San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park
Lower Fort Mason, Bldg. E
San Francisco, CA 94123
WELCOME to Balclutha
The 1886 square-rigged ship Balclutha.
- Overall length: 301 feet
- Length of deck: 256.5 feet
- Beam: 38.6 feet
- Depth: 22.7 feet
- Gross tonnage: 1689
- Height of mainmast: 145 feet
Balclutha is a
three-masted, steel-hulled, square-rigged ship built to carry a
variety of cargo all over the world. Launched in 1886 by the Charles
Connell and Company shipyard near Glasgow, Scotland, the ship
carried goods around Cape Horn (tip of South America) 17 times. It
took a crew of about 26 men to handle the ship at sea with her
complex rigging and 25 sails.
On January 15, 1887, with a twenty-six-man
crew, Balclutha sailed under British registry from Cardiff,
Wales, on her maiden voyage. She was bound for San Francisco. The
ship entered the Golden Gate after 140 days at sea, unloaded her
cargo of 2,650 tons of coal, and took on sacks of California wheat.
Because of the months-long ocean voyage, Balclutha
made only one round-trip per year while engaged in the Europe-to-San
Francisco grain trade. She arrived with a cargo three times, but
also brought pottery, cutlery, Scotch whisky (from Glasgow and
Liverpool) and "Swansea general" (tinplate, coke and pig
iron) to San Francisco.
During the mid-1890s the ship called at other
ports around the world; in New Zealand, for example, she loaded wool
and tallow for London, England.
In 1899 Balclutha was transferred to
Hawaiian registry, and she joined the bustling Pacific Coast lumber
trade. For three years the ship sailed north to Puget Sound,
Washington, and then across to Australia. Much of the 1.5 million
board feet she could carry ended up underground, used for mining
timbers in the Broken Hill Mine at Port Pirie, Australia.
the last vessel to fly the flag of the Hawaiian Kingdom. In 1901 a
special act of the United States Congress admitted the ship to
American registry so that she could engage in "coastwise"
trade (i.e. between American ports). Soon thereafter, the Alaska
Packers Association, a San Francisco firm which harvested and canned
salmon, chartered her to carry men and supplies north � to Alaska.
When Balclutha went aground in 1904,
the Alaska Packers Association purchased her where she lay for the
non-princely sum of $500. After extensive repairs, they renamed her Star
of Alaska (all Packer iron and steel sailing vessels had a
"Star" prefix to their names).
During this career, the ship sailed up the
West Coast from Alameda, California, carrying supplies and cannery
workers. Star of Alaska anchored out in Chignik Bay, Alaska, during
April. After the supplies were unloaded and the cannery workers had
settled into the company�s camp ashore, only a shipkeeper or two
remained on board.
In early September, her hold packed with cases
of canned salmon, Star of Alaska started the 2,400-mile
voyage back to San FranciscoBay. She was considered a fast sailer,
averaging better than twenty-two days for the trip north and fifteen
days when homeward bound. This photo, taken in 1919, shows a bit of
heavy weather aboard Star of Alaska.
During the winter the ship was laid up with
the rest of the Packer�s fleet of thirty-odd vessels in Alameda,
where shipwrights performed maintenance and renovation. In 1911, the
poop deck was extended to house Italian and Scandinavian fishermen.
Later, additional bunks were added in the �tween deck for Chinese
cannery workers. As Balclutha, the ship carried a crew of twenty-six
men; on Star of Alaska, over 200 men made the trip north.
Star of Alaska
was the only sailing ship the Packers sent north in 1930, and when
she returned that September she, too, was retired.
Frank Kissinger purchased Star of Alaska
in 1933 (for $5,000) and renamed her Pacific Queen. Kissinger
took the ship south and, while anchored off Catalina Island, she
appeared in the film Mutiny on the Bounty (Clark Gable and Charles
Laughton also appeared in supporting roles).
For a time thereafter, Kissinger towed her up
and down the West Coast, usually exhibiting her as a "pirate
ship." Pacific Queenslowly deteriorated, and she barely
escaped World War II scrap metal drives.
In 1954 the San Francisco Maritime Museum
purchased Pacific Queen for $25,000. Assisted by donations of
cash, materials and labor from the local community, the Museum
restored the vessel and returned her original name. The ship was
transferred to the National Park Service in 1978, and Balclutha
was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985.
Page 1 of 1