Sea Captains: San Francisco 1800s

Captain John Zerega

The August 2, 1853آ Daily Alta California, reported "Captain John Zerega, long known in the Liverpool trade," as captain of the splendid new Queen of the Clippers. She is "She is 245 feet long on the keel, 10 feet longer on deck, and 258 feet over all from the knight heads to the taffrail. Her extreme breadth of beam is 44-1/2 feet, depth 24 feet and will register about 2,300 tons (of cargo carrying volume), Custom House measurement. Her ends are very long and graceful, and extremely sharp, particularly the bow, and her lines are slightly concave below, but convex above, to correspond with her outline on the rail. "

April 2, 1853, Boston Daily Atlas, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

She was built at East Boston by Mr. Robert E. Jackson, the builder of the John Bertram, Winged Racer, and many other fine ships; but this is the crowning triumph of his professional life. Everybody who has seen her speaks in her praise, and "what everybody says must be true."

Her enterprising owners, Messrs. Seccomb & Taylor, have spared no express to make her a perfect ship, and to ensure her success. She is expected to sail twenty miles an hour with a leading wind, and to rank first among the foremost upon the world of waters. In a few days she will proceed to New York, and will there load in Messrs. F. & D. Fowler's line of San Francisco clippers. We call the attention of our New York friends to her, and invite them to inspect her carefully.

San Francisco Bay. 1899.

Topographic Map. San Francisco Bay. 1899.

In December 1853, when the SS San Francisco wrecked, John Zerga (Zerega) was one of the captains who came to the rescue of passengers.

Carl Cutler, in Queens of the Western Ocean, writes:

"On Christmas Day 1853, the San Francisco was disabled, and on January 6th, 1854, she foundered with a loss of more than 200 lives. Upwards of 500 were saved, principally by the splendid work of the ships Three Bells, of Glasgow, and (John A.) Zerega's Antarctic, George E. Stouffer Master (from 1853-1858), who saved 197 from SS San Francisco, with the bark Kilby rescuing 108 or thereabouts."

In 1859-1860, Captain Zerega was sailing the ship Dictator between New York, San Francisco and Hongkong for William T. Coleman & Co.

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 Hornق€”a buttressed pyramid of crumbly rock situated at the very bottom of South Americaق€”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. Itق€™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 himق€”from Spanish missionaries to Captain Cookق€”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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