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Santa Barbara Maritime Museum Drops Anchor for Harbor Treasures and Tastings Fundraiser

Supporters feast on food and wine at the ninth annual culinary extravaganza to support the museum's educational and curatorial programs

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum closed its doors to the general public Feb. 25 to host a highly anticipated and unique fundraiser as more than 100 supporters dropped anchor for the Ninth Annual Harbor Treasures and Tastings.

The culinary extravaganza featured tastings from dozens of local restaurants and wineries benefiting educational and curatorial programs offered by the museum at 113 Harbor Way.

“Our annual fundraiser helps support all of our education programs, new exhibits and general operating cost,” said Greg Gorga, executive director of the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. “It’s a lot of fun, and people get to sample local cuisine and spirits from some of the finest restaurants, wineries and breweries in Santa Barbara County.”

The flavorful scent of melted butter and exotic spices were a mere hint of the savory aromas that filled the spacious two-level museum and whet the palates of patrons who ventured around the food stations, sampling an array of scrumptious tastings prepared by Jordano’s, Rincon Catering, Alma Rosa Winery and RND Vodka, to name just a few.

All of the vendors competed for awards selected by celebrity judges Michael Hutchings and Tommy Tang.

“We have a five-point rating scale, but it is not like Food Network judging and not so critical,” Hutchings said. “We are looking for the best in different categories. The general food category, wines category and then we finish up with cocktails.

“It’s the latter half that’s going to be the tough job. Like Tommy, a lot of these people I know and work with around town, so it’s judging my peers, and last year I had had a few barbs and arrows flung at me after the last show.”

Guests dressed in casual attire sat around tables sharing lively conversation and feasting on their latest dish of choice, while other guests mingled around the museum, surveying a variety of silent and live auction items that lined the rich wood- and glass-paneled rooms.

Must-have items up for bid included a private dinner for 20 at the Maritime Museum, two tickets to the 2013 Masters Final Rounds deemed priceless, an autographed Rolling Stones guitar signed by every band member with a certificate of authenticity valued at $2,500, dinner for two at the Santa Barbara Yacht Club and a two-hour private charter for up to 12 people on the Casa Blanca power boat, courtesy of Maritime Museum Planning Committee chairwoman Elsbeth Kleen and Ken Clements valued at $750.

Arlien Plat from Ventura said she was impressed with all the history of the Santa Barbara Harbor and Santa Barbara Channel that she discovered while viewing the museum’s exhibits. She also raved about the quality of the food that was served within such a beautiful setting.

“The tuna tartar from Marmalade Café is to die for, and the scrumptious pizza from Rincon Catering was lovely,” Plat said. “I also tried the fresh sea bass from Commercial Fisherman of SB that was caught here in the harbor, and fish chowder from Chuck’s.

“There’s a little of everything here for only $100, and I’m definitely coming back next year.”

Established in 2000, this one-of-a-kind museum is located inside the Santa Barbara Waterfront Center, formally the Naval Reserve Building, built in 1943. The building overlooks the Santa Barbara Harbor and the museum’s flagship, Ranger, a 1917 sports fishing yacht.

The goal of the museum is to preserve the maritime heritage of the California coast and present its rich history to the public by promoting a series of outreach, interactive and educational programs comprised of a specialized study of diverse disciplines, such as history, science, literature and math that are conducive to the coastal community and ocean.

The Spirit of Dana Point Tall Ship Program provides local schools with a professionally developed curriculum aligned with the California State Content Standards to highlight California’s maritime history. In this particular interactive program, fourth-grade students who are studying California history get to read Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana and then spend a night aboard a tall ship to re-enact the life of a 1830s sailor.

“The teachers love this program because the kids learn to work together and learn to project their voice because it’s loud at sea,” Gorga said. “Students also learn leadership skills because five of them are assigned as first mate and they all have different duties, one group had to cook dinner, another group goes out to the harbor to look for hides and tallows that the crew has hidden.

“We have such a special location here, and our channel is really unique and diverse. So to get the kids out there and celebrate on the channel is really something.”

More than 400 students participate in this unique program annually, and proceeds from the event and private donations also help to support local Title 1 low-income schools that are unable to participate in the program without assistance.

“It’s a very expensive program, at least $2,500 a night, so this allows kids who have never even seen our harbor to spend the night on a tall ship,” Gorga said. “It’s an experience that they will never forget in their lives.”

Additionally, the Marine Science Program, a follow-up Spirit program, puts sixth- through ninth-graders on the Bill of Rights sailboat for a three-hour sail aboard. The replica 19th-century schooner, built in 1971 and owned by Stephen Taylor, captain and founder of the American Tall Ship Institute, provides students with an opportunity to learn how to chart a course, navigate and study plate tectonics, and observe the effects of species loss on the marine food web.

Tang, the master of modern Thai cuisine and celebrity judge, flew in from Bangkok for the event and was happy to help the museum and the community.

“This is a great place to learn about the history and tradition of Santa Barbara, and the museum is an important institution that educates the younger generation about how to protect our coastal shores and how to become more involved,” Tang said.

The museum recently reinstated a monthly lecture series with presentations that include history photography of the Channel Islands of California abalone diving, and research conducted on the oil tanker Montebello that was sunk during World War II. In addition to the presentations, films are also screened, such as Santa Barbara and the Sea, for the return of Surf Film Saturdays in the Munger Theater. Please contact the Maritime Museum for a listing of scheduled presentations, special films and exhibits.

Proceeds from the event will also help the refurbishment of the Gail Berkus Children’s Gallery, the opening of an exhibit of “Lighthouses of the Central Coast” and the expansion of the Military Exhibit.

“This is the second year that I’ve been asked to be a judge, and I’m delighted to be back again,” Hutchings said. “This museum is a real treasure for the city of Santa Barbara, and a lot of folks don’t realize what’s here. It tells a real story of the sea and the people that work in and around it.”

The Maritime Museum graciously thanks its patrons and sponsors for support of the Ninth Annual Harbor Treasures and Tastings:

» Patrons: Victor Atkins and Victoria Harmann, Sarah and Roger Chrisman, Montecito Bank & Trust, Jean Schuyler, Venoco Inc., and Judy and George Writer.

» Sponsors: Boone Graphics, Discount Party Rentals, Jack ‘N Toolbox Inc., Mari and Hank Mitchel, the Santa Barbara Independent and Signature Parking.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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