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Ocean Institute plans virtual 3-day maritime festival, kicks off with a water challenge

For 35 years, the Ocean Institute has drawn hundreds of thousands of maritime enthusiasts to Dana Point Harbor for its annual Tall Ships Festival.

So, the nonprofit’s officials said they weren’t going to let the coronavirus pandemic ruin people’s opportunity to learn about the ocean, marine life and sailing and are taking the festival online, but also around the world.

While people won’t be able to board tall ships for cannon battles at sea, visit the pirates’ village or have breakfast with mermaids, there still will be plenty offered over three days beginning on Sept. 11.



The Ocean Institute is joining with maritime groups worldwide to offer diverse content. There will be live tours of shipyards, a look at building a tall ship in the jungles of Costa Rica and tours of maritime museums throughout the world. Some of the groups participating include the Australian Maritime Museum, Sail Cargo Inc.; the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts; the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut and the Schmidt Ocean Institue in Palo Alto.

“I’m thankful for the creativity of our team and global partners for creating something incredibly special that enables us to continue our fall festival tradition,” said Wendy Marshall, president of the institute. “We are so pleased and impressed with what our partners have brought forth.”

To warm things up, Marshall and Dan Goldbacher, who directs the maritime programs, on Saturday, Aug. 22, launched “Move Your Booty,” a virtual challenge that opened with a show of support when dozens of paddleboarders, kayakers and boaters paraded in the water past the Ocean Institute dock in a show of support.

The virtual challenge is open to anyone who wants to participate in water or on land and benefits the Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Since the start of the COVID pandemic, staff from the Ocean Institute has been providing the children – and those of  essential workers there – with educational programs on marine life and the ocean.

When a person signs up for the virtual race, they can also raise sponsorships from others to support the institute. And, there are also options to donate to the other participating ocean groups associated with the virtual festival.

“This is a maritime celebration of resilience,” said Marshall, adding the Ocean Institute has taken a dramatic hit during the pandemic. It also suffered the recent loss of the tall ship Pilgrim, which sank in its slip in the harbor on March 29.  The ship – a full-scale replica of the ship immortalized by Richard Henry Dana in his classic book “Two Years Before the Mast” – was a favorite during the annual festival.

Goldbacher said the Pilgrim will be there in spirit and its silhouette is the background for the Maritime Festival 2020’s logo.

“It’s a year where there has been a lot of change,” he said.

The Spirit of Dana Point, the institute’s second tall ship will participate in the virtual celebration. Goldbacher will lead virtual tours aboard the ship and discuss its history – including that it was built in Costa Mesa.

There will also be lessons on knot-tying, a look into how a tall ship with zero emissions is being built in Costa Rica and live tours of shipyards worldwide.

Those who were at the Tall Ships Festival in 2018 will likely remember the Hikianalia. A live feed from Honolulu and the Polynesian Voyaging Society will discuss the history and culture of the boat and the group. The Hikianalia, powered only by wind and sun, demonstrates the balance between man and nature.

“When we decided we wouldn’t have the physical tall ships festival, we decided we would do more,” Goldbacher said. “All of a sudden we got organizations from three continents and that became exciting.”

The virtual event is free and available to all. A schedule of events is posted at

Source: Orange County Register

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