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.)


Falls of Halladale

Falls of Halladale.—On July 21st, Messrs. Russell & Co. launched from their Greenock shipbuilding yard a four-masted sailing ship, named the Falls of Halladale, a vessel of 2,000 tons net register, and measuring 280 ft. by 42 ft. by 24 ft. She has been built to the order of Messrs. Wright & Breakenridge. This is the seventh vessel built by Messrs. Russell & Co. for the ‘Falls’ Line of sailing ships.”

From Vol. VIII of The Marine Engineer (1 September 1886)

Falls of Garry

Falls of Garry.—On June 4th Messrs. Russell & Co. launched from their Greenock yard a four-masted iron sailing ship of 2,000 tons nett [sic] register for Messrs. Wright and Breakenridge, shipowners, Glasgow. Her dimensions are:—Length, 280 ft.; breadth, 42 ft.; and depth, 24 ft. On leaving the ways she was named the Falls of Garry. She has been built to Lloyd’s highest class, and is the sixth vessel which the Messrs. Russell have within the last few years built for the same owners.”

From Vol. VIII of The Marine Engineer (1 July 1886)

Drumblair (1883), Drumburton (1883), Drumeltan (1883); Passenger/cargo vessel

Builder’s hull model of four-masted Russell and Co. ships (Drum Line) similar in size to FOC:

Drumblair (1883), Drumburton (1883), Drumeltan (1883); Passenger/cargo vessel.

Seems Drumeltan was a tanker as well, according to this site:

Auke Visser’s Esso UK Tanker’s site

Falls of Earn

Falls of Earn.—On May 30th Messrs. Russell & Co., shipbuilders, Greenock, launched from their yard at Cartsdyke a four-masted iron sailing vessel of about 2,300 tons register for Messrs. Wright & Breakenridge, shipowners, Glasgow. Her dimensions are:—Length, 300 ft.; breadth, 42 ft.; and depth, 24 1/2 ft. On leaving the ways she was named the Falls of Earn. The new vessel has been built under special survey to class 100 A1 at Lloyd’s, will have four masts (square-rigged and double top gallant yards), and will be furnished with all modern improvements calculated best to facilitate the discharge or loading of cargoes. She is an exact duplicate of the Brownrigg, recently launched by the same firm of shipbuilders for Captain Houston, Liverpool. The Falls of Earn will be fitted out for sea at Port Glasgow.”

From Vol. V of The Marine Engineer (1 July 1884)

Falls of Foyers

Falls of Foyers.—On April 12th Messrs. Russell & Co. launched from their Greenock yard a four-masted iron sailing ship, which they had built to the order of Messrs. Wright & Brackenridge [sic], Glasgow. Her dimensions are:—Length 268 ft.; breadth, 41 ft.; depth of hold, 23.9 ft; and 1,900 tons register. Her dead-weight carrying capacity is about 3,500 tons. As she left the ways she was named the Falls of Foyers. She is similar in every respect to the Falls of Afton and Falls of Dee, built by the same firm, and has been classed 100 A 1 at Lloyd’s.”

From Vol. V of The Marine Engineer (1 May 1883)

Falls of Dee

Falls of Dee.—On April 20th, Messrs. Russell & Co., shipbuilders, Greenock, launched from their shipbuilding-yard a four-masted iron sailing ship of the following dimensions:—Length, 275 ft.; breadth, 41 ft.; depth, 23 ft. 9 in.; and of 1,900 tons registered. She is fitted up with all the latest improvements for facilitating the loading and discharging of cargo, and nothing has been neglected by her builders to make her complete in every respect for the East India trade. The vessel, which is owned by Messrs. Wright & Breakenridge, Glasgow, was, on leaving the ways, named the Falls of Dee, and is a sister ship to the Falls of Afton, recently launched and fitted out for sea by the same firm.”

From Vol. III of The Marine Engineer (1 May 1882)