“When are we going Downtown Daddy?” Cal Guy Junior had pestered. “Daddy” (aka Cal Son) was busy working on a plan. Each of the Cal Three had expressed a Downtown preference – and somehow the preferences had to be knitted together into a workable operation…

Downtown of course in American terms is a reference to the oldest areas and the business districts of a city. For the Cal Clan Downtown is the historic and harborside districts of San Diego. It was on Monday morning then, that an expedition set off for Downtown to ride on a boat, to look at boats and to play…

You’re never far from a freeway in Southern California: following a route due south, then south west with then a further southerly kink around the city, the cars arrived Downtown within an hour.  Here is Downtown San Diego, a mix of old structures and statement skyscraper rooflines.  Ca02-02

“Tell Granny about the Battle of the Bands,” Cal Son instructed Cal Gal. A tale unfolded then of an annual tradition whereby university bands march towards and confront each other in competitive spirit, along these very streets, each band aiming to outplay the other…   Ca02-04    (perhaps not quite what Petula Clark meant when she sang about Downtown and “the music of the traffic of the city…”)

After parking underneath the San Diego Convention Center there was a trolley trip towards the harbor.   Ca02-01   (Thinks: How is the trolley bodywork maintained to such a shiny gloss…?)

A boat trip was at Cal Gal’s request – and what better way is there to appreciate San Diego’s harbor frontage than from a two hour boat tour?   Ca02-05

TV news had reported the arrival that morning of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt   Ca02-06   – and here she was, tied up at the naval facility on Coronado Island, flags fluttering to celebrate her arrival.

First the tour boat turned south, under the elegant and impressive bridge that links San Diego to Coronado Island.   Ca02-07   Straight ahead, a few miles south, lie the mountains of Mexico.

Berthed at the vast naval dockyard which stretches along the eastern side of the harbour are grey hulled vessels, designed for very specific roles.  Ca02-09   You cannot help but muse on the contrasts of size: cushioned inside a floating dock was a destroyer  Ca02-11   while a single-crewed navy tug darting past sat very low on the water.  Ca02-08

Nearer the original Port of San Diego sign  Ca02-12   were moored research vessels, a car transporter – and a pineapple importer. Ca02-13

The boat trip was nearing the end of its southbound trip when it passed USS Midway (now a floating museum, visited last year ).    Ca02-15  WELCOME HOME read the very clear banner on the flight deck, a message no doubt for the newly arrived carrier on the other side of the harbor.

The tour resumed, northbound this time, passing an extraordinary collection of vessels, moored together at the Maritime Museum.  Ca02-16    Onward, aware now of aircraft landing and taking off at 90 second intervals on the nearby Lindbergh Field (San Diego International Airport).  Ca02-31     Graceful sailing yachts   Ca02-14  were sharing water with working vessels.  Ca02-17  Ca02-22      Sea lions lazed on pontoons  Ca02-18  while the commentary highlighted more military research installations and the back end of a submarine in a floating dock.  Ca02-19    The familiar shape of the Point Loma headland loomed ahead   Ca02-20   – and beyond, 12 miles further out, lie the Mexican-owned Coronado Islands. The tour boat turned, passed the North Island Naval Air Station and headed back towards the iconic skyline…


Cal Gal’s treat delivered (and a lunch eaten too) next up was a visit to the Maritime Museum. This was at Cal Guy Senior’s request.  Here, extraordinarily, just a mile from the US submarine base, is a Soviet Foxtrot class submarine,   Ca02-35   sold off at the end of the Cold War. Notice the crew composition.  Ca02-27   The hull sides were crammed with pipes and manually operated valves.   Ca02-26    Ca02-28    Of course one had to gaze at this: narrow boaters as a breed share a great interest in toilets, and this is one of just three provided for the crew of 78 men…  Ca02-29

Spend an afternoon touring this museum and you’ll see rigging  Ca02-30   and ropes,  Ca02-36   masts  Ca02-32   and ship models,  Ca02-42   sails and fine pew-like seats on the Victorian-era Berkeley steam ferry. Ca02-33

Late afternoon the sun slid into the Pacific Ocean behind Coronado Island  Ca02-37   – but time still had to be given to Cal Guy Jnr at the play area in front of City Hall.

Ca02-39 Ca02-40 Ca02-38

Travelling on a trip boat, clambering through submarines, exploring the bowels of a steamship and other sailing vessels was good enough fun – but not quite as good as swinging on a roundabout or scrambling over a grotto in a Downtown park…









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