I'm back with another episode of the Bringing Disneyland Home Video Podcast. In this episode, I take you on a tour of the Sailing Ship Columbia. Most of the video in this show was shot in 2006. As it turns out, I thought I had a ton of footage to work with but as I started editing, I quickly realized I didn't. The #1 rule for a video podcaster is "You can never have too much footage!" In keeping with my recent postings, I'm including the script from this show in case you want to read the info. I know I speak fast in the show so if you missed something, here it is!
In the early days of Disneyland, Walt thought that the Rivers of America needed another large ship to even out the activity on the river. He already had the sternwheeler Mark Twain, Indian canoes, Tom Sawyer Island rafts and keelboats. Walt asked Disneyland’s construction supervisor, a former naval admiral, Joe Fowler to pick a historic sailing ship for inspiration. After examining every maritime museum in the country, Fowler recommended the first American sailing ship to go around the world: the Columbia Rediviva. However, there is only one known picture in existence of the original windjammer. WED researchers used it and other research materials from the Library of Congress. Architect Ray Wallace was commissioned in 1957 to work with Fowler in creating the construction plans.
The ship was constructed at Todd Shipyards in San Pedro, California, where the Mark Twain 's hull was built a few years earlier. The vessel was transported to Disneyland and placed in the Rivers of America where the rest of the construction was completed. The 110-foot decks were planked with Douglas Fir and an 84-foot tall mainmast was installed. As part of a old naval tradition, Walt personally put a silver dollar under each of Columbia’s three masts before they were set.
For the ship’s christening on June 4, 1958, Fowler was dressed as a sailing captain of the 1700's, while the Mousketeers appeared as his crew. Gretchen Richmond, wife of Alfred Carroll Richmond, then Vice Admiral of the US Coast Guard, did the actual christening.
Since it’s maiden voyage, the Sailing Ship Columbia has had many extensive refurbishments but the only major change has been below deck. An authentically recreated interior portraying the accommodations of 18th century seamen was constructed below decks and opened to the public on February 22, 1964. The next time you are onboard, make sure you step below to this nautical museum and get a glimpse of what life was like for the crew.
The Sailing Ship Columbia is kept in her berth at Fowler’s Harbor and only operates seasonally and on higher-attendance days making it very hit or miss when it comes to your chances of boarding the ship. The good news is we get the opportunity to cruise the River’s of America aboard the Columbia right now. Enjoy your journey.
With the introduction of the nighttime water show, Fantasmic! in May 1992, the Columbia, and other watercraft, became part of the magical extravaganza. She sails along the River’s of America near the conclusion of the show, her rigging filled with characters from Peter Pan locked in an epic battle between good and evil.