A Beloved Ship Called “The Pilgrim” Sinks Mysteriously Into Dana Point Harbor

The Orange County Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol is taking precautions to keep fuel from flowing into Dana Point Harbor as a tall ship belonging to the Ocean Institute sinks into the water.

The Orange County Register reports that at approximately 5:15 a.m., the institute’s iconic vessel The Pilgrim, which had served as a well-loved educational tool for decades,  had heeled in the slip overnight. 

The Harbor Patrol placed a yellow hazmat boom around the vessel to keep the diesel fuel and oil from spreading. 

The Pilgrim is a full-sized replica of the ship featured in Two Years Before the Mast, a book written by Richard Henry Dana in 1840. The two-masted tall ship was featured frequently in the Ocean Institute’s Tall Ship Festival each year. 

The ship was initially built in Denmark in 1945 as a three-masted sailing vessel. In 1975, it was converted to its current configuration by marine architect, Captain Ray Wallace. The ship made its debut at Dana Point Harbor in September of 1981, and since then, it has served as a classroom for thousands of students in the area.

According to Lt. Chris Corn with the Orange County Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol, Institute officials had been dealing with a slow leak in the vessel but was told by the director of Maritime and Maritime Facilities, Dan Goldbacher, that the institute was able to manage the problem with a pump onboard the ship.

Officials don’t know what caused the ship to sink,  and the incident is still currently under investigation. “Something was different than it was yesterday,” Goldbacher told reporters. 

Wendy Marshall, executive director at the Ocean Institute, told reporters that regular in water and out of water inspections were conducted on The Pilgrim.  The ship was pulled out of the water in 2016 to perform a complete survey and make necessary repairs at that time. 

A fundraiser was launched in the fall of 2019 so that repairs to the ship could be made in January of 2020; however, the haul out had to be delayed until June because the shipyard is currently overloaded.

Marshall and others have come to the heartbreaking conclusion that The Pilgrim is now beyond repair.

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