In late May of 2021 there was a low tide of minus 3.3 feet. It was a pretty day so I walked to my local beach with a mission in mind.
History of the area mentions how a clipper ship was scraped south of Brace Point and the Fauntleroy Ferry Dock. With a little research I zeroed in on where her last stand was 100 years ago.
What I found was what you see in the above photo. This was all that remained of the “Glory of the Seas”. To see how glorious she was here is a painting of her from Wiki.
This is a story of how history reminds us of our mortality. Time to us mortals seems to stand still and never changing. However, when you look at the past you can see that what was current and cutting edge eventually become discarded and old.
How did this beautiful square rigged clipper ship become a few pieces of debris sticking out of seagrass at low tide? Come with me on a journey to know that ship with an audacious name “Glory of the Seas”.
Much of what I am going to share includes information and photos that came from two books written by Michael Jay Mjelde. One was devoted to just the “Glory” and the other to a master/captain who sailed her to much fame. I also found reference to her in a little book called Fauntleroy Legacy by Roy Morse and E Richard Brown.
In Boston at high tide on October 21, 1869 the Glory of the Seas was launched at the shipyard of Donald McKay. She was the last clipper ship he built during his career from 1845 to 1869.
McKay hoped that the Glory would change his bad fortune, pay his creditors, make a profit and re-establish his reputation. She was one of the biggest mid size clippers of the time built to haul freight around Cape Horn from San Francisco. Her statistics were a 188 foot main mast, 2,103 tonnage, 240.2 length, 44.1 breadth and 28.3 depth.
She started out unlucky. McKay could not sell her due to the plodding records of two of his prior ships, Helen Morris and Sovereign of the Seas. He was on the verge of bankruptcy and had only paid the shipyards wages.
The only way to sell her was to take out another loan, sail her around the Horn and prove that she was a star. He left New York harbor with her first cargo headed to San Francisco on February 13, 1870 praying she turned his fortunes around.
She arrived in a 120 days which beat all the other ships that sailed around Cape Horn during that period. But it was too late for McKay. While she was at sea he was forced into bankruptcy and the ship was conveyed to his creditor.
After all the legal wrangling was finished she was sold to a syndicate in 1871. They hired J Henry Sears Company to manage her. Two great captains of note sailed her for years. In mid 1883 her long time master Daniel McLaughlin retired. She was only 13 years old and had just been refitted. Things were bleak for her since the grain trade had bottomed out and she was among many ships laid up in the San Francisco harbor. The boom of the clipper ship had ended.
However, the grain trade did come back and was even a bit more profitable. The Glory was saved and got a cargo. She sailed on February 11, 1885 for Liverpool. There she was refitted to maintain her insurance. She took a load of coal and headed home to the Bay Area. That was to be her last Cape Horn round trip.
Her next chapter was the coal trade from Nanaimo and Departure Bay British Columbia. From 1886 to 1902 she worked the west coast surviving economic ups and downs. By 1901 most square rigged ships were gone but the Glory continued to sail. The only reason was Captain’s daughter had married the superintendent of the Dunsmuir Coal Company. That connection kept her alive years longer than her peers.
By 1904 she was done and beached at a ship graveyard on Oakland Creek. Coal usage was fading and she had been discarded. Ironically this clipper had survived by hauling the fuel that replaced the clipper. Now she was double done; no one wanted coal nor sailing ships. In 1906 she was about to be sold and made into a tow barge. This was the common final insult for once sleek clippers.
One of her past captains still loved her and in the hope of saving her bought out all the other owners except the Sears Company. He had found an interested shipping company to buy her but it was looking unlikely. As a twist of fate the April 18, 1906 earthquake hit San Francisco. Rebuilding needed lumber, the Glory had a purpose again. She was saved from tow barge hell. The company bought her and found she was worth refitting. A new life moving lumber and coal between San Francisco, Alaska, Australia and Chile began.
That lasted until 1909 when a worldwide depression hit. With no where to go she was anchored in Eagle Harbor. There she joined many other obsolete ships.
A syndicate bought her in 1910 with a dream. They had plans to go to the South Sea island of Malekula. This island was famous for cannibals and the crew was to be large and armed. She was repaired again and did a coal run for some quick cash. Then the syndicate went under and she never went to the South Seas. Good luck had saved her only to be dashed again.
The call to save this historic clipper was growing on the east coast but no one would insure her to round The Horn one last time. To make matters worse in February 1911 the crew sued for wages unpaid.
She was auctioned off on April 25, 1911. She would not be a tow barge but rather a new use was devised. She would become a floating cannery and reefer ship in Alaska. The idea was they could tow her where the fishing happened. Her new owners was Glacier Fish Company and in 1913 her conversion to an ammonia reefer barge began in Seattle. Her elegant masts were cut and her hull was made an air tight box to freeze fish.
She did well as a floating reefer ship but their blocking all the air circulation started dry rot to set in. In 1917 she was requisitioned by the US for World War I. Only took them a week or two to realize she was so badly rotted they did not want her. Just more humiliation for this once fine ship.
The next 4 years with the world at war and in depression she sat and continued to rot away at a dock in Tacoma. 1921 came and she was sold for a dollar to the Bank of California to help clear her 1915 mortgage. They had no profitable use for her and decided to dismantle the reefer plant and burn her hull for scrap value.
James Farrell, President of US Steel Corporation asked for her figurehead. The bank had her chopped off the ship. She was sent to New York, was restored and today is displayed at the private India Club.
She was stripped of her worth at the dock. The caretakers decided to take what mementos they could such as the mess bell, the name boards and locker doors. She then almost sank at the dock in Tacoma. The dock actually stopped her from going under.
This was when I thought of the indignity the old Ferry Kalakala also endured and ended up a derelict on a Tacoma dock.
One last gasp to save her was started by C Vanderbilt IV. However, the bank tired of waiting and sold her to the scrapers. Moorage costs were growing and in mid December 1922 she was towed to a pebble beach just south of Brace Point near a little community called Endolyne. She was run up on the beach with some other old scows at high tide.
On Sunday, May 13, 1923 she was lite on fire and burned for her metal. No one had come to save her. This is when I cry because she had become so alive to me. Gone in billows of smoke close to my home. This is where almost 100 years later I would find her last remains.
I will leave you to ponder time, change and how wonderful the Glory of the Sea was.