Stately Ships to Tell a ‘Tall' Tale in Dana Point

The Cannon Battles are just one well-known (and well-booming) element of this splashy September tradition.

What to Know

  • Dana Point Harbor
  • Sept. 6-8
  • Tickets to various events vary, but seeing the ships from shore is free

Inquiring about the exact height of an especially sky-high ship?

We don't always dig deeper on the topic of just how high the masts reach into the sky, and how exactly a modern-day vessel finds its design inspiration in a centuries-old ship of yore.

Those are just a few of the questions to ask, however, around Dana Point Harbor when the Ocean Institute's Tall Ships Festival drops anchor over three thrilling days.

The "thrilling" part of the picturesque, on-the-water (and-just-off) event? Surely returning fans would put the ever-popular Cannon Battles in that column.

While real cannons will not be in use — and, let's be honest, no one is sad about that fact — the sounds, effects, and dramatic presentation, which involves two massive ships squaring off, is like an adventure movie that has come to (loud) life.

A quieter but no less interesting slice of seafaring scholarliness are the on-board tours, which give visitors an in-depth look at just how these replicas are built, cared for, and sailed so proficiently.


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And majestically, too, of course. Participants in 2019 include The Brig Pilgrim and the Spirit of Dana Point, as well as other enormous vessels that speak of another era.

Other happenings at the foam-close festival include Mermaid Swim Encounters, the dissecting of squids, the chance to visit a pirate camp (or a colorful reenactment), and live tunes, too.

Part of the allure of the weekend, which will ride the waves from Sept. 6-8, is just how well these ye not-so-olde ships photograph.

Admiring their bows, sterns, and beautifully carved mastheads from shore? As free as the dolphins that often choose to swim alongside these giants.

But if you choose to go deeper, quite literally venturing into the bowels and cabins of these colossal creations, there will be a fee.

Sailing off into the horizon isn't a possibility, but getting to know the sort of on-the-water works of art typically seen in oil paintings or big budget films may sate your desire to don a tri-cornered hat and roam the world.

Roaming Dana Point Harbor for an hour or two? Far easier, and you're home by dinnertime.

Arrr, that's the stuff.

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