Steam Schooner Wapama

A large, wooden steam schooner floating in the water in 1915.
WAPAMA'S 1915 launch.

NPS SAFR F4.15,203n


Known as s "single end steamer," Wapama has her engine and machinery housed aft. Some vessels had their engines housed midships and were known as "double ended."

A high superstructure on the stern and a high forecastle on the bow are distinctive features of Wapama. The masts and spars support booms for loading and off-loading cargo and are equipped with two sets of friction winches. These powerful winches were designed to allow Wapama to load and off-load by herself without the use of shore cranes. The ability to do this was an asset in the lumber trade, where ports were primitive and lacked shore facilities for cargo loading.

Wapama had one main hatch for loading. In addition to 60 passengers, the ship could carry 1,100,00 board feet of lumber, which included a deckload 15 feet deep.

The vessel was powered by a triple expansion engine, Indicated Horsepower (ihp) 800, built by the Main Iron Works of San Francisco. The engine was powered by water tube boilers, and the boilers burned diesel oil.

The interior of the Wapama is divided into various sections, the largest being the hold where the cargo was stowed. Other spaces were reserved for machinery, the engine room, crew quarters, the galley, passenger areas, and the pilothouse. Because the vessel has a radical sheer, all the interior woodwork was fitted to the ship. This means that no doorway, or other opening, is square.

A steam schooner alongside a dock loading lumber. SAFR P80,116.1
WAPAMA loading lumber ties at Tacoma, WA, 1927.

NPS SAFR P80,116.1


Later History

In 1930 Wapama left the lumber trade for the "White Flyer Line" which ran between San Pedro and San Francisco. In 1937 she turned northward, and ended her active career under the flag of the Alaska Transportation Company in 1947.

The State of California acquired the vessel in 1958 and displayed her at the San Francisco Maritime State Park at Hyde Street Pier. In 1977 Wapama was transferred to the National Park Service. She was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1984, and became part of the part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in 1988.

Wapama was displayed afloat at Hyde Street Pier until 1980, when her wooden hull was so badly deteriorated that she was removed from the water and placed on a barge. In 1986 she was moved to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers facility in Sausalito, CA where she remained until 2000, when she was towed to her current Richmond, CA berth.

A 12-foot high triple-expansion steam engine.
The triple-expansion steam engine from the steam schooner WAPAMA on Hyde Street Pier.


Next Steps

After a series of condition assessments and stabilization measures, including removal of heavy deck machinery and bracing the hull, the park concluded that, due to her extremely poor condition, the dismantling of the Wapama, as outlined in the 1997 General Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement, must begin.

The Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) documented the vessel with drawings and photographs, and continued to document and capture important construction details throughout the dismantling process.

Wapama's 30-ton steam engine was removed and will be displayed on the park's Hyde Street Pier. Other significant elements, artifacts, and pieces of machinery have also been saved and, combined with material from the park's museum collections, will be used to create a permanent interpretive exhibit which will tell her story, and preserve her place in history.

The dismantling process began with the removal and encapsulation of hazardous material, then the pilothouse was detached, lifted off the vessel, and transferred to a storage facility. The engine was picked out of the vessel with a shoreside crane and has been transported to Hyde Street Pier. As more photos and documentation of the dismantling process are available, they will be posted online and linked to this page.
The dismantling was completed in August, 2013.

If you would like to read a detailed management summary about Wapama, which documents the reasons and decision for the vessel's dismantling, and/or download copies of condition studies and reports, please visit

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The Engine Room. The park has been doing “traditional” documentation of Wapama, but also using some newer technology. To view these “360 degree” images, your browser needs to support “flash” files. In addition to panning back and forth, you should be able to zoom in and out (try pressing the “shift” and “control” keys). All photography by Bruce Ecker.

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Last updated: March 1, 2015

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