I took a Harbor Cruise on Friday. Fr. Sean and his friend from Oxford were going to go too, but last minute got pressed into service at an unexpected singing rehearsal for the wedding he went to on Saturday. But I went anyway, tix having been "comped." It was pretty overcast, and the sun only finally broke free late afternoon.
The dayboat cruise ship "Lord Hornblower" is below.
The skyline of downtown San Diego has certainly changed a lot since I moved here in 1971. Back then there were a handful of really high rise buildings downtown. You could clearly see the El Cortez hotel from the Harbor, which was the first building to ever have an elevator on the *outside* of a building. Below is a picture taken of the downtown skyline from on board.
As you pull out of the slip, you can see the USS Midway CV-41 off the starboard bow. Tourists may now go onboard. I'd recommend setting aside a half day, and wear comfy shoes. You'll do a LOT of walking!
Also in the harbor were the USS George Washington CVN-73(left), which for the time being is in port undergoing repairs due to a recent fire aboard. On the right is the USS Nimitz CVN-68 undergoing routine maintenance, having returned from a long deployment. The Nimitz's "sail" is masked, because it is undergoing paint striping and the wrap is to prevent all the chips, etc. going in the bay. It is hard to tell from the picture below but the flight decks of these carriers are close to 1100 feet long and if one stood them on end would be 2.5 times as tall as the tallest building on the San Diego downtown skyline!
The USS Reagan CV-76 is normally home ported here too, but it, along with its battle group, is currently on deployment to the middle east. Normally about 41 ships are home ported here, San Diego is the largest port in the US after Norfolk, Va. These ships are tied up off the north end of NAS (Naval Air Station) North Island (which is technically a peninsula,. Don't ask.) Want a tour? See your naval recruiting office!
Below is a google earth shot of San Diego Bay. It is considered one of the finest natural harbors in the world.
The Bay is home to many critters, not the least of which are Sea Lions and Harbor Seals. Fr. Sean had a hard time telling them apart. But it's easy. The dark ones are the Sea Lions, and the brownish ones are the Harbor Seals. One of them can climb on the red buoys in the bay and the other one can't.
These fellas can be pretty inert, because they have their lazy carcasses hanging out where the fishing boats pull up and load up on anchovies and other bait. They don't have the "weight problem" the 1800 pound manatees have who eat 300 pounds of lettuce a day and the occasional apple or carrot. Talk about sitting around the house, getting high and watching the tube. The original "couch potatoes."
By chance we also saw the USS New Orleans (LPD-18) - an amphibious transport dock - one of the newest ships in the fleet, just commissioned last year. Its profile was designed to make it appear much smaller on radar. It's well over 600 feet in length and the nearby sailboat gives good perspective. It's also covered with "stuff" (highly technical term -- actually it's "Ram") which confuses enemy radar. We later turned and came back up the harbor and followed it...giving it a WIDE berth and sole occupancy (except for the idiots in sail boats who didn't "notice" a 600+ foot ship bearing down on them) of the deepest part of the channel.
When I got home and blew up the pictures I noticed the signal flags on the New Orleans. The letters spell out "NOLA" which is the radio "call sign" of this vessel. You can see the close up below.
Here is a picture I took this past Memorial Day weekend of the bay from the vantage point of Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery, which I wrote about before. The sub base is in the closest part of the bay. You can see the protective ring.
The hangars below are on North Island, not far from the Aircraft Carriers. When we were out we were treated to an F-18 practicing a "touch and go" on North Island. (It has two run ways not far from San Diego's commercial Lindbergh field. Named for Charles Lindbergh. Spirit of St. Louis was built in San Diego.
File photo below of one of the Navy's hottest toys. The Navy, IMO, has the neatest toys.
For those not in the know, a "touch and go" is what a pilot has to do if his tail hook has missed one of the arresting cables on the carrier. You miss? Throttle like hell and hope you have enough oomph to get you back up off that carrier and not off the side. Every landing is a "controlled crash." Somewhere I read where one pilot described it "like having sex in a car crash." I'll take his word for it.
Early parachute test from aircraft were also conducted on North Island, and a lady, Georgia Broadwick, was the first user to jump from a military plane into the water...the men apparently being too chicken. That or "ladies first." Whatever.
A little more of the San Diego Skyline is below. Seaport village and the embarcadero is in front. Lots of little shops and restaurants. There are often concerts by the bay in the summertime.
This nifty bridge, The Coronado Bridge, links San Diego to Coronado, which is at the southern end of North "Island." It has an 80 degree bend in it, because when it was built back in the 60s a bridge needed to be at least 2 miles long to have the feds kick in some funding. Your tax dollars at work. The modern carriers can't pass beneath it, but then they don't "live" on the southeast side of the bay and have no need to go under it. There's a whole bunch of ships that are normally home ported down at the 32nd street Naval Station south of this bridge, but few were in port Friday, many of them having gone off with the Reagan Battle group.
We also saw some Navy teams in the harbor training dolphins (they also train sea lions) in mine detection and "other stuff." I swiped the picture below with the one immediately above from wiki. (We weren't quite close enough for a picture to come out, but we could see them from 1/2 mile away.) Interesting article here about the program.
I know. Long post, but I haven't done a San Diego one in a while. BTW, the first European sighting of the harbor was done by Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo in the mid 1500s, a Portugese flying under the Spanish flag.