A Visit to the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

I think I mentioned a while back that I’m teaching two classes for UC Berkeley Extension this session, and that one is a class I’ve taught before but with a revamped curriculum this time. The class is Substantive Editing, and it basically covers big-picture editing—not the minutiae of copyediting, but looking at the big picture of a project (book, report, etc.) for issues of structure, organization, completeness, and much more. Part of the revamped curriculum is that the students now work on one big project for most of the class—a 90-page piece on the history of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

I’ll be honest: When I read the new curriculum, I cringed. I was going to have to spend 10 weeks teaching about a piece that sounded dreadfully boring? Horrors! Ever helpful, Chris said, “Oh, I think that sounds interesting!” I believe I said something along the lines of, “Well, you’re a nerd….”

Okay, I stand corrected. Not about him being a nerd—he is a nerd, but that’s one of the things I love about him. 🙂 About the piece; it really is interesting. When I read it, I was surprised to find it full of fascinating stories about the big personalities behind this enormous undertaking. There’s society drama, funding woes, disagreements between key players…everything you need for a good story. So interesting is this piece that some students have actually struck out on their own to learn more about the people behind the park! And so, given that we live a mere 30 miles from it, I decided I ought to take a trip there. Chris, being a nerd, was excited to go with me. And the boys are always game for a day trip. And so we set out on Sunday—one of those gloriously beautiful days when you understand why people pay ridiculous amounts of money to live in San Francisco.

We have arrived!
We have arrived!

When the park was created, the centerpiece was the Balclutha, a square-rigged cargo ship built in Scotland in the late 1800s. The ship sailed from Europe to California and back many times (around Cape Horn) and then eventually started carrying cargo up and down the West Coast. The piece that my students are working on focuses heavily on the acquisition and renovation of the Balclutha—including all the drama that went along with it. So I was pretty excited to see the Balclutha, even though nowadays it seems to be centerpiece of the park, not necessarily the centerpiece.

Thar she blows!
Thar she blows!
Hello, Balclutha!
Hello, Balclutha!

I have to say, I’ve rarely seen Theo so interested in something! I thought he’d be mildly interested, but he loved it. In fact, that might be putting it mildly. He was absolutely fascinated by everything about the pier and the old ships. His attention span was a lot longer than it usually is, and we finally had to drag him off the pier after about two hours, when we were all getting hungry for lunch! Here are some fun shots from the Balclutha

The front of the Balclutha.
The front of the Balclutha.
The riggings were fascinating!
The riggings were fascinating!
Lovely view of Aquatic Park.
Lovely view of Aquatic Park.
I don't even know how they designed all of this. It's pretty amazing!
I don’t even know how they designed all of this. It’s pretty amazing!
Lovely view of Coit Tower today!
Lovely view of Coit Tower today!
The back of the ship. I should probably know the fancy maritime word for that, shouldn't I?
The back of the ship. I should probably know the fancy maritime word for that, shouldn’t I?
Theo had to ring the bell.
Theo had to ring the bell.
Theo was pretty fascinated by the crew's bunks, which he said did NOT look very comfortable.
Theo was pretty fascinated by the crew’s bunks, which he said did NOT look very comfortable.
The galley.
The galley.
Captain Theo steering the ship!
Captain Theo steering the ship!
Nice bank of fog hiding most of the Golden Gate Bridge!
Nice bank of fog hiding most of the Golden Gate Bridge!
The toilet in the captain's quarters. :-)
The toilet in the captain’s quarters. :-)
Fancy sitting room for the captain.
Fancy sitting room for the captain.
Cargo deck. It was HUGE--this doesn't even show a fraction of it!
Cargo deck. It was HUGE–this doesn’t even show a fraction of it!
Dining area. They had a lot of interesting information posted in here--ship routes and such.
Dining area. They had a lot of interesting information posted in here–ship routes and such.

_MG_1483

Nice view of Alcatraz from the pier!
Nice view of Alcatraz from the pier!

Sam was not as enthralled. There were only so many safe places to put him down to roam, so we got a lot of this face:

He was mad because he couldn't get down on the top deck, as it wasn't safe for him. Plus, every now and then he likes to dispel the myth that people with Down syndrome are always happy. ;-)
He was mad because he couldn’t get down on the top deck, as it wasn’t safe for him. Plus, every now and then he likes to dispel the myth that people with Down syndrome are always happy. ;-)

But then sometimes there were safe places to roam. 🙂

I wish I could capture his speed in this image. He was racing around the deck. :-)
I wish I could capture his speed in this image. He was racing around the deck. :-)
The livestock pen! I was tempted to put Sam in it to contain him while we looked at the boat. ;-)
The livestock pen! I was tempted to put Sam in it to contain him while we looked at the boat. ;-)

The park also has a neat old ferry boat from the late 1800s, the Eureka:

You can see the Eureka through the entrance to the pier.
You can see the Eureka through the entrance to the pier.
Look at the size of the anchor compared to Theo. :-)
Look at the size of the anchor compared to Theo. :-)
The Eureka ferry!
The Eureka ferry!
Theo loved this model where you could pull the rigging to adjust the sails.
Theo loved this model where you could pull the rigging to adjust the sails.
Theo loved this model of the ferry boat's engine, too.
Theo loved this model of the ferry boat’s engine, too.
Cool old cars on the ferry boat.
Cool old cars on the ferry boat.

And some other random fun stuff:

A playful sea lion!
A playful sea lion!
Houseboat used around the early 1900s. It was surprisingly comfy inside, and it even had indoor plumbing!
Houseboat used around the early 1900s. It was surprisingly comfy inside, and it even had indoor plumbing!
Steam power used to lift and move cargo!
Steam power used to lift and move cargo!

Theo is eager to go back to the park, and we’ll definitely be doing so. It only cost us $10 for all four of us to get in, and it was far less crowded than most San Francisco attractions. There were definitely people there checking everything out, but you could wander around at your leisure and not get jostled by antsy tourists. And the views couldn’t be beat! Plus, there was far more than we could see in two hours.

On the way home, I had Chris drive by the Spreckels mansion, which is near the park. “Big Alma” Spreckels was a major character in the park’s saga, and she’s by far the most interesting part of the piece my students are working on, in my opinion. She was a sort of larger-than-life woman who married into money (from sugar!) and longed to be part of high society but was rather snubbed. As I read about her, I kept thinking of my grandma (my mom’s mother), who was also a very strong personality and liked the finer things in life but was never quite up there where she might’ve liked to be. Surprisingly, when I saw a picture of “Big Alma,” she actually bears somewhat of a resemblance to my grandma! Both had the same dark complexion, and being of a similar era (Big Alma was a little before my grandma, but not too much earlier), they had similar hairstyles.

Anyway, the Spreckels mansion is now owned by romance novelist Danielle Steel, and evidently she has caused a bit of a flap by allowing the hedges around it to grow to 30 feet tall. But you can still get a pretty good view of the mansion as you drive by. It’s pretty awe-inspiring.

The Spreckels mansion, now owned by romance novelist Danielle Steel.
The Spreckels mansion, now owned by romance novelist Danielle Steel.
It's a pretty impressive house....
It’s a pretty impressive house….

These 30-foot hedges apparently haven't gone over well with people in San Francisco. :-)
These 30-foot hedges apparently haven’t gone over well with people in San Francisco. :-)

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