Sea Captains: San Francisco 1800s

Captain Hall J. Tibbetts

In 1849, Captain Tibbetts was scheduled to sail the Pacific into San Francisco Bay from New York via Rio de Janeiro; however, he was replaced in Rio by Captain George T. Estabrooks who brought the ship to the City from Rio.

One of the more notable passengers on that voyage was Mark Hopkins.

An article in the Oakland Tribune reported:

"The first disillusionment experienced by the passengers aboard the Pacific was the attitude of one Captain Tibbetts, who trod the quarterdeck. The jovial mariner who previously extolled the service of his craft, the bounty of its table, and the conveniences of travel aboard his ship, proved a relentless tyrant as soon as land was left behind.

"Thirty days out of New York, the passengers were miserable with seasickness and cold. Snow confined them in verminous quarters. The food consisted of raw mush, preserved meats, dubbed "old junk," and beans. Some of the passengers asked why pickles and vegetables were not served with meals, and the Captain blandly explained these items as being saved against the time when the passengers developed scurvy.

"Needless to say, the emigrants were indignant. Their first cabin fare proved no better than the food served to sailors, and in that day and age the meals to able seamen were bare subsistence rations.

"Gales raged, seasickness became more prevalent. A Samaritan who would have have carried gruel to a man so ill he could not leave his cabin was told by the Captain that if the sick man could not get to the mess hall, he need not eat. A disease racked sailor, so weak and ill he could hardly walk, was sent aloft in the gale. He managed to survive. A passenger commented on the situation and Captain Tibbetts explained he never had sick sailors with him long.

"As is usual when a group of men receive unsatisfactory food, dissent arose among the passengers. A delegation waited on the Captain, who promptly threatened to fire the ship's powder magazine and "blow it all to hell," he he hard any more complaints.

"Despite poor food and insults, the passengers amused themselves. Ardent anglers trailed fish lines from the stern and impromptu concerts were held . . . Mr. Scott rounded out the ensemble with a "key bugle" . . . Dancing followed, but such antics irked the Captain's religious principles and he broke up the entertainment, threatening to stud the deck with spikes if such unholy practices continued.

"Tibbetts was a sweet soul."

The 18, 000 Mile Migration by Water to California 1849-1852 Below decks.18,000 mile migration by water to the California Gold Fields, 1849-1852.

Author Oscar Lewis tell the story of travelers round the Horn who had, for the most part, to look to their own little world for means of keeping themselves occupied over long periods of time. Their ship was a self-contained unit, their universe bounded by an unlimited expanse of sea and sky. They were bound on one of the longest and most varied of all sea voyages; the great lonely void of the ocean was an ever present companion, and few failed to discover that, for all its apparent sameness, it was full of interest and variety.

"In her moods and caprices," wrote one, "the sea would put the most spoiled and pampered beauty in the shade" -- and went on to describe her benign charms when, "mile and gentle as a lamb, with friendly, helpful hands she wafts you on your way...Her eager eyes dance in the sunlight and you tell yourself you have never met anyone so gentle and fair . . . " A few days pass, or perhaps only a few hours, "but what in the meantime has happened to your friendly and radiant beauty She has become a vixen and a shrew . . ." The sunny face has become "a dark and forbidding countenance, her icy glances chill you to the marrow and you flee in dismay from the torrents of her abuse . . . " Then she is presently her old self again and you rejoin the circle of her admirers -- "but not with your old confidence, for you have begun to learn something about your lady's moods . . ."

During these first days the Argonaut's morale was frequently at its lowest ebb of the entire voyage. Some journals pass over the ordeal in complete and eloquent silence.

Those whose owners were able to write at all confined their entries to brief and heartfelt comments on the horrors of seafaring life. "Descriptions of a life on the ocean wave," wrote Samuel C. Upham from the brig Osceola, ten days out from Philadelphia, "read vary prettily on shore, but the reality of a sea voyage speedily dispells the romance." Wet and slippery decks, leaky cabins, the pounding of the seas again the hull, and the howling of wind through the rigging -- these were almost invariably part of the picture, but only a part.

In the dim recesses below decks conditions were about as bad as could be imagined. With all but a few incapacitated, little attempt was made to clean up the litter, to care for the sick, or even to secure and lash down the passengers' belongings which in the haste of departure had been piled on disorderly heaps both above and below decks. The victims lay clinging weakly to their slanting bunks while trunks, boxes, valises, and anything else movable slid from side to side with each roll of the ship, and the prostrate ones wondered, without really caring, if their straining vessel would survive the next shuddering lunge into the oncoming seas.

The Presidio has served as a military reservation from its establishment in 1776 as Spain's northern-most outpost of colonial power in the New World. It was one of the longest-garrisoned posts in the country and the oldest installation in the American West. In 1846, during the Mexican-American War, the 7th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment occupied the crumbling adobes at the Presidio. The U.S. Regular Army took over the post the following year. This military reservation at the Golden Gate developed into the most important Army post on the Pacific Coast. Over time its armaments evolved from smooth bore cannons to modern missiles. It became the nerve center of a coastal defense system that eventually included Alcatraz and Angel Island and that reached as far north as the Marin Headlands and as far south as Fort Funston.

Eventually, there were five distinct posts at the Presidio, each with its own commander: the Main Post, Fort Point, Letterman Hospital, Fort Winfield Scott, and Crissy Army Air Field. Also on the 1,491-acre reservation were a Coast Guard lifesaving station and a U.S. Public Health Service Hospital. From 1847 to about 1890, the Presidio defended San Francisco and also participated in the Indian Wars in the West. From the Spanish-American War of 1898 and the conquest of the Philippines to the end of the Vietnam War in 1973, the Presidio was a key link in the projection of American military power into the Pacific Basin and further west onto the mainland of Asia. New concrete fortifications built after the 1890s indirectly preserved native plant communities on the dramatic Pacific bluffs by making them off-limits.

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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