• A section of the bowsprint and figurehead on the bow of BALCLUTHA.

    San Francisco Maritime

    National Historical Park California

Maritime Meanderings Blog (archive)


A fun way to begin your Saturday

Three brown pelicans floating on the water.

How about beginning your day walking with the birds? Join Ranger Carol at the entrance to Hyde Street Pier on March 10, 2012 at 10:00am for a 90-minute bird walk. All levels of interest welcome and dress in layers. More info: 415-447-5000.


I was doing some research and using this book: The Young Sea Officer's Sheet Anchor; or, a Key to the Leading of Rigging, and to Practical Seamanship. By Darcy Lever. Charles E. Lauriat Company, Boston, 1938.

I especially liked the title page. Maybe the author just couldn't settle on one title and had to keep going. Anyhow, while reading about worming, parceling and serving (see 12/19/11 blog post), these three words in the "Dictionary of Sea Terms" section of the book caught my fancy.

Spoondrift: A continued flying of the spray and waves over the surface of the sea.

Cat's paw: A light air perceived by its effect on the water, but not durable. Also a twist made on the bight of a rope.

Bight: Any part of a rope between the ends.

You can discover BALCLUTHA everyday at 2:15pm

Everyday, at 2:15pm, there is a tour of the square-rigged ship BALCLUTHA. 



February is African American History Month

 A black and white photo of BALCLUTHA surrounded by portraits of some of the crew from the first voyage in 1887.

This is a photograph of BALCLUTHA surrounded by portraits of some of the crew from the first voyage in 1887. SAFR P80-133

Please click here to learn about programs at the park during February that focus on the contributions of Black and African American mariners.

Chantey Sing This Saturday

Saturday, January 7, 8pm to midnight, aboard an historic vessel at Hyde Street Pier. FREE! Reservations required: call 415-561-7171 or peter_kasin@nps.gov. Bring a mug for hot cider served from the ship's galley. Click here to find out more about chanteys.

Worm Parcel Serve

 A portion of the starboard side of the maindeck of the BALCLUTHA.

Thanks to Courtney Andersen, Historic Ship Rigging Supervisor, for information and references.

This is the starboard side of the main deck of Balclutha. Maintaining the standard rigging is an ongoing job. This past summer (2011) some of the wire rope was taken down and worked on. Here you see some of it suspended along the starboard rail. The day I took this photo one of the riggers was using a

Happy Holidays at Hyde Street Pier

 Children and adults sitting together in a wood-panelled cabin on an 1886 sailing vessel with a Christmas tree in the corner.

Christmas at Sea and Old Time Maritime Christmas

Saturday, December 10, 3:00pm. Aboard the historic vessels at Hyde Street Pier. Vessel admission (under 16 free). Evening program begins at 6pm. For information 415-447-5000.

Bring the family down to Hyde Street Pier for an

Sea Music Concert Aboard Historic BALCLUTHA

A color photo of two smiling men with beards.

On Saturday evening at 8pm, November 19, come down to Hyde Street Pier for a sea music concert aboard the historic ship Balclutha. If you have never been on the pier at night it is a real treat. Performing together for over 30 years, Dick Holdstock and Allan Macleod captivate audiences with authentic renditions of songs from their homelands of England and Scotland. Trading off on guitar and mandolin, their songs provide an extraordinary glimpse into a not so distant maritime past. Tickets are $14. Read More About Sea Music Concert Aboard Historic BALCLUTHA

Dogs and ships

Do you think dog owners sometimes look like their dogs?

A man in a bowler hat seated next to a white dog near the helm of a sailing ship.

In Tacoma, WA circa 1893-1905, Captain Jansen seated beside his puppy on the grating near the wheel box of the sailing ship ALSTERKAMP, built in 1892. SFMNHP F07.12,335psl Wilhelm Hester collection

Four men and a white dog posing on the deck of a 19th century sailing vessel.Read More About Dogs and ships

Pelicans and spacecraft can be friends

 A painted mural depicting pelicans in flight.

The pelicans are flying with a new friend. Find out more by clicking on this sentence!

Sea Music Concert Aboard BALCLUTHA

A head shot of musician David Coffin. 

On Saturday evening at 8pm, October 15, come down to Hyde Street Pier for a sea music concert aboard the historic ship Balclutha. If you have never been on the pier at night it is a real treat. David Coffin will be performing traditional and contemporary sea music. Tickets are $14. Click here for more info.

Hay bales to Homer - now that's longevity

Went out on the Alma last Thursday for a morning sail along the SF city front. It's been a while since I had a water view of the park and city. The Alma is a scow schooner built in SF in 1891. She's about 60 feet long and shaped like a fat rectangle, not a sleek sailing craft but very-well designed for what she did during the late 1800s. There were about 250 scows like Alma crisscrossing the Bay carrying goods like hay and lumber.

Scow schooner with a huge load of hay bales stacked high on the deck. Read More About Hay bales to Homer - now that's longevity

Swimming in San Francisco Bay?!

Three women on a houseboat in Alviso, CA in 1915. SAFR B11.22,072n
If you have walked through the park you've probably noticed people swimming in the Aquatic Park cove. No, this photo is not of them. These three were having some fun in 1915 on a houseboat in Alviso, CA. Some of the Aquatic Park swimmers wear wetsuits, but not all of them. Want to know more about the history of Bay swimming? Join Ranger Carol on Saturday, September 10, at 3pm for her program, Who ARE those swimmers? Call it crazy, but is it really? Learn the truth as

Childbirth at sea

A formal portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Durkee. 

Alice Durkee, wife of Alfred Durkee who was captain of the Balclutha from 1894-1899, sailed with her husband on and off during his 30-year seafaring career. She gave birth to a daughter, Inda Francis, on board the ship. 

Color map of the Indian Ocean.

In 1899 Balclutha left Calcutta, India enroute to San Francisco, CA with a cargo of

Shades (or Sails) of Things to Come

 A 45 foot long catamaran sailing on San Francisco Bay.There have been some eye-catching catamarans zipping around the Bay lately. And I mean zipping. I was walking along the waterfront near Marina Green, and glanced out toward the Bay in time to see one ripping along on a starboard tack heading toward the Golden Gate Bridge. In a minute it was a distant speck. The team from the USA, Oracle Racing, was out testing a smaller version of the craft that will be racing on the Bay in the 2013 America's Cup. Our photographer was out on the park's scow schooner Alma when one of the AC45s sailed

Try writing a haiku

This post inspired by Maggie B.

It's easy...three lines and 5, 7, 5. First line has five syllables, second line has seven syllables, third line has five syllables.

Hyde Street Pier is a good place for Read More About Try writing a haiku

From the "You Never Know" File

A small boat floating in the water with two children in it.

This post inspired by Park Guide Rejane Butler

Last fall Park Guide Rejane gave a tour of the historic ships and talked about marine life with a class of four-year-olds from the Jewish Community Center here in SF. Well, she was walking through the park earlier this month and noticed the kids, teachers, parents and friends gathered on the bleachers near the Maritime Museum. Seems they were inspired by that trip to Hyde Street Pier and continued their exploration in the classroom. With the help of a couple parents they

Getting Ready For Summer in “Sunny California”

Ahhhhh…sunny California. Hang on a moment, you might want to rethink that if you are visiting SF during the summer (and bring along a sweater). When June 1 rolls around I start thinking about the fog rolling in through the Golden Gate, and I like to read this poem by Carl Sandburg.


The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

NIANTIC: Buried Gold Rush Ship

The frontispiece from the logbook of a 1849 NIANTIC voyage. SAFR 13574 HDC 28

On April 28, 1978, workers excavating for a new office building in SF uncovered the remains of an old wooden ship at the corner of Clay and Sansome Streets. The timbers were the bottom section of a famous Gold Rush ship. Niantic arrived in 1849, one of over 700 ships that arrived that year. A small

It's Fun and Free!

Junior Ranger Day on Hyde Street Pier

Saturday, April 23, 2011, 10am to 4pmA colorful drawing of a Junior Ranger badge and two sailboats.

Raise a sail, tie knots, sing a sea chantey, make some scrimshaw, tour an historic ship, raise a sail, become a Junior Ranger.... See you there! More info: 415-447-5000

Have you marched lately?

suff_blogPut on those walking shoes and join the park's Living History Players as they set the clock back to 1901 and stage a re-enactment of a suffragette march for women's rights on Hyde Street Pier. Saturday, March 12, Noon, FREE. (P. S. In the United States women gained the right to vote in 1920.)

Park Ranger program about life at sea

Group of seafaring men posing on the main deck of a 19th century sailing ship. SAFR K9.28,157

This is the crew of the Rathdown, a sailing vessel that was built in Ireland in 1891 and carried cargo around the world until leaving Yokohama, Japan in 1900 and was never seen again. 

This photo was taken in San Francisco (sometime during the 1890s) after the crew had just spent six months at sea, having voyaged from Belfast around Cape Horn to SF. Look closely and you can see the crew was quite ethnically diverse. Many seamen were born in

Mascots at Sea

A sailor standing on the deck of a sailing ship holding a small monkey in his arms.

Animals have always been important members of a ship's crew. This is a detail from a photograph (a formal portrait of the crew of a 19th century sailing ship called the Durham) showing a more unusual animal. Click here to see more historic photographs from the park's collection.

On the edge of the Bay

SF Maritime is located right at the edge of San Francisco Bay. In fact, part of the park extends right into and over the water -- Hyde Street Pier, where the historic ships are moored. Just west of the pier is a wonderful, little strip of sandy beach. My walk into work in the morning usually takes me along the water's edge and I always try to focus some attention on the water, how it smells, high or low tide, white caps or flat water further out on the Bay. I feel lucky to start my day along the Bay.

Foggy day on San Francisco Bay

The Bay is really socked in today with fog. Can see the end of the pier but not much beyond that -- a fuzzy, white expanse. Not much wind, and hearing lots of fog horns. Horns from ships navigating the Bay and one from atop the Golden Gate Bridge and another on Alcatraz Island. They take turns and have their particular length and pitch. A fog symphony on the Bay today. Kind of soothing. 

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