Falls of Clyde
Needs Helpers to Spiff It Up

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (03/22/97)
By Ray Pendleton

Like the Marines, the Hawaii Maritime Center is looking for a few good men and women.

The center's archivist, Stan Melman, contacted me last week with a request for kokua with its biggest attraction. And, to entice us to help, he provided some background on the project.

Nearly one hundred years ago, one of Honolulu's early newspapers, the Hawaii Herald, noted that "... the first four-masted iron ship with yards on each mast that ever came into the harbor flying the Hawaiian flag..." had arrived in Honolulu.

That ship was the Falls of Clyde and the date of her first arrival in Hawai`i was January 20, 1899.

It may have been a first for Honolulu Harbor, but it was far from the first port of call for the Falls of Clyde. After being built in Glasgow, Scotland, she began her shipping career with the British Falls Line in 1879 and for decades, carried cargo around the world.

The harbors of Shanghai, Auckland, Melbourne, Bombay, Bangkok, Cape Town, London, Liverpool, Hamburg, Rio de Janeiro, New York and San Francisco were all visited by the ship in the 70 voyages of her first 20 years of service.

Records show the Falls of Clyde carried a broad spectrum of goods in those years, ranging from coal, salt, cement and phosphate, to teak, jute, rice and wool.

In November, 1898, William Matson, in the process of building his shipping fleet, spotted the Falls of Clyde in San Francisco.

The ship was purchased for $55,000 and was soon in service carrying sugar and passengers between Hilo and San Francisco. (One way fares were $40.) From 1899 to 1907, the Falls of Clyde made over 60 of these voyages, with an average trip lasting 17 days.

In 1907, as petroleum products became more important to the Islands, the ship was converted to a sailing oil tanker and the following year her ownership was assumed by the Associated Oil Company.

Carrying over 700,000 gallons of oil in her 10 tanks, the Falls of Clyde sailed from Gaviota, a small town near Santa Barbara, California to various ports in Hawai`i and on the return trip, she would carry molasses.

The Falls of Clyde left Hawaii, seemly forever, in 1921 when she was sold to the General Petroleum Company. Eventually, her rig was removed and she was used as an oil barge and floating oil depot in Alaska until a private investor bought her 1958 and she was towed to Seattle.

With the emanate threat of the ship being sunk as a breakwater in Vancouver in 1963, many generous people in Hawai`i and elsewhere contributed over $25,000 in a four week period to save the Falls of Clyde and return her to Honolulu.

Since her return to Hawai`i, her restoration has been undertaken to preserve aspects of her many incarnations. Her rig is the original four masts with crossed yards, her accommodations hark back to the Matson Line era and below deck she retains her oil tanker bulkheads and pumping system.

The Falls of Clyde joined the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and she became a National Historic Landmark in 1989.

The ship is also one of the finest and best preserved of the world's museum ships, but now nearing her centennial celebration of her arrival in Honolulu, she needs some kokua. That help could be from people with skills in carpentry, iron or steel work, sail making, rigging, electrical, or as shipwrights.

Other individuals or companies might offer sponsorships for materials and various projects. Either way, the goal is to have the Falls of Clyde "shipshape and Bristol fashion" by January 20, 1999.

Call 523-6151 if you can help.

Hawai`i Marine Reporter