“The bay used to be full of them… They worked on the tide; they’d go up the cricks and rivers and lay on the flats until they got their cargo in, and then out they’d go… God they were a busy outfit… What a load they carried.” F.H. Wade, Schoonerman.
Ideally suited for the shallow reaches of the bay and delta, as many as 400 of these scow schooners plied the waters of San Francisco Bay from Gold Rush times until the early twentieth century, hauling hay, grain, salt, bricks and other bulk products. For a half century, starting in 1859 Rengstorff’s Landing, operated by Henry Rengstorff, was a major loading point for these doughty vessels.
The Alma is the last of them. Built in 1891, she was eventually abandoned, but restored starting in the 1960s, and then transferred to the National Park Service in 1978 and docked at San Francisco’s Hyde Street Pier, home to many antique vessels. She would make occasional good will tours throughout the Bay. But now, for the first time, the public is invited to sail on her. On October 27, 2007 to celebrate this opportunity, three members of the Friends association donned cold weather gear, brought cameras and a sense of adventure and, with about 25 other passengers, many of whom gladly participated in hauling lines and sheets - “Ready about… hard alee… heave-ho” - for a three-hour sail. The nearby photo shows Ginny Kaminski in the red parka, former City of Mountain View Program Coordinator at Shoreline, then and now indefatigable scow buff, Rengstorff historian, tank house and windmill activist, pulling on the foresail halyard.
It was only the third voyage on the Alma for the public. We tacked. We ran before the wind. We came about. We circumnavigated Alcatraz and Angel Island, with the Golden Gate Bridge over our shoulders. We relived the scene at Rengstorff’s busy landing, which was just a short distance from the Rengstorff House. What a historic and rewarding adventure!
Plans are for the Alma to give rides to public from spring to fall. See details at http://www.nps.gov/safr/parknews/almasailingprogram.htm. Go out and capture a bit of history.
Sail on, Alma, sail on.