Three weeks ago as I write this, we celebrated the Star of India’s 160th birthday by taking her to sea for the first time in five years. With light winds but beautiful weather the spectacle was magnificent. Over the course of two weekend days, Star of India was joined by Maritime Museum of San Diego vessels San Salvador, Californian, PCF 816, and Pilot, along with visiting ships Bill of Rights and the legendary voyaging canoe Hokule’a, the latter having completed her circumnavigation of the earth without instruments using ancient forms of navigation practiced by Pacific Island voyagers more than a thousand years ago. It was particularly poignant to see Hokule’a and Star of India sail together for the first time, the former a storied instrument of cultural revival and the latter the last ship still sailing which once flew the flag of the sovereign nation of Hawaii as a registered vessel, a flag she proudly flew once again in honor of her consort.
Sailing with us on Star of India and performing on board was a contingent of travelers from the Isle of Man (Star of India’s birthplace), cast members of the current musical Star of India, written and performed in Ramsey Isle of Man by the Cloideryn Theater. The culminating moment occurred when all seven ships sailed down the bay in echelon formation to the sound of bagpipes and the cheers of an impressive fleet of spectator vessels. It was a scene that could not have been equaled anywhere else in the world. At such times it becomes impossible not to appreciate that Star of India was built one hundred and sixty years ago to do one thing – connect people across vast distances, something she clearly continues to do superbly, only with the passing of years it also becomes evident that she connects them across time as well, perhaps as no other ship has ever done.
Obviously the event could never have happened without the efforts of hundreds of people: the volunteer crew of Star of India and the other Museum ships which had trained for months beforehand, the crews of our companion ships, the crews of tugs and escort boats, the pilots, shoreside support, administrative staff and volunteers which worked so hard to present this spectacle as the quintessential expression of our connection with the sea.
But of course there is much more than that – we could never have done this without the generations of San Diego citizens who, for almost a century now, have taken this ship into their hearts and made her the soul of our community. Five generations of San Diegans have worked and contributed to the creation of such moments and the capacity to gener.ate them in the future for the decades and generations ahead, all as part of a covenant or gift that each generation bestows to the generation succeeding.
So as we near the end of 2023, it is in the spirit of the obligation that one generation fulfills for the next and its expression of hope that we invoke once again the generosity of your understanding and support, which has ever been faithful and forthcoming, so that Star of India and the historic fleet she leads will continue to sail proudly into the years ahead.
Ray Ashley, PhD, KCI
President and CEO, Maritime Museum of San Diego
Photo Credit @ Cynthia Synclair
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