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Go to the Maritime Museum of San Diego, and one will see The Star of India - the oldest active sailing ship in the world and the oldest iron-hulled merchant ship still afloat. The oldest ship afloat in the United States is the USS Constitution (which people can also visit). The Star of India was originally called "Euterpe," and today, she is a magnet for maritime enthusiasts.

When she was built, iron ships were still sort of experimental as most ships at the time were still being made of wood. The Star of India was built in 1863 in Britain and was launched just five days before Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. She was a full-rigged ship while in British service and went on to see her fair share of adventures.


The Euterpe's Career, Near-Disasters, & Circumnavigations

She was made on the Ramsey Shipyard on the Isle of Man. She enjoyed a very active career in British service and sailed from Great Britain to India to New Zealand. Her name "Euterpe" was after the Greek muse of music and poetry. The Isle of Man is a quaint and peaceful isle between England and Ireland that everyone should visit.

  • Built: 1863
  • Shipyard: Ramsey Shipyard On The Isle of Man
  • Sail Plan: Full-Rigged Ship (1863-1901)

During her sailing career, she had two almost disastrous voyages to India. On her first voyage here she had a collision and a mutiny (she collided with a Spanish brig off the coast of Wales). Following her mutiny, many of her crew were jailed, while her captain also died on the return voyage. During the second trip, she was caught up in a cyclone and lost her topmasts. She was only just able to make it into port.

But after a very tumultuous start, Euterpe had a more settled career and made more voyages to India as a cargo ship.

In 1871, she was purchased as a passenger ship and spent a quarter of a century hauling British emigrants to New Zealand. Most of the emigrants went on to prosper in New Zealand. In this service, she made an impressive 21 circumnavigations of the world (sometimes, it would take as much as a year to complete).

During this time, she also called into port in Australia, California, and Chile. At least two babies were born on her during these trips.

Related: Forget Luxury Cruises! Travel The World By Cargo Ship Instead

The Star Of India In American Service 1906-1926

She was sold to different companies between 1897 and 1900 before being purchased by the Alaska Packers Association in 1901. She was when rigged down to a barque in 1901 and renamed in 1906. She was then re-employed as a salmon hauler from Alaska to California.

  • Sold: In 1901
  • Sail Plan: Barque: (1901-)

Each autumn, she would return from Alaska with holds full of canned salmon. By 1923 she was getting obsolete as steam-powered ships then ruled the sees, and she was laid up.

She eventually retired in 1926. The Zoological Society purchased her to be a museum in 1926, but the Great Depression and then WW2 canceled those plans. She was restored into a seaworthy condition as a museum ship in 1962-63 and has been based at the Maritime Museum of San Diego ever since.

Related: HMS Victory: Visit The UK's Most Historic Naval Ship

Retirement, Preservation, & Museum Ship

Today The Star of India is both a National Historic Landmark and a California Historical Landmark. She sails at least once a year and hosts frequent tour guide-led school tours at the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

  • Retired: 1926
  • Restored: 1962-63

While she is the oldest sailing ship that regularly sails, she is not the oldest ship in the United States - the USS Constitution (1797), the Charles W. Morgan (1841), and the USS Constellation (1854) are older.

  • Tonnage: 1,197 Tons Gross (1,318 Tons As The Star Of India)

She really is a chance to step back in time - likely many other restored vessels, her hull, cabins, and equipment are nearly completely original.

Maritime Museum Of San Diego:

  • Open: Daily 10 am to 5 pm
  • Admission: $20.00 Per Adult (Age 18+)

In her time, she has sailed around the world 21 times; she became an "American" ship by Act of Congress, got trapped in ice in Alaska, had a mutiny, and still sails the ocean with her volunteer crew. What better attraction for the family and those with a maritime interest?