Pilgrim, the Replica ship, sinks in Dana Point Harbor

Replica ship Pilgrim: Photo image by Francine Orr, Los Angeles Times
Replica ship Pilgrim: Photo image by Francine Orr, Los Angeles Times

One of the first times the replica ship Pilgrim was mentioned in the Los Angeles Times, it was under the headline “Vagabond Youth.” It was 1974, and a group of young Southern Californians had answered an ad in the paper from Capt. Ray Wallace, who offered them the experience of a lifetime if they’d pay $1,000 and fly overseas to help him on a boating trip from the Spanish and Portuguese coast all the way back to Monterey — maritime experience recommended but not necessary.

Though the journey was a one-off for the Pilgrim and its crew, the vessel and that trans-Atlantic trip imbued all who spent time on it with a classic sense of adventure.

But after nearly 40 years anchored in in Orange County’s Dana Point Harbor, where hundreds of thousands of kids since 1981 have toured the vessel and spent overnight field trips on it, the adventure is over, at least for now.

For reasons still unclear, the vessel began taking on water sometime over the weekend and keeled over Sunday morning, its hull partially submerged in about 10 feet of water and leaning to one side.

The boat is so old and fragile that its current owner, Dana Point nonprofit the Ocean Institute, isn’t sure it will be able to save the vessel. Workers spent Sunday evening ensuring that no hazardous materials leaked into the harbor and stabilizing the boat so it could be floated and the hull inspected, said Wendy Marshall, president of education and operations at the Ocean Institute.

Since news of the capsizing spread Sunday, Marshall and others have been flooded with emails, phone calls and text messages of support from past visitors to the Pilgrim, she said. One man, who works in marketing, told Marshall that he hadn’t really tapped into his creative side as a kid until, on a Pilgrim field trip, he was assigned watch for two hours and had to figure out how to describe the nothingness that is night-watch duty on the ocean.

Article written by Joseph Serna and published in the Los Angeles Times.

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