To Give: Click Here

Medea Steaming Along

Dear Shipmates:

A year ago, I wrote of an incident from Medea’s history as part of her surprising role in one of the most decisive episodes of the twentieth century – the German submarine campaign against Britain in 1917 and 1918, sometimes referred to as the first Battle of the Atlantic. While Medea’s place in that large story might have been thought of as modest at the time, her significance has grown exponentially over the years as she has become the sole and principal physical object capable of connecting us with that story. Indeed, her role in representing larger stories has even grown beyond that as she is the last operational (or will be operational) vessel remaining that fought as a combatant in World War I.

Medea in canalOf course she is significant for other things too: She is one of three remaining steam yachts (that once numbered more than a thousand) of the Edwardian Era that can operate under her original boiler and machinery. She served as a naval vessel in both world wars – and is the only operational vessel that can make that claim as well. She is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful classic vessels afloat, and has been recognized as such by distinguished awards from the Steam Ship Historical Society and the Classic Yacht Association. And finally, from our perspective, for many years now she and her story are ours to tell and to be responsible for.

The letter from a year ago referenced efforts to bring her steam plant back into operational order and we were shortly thereafter engaged in the initial stages of that project. However, as we delved into restoring structural integrity to framing and stringers in her engine room, we moved to other areas to investigate the condition of framing and shell plating above the waterline elsewhere. (Many years ago, Medea’s hull below the waterline was sheathed in an outer layer of fiberglass and structural foam.) For many years, this part of the ship had been hidden behind elegant paneling and cabinetry, some of it original to her construction in 1904. The corrosion and decay we found was not encouraging to say the least, but nor is it fatal provided that we do take timely and comprehensive action to restore/replace internal structural components and ultimately complete the composite material sheathing of her hull from just above the waterline, where it terminated years ago, all the way up to her caprails.

Medea Steaming AlongIn other words, as is usually the way with old ships, a large project has expanded into a truly massive one. We are now in process of testing various methods and materials for replacing structural components (determining whether steel or composite components would be the most practical) and continuing to open up formerly hidden areas of the ship to investigate the full extent of the task we face, all in preparation for a comprehensive restoration plan. This is going to be an ongoing project for some time to come. The good news is that given Medea’s significance, there are grant funding sources available for which she will be eligible. Most of these sources are matching funds where the match can be provided at our end not only by donations of funds from our community, but also by equivalent value in dedicated work by our volunteers. Our contributions, in other words, will be leveraged and magnified.

If I were telling this story to the membership of any other organization, it might well place in doubt the continuing survival of this extraordinary, beautiful, historic, and irreplaceable ship. But the Maritime Museum of San Diego is no ordinary organization. In the devotion, amazing capacity and spectrum of skills brought to bear, and above all the generosity of our members, we have ever been as extraordinary and unique as Medea herself. When confronted with this kind of task, as we have been many times, we have never failed to rise to the occasion and prevail, just as Medea did when more than a century ago she steamed out into the Irish sea to do battle with U-boats at long odds.

So in conclusion, I not only wish to call upon your help once again but to thank you, as ever, for your dedication, your generosity, and your belief in our ships, their mission, and their stories – which you are, after all, a part of.

Ray Ashley, PhD, KCI
President and CEO, Maritime Museum of San Diego

Medea Certificate

To Give: Click Here

Or send your donation to :
Maritime Museum of San Diego
1492 N Harbor Drive
San Diego, CA 92101

Make a 100% tax-deductible investment to the Maritime Museum’s mission of preserving our history and you are investing in your communities future.