Sunday, March 29, 2020

The sinking of the Pilgrim

The Pilgrim, sinking. Photo taken 3-29-2020 by Eric Plunkett.
This morning I awoke to the sad news that the 1945 replica of the Brig Pilgrim, which has long graced Dana Point Harbor, is sinking.

Ocean Institute president Dr. Wendy Marshall wrote an open letter, which read, in part,...
"We are very sad to announce that Pilgrim, our beloved vessel that has served as an inspiring real-world classroom to hundreds of thousands of students and visitors, keeled overnight in her slip on our dock, rendering her useful life over.

"As part of our maintenance process, Pilgrim undergoes out-of-the water and underwater inspections. In 2016 she was hauled out for survey and repairs and in October 2019, we began a fund to support the haul out and repair scheduled to take place in January 2020. The haul out was postponed until June due to overload at the yard. Meanwhile, Ocean Institute maintained our certifications and the United States Coast Guard issued a Certificate of Inspection (COI) in December and again in February, allowing our dockside programs to continue. Unfortunately, Pilgrim keeled on March 29th and is incapacitated beyond repair."
The Pilgrim is a symbol of not just the Ocean Institute, but of Dana Point Harbor, and the City of Dana Point itself. Imagining a Dana Point without the Pilgrim is like imagining a Huntington Beach without a pier or Hollywood without its Hollywood sign. 

At one level, I'm glad this didn't happen until after the passing of Dana Point's primary cheerleader and local historian, Doris Walker. This would have been heartbreaking to her. On the other hand, if she were still with us, I know she'd ALREADY be out going door to door raising money to rebuild the ship.
1800s illustration of the original Brig Pilgrim.
For what it's worth, the original Brig Pilgrim, which brought Richard Henry Dana to California, was built in 1825 and did not survive nearly as long as the replica has.

"I read of her total loss at sea by fire off the coast of North Carolina," wrote Dana. 
In a later addendum to Dana's Two Years Before the Mast, the author's son wrote, "On the records of the United States Custom House at Boston is this epitaph, 'Brig Pilgrim, owner, R. Haley, surrender of transfer 30 June 1856, broken up at Key West.' Is it not romantic and appropriate that this vessel, so associated with the then Mexican-Spanish coast of California, should have left her bones on the coast of the once Spanish colony of Florida?"

1 comment:

Colleen Adair Fliedner said...

What a sad ending to the beautiful Pilgrim. I do hope they launch a fund-raiser to raise and renovate the ship

Colleen Adair Fliedner
Historian and Author