The Star of India was built in 1863. She started out with the name of Euterpe, and was built in the Isle of Man Euterpe was a Greek muse of poetry and music. She had a difficult beginning, with a collision happening on her first voyage. There was also a mutiny! Her second voyage was just as challenging. Euterpe was caught in a cyclone and just barely made it to port. Her first captain also died on board, and was buried at sea.
Star of India is currently the world’s oldest active sailing ship. Made of iron rather than wood, she sailed around the world 21 times, hauling cargo and emigrants to New Zealand, Australia and even California and Chile.
Life aboard the Star of India was very hard. Even so, there were very few deaths. There were the usual maladies and other illnesses, but the sailors were tough and adapted to life at sea.
Some significant achievements and events for the Star of India (courtesy San Diego Maritime Museum):
- Launched five days before Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
- Sailed twenty-one times around the world
- Never fitted with auxiliary power
- Went aground in Hawaii
- Became an “American” ship by Act of Congress
- Trapped in ice in Alaska
- Still sails in the ocean by a volunteer crew each November
I paid the ticket for admission to the museum and eagerly went aboard the Star of India. I spent twenty years in the U.S. Coast Guard and I know what it is like to sail all over the world. But the smaller size of the ship and the cramped quarters below made me realize how difficult life would have been for those crewmembers who made many of the long, hazardous journeys.
It took great skill and courage to sail a ship of this size to ports all over the world. I can see why many people volunteer to have a chance to sail San Diego Bay each year. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them!