, the victim of decay below the waterline.

Stan Cummings, director of the Orange County Marine Institute, which recently bought the two-masted square-rigger for $450,000, said it would remain in a Long Beach shipyard for another week. Sandblast removal of paint from the hull revealed decay that had not been anticipated, Cummings said.

The cost of repairing the Pilgrim II originally had been estimated at $12,000, but additional work on the ship’s hull, including the replacement of more than 200 feet of planking, will drive the bill up to $41,000, Cummings said.


Standing in for the Pilgrim II was the tall ship Bounty, which was used during the filming of the most recent remake of “Mutiny on the Bounty.”

Dozens of small craft accompanied the fleet, and on shore thousands of cheering spectators lined the hills overlooking Dana Point as the three tall ships that finished the voyage arrived in Dana Point’s west-turning basin.

Along the way, passengers on board the Californian, along with boaters chasing the flotilla, were treated to demonstrations of the vessel’s firepower, as crew members fired the ship’s twin cannon, which belched flame and acrid blue smoke.

Launched last year, the two-masted replica of a federal revenue cutter earns its keep hauling charters and acting as a sort of floating naval academy for high school youths.

Named the state’s official tall ship, the $1.4-million Californian participated in the tall-ships parade during last year’s Olympic Games.

The other ships in Sunday’s fleet were Discovery, Resolution, Swift of Ipswitch, and Pilgrim of Newport.

Forced to use their engines because of slack wind, the ships completed the short distance between Newport Beach and Dana Point at a leisurely two to three knots.

Although the constant throbbing of its single diesel engine could be felt throughout the Californian’s 93-foot deck, the illusion of another age was strong as the vessel’s crew pulled ropes and hoisted the schooner’s many sails.

It’s hard work, but most said they preferred to spend their lives under the tall masts and billowing sails of a sailing ship.

As she prepared coffee for the crew and set out snacks for the guests, Jane Kelly, 23, the Californian’s cook, recalled how she turned down an offer of marriage rather than leave the sea.

“I’ve been doing this for two years,” she said. “Once I was asked to give this up for marriage, but I left instead. I guess I’ve got the sea in my blood.”

Cummings said that while the Pilgrim II missed what was to have been the celebration of its return from dry dock, it might participate in future tall-ship races.

“We never really used the word race here, but a race would be fun,” he said. “We would have to pick a different month than September. There just isn’t enough wind.”