News from 1890 Maiden voyage of California

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Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The San Francisco Call, 29

The San Francisco Call, 29 October 1890
Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,

Description of a Fine Vessel Named After This State

No finer sailing ship ever entered the port than the British four-masted
steel ship California, Captain Thomas Dickinson, which arrived on the 15th
inst. from Liverpool, and is now discharging a cargo of general merchandise
at Fremont-street Wharf.

With the exception of the Palgrave, she is the largest sailing vessel that
has ever entered this harbor. She brought here over 5000 long tons of cargo.
Her dimensions are: Length over all 345 feet, on keel 330, beam 45, depth of
hold 26.6; net tonnage 3099. These mammoth proportions can only be properly
seen when one stands on her deck.

Although so large the California has not by any means an unwieldy
appearance; both alow and aloft she looks as trim as a yacht, and her
paintwork and everything about her is scrupulously clean. Her main and
mizzen masts are 160 feet in height from the deck to the truck and her main
yard is eighty-eight feet long. The lower and topmasts and all the yards,
excepting the topgallant and royal, are of steel. The jiggermast is all one
piece. When all sail is set the vessel spreads nearly 16,000 yards of


This new vessel, which is named after this State, has on board all the
latest improvements known to modern marine architecture and ship-building.
She has three patent winch s [sic] with triple purchase of cogs by which the
topsails can be easily hoisted by four men and lowered by one. She has three
double-action capstans and a windlass forward that is a marvel of ingenuity.
She is fitted with a large donkey engine, boiler and a condenser capable of
condensing 1000 gallons of water a day.

It will be noticed by seafaring men that the ship has no catheads, there
being no need for them owing to a device of Captain Dickinson, which
consists of a davit in the bow, from which a tackle hooks on to the anchor
shank amidships its length and hoists it up to the rail or inboard if
needed. Then the quarters for the officers and crew are exceedingly roomy
and well fitted. The sailors', petty officers' and apprentices' quarters are
superior to those that many officers had twenty years ago, being furnished
with tables seats and lockers, washstands, metal water tanks, etc. A
bath-room is also provided for the men.

The captain's private suite of rooms on the starboard side is spacious and
handsomely fitted and carpeted. The main saloon is 15x16 feet in size and
fitted with Spanish mahogany, satinwood, teak, black walnut and bird's-eye
maple, and upholstered in red plush. The officers' rooms and their bath-room
are on the port side. On the poop the captain has a fine chart-house and
lounging-room. From the poop a telephone wire leads to the forecastle head
so that the officer on watch can converse with the man on the lookout. The
California belongs to the famous White Star line, and in lieu of a
figure-head has the coat-of-arms of this stale displayed. She carries a crew
of forty all told, including four mates and two carpenters. This is Captain
Dickinson's first voyage to the State his gallant vessel is named after.

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