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VIDEO: True-blue crew

Traditionally rigged sailing vessels — tall ships — have a universal appeal.

Meticulously designed replicas of glorious wooden ships draw crowds at festivals and museums, but the cost of maintaining them is a challenge. The Maritime Museum of San Diego preserves one of the largest collections of historic sea vessels in the United States.

Local PBS affiliate KPBS recently sailed aboard the Californian, a replica of the 1847 revenue cutter C.W. Lawrence, and did a story about the museum’s reliance on volunteer crewmembers to enable these vessels to go to sea.

Bob Ross, a volunteer crewman for 31 years, summed up their spirit best.

“It’s a passion. These ships are my time machine. You have to preserve the skills and pass them down,” he says. “They’re magnificent ships, and if there’s any place I’d like to be, it’s on the deck of a tall ship out to sea.”

Now that the Maritime Museum's newest ship, the San Salvador, has been christened, San Diego has four tall ships from four centuries.

The fleet also includes a 1914 pilot boat that does bay history cruises and a Swift Boat used for tours focusing on the military history of San Diego Bay. The Californian does three-hour “Tall Ship Adventure Sailings” on most weekends.

The new San Salvador will be more than a static museum display. Homeported in San Diego, she also will sail along California’s coast, visiting cities and towns as a floating education platform for schoolchildren.