Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times

The Maritime Festival—which replaces Ocean Institute’s Tall Ships Festival—will be held Friday through Sunday, Sept. 11-13, offering both in-person and virtual educational experiences.

The cancellation of the institute’s Jazz Festival earlier this year, the sinking of the Pilgrim in April and the restructuring of the Maritime Festival have put Ocean Institute in a challenging financial predicament. But President and CEO Wendy Marshall says that both the OI team and the community are rising to the occasion.

“Ocean Institute has received a humbling amount of encouragement and support from our community during the pandemic,” Marshall said. “We were disappointed at the prospect of canceling our annual Tall Ships Festival and directed our energy towards imagining a suitable alternative.”

As staff considered a virtual festival, Marshall says that imaginations went a bit wild as they considered what the event could be.

Photo: Scott Schmitt

“We sent a somewhat ambiguous and simple request to our ocean partners to gauge their interest in participating and get a sense of how they might want to contribute . . . and the global response surpassed even our most creative thinking,” Marshall said. “Not only were the organizations and their planned contributions impressive, the shared sentiment that we must rely on each other, collaborate when we can, and lift each other to weather this pandemic storm was exactly the spirit that we wanted to celebrate.”

During the three-day streaming marathon, Ocean Institute will bring together maritime establishments from around the globe, with interactive virtual experiences ranging from maritime reenactments and cannon battles to mermaid encounters, sea shanties, music and a sail cargo transporting coffee through the Costa Rican jungle.

Featuring both live and pre-recorded content, an event highlight is the debut of “Buccaneers Video Game Challenge” utilizing an icon representing the Pilgrim – Ocean Institute’s former full-sized replica of the 1830’s merchant ship detailed in the classic novel, “Two Years Before the Mast,” that sunk earlier this year.

Participating oceanic institutions include Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney; the United Kingdom’s Island Trust; San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park; Lady Washington vessel in Washington; Polynesian Voyaging Society, Hawaii; Mystic Seaport Museum, Connecticut; and much more.

The inaugural virtual event will be complimentary to all participants, with the goal to further education in all things maritime. The full schedule of events and signups are available at

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