Urban Crusing

Time travel with Balclutha

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4ship3 San Francisco has my heart for very many reasons. Rich and interesting culture and history is one of them. We walked ourselves to Fisherman's Wharf famous Maritime museum, and to be honest, adventure lovers as we are, we had difficult time when the 5pm bell rang and it was time for the park to close and for us to leave. For a few hours that we toured Balclutha times seemed to transport us to late 1800s.

The nation's maritime history is reflected in the museum collections of San Francisco Maritime. The collections represent the endeavors of people making their living from the sea, from the immigrant seaman to the head of a maritime corporation, from the naval architect to the sailmaker. Letters, documents, photographs, books, charts, maps, plans, parts of large vessels, small craft, fine art, tools, clothing, and personal effects all help to tell the story of America's maritime heritage, and it is simply fascinating.

Balclutha - the one ship we toured ( although originally intended to visit a Hercules)  - sailed for the first time on January 15, 1887, with a twenty-six-man crew (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.  It has changed hands quite a few times before it was purchased in 1954 by the San Francisco Maritime Museum 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.

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.

The long months at sea made for a hard and lonely existence. Crewmen, hired by the voyage and not paid until the voyage ended, were often "encouraged" to jump ship (without pay, of course). Only the captain, who commonly stayed with a ship for many voyages, had any measure of job security.

And it was also only the captain, whose wife sometimes accompanied him, had any opportunity for family life. On Balclutha's last voyage under the British flag, Captain Durkee’s wife, Alice, gave birth to a daughter. They named the little girl Inda Frances because she was born on the Indian Ocean while the ship was bound for San Francisco.

The captain's quarter charms visitors with its home-y and warm feeling, bearing unmistakeable signs of a woman's touch. Small and most definitely extremely small by modern standards, it bears signs of a family residing in the rooms over a hundred years ago. A few toiletry items, a little high chair in the kitchenette and a few toys connect past and present.

The crew's living arrangements are much more modest then those ones of the captain. A bed ( and a narrow one , the bunk-bed style) , a hook for clothing and a small cupboard is all the men got. The life on the ship then was not easy.

A peek into time, excerpted from a letter by Captain Norman Pearce, chronicling his experience as an able-bodied seaman on Balclutha's maiden voyage:

"A friend of my father was a ship broker at Cardiff, so being there at the time, I asked him what chance I had of getting such a trip. His answer was, ‘We are brokers for a new ship loading coal at Penarth for San Francisco, and she will sail this week. She is a ship called Balclutha and we can get you a berth …’"

"… we were towed away from the dock soon after we joined her … we headed down the Bristol Channel and Irish Sea under full sail. You may guess how I felt up aloft on a topsail furling sail. I don’t know that I had ever been on a yardarm before, but I had to … ."

$5 will take you far on the Hyde Street Pier. Good for an entire week to come back and explore, it is definitely worth a trip.


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^^ the crew quarters didn't have much to offer, but were no less fascinating to explore. A narrow bunk and a hook, and , maybe, a cupboard is all the men got. The life on the ship was not for the weak ones, without a doubt ^^

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^^" the hated wheel" as a tour guide mentioned. this was the construction that helped to drain the water from the ship. Man-power operated, it was hated by many, if not all ^^

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^^ the captain's quarters connected through the common room to the main floor and through the bedrooms to the deck, this area of residence differs significantly. The style and small touches bear unmistakeable signs of woman's hand - a captain's wife - who often joined her husband ^^

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Seen in the post : stroller - Xplory in Urban Blue by Stokke with riding board, umbrella and sheepskin ( benefits of sheepskin for babies ) . Baby Carrier - MyCarrier Cool by Stokke ( why we love it ) . Bag - Petunia Pickle Bottom holdall from cake collection ( My absolute go-to for everything. I use it as my bag now. If you are doubting - I highly recommend it: it's worth every penny and then some ).  Baby hat and booties - Zutano. Girls' shoes - well known Salt Water sandals. Toys - via local boutique . Toy clips - Hape toys via Sprout San Francisco . Kids bags - a find at a local market. Monkey backpack - via Aldea Baby.