National Geographic : 1963 Apr
AINIII I-KUMAUUIbUIN ALL IY OF AMERICANARI, PHILLIPS ACADEMY,ANDOVER, MASSACHUSETTS As sun breaks through clouds after a storm, a Yankee schooner captain grabs a quick noon sight. When sun reaches its zenith, he shouts, "Eight bells!" His mate checks by making a similar ob servation. The artist, Winslow Homer, settled on the Maine coast and went to sea with the fishing fleet. He said he painted his sub jects "exactly as they appear." owned nearly 11,000 ships of some 14 million tons, or half the world score of 28 million tons. As to the American sailing ships, their very excellence was, in part, their undoing. They were so good they were retained too long, while the tramp steamer and cargo liner steadily took a greater and greater share of the world's trade. Yankee businessmen found better outlets for their resources and their enterprise than ships. Go West, young man! was the cry; and he could go West by land. Deserted Ships Deteriorate Enterprising American seamen moved ashore. When their clippers reached San Francisco in the gold rush of '49, the sailors rushed off too. They were free men, and the ad venturous land had need of them. So the ships languished, rotting at moorings. For months and sometimes years, graceful wooden sail ing ships lay in San Francisco Bay cheek by jowl, packed so tightly you could almost walk across them. Not a crew could be found to man any of them. Ships deteriorate when not used. Some were berthed close inshore and used for accommodation ships. Others were hauled up to become foundations for waterfront reclama tion. Piers were built up on them. The land rolled over them. Sometimes today excavation on the San Francisco water front turns up their massive, shapely old ribs. 530 Lovely lady ghosts past a channel-marking buoy. Un like the square-riggers, the schooner spreads her sails abaft the masts and takes the breeze on either side of the canvas. This fore-and-aft rig enables her to beat against contrary winds and makes her easy to handle-"one mast, one man," as sea dogs tell it. Schooners in dry dock await repairs at Newport News, Virginia, in 1906. This un usual photograph shows the three-master Sallie I'on, four master Malcolm Baxter, Jr., five-master Jennie French Potter, six-master Eleanor A. Percy, and the only seven master ever built, the Thomas W. Lawson.