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 2021
- William Dysart, Chairman
- Kenneth Andersen, Vice Chairman
- Laura Kyle, Secretary
- Bill Bartsch
- Brian Bilbray
- Dr. Iris Engstrand
- Vicki Estrada
- Steve Frailey
- Michael Garmon
- Matt Gediman
- Gary Gould
- RADM Fran Holian USN (Ret)
- Erich Lathers
- Al Love
- Greg Murphy
- David O’Brien
- Manish Parikh
- Robert Spriggs
- Kenneth Stipanov
- Pamela Werner
- Thomas P. Workman
Maritime Museum Association of San Diego – Officers for 2021
- Raymond Ashley – President/CEO
- Susan Sirota – Vice President
- Kitty Chisholm – CFO
- Erminia Taranto – Secretary
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.
- B-39 (1967) Soviet attack submarine designed to track US and NATO warships during the Cold War
- 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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Education Department/School Programs
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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 Store Manager
Museum store is in shut-down mode, due to Covid
Events/Special Events/Facility 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||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|
|2000||The Berkeley is awarded California State Historic Landmark status|
|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 HMS Surprise to its fleet of historic ships
B-39 joins the Maritime Museum’s fleet
|2008||Museum adds two Monterey Fishing Boats to its collection|
|2009||The USS Dolphin becomes a permanent addition to the Maritime Museum|
|2011||San Salvador keel is laid
Pilot boat is awarded National Historic Landmark status
|2012||Vietnam War era Swift Boat, PCF 218, becomes part of the Maritime Museum|
|2015||Launch of San Salvador (with finish work completed at the Maritime Museum of San Diego)|
|2016||Maiden voyage, 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|
|2018||PCF 816 Swift Boat added to National Register of Historic Places and listed on California Register of Historic Resources|
|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 HMS Surprise Restoration project with plans for completion as she turns 50|