Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander series of seafaring novels made a superfan out of my hubby Patrick. He read through the 20-book series twice in two years. He toured the HMS Surprise at the Maritime Museum that was used in the movie adaptation. He started calling our kids “lubbers” when they hadn’t cleaned their rooms. He bored them with longwinded explanations of how the British empire was built upon wooden ships powered only by the wind. The poor man cursed his luck at being born 200 years too late.
So, when he heard someone talking about sailing on the wooden yacht America, he made a beeline for his favorite researcher: me.
“Eve, picture this: it’s our anniversary, we are sailing on the Pacific, nibbling on hors d’oeuvres, watching whales, and listening to the wind sing in the rigging. Sound romantic?”
Ever the adventurer, I said, “Yes!”
Pleased as punch, Patrick cavorted about and lilted into a sea shanty. “A life on the ocean wave/ a home on the rolling deep/ where the scattered waters rave/ and the winds the revels keep.”
Such enthusiasm is not to be denied.
I had never heard of the America before Captain Patrick mentioned it. But a few Googles and a phone call later, I was talking with Tyler McGill of Next Level Sailing (nextlevelsailing.com; 800-644-3454). “We offer an offshore sailing trip each day from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.,” McGill said. “We sail from the Maritime Museum in downtown San Diego out of the harbor anywhere from 2 miles offshore to 12 miles offshore. The boat we use is called America; it is a replica of the original America that in 1851 started the whole America’s Cup races.”
The original yacht America made history when it beat all comers in a yachting race around England’s Isle of Wight in 1851. Queen Victoria visited the yacht after the victory. The silver cup awarded to America’s sailors become known as America’s Cup. It’s the oldest major trophy in the international sporting world. It was once held by the San Diego Yacht Club back in the ’90s, but it is currently held by the San Francisco Yacht Club. They have the cup, but we San Diegans have a replica of America, the boat that started it all.
The 139-foot schooner’s four sails comprise 5900 square feet of canvas and propel the two-masted craft through the ocean smoothly, McGill says. “The boat is very slow moving out there,” explained McGill. “The sails really keep it stable, as well as the size and shape of the boat. It has a heavy keel down below as well which makes this boat very smooth-sailing. We offer a no-seasickness guarantee. We have such smooth sailing that anyone who does happen to lose their lunch while sailing will get it back with a gift certificate to a restaurant just down the street. So far this year we have only had 12 guests get seasick. Some of these other whale-watching boats will have 12 people sick per trip.”
Water and sodas are included, and snacks throughout the trip. You can also bring your own picnic lunch.
“There is one captain and five crew members,” continued McGill. “We can fit up to 76 guests on the four-hour trip,” he continued. “Once we get off the dock, we are going to be raising the sails, and we like to get people involved with helping us raise the sails. And we also like to have the kids involved with helping raise the American flag.
“The tour is year-round, this particular whale-watching season [for gray whales] ends at the end of April and then we will do blue-whale watching in the summertime, starting in June or July, depending on when the whales get here. It’s $79 per adult during the week, $89 on the weekend. And we do have a seasonal sailing special: for each paying adult ticket, you get a free child ticket, ages 21 and under. That special will go thru all whale-watching season.
“Also, access on the boat grants you access to the Maritime Museum for free on the day of sail,” a savings of $16 per adult ticket.