Friday, 22 February 2013

Waterfront Wonderlands

Dixie insists that we take her to the dog beach every few days. She gets really tired after chasing the frisbee across the surf. Socializing and flirting with the doggie beach boys zaps her energy too. It's always a different mix of dogs and owners and watching the surfers and sailboats adds to the experience. Sure beats walking her around the block!!

Coronado Island off San Diego can be reached by bridge or ferry. The large island supports a wealthy residential community as well as a Base where the Navy Seals train. It is also famous for its beautiful beaches. The National Historic Landmark Hotel Del Coronado was built in 1888 to provide the ultimate beach destination in America. Its rooms have hosted dignitaries, US Presidents, movie and sports stars like Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe. The hotel celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. It's ornate lobby and restaurants are a showplace of marble, luscious.carved wood, brass filigree and exquisite lighting of the era. The porches and gardens radiate an essence of luxury and wealth. Four falcons were on display on the hotel front lawn. One angry bird had flown up to an upper balcony of the hotel and decided to hang out there for awhile, much to the dismay of the falconers.

We selected a seafood restaurant that served up great fish tacos in lovely surroundings. Large framed black and white photos depicted scenes at The Hotel Del Coronado in the early 1900's.    
A waterfront gem named The Maritime Museum, is a floating exhibit of seven ships all available for boarding and exploring. The HMS Surprise is a replica of 18th century Royal Navy frigate Rose. Russell Crowe was at its helm in the film "Master and Commander". There were a few school groups visiting the museum and they were "trained" in navy lore and commands and escorted by costumed experts. What a fun way to learn history!

Two submarines can be explored at the museum, The USS Dolphin, a 1968 sub noted for diving the deepest on any vessels and a B-39 Russian sub. The typical close quarters and crazy wiring were complemented with cold war Soviet signage and Russian language instruments. The 1970's Soviet-era, diesel-electric sub really showed its battle scars on her dented and worn exterior.


The Medea was built using steel, teak and oak in Scotland, 1904, as a personal craft for hunting and touring. It has changed hands and purposes often being part of the Royal Navy, Norwegian Navy and Sweden's charter service. Beautiful wood and metal details plus fashionable furnishings make the Medea a lovely historic vessel.

Is this museum amazing? Two more ships to see! The Star of India was built in 1863 at Ramsey Shipyard on the Isle of Man. It was employed as a cargo ship hauling goods from India and emigrants to New Zealand. The Star sails every November in San Diego's harbour making her the world's oldest active sailing ship. We could knot believe the thousands of ropes and knots on board!! A fine art collection of ship models and paintings make an inspirational display in the hold.


Now a National Historic Landmark, The Berkeley Steam Ferry, was built in San Diego in 1898. She worked as a passenger ferry in San Francisco Bay for sixty years. The beautiful Victorian style structure and decor have been renovated to host special events like weddings, house the maritime offices and research library and hold displays of ship models, paintings and naval artifacts. There are some great photos of boat building and the fishing and fish processing industry. A ship-model building workshop and souvenir store are also on board.
A bonus for our day at the Marine Museum was acquiring our tickets for half price. Macy's present Museum Month in February where a free pamphlet allows half price entrance for up to four museums of your choice. Thanks Macy's! We enjoyed all seven ships for seven dollars each and for $5.00 more, we had an hour tour of the San Diego inner harbour. Below is a model of The Pilot that took us and one other guest out to view the city's edge, ships, Navy Seals and lounging seals.

Largest personal yacht in SD harbour, 2 boats on board and a helicopter.

                                                               Under the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier

Tall ship Californian is also docked at the Maritime Museum and was built in 1984 in San Diego as a replica of the 1847 Revenue Cutter. She sails a few times a day taking out guests for harbour tours.

We were lucky to tour the USS Midway on a day when the sun sparkled across the bay and welcome warmth beat down on the deck. Seventeen planes and seven helicopters are parked on the flight deck. We checked out the takeoff and landing strip and the complex lighting system that signal the jets' landing. A display of "cardboard" crew denote the many assignments aboard ship. Many of the jets had "pilots" inside and rockets and bombs on board which added realism to the site. We took a tour up to the bridge to see where the craft was controlled and jets were given commands to fly or land. The roof also housed the spacious Admiral's and Captain's Quarters plus the "Ready Rooms" where crew learned their strategies for missions.

The Hangar Deck had a few planes on display plus many flight simulators and cockpits for guests to try out. Engines and mechanical displays helped explain the inner workings of the Midway and aircraft on board. The engine room, liquid oxygen plant and The Brig (for naughty sailors) were all on this deck.

Second, third and fourth decks held the mess deck, sick bay, machine and metal shops, chapel, sleeping quarters and many more rooms that facilitate life at sea. The immensity of the USS Midway is staggering. Four hours disappeared as we clambered from deck to deck exploring.

We captured another sunny afternoon for our two hour tour of San Diego Bay on the Lord Hornblower. We were out among the sailboats and RIBS carrying groups of Navy Seals to their underwater training sites. Travelling under the Coronado Bridge revealed its height and elegance and dramatic curve. As well as enjoying a great harbour view of San Diego, we were able to get quite close to the Naval shipyards where frigates and destroyers were being overhauled and painted. We could view Tijuana Mexico clearly across the bay. We watched many Navy and Coastguard helicopters take off, roar overhead and land. We were lucky to see a rare training manoeuvre where a helicopter practiced lowering men onto a Coast Guard Cutter. It was a dramatic approach with the huge chopper hovering closely above the boat churning up the bay around it. We passed a few ocean side residential communities and many dockside views of the various facets of Navy Bases such as the Amphibious training piers. The Navy Base is the largest on the Pacific coast with over 54 ships and 120 tenant commands. Over 20,000 military and 6,000 civilians are connected to the Navy in some way in San Diego. The tour was a great way to view the many bay side facilities.



 Dixie was able to hike the paths above the tidal pools among the wild flowers and deeply carved cliffs looking enviously down at the ocean. This site is known for its natural, protected habitat for sea life. When the tide goes out, it reveals myriad life forms in the water and attached to the rocks and grasses. A large area is set apart for study by marine biologists who keep a close eye on pollution and the ebb and flow of the local species. Sea anemones, stars, groups of hermit crabs sporting snail shells, muscles and barnacles were everywhere.

                                                            five inch long limpid next to "screaming rock

                                                                        muscle and barnacle clusters
                                                                                      m&c close-up

    A rock posing as a fish eating a snail.    
High above the tide pools is the original lighthouse, some defence positions from WWII and the Cabrillo Monument. In 1542, Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo was the first foreigner to sail into the Bay of San Diego. The sweeping views of the ocean and harbour provide sightings of many Navy vessels, ferry boats, helicopters, Navy jets and seabirds. Although many a Gray Whale has been sighted from up there; we only saw some dolphin but were thrilled just the same. Did I mention that a fee of only $5.00 is charged and allows visitors to return for a week on the same ticket?!

                                                                                      Archive photo


On the route back down, we paid our respects at the Fort Rosencrans National Cemetery where the celebrated military are buried across the hills with a great view of San Diego Bay or The Pacific Ocean.