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1898 Historic Steam Ferry Berkeley, help preserve history appeal letter from our CEO/President Ray Ashley, Ph.D., K.C.I.

Dear Shipmates,

As I sit in my office and juggle competing demands on time and attention, I sometimes find myself nostalgic for a time I like to imagine must have imposed a slower pace. Perhaps you also have experienced a wistful affection for the past, as though it offers a kind of refuge.  It is times like these that the atmosphere of my surroundings comes into focus rather than just being the background. My awareness shifts to the surrounding antique windows and architectural millwork. I see Berkeley for what she is and indeed for what she has been recognized as – a National Historic Landmark, a majestic steamship from the gilded age, a spectator of the tipping point in history when we passed from a civilization driven by the wind to a mechanized world – and I marvel at what she has witnessed through all the years.

From her place as the grand terminus of an historic railroad line which bound America, to her role in salvation from the great fire of 1906, as a market place, an artist’s residence, and now the hub of what has become one of the greatest maritime museums in the country, she has sheltered it all with a quiet Victorian elegance and undemanding grace.

But as with all our other ships, her survival as a treasure was never a foregone conclusion, nor was it won by complacency. If you go down into the engine room you will see a small Plexiglas panel let into the floor plating. The view through it reveals a frightening tear through paper-thin steel. You are looking at the fabric of her original hull plating – the only thing which held the water out for 104 years. By that age the plating was that thin almost everywhere. Elsewhere throughout the ship, the insides of her corroding hull were protected by an inner layer of foam and fiberglass which had been applied in a heroic preservation epic all through the 1980s, but in the engine room no such application was possible. Her life hung by a tissue thin layer of metal, holding patiently until we were able to haul her out and repair and protect her hull with new plating in the engine room and a revolutionary epoxy/ceramic coating that stopped the corrosion of her outer skin. Had we not risen to that occasion, it is difficult to imagine how there would be any Maritime Museum of San Diego at all. Had we not risen to the occasion, it would have been a matter of months at best. But we did rise, and she is with us still.

That was 2002, back when the Museum consisted of only four vessels. Long before living history programs on Surprise, extended tall ship adventure sails on Californian and when San Salvador was but a dream. Without Berkeley none of those would have been possible. Without Berkeley we could never have sustained the Museum context which enfolds and gives life to Star of India. All this time she has been the heart of the Museum, the home of our academic library, the administrative offices, our workshops and the majority of the exhibits. She has hosted and witnessed thousands of celebrations, holidays, weddings, graduations, reunions and even memorials. She has been integral to the business of what we do, she has helped bring in the revenue we need to meet our mission of presenting and preserving our Pacific heritage because she is the platform on which we do it all.

Untold masses have danced on her floors sending vibrations of the beat through her fabric, gazed out to sea from her decks, and roamed her galleries. We have surrounded her with a fleet, populated her with artifacts, and illuminated a thousand stories with gingerbread filigree and shafts of light streaming through opalescent glass. Ever she has floated placidly, home to it all.

Now it is the opportunity and time to give back to her. Berkley’s superstructure has withstood years of sun, rain, and storm beating against her southern side but it is now failing and unable to hold the elements out any longer. The condition not only affects the surface planking but the underlying structure, the thousands of artifacts within and ultimately the ability of the Maritime Museum to perform its mission. Thankfully, she was recently awarded a prestigious grant through the National Maritime Act in recognition of her status as an irreplaceable national treasure. The grant will match every dollar we raise toward her restoration and now it is up to her museum family once again to sustain Berkeley so that she can go on sustaining the ships which surround her, sustaining all of us who love them and believe in their message.

So as this year draws to a close I ask you to contribute what you can to help with this most deserved project. Let’s restore Berkeley back to her glory, and in doing so renew the heart of our Maritime Museum.

As always, thank you for your support, 

Ray Ashley, Ph.D., K.C.I.
President/CEO, Maritime Museum of San Diego

To Donate Today, Click Here

Grant Program To Preserve The Steam Ferry Berkeley

Grant Program To Preserve The Steam Ferry Berkeley

Berkeley 1940s ferrying passengers between Oakland and San Francisco.

Grant Program To Preserve The Steam Ferry Berkeley

May 21 1973-Berkeley left SF Bay for the last time, towed beneath Golden Gate Bridge.

Grant Program To Preserve The Steam Ferry Berkeley

Berkeley Historic-As She appeared in the early twentieth century.


To learn more about the many opportunities to contribute to the Maritime Museum. Contact Development at 619-234-9153 x 126
or click here to send email.

Museum Membership

As a member of the Maritime Museum of San Diego, you support our preservation and education efforts, and in return receive many benefits! Bring the adventure and discovery to life as often as you would like – choose the membership plan that is right for you.

Membership packages include these benefits:

  • FREE admission
  • FREE guest passes
  • Maritime journal Mains’l Haul
  • FREE newsletters
  • 10% discount at Museum gift shop
  • FREE or reduced admission to Museum events
  • Plus so much more

Maritime Museum membership benifits

Join, renew, and gift Memberships.

For more information contact our Membership Coordinator at 619-234-9153 x128
or click here to send email.

Through your membership, you support the Maritime Museum of San Diego, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and presenting our rich Pacific maritime heritage.

Maritime Museum of San Diego is supported by Amazon using Amazon Smile

amazon smile supporting the maritime museum of san diego
Click the Amazon Smile logo and it will direct you to smile.amazon.com, choose Maritime Museum Association of San Diego as the place you want to support, shop as usual, and the Museum gets a percentage of the sale. It’s that easy.

Planned Giving

Welcome! We are pleased that you are interested in learning about the many benefits of gift plans. If you have any questions about the best way for you to benefit through a planned gift, please call. A member of our Planned Giving Team will be glad to help you. Contact Development at 619-234-9153 x 126

To learn about:

  • Donor Stories
  • Gift Options
  • Personal Planner
  • Washington News
Click Here

Vehicle Donation Program

A San Diego treasure, the Maritime Museum of San Diego is more than a collection of world-class exhibits and ships. It is a family of volunteers, members, and supporters like you, who are joined together by their passion for the sea, maritime history, and creating an inspiring and enlightening experience for children and adults alike. Thank you for your support.

Donating Is Easy!

Donating a car is easy! And so is donating other vehicles. We accept all types of vehicles nationwide — cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, ATVs, and even boats.

To get started: Click Here
or call 844-790-GIVE (4483) to speak to a representative.

All that you will need to provide is the Certificate of Title upon pickup of your donated vehicle.

Ticket Donations

The Maritime Museum of San Diego takes pride in our support of local (San Diego County) nonprofit organizations for fundraising events benefiting our community.

Since the Maritime Museum of San Diego is a nonprofit organization, we have established the following ticket donation guidelines:

  • Your organization must be a nonprofit and must be using Maritime Museum of San Diego tickets as a fundraising item.
  • Four general admission tickets are provided per conforming organization and/or event.
  • Requests of donation are limited to (1) one request per year per organization.
  • Donated admission tickets are limited to the value of General Admission only and are not valid use for special events, exhibit surcharges, or any event deemed exempt by the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
  • No cash value is applicable for donated tickets although they are fully transferable.
  • Value of donations are subject to change at the sole discretion of the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
  • The Maritime Museum of San Diego requests that any organization that accepts any donated items place a reciprocal acknowledgment within any marketing materials or programs that support the representative organization and/or the event.
  • You must be located within San Diego County.

CLICK HERE for online application requesting a donation

If Snail Mail, send your request for donations to:
Maritime Museum of San Diego
Attn: Request for Donations
1492 North Harbor Drive
San Diego, CA 92101-3309
All donation requests will be reviewed within two weeks.


Looking for a venue to host your future fundraising event? Maritime Museum of San Diego offers exceptional nonprofit rates for event rentals. For more information, visit Event Venue Rentals.

Join in the adventure! The Maritime Museum of San Diego is home to the maritime story of the West Coast and beyond with one of the most extensive collections of historic ships in the world. Donations & membership helps to tell the maritime story and to preserve these ships.

Every single gift matters. Taken in the aggregate, all gifts, large and small, are essential to the overall goal. So join us at whatever level you can.