We sailed down on the Californian from Long Beach Harbor with 40 passengers and cargo aboard, as did her precursor in 1850, the U.S. Revenue Cutter C. W. Lawrence.
Young sailors climbed high into the rigging of this tall ship replica to set the tops'ls as she made her way to the open sea. Seventy feet below, we deck passengers craned our necks as the white square sails unfurled in the gentle morning breeze.
Although Sea Cadet training of youth is the primary mission of the Californian, adult participation and cruises are integral to the Nautical Heritage Society program and contribute to the nonprofit organization's goals.
We were scheduled to arrive at Dana Point Harbor, the Californian's home port, at dusk. Once all nine sails were trimmed to the skipper's satisfaction, the crew served tasty hors d'oeuvres. Not quite the scene when the swift-sailing Lawrence chased smugglers during Gold Rush years.
Under 7,000 square feet of white canvas, we sailed smartly down the coast, occasionally accompanied by schools of leaping dolphin. Crews of small yachts waved enthusiastically and photographed us. Several aircraft circled Californian and wagged their wings in salute. We were seagoing celebrities for a day.
A Buffet Lunch
Seated on hatches and cannons, we enjoyed a buffet lunch of delicious poached salmon, baked beans, salad and white wine. To our port side the California coast faded into haze and the 20th Century into the 19th. The crew loaded one of the six-pound cannons and fired a practice round as a warning to contraband runners.
Executive Officer Steve Christman outlined the mission of the Revenue Cutter Lawrence: "She alone protected ships and passengers sailing the coast of the new state of California, and collected unpaid taxes on cargo bound for San Francisco and the gold fields.
"From keel to tops'l, every line and halyard of the Californian duplicate those of the Lawrence," he continued. "In addition, the Californian meets all Coast Guard seaworthiness and safety requirements including an auxiliary engine."
The Californian Sea Cadet program, for young people between the ages of 16 and 25, inculcates values such as self-reliance, discipline and teamwork during 11-day cruises. Taught by the eight crew members, the cadets learn through a combination of theory and practical experience.
Instruction includes seamanship, coastal navigation, sail and line handling, ship maintenance and meteorology, oceanography and California history.
History and Seamanship
"When you take an adult cruise with us we'll teach you some history and seamanship. In fact, you may stand a watch and put in a trick at the wheel just like a cadet," said Christman.
Soon the new Gold Coast came into view, with the towers of Newport Center, Crystal Cove State Park and the lowering sun reflecting the hillside homes of Laguna Beach.
As Dana Point rose on the horizon the crew began furling the sails and the Californian's diesel engine powered us into port right on schedule. We were taken ashore in the ship's small boats, where a bus waited to return us to Long Beach.
You can take passage on the 145- foot-long Californian, official tall ship of California, by contacting the Nautical Heritage Society. Through this month there will be day-sail whale watching, three-day High Sea Adventures, Channel Island and Cadet cruises. In late March, Californian will sail to the San Francisco Bay Area where cruises to Drake's Bay and the Farallon Islands will be available.
She will depart for Hawaii June 22. Starting July 25, an 11-day cruise for adults will visit Kauai, Hawaii, Maui and Oahu. The romance, history and lore of Hawaii will be featured on the trip that will end at Honolulu to help the Coast Guard celebrate its 196th Anniversary. The Californian leaves Hawaii Aug. 11 for San Francisco, also an adult cruise, and returns to Southern California waters in October.
Don't Forget Camera
When you sail on the Californian, wear comfortable non-skid shoes, a warm waterproof jacket, sun glasses and a hat. And don't forget your camera and film.
Adult "tuition" for a day cruise runs about $35, $125 a day for two- to four-day coastal voyages, and $1,800 for the Hawaiian inter-island adventure. These tariffs contribute to the cadet program.
For details and reservations, contact the Nautical Heritage Society, 24532 Del Prado, Dana Point, Calif. 92629, phone (714) 661-1001.