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The Wapama in Richmond waiting to be dismantled.

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  • Pacific Merchant Marine Council
    The Wapama is the last surviving example of some 225 steam schooners specially designed for use in the 19th and 20th century Pacific Coast lumber trade and
    Message 1 of 3 , Jul 11, 2011

      The Wapama is the last surviving example of some 225 steam schooners specially designed for use in the 19th and 20th century Pacific Coast lumber trade and coastwise service. These vessels formed the backbone of maritime trade and commerce on the coast, ferrying lumber, general cargo, and passengers to and from urban centers and smaller coastal settlements. She is in Richmond, California, waiting to be dismantled. The general condition is so bad that restoration is roughly estimated at $20 million. The long shallow hulls of the steam schooners made for a weak structure, prone to sag at the bow and stern. As age and decay sapped the strength of Wapama's massive timbers, this "hogging" process became so bad that she could not remain afloat.

      The historic steam lumber schooner Wapama served as a museum ship for 17 years at the Hyde Street Pier of the National Maritime Museum, but bay winds and tides took a toll on the ship.

      The National Parks Service announced its intention to dismantle the Wapama in a May 19, 2011, San Francisco Chronicle article, but it also has considered saving the steam engine. While a majority of bloggers responding to the article voiced dismay and/or support for preservation, a minority advocated burning the Wapama in a manner done to the last commercial Great Lakes sailing ship J T Wing at Belle Isle near the site of the present day Dossin Great Lakes Museum, Detroit, Mi. The Wapama's impending doom follows the fate of the lumber schooner Wawona (1897) of the Northwest Seaport, Seattle, Washington, which was broken up in 2009.

      The Pacific Merchant Marine Council will be there whatever the closing ceremony. Please report any additional news on her.

      Not all listed historic wooden ships considered in need of major restoration in recent years have ended up being broken up. The lumber schooner C A Thayer (1895), also a NPS charge, was restored, although 80% of her wood was replaced through a restoration that lasted from 2004 to 2007. Mystic Seaport began a major restoration of the whaler Charles W Morgan (1841) in 2009 to seaworthy status.

      A good article on the Wapama is found in the Sailors Union of the Pacific "West Coast Sailor" June newsletter, 


      More material:

      http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/05/18/BABT1JGTES.DTL Lumber schooner Wapama, last of kind, is condemned Carl Nolte Additional photographs.

      Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/05/18/BABT1JGTES.DTL#ixzz1RrBU6FeW


      Heave Ho,



    • capt.ob@comcast.net
      Dear Phelps, I am very familiiar with the Wapama, and have been aboard her many times.... The Steam Schooner Cynthia Olson (Sailors Union of the Pacific) was
      Message 2 of 3 , Jul 11, 2011

        Dear Phelps,
        I am very familiiar with the Wapama, and have been aboard her many times....
        The Steam Schooner Cynthia Olson (Sailors'Union of the Pacific) was one of the first ships sunk by the Japanese in WW II.....
         I personally knew many sailors who sailed these steam schooners.. they were known as "the squarehead navy")  as so many of the sailors were of Scandinavian descent...this term is not meant to be a perjoative!!!(My mother's mother was from Iceland!!!!)
        These vessels mostly shipped a Master , a Chief Mate and a Second Mate....The Master also had his wife aboard, as often as not....A sailor from the crew often stood watch as the Third Mate...Harry Lundeberg sailed as Third Mate in a steam schooner, as well  as AB under sail in several square riggers...

        I remember when they sailed the C.A.Thayer, the three-masted schooner. down  from Seattle to San francisco in 1957, the year Mr. Lundeberg passed the final bar..I attended his funeral...he was interred at Olivet....I still have the funeral program, and the West Coast Sailors' newspaper from that day.....I remember the Master, I believe his name was Captain Reynard, though we never met.   The Chief Mate,however was Jack Dickerhoff, Master Rigger, who rigged the Balclutha, Star of India in San Diego, and the four masted Barque, Falls of Clyde in Honolulu...., We were very good friends....  I watched Jack pull all three masts out of the Balclutha one day before lunch..... I spent many an hour at his house in Alameda, eating the great cooking from his wife Swan...and meeting some real old-time sailors and sea captains, and author Ernest Gann, who mentions Jack Dickerhoff in a book he wrote called "Twilight for the Gods...Other crew members aboard the last voyage of the C A Thayer were: Harry Dring who I got to know well while working aboard the Balclutha (Old Star of Alaska)...and the Maritime Museum Director, Karl Kortum......some six years after the Thayer came down, Jack Dickerhoff had a Rigging Loft aboard the ferry boat Eureka in the Oakland Estuary....this is where I really learned my wire rope work!... Jack was a genius!..I had watched him layout all the rigging for the Balclutha on a big roll of butcher paper.... Every bit of rigging was perfect in its measurement when installed!!!!!. During WW II he had risen to the position  Master Rigger at Moore's Shipyard... I believe he was one of the last old time riggers...I learned a lot of canvas work from him as well.... I still have the rigger's horn he gave me in my ditty bag...

        In later years I served in the US Navy, and rose to the rank of Chief Boatswain's Mate...retiring as a Commissioned  Warrant Officer (Boatswain)...I was a Rigger-Diver at Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard, and a loft rigger at Trple A Machine shop...and a Sailmaker with Hard Sails, Inc, all of which helped me when I shipped out... I received my AB ticket when I was 19 years old...I sailed AB, Dayman, Quartermaster and Carpenter....My first Bos'n's berth was a "Knot Ship"...I also sailed as serang in a Victory ship...before obtaining my Original Second Mate's License...I retired from MM&P in 2007..As a boy I sailed in many "fore & afters"...and in two topsail schooners: Gloria Maris and Te Vega (these two were the closest I ever got to sailing in a   "square rigger"as they both had yards...)... When my friend Captain John Underhill (Pennsylvania school ship grad) Instructor at Masters, Mates & Pilots School who taught the license advancement course for my Chief Mate's License passed away..it left...only three of us in MM&P who were Licensed Master of Sail upon Oceans...Years before I attended Captain Dobie's School of Navigation (Captain Pete Moore, Instructor).

        Hearing about the Wapama and the C A Thayer sure has brought back memories of my youth...

        God Bless,   

        Capatin K.C. O'Brien


      • Pacific Merchant Marine Council
        Ahoy All, Once again we are reminded of the wise decision of our council s officers and directors late last year to select Captain K. C. O Brien as the first
        Message 3 of 3 , Jul 12, 2011
          Ahoy All,
          Once again we are reminded of the wise decision of our council's officers and directors late last year to select Captain K. C. O'Brien as the first recipient of our council's Distinguished Member Medal.
          The Navy League could not have had a better individual be the first president of this council. It is not all he did getting this council up and running but it is also his rich maritime history, a personal history, that makes him so special.
          We thank him for occasionally sharing it with us. He writes in a way that makes one feel beside him as he learned the ropes, sat down to dinner with maritime legends, and carried on aboard a variety of vessels crossing the seas around the globe. Its a rich heritage few of us can emulate.
          For navigating this council as it initially proceed forward through unchartered waters BRAVO ZULU Captain Kerry C. O'Brien! You are special.
          Heave Ho,
          Phelps Hobart, President
          Pacific Merchant Marine Council
          Navy League of the United States

          Navy League of the United States

          Pacific Merchant Marine Council



          Proudly awards its first

          Distinguished Member Medal



          Captain Kerry C. O’Brien, USMM (Ret.)


          In recognition of his dedication establishing the council.



          Phelps Hobart                                            20 December 2010


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