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How cheap were sailing ships in Gold Rush California?

How cheap were sailing ships in Gold Rush California?


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Many ships were abandoned in San Francisco during the California Gold Rush as their crews and passengers headed straight for the gold areas. Some became semi-permanent buildings and some became landfill. Their local value was less than their value in other ports, presumably because of the lack of available labor to sail anywhere else. This would have been terrible for the sellers of ships, and great for anyone interested in buying ships.

During this period, how much did the price of sailing ships drop in San Francisco?


Two ships, the Inez and Bethel were purchased together at San Francisco for the modest total sum of $450. By comparison the price of passage on a ship to San Francisco from New York around that time could be in the range of $100-$300 per ticket.

To put this in context, a story from KQED radio outlines several historical reasons for the practice of abandoning ships amid the Gold Rush.

  1. There was indeed a shortage of labor as suggested in the question. Even captains deserted ships in search of gold.
  2. Many of the ships were decrepit to begin with and knowingly sent to San Francisco on their final voyage.

  3. Wood was in short supply and expensive to mill, as evidenced by the prevalence of canvas tents as the primary form of shelter. This added to the incentive to use a ship for scrap.

  4. Scuttling a ship was the easiest way to make a claim of land on shore, a practice known as "hulk undertaking". The ships for which prices were quoted above were purchased for this purpose, which the source describes in detail.


Memoirs of the Gold Rush

The California gold rush significantly impacted the United States. Starting in 1848 at the first discovery of gold, it exploded into a frenzy of people abandoning families and jobs to search for treasure. The influx of people to the area increased the population of San Francisco from a small settlement into a growing city. When it ended in 1855, many people had made fortunes and some had lost everything.

The history of the California gold rush begins in 1848 when James Marshall found several nuggets of gold in the American River. Word eventually spread of the discovery to the local newspaper. Within a few months, thousands of people had &ldquogold fever&rdquo and left their homes to travel to California to see if they could make a fortune. Many people earned the equivalent of several years of wages others lost everything when they left their livelihoods at home only to find misfortune. The growth of businesses in the area was exponential, and the territory of California thrived. Millions of dollars worth of gold was found during the years of the gold rush before it ended in the 1850&rsquos.

    : The geology and history of the California Gold Rush. : Story of the California gold rush. : Extensive account of gold rush history. : Descriptive account of events. : Concise history of events.

In January of 1848, nuggets of gold were discovered in the American River near Coloma. A small article was run in the local newspaper in March of that same year. Two months later, gold was again discovered, and Sam Brennan, a local merchant, was found running through the streets with a bottle of gold dust in his hands, shouting &ldquoGold! Gold! Gold from the American River!&rdquo By August of 1848, people were migrating to California after an article was published in the New York Herald. The first ships that had set sail months before began arriving in February 1849. About 40,000 people were mining for gold by this time. A year later, in 1950, ships were sailing back toward the east with thousands of dollars of gold dust aboard. By 1851, mining had become more technologically advanced. Large amounts of people from other countries were in California, including thousands of Chinese. In 1852, a foreign miner&rsquos tax was instilled to try to reduce the number of Chinese and Latin Americans who were mining. Gold mining continued for many years afterward, but the &ldquoGold Rush&rdquo ended in about 1855 with people returning to their homes and lives.

    : Timeline of the gold rush. : History of gold mining. : Account of the gold rush timeline. : Description of the events surrounding the gold rush. : History of where the gold rush began.

Many pictures from the time of the Gold Rush were actually daguerreotypes, a kind of photograph where the image is exposed onto a plate to be viewed. Examples have been found of people, the mining area camps, and images of towns and settlements. Photography was a new art at this time and taking a picture was a much bigger endeavor, requiring more time than today. Some views of that time can still be found preserved in museums.

    : Information about gold rush with pictures. : Report with photographs. : Photograph of a forty-niner. : Daguerreotype and description of a miner. : Description and photograph from the gold rush.

The man who was known to begin the series of events leading to the California gold rush was James Marshall. Born in 1810, Marshall was a carpenter whose family was originally from Missouri. He eventually moved to California and was working on the construction of a sawmill near Coloma for a man named John Sutter. In 1848, he discovered nuggets of gold in the American River, although he and Sutter both wanted to keep things quiet. Instead, word got out about the discovery and their fears were realized. The men who had been working on the sawmill abandoned the project in order to mine for gold of their own. Marshall later attempted to find gold with little success and then abandoned the effort to open a vineyard. He died never realizing his fortune, but he is remembered for beginning a series of events that led to fortune for many others. In the year 1849, thousands of people migrated to the area. Some came from the east, crossing the country over land. Some sailed through the Isthmus of Panama. News of the gold was heard around the world and many Asians arrived, primarily Chinese. Europeans also came, particularly French and Germans. The large volume of people who migrated to the area in the year 1849 alone surpassed any other year. The people who traveled during this time are known as forty-niners for the year they left their familiar lives to set out to strike gold.

    : Information about the initial discovery. : History about James Marshall. : Report about the forty-niners. : Finding gold in California. : Emphasis on California gold rush. : Account of the forty-niners.

There are many stories of people who traveled during the time of the California gold rush. Some left their homes, leaving wives and children behind. Letters have been found from families writing across the country. Memoirs and personal stories have also been found people telling of their difficult journeys and life in the camps. Some people did realize their fortune. Others left with next to nothing. People faced challenges and even lost their lives attempting to reach California. The stories are priceless of a time when people tried to make their lives better by searching for their own destiny.


How Many Ships Are Buried Under San Francisco?

At the height of the Gold Rush in 1850, thousands of people were sailing to the Bay Area every month. While many were searching for gold, many stayed in town to make money as a merchant, tradesman, and a variety of other jobs.

Bay Area archeologist Dr. Allen Pastron says that once people got here, many abandoned their ships just offshore. Then, when all these newcomers caused a housing crunch, builders looked to the ships for a crafty solution. They would buy those ships for very cheap, haul it up to the pier, tear the mass down, reconvert it a little bit, and end up with an instant building.

When a series of fires swept through the city, they burned the top half of these newly converted ships. The city continued to build upon itself, though, leaving the bottom halves buried underground.

However, that’s not the only way ships got down there. Later, when the city was expanding and filling in the bay, some developers purposefully sank abandoned ships to mark property lines. In fact, there’s still a number of those closer to the Embarcadero.

Dr. Allen Pastron estimates at one point there were more than 50 ships buried under San Francisco, but isn’t sure how many there still are. As the city continues to grow, we may discover even more.


How cheap were sailing ships in Gold Rush California? - History

c.1455-1498. Born in Italy as Giovanni Caboto, he migrated to England and became famous for his 1497 voyage from Bristol, landing on what was likely Newfoundland. Cabot was the second European to land in America, after Columbus. Returning the following year with 5 vessels, he and his fleet were lost, except for one vessel that returned early. Of particular importance was his discovery of large quantities of cod.

During the period of the China Trade, when Mainers were sailing to ports in China, the Qing (or Ch'ing) Dynasty (1644-1911) was in power. The Qing Dynasty was established by the Manchus in northeastern China, and expanded to surrounding territories of Inner Asia, establishing the Empire of the Great Qing. The Manchus were a semi-nomadic people who conquered the Ming capital of Beijing (Peking) in 1644 and remained there until the Qing Dynasty was overthrown by revolution in 1911 and the last Emperor abdicated in 1912.

Qing leaders were responsible for restrictive policies on books, political writing, and assembly of scholars they also initiated the "eight-part essay" format for imperial civil service examinations.

Manchu males wore their hair braided into a pigtail known as a queue. During the Qing Dynasty the Manchus forced the Han population to follow this custom. Any male seen without a pigtail outdoors was beheaded.

China called itself the "Celestial Kingdom," and had been a flourishing civilization for thousands of years before westerners arrived. The Emperor of China was referred to as the "Son of Heaven, Lord of Ten Thousand Years," and lived in a special area of Peking known as the Forbidden City. The Emperor's Ministers supervised the Mandarins, who in turn supervised districts within the country. Mandarins were ranked into nine levels, reflected in their clothing. Chinese society was filled with custom and ritual for example, the few people who were allowed to meet with the Emperor had to first kowtow to him. The kowtow ritual involved the visitor lying prone on the floor and banging his head. This practice was understandably a source of tension between the Chinese and European or American merchants. The Chinese revered their elders, both living and dead. In order to insure the proper respect for oneself in old age, large families with many children were considered a blessing.

The Chinese society was agricultural, organized around growing rice and cultivating tea. There was a wide gap between the standard of living for the wealthy landowners and that of the peasant farmers. Only male children were formally educated. Education consisted of intense study of the Chinese classical writings calligraphy, poetry, and philosophy were stressed. The highest achievement for a man was to be known as a scholar merchants and soldiers were held in low esteem. Boys had to take part in a series of written examinations, first on a local level, and then, if these were successfully passed, in the capital city of Peking. There the young man was enclosed in a small cubicle for two days to write the essays for his final exam. These examinations were open to all classes of young men, and it would bring the entire family great honor if the boy passed his exams, which would lead to a position in the civil service.

Girls were not educated. Marriages were arranged at an early age, and couples often did not meet until their wedding day, when the bride was carried in a covered chair to the home of her husband's family, where she would spend the remainder of her life, rarely venturing outside its walls. The practice of binding the feet of female children was widely practiced in China and, although it originally was a custom of upper class families, by the 17th and 18th centuries, peasant girls began to emulate the practice. By the 19th century it was extremely widespread.

The Chinese traveled around their country by rickshaw, being pushed in a wheelbarrow, or carried in a covered chair. Foreigners, however, were forbidden to use these methods of transportation.

By the beginning of the 20th century, the uneven distribution of wealth, undue foreign influence, and the absence of a strong Emperor led to the end of the Qing dynasty and the Chinese Empire.


The dark side of the 19th-century gold rush

They came in their thousands in search of one thing – gold. But the idea of striking it rich and the reality of life as a prospector were often two different things, writes Pat Kinsella, as he mines the dark side of the gold-rush era | Accompanies BBC series The Luminaries, premiering on Starz on 14 February

This competition is now closed

Published: June 22, 2020 at 3:25 pm

During the 19th century, the discovery of gold in far-flung corners of the world could literally put a place on the map. Overnight, anonymous stretches of America, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand became powerful vortexes, sucking in thousands of fortune hunters from around the globe in a frenzy of fossicking.

This itinerant rabble of gold rushers were an excitable and eclectic bunch, encompassing Cornish tin miners, Scottish crofters, Irish labourers, Chinese fishermen, Chilean farmers, Australian clerks, emancipated African-heritage slaves, Mexican soldiers, German blacksmiths, Italian aristocrats and American authors. They spoke many languages in an even greater variety of accents, but almost exclusively they were male. And they all had one thing on their mind: gold. Such a kaleidoscopic collection of humanity, suddenly converging on the very edge of nowhere, populating pop-up towns and cities with no infrastructure, accommodation or law enforcement, sounds like a recipe for disaster. And often it was.

No matter where in the world these stampeders rushed off to – California, Victoria, Otago, Witwatersrand, the Klondike – the story that unfolded once they arrived was always similar. Though a few got lucky and became rich, most saw their dreams die and their savings evaporate. Illness, destitution and death were common outcomes, and many of those who escaped such misfortunes never returned home, despite families and workplaces awaiting them, inflicting a hidden cost on communities worlds apart.

Reality very rarely met expectation, and the only distractions from digging dirt and sifting silt involved gambling, boozing, brawling and prostitution – the latter sometimes involving indentured labour. As hastily thrown-up towns rapidly boomed (and then often quickly went bust), crime and ethnic conflict erupted through the faultlines, accompanied by vigilantism and violence. Vulnerable indigenous communities were commonly displaced, and sometimes obliterated altogether.

This script played out multiple times across the globe throughout the 1800s, with a slightly different cast of very similar characters involved every time. But the biggest gold-rush drama of all – in terms of sheer numbers, and the weight of its cultural, physical and literary legacy – happened on the west coast of America, right in the middle of the century.

In numbers: the goldrush

$36,000 – The amount Samuel Brannan allegedly made in nine weeks by selling picks, pans and shovels to gold rushers en route from San Francisco to the goldfields.

40 million ounces (113,398kg) – Weight of gold dug from the Homestake Mine in South Dakota between 1876 and 2002.

2,217 troy ounces 16 pennyweight (68.98kg) – Weight of the ‘Welcome Nugget’ found in 1858 at Bakery Hill, Ballarat in Australia by a group of 22 Cornish miners working at the mine of the Red Hill Mining Company.

3% – Proportion of the non-native female population of California’s mining region in 1850 – approximately 800 women compared to 30,000 men.

$200 million – US dollar value of gold dug out of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains between 1849 and 1852 – equivalent to around $5.5 billion today.

85.7g – Heaviest lump of gold discovered in Britain, located in July 2018 by an amateur prospector in a Scottish river. Prior to this, the largest nugget found in British waters was discovered in Cornwall in 1808 and weighed 59g.

California, here they come

On 24 January 1848, James Marshall, a carpenter working on a new sawmill in the small Californian settlement of Coloma, saw the morning sun glinting on something in the channel of water he was examining – part of the American River. He reached in and scooped up some of the shiny flecks of metal that had caught his eye. In his hands, Marshall was clutching a tiny amount of a substance that would transform the fortunes, and shape the future, of the American West. Gold.

Technically, Marshall was stood on Mexican land, but less than two weeks later, under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexico-American War, California joined the US. Soon it was the most talked about location on the planet, and people were sailing oceans, traversing mountains and driving wagons across deserts to get there.

Marshall made nothing from his discovery – in fact, he and the sawmill owner, John Sutter (who had borrowed big time to finance his dream of building an agricultural empire) lost money and went bust, after workers deserted fields and factories to dig for gold. Other business folk, however, would soon seize the gilt-edged opportunity presented by the influx of wide-eyed, greenhorn prospectors who descended on California.

Did you know…?

The Trans-Alaskan Gopher Company came up with a brilliant business plan, offering shares for a dollar apiece in its venture, which promised to train gophers to dig tunnels in the Klondike goldfields. Gophering for gold, if you will…

American culture continues to celebrate the more spectacular rags-to-riches success stories that emerged from this era – the sassy smarts and big-picture thinking of entrepreneurs like Samuel Brannan, John Studebaker and Levi Strauss. But these men struck gold by supplying equipment to the fortune hunters and dreamers, not by digging dirt or scouring riverbanks themselves. And behind the lucky strikes and occasional flashes of life-changing glitter, amid the rubble of a million shattered dreams, lie a multitude of much grittier and grimy stories of crime, violence, prostitution, gambling, family breakdown, bankruptcy, poverty, pestilence and prejudice.

Positive results were achieved too, of course – including the development of railways and other infrastructure – but it’s the darker themes that are the common denominators across the gold-rush age. In the colony of Victoria, reactions to the arrival of Chinese prospectors laid the roots for the discriminatory ‘White Australia’ policy (which, between 1901 and 1958, effectively stopped all non-white immigration into the country), while in South Africa tensions and rivalry between the British colonial authorities and local Boer farmers over the goldfields led to a full-scale war.

Hard to be herd

The first thing aspirant prospectors had to survive was the journey to the goldfields. As word of a gold strike spread across the Americas and beyond during 1848, hundreds of hopefuls began travelling towards California. The initial trickle of what became a rush was led by Americans from Oregon, but soon thousands were flocking in from places like Mexico, Chile, Peru and the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). Nicknamed ‘Argonauts’ after the golden-fleece chasing heroes of Greek mythology, around 6,000 people arrived that year. In his State of the Union address in December 1848, US President James Polk confirmed that large quantities of gold had been discovered in California, prompting a big dash west that emptied work places and homes across the rest of the country, and much further afield. Factories and shops lost workers, soldiers went AWOL, husbands deserted families. Part of the collateral damage of the gold-rush era was a rash of broken homes and destitute businesses far from the goldfields.

Thousands of hopefuls from the eastern states set off on a tough transcontinental odyssey in covered wagons, pulled by mules and oxen. They were soon joined by people from Asia, Europe and the Antipodes. By 1849, the real rush had begun, with incoming waves of ‘fortyniners’ breaking on the beaches. Around 90,000 arrived that year.

Did you know…?

The Klondike gold rush coincided with the great bicycle boom, and several people attempted to cycle to Dawson. There were also grand plans to fly paying prospectors to the remote goldfields in balloons – none of which really got off the ground.

But no easy route to the goldfields existed, even for those travelling across America along the California Trail. With deserts and the Rockies standing in their way, timing was crucial. The tragic story of the Donner party – a group of wagontrain settlers heading west who had become snowbound in the Sierra Nevada mountain range during the winter of 1846/47 – was infamous. Just 48 of the party’s 87 travellers made it out alive.

Others travelled up through Mexico, or took a ship – either on a full 17,000-mile route around the bottom of South America (which took between five and seven months) or to Panama’s east coast, before crossing the jungle-clad isthmus and boarding boats on the Pacific side.

The latter route was much quicker, but prohibitively expensive. Either way, dangers included fierce storms and serious illness due to overcrowding and poor diet. Once they’d landed, prospectors who had come by boat would have been severely disappointed to learn the goldfields were a further 150 miles inland, and that they had to negotiate another journey before they could start fossicking for their fortunes.

The drama of reaching remote regions is a common theme in the experience of gold chasers of the 1800s, and the ordeal faced by those heading to California pales in comparison to the challenge that faced stampeders who joined the last great rush of the century to the Klondike, in north-western Canada. After landing in Alaska, these fortune seekers had to hike the Chilkoot Trail over ice-clad mountains, then build boats to negotiate the mighty Yukon River, through deadly rapids, before reaching Dawson – where they could finally begin digging.

None of this deterred those with gold goggles on, though. Within six quick years, San Francisco was transformed from a small settlement with around 200 residents in 1846, to a ramshackle city teeming with more than 36,000 people in 1852. By 1855, the population had exceeded 300,000.

Boom and gloom

New arrivals to San Francisco lived in ad hoc accommodation, including on the decks of the 500 or so ships that had turned up laden with would-be prospectors and supplies, and then became stranded in the harbour when the crews deserted to try their luck in the goldfields. These abandoned boats housed shops, warehouses, pubs and even a jail.

Many migrants spent all their savings getting to the west coast, and arrived utterly destitute. The rush created enormous surges in demand for basic supplies, and prices soared. By the end of the century, having learned from events in California, Canadian authorities insisted prospectors bring a year’s worth of supplies before allowing them access from Alaska into the Klondike. But many of those arriving in San Francisco were woefully ill prepared.

Freezing winter conditions could be lethal for those living in shanty conditions and sleeping on cold, damp floors. Food was poor, scurvy was common from lack of fruit and vegetables, and sanitation was extremely basic, with most men seldom washing their bodies or clothes. Camps were rag-tag constructions made from wood and canvass, and fires were common.

In this male-dominated society, almost entirely devoid of traditional calming influences such as family and community, gambling, alcohol abuse and loneliness were also prevalent issues. Later, in the Yukon, one entrepreneurial prospector travelled with a barge-load of kittens that he sold to lonesome miners in Dawson for an ounce of gold apiece. Most men, however, sought solace and warmth elsewhere.

Love, lust and punishment

San Francisco’s so-called Barbary Coast area witnessed the shadier side of the Californian gold rush. Here, in the brothels, saloon bars and gaming houses that quickly took root in the rough dirt, plenty of prospectors frittered away their newfound fortunes. Prostitution became a huge industry. Initially, the working women came from Latin America, mostly Mexico, Nicaragua and Chile, and a rudimentary red light zone was established at the foot of San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill, in a tent city called Chiletown. Later, more women would arrive from farther afield, including a large number from France.

Among the Chinese community – largely comprised of men who’d left families intending to make a short, life-changing trip to California, but ended up staying much longer – the gender imbalance was especially stark. According to historian and author Judy Yung, in 1850 just seven of the 4,025 Chinese in San Francisco were women. There are reports of girls – often aged 14 or younger – being lured or kidnapped from the Chinese countryside and brought to St Louis Alley in San Francisco’s Chinatown, where they were effectively sold to prospectors as sex slaves, or put to work in brothels.

In the early days, the goldfields were rule-free places, full of testosterone and desperation, where infrastructure and policing were non-existent. Claims – parcels of land where prospectors asserted the right to extract gold – were staked on a first-come basis and disputes were resolved with violence. And along with all the hope-filled miners and desperate dreamers came the schemers: thieves, bandits, claim-jumpers, professional gamblers and scammers.

California didn’t become a state until September 1850, until which time there were literally no laws, and summary and violent vigilante justice was meted out to wrongdoers (and perceived wrongdoers) on the spot. Punishments ranged from flogging for minor crimes (petty theft and assault), right up to execution by hanging for more serious offences such as robbery and murder. Lynchings and mob justice were rife.

As the situation evolved, so too did law and order. In crowded camps around productive claims, officers were often appointed to patrol mines and settle disputes. Commonly, claims were 10ft by 10ft, and limited to one per prospector. As the era wore on, however, and the number of miners continued to rise and, as the strike rate fell, things inevitably turned nasty.

Diversity and discrimination

The deluge of hungry humanity that flowed into San Francisco in search of gold from 1849 made California one of the most cosmopolitan and colourful places in the world – albeit probably one of the planet’s most male-dominated societies.

The ethnic mix included thousands of Chinese, Mexicans and people from Caribbean, Central and South American countries, including Brazil, Peru and Chile. Fortune-foragers travelled from as far away as New Zealand and South Africa.

Australia lost so many young, able-bodied men during this stampede to America’s west coast that it forced the colonial government to reverse its policy of suppressing news about gold strikes in its own backyard. Consequently, Australia’s fortunes and fate was quickly transformed by a series of gold rushes in New South Wales and Victoria, which happened shortly after that of California.

Ireland was still losing people as a result of the Great Famine, and those who could made their way to the west coast. From elsewhere in Europe, prospectors poured in from Italy, Prussia, Russia, France, Britain and Spain. Several hundred Turks and Filipinos arrived too, and among migrants from other states in American were an estimated 4,000 African-Americans.

Once the easy pickings had been harvested, however, white American prospectors began trying to force foreigners out of the picture so they could gather the remaining gold. Chinese and Latin American miners were sometimes attacked, and a foreign miners’ tax of $20 per month was introduced by the new California State Legislature.

Anti-immigrant feeling ran rife but it was Native American communities who suffered the worst atrocities. Thousands died from diseases brought in on the international tide, as well as violent attacks from prospectors who regarded them as sub-human savages. California was a free state (one in which slavery was prohibited) but settlers were allowed to capture and use indigenous women and children as bonded workers.

As gold prospectors transitioned into settlers, and agriculture expanded to meet their ever-growing needs, conflict intensified. Attacks by tribes on encroaching miners and ranchers resulted in vengeance being wrought on whole villages, and some gold-rush era Californian communities offered bounties to vigilante groups for Native American scalps. California’s first governor, Peter Hardeman Burnett, called for the exclusion of all black people from the state, championed high taxation on foreign workers and openly advocated the wholesale extermination of the Native American population. By 1890, this latter objective had all-but been achieved, with the indigenous population decimated.

This was mirrored in Australian gold rushes, where the problems settlers were already causing the Aboriginal population in the form of introduced disease, conflict, alcohol abuse and the destruction of their homeland were massively amplified by the arrival of thousands of fortune hunters.

There is some evidence, though, that not all indigenous people were limited to being bystanders or victims, and some were able to exploit elements of the situation by selling possum-skin cloaks to freezing miners ill-prepared for winter conditions, working as trackers for prospectors and police, and even putting on Corroborees (shows of dancing and singing) for payment. Overwhelmingly, though, the discovery of gold and subsequent influx of prospectors into any area already populated spelt disaster for Native American communities and their culture. This was certainly the case for the Yukon’s Hän First Nation people, who were displaced by stampeders during the Klondike gold rush, and never recovered.

End of the rainbow

Although San Francisco continued to grow, the aspirations of small-time diggers in California had realistically evaporated by 1855, and larger mining companies were left to extract the remaining gold with better technology. The discovery of silver in Nevada in 1859 kept fortune hunters rolling into the bayside area – including authors such as Mark Twain and Bret Harte, who documented the era – but the stampede ultimately became a trickle.

The gold-rush era was far from over, however, and for the next half a century adventurers from the world over would continue to seek their fortunes in faraway places, amid the high hills, dusty deserts and remote rivers in Australia, Alaska, Siberia, Canada, New Zealand, the Transvaal… anywhere that offered a glint or hint of hidden treasure.

The BBC adaptation of Eleanor Catton’s 2013 Man Booker Prize-winning novel The Luminaries, set during the New Zealand Gold Rush of the 1860s, premieres on Starz from 14 February 2021.

You can buy the novel on Amazon or Waterstones, and also read more of our recommendations for the best historical fiction.

Starz is also available for Amazon Prime Video subscribers. You can sign up for Prime with a free 30 day free trial.

Pat Kinsella specialises in adventure journalism as a writer, photographer and editor.


British Clippers

Thermopylae (1850)

The Thermopylae is certainly less known than the Cutty Sark, but she was nevertheless one of the key legends of the Clippers’ time It’s actually her who holds the record for the fastest tea clipper in the world, winning the Golden Rooster, breaking all established records, and motivating the owner of the rival company arming the Cutty Sark to build another clipper. These two ships made headlines because their ferocious regattas were popular.

Cutty Sark (1850)

Ariel (1865)


Ariel, better clipper of the Tea route.

Ariel was one of the first British composite clippers to be the only A-Clipper. She was built to serve the London-Foochow route to China at a time when the tea trade gave rise to ferocious regattas. She was commissioned by Shaw, Lowther, Maxton & Co from London to Robert Steele & Greenock’s yards. Her hull was composite, with steel framing and a teak deck. Her sails was innovative with the addition of an extra square stages, up to five levels.

She measured 197.4 feet between perpendiculars (hull only), and approximately 60.16 meters long overall by 10.33 meters wide for 853 net tons in the register, carrying more than 1060 gross. 100 tons of steel ballast were added to the hull, to perfect her stability and to compensate for her higher mast height (meaning taking more wind).

In October 1865, she was launched for her first major crossing to China (Gravesend-Hong Kong) and returned, under the command of Captain Keay, in 79 days and 21 hours pilot to pilot, or 83 anchorage, which was already a nice feat. and the following year, in 1866, he participated in the great tea race with other famous shearers, Tapping, Fiery Cross and Taitsing. She was famous for his very short loss to Taeping, who arrived 20 minutes before her on London’s waterfront.


Farallon Island Light was constructed on Southeast Farallon Island. After the tower was complete, it proved too small to house a first-order Fresnel lens, and the tower had to be torn down and rebuilt. The lighthouse was lit for the first time in December 1855. In 1939, the United States Coast Guard took over the lighthouse when the United States Lighthouse Service merged with it. The Coast Guard maintained a presence until 1972. By that time, the lantern room and the Fresnel lens had been removed, and an automated aero beacon was placed on the tower. The lens is on display in the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park visitor center on Hyde Street, while the lantern room itself was scrapped after removal.

This lighthouse is situated on the highest peak of the southeast Farallon. It was built in 1855 in the busy days which followed the gold rush when clipper ships and other sailing vessels were sailing in to San Francisco in large numbers. That there was need for a light on these dangerous rocks is evident when clippers like the Golden City which sailed from New York in 1852 reported that she was detained 5 days off the Farallons in fog. Stone for the construction of the lighthouse was quarried on the island and inside this masonry was a lining of brick. The extremely sharp slopes of the island and the jagged nature of the rock were serious obstacles to construction work. The bricks used in the tower were carried up the rock in bundles of four and five on the backs of men. After the completion of the tower a mule was kept on the island for years to carry supplies between the various parts of the station. At one time this mule was the oldest inhabitant. A number of years ago the gathering of birds’ eggs, which were sold on the San Francisco market, was carried on here extensively and seals were also hunted commercially. These practices were finally terminated by the Federal Government. The Farallon Light Station was equipped with a radiobeacon as well as with a powerful light and fog signal. [3]


Dare the Wind: The Record-breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud

Ellen Prentiss is the daughter of John Prentiss, the captain of a coastal trading schooner. They lived in Marblehead, Massachusetts in the early nineteenth century. John taught his daughter how to sail and to navigate a sailing ship. In 1841, Ellen married Josiah Perkins Creesy, a merchant ship captain. Thousands of Americans were heading west to the Gold Rush in 1849. They had the choice of traveling over land by wagon for six to eight months. Clipper ships were faster, cutting the time of trav Ellen Prentiss is the daughter of John Prentiss, the captain of a coastal trading schooner. They lived in Marblehead, Massachusetts in the early nineteenth century. John taught his daughter how to sail and to navigate a sailing ship. In 1841, Ellen married Josiah Perkins Creesy, a merchant ship captain. Thousands of Americans were heading west to the Gold Rush in 1849. They had the choice of traveling over land by wagon for six to eight months. Clipper ships were faster, cutting the time of travel in half. Ellen and Perkins joined the race to reach California the fastest in their new clipper ship, the Flying Cloud. Ellen navigated the ship and Perkins was the captain. They sailed from New York round South America northward to San Francisco, California, in 89 days, 21 hours. They beat the record by 30 days.

A historical fiction book about Ellen Prentiss Creesy and her navigational experiences will capture readers' attention. This juvenile fiction brings with it all the adventures of sailing a clipper ship. The artwork is excellent. This book is for children second grade and up. The paragraphs are lengthy and filled with interesting facts. At the end of the book is Author's Notes fill with historical information on Ellen Prentiss' life. There is a glossary provided as well. . more

In this picture book for older readers. Tracey Fern tells the little-known story of Eleanor Prentiss, an extraordinary woman who not only navigated a clipper ship but also set a record for the fastest time from New York to San Francisco, navigating around Cape Horn in a record-breaking 89 days, 21 hours.

Doesn&apost it seem incredible in our high-tech era how sailors used only the stars and a sextant to navigate around the world? Even more incredible (but true) is the life of Eleanor Prentiss, born In this picture book for older readers. Tracey Fern tells the little-known story of Eleanor Prentiss, an extraordinary woman who not only navigated a clipper ship but also set a record for the fastest time from New York to San Francisco, navigating around Cape Horn in a record-breaking 89 days, 21 hours.

Doesn't it seem incredible in our high-tech era how sailors used only the stars and a sextant to navigate around the world? Even more incredible (but true) is the life of Eleanor Prentiss, born the daughter of a sea captain in 1814 and taught everything about ships, including navigation, by her father, perhaps because he had no sons. Certainly this education was highly unusual for a 19th century girl. The sea was in Ellen's blood, and, not surprisingly, she married a sea captain, who took her along on his merchant ships as her navigator.

When Ellen's husband was given command of a new, super-fast clipper ship, Ellen seized the opportunity to get as quickly as possible from New York to the tip of South America to San Francisco and the Gold Rush. Speed was of the essence for those looking for riches in the gold fields of California. The book portrays the considerable dangers of the voyage, including a period when the ship was becalmed (no wind, no movement!) and also the perilous stormy waters of the Cape. Fern does a terrific job of capturing the excitement of the journey, and Ellen's triumph when she sets a world record for the fastest time for this 15,000 mile voyage. The book is greatly enhanced by the beautiful water-color paintings of Caldecott-winning artist Emily Arnold McCully. The seascapes, and particularly the scenes of storms, are particularly effective. Back matter includes an author's note with further historical information, and suggestions for further reading, both books and websites, a glossary, and end pages which show a map of the Flying Cloud's 1851 Voyage.

Highly recommended for Women's History Month and for those looking for stories of strong, heroic women and girls! . more

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Books like this are so important. I love when I find a picture book that covers an important historical figure that I&aposve never heard of but that I really appreciate and am interested in. I love stories where women lived an unconventional life in a man&aposs career. She didn&apost have a brother so her dad taught her all about navigating and sailing. It was even better that navigation was a skill that most sailors and even some captains didn&apost learn.

I was so shocked that she had written Buffalo Music be Books like this are so important. I love when I find a picture book that covers an important historical figure that I've never heard of but that I really appreciate and am interested in. I love stories where women lived an unconventional life in a man's career. She didn't have a brother so her dad taught her all about navigating and sailing. It was even better that navigation was a skill that most sailors and even some captains didn't learn.

I was so shocked that she had written Buffalo Music because I own that book and I didn't recognize her name.

I didn't understand the sextant and how it worked, with moving the arm until the sun is in the middle. Or the chronometer telling time and how the calculations were complicated. All that went unexplained and I wanted to know about this process and equipment so I could understand navigation and how they did it.

I liked that her dad told her to have the caution to read the sea and the courage to dare the wind. That explained the title.

She married a man who loved the sea as much as she did, but the author didn't state how he did. It should have been said how he loved the sea, like if he was a captain or owner of a shipping company before they met or something. It left me wondering. They sailed together for 10 years and he was the captain and she the navigator so I'm assuming he was a captain of his own line of ships.

They were taking a maiden voyage of a clipper called the Flying Cloud from NYC to the Cape Horn of Africa to San Francisco, to deliver passengers and cargo to the Gold Rush in California. If they made the voyage faster than anyone else they would get a bonus.

The song of "blow, my bully boys, blow" was a reminder of some movie I watched where that was in there. I haven't heard that in years.

I liked the informative bits about how the coastal water is murky but it gets dark blue when you go into open water. The wake usually goes straight out behind the ship but during the storm it was angled out to sea and she knew the wind and waves were pushing the ship toward the coast and they could crash.

Ellen at first pushed the ship hard with going more miles every day, until the mast broke and they had to repair it. Then she sailed them into the doldrums where there was no wind or current and they were drifting off course. But she used a controversial source of a new navigation book to choose a new course. It was dangerous because there were shoals and they could wreck, but she dared it. They were caught in a storm for days she read the wake and knew they needed to change direction to avoid ship wrecking on the coast.

They set a world record voyage and her husband praised her for reading the wind better than any sailor he's known. It ended so suddenly and I wished for more detail. It's such an inspiring story and I felt I needed to go out and find more because there must be so much more to learn. The illustrations are that loose, water color style that I'm not fond of because it's not detailed.

I liked the author's note.
Ellen spent years improving her skills as a navigator on his merchant ships.
During the Gold Rush travel by wagon could take 6-8 months. A voyage around Cape Horn could take 4-8 months in an old ship. But a clipper halved the time. The quicker a ship could reach California the sooner it could deliver passengers, sell its cargo, make a profit, and return to do it again.
The book Ellen read was controversial because the Navy Lieutenant used different routes from the traditional ones and they were risky.
It was unheard of for women to navigate. But Ellen's world record voyage took 89 days and 21 hours, beating the last by over 30 days. It lasted 3 years until she broke her own record at 89 days and 8 hours. No wooden ship or windjammer ever broke her time, but it left me to wonder what kind of ship did bear her time?!
It's so sad that a few years after her husband died in 1868, sailing was replaced by trains. . more


Boat building

Wood is the traditional boat building material used for hull and spar construction. It is buoyant, widely available and easily worked. It is a popular material for small boats (of e.g. 6-metre (20 ft) length such as dinghies and sailboats). Its abrasion resistance varies according to the hardness and density of the wood and it can deteriorate if fresh water or marine organisms are allowed to penetrate the wood. Woods such as Teak, Totara and some cedars have natural chemicals which prevent rot whereas other woods, such as Pinus radiata, will rot very quickly. The hull of a wooden boat usually consists of planking fastened to frames and a keel. Keel and frames are traditionally made of hardwoods such as oak while planking can be oak but is more often softwood such as pine, larch or cedar. [2]

Plywood is especially popular for amateur construction but only marine ply using waterproof glues and even laminates should be used. Cheap construction plywood often has voids in the interior layers and is not suitable to boat building as the voids trap moisture and accelerate rot as well as physically weaken the plywood. No plywood is rot resistant and should be coated with epoxy resin and/or a good paint system. Varnish and Linseed oil should not be used on the exterior of a hull for waterproofing. Varnish has about 60% of the water resistance of a good paint system. Only boiled linseed oil should be used on a boat and only in the interior as it has very little water resistance but it is very easy to apply and has a pleasant smell. Note that used linseed rags should not be left in a pile as they can catch fire. A valuable 200-year-old waka (Maori canoe) caught fire in New Zealand in June 2014 when restorers left rags piled overnight. Raw linseed oil is not suited to boats as it stays damp and oily for a long time. Mildew will grow well on raw linseed oil treated timber but not on boiled linseed oil. More recently introduced tropical woods as mahogany, okoumé, iroko, Keruing, azobé and merbau. [3] are also used. With tropical species, extra attention needs to be taken to ensure that the wood is indeed FSC-certified. [4] Teak or iroko is usually used to create the deck and any superstructure. Glue, screws, rivets and/or nails are used to join the wooden components. Before teak is glued the natural oil must be wiped off with a chemical cleaner, otherwise the joint will fail.

Some types of wood construction include:

Cold-moulded refers to a type of building one-off hulls using thin strips of wood applied to a series of forms at 45-degree angles to the centerline. This method is often called double-diagonal because a minimum of two layers is recommended, each occurring at opposing 45-degree angles. The "hot-moulded" method of building boats, which used ovens to heat and cure the resin, has not been widely used since World War II and now almost all curing is done at room temperature.

Metal Edit

Iron and steel Edit

Either used in sheet or alternatively, plate [18] for all-metal hulls or for isolated structural members. It is strong, but heavy (despite the fact that the thickness of the hull can be less). It is generally about 30% heavier than aluminium and somewhat more heavy than polyester. The material rusts unless protected from water (this is usually done by means of a covering of paint). Modern steel components are welded or bolted together. As the welding can be done very easily (with common welding equipment), and as the material is very cheap, it is a popular material with amateur builders. Also, amateur builders which are not yet well established in building steel ships may opt for DIY construction kits. If steel is used, a zinc layer is often applied to coat the entire hull. It is applied after sandblasting (which is required to have a cleaned surface) and before painting. The painting is usually done with lead paint (Pb3O4). Optionally, the covering with the zinc layer may be left out, but it is generally not recommended. Zinc anodes also need to be placed on the ship's hull. Until the mid-1900s, steel sheets were riveted together.

Aluminum Edit

Aluminum and aluminum alloys are used both in sheet form for all-metal hulls or for isolated structural members. Many sailing spars are frequently made of aluminium after 1960. The material requires special manufacturing techniques, construction tools and construction skills. It is the lightest material for building large boats (being 15-20% lighter than polyester and 30% lighter than steel). Aluminium is very expensive in most countries and it is usually not used by amateur builders. While it is easy to cut, aluminium is difficult to weld, and also requires heat treatments such as precipitation strengthening for most applications. Galvanic corrosion below the waterline is a serious concern, particularly in marinas where there are other conflicting metals. Aluminium is most commonly found in yachts and power boats that are not kept permanently in the water. Aluminium yachts are particularly popular in France.

Cupronickel Edit

A relatively expensive metal used only very occasionally in boatbuilding is cupronickel. Arguably the ideal metal for boat hulls, cupronickel is reasonably tough, highly resistant to corrosion in seawater, and is (because of its copper content) a very effective antifouling metal. Cupronickel may be found on the hulls of premium tugboats, fishing boats and other working boats and may even be used for propellers and propeller shafts.

Fiberglass Edit

Fiberglass (glass-reinforced plastic or GRP) is typically used for production boats because of its ability to reuse a female mould as the foundation for the shape of the boat. The resulting structure is strong in tension but often needs to be either laid up with many heavy layers of resin-saturated fiberglass or reinforced with wood or foam in order to provide stiffness. GRP hulls are largely free of corrosion though not normally fireproof. These can be solid fiberglass or of the sandwich (cored) type, in which a core of balsa, foam or similar material is applied after the outer layer of fiberglass is laid to the mould, but before the inner skin is laid. This is similar to the next type, composite, but is not usually classified as composite, since the core material in this case does not provide much additional strength. It does, however, increase stiffness, which means that less resin and fiberglass cloth can be used in order to save weight. Most fibreglass boats are currently made in an open mould, with fibreglass and resin applied by hand (hand-lay-up method). Some are now constructed by vacuum infusion where the fibres are laid out and resin is pulled into the mould by atmospheric pressure. This can produce stronger parts with more glass and less resin, but takes special materials and more technical knowledge. Older fibreglass boats before 1990 were often not constructed in controlled temperature buildings leading to the widespread problem of fibreglass pox, where seawater seeped through small holes and caused delamination. The name comes from the multiude of surface pits in the outer gelcoat layer which resembles smallpox. Sometimes the problem was caused by atmospheric moisture being trapped in the layup during construction in humid weather.

Composite material Edit

"Composite construction" involves a variety of composite materials and methods: an early example was a timber carvel skin attached to a frame and deck beams made of iron. Sheet copper anti-fouling ("copper=bottomed") could be attached to a wooden hull provided the risk of galvanic corrosion was minimised. Fast cargo vessels once were copper-bottomed to prevent being slowed by marine fouling. GRP and ferrocement hulls are classic composite hulls, the term "composite" applies also to plastics reinforced with fibers other than glass. When a hull is being created in a female mould, the composite materials are applied to the mould in the form of a thermosetting plastic (usually epoxy, polyester, or vinylester) and some kind of fiber cloth (fiberglass, kevlar, dynel, carbon fiber, etc.). These methods can give strength-to-weight ratios approaching that of aluminum, while requiring less specialized tools and construction skills.

Ferrocement Edit

First developed in the mid-19th century in both France and Holland, ferrocement was also used for the D-Day Mulberry harbours. After a buzz of excitement among homebuilders in the 1960s, ferro building has since declined.

Ferrocement is a relatively cheap method to produce a hull, although unsuitable for commercial mass production. A steel and iron "armature" is built to the exact shape of the hull, ultimately being covered in galvanised chicken netting. Then, on a single day, the cement is applied by a team of plasterers. The cement:sand ratio is a very rich 4:1. As the hull thickness is typically 2.5 to 3 cms, ferrocement is unsuitable for boats less than about 15 metres LOA as there is a weight penalty above that length there is no penalty. Properly plastered ferrocement boats have smooth hulls with fine lines, and amateur builders are advised to use professional plasterers to produce a smooth finish. In the 1960s and 1970s, particularly in Australia and New Zealand, the cheapness of ferro construction encouraged amateur builders to build hulls larger than they could afford, not anticipating that the fitting-out costs of a larger boat can be crippling.

The advantages of a ferro hull are:

  • cannot burn, rot, or rust & no osmosis
  • good insulation: cool in summer, warm in winter
  • tougher than GRP, and almost as tough as a steel vessel (and if damaged, easily repaired almost anywhere in the world)
  • properly built, a ferro hull is as fair as a GRP hull.
  • they may be cheap to buy (see disadvantages, below)
  • many home-built ferro boats are lumpy, overweight and ugly.
  • some early builders, realising that their creation proved to be disappointing, scuttled their vessels and fraudulently claimed insurance.
  • accordingly, ferro yachts may be difficult to sell and nigh impossible to insure.

There are many hull types, and a builder should choose the most appropriate one for the boat's intended purpose. For example, a sea-going vessel needs a hull which is more stable and robust than a hull used in rivers and canals. Hull types include:


Clipper - Two Brothers


A Sketch of the Clipper Two Brothers
in The San Francisco Call, Jan. 10 , 1901

The Down Easter Two Brothers was once a well-known clipper along the coasts of the Pacific Northwest. She originally made runs between Boston and San Francisco with Glidden & Williams as her agent, and then was involved for nearly a decade in the European-Wheat trade between San Francisco and England. In her later years, She made regular voyages of coal, lumber and salmon up and down the Pacific Coast from ports such as Nanaimo, Seattle, and Portland to San Francisco.

Several other vessels also carried the same name, including smaller schooners, and the famous Nantucket whaler lost off the coast of Hawaii on the French Shoals in 1823. Her captain, George Pollard served as the inspiration for the novel, Moby Dick when his first command, Essex, was rammed by a sperm whale and sank.

The Two Brothers was built in 1868 Farmingdale, Maine and while few large clippers such as Two Brothers were built in Maine, more wooden sailing vessels were built in Maine in the 19th century than in any other state.


Import List From Boston for the Two Brothers-
Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 23, Number 7759, 20 June 1871


Mexican pirates raiding the American ship 'The Bark Brothers' - wood engraving around 1871/72
Credit: UllStein Bild Source: Gettyimages


Reported in the Sacramento Daily Union, and other newspapers
the bark Two Brothers is confused with Brothers.
The Two Brothers was in the Pacific at the time of the affair.


Grain prices had dropped by 1878, and the Two Brothers
began hauling coal from Nanaimo & Seattle.
Source: The Daily Intelligencer, Seattle, January 18, 1878


Coal cars similar to those on Lake Washington on a barge on Lake Whatcom (circa 1898)


A fully rigged ship similar to the Two Brothers loads coal from the Pike pier bunkers circa 1875


A fully rigged sailing vessel similar to the Two Brothers along Seattle Waterfront circa 1880


The "Ant" was the first locomotive in Seattle. It began operation in 1872 along a 17 mile stretch, and
pulled eight locally made coal cars which were routinely transferred from barges on Lake Union and hooked to the Ant.

A birdseye-view of Ballast Wharf sketched in 1884.


A picture taken from roof the Occidental Hotel of Ballast Wharf and City Docks from an unknown photographer circa 1884.
A large pile of ballast is visable in the centre of the wharf.


Ballast Island circa 1880. An unknown clipper similar to the Two Brothers is docked at the wharve.
The native settlement is in the foreground.

Today, little remains of "Ballast Island" except a small plaque that reads: "IN THIS AREA, ONCE PART OF THE BAY, VESSELS FROM PORTS ALL OVER THE WORLD DUMPED THEIR BALLAST. UNTOLD THOUSANDS OF TONS WERE UNLOADED INTO THE WATER BY SHIP'S CREWS, INCLUDING 40,000 TONS FROM SAN FRANCISCO'S TELEGRAPH HILL. THE ISLAND, LONG A GATHERING PLACE FOR INDIANS ON THEIR ANNUAL MIGRATIONS, WAS COVERED IN THE 1890'S BY CONSTRUCTION OF RAILROAD AVENUE (NOW CALLED ALASKAN WAY)."


Today, all that exists of Ballast Island is a lone historical marker.

In 1880, Captain William O. Hayden was placed in command of the Two Brothers . Hayden was born in Maine in 1840, and spent six years on the Atlantic coast before coming west. Eventually calling Tacoma home, he was well known along the coast commanding several clippers including the Rainier , El Dorado , Arkwright and Buena Vista . He is well known for bringing the historic tug Goliah from San Francisco to Puget Sound and spent a year on her introducing her to the waters which were to be her future home. Hayden commanded the Two Brothers transporting coal from Puget Sound and British Columbia for almost nine years before transferring to the ship Palestine , just prior to his retirement.

In 1888, the Two Brothers brought up a large 9000lb mooring anchor and chain from San Francisco to Commencement Bay (Tacoma Harbor), the purpose was to allow incoming ships a safe harbor for moorage while discharging their ballast before moving to the coal wharf. The Two Brothers was instrumental in bringing the anchor to the harbor, and thus was exempt from harbor fees for doing so.

Description of the mooring anchor brought to Tacoma by the clipper Two Brothers.
Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 42, Number 14052, 19 February 1888


Two ships sit at dock next to the Tacoma coal bunkers
while three more ships lay at anchor in Commencement Bay in this photograph from 1888.
(Tacoma Library, General Photograph Collection: Image TDS-013)

On July 30 , 1993 Robert Mester, with three others side scanning in Commencement Bay, found a very large and old Anchor.
This could very likely be the mooring anchor brought from San Francisco by the Two Brothers in 1888.
In March of 1994 photographs and measured drawings were shared with Archeologist James Delgado of the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
The Anchor was retrieved sent to Texas A&M university for restoration, and now is in the Museum of History in Tacoma Washington.

The anchor still had 50ft of chain attached when it was recovered.
Each link was 9 inches long and almost 2 inches in diameter.

In late 1888, Hayden was succeeded by Captain McCartney as commander of the Two Brothers . In early 1889 the price of coal in San Francisco had risen to $10/ton for Seattle coal. A one-way run from Seattle or Tacoma to San Francisco could be made in generally less than ten days which was nearly half the time it took to reach Nanaimo.

The owners of the Two Brothers took full advantage of their "free mooring" in Tacoma, and began regular trips, shipping coal from Tacoma to San Francisco, Alameda and Oakland.

Captain McCartney successfully brought load after load of coal into San Francisco without any major mishaps, and it was discharged as fast as he could bring it in. In January, 1890, the ship encountered a heavy squall off Cape Flattery which carried away the head gear but the Two Brothers weathered through the storm and made it safely to port. Her good fortune continued in February when she was under tow along with four other vessels, and they encountered a dangerous ebb-tide. However, she was fortunate to be slightly in tow ahead and inboard of the Fairchild, a bark which was being towed in closest to the rocks, when they vessels rounded Fort Point, the Fairchild which was closest to the shore, got caught in a large tide rip, which gave her a big sheer inshore. She hit hard bow first on the rocks, which started her stems and forward planking to begin leaking. Eventually several tugs were able to pull her off and bring her to safety but the damage was substantial.


Daily Alta California, 24 February 1890

O n March 24, Captain J. McCartney's wife gave birth to triplets, two sons and a daughter.

In July 1890, Captain W.O. Hayden, who had been in command of the Palestine retired, and Capt. McCartney resigned command of the Two Brothers and succeeded Hayden, transferring to the Palestine. The first mate of the Two Brothers, Windrow, took over command. Shortly after Windrow took command, on March 6, 1891 while at Tacoma, an unfortunate Swedish sailor named Steve Halmond fell overboard, and although he was rescued from the frigid water, hypothermia had caused him to catch a severe cold. He died at sea on the return voyage to San Francisco.

For the next eight years, Windrow made continuous voyages carrying coal from Seattle, Tacoma and Nanaimo without any serious incident.

In 1895, the Maguire Act was passed and became a United States Federal statute that abolished the practice of imprisoning sailors who deserted from coastwise vessels. The act was sponsored by representative James G. Maguire of San Francisco, California. Before this legislation, a right to leave the ship existed only for a seaman who "correctly" believed his life to be in danger. This law extended the right in cases where the seaman feared physical abuse from other shipboard personnel. The original package called for an improvement of a seamen's forecastle quarters, a ban on violence by officers, a two-watch (four hours on , four off) system, with legal holidays, and prohibition of advances, allotments, and wage attachments.



San Francisco Call, 20 March 1895 &mdash "WAR ON THE WATER FRONT"

Striking unionized sailors demanded an increase of $10/month in pay and union crews to be shipped on board all vessels in San Francisco.

At the time of the strike, the Two Brothers had just arrived in port and was planning to head to back sea for another load of Tacoma coal, but the striking sailors meant that she was in need of a crew. Captain Windrow refused to meet the demands of the Union claiming that it was unaffordable for the ship to do so. As a result, many of the ships in port were looking for non-union or "scab" crews, and released their unionized crews from duty. The result was a stand-off between sailors and ship owners. The Steam schooners on their highly profitable passenger routes acceded to the demands of the union, and were willing to pay $45/month. The reason for this according to Secretary Walthew, was the owners have always allowed the captains to get their crews from where they pleased, in consequence of which no supply of steam sailors have been kept on hand.


San Francisco Call 26 March 1895 --
During the sailors' strike Captain Windrow refused to take on unionized sailors
citing the cost of wages was problematic.

A day later, the Two Brothers set sail with a "mixed" scab crew of six Japanese and four Cape Verde Island natives,and it was business as usual. The strike was short lived, by May the sailors' union had agreed to meet the demands of the ship owners, as most ships had began shipping with "scab" crews, and after only a couple months, the unemployed union sailors began to owe the boarding house owners and there was substantial pressure from all sides to get the men working again. The ship-owners had prevailed, Two Brothers once again shipped with a Union crew at $25/month.



San Francisco Call, Volume 77, Number 163, 22 May 1895 &mdash CALL THE STRIKE OFF


Alaska Packers Association salmon cans and freight cases.


The cannery at Pyramid Harbor circa 1899.
ref: http://digitalcollections.lib.washington.edu/cdm/ref/collection/fishimages/id/38837


The George Skolfield was a wooden Maine built "Down Easter" slightly smaller in tonnage size, but very similar to the Two Brothers.
Along with the Two Brothers, it was one of the first large sailing vessels to join the Alaska Packers Association Fleet in 1899.

In spring 1898, the Alaska Packers Association began negotiating the purchase of several of the old wooden sailing vessels, and the Two Brothers was in their sights. Captain Windrows decided to head east to visit his family and vowed to return, and Captain Wilson succeeded him in command. At the time, the Klondike and Fraser River gold rush was in full swing, and most of the available ships were being chartered to travel to the northern gold fields. Although still in good condition, the wooden sailing vessels were reaching the end of their service life, but were still ideal for carrying bulk cargo such as canned salmon, lumber and coal. Instead of pointing her bow for the Klondike, the Two Brothers capitalized on high freight prices as a result of a shortage of coal, and she regularly continued to haul coal throughout the rest of year, and into the New Year from the Wellington coal bunkers at Departure Bay, Nanaimo to San Francisco.


The discovery of gold in the Yukon lead to a massive
amount of ships and men headed north.
This effectively created a shortage of coal along the coast.
(San Francisco Call, Jan. 23, 1889)





The Wellington Collierys coal bunker and wharves at Departure Bay, Nanaimo, B.C. 1899.
Credit: NOAA's Historic Fisheries Collection Photography: Stefan Claesson
Gulf of Maine Cod Project / National Archives

In spring of 1899, the Alaskan Packers Association owned the Two Brothers, and many of the remaining available sailing ships and placed her in the salmon fleet to carry supplies, and fisherman to the Pyramid Harbour cannery in Alaska. The ships sailed north with coal as ballast carrying men, nets, small sailboats, and gear. The plan was to return with their holds chock-full of cases of canned salmon.


A can label from Alaska Packers Association Canneries in Alaska.
Alaska State Historic al Collections: ASL-MS108-7-11


Alaskan Salmon Fleet of 1899. San Francisco CallMarch 18, 1899

The list of ships in the 1899 Alaska Packers Association Fleet.
The massive fleet consisted of over forty ships, half were sailing vessels.
(San Francisco Call -March 15, 1899)

On April 9th, the Two Brothers left San Francisco for Pyramid Harbor with supplies and men for the cannery. She arrived without incident at Pyramid Harbor on May 2nd. In September, the Two Brothers and the rest of the fleet returned to San Francisco. The Two Brothers and the Simtram were involved in "cleanup operations", that is they traveled to each of the cannery stations along the coast, and collected left over cases that the other vessels had to leave behind. At each station, there is usually a few hundred cases leftover to be picked up.

The Two Brothers sailed into San Francisco bay on October 15th. The entire fleet of forty vessels brought back about a million cases, and 20,000 barrels of salmon which was considered an average catch for the season. The largest cargo was carried by the W.H. Macy which brought down 70,722 cases. The Two Brothers returned with 50,083 cases.

The Two Brothers then went back to coastal trading for the next six months, carrying coal from Comox, B.C. to San Francisco on several runs and then traveling to Grays Harbor and Port Townsend in early 1900. She set sail on April 8, 1900 for Pyramid Harbor with the rest of the Alaska Packers Association Fleet of 1900. By 1900, the Alaska Packers Association owned forty-one vessels. In that year, a large amount of vessels also headed north for the gold fields. As many as fifty-three vessels left for the north, most of them with the Salmon industry. It was expect that between 8,000-10,000 men would be employed in the canneries and on the vessels. The transportation companies had expect to land as many as 25,000 gold seekers in Nome before the spring was over. It was a debate amongst seaman as to which would bring the most money. The Alaskan Salmon trade was a reliable source of income, and had proven itself over the last few years. The Gold Rush was a high-risk, but could provide a lifetime of wealth over a short period of time. The debate carried over into seamen's and fishermen's wages, and many of the ships were hard pressed to fill their crews once word got out of a shortage of men. In past seasons, ships had traditionally been able to fill their crews at $75 or less per round trip voyage to the canneries which was a four month endeavour and received 1 cent per fish. But with the added pressure from the gold fields, the salmon industry began to feel the labour pinch. The newspaper reported that the "job is a sinecure as every cannery vessel is doubly manned and the sailors have watches of four hours on and eight hours off. During the fishing seasons the sailors were allowed 1 cent for every fish they caught and as a result every man had a check for $350 to $500 coming to him at the end of the cruise that generally lasted four months and never ran into a fifth. On the vessels and at the canneries the men lived well and in consequence, while other concerns sometimes found it hard to get men, the Alaska Packers could pick and choose." (source: San Francisco Call, April 7, 1900).

However, in 1900 it was different, several of the vessels had a hard time obtaining crews, and captains were offering an advance of $5/month for sailors. The newspaper reported that most sailors were holding out and demanding as high as $80 and up to five cents per fish for the season. In the early days of the Salmon Industry, the fisherman had divided themselves amongst ethnic lines, on a journey to Alaska on an Alaska Packers Association cannery ship in 1926, Max Stern of the San Francisco Daily News, reported that fisherman-- mostly "Latins" and Italians from Monterey and San Francisco's north bay area, which today is commonly referred to as "Fisherman's Wharf" , and "Scandinavians" from the Columbia River and Puget Sound -- "Do not mix any better than oil and water." Because of rivalries amongst the fishing crews, the "Finns, Icelanders, Russians, Norweigans, Swedes, Danes, and Dutchmen" took the port side, while the "Italians, Portuguese, and Sicilians" occupied the starboard side of the forecastle.

Even more virulent was the animosity between the "Euro-American" fisherman and the Chinese cannery workers, who made the trip to Alaska below deck in cramped, unsanitary forward quarters, which was known as the "China hold".

The segmentation of the fisherman was not only organic but also as a result of economic fisherman unions and agreements. While the Alaskan Fishermans Union (AFU) wasn't established until the 1902 season, the makings of the unions came into being with the establishment of canneries in the 1870's.

Since the 1850's when the first Scandinavians came west they began to create homes. At the time in Washington and Oregon, land was free for the taking provided certain requirements were filled.

The Pacific Northwest was an ideal destination for Finnish and Scandinavian immigrants. There was free land that was covered with timber for them to claim. Seasonal work opportunities were available all year. There was salmon fishing in the spring and summer. Work was available at logging camps the rest of the year. In 1866 the Hume Brothers started their cannery on the north shore of the Columbia. At first they had difficulty convincing people their canned salmon was good to eat and that they could pack it safely. When they improved their canning practices, they were able to sell more salmon the word spread, and the salmon packing industry suddenly took off. Canneries sprang up all along the Columbia and workers were needed to bring the fish into the canneries.

The Finnish fishermen were experienced at fishing in boats in the rivers and lakes in Finland and were very successful at this work. They sent word to their relatives about the opportunities waiting for them in fishing and soon a rush of immigrants from Finland came to join the Yugoslavs, the Greeks, Norwegians and others in the industry. By 1874, there were thirteen canneries, 600 fishermen and 2,000 cannery workers, numbers which would double a decade later. They had small double ended boats, about 25 feet in length, with a small spirit rigged sail. When running down wind, the sails gave the boat an appearance of a butterfly, and soon the Columbia river fleet carried the nickname, the "Butterfly Fleet". They used traditional "gill nets" to catch their fish. Both drift gillnets and setnets have long been used by cultures around the world. The Finnish inherited the technology from the Vikings and Norwegians . Using these small sailboats, they faced enormous risks. Scores died every season. A massive storm in 1880 brought that year&rsquos death toll to over 250. While Scandinavian communities existed throughout Washington, Oregon and even into British Columbia, it was at Astoria, on the Columbia River where the majority of them settled. It became famously known as the "Helsinki of the West".


The Columbia River "Butterfly" Fleet - c.1900
Photo: Oregon Historical Society/OrHi 4167

Before the anti-Chinese driving out campaigns exploded in the 1880s, Chinese immigrants did the unpleasant work of processing and canning the salmon. White fishermen organized the first unions partly out of racism. The goal of excluding Chinese workers led to the formation of an exclusionist mutual aid association in 1874 and then a successful union in 1880.

In 1876 the fishermen in Astoria could not agree with the canneries on a price they were to be paid per fish. At that time they were paid per fish, not by the pound. The cannery operators noted that in the few short years that canneries had been in operation on the Columbia, that the average size of the fish they were getting from the fishermen were smaller and smaller. They said they were losing money on the fish. The fishermen complained and they went on strike, refusing to fish. This happened again in 1880 after they had formed the Columbia River Fishermen's Protective Union. The Finns then were the largest ethnic group in this organization. Disputes continued to rise, but in 1896, the most serious occurred. A couple strike-breakers were shot, more violence was threatened and the Astoria businessmen asked for help from the Oregon National Guard who arrived in Astoria, maintaining a presence there and breaking the strike. Gradually the fishermen found they had to go back to fishing in order to survive. But the striking fishermen got even with the canneries by organizing, pooling their resources and building a cannery of their own in 1897. Finns bought 172 out of the 200 original shares of the Union Fishermen's Cooperative Packing Company.

Meanwhile, further down the coast in California, Italian Fisherman had also banded together in San Francisco, in 1876, when they created the Italian Fisherman's Union. In Italy, fishermen's unions had existed since Roman times. These unions were known as Piscatores, and existed in great numbers in Rome, Ostia, Pisae, and other points on the sea and near the mouths of the Italian streams. Fish were held in high regard by the wealthy, and in early Roman times, the fishing business was extensive, and the unions yielded considerable political control. In the latter part of the 19th-century, new immigrants were flooding in to the United States from southern and eastern Europe. Plagued by internal unrest, peasant uprisings and disastrous failure in the attempt to establish an African empire in Ethiopia, Italy made a significant contribution to the flow of immigration westward, and it eventually became known as the Italian diaspora. The new immigrants were primarily of rural peasant stock, and the majority settled near the industrial centers of the northeast and Midwestern United States. However, a large number made their way to California, drawn in part by the climate and geographical similarity to their own homeland.

During the 1880s and 1890s almost ninety percent of Italians entering California came from an agricultural or maritime background. From 1900 to 1910 the number of Italians arriving annually almost tripled, rising from 22,707 in 1900 to 66,615 in 1910. The majority of these immigrants were Ligurians from the coastal sections of northwest Italy. Those from the coastal fishing villages along the gulf of Genova and the Ligurian sea found that California presented them with an opportunity to practice their hereditary vocation of fishing. The first settlement of Italian fishermen in California developed in the bay area around San Francisco. It is estimated, that as early as 1870 these fishermen were providing ninety percent of all fish consumed in San Francisco.

These Italian fisherman brought the "old-world" traditions with them to California. The Italians took great pride in their fishing skill, and it was multi-generational family affair, a fleet of boats ran the length of "Fisherman's Wharf". Most of the boats and nets they brought and built were similar to those developed over centuries in the Mediterranean fishing fleet. The small lateen-rigged sailboats were patterned after the craft that the Italian fishermen knew in the old country with double-ended hulls long, narrow and deep enough to provide good stability in open waters. White and green was the prevailing color of the tiny boats, and the name of a patron saint usually appeared on the hull. One type of net used by the Italians was the paranzella, a close-meshed net that was dragged along the bottom by two boats. Another type used was the trammel net, a net having outside panels of large mesh between which were placed one or more panels of smaller mesh. This type net was often used among the rocks close inshore to catch fish that do not readily take the hook.


The Italian fishing fleet at Fisherman's Wharf (Meiggs Pier)
circa 1900. Photo: J.B. Monaco Source: Shaping San Francisco Digital Archive

The Italians were as colorful as the boats they sailed and were heard singing in the fog shrouded waters of San Francisco Bay, primarily as a means of communication, as one could not see a companion boat but could hear it was close by.

In the spring of 1900, the rivalries became apparent along the wharves with the Scandinavians holding out for the better paying ships, but the Italians were proud of the their fishing heritage, and believed that they could make up for any lost money through their fishing skills. The Scandinavian "hold-out" provided them an "in" to the Salmon fishing industry, and with the opportunity to earn 1-2 cents/fish presumed there was good money to be made in the Salmon industry. In their opinions, while gold could be had at risk in the Yukon for great fortune, the Salmon industry represented silver riches ripe for the taking. The Italians seized the opportunity, and many of them signed articles on-board vessels headed for Alaska. The newspaper reported that with most of the Italian fishermen, who were responsible for 90% of the ground fish heading north, it could lead to a market shortage and high cod prices, "nearly all the Italian fisherman will go north on the salmon fleet this year and that rock cod, sole and tom cod would be very scarce in the markets" (Source: San Francisco Call, April 7, 1900).

With the Italians willing to head for Alaska at a slightly cheaper rate than their Scandinavian counterparts, Captain Wilson without hesitation signed 21 Italian fisherman aboard the Two Brothers. The men had signed articles, as both sailors and fisherman to perform "regular ship's duty, both up and down, discharging and loading and to do any other work whatsoever when requested to do so by the captain or agent of the Alaska Packers' Association."" on an agreement to be compensated a sum of $50 and two cents per fish.


The Alaska Association Packers Fleet for 1900.
Source: San Francisco Call, 18 March 1900


The Pyramid Harbor Cannery at Chilcat Inlet Alaska, 1892.

The Two Brothers arrived in Alaska safely on May 9th with the rest of the large fleet. The Italians quickly found that they were not making the haul of fish that they had anticipated, and discontent spread. The Italians complained to the cannery managers that the equipment that had been supplied to them was faulty, the nets were rotten and had holes, and this meant that they were caching far less fish than they had bargained on. Since a big portion of their pay is based on their Salmon catch, they demanded a raise for the cruise north.

The managers of the cannery replied that there was no reason for them to complain, that the nets and equipment were adequate and the cannery had an equal in the fishermen's success, for if the fishermen caught less fish than it also impacted the company's profits. The Alaska Packers Association had invested $150,000 into the cannery at Pyramid Harbor. The fishermen went back to the fishing grounds, but they continued to bring in less fish than they had expected. Finally, they were fed up and on May 19th, gave a ultimatum to the cannery managers, unless they were paid this additional wage they would stop work entirely, and return to San Francisco. On May 22nd, the cannery managers faced with the dilemma of a shortage of labour, quickly conceded to the Italian fishermen's demands and promised the raise once they returned to San Francisco. They requested a shipping commissioner to be brought from Northeast Point, as witness to the contract amendment, and the superintendent told the fisherman that ultimately he was without authority to enter into any such contract, or to in any way alter the contracts made between them and the company in San Francisco.

It was business as usual, and the Two Brothers returned to San Francisco in October, 1900.



The Two Brothers returned to San Francisco from Alaska on
October 6, 1900 with a boat full of canned Salmon (source: San Francisco Call, 06 Cotober 1900)

Carrying 47,600 cases of Salmon, the Two Brothers returned safely to port with a large fleet of ships arriving in San Francisco from both the canneries and the gold fields. When the fisherman came ashore to collect their pay, they asked Captain Wilson for the $100 that had been promised by the cannery superintendent, and Captain Wilson just about fell over laughing his guts out, the ensuing chaos erupted into a near mutiny.


A mutiny nearly occurred on the Two Brothers when the men
went ashore and drew their pay. (source: San Francisco Call, 07 October 1900)

The matter was to eventually set precedence in the 9th Circuit in the United States District Court, which ruled that they men had signed on for $50, and it was unfair of them to "ransom" the cannery managers into offering a higher wage, when a contract was already signed and agreed to in San Francisco. Furthermore, even if the cannery managers had the ability to alter the contract, the claims that the fisherman had been given faulty gear was dismissed, as the Alaska Packing Association had invested significantly into the Pyramid Harbor Cannery, it did not appear reasonable to the court that the association would want to see diminished profit by a willfully doing anything which would decrease the amount of fish caught. They court ruled that would be contradictory to their enterprise which required that "fishermen should be provided with every facility necessary to their success as fishermen, for on such success depended the profits the company would be able to realize that season from its packing plant, and the large capital invested therein. In view of this self-evident fact, it is highly improbable that the company gave the fishermen rotten and unserviceable nets with which to fish. It follows from this finding that fishermen were not justified in refusing performance of their original contract. "

The plight of the fishermen become folklore, and it was well debated throughout the decades, should the fisherman have been bound to their original agreements or were they just in asking for more pay? Exactly who was the exploiter and who the exploitee? There has even been folk-songs written about the incident.


Folksong: Sailing To Pyramid Harbor -
This song is about the labour dispute of twenty-one sailors and fisherman,
who headed North to the Alaskan canneries in 1900 on the ship Two Brothers.


Sockeye and the Age of Sail:
This is a great video that outlines the general history of the Alaska Packers Association --from the ships and men,
to the canneries such as in Point Roberts, and Blaine, and Alaska

By December 1900, the Two Brothers was back on its usual coasting routes, and arrived in Tacoma. It took on a load of coal and then was headed across the Pacific towards Lahaina, Hawaii. It sailed into a heavy gale, which did considerable damage, nearly dismasting her, once she was through the gale, and in calm water, it had became apparent that the damage was worse than it was thought. She was 350 miles Southwest of San Francisco when it was discovered that she was leaking badly, at a rate of 13 inches per hour. The men worked hard at the pumps, and there was no choice but to sail her back to San Francisco for repairs.

She made another quick run to Seattle, and then once again joined the Salmon Fleet and headed north to Bristol Bay Alaska on April 14th. She arrived as usual in early May 1901.


"Ship Two Brothers Making Port From The Canneries And Grain And Coal Laden Vessels Departing.
The Ship Came Down Before a Northwester And Then The Wind Chopped Around to Southwest and Brought Her In" -
San Francisco CallSept.24, 1901

The Two Brothers made port with 32,200 cases of Salmon. The newspaper reported that she was brought in by a Southwest breeze. The "Two Brothers is one of the best known vessels on the coast and generally makes a good run.. Adverse winds lengthened out the passage from Bristol Bay and she was 26 days on this occasion."

For the remainder of 1901 and into early 1902 she made her usual trips for coal from Tacoma, and Nanaimo, although the coal bunkers had now been moved from Departure Bay to Oyster Bay, which was renamed Ladysmith Harbour.

In spring of 1902, the Two Brothers was again part of the Salmon fleet, but this was to be her last run north to the canneries. The older wooden vessels were being replaced by iron hulled ships, and the APA had purchased or chartered all of the remaining star line of sailing ships: Star of Russia, Star Of France, and Star Of Italy from James Corry and Co. in Belfast Ireland, who had replaced all of their sailing vessels with passenger steamers. In time, the Alaska Packers Association would rename most of the other iron-hulled sailing vessels to the "Star" designation. For example, the Bark Euterpe (named after the Muse of Music) was renamed the Star Of India, and the Balclutha was renamed Star Of Alaska. In four of these ships, Balclutha, Euterpe, Star Of France, and Star of Italy, the APA only had partial ownership until 1904. The ships were used in the lumber trade when "off season" from the salmon fleet. Pope and Talbot owned slightly more than half the shares in the ships, (2,158/4,300) and used them to carry lumber from the Puget Mill to the continent of Australia, and other corners of the globe. However, after 1900 the freight prices for lumber had declined in world markets and only seven trips were made outside of California in 1901. Pope and Talbot had switched from foreign markets to domestic ones.

The Alaska Packers Association Salmon Fleet in 1902
(Source: San Francisco Call, 1 March 1902)

There was a little excitement at the pier prior to departing on March 28th, when the Two Brothers was in port in San Francisco preparing to leave for Alaska. It was a beautiful sunny California spring day and a dozen or so Japanese fishermen had decided to lay out and sunbathe on the gangplank leading up to the ship. The plank was old, and under the strain it gave way sending four of the fishermen hurtling into waters of the bay. The remaining occupants quickly scrambled to safety but were scarred and shaken in the process. Captain Andersen quickly jumped into action, and unfortunately broke a very valuable whip when assisting one of the Japanese that could not swim to a friendly piling.

Captain Thomas Wilson was joined by his wife, and the Two Brothers left San Francisco for Chignik Bay, Alaska on April 4, 1902.


The Chignik Bay Cannery and Harbour with cannery ships in the distance circa 1912

The cannery ship Star of Alaska (formerly Balclutha) at Chignik, Alaska c.1911
The iron-hull ships replaced the wooden downeasters, and soon they were all renamed with a "Star" designation.

The Two Brothers arrived in San Francisco from Chignik Bay on 24 September 1900 with 46,000 cases of salmon, a good haul. Although still sea worthy, she was consider an "old timer" and was laid up in Alameda, California along with the rest of the Alaska Packers Association ships. The wharves became know as a "forest of masts", as after each salmon season the clippers were moved over for storage and maintenance.


The "Forest Of Masts And Spars" along the Alameda Wharves.
After returning from Alaska in October, the ships were moved over for repairs and storage until the next season.

The lumber industry had become dependent upon San Francisco as the main port of domestic import from Puget Sound and Oregon to California. A vessel in the domestic trade returned to the mills about every three months, in comparison, a trip to a foreign port (including the Atlantic seaboard) meant the vessel was usually gone for a period of six to ten months. In the 1890's the Klondike Gold Rush had put pressure on the availability of men and vessels, creating a tight waterborne shipping situation, thereby diverting much of the freight to railroads. As a result, rates had made it cost prohibitive to ship lumber locally by sea. In order to stay in business, the lumber mills created line yards, where rolling stock was loaded and brought via railway from mills in Oregon to points in the California valley. The Southern Pacific Transportation Company dropped freight prices for lumber from $6.00 to $3.10/ton in 1900.

The effect on shipping was dramatic, Puget Sound mills during the 1890's had averaged over thirty-five shipments per year to points in California other than San Francisco . In 1900, they had dropped to nine, and in 1901 just seven. Never again did the amount of cargo shipments carried by sailing vessels for non-San Francisco outlets reach the level of the 1890's

In San Francisco, the lumber carriers docked at the Vallejo Junction and Valona yards, which was owned by the Port Costa Lumber Company. They company was a "union of all the Oregon pine lumber interests of the coast. This class of lumber will be a specialty.The yards at Valona will be the distributing point for all points on the coast" (Source: Pacific Rural Press 19 February 1887) They built a long wharf which the sailing vessels unloaded directly onto.

At the time. the docks there were the "main source for Douglas fir from Modesto to Bakersfield" which came from the mills in Puget Sound and Oregon. When the cargoes were unloaded, the lumber was sorted on decks, and lengths and sizes were assembled for shipment by rail to various yards inland.

In addition to trips for coal, the Two Brothers had occasionally travelled to lumber mills in Comox, and Gray's Harbour in the winter months between her voyages north to the Canneries. In 1903, she was laid up in Alameda and was replaced in the Salmon fleet by faster steamships and the newer iron hulled " Star Line of Clippers ". She did not join the "salmon fleet" in the spring but instead sailed to Oregon, travelling up the Columbia river during the spring freshet for lumber at Vancouver, WA.

She spent two months in Vancouver loading lumber at the wharves, her goal was to bring back 1,500,000 feet of prime Oregon lumber to San Francisco. After she was loaded, it became apparent that the water levels had dropped during the dry summer months, and there was now not enough water to float her over the bar fully loaded. The Two Brothers drew 18 feet of water, but the water levels in the Columbia had dropped to a depth of only 16 1/2 feet, leaving her stuck in the Columbia river muck.

In September, dredging began in hopes to get the Two Brothers through the bar, but the mighty Columbia River silted over as quickly as they could dredge it. However, Captain Wilson remained optimistic, and had surmised that by removing some of the lumber cargo and ballast to lighten the load, and shifting the lumber in her hold to one side, she could be heeled over on a list which would help reduce her draught. He calculated that by using these measures he could get the draught down to just nine feet, and she would carry over the bar light.

In the end, it took two tugs and nearly a month of wrangling to drag her through the bed of the Columbia River to St. Helens. She anchored at port for three weeks while the lumber that was removed was brought down on barges, reloaded and stacked high on her decks. Furthermore, to complicate matters while she was swinging at anchor it was discovered that she had managed to spring a leak, possibly from all the dragging and shifting of ballast to get her over the bar, and the pumps needed to be manned. A good effort was made to make a repair, but the source of the leak could not be found.

By now it was approaching the end of October, and the winter weather and heavy gales were fast approaching. The crew feared the vessel was not seaworthy, and asserted that in the attempts to move her down the river her cargo of lumber had been improperly stowed and the Two Brothers now carried an insuffecient quantity of ballast which made her "cranky and unsafe" in heavy weather. On November 3, She reached Astoria, and with the efforts to move her down the river, the Two Brothers was now only carrying 220,000 feet of lumber in her hold, and 550,000 feet of lumber between the decks, and the claim was made that the leaky vessel was top heavy.

In light of this, the steam schooner Charles W. Nelson had been arranged to tow her and the crew from Astoria to San Francisco. However, when the Nelson arrived in Astoria, the wind was freshening, and a heavy gale was approaching, the crew of the Two Brothers refused to go with her out into the storm. On account of their refusal to work the vessel the Two Brothers remained in port beacuse the Charles W. Nelson was incapable of handling her in rough seas without at least some crew aboard the Two Brothers.

On September 5th, the Charles W. Nelson with a cargo of 726,000 feet of lumber that she had loaded at Westport and thirty-six passengers and crew left Astoria for San Francisco. When she was two hundred miles down the coast off Heceta Head, she encountered a fierce gale.

In the boiling sea, the deck load worked itself loose, and the stantions which were securing the load gave way. The tearing of the stantions ripped up the deck which opened seams that allowed sea water to pour in from waves that were breaking over her deck fore and aft. The crew and passengers were forced to abandon ship, and were buffetted about for two days until the tug Sea Rover, which was headed to Astoria to take the Two Brothers to San Francisco, came upon them and picked them up.


The Steam Schooner Charles W. Nelson was consigned to tow the
Two Brothers from Astoria to San Francisco. The crew of the Two Brothers refused to head out to sea,
claiming she was top heavy and would not withstand the coastal gales.
The Nelson shortly afterwards foundered in heavy seas off Heceta Head.

One of the officers from the tug Sea Rover commented:


An artists depiction of the tug Sea Rover towing the ship Two Brothers from Astoria to San Francisco
(Source: San Francisco Call, November 22, 1903)


The ship Two Brothers was once used as a temporary floating warehouse in 1906
(Source: San Francisco Call, May 25, 1906)


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