Alpha Gamma Sigma sets sail with the Ocean Institute at the Tall Ships Festival

The Exy Johnson sails outside Dana Point Harbor (Adam Gilles/Lariat)

The Exy Johnson sails outside Dana Point Harbor (Adam Gilles/Lariat)

Volunteers from Saddleback College’s Sigma Epsilon chapter of the Alpha Gamma Sigma honor society helped to provide support as the Ocean Institute hosted the 33rd annual Tall Ships Festival from Sept. 8-10 in Dana Point Harbor.

The event, complete with pirates, mermaids and other costumed participants from across the land, provided educational fun, entertainment and an immersive experience into the past for the 9,000 visitors over the weekend.

Anita Ziesmann, who has been attending the festival for several years, was engaged on the sunset cruise during the first day of the festival.

“It was raining, the sun was shining, there was a rainbow, the crew of the Curlew was fantastic, I suspected almost nothing,” said Ziesmann.

From left, Anita Ziesmann and Elise Andonian in 18th century gowns at the Tall Ships Festival (OC News Team)

Ziesmann wore a replica of an 18th century gown to the festival, which she made herself.

“I sewed it by hand,” she said. “Needle and thread. No sewing machine. It took about four and a half months just doing it on the side.”

Four of the tall ships arrived Friday for the opening parade along with the Curlew, which is based in Dana Point, and the Ocean Institute’s Brig Pilgrim and Spirit Of Dana Point.  

The Californian, which is the Official Tall Ship of the State of California, was provided by the San Diego Maritime Museum along with the America, which is managed by Next Level Sailing. The twin Brigantine ships, Exy Johnson and Irving Johnson, were provided by the L.A. Maritime Institute.

The “Sails ‘N Ales Kickoff Party” got things started on Friday night with unlimited beer tastings and live music. Saturday and Sunday mornings provided a majestic wake up with “Breakfast With A Mermaid”, followed by the “Mermaid Swim Show” and “Cap’n Jack’s Pirate School” throughout the afternoon for the kids.

Spectators view the mock gun battles off the Californian (Joel Trotter)

John Thomas was part of a group of costumed performers at the event who participated in a historical re-enactment of the taking of Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, on the Brig Pilgrim.

“We all get to go on there, fight the British and mostly die,” said Thomas. “It’s a lot of fun”

The Cannon Battles each evening provided the biggest thrill for spectators during the weekend.

The tall ships set sail on the high seas, along with the lucky passengers who were able to procure a ticket on board the sold out ships, for a re-enactment of blasting gun battles and a chance to experience towering rigging while working with the crew to haul up sail.

“It’s basically safety first then every man for himself,” said Captain Allan Glick of the Californian when asked about the gun battles. “These Captains, we’ve been doing this together for years. It’s just pure fun.”

The Irving Johnson anchors for the night in Dana Point Harbor (Adam Gilles/Lariat)

Grants Program and Weekend Program Lead Sarah Anderson from The Ocean Institute has been working at the Tall Ships Festival for ten years. “It’s amazing that we have so many volunteers,” she said .

“We need people doing dock safety, helping people on and off the boats, helping people find their way,” said Anderson. “ It’s really important that we have people to help keep it safe and keep it fun.”

All proceeds from the Tall Ships Festival support Ocean Institute educational programs and its staff of 130 people and 700 volunteers who help run their weekend programs and events. AGS holds volunteer service events on campus and off throughout the semester to benefit the community.

Membership in AGS is open to all students with a minimum 3.0 GPA who have completed at least 12 college units and are currently enrolled in at least five credit hours for the semester. Each member of AGS is required to participate in at least five hours of meetings, educational activities and community service, respectively.

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