THREE NEW MASTS INSTALLED IN LANDMARK 1895 SCHOONER C.A. THAYER
C.A. THAYER mizzen mast being installed. NPS photo
San Francisco, CA – Yesterday, a San Francisco-minted, 1895 gold piece, donated by the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association, was laid on the mainmast step of the 1895 C.A. Thayer. Moments later, a mobile crane at Alameda’s Bay Ship and Yacht yard deftly fitted the 109-foot, 8.4-ton “stick” through a two-and-a-half foot hole carved in her planked deck. With the installation of her masts, the National Historic Landmark vessel’s preservation is nearly complete.
C.A. Thayer will return to Hyde Street Pier later this month, where Park staff will completely rig the vessel. The newly-masted schooner will be honored at the Park’s 2016 Festival of the Sea, a free, all-day public event scheduled for Saturday, August 20.
“We’re excited to bring C.A. Thayer back to Hyde Street Pier during the National Park Service’s centennial year,” said Park Superintendent Hendricks. “I invite the public to visit Hyde Street Pier this spring and watch our historic rigging crew install wire and line on all three of her new masts.”
A “stepping the mast” ceremony is a hoary maritime tradition, dating to at least the days of ancient Rome. At one time thought to bring good luck, placing a coin (or other memorabilia) under a vessel’s mast is now as much a part of shipbuilding custom as a smashed-champagne-bottle launch.
C.A. Thayer’s History
Built at Fairhaven, on Humboldt Bay in Northern California, in 1895, C.A. Thayer alone represents the hundreds of vessels built for the West Coast lumber trade. Constructed by Hans Bendixsen, she was originally owned by the E.K. Wood Lumber Company of San Francisco. The vessel spent the early years of her career carrying Douglas fir lumber from the Wood Company mill at Grays Harbor, Washington, to San Francisco and Southern California, with occasional longer trips to Mexico and the Pacific Islands.
The schooner retired from the lumber business in 1912, but quickly found work supplying a shore-based salmon fishing operation in Alaska. She changed hands again in 1924, and was refitted for codfishing in the Bering Sea, operating out of Puget Sound, Washington. After a period of lay-up during the depths of the Great Depression, she was purchased by the U.S. Army, and operated as a barge in the Aleutian Campaign, in 1942. Following WWII, Thayer returned to codfishing, and had the distinction of making the last commercial voyage of a large American sailing vessel, in 1950.
C.A. Thayer spent several years on display as a roadside attraction in Washington State. After a refit in Seattle, the schooner voyaged under sail down the Pacific Coast to San Francisco where, in 1963, she berthed at Hyde Street Pier as part of the newly-opened State Maritime Historical Park. The vessel was transferred, with the rest of that Park’s holdings, to the National Park Service in 1977. She was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1984, and is now preserved by the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.
Submitted by Lynn Cullivan, San Francisco Maritime NHP, February 2, 2016