1878, The Western Shore sank on Duxbury Reef


Launched in 1874 from the shipyard at North Bend, Oregon, the Western Shore was the largest full rigged sailing vessel ever built on the West Coast. She was 184 feet long and was originally built to haul lumber but entered the coastal coal trade after several voyages to England.

In January of 1878 she needed three attempts to clear the Golden Gate on her way to Seattle. On the first try the tow line broke in a heavy gale and except for a wind shift at the last moment she would have been wrecked on Alcatraz. A few days later as she was towed out the Golden Gate the wind died just as the tow line was being released. Captain Blinn and his mate were handling the tow line. In the process the hawser snapped taunt and tore loose the cleat with such force it broke the captain's leg in two places and threw him from the forecastle to the main deck where he died four hours later. The ship was able to anchor overnight before being towed back to port the next day. On the third try she made it safely through the Gate with a new captain.

On her return voyage from Seattle she was making ten knots under full sail with a cargo of 2,000 tons of coal. On the clear night of July 9, 1878, she was just north of San Francisco when she inexplicably ran full onto Duxbury Reef. The impact was so great that a piece of her bow flew forty feet into the air. She sank within three hours leaving only the tops of her masts, sails fully set, extending out of the water.

The cause of the accident was never fully learned and remains a mystery. Speculation ran from thoughts that a strong northerly current had thrown the ship off course to a suspicion of carelessness on the part of the captain, since the lights of Point Reyes and the Farallones were plainly visible. Strong seas broke the ship apart rapidly and only the sails were saved, picked from the masts by Bolinas fishermen. For the next twenty-five years 300 pound clumps of coal washed up on Bolinas beaches.


Black & White

You gotta understand, this is a monster ship sweeping down from the north white sails full pulling two thousand tons of black coal. Whipping past Point Reyes she's hauling, I mean hauling. The captain's feeling pretty good. He's got a new time record for the run from Seattle to the Golden Gate on his first voyage as skipper. Yeah he's feeling real good.  He's not gonna let that little nagging feeling about Captain Blinn darken his mood. Forget the way the hawser got loose in Frisco on their  departure when Blinn was still captain. Yeah, Captain Blinn hadn't seen him slip a couple of loops off the cleat. Yeah, the line yanked loose when it surged like he knew it would, but a broken leg was the most he'd figured.  What a whollop! Broke Blinn's leg -- not once, but twice -- and landed him on the main deck twelve feet away where he lasted four hours before he died. They owed him his shot he told them, he was next in line, and now here he was proving them and him right with a new time record."Hey, what's that shouting? Let's have some discipline on this ship. Say, that light shouldn't be there.  Whose that guy at the helm? Who put that gimpy guy at the helm?