Bob Krauss’ book The Indestructible Square-Rigger Falls of Clyde: 324 Voyages Under Sail contains an abbreviated version of the ship’s time under the British flag. As part of my desire to better understand the ship, I have been working on a more detailed chronology. Not having ready access to original documents, most of the information has come from various newspapers and maritime publications. While the details from the first part of her career are still sparse, I have had better luck with her time as a Matson and, subsequently, as an Associated Oil ship. One thing is clear. Falls of Clyde was quite a workhorse, much like the Matson ships of today.
Providing Fuel to Ships
Given Falls of Clyde’s schedule of regular trips between Hawai‘i and California, I was puzzled by a lack of information about her movements from around June 1912 to February 1913. The San Francisco Call, usually a good source of ship arrival and departure dates, had nothing about her. I turned to Hawai‘i newspapers. They soon provided the answer.
Falls of Clyde in Ketchikan. Courtesy of Friends of Falls of Clyde.
Anyone with an interest in Falls of Clyde knows about her role as a floating fuel depot in Ketchikan, Alaska. As it turns out, she also acted in a similar capacity in Honolulu Harbor during the period mentioned above. She was referred to variously as “temporary oil tank,” “storage tanker,” “storage ship,” “station ship,” or “station oil tanker.” When steamers in port required a supply of fuel, she was called into action and moved to where she was needed.
From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin (October 4, 1912, p. 1):
“The storage ship Falls of Clyde proved a great convenience in supplying the Japanese liner Tenyo Maru with a consignment of fuel oil yesterday. The ship was towed to a berth on the Waikiki side of the liner, from which point the oil was transferred from ship to steamer tanks.”
Harbor service was not without its dangers. In December, while moored by the Matson ship Wilhelmina, Falls of Clyde was hit by the inter-island steamer Mauna Loa.
“The accident caused much excitement along the waterfront until the details of the disaster had become generally known. At first it was believed that through the impact from the steamer, the sailing ship had been punctured and would sink.
“An examination made immediately after the collision showed that while the Falls of Clyde was much damaged above the water line, little harm was done the hold of the vessel” (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, December 27, 1912, pp. 1–2).
The damage done to Falls of Clyde was estimated to be at least $1,000 and included the loss of forward rigging, gear, and her figurehead (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, December 27, 1912, p. 2).
There is also a Maui connection to this story. Falls of Clyde was towed (at least once) in her capacity as a station ship to Kāʻanapali to offload fuel oil there. (Later, she also made voyages under sail directly to Kāʻanapali from Gaviota.)
Falls of Clyde was finally released from harbor service in February 1913. She sailed for Gaviota on the 3rd of the month—back to her old routine, but free.