Sea Captains: San Francisco 1800s


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Captain Elisha Sears

January 26, 1855, Clipper ship Wild Ranger, Captain Sears arrived in San Francisco, 124 days from New York with passengers noted at Mr. Cobb of North carolina, Mr. Gilbert and lady from New York. Also substantial merchandise, including 4000 sacks table salt (14 lbs each), 43 cases books and stationary to Lecount & Strong, 270 bxs 116 kgs glass to Robert Mills; and other merchandise to D. L. Ross & Co. 25 bbs liquor to Chas H. Morgan, 35 oxes tobacco 51 cs segars, 250 bkts wine Jas Patrick & Co, 4 trunks boots C. P. Kemble; genuine tennessee iron. . .

Wild Ranger was forty days to the Equator, on the Atlantic, and seven days off the Horn, in fine weather. Crossed the Equator on the Pacific Jan 2d, lon 110, from hence had light NE winds; Jan 2d, on the Equator, saw the clipper ship Climax, hence for Callao. October 6th, lat 27 50 lon 41 52, saw an iron vessel, no person on board, supposed her to be an English light boat, about 50 feet long, 15 feet wide, 6 feet out of water, an iron mast midships, with a large ring around it, sharp both ends, and decked over. Clipper ship Wild Ranger was towed up to the city by the steamtug Resolute.

By October 4, 1855, Captain Elisha Sears, age 22, had married Bethia Sears of Cape Cod, age 19, four weeks earlier and set sail on the clipper Wild Ranger

She kept a journal during her years at sea, some of which is quoted in Joan Dreutt's book Hen Frigates: Passion and Peril, Nineteenth-Century Women at Sea.Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports. Like most wives of the day who went to sea, she learned to navigate, she was happy and contented to be on the clipper with her husband. They arrived in San Francisco, "a very hard looking country, on February 15, 1856.

There was some excitement in San Francisco as Elisha was detained on shore and the pilot took the clipper out into the stream without the captain on board. "Judge of my situation," wrote Bethia; she was alone on board, "with only the mate and a parcel of drunken sailors . . . she was "fightened to death," but then, still worse, the "Pilot appeared, wild and rattle-headed, and sat in the forward cabin all the evening drinking and telling stories."

Meantime, his ship's affairs attended to, Elisha was penning a letter "to dear sister Eunice. I have not see Wife for 5 long hours," he related. "I hard a few moments ago from her, she was anxious for me to come off, as she ws lonesome. We have not been away from each other so long since I left Boston.

Shipos and Captains.Pacific Mail Steamship Line.

The time ashore had been an enjoyable one. They had "been to one Ball, twice to the theater, and to one or two late dinners. She can carry her part well anywhere," he delcared. "She says she is going to sea with me as long as I go . . . What do you think of that? She is without any exception the best female sailor I ever saw, could not do better."

They sailed again on February 27th for Calcutta.

Unfortunately, his wife became ill and died after Calcutta. Elisha writes: "My poor Wifey is dead and gone."

The mates of the Wild Ranger took turns sitting with Elisa as he sat mourning. Elisha wrote "No work on board ship today. The Ship Wild Ranger and her Ship's Company are in Mourning.

(Note: At times, after a drama at sea, some wives elected to stay ashore; however, others accompanied their husbands through the world's seas for many years.)

Ships and Captains.Sea Monsters.
Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance MapsSea Monsters. 
Chet Van Duzer 
From dragons and serpents to many-armed beasts that preyed on ships and sailors alike, sea monsters have terrified mariners across all ages and cultures and have become the subject of many tall tales from the sea. Accounts of these creatures have also inspired cartographers and mapmakers, many of whom began decorating their maps with them to indicate unexplored areas or areas about which little was known. Whether swimming vigorously, gamboling amid the waves, attacking ships, or simply displaying themselves for our appreciation, the sea monsters that appear on medieval and Renaissance maps are fascinating and visually engaging. Yet despite their appeal, these monsters have never received the scholarly attention that they deserve. In Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps, Chet Van Duzer analyzes the most important examples of sea monsters on medieval and Renaissance maps produced in Europe. Van Duzer begins with the earliest mappaemundi on which these monsters appear in the tenth century and continues to the end of the sixteenth century and, along the way, sheds important light on the sources, influences, and methods of the cartographers who drew or painted them. A beautifully designed visual reference work.

The Great Ocean: Pacific Worlds from Captain Cook to the Gold RushShips, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
David Igler 
The Great Ocean.The Pacific of the early eighteenth century was a place of baffling complexity, with 25,000 islands and seemingly endless continental shorelines. But with the voyages of Captain James Cook, global attention turned to the Pacific, and European and American dreams of scientific exploration, trade, and empire grew dramatically. By the time of the California gold rush, the Pacific's many shores were fully integrated into world markets-and world consciousness. The Great Ocean draws on hundreds of documented voyages as a window into the commercial, cultural, and ecological upheavals following Cook's exploits, focusing in particular on the eastern Pacific in the decades between the 1770s and the 1840s. Beginning with the expansion of trade as seen via the travels of William Shaler, captain of the American Brig Lelia Byrd, historian David Igler uncovers a world where voyagers, traders, hunters, and native peoples met one another in episodes often marked by violence and tragedy.

The Sea Chart

The Illustrated History of Nautical Maps and Navigational ChartsThe Sea Chart.The Sea Chart.The Sea Chart.
John Blake
The sea chart was one of the key tools by which ships of trade, transport and conquest navigated their course across the oceans. John Blake looks at the history and development of the chart and the related nautical map, in both scientific and aesthetic terms, as a means of safe and accurate seaborne navigation. This work contains 150 color illustrations including the earliest charts of the Mediterranean made by thirteenth-century Italian merchant adventurers, as well as eighteenth-century charts that became strategic naval and commercial requirements and led to Cook's voyages in the Pacific, the search for the Northwest Passage, and races to the Arctic and Antarctic.


The Authority to Sail.The Authority to Sail: The History of U.S. Maritime Licenses and Seamen's PapersThe Authority to Sail.
Robert Stanley Bates, George Marsh (Editor), John F. Whiteley (Forward)
(Batek Marine Publishing, 2011; Nominated in 2012 for a Pulitzer Prize)

This book depicts important aspects of our maritime history as a result of original research done by the author, Commodore Bates, the holder of an unlimited master's license who has enjoyed a distinguished fifty-year career in both the Coast Guard and the American Merchant Marine.

The U.S. Coast Guard issues all Captain Licenses for U.S. Ports.
Note: Other countries have different regulations, i.e. the RYA (Royal Yachting Association), conducts certification for Britain and Ireland. As of 2011, they did not recognize the USCG certification; certification through their courses was required.

Master Unlimited is a licensed mariner in ultimate command of a vessel any gross tons. The captain is responsible for its safe and efficient operation, including cargo operations, navigation, crew management and ensuring that the vessel complies with local and international laws. All persons on board, including officers and crew, other shipboard staff members, passengers, guests and pilots, are under the captain's authority and are his or her ultimate responsibility. The STCW defines the Master as Person having command of the ship.

Merchant Marine License - Sample.

The Sea Chart
The Illustrated History of Nautical Maps and Navigational ChartsThe Sea Chart.
The Sea Chart.The Sea Chart.
John Blake
The sea chart was one of the key tools by which ships of trade, transport and conquest navigated their course across the oceans. John Blake looks at the history and development of the chart and the related nautical map, in both scientific and aesthetic terms, as a means of safe and accurate seaborne navigation. This handsome work contains 150 color illustrations including the earliest charts of the Mediterranean made by thirteenth-century Italian merchant adventurers, as well as eighteenth-century charts that became strategic naval and commercial requirements and led to Cook's voyages in the Pacific, the search for the Northwest Passage, and races to the Arctic and Antarctic.

Get Your Captain's License. Fifth Edition Get Your Captain's License. Fifth Edition. Charlie  Wing.
Charlie Wing
Considered the quickest, easiest, and least expensive way to prepare for the U.S. Coast Guard captain's ratings exams required for anyone who takes paying passengers on a boat, and useful for serious boaters who want to save money on insurance. 350 pages of seamanship and navigation tutorials. More than 1,500 questions and answers from the Coast Guard exams. Includes an interactive CD-ROM with all 14,000 questions and answers in the USCG database, so you can take an unlimited number of practice exams

Three Centuries of Seafaring: The Maritime Art of Paul HeeThree Centuries of Seafaring: The Maritime Art of Paul Hee.
Rick Carroll, Marcie Carroll (Author, Editors) Three Centuries of Seafaring: The Maritime Art of Paul Hee.
Great moments in seafaring history as depicted by internationally known maritime artist Paul Hee are collected in a handsome new art book, Three Centuries of Seafaring: The Maritime Art of Paul Hee.

A significant portion of book sales benefit the North Carolina Maritime Museum. The book is available in two formats: hardbound with glossy dust jacket ($49.95); and a signed, numbered slip-cased hardcover keepsake, commemorating the 300th anniversary of the 1709 founding of Beaufort, NC, ($79.95), home of Mr. Hee and of the museum.

Maritime art of Paul Hee. A self-taught artist and active octogenarian, Mr. Hee grew up by the sea on Long Island and spent World War II in the US Navy before becoming a Miami-based cruise ship executive.

He raced Ferraris and restored a historic ship, then retired to Beaufort to paint in the luminescent styles of past masters and to build classic model ships.

(Image: Bald Eagle, 1852, by Paul Hee.)

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; Maritime Library, San Francisco, California.

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