It was the huge, yellow rubber duck that piqued my interest. I didn’t realize it was part of the Tall Ships Festival LA in San Pedro until it was practically too late. Saturday evening I bought tickets for the family to go the next day, which was the festival’s last day here in Los Angeles.
The rubber duck welcomed us almost immediately upon arrival. It seemed a little deflated and was tilting a bit which was somewhat of a letdown. Upon further inspection, though, we think it was just the wind at that moment that caused it to sag because it looked much better later.
The Rubber Duck is a floating sculpture designed in 2007 by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman. According to the artist’s website, it is an everyday object with which children all over the world are familiar and it “immediately connects people to their childhood”.
Kids and adults of all ages were excited by it. There was something surreal about seeing such an out-of-place object in this busy city port. At one point, a large loaded container ship was entering the port with the help of a tugboat and accompanied by a fireboat. Pleasure craft were also cruising alongside the tall ships. And then there was the large rubber duckie just peacefully hanging out. It was fun to watch all the activity.
(And for those of you who are local and missed your opportunity to see the world’s largest rubber duck, you still have a chance in the next two weeks. LAist tells you how here.)
Of course there was more to the festival than the world’s largest rubber duck. We got to take a look at some beautiful ships and learn a bit of US history as well.
The first ship we boarded was American Pride, built in 1941. She was originally a New England port fishing schooner and now does educational programs and boat charters out of Long Beach. This was a fun little sneak peak for Sonny, whose class this year will be going on an overnight on a brig to learn the life of a sailor in 18th century colonial America.
Unfortunately, we had to pass up boarding some ships due to the lines, but we admired them from land. We did board SS Lane Victory. Built in 1945, she was a merchant ship during World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War. A nationally recognized historic landmark, the SS Lane Victory is now a living museum and memorial to the service and sacrifices of all Merchant Marine sailors and Navy Armed Guardsmen. Our family especially enjoyed exploring the three-level engine room and visiting the flying bridge.
We continued along the dock of the cruise terminal to see more ships. We passed by the Battleship USS Iowa but didn’t board because the boys and their father had already toured it on a previous visit. We also saw an old fireboat built in 1925.
More tall ships were around the corner in the Downtown Harbor area. There were actually more ships there than we had already seen, but at this point, the boys were getting pretty tired and hot so interest in seeing the remaining ships was very low. We made it to the harbor, but glancing at them all from our first vantage point was enough for them.
On the way back to where we started, we came across a tent where the organization United States Power Squadrons was teaching boat safety and skills. Before I knew it, Sonny and Doobie were seated at tables with three connecting screens and boating controls and learning some basic boating skills with a virtual trainer. This might be something for us to consider in the future since our summers in Norway revolve around boating and it’s only a matter of time before the kids will be driving the boats.
Now, after the fact, I’ve learned that this Tall Ships Festival was quite a unique event for Los Angeles. The non-profit organization Tall Ships America, whose mission is to “encourage character building through sail training, promote sail training to the North American public, and support education under sail”, organizes Tall Ships Challenges every year. They rotate between the Pacific Coast, the Atlantic Coast, and the Great Lakes. The Los Angeles festival was part of the Tall Ships Challenge Pacific Coast 2014. Other ports on the west coast this year are San Diego (Aug 29 to Sept 1) and Dana Point (Sept 4 to Sept 7). The last time the festival came to this area was in 2011 and then it was in Oxnard. I wonder where it will be 2017 because I would be interested in going on a sail with one of the ships then.
Here’s something of interest to Norwegians… Take a close look at the cover of the festival brochure. I immediately noticed the ship’s name and faintly saw a familiar symbol on the sail. I was momentarily excited that I might be able to visit the Norwegian tall ship Sørlandet. But no, it was not at the festival. She was only pictured on the brochure. She actually participated in another Tall Ships festival in the Great Lakes in 2013.