Thayer is one of only two West Coast lumber schooners left in existence. She was built to haul fir lumber from the Pacific Northwest to the expanding towns and cities of California. Thayer later served the American cod and salmon fisheries of Alaska, helping to feed a growing country.
As Thayer neared her 100th year, she was disintegrating rapidly, and drooping at the bow and stern. In planning to save the Thayer, park staff considered whether to put her ashore inside a building. The park decided that rebuilding her using traditional materials and keeping her afloat, was the only practical and acceptable choice. Congress authorized the project in 2002.
A Mix of Old and New
The park was fortunate to have the Bay Ship and Yacht Company just across the San Francisco Bay in Alameda. This firm offered the rare skills and experience needed to do the job. They finished the hull and deck using only original style timber and fastenings.
Rotten frames were removed and replaced with ten-inch timber, sawn to shape.
BEFORE: Hull, deck and inner ceiling planks were sacrificed to access underlying structural timbers.
AFTER: New, four-inch square deckplanks were caulked with oakum and hot pitch.
After a major restoration of more than three years, the National Historic Landmark C.A. Thayer returns home to San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in April 2007. The magnitude and extent of this restoration is virtually unprecedented in the history of modern maritime preservation, ensuring that this 156-foot long wooden schooner can survive for another hundred years.
“This project has been a labor of love for all of us who were privileged to be involved,” said San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park Superintendent Kate Richardson. “On a practical level, we have preserved a vital piece of American history and culture. On an emotional level, we have breathed life back into the hopes and dreams of the men and women who lived on, for, and by the sea. Thayer is a legacy of opportunity and independence that I am proud to pass along to future generations.”
The C.A. Thayer is now structurally sound and watertight. Additional restoration work will continue at Hyde Street Pier for a number of years, with the goal of preparing Thayer to sail once again. Ongoing projects will include restoration of her sailing rig, completion of the forward deckhouse, and installation of interior fittings.
Last updated: February 28, 2015