The Ocean Institute’s 39th annual Maritime Festival wrapped up with a booming cannon battle on Sunday, Sept. 10, after a weekend with visiting tall ships and nautical festivities.
The three-day event kicked off Friday, Sept. 8, with staged cannon battles and the annual Sails N’ Ales. Saturday, Sept. 9, through Sunday, visitors had the opportunity to kick back with pirates at the Seafarers Landing, sip tea and enjoy story time with a mermaid and tour the six visiting tall ships, as well as Ocean Institute’s resident ship, the Spirit of Dana Point.
This year was the first year the Spirit of Dana Point participated in the festival’s cannon battles since 2019, after undergoing extensive maintenance. The replica 1770s privateer schooner returned to the Ocean Institute’s docks in early September 2022, just in time for last year’s Maritime Festival.
“It feels great to be back, we looked forward to it,” Spirit of Dana Point First Mate Bill Medina said.
The Maritime Festival has something for everybody, Medina added.
“It’s got the ships, it’s got all the science in the Ocean Institute, it’s got all the vendors and just something for everybody,” Medina said, adding that the cannon battles would entail “a lot of noise and whooping and hollering.”
Medina said for those who missed out on touring or sailing on the Spirit, the Ocean Institute offers public weekend sails on Saturdays.
“It’s a great opportunity to have a lot of fun, we have a lot of passengers and they have a great time and we get to have fun,” Medina said.
Six additional ships participated in the cannon battles with the Spirit of Dana Point, including the Irving Johnson, Exy Johnson, Bill of Rights, Curlew, The Mayflower and The American Pride.
Bill of Rights First Mate David Russell Swanson explained that the former private yacht is now used for educational programming. From the Ocean Institute’s Maritime Festival to the Sea Cadets, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and more, the schooner offers an opportunity to learn about the ship’s towering rigging.
Swanson added that many people have never stepped foot on a vessel before coming aboard the tall ships.
“They don’t know that this exists until they come to it and it’s a whole different world that many people don’t know about,” Russell said. “Many of the people coming on board have never stepped on a deck of a ship before and they have a million questions but don’t know where to start.”
That’s where the volunteer crew aboard the schooner stepped in, excited to share the history of the tall ship, Swanson said.
The tall ships docked in the waters beside the Ocean Institute campus offered public tours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the festival weekend, when visitors could glimpse into the seafaring past.
At 4 p.m. the tall ships departed for open waters to unleash their cannons on one another. Plumes of smoke arose with each blast as the mock cannon battle ensued. As the sun began to set, the tall ships returned to the harbor with choruses of sea shanties.
“The Maritime Festival exceeded our wildest expectations, and the outpouring of support has been truly heartwarming,” the Ocean Institute’s Maritime Festival Planning Committee said in a prepared statement. “We extend our deepest gratitude to all who attended and championed the Ocean Institute’s mission of fostering the next generation of ocean stewards.”
“As we set our sights on next year, which marks our 40th anniversary of the festival,” the committee continued, “we’re excited about the incredible journey ahead and the new opportunities the future holds for us at the Ocean Institute.”