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Ahoy, Matey! Sailor to talk about his adventures on a tall ship at Santa Barbara museum event

The tall ship Rose was converted into the HMS Surprise for the move Master and Commander.
Will Sofrin
The tall ship Rose was converted into the HMS Surprise for the movie Master And Commander, The Far Side Of The World.

A 36 day voyage from the East to West Coast to bring the ship to a movie shoot included storms, broken masts, and even a pirate scare.

Master And Commander, The Far Side Of The World was a Hollywood blockbuster centered around a Royal Navy warship in the 1800’s.

The 2003 movie starring Russell Crowe was a big screen action-adventure movie which made more than $200 million, and earned 10 Oscar nominations.

But, there was a huge modern-day adventure before the first foot of film was shot, which involved everything from huge storms to the possibility of pirates. It was a trip of the sailing ship Rose across two oceans, and thousands of miles from the East Coast, to the West Coast for its starring role in the film.

"I'm a wooden boat fanatic, and when I graduated from high school instead of going to college, I did an apprenticeship with a boat builder, to learn how to restore wooden yachts," said Will Sofrin.

"I actually started to get paid to sail...and I thought I found my calling, as I traveled all over the world," he added.

Sofrin signed on for what would be the adventure of a lifetime, being part of the crew which would sail the Rose from Newport, Rhode Island to Southern California.

Sofrin said one of his captains introduced him to the Rose. He admits he wasn’t sold on the idea of the voyage at first, but he listened to his mentor, who told the 21-year-old it was the chance of a lifetime.

He said the Rose looked the part of an 18th century British warship, but also had some modern features, like engines, electricity, and plumbing. It was still a sailing ship, unlike any sailboat.

After two months of preparations, they were off on what would turn out to be a 36-day voyage. Early in the trip, they were caught in a huge Atlantic storm. He said the engines were critical in getting them through it safely.

Sofrin said the Rose encountered other ships at sea, and the reaction was like their crews had discovered a ghost ship. And, just like in the 1800’s, pirates posed a threat.

Other ships radioed reports of pirates off of Nicaragua. The crew looked at whether they could use the cannons on the ship if need be, and even found some sabers which could be used to repel boarders. Fortunately, it never happened.

He said after the ship lost some of its masts in rough weather, the crew had to come together to make emergency repairs until they could reach Panama.

Will Sofrin on the Rose, as he helped sail the ship from the East to the West Coast.
Will Sofrin
Will Sofrin on the Rose, as he helped sail the ship from the East to the West Coast.

Sofrin says it was the adventure of a lifetime. After the ship arrived in California, he stayed on for two months to help convert the Rose into its starring role as the British warship HMS Surprise.

Now, he’s written a new book about the journey, called All Hands on Deck: A Modern-Day High Seas Adventure to the Far Side Of The World.

As for the ship, it has a new role, hosting thousands of visitors a year. It belongs to the San Diego Maritime Museum, where people can tour it.

Sofrin will talk about his adventure, and show some video from the trip during a special book launch event on Saturday for All Hands on Deck. The Santa Barbara Maritime Museumevent will feature a cocktail party, a dinner with the Anchor Rose restaurant, and a screening of Master and Commander: The Far Side Of The World.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.