San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park
Lower Fort Mason, Bldg. E
San Francisco, CA 94123
WELCOME to C.A. Thayer
The lumber schooner, C.A. Thayer, built
- Extreme Length: 219 feet
- Length on Deck: 156 feet
- Beam: 36 feet
- Depth: 11.38 feet
- Gross tonnage: 453
- Height of mainmast: 105 feet
The CA Thayer is a wooden-hulled, three-masted
schooner, designed for carrying lumber.
She was built in 1895 in Northern California
at Hans D. Bendixsen�s shipyard in Fairhaven, CA.
The original hull was made of dense,
old-growth Douglas fir carefully chosen for shipbuilding.
She sailed with a small crew consisting of
four seamen, two mates, a cook, and the captain.
Once, hundreds of sailing schooners carried
lumber to San Francisco from Washington, Oregon and the California
redwood Coast. Built in 1895, C.A. Thayer was once part of
that mighty Pacific Coast fleet. Today, she is a rare survivor from
the days when strong canvas sails billowed over tall deckloads of
freshly-milled fir and redwood.
In 1895, Danish-born Hans D. Bendixsen built C.A.
Thayer in his Northern California shipyard (located across the
narrows of Humboldt Bay from the city of Eureka). She was named for
Clarence A. Thayer, a partner in the San Francisco-based E.K. Wood
Between 1895 and 1912, Thayer usually
sailed from E.K. Wood's mill in Grays Harbor, Washington, to San
Francisco. But she also carried lumber as far south as Mexico, and
occasionally even ventured offshore to Hawaii and Fiji.
Thayer is fairly
typical of West Coast, three-masted lumber schooners in size (219'
extreme) and cargo capacity (575,000 board feet). She carried about
half of her load below; the remaining lumber was stacked ten feet
high on deck, and secured with chain (as illustrated in this 1912
photo). In port, her small crew (eight or nine men) served
double-duty as longshoremen; unloading 75,000 to 80,000 board feet
was an average day's work.
After sustaining serious damage during a
heavy, southeasterly gale, C.A. Thayer's lumber trade days
ended in an Oakland shipyard, in 1912. But it was really the rise of
steam power, and not the wind, that pushed her into a new career.
Early each April from 1912 to 1924, C.A.
Thayer hauled 28-foot gill-net boats, bundles of barrel staves,
and tons of salt from San Francisco to Western Alaska. This deck
view shows her underway, in 1914. She spent the summer anchored out
at Squaw Creek (see photo) or Koggiung; the fishermen worked their
nets and the cannery workers packed the catch on shore. Thayer
then returned each September, her hold stacked with barrels of
Vessels in the salt-salmon trade usually laid
up during the winter months, but when World War I inflated freight
rates (1915-1919), C.A. Thayer carried Northwest fir and
Mendocino redwood to Australia. These off-season voyages took about
two months each way. Her return cargo was usually coal, but
sometimes hardwood or copra (dried coconut meat, from which coconut
oil is pressed).
From 1925-1930, C.A. Thayer made yearly
voyages from Poulsbo, Washington, to the Bering Sea codfishing
waters (off the Alaskan coast). In addition to supplies, she carried
upwards of thirty men north, including fourteen fishermen and twelve
"dressers" (the men who cleaned and cured the catch).
At about 4:30am each day, the fishermen
launched their Grand Banks dories over Thayer's rails, and
then fished standing up, with handlines dropped over both sides of
their small boats. When the fishing was good, a man might catch
300-350 cod in a five-hour period.
After a decade-long, Depression-era lay-up in
LakeUnion, Seattle, the U.S. Army purchased C.A. Thayer from
J.E. Shields (a prominent Seattle codfisherman) for use in the war
effort. In 1942, the Army removed her masts and used Thayer as an
ammunition barge in British Columbia. After World War II, Shields
bought his ship back from the Army, fitted her with masts once
again, and returned her to codfishing. This bustling photo (ca.
1946-50, P9,8493.) illustrates her post-WWII period.
With her final voyage, in 1950, C.A. Thayer
entered the history books as the last commercial sailing vessel to
operate on the West Coast.
The State of California purchased C.A.
Thayer in 1957. After preliminary restoration in Seattle,
Washington, an intrepid volunteer crew sailed her down the coast to
San Francisco. The San FranciscoMaritimeMuseum performed more
extensive repairs and refitting, and opened Thayer to the
public in 1963.
The vessel was transferred to the National Park
Service in 1978, and designated a National Historic Landmark in
1984. After three full careers, and over 100 hundred years, she
remains -- restored and maintained for future generations -- to be
experienced at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.
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