It has been six months since selling Beth and relocating to California. I’m still recovering from the culture shock but I’m now comfortably driving on the wrong side of the road and happily ignoring red lights on right hand turns. I still have some trouble with the funny accents but one work colleague helpfully informed me that you could enrol in accent reduction classes. I offered to pay the tuition for him but he seemed to take my kind offer the wrong way and hasn’t spoke to me since.
Apart from a few minor complaints I have settled into my six day working week and figured the most appropriate purchase with my first pay check was plans for the Caledonian Yawl from the Wooden Boat Shop. I can’t wait to move back to Australia, get a workshop again and start building!
The East Bay Area and Monterey Bay The most common traditional boat along the California coast is the Monterey clipper whose hull shape came with Italian immigrants in the 1800s. Clipper construction boomed with the sardine cannery industry in the 1930’s.
My first sighting of a Monterey clipper was on the Santa Cruz boardwalk as a static display boat. They are mostly about 28 foot, making them similar in length to a Couta boat but the double ended design makes them appear very small for a commercial fishing boat.
I have seen some very well restored Monterey Clippers along Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco and lots of “fixer uppers” in Santa Cruz and Monterey.
The San Francisco Maritime Museum - The Hyde St Pier came as a bit of a surprise to me. I don’t think I had ever heard of the San Francisco Maritime Museum but I drove into the city on a recent rainy Sunday morning and saw a pair of very large sailing ships at the pier. The historic park includes a visitors centre, an art deco sea bathing pavilion and a boat collection on the Hyde Street pier. On the day I visited there were four large ships open to the public.
The Balclutha, the C.A. Thayer, the steam tug Hercules and the pre-war car ferry the Eureka which were all worth a visit as was the small boat building workshop mid way through planking a Whitehall type boat. The small boat collection, however, was cordoned off due to a structural issue with the dock. The small boat collection includes a Monterey Clipper and its predecessor, a sailing double ended “Felucca” that the Sicilian migrants built and used for fishing. The Felucca is a lateen rigged 22 foot double ender once common around the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas and, apparently, similar in shape to the newer Monterey Clippers. Hopefully they can get their dock fixed and I can get a closer look before I come home.
Lake Tahoe Area - Over the summer Karen and I had a long weekend at Lake Tahoe where we happened to drive past the Sierra Boat Company in Carnelian Bay. I caught a glimpse of varnished mahogany out of the corner of my eye, slammed on the brakes and turned into the boat yard. The last man on site was closing up and very kindly offered to show us around the workshop. The Sierra Boat Company was established in 1952 and specialises in service and repair of classic’s such as Chris Craft, Century, Gar Wood, Hacker and Riva. We were in town a couple of weeks before the Tahoe Wooden Boat Show, one of many concours type-events held in the area where wealthy wooden boat owners to show off their classic craft. When we visited the Sierra workshops were just finishing up a lot of jobs in time for the show.
The Port of Stockton - The biggest wooden boat surprise came when visiting the Haggin Museum in Stockton. I was visiting to see the first Caterpillar tractor made by Holt Manufacturing Company and accidently found a beautiful teak and mahogany cruising boat made by Stephens Brothers Boat Builders. Stockton is 80 miles inland from San Francisco but the Port of Stockton does 4 million tonnes of trade a year and has a long history of recreational boating on the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. Stephens Bros operated out of Stockton from 1902 to 1987 and, in their heyday between the wars, made small cruising boats with internal combustion engines.
Between lakes used for recreational activities, busy commercial ports and the historically significant sardine fishing and canning industries, Northern California has a wide range of wooden boats to offer the enthusiast. There even boat building schools in current operation keeping the tradition alive.
[Paul Rubera, Our Correspondent in the US of A]