Fathom This May 2014

The monthly newsletter from
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

May, 2014
Issue #70

Peter Kasin
Park Ranger, Interpretation Division
Editor / writer

Courtney Andersen
Historic Ships Rigger Foreman


Welcome to San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, and to the May issue of Fathom This! For information on all the events and programs the park and its partners have to offer, and for information on park resources and research, please see the links at the end of this newsletter.

Fathom This! is sent monthly. Feel free to forward it, and enter it into blogs. To subscribe, or to cancel, please contact the editor at e-mail us. Your contact information is never loaned or sold. Happy reading, and hope to see you at the park!


Discover the many roles Asian Americans and Pacific islanders have played in our history. San Francisco Maritime celebrates this special emphasis month with programs and exhibits for the whole family. Please see below for descriptions.

The Sea of Invisible Riches: Asian Americans and the Alaska Salmon Grounds, 1880-1929

Sunday, May 18 and 25, 2:15-3:00pm, and Saturday, May 24, 2:15-3;00pm, aboard Balclutha. Ships boarding fees apply: Adults, $5. Ages 15 and under, free. Free with national park passes. Information: 415-447-5000, or https://www.nps.gov/safr

Join us for an exploration of the role Asian Americans played in the struggle for immigration rights in the decades bordering 1900. This struggle took place on the vast arctic coast and ocean of Alaska and the Northeast Pacific. Along the way, discover how Asian Americans captured the invisible riches of a sea whose ecology and environment Europeans were still in the process of understanding. –David Pelfrey, Park Guide

On The Fringe

Saturdays, May 10 and 31, 2:15-3:00pm, aboard Balclutha. Ships admission fees apply: Adults, $5. Ages 15 and under, free. Free with national park passes.

What was it like to be on the fringe of shipboard society? During this ranger-guided tour onboard Balclutha, hear stories of the difficult conditions that Chinese laborers endured in the salmon canning business in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Navigation Old and New

Sunday, May 11 and Saturday, May 17, 2:15-3:00pm, aboard Balclutha. Ships boarding fees apply: Adults, $5. Ages 15 and under, free. Free with national park passes. Information; 415-447-5000, or https://www.nps.gov/safr

Sailing without land in sight has been hazardous since “year one.” We’ll compare and contrast navigation methods used by ancient Pacific Islanders and 19th century western cultures.

Ongoing Exhibits

The park has a variety of ongoing exhibits that focus on the Asian American experience. Look for the Grace Quan at the small boat dock on Hyde Street Pier, an example of a small craft that was used by Chinese immigrants to catch shrimp in San Francisco Bay. Aboard the ship Balclutha the “Chinatown” exhibit below deck provides an immersive experience into the living quarters of those who sailed to the Alaskan canneries. At the park Visitor Center, 499 Jefferson Street, at Hyde Street, exhibits bring to life stories of 19th century Chinese immigration.

ALMA SAILING SEASON BEGINS JUNE 5. Reservations begin May 21.

Reservations begin May 21. Sailing season begins June 5, with sailing days also on June 7, 12, 14, 19, 21 and 26, and dates through November 22. Reservations and information, with complete sailing schedule: https://www.recreation.gov and enter “San Francisco Maritime’ in the search box, or call 1-877-444-6777. Limited spaces may be available on day of sail, from the Hyde Street Pier ticket booth, 9:30am – Noon.

Sailing adventures aboard the 1891 scow schooner Alma! Haul lines to raise sail, or relax and enjoy the dazzling views of the bay in this unique national park experience. As you sail on this 3-hour tour, a park ranger spins tales of San Francisco’s riveting history: Native Americans, Spanish explorers, the Gold Rush, Alcatraz and Angel Islands, bridges, the infamous Barbary Coast, and more! The sailing season runs June 5 through November 22.

Before highways and bridges, hundreds of scow schooners plied San Francisco Bay, hauling cargo as the “flatbed trucks” of their day. The last of her kind, Alma will transport you to a long ago era on this unique, hands-on program.

Boarding is at 12:30, departing Hyde Street Pier at 1:00pm. Be prepared for cold, winds, spray, and bright sun. Life jackets and flotation devices are provided.

Bring water (no alcohol permitted), snacks, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, layers of clothing, closed toe “active” footwear (no high heels), camera, binoculars, and a sense of adventure! Trip may be cancelled due to weather, or other safety concerns, at discretion of the captain.


The historic bilge pump on Balclutha, manufactured by Robert Mills of Greenock, Scotland, is once again operational! Restoration began in August, 2012, when the flywheels and crankshaft were removed. Corrosion and years of paints of various types were sandblasted off, then the piece was galvanized and painted with a galvanized metal primer. Last year, park shipwright Jim Petrini set to work on the pump casings, valves and piston. All rust was removed and treated, and the old paint nearly all removed. A small patch of very old paint which nearly matched the apple green paint we had used on the flywheels was uncovered, as well as a red paint which agrees with the model in the Visitor Center. Focus was put on getting the starboard side rebuilt, to see if it would actually function.

Jim used a tool for cutting circular gaskets to cut new leather gaskets. He also had to drill out and remove a plug which had likely been installed in the 1950’s restoration. His masterpiece though was the installation of new pipes for the intake, and check valves in the bottoms of the pipes to maintain the water prime.

A large plastic tank was put into the hold, so that the bilge pump draws fresh water rather than bilge water for the public demonstration. The rangers, and Age of Sail education program staff were given training in the use of the pump, so that it can be incorporated into their programming.

We’re very excited in getting this historic pump working again! Great job, Jim Petrini! We will be working on the port side of the pump, so that the whole contraption will pump water to show you how it functioned, as well as giving you the opportunity to feel how much effort it took to “pump ship.”

--Courtney Andersen, Historic Ships Rigger Foreman


https://www.nps.gov/safr San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

http://www.maritime.org San Francisco Maritime National Park Association, the park’s nonprofit member-supported cooperating association.

http://www.maritimelibraryfriends.org Friends of the Maritime museum Library, the park library’s nonprofit member-supported cooperating association.

http://fullfathomcollections.blogspot.com The park collections blog.

http://keys.bywatersolutions.com The Maritime Library catalog.

https://www.museum.nps.gov/parkindex.aspx Museum collections. Choose our park from the list.

https://www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoMaritimeNHP The park’s Facebook page. Be sure to “like” us!

http://www.hydestreetlivinghistory.org The park’s Living History program’s volunteer-created and managed website.

http://www.corsair-viking.org San Francisco Sea Scouts, park partner and neighbor in Aquatic Park.

http://www.weplayers.org Theatre company and park partner.

Last updated: March 1, 2015

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Mailing Address:

2 Marina Boulevard, Building E, 2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94123


(415) 561-7000
The public information office is open from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. PST during weekdays and we will respond to all messages within two business days.

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