A three-masted ship built in 1886, the Balclutha sailed the world transporting cargo for nearly 50 years.
Now a museum moored in the San Francisco Bay, this rugged vessel takes visitors back to seafaring days.
Built in Glasgow, Scotland, the Balclutha made its maiden voyage to San Francisco in 1887. It took 140 days and a crew of 26 men to transport the cargo of 1,650 tons of coal.
Coal, wine, whiskey and other European exports; wool from Australia and New Zealand; rice from Burma were all delivered to San Francisco in this ship.
The return trip to Europe included grain from San Francisco and timber from the Pacific Northwest. Read more about the Balclutha here.
The ship passed through Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America 17 times in 13 years.
A present-day walk on the long, wooden deck of this 301 foot (92m) ship is a humbling experience.
With 25 sails and a complex system of ropes and rigging, the ship traveled thousands of miles on treacherous seas completely propelled by wind.
The tallest mast is 145 feet (44m) high. Sailors climbed up there into the tangle of ropes to furl the sails, with gale-force winds and turbulent waters always threatening.
It was a tough life for sailors, working day and night on rough seas, sleeping on bunks or hammocks below deck in close quarters and filth, always away from family.
In 1954 San Francisco’s Maritime Museum bought the ship, retired and restored it, and in 1978 it was transferred to the National Park Service.
Still highly celebrated, the old ship today is regularly maintained and is in excellent shape.
In addition to daily public tours, the ship hosts overnight field trips for regional grade school students.
Also, on the first Saturday night of every month San Franciscans board the Balclutha joining in free sing-alongs of old sea chanteys.
A hearty ship that continues to transport imaginations and share stories of maritime life, the Balclutha is a fun San Francisco adventure.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander unless otherwise noted