Taking the Falls of Clyde Home?

Those of you who are interested in large historic sailing ships have no doubt been following what has been going on at South Street Seaport Museum. Wavertree is back from dry dock and looking splendid. (Congratulations to all involved!) Peking is being prepared for her journey back to Germany and a brighter future.

It is quite a different situation here in Hawai‘i. Time is running out for the National Historic Landmark ship, Falls of Clyde.

Lately, I have been quiet regarding the Falls of Clyde. It is not because I do not care. I have been watching and waiting to see what became of the discussions between DOT Harbors and the Friends of Falls of Clyde (FFOC). Frankly, I didn’t have much hope for the future of the ship.

I have been spending my time trying not to be angry and depressed by the whole situation and mentally preparing myself to hear bad news.

Will she be:

• Towed out and scuttled in international waters?
• Sold and broken up for scrap?
• Sunk as an artificial reef or dive site?

Nothing but sad thoughts. Until today. Today brought a glimmer of hope.

Is it possible that there is enough interest in Scotland to bring the Falls back home to the Clyde, should the FFOC’s efforts fail?

A campaign has been started to explore the possibilities, while still supporting the mission of the FFOC. The following is a Facebook post from David O’Neill, who is spearheading the effort:

This is a Glasgow and Clyde Heritage related post, I am looking for volunteers who have an interest in the Clyde Shipbuilding History, who may have skills in P.R., Media and fund raising or crowdfunding. This is a campaign to bring back and restore a Port Glasgow built ship Falls of Clyde. Built at Russell shipyard, now Ferguson Marine.

The ship is currently in Hawaii and was a museum ship up until about 8 years ago, now under threat of being sunk as an artificial reef.

Hollywood actor and Scot, Mr Brian Cox of Bourne Identity, Troy and Planet of the Apes has agreed to be our patron so hopefully this will boost the campaign.

Glasgow Nautical College are also on board and can play a part in her restoration.

Clyde Maritime Trust are also offering help to save this 138 year old ship

We will shortly be launching a crowd funding campaign, so please consider playing a part in this effort, if we succeed the plan is to rebuild her and put her back to work, as a Fairtrade Transport Vessel, Sail powered, carbon free.

Another aim is to include Community Groups and Secondary Schools across Scotland, who can send kids aboard on trips for life changing journeys to fly the flag for Scotland and Glasgows Shipbuilding Heritage.

Please share to all groups and friends you know, this will be a tough challenge, but will be worth it.

I am happy to share David’s message. I spoke with him at length on the phone this afternoon. He is walking into this with eyes wide open. He knows it will be a hard road. I fully support his efforts. I like his energy, enthusiasm, and willingness to explore all channels necessary.

While I would be sad to see the Falls leave Hawai‘i, to have her return to Scotland would be pono, since the state does not seem to care about supporting her as an important part of local maritime history.

There is hope.


Moshulu (1904)!

Moshulu starbd side

One reason for visiting Philly was to have a look at another one of the five remaining Clydebuilt sailing ships, Moshulu (ex-Kurt).

For an account of her re-rigging, check out Jamie White’s site: TheSquareRigger.

It’s strange to see her repurposed as a restaurant, but it’s good to see her nonetheless.

As a designer and traditionalist, I’m not crazy about the font (University) they’ve chosen for her name:

Moshulu fo'c'slehead

Moshulu blue side

What I found really odd was how the ship was painted. Her starboard side (facing the river) was painted in traditional style. Her port side (facing the pier) was painted blue. Very weird.

Windows cut in the hull:

windows cut in hull

What’s wrong with this picture?

should be red

Looks like frames marked for some sort of survey?

Moshulu frames marked

Freeing port:

freeing port

Always looking for practical ideas when checking out historic ships.

Here, this spout keeps the water from a scupper from running down the side of the hull and leaving those ugly streaks:

spout at scupper

It’s attached with c-clamps, I’m guessing for ease of maintenance/replacement.


Moshulu rudder

Moshulu stern

stern view

Since it was dinner time and I wanted to have a look around, I decided to have a meal on board.

If you’re familiar with these types of ships, there are enough details that it is fairly easy to imagine what this tween deck area (facing aft) used to look like:

Moshulu interior

Don’t normally do food pics, but here’s my fancy dessert:

my fancy dessert

(Hey, I’m on vacation…I can splurge right?)

After I had finished eating, I asked the maitre d’ if it was all right to look around.

Emerging on deck, looking aft at a hatch:


Ladder up to the midships deck:

midships deck and charthouse

I went forward to the bow.

Up on the fo’c’sle head:

fo'c'sle head

Note the deck crane, rather than the old catheads, to help raise and secure the anchor on deck. (Same thing on Peking.)

lighthouse detail

A peek into the fo’c’sle. The windlass looks nice.

windlass in fo'c'sle

Ship’s bell. And…oops. What’s wrong with this picture?

bell and proofreading needed

For the ship geeks who look for such things, here’s the manufacturer’s stamp (Lanarkshire Steel Co Lt Scotland) on a beam:

manufacturers stamp

Hatch just aft of the fo’c’sle:

line on hatch

Looking aft along the deck:

along the deck from just fwd of foremast

Bulwark stays (different style from those on FOC) and rail:

bulwark stays and rail

Freeing port:

freeing port inboard

Mr. ‘I‘iwi perched on the rail:

Mr ‘I‘iwi on the rail

Looking up at the rig from the foremast:

looking aft at the rig

Back up on the midships deck:

midships deck

Mainmast shrouds, detail (seizing, eye, thimble, bottlescrew):

seizing thimble bottlescrew

Small bitts on top of bulwark:


Ship’s wheel (in need of some repair) just forward of the chart house:


I didn’t go aft to the poop deck because there were some people gathered around the area and I didn’t want to disturb them.

Going below again, I came across a small gallery of images. I didn’t expect the ship to be a museum, but it was nice to see a nod to the ship’s past.

historic photos

Reproduction of a drawing showing the ship’s sail plan and rigging:

drawing of Moshulu

And, something rather unexpected, but pleasing to see:

can't escape FOC

It seems I just can’t get away, can I?

Note: For those of you interested in life at sea on board Moshulu, pick up a copy of Eric Newby’s The Last Grain Race (1956).

Another Sailing Oil Carrier – Marion Chilcott

When reading about Falls of Clyde’s days as an oil tanker, the name Marion Chilcott is also often mentioned. Marion Chilcott was, in fact, the first sailing ship to bring fuel oil in bulk to Honolulu. However, I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself here…

Marion Chilcott was launched as Kilbrannan on 11 November 1882. She was a three-masted, full-rigged, iron-hulled ship built by Russell and Co. (the same company that built Falls of Clyde) at Port Glasgow for Kerr, Newton and Co. of Glasgow. At a length of 248 ft., beam of 38 ft., and depth of hold of 22 ft. 9 in., she was slightly smaller than the Falls.

On the afternoon/evening of 4 February 1896, during a voyage from Callao (Peru) to Port Townsend, Washington, Kilbrannan encountered rough weather. While attempting to make the anchorage at Port Townsend, the ship ran aground at Point Wilson despite all the efforts of her crew. She was refloated 22 days later.

She was purchased, repaired, and refitted at considerable cost by the Seattle company Barneson and Chilcott. She was renamed Marion Chilcott and was allowed (by law), due to the amount of money spent on her, to be registered as an American vessel.

In 1900, Marion Chilcott was purchased by Captain William Matson and added to his fleet of vessels sailing between San Francisco and Hilo. Captain Matson had her converted to an oil carrier in 1902 (The Falls was converted in 1907).

“Fuel oil is here to stay, and within a few months there will be established by the Matson Navigation Company at Honolulu [a] thoroughly up-to-date oiling station. The American ship Marion Chilcott, which arrived yesterday with a cargo of sugar from Hilo, has been selected as the pioneer of a line of oil transports which will be employed in keeping full the oil tanks of the Honolulu depot.” — San Francisco Call, May 3, 1902, p. 10

The work was done by the Risdon Iron Works in San Francisco.

“The Risdon people have engaged to complete the transformation in ninety days after the ship is turned over to them.” — San Francisco Call, May 3, 1902, p. 10

“Her tanks were tested and passed [by Lloyd’s surveyors] after having been filled once. There was neither leak nor imperfection and the Risdon people were complimented by the inspectors on the completeness of the work. The Chilcott is provided with twelve tanks, with a total carrying capacity of nearly 18,000 barrels. She can fill or empty all her tanks in twelve hours. She has two separate sets of pumps, which can be worked simultaneously or independently. One set is worked by steam generated in the donkey boiler on deck; the other set is operated by a 21 horsepower gas engine. The ship is fitted throughout with electric lgihts [sic], and in the arrangement of her oil tanks every precaution has been taken to insure perfect ventilation and to provide ample room for any expansion.” — San Francisco Call, October 17, 1902, p. 10

Soon after this, she sailed for Honolulu.

“The fine ship Marion Chilcott, Captain Nelson, of the Matson line, arrived in port Sunday with the first cargo of fuel oil, in bulk, brought to Oahu. The vessel had a tempestuous passage of sixteen days from San Francisco. The ship is loaded very deep in the water, having 17,000 barrels of bulk oil stored in the twelve tank compartments of her hull. She was berthed at the Railway wharf and will discharge her oil into the huge tanks recently built at Iwilei.” — The Pacific Commercial Advertiser [Honolulu], November 24, 1902, p. 10

Captain Nelson was quite proud of his ship:

“‘We could have a half dozen holes in the bottom of this vessel and it would still float,’ said Captain Nelson yesterday, ‘as each compartment is a separate affair, and should one get a hole punched into it, the others would still keep the vessel seaworthy. You see we have electric lights, and no smoking is allowed on deck, although men are permitted to smoke in their quarters. There is a steel hatch over each compartment, and a small valve fitted into each from which oil gas may escape, although but little gas forms from this oil.

“‘We can pump the 17,000 barrels of oil out of this ship, by using both pumps, in sixteen hours, but by using only one pump it would take twenty-four hours. We require no stevedores, as all we have to do when we wish to discharge cargo is to get out a big hose and connect our own pipes with the pipe line on the wharf. The engineer starts his pumps and gets our cargo out in a lively manner. We are not quite a man of war, but we come pretty near to being one as everything done aboard has to be done just so, although conditions are such that we run but little danger.'” — The Pacific Commercial Advertiser [Honolulu], November 24, 1902, p. 10

Some details from the engineer regarding ballasting the ship:

“No, we don’t have to buy ballast. We do not pay any longshoremen to put the ballast into our hold, as we have no gang down below trimming ballast, for the ballast we carry trims itself. When we wish to take ballast preparatory to sailing back to the Coast we simply dump the big hose you see yonder over the side and this pump will take enough water out of your harbor to keep this vessel steady during her return trip to the Coast. We will fill four of our twelve tanks with salt water and that is sufficient ballast. This, of course, is a very inexpensive proceeding.” — The Pacific Commercial Advertiser [Honolulu], November 27, 1902, p. 10

Marion Chilcott was sold to the Associated Oil Company (along with the Falls and a few of Matson’s other vessels), and continued carrying oil from California to Hawai‘i.

“THE TWO OIL VESSELS, the Marion Chilcott and the Falls of Clyde, both left this morning from here on their way to Gaviota. As they are both headed for the same place, there will probably be somewhat of a race.” – Evening Bulletin [Honolulu], March 21, 1908, p. 2

“In the Pacific service there are two very well-known sailing ships, namely, the ‘Falls of Clyde’ and the ‘Marion Chilcott.’ About two years ago their owners—the Associated Oil Company of San Francisco—were seriously considering installing auxiliary oil-engine power. But, for some reason known only to themselves they did not do so, so the ships have remained in service without power.” — Motorship, September 1918, p. 9

Marion Chilcott and the Falls were eventually sold to G.W. McNear, Inc. in 1919. Details get a bit fuzzy after this. She apparently continued sailing as a tanker during the early 1920s until she was taken to Trinidad to be used as a barge. I haven’t been able to find any definitive references as to what finally became of her.

If anyone knows, please comment.

(I’ll continue to research.)

Seaman on ‘Pommern’ enticing the ship’s cat up on the shrouds

Last Day – 20 February

A return to SFMNHP to see the other ships.

First, a stop off at the Aquatic Park Bathhouse building, which was designed to resemble a ship. I visited the building during my last trip to San Francisco. From what I remember, there were more displays then and the interior of the building seemed much darker. A lot changes in 10 years.

The lobby now houses a few very nice sailing ship models and part of the Niantic.

Niantic’s copper sheathing:

copper sheathing Niantic

Then, there are the striking surrealist murals on the walls. They were painted in the 1930s by artist Hilaire Hiler and depict various underwater scenes.

Some details that appealed to me:

Hiler mural detail 1

Hiler mural detail 2

Ad on the side of a bus stop on the way to Hyde Street Pier:

Hawaiian Air ad

The first stop was the wooden schooner CA Thayer. She is in the process of being restored.*

CA Thayer work in progress

Wood detail:

CA Thayer wood detail


CA Thayer knees

View toward stern:

CA Thayer twds stern

Loading ports:

CA Thayer loading ports

Located between CA Thayer and Balclutha is the sweet little paddlewheel tug, Eppleton Hall. Love!

Eppleton Hall name

It’s a shame she is not in better condition:

Eppleton Hall

The ferry Eureka:


A volunteer hard at work on the steam tug Hercules:

Hercules volunteer

Detail of the hull of the replica shrimp fishing junk Grace Quan:

detail hull Grace Quan

Balclutha’s Plimsoll Line:

Balclutha plimsoll line

A Pepto-Bismol-colored starfish (Pisaster brevispinus?), looking like it’s hanging on for dear life:


Seen on the bumper of a car in the parking lot of the Beach Chalet:

slow down bumpersticker

😀 The same car also had “North Shore” and hibiscus stickers.

Thanks Brush! Lots of fun and learned a lot!

*ETA: Brush mentioned that parts of Wawona were saved and will be used in the restoration.

Ship Moot – 17 February

What could be better than a combination of friends and ships?

My friend and I arrived at the SFMNHP visitor center via a shuttle from the airport. We were going to take public transport, but the shuttle turned out to be a good idea.

We were a bit early, so we wandered off down the street toward Fishermans Wharf.

The famous sign:

Fishermans Wharf sign

Friendly Western gull (Larus occidentalis):

Western gull

We met up with a friend who drove into town to meet us and Brush. While waiting for Brush, we decided to have a look at the USS Pampanito at Pier 45. Submarines aren’t really my thing, but it was interesting as a new experience.

We were just about done looking at Pampanito, when I got a call from Brush. It was about time for lunch, so we all decided to have something to eat before going to see the ships at Hyde Street Pier.

Hyde St Pier sign

I was eager to go aboard Balclutha. I had seen her 10 years ago during a previous visit to San Francisco, but had not gone aboard her or any of the other ships. Along with FOC, she is one of the five Clyde-built sailing ships left in the world (the other three being Glenlee, Moshulu and Pommern). She is similar in size to FOC, but with three masts and a steel hull. Like FOC and Star of India, Balclutha also sailed under the Hawaiian flag at one point in her career.


Having Brush there to show us around the ship was awesome. The tour started at the fo’c’sle and moved on from there.

View aft from the fo’c’sle head:

Balclutha view aft

We were standing on the poop deck, when a peregrine falcon (Falco peregrines) appeared. The falcon flew around, hovered over the weather deck, and eventually landed on the rigging.

peregrine falcon

A young boy asked where the ship’s guns were. Brush told him that Balclutha was a merchant vessel and didn’t carry guns. I was amused by the boy’s reply. He pointed out that the ship should have guns to protect the cargo.

While we were examining the chart house, one of the other visitors popped in and let Brush know that there was a dead pigeon on the weather deck.

decapitated pigeon

Yeah, it was gross. Our friend, the falcon, had decapitated it.

A small crowd gathered around the pigeon before Brush picked it up and put it in a bag:

Brush with dead pigeon

It was interesting to note the similarities and differences between FOC, Star of India, and Balclutha.

Salon detail:

Balclutha salon panel detail

Stern loading ports:

Balclutha loading ports

Frames with rust stains:

Balclutha rust stains

Side port:

Balclutha side port

Manufacturer’s mark on beam:

Balclutha mark

COATS = Coats Iron Works in Coatbridge, Scotland?

Alaska Packers’ Association (APA) house flag on porthole cover:

Alaska Packers house flag

The Star of India also had APA porthole covers, but the ones I saw were covered over with white paint:

Alaska Packers house flag SOI

Perhaps the most interesting part of the tour was getting to see the hold. On Balclutha, it’s a working space. It’s something we don’t have on FOC due to her tanker configuration—the only readily accessible area, being the pump room.

Balclutha working hold

Balclutha hold

Of special interest was the ballast system:

Balclutha ballast

FOC has fresh water ballast (in her tanks). This is a problem, which we have to solve. Unfortunately, we can’t put in large blocks like those on Balclutha because we are limited by what can fit down the hatches to the tanks.

Balclutha’s rudder:

Balclutha rudder

I could have lingered all day on board Balclutha, but it was getting late and we had to leave.

Simple Things

It was another long, tough week of stress and reduced sleep. (I’m not complaining…glad to have the work in tough times!) So, I was looking forward to spending time on the Falls.

Yesterday morning, the buses were especially efficient, so I was in town well before 8:00 a.m. I wanted to have a look at Clipper Antje, so I took a different, slightly longer route to the harbor.

clipper antje

While I was taking photos of Clipper Antje, it started to rain. It was just the typical light morning shower (liquid sunshine), but it produced a very nice rainbow that arched over the harbor. It’s amazing how such a simple thing can lift your spirits.

The rainbow was fainter, but still visible when I arrived at the Falls. The light rain continued to fall as I climbed aboard. It was oddly refreshing. I put my gear down in my cabin and went up to stand on the poop deck. I noticed a kolea on the roof of HMC and a pair of fairy terns soaring above. All was right with the world for that moment in time.

faint rainbow

Back to the reality of FOC…I did my usual walk about the ship and made some mental notes. Regarding the elastomeric coating on the poop deck, I spoke too soon. It looks like a few more coats will be needed.

I decided to work in the fo’c’sle. I swept the port side (starboard can wait until next week), re-coiled some lines, and applied elastomeric coating where it was needed.

The focus of work shifted with the arrival of a few more volunteers. I went to work on replacing the three-strand line I mentioned in a previous post.

new line

All in all, a very good day.


I went down to the ship again this afternoon and did a small bit of easy cosmetic work in the fo’c’sle. It’s not important in the grand scheme of projects, but it makes me feel better and makes the ship look a bit neater.

various stuff in fo'c'sle

While I was working, I thought about the men who occupied the fo’c’sle in the past. I hoped they would have approved, even grudgingly, of what I was doing.

I also thought about a recent online chat I had with the ship’s manager of the Glenlee (another one of the last remaining Clyde-built sailing ships). At one point he asked me if I loved FOC. It may seem like a strange question to ask, but it’s an important one. There are a lot of people who care about FOC, but how many people actually love her? There IS a difference.

Different view of the Napier windless in the fo’c’sle:

napier windlass

I finished what I was doing and packed up to leave. I told FOC to be a good girl and wandered over to Aloha Tower Marketplace to indulge my ship spotting habit.

Matson’s Maunawili:

maunawili and gantry cranes

While there, I got photos of one of the elusive Horizon Lines ships (they usually arrive and depart late at night).

Horizon Enterprise with hard-working HT&B tugs:

horizon enterprise

Another good day.