Sea Captains: San Francisco 1800s

Captain John Von Helms

October 25, 1893, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California

The Wreck of the Newbern Investigated. 
Captain Helms and His Crew Exonerated. 
Witnesses Could Give No Reasons lor the Mishap.

The Captains Log Book Showed That the Vessel Was Steered Over the Usual Course

Pacific Coast News.

By the Associated Press. San Francisco, October 24. The inspectors of steam vessels yesterday investigated the causes of the recent grounding of the steamer Newbern. Captain Von Helms, First Officer J. P. Gallagher, Second Officer R. J. Paulsen, Quartermaster I. Frank, Sousa and Gust Anderson were examined as to the conduct aboard the vessel the day of the grounding. The captain's log book was examined, and from this it appeared that the Newbern was steered the same day it ran aground as it had been steered for 50 voyages past. None of the witnesses could give any reason for the mishap, so the inspectors found no ground for censure.

October 16, 1893, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California

Mate Gallagher Responsible for the Loss of the Newbern.

San Francisco, Oct. 26. Captain von Helms has been exonerated from all blame in connection with the loss of the steamer Newbern, and he will go out in command of the St. Paul. It is reported that First Mate J. P. Gallagher has had his license revoked for carelessness. The inspectors refused to confirm the report this morning, on the ground that the investigation had not been completed. At the time the Newbern was lost von Helms was below asleep, having been on duty during the preceding 24 hours. The failure of Mate Gallagher to call the commanding officer when he got into a heavy fog caused him to be charged as negligent. Owing to some delay in getting the cargo on board the steamer St. Paul she will not sail for Mexican ports until Friday. She was scheduled to leave tomorrow.

January 3, 1899, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California

A Great Gulf Storm

SAN FRANCISCO, January 2. A communication has been received by the Merchants exchange from Captain von Helms of the steamer Curacoa, telling of a storm in the Gulf of California. It began on December 25 and lasted through Christmas day. Three hundred feet of the breakwater at Santa Rosalia were washed away and some damage done to the ships Star of France and Falkland Bank.

October 13, 1900, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

New Steamship Company.

The Mexican Steamship Company has been incorporated, with a capital stock of $100,000, all of which has been subscribed by the following directors: J. von Helms, Nathan H. Frank. Ira S. Lilick, F. R. Swasey and J. V. Geary.

October 18, 1900, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

For the Mexican Trade.

The British steamer Manauense is to be put under the Mexican flag and Captain John Von Helms will be her master.

The Manauense is to run in opposition to the Curacao and the vessels of the Pacific Coast Steamship Company's fleet. She is a fast and commodious steamer, fitted with a refrigerating plant and everything necessary for a run in the tropics. Captain Von Helms is a great favorite in Mexican ports, so the Manauense should do well on the coast.

November 21, 1900, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Steamer Mexico, Formerly the Manauense to Sail Saturday Week.

The Mexican steamer Mexico, better known as the British steamer Manauense, will inaugurate a new line to the Gulf of California next Saturday week. She may have to go out under the British flag as her Mexican registry has not arrived, but should it not come on time she will hoist the Mexican flag at Guaymas. Captain von Helms, who was for years on the steamers of the Pacific Coast Steamship Company, will command the Mexico. He is known all over the Gulf and will run his ship to the best advantage. The Mexico will not call at San Jose del Cabo and Magdalena Bay, but will instead take in San Bias and Manzanillo. The Curacao, which runs under the Pacific Coast Steamship Company's flag, will make the round trip in twenty-one days and the Mexico expects to cover the distance in the same time.

January 1, 1901, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

Captain Von Helms of the steamer Mexico reports that the work on the Manzanillo breakwater is progressing very favorably, considering the delays caused by non-arrival of machinery and locomotives so essential for expeditioius work. Still Colonel Edgar K. Smooth is satisfied that he will be able to finish his work in time and he has now everything in shape for rapid handling of the material necessary. The Mexico delivered there machinery that laid in San Francisco since October.

October 4, 1901, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

Accused of Illegal Piloting.

PORT TOWNSEND, Wash., Oct. 3. An Information has been filed in the Superior Court here and warrants issued for the arrest of Captain Walter McWilliams of San Francisco and Captain John von Helms. The Information charges them with piloting vessels in Puget Sound waters without first having obtained licenses from the Board Pilot Commissioners.

April 12, 1902, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

Von Helms Goes to Mexico.

Captain von Helms, formerly of the steamship Curacao, was a passenger on the Colombia which sailed yesterday for Valparaiso and way ports. Captain von Helms' destination is Altata, Mexico. He goes there in the interest of the underwriters to attend the survey on the brig Lurline which recently went ashore at that port. Temporary repairs will be effected under Captain von Helms' supervision and he will assist Captain Spicer in bringing the brig to this port. Captain von Helms is building a four-masted schooner at the Fulton shipyard. Whatcom, in command of which he expects to return to active sea duty. She will be ready in the fall. She is 166 feet long, 38 feet beam and has 13 feet depth of hold. She will carry 700,000 feet of lumber and will probably trade between Grays Harbor and South American ports.

Colombia Sails.

The Pacific Steam Navigation Company's Colombia sailed yesterday afternoon for Valparaiso and way ports. She carried a large cargo and many passengers.

Summerfleld Bassett, the engineer whose purchase and importation for immoral purposes of Agostina Morales brought him into recent notoriety, was a passenger on the Colombia. Guatemala is his destination and the purchase of another girl, he declares, is the business that takes him south. The immigration bureau will await the engineer's return with interest and his right and title to any "wife" he may bring with him will be thoroughly Investigated by those that are sending Agostlna Morales back to Guatemala.

E. P. Triana, Mexican Minister to Guatemala, was a passenger. Captain Cattarinlch, formerly of the Pacific Mall Steamship Company, went with the Colombia as far as the pilot station, where he will go over the side with pilot Reid and return as a guest of the Lady Mine.

The Colombia carries passengers as follows: O. H. Hllleary, Theodore Bronstrom, B. F. Franklin, Charles Parker McLalne, Mrs. Joseph Diez, Francis M. White and wife, George Newbauer, Thomas Seabury, Miss Genevleve Seabury, Henry Jamison, S. Bassett, Clinton Johnson, F. Burian, C. L. Vucanovich, J. C. Wholey, E. P. Triana, Ramon Arias, Cayetano Romero, Alberto Romero, Miss Romero, Mrs. I. Schwartz, Miss Florence Schwartz, Miss Pearl Schwartz, Dr. Graham, Mrs. Labory, Silas Holman, Mrs. Silas Holman, Captain J. von Helms, J. B. Dennis. L. Foncea, Jackson Duff, C. I. Hinman. G. J. Weeley, A. C. Zollikofer, D. A. McDonald, R. R. Elder, Mrs. W. C. Kaelln. Emil Falk, L. J. Bergendahl, G. F. Morton.

June 7, 1902, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

Lurline On Her Way

The brig Lurline, recently ashore on the Mexican coast, floated and compelled to put into Guaymas leaking, has resumed her voyage to this port. Captain von Helms of this city, who got the craft afloat, is assisting in bringing her to San Francisco.

July 1902, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

Captain von Helms a Pilot.

Captain John von Helms, formerly commander of the steamship Curacao, and one of the best-known navigators on this coast, was yesterday appointed a bar pilot to succeed Captain Louis Meyer, whose health made necessary his resignation. Both the retiring pilot and his successor stand high in their profession.

June 24, 1903, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California

Pilots Alarmed

SAN FRANCISCO. June 23. The pilot boat Pathfinder had a narrow escape this morning from being blown out of the water and all hands on board sunk by a stray shell from the mortars at the Presidio, which failed to explode and came bounding over the waves directly toward the Pathfinder. Besides the crew of the boat, Pilots von Helms and George Wallace were on board and anticipated sudden death. When within about twenty five yards from the Pathfinder the great shell jumped from the crest of a big wave and sank out of sight.

Rounding the Horn.New York to Cape Horn to San Francisco.
Rounding the Horn: Being the Story of Williwaws and Windjammers, Drake, Darwin, Murdered Missionaries and Naked Natives--a Deck's-eye View of Cape HornNew York to Cape Horn to San Francisco.
Dallas Murphy
Fifty-five degrees 59 minutes South by 67 degrees 16 minutes West: Cape Horn—a buttressed pyramid of crumbly rock situated at the very bottom of South America—is a place of forlorn and foreboding beauty that has captured the dark imaginations of explorers and writers from Francis Drake to Joseph Conrad. For centuries, the small stretch of water between Cape Horn and the Antarctic Peninsula was the only gateway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It’s a place where the storms are bigger, the winds stronger, and the seas rougher than anywhere else on earth. In Rounding the Horn the author brings the reader along for a thrilling, exuberant tour. Weaving together stories of his own nautical adventures with long-lost tales of those who braved the Cape before him—from Spanish missionaries to Captain Cook—and interspersing them with breathtaking descriptions of the surrounding wilderness,

Around Cape Horn Sailing DVD. New York to Cape Horn to San Francisco.
Around Cape Horn: Capt. Irving Johnson Sailing DVDNew York to Cape Horn to San Francisco.
Few will ever experience such adverse conditions especially considering 1920's square rigger design, the technology and lack of meteorology available to assist the crews manage four masted ships with huge sail plans. Along with the challenging seas, this highly-regarded film was shot when cameras were bulky. Captain Irving is engaging. Actors were not used. This is real footage with real people.

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.

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. Herein is a 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. 150 color illustrations including the earliest charts of the Mediterranean made by 13th-century Italian merchant adventurers, as well as 18th-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

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



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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; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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