Every so often the Star of India sails in San Diego Bay. I was clearing out some old photos and discovered this one from a few years ago. If you have seen this ship at all, it was probably lining the dock in downtown San Diego, but in case you didn’t know, this is the world’s oldest active sailing ship and still sails a few times a year with an all volunteer crew.
The Star of India was built on the Isle of Man in 1863. Iron ships were experimental at that time with most vessels still being built out of wood. Within five months of laying her keel, the ship was launched. She was originally named Euterpe after the Greek muse of music and poetry.
Euterpe was a full-rigged ship and would remain so until 1901, when the Alaska Packers Association rigged her down to a barque, her present rig.
She began her sailing life with two near-disastrous voyages to India. On her first trip she suffered a collision and a mutiny. On her second trip, a cyclone caught Euterpe in the Bay of Bengal, and with her topmasts cut away, she barely made port. Shortly afterward, her first captain died on board and was buried at sea.
After such a hard luck beginning, Euterpe made four more voyages to India as a cargo ship. In 1871 she was purchased by the Shaw Savill Line of London.
Subsequently sold to the Alaska Packer Fleet, her name was changed in 1906 to the Star of India to match the other vessels in their fleet. The Star of India made over 22 Alaskan voyages before becoming obsolete in the 1920s as steam power propulsion became more reliable than wind.
The Zoological Society of San Diego purchased the ship in 1926 for use as the centerpiece of a planned maritime museum and aquarium. The Great Depression in the 30s and World War II caused those plans to be put on hold and the Star of India lay idle until she was restored in the late 50s and early 60s.
Fully restored by 1976, the Star of India set sail as part of the United States’ Bicentennial celebration.
- Launched five days before Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
- Sailed twenty-one times around the world
- Never fitted with auxiliary power
- Went aground in Hawaii
- Became an “American” ship by Act of Congress
- Trapped in ice in Alaska