Tall ship that sank in Dana Point is unrecoverable, will be demolished

An old-fashioned sailing ship, sinking
A diver swims around the Pilgrim as it sinks in Dana Point Harbor last month.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

A tall ship that sank at its dock in Dana Point will be demolished because there is no safe way to lift and salvage it.

The decision was made over the weekend, following extensive efforts to save the Pilgrim. It keeled over in its slip on March 29, leaving its masts out of the water.

The 130-foot-long vessel is a replica of the sailing ship that Richard Henry Dana Jr. wrote about in the classic book “Two Years Before the Mast.” The original Pilgrim that Dana sailed on from Boston in 1834 carried New England goods to California for sale or trade and carried back a load of cattle hides.

The Ocean Institute, the organization that maintained the vessel, which was built in 1945, had warned it probably was beyond repair.

Efforts were made to lift the ship on air cushions so it could be taken to a shipyard for inspection, but the U.S. Coast Guard halted efforts last week because the work was considered too risky for divers


It wasn’t clear what caused the vessel to sink.

The ship served as a classroom for marine science and maritime history programs.

“It is unreal to think that the vessel that had so faithfully served as a living classroom to so many students is definitely no longer with us,” said Wendy Marshall, president and chief executive of the Ocean Institute.