About the Maritime Museum of San Diego
The mission of the Maritime Museum of San Diego is to serve as the community memory of our seafaring experience by collecting, preserving, and presenting our rich maritime heritage and historic connections with the Pacific world.
The history of human achievement is defined in large measure by our historical relationship with the sea. Not only has the sea determined the progress and shape of civilization, our understanding of that relationship and our responsibilities for stewardship of the oceans will determine our future. This relationship cannot be understood or defined in purely scientific terms; culture exerts a dominating influence. The role of any maritime museum is translation between human experience of the oceans and our understanding of their nature.
- To preserve the traditional knowledge, skills, and folk culture of the enterprise of the sea
- To provide a safe repository for material culture
- To illustrate how the maritime enterprise has touched and continues to influence our daily lives through innovative and engaging educational programs, exhibits, publications, and cultural events
Maritime Museum Association of San Diego – Board of Directors for 2023
- Kenneth Stipanov, Chairman
- Laura Kyle, Vice Chairman
- David O’Brien, Secretary
- Kenneth Andersen
- Bill Bartsch
- Brian Bilbray
- Greg Cox
- William Dysart
- Iris Engstrand
- Steve Frailey
- Mike Garmon
- Gary Gould
- Al Love
- Greg Murphy
- Manish Parikh
- Douglas Sharp
- Pamela Werner
- Thomas Workman
Maritime Museum Association of San Diego – Officers for 2023
- Raymond Ashley – President/CEO
- Susan Sirota – Vice President
- Cory Clark – CFO
Founded in 1948, the Maritime Museum of San Diego enjoys a worldwide reputation for excellence in restoring, maintaining and operating historic vessels. The museum brings adventure and discovery to life through interactive exhibits, volunteer opportunities, and educational outreach. The Maritime Museum of San Diego has one of the world’s finest collections of historic ships, including the world’s oldest active ship the Star of India. The museum, located on the North Embarcadero in downtown San Diego, is open to visitors daily.
Historic Ship Collection
The Maritime Museum of San Diego hosts one of the world’s finest collections of historic ships, which represent a unique set of international, national and state narratives. Visitors are invited to step aboard each of the historic ships to explore and discover their rich, living history.
- Californian (1984) replica of a mid 19th century revenue cutter
- HMS Surprise (1970) replica of an 18th century Royal Navy frigate
- PCF 816 Swift Boat Mark II patrol craft fast, Vietnam-era Swift Boat listed in national register of historic places
- Pilot (1914) The oldest pilot boat still in service on the West Coast with historic distinction on the National Register
- San Salvador A working replica of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s ship
- Star of India (1863) This iron-hulled beauty is the oldest active ship in the world and a State and National Historic Landmark
- Berkeley (1898) The first successful propeller-driven steam ferry on the West Coast and a State and National Historic Landmark
- Medea (1904) This steam yacht is from the age of conspicuous wealth
- USS Dolphin (1968) US Navy submarine with the record for the deepest dive
The Maritime Museum of San Diego hosts a number of exhibits on board its
collection of ships to engage visitors and bring the ships’ history to life.
- Age of Sail
- Age of Steam
- Charting the Sea – Ocean Exploration
- Harvesting the Ocean – San Diego’s Commercial Fishing Industry
- San Diego’s Navy
- To The Brink Of War
As a museum of living history, the Maritime Museum of San Diego is indebted to its many members, docents and volunteers who are actively engaged in bringing adventure and discovery to life for the museum’s many visitors.
- 2,600 Members
- 621 Volunteers
- 110 Docents
- 248 Volunteer Maintenance/Sail Crew
- 107,030 volunteer hours logged
The Maritime Museum of San Diego offers a variety of educational programs for school groups K-12, scouting programs and adults. The Museum hosts a variety of dockside and at-sea educational programs serving over 15,000 students each year:
- History and science programs
- Dockside and at sea programs
- Day and overnight programs
- Living history programs
Curricular content for all educational programs is aligned with the California State Science and Social Studies framework for grade levels K-12.
The ships that comprise the Maritime Museum of San Diego’s collection are both beautiful and versatile. As such they host hundreds of special private events each year. Past events have included weddings, corporate events, private receptions, meetings and luncheons. Each ship has its own unique persona, as well as history, that can add to events.
- Facilities for up to 1,000 persons on Berkeley
- Facilities for up to 600 persons on Star of India
- Facilities for up to 175 persons on HMS Surprise
- Facilities for up to 50 persons on San Salvador
- Facilities for up to 25 persons on Pilot
- Facilities for up to 25 persons on PCF 816 Swift Boat
- Facilities for up to 400 persons on the Floating Pier
- Charters for up to 50 persons on Californian
- Burials at Sea
- Themed Events and Kid’s Birthday Parties
Popular Public Events
The museum hosts many events throughout the year to engage visitors and bring history to life. Popular annual events include:
- Family Sleepovers: Each summer families travel back in time with the Maritime Museum of San Diego’s living history staff and spend a night aboard the Star of India, the world’s oldest active ship.
- For current and upcoming events view our Public Events main page Click here.
Raymond Ashley, Ph.D., K.C.I.
President and CEO
Dr. Ray Ashley is President/CEO of the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Growing up locally, he became director of the Maritime Museum of San Diego in 1995. He holds a BA in Anthropology from UCSD, an MA in Maritime History and Museum Studies from East Carolina University, and a PhD in History from Duke University, specializing in the history of science, technology and medicine. He has taught courses in history and archeology at UCSD and USD, teaches History of Navigation for the Museum, has published papers in American Neptune and a number of other professional journals, and writes a quarterly column for the Maritime Museum’s peer reviewed journal Mains’l Haul.
Dr. Ashley has been sailing for most of his life since spending his senior year in high school on the schooner Westward and has sailed tens of thousands of miles (most recently in December 2015 to Hawaii with his daughter), built, restored, renovated and preserved ships for many years before he came to the Maritime Museum and in the years since. He is a licensed captain for sail, steam and auxiliary vessels of 200 tons registry, is the Star of India’s navigator and sails as relief captain for the other vessels of the Museum’s active fleet including the State tallship Californian, steam yacht Medea, Swift Boat PCF 816, Pilot and most recently, the galleon San Salvador.
Dr. Ashley is a member of many civic and professional organizations and serves on the Boards of the Tall Ships America, the California Missions Foundation, the Maritime Alliance Foundation, the San Diego Port Tenants Association, the Heritage Committee of the International Congress of Maritime Museums, and the President’s Advisory Council of Mystic Seaport. In 2007, Dr. Ashley was Conference Chair for the Eighth International Maritime Heritage Conference, hosted by the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
In 2014 Dr. Ashley was recognized with lifetime achievement awards by both the Maritime Alliance in San Diego, and the International Maritime Heritage Alliance, for the construction of the Galleon San Salvador.
In recognition for his efforts in building the San Salvador, in 2016 Dr. Ashley was knighted with the rank of Knight Commander, Order of Isabella la Catholica by direction of his majesty, King Felipe VI of Spain.
He lives in Chula Vista with his wife Carlynn (with whom he once sailed a 25’ boat through the South Pacific).
Vice President, Operations
Susan Sirota is Vice President, Operations of the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Ms. Sirota joined the Maritime Museum staff in 1998 and was the Director of Education since 2001. Her responsibilities included managing a staff of instructors that teach science and environmental programs, public programs and living history programs for the Museum. In addition to her role as Education Director, Ms. Sirota has taken on a variety of projects such as administering the Elderhostel program, coordinating a submarine exhibit, and project manager for Festival of Sail 2002. Ms. Sirota moved to San Diego after receiving her graduate diploma in planning and design from the University of Melbourne in Australia and a master’s degree in environmental studies. After returning from overseas, she served as an AmeriCorps Watershed community coordinator and developed several community environmental education projects. Ms. Sirota came to the Maritime Museum staff from the San Diego County outdoor education office in order to develop the Pilot boat program.
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Collections and Library
Kevin Sheehan, Ph.D.
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Director of Marketing Communications & Business Development
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Regional, Domestic and International Groups/Tour Sales
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Museum Support – please state the nature of your inquiry
Museum Store Manager
Retail Manager / Buyer
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Private Events/Venue Rental
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Marine Operations Director/Volunteer Crew Coordinator
Maritime Museum of San Diego Timeline
|1927||Star of India, retired from service in 1923, arrives in San Diego to begin the Maritime Museum of San Diego’s history as a component of the San Diego Zoological Society.|
|1948||Maritime Museum was founded with the Star of India its primary focus.|
|1966||The Star of India is awarded National Historic Landmark status.|
|1971||Butcher Boy joins the Maritime Museum’s fleet.|
|1973||• Steam yacht Medea is donated to the Museum.
• The steam ferryboat Berkeley is purchased by the Maritime Museum.
|1976||After more than 50 years, Star of India sails again, attracting a viewing audience of several hundred thousand spectators on the water and ashore.|
|1983||Wings is donated to the Maritime Museum.|
|1990||Steam ferryboat Berkeley awarded National Historic Landmark status.|
|1998||• The Star of India is presented the World Ship Trust Award.
• Pilot joins the Maritime Museum fleet.
|1999||• The Star of India is awarded California State Historic Landmark status.
• Pilot restoration is completed.
|2000||Sailing yacht Wings restoration and complete rebuild begins.|
|2000||• The Berkeley is awarded California State Historic Landmark status.
• Maritime Museum’s Mains’l Haul publication becomes the only academic, peer review, historical journal in the United States devoted to Maritime History and one of the few such journals to publish individual themes by issue. As such, Mainsl Haul has won many awards. Some issues of Mains’l Haul have become definitive sources for such subjects. as “The Kelp Highway and the maritime in-migration to the Americas in Ancient Times.”
|2001||The Star of India is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest active sailing ship.|
|2002||The Californian is donated to the Maritime Museum.|
|2003||The California State Legislature names the Californian the Official Tall Ship of California.|
|2004||• The Maritime Museum adds the H.M.S. Surprise to its fleet of historic ships.
• Foxtrot B-39 joins the Maritime Museum’s fleet.
|2008||Donated a few years ago, the Museum completes restoration of two Monterey Fishing boats.|
|2009||The USS Dolphin becomes a permanent addition to the Maritime Museum.|
|2011||• Maritime Museum was awarded a series of grants by National Endowment of the Humanities for “Empires of the Wind: The Central Role of the Pacific in American History” which the Museum delivered to teachers coming from around the country.
• 16th century galleon replica San Salvador keel is laid.
• Pilot boat is awarded placement on the National Register of Historic Places.
|2012||Vietnam War era PCF 816 Swift Boat, becomes part of the Maritime Museum.|
|2013||Maritime Museum’s full spectrum of Living History programs received Tall Ship America’s highest award The Maritime Museum in partnership with the Kelton Foundation produced. “Three Voyages to Paradise: Cook Melville, and Gauguin” featuring the greatest number of original works by the artist Paul Gauguin ever exhibited outside the National Gallery in Washington D.C. This exhibition later showed at the Autry Museum, the Bowers Museum, and the Getty. The Director of The Getty Museum identified this exhibit as the Most important art exhibition ever to show at a museum in San Diego.|
|2015||Launch of San Salvador (with finish work completed at the Maritime Museum of San Diego).|
|2016||• As a result of Maritime Museum of San Diego activities, two knighthoods have been Awarded to Museum personnel by foreign governments and two awards of Ali’I status (equivalent to a knighthood) by the Hawaiian Royalty in the presentation of sacred Kahili, among the highest honors afforded by Indigenous people).
• Maiden voyage of San Salvador and the beginning of The Pacific Heritage Tour multi-year Voyage.
|2017||Star of India re-decking completed.|
|2017||Swift Boats at war in Vietnam book release & exhibit opening April 29|
|2018||• Star of India celebrates 155-years with Companion Sail including Californian and San Salvador.
• United States Naval Vietnam-era PCF-816 Swift boat listed on the National Register of Historic Places and California Historical Resources, presented by the Department of Parks and Recreation Office of Historic Preservation.
|2019||California Registered Historical Landmark 1898 steam ferryboat Berkeley restoration project completed.|
|2019||Museum staff and volunteers restore 1902 Butcher Boy and prepare her for sailing and regional wooden yacht and club race events and appearances.|
|2019||Californian, sailed brilliantly by Museum sail crew, wins her first America’s Schooner Cup.|
|2020||Museum staff and volunteers begin Navy frigate Rose replica H.M.S. Surprise restoration project with plans for completion as she turns 50.|
|2021||• Maritime Museum is recognized as one of the three greatest Maritime Museum’s in the world according to marine industry informant website Maritime Insight.com.
• Russian Foxtrot submarine permanently closed. B-39 Soviet submarine departs and To the Brink of War exhibit preserved as the film, “Man Who Saved the World”.
|2022||Butcher Boy Restoration project completed and launched to sail San Diego Bay and participate in regional wooden boat and yacht club opening events and regattas.|
|2023||Star of India turns 160 and prepares for celebration sail November 11 and 12.|