Falls of Clyde

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search
For the Scottish waterfalls and wildlife reserve, see Falls of Clyde (waterfalls).

Falls of Clyde at Honolulu Harbor
Hawaiian flag Career
Launched: 1878
Fate: museum exhibit
General Characteristics
Displacement: 1809 tons
Length: 85.3 meters (280 feet)
Beam: 12.2 meters (40 feet)
Draft: 6.4 meters (21 feet)
The Falls of Clyde (detail of the prow)
Detail of prow

Falls of Clyde is the only surviving iron-hulled, four-masted full rigged ship, and the only surviving sail-driven oil tanker, in the world. She is presently a museum ship in Honolulu, Hawai`i.

She was built in 1878 by Russell and Company in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, Scotland, launched as the first of six iron-hulled four-masted ships built for Wright and Breakenridge's Falls Line. She was named after the Falls of Clyde, a waterfall up the River Clyde. She was built to the highest standard - Lloyd's Register A-1 - for general worldwide trade. Her maiden voyage took her to Karachi, now in Pakistan, and her first six years were spent engaged in the India trade. She then became a tramp pursuing general cargo such as lumber, jute, cement, and wheat from ports in Australia, California, India, New Zealand, and the British Isles.

After twenty-one years under the Red Ensign, Falls of Clyde was purchased for US$25,000 by Captain William Matson of the Matson Navigation Company, taken to Honolulu, Hawaii in 1899, and registered under the Hawaiian flag. When the Republic of Hawaii was annexed by the United States in 1900, it took a special act of the United States Congress to secure the foreign-built ship the right to fly the Stars and Stripes.

To economize on crew, Matson rigged Falls of Clyde down as a barque, replacing the five yards on her aftermost (jigger) mast with two more easily-managed fore-and-aft sails. At the same time, he added a deckhouse, charthouse, and rearranged the after quarters to accommodate paying passengers. From 1899 to 1907, she made over sixty voyages between Hilo, Hawaii, and San Francisco, California. She carried general merchandise from San Francisco and sugar from Hawaii, and passengers both ways. She developed a reputation as a handy, fast, and commodious vessel; her voyages averaged 17 days each way.

In 1907, the Associated Oil Company (which later became Tidewater Oil) bought Falls of Clyde and converted her to a bulk tanker with a capacity of 19,000 barrels (three million liters, 800,000 gallons). In this configuration she sailed from Gaviota, California, with kerosene, which she discharged in Honolulu at the Oahu Railway and Land Company's Pier 16. On her return voyages, she carried bulk molasses to California, where it was used for cattle feed.

In 1927, the bark was sold to the General Petroleum Company, her masts were cut down, and she served as a floating fuel depot in Alaska until 1959. She was sold to William Mitchell, who towed her to Seattle, Washington, intending to sell her to a preservation group. Mitchell's plan fell through and subsequent efforts by Karl Kortum, director of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, and Fred Klebingat, who had sailed in her as chief mate in 1915, to place her in Long Beach, California, or Los Angeles, California, were similarly disappointed.

In 1963, the bank holding the mortgage on Falls of Clyde decided to sell her to be sunk as part of a breakwater at Vancouver, British Columbia. Kortum and Klebingat aroused interest in the ship in Hawaii, and within days of the scheduled scuttling, raised funds to buy the ship. At the end of October 1963, Falls of Clyde was taken under tow by fleet tug USS Moctobi. In honor of their historic tow, the crew of the tug kept their logs in verse, the first entry reading

As we sail across the Set
The Falls of Clyde keeps us company
Moctobi's engines grit and grind
To keep old Clyde close behind.

On 18 November, they arrived in Honolulu, recording

Today, hauling cargo to Hawaii was seen a proud white ship.
We couldn't help remembering Clyde and all her similar trips.
Yes this one is quite differenct than those of earlier times,
When she carried black oil and molasses to many different climes
Today the cargo is memories and sea stories yet untold
Which when moored tomorrow may be brought up from the hold.
Tomorrow at Honolulu her final trip will end,
And we will bid aloha to our gallant seagoing friend.

The crew was concerned about the reaction these verses might receive from Commander, Service Force, Pacific Fleet. Upon their arrival at Honolulu they received a message reading

Your towing debut is finally Pau
The Clyde's at home forever now.
Your sitreps were noted with interest each day
As Moctobi pulled the long, rough way.
This grand old lady is destined to be
A memorable relic for all Hawaii
By your fine effort the task is won.
Welcome home, and to all a well done.
-- VADM Roy Johnson, Deputy, CINCPACFLT

In May 1964, on behalf of his crew, the commanding officer of Moctobi, Lieutenant Leo Connolly, accepted the Distinguished Service Award for Community Relations from the Chamber of Commerce of Honolulu.

Falls of Clyde was given to the Bernice P. Bishop Museum. She opened to the public in 1968. Her restoration as a full-rigged ship was assisted by the grandson of the original builder, Sir William Lithgow, whose Glasgow shipyard donated masts and other fittings. In 1973 she was entered into the National Register of Historic Places. As of 2005, Falls of Clyde is still located at Pier 7, Honolulu Harbor, part of the Hawaii Maritime Center.


  • Jim Gibb, Pacific Square-Riggers (Schiffer Publishing, 1987) ISBN 0-88740-106-6 p. 110
  • Heine, Historic Ships of the World
  • Klebingat, "Falls of Clyde"
  • personal communications of Lieutenant Leo Connolly, commanding officer, USS Moctobi

External links

Personal tools