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The cannons exchange ear-shattering fire.


The smoke pours out through gun ports over the waters, the smell of gunpowder drifts past, the warring sail-heavy customs cutters slick past, trying to get in a good position to broadside each other, and Jim Oldham hauls back on the tap to pour me a Karl Strauss Endless Summer brewski.



I hand over the $5, and go back to watching the water war happening before our very eyes, here on San Diego Bay.

It may be Endless Summer for Karl, but not for us here at the Paradise Bar. This Labor Weekend is its last for the summer. It’s a little shack on the barge-pier sticking out into the bay behind the old San Francisco ferry, the Berkeley, HQ for the Maritime Museum of San Diego (1492 North Harbor Drive, 619-234-09153).

Their Festival of Sail is happening right now, and this is the best spot to watch it.


And this has to be the most refreshing beer in our fair city. The sun, the breeze, the blue waters, the sea battles… life is good.

The Paradise Bar has been here all summer long. But I swear this weekend is the best. Because out here on the water, you’re surrounded by an amazing 20 tall ships from all over California and beyond.

Right now (about 5:30 p.m.) the period-dressed matelots are starting to rifle the barrels of their cannon, after setting off the latest “war” 50 yards out in the bay.

Gotta say: Need this beer to steady my nerves. This is ear-splittingly thrilling. And not just for me. A bunch of people clamors for Jim’s attention.

They have a couple of tables, but most people just sit on unused cannon, or bollards.

I mean, close your eyes (or keep them open and jes’ screen out the carrier across on Coronado), and you could be back a couple of centuries, when this was a sail-crammed harbor as busy as it is for the festival.


Gunner Christina Kovar is dressed as a 19th-C midshipman

But just two days to go for the festival, and for Jim’s Paradise Bar palapa.


Meantime, the only real problem is that to get here, you have to buy the $15 festival admission ticket, this being the best watching spot, with all the exhibits and all.

Still, it’s worth it, no question. You don’t see this every day of your life, specially with a brewski or one of Jim’s Mai Tais ($6) in your hand.

He’s open midday till 6:30 Sunday, till 5:30 Monday.

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