California Seaports

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA: ° Alameda: ° Berkeley ° Oakland
Contra Costa County: ° Crockett, ° Martinez ° Port Costa
Marin County: ° Point Reyes, ° San Rafael (China Camp), ° Sausalito, ° Tiburon
° Mendocino ° Sacramento
San Francisco (City and County)
Solano: ° Benicia (St. Paul's Church), ° VallejoMare Island
Sonoma: ° Petaluma ° Fort Ross
CENTRAL & SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: ° Long Beach ° Los Angeles ° Monterey County ° San Diego County ° Santa Barbara ° Santa Monica ° The Channel Islands

Sausalito, Marin County

Sausalito (Saucelito) was occupied for centuries by native Americans, as a choice location full of wildlife. Native Americans lived along the rich shores of San Francisco Bay fishing and generally thriving prior to arrival of gold seekers and adventurers from around the world.

In 1822, an English sailor named William Richardson arrived in San Francisco and decided to stay. Living near the Presidio, he was one of the first white settlers in San Francisco. His business interests stretched across the bay to Sausalito, where he supplied ships anchored there with firewood and fresh water.

In 1838, William Richardson received a Mexican land grant, Rancho Saucelito (Little Willow Ranch), which is just North of San Francisco across the Bay in Marin County (a portion of which is now named Sausalito).

The grant contained all the land southeast of Mt. Tamalpais, and included Redwood Canyon and the lands now within Muir Woods National Monument. Richardson brought cattle from Spain to his ranch and hired Vaqueros from Mexico to care for them. Some vaqueros were Miwoks or Ohlones, Native Americans that lived on the Northern California coast prior to the arrival of Europeans. Two times a year the cowboys herded and slaughtered the cattle for hides and tallow. The tranquil Spanish way of life was maintained until gold was discovered in California.

Richardson had other means of avoiding customs duties — use of the Sausalito shores as storage. When the whalers did submit to customs inspection, it was often with lightened loads. Reports indicated that “a goodly amount of fabric, liquor, clothing, food and household goods were hidden beyond the beach at Whaler’s cove.” Sausalito, California.Shanghaiing? While we have no evidence that Richardson was trading in sailors, he was willing to harbor deserters. A cook, a carpenter and a ship’s boy found employment after deserting their ships. For some reason, the name “Rancho Shanghai” became attached to Richardson’s place. A sketch done by a visiting sailor in 1855 is entitled “Shanghai Rancho near Saucelito-Cala,” and is followed by the notation “this would seem to be a nickname with some innuendo.”

April 21, 1852, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California

Marine Intelligence

Arrived: A sloop of war, gone into Saucelito.

March 9, 1853, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California

Steamer Tennessee

The following particulars, relating to the grounding of the steamer Tennessee, are copied from the Times and Transcript:

The moment the danger was descried, orders were given to back the ship, and though running slowly at the time, it was too late. As soon as it was found that she would not back from the shoal water, headway was again given to try, if possible, to clear it, but all to no purpose, the sea having almost entire control of her; a second and third attempt was made to back her.

During this critical time, the captain's presence of mind never forsook him.

The ship struck several times, and so heavily the first time that dishes were thrown from the table and broken. She rolled heavily for a short time. Almost as soon as she had struck, the first officer threw himself into the sea with a line, and swam for the shore; after reaching t it, he returned, in a nearly exhausted condition, to render that assistance which his position demanded. Shortly after she had stopped, she swung broadside on, with her stern nearest the shore, which was high and dry at low water. The confusion and excitement when she first struck was great, but order was promptly restored.

During the forenoon signal guns were heard, supposed to be fired by a vessel in distress, some 4 miles distant. From a cliff near which the Tennessee's passengers landed, a vessel was descried in the fog, but whether a steamer or not could not be made out. It was supposed to be the Pacific.

3 o'clock P. M The ship seems to have suffered but little damage as yet, with the exception of some injury to the engine, attached to the cylinder and piston.

4 o'clock. The piston and cylinder were seen moving with the roll of the ship.

4-1/2 o'clock. The ship was not leaking as badly as had been reported. No further damage has been learned.

As soon as the passengers were landed, sails, etc., for tents were brought from the ship, and the passengers, with the exception of about one hundred who had left for Saucelito, among whom were four ladies, were making preparations to adopt for a short time a camp life on the shore. Provisions, beds and bedding were also furnished in abundance.

The full story: Pacific Mail Steamer Tennessee Ashore Passengers and Mails Safe.

June 18, 1853, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California

POSTSCRIPT, Saturday, 2 o'clock A.M.


An auriferous quartz lead has been discovered in the vicinity of Racoon point, a short distance from Saucelito. The specimens of ore which have been brought to town, are not very rich. The gold is contained in gossan. --Times and Transcript.

August 30, 1855, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Shipping Intelligence: Memoranda

Sausalito News 1885 to 1890. Marin County Genealogical Society. Carolyn Schwab.

British sloop Dido got underway from Fort Point yesterday and proceeded to sea, but returned again and anchored at Saucelito.

Although Sausalito is a waterfront town on the Richardson Bay section of San Francisco Bay, due to of shallow water, strong tides through Racoon Strait, and insufficient docking opportunities, it did not grow with the shipping trades.

The railroad triggered the growth of Sausalito. In the 1870s, the railroad reached Sausalito from the north, and ferries extended it across the Bay to San Francisco. Until the Golden Gate Bridge was built, everyone heading north from San Francisco came through Sausalito. After the Golden Gate Bridge was completed in 1937, demand for the trains plummeted, although ferries continue running between Sausalito and San Francisco.

The Chinese Junk Amoy in San Francisco Bay

September 20, 1911, Sacramento Union, Sacramento, California, U.S.A.

Victoria, B.C., September 19. After being tossed about by the giant waves of the Pacific, their rudder carried away twice during the typhoons which they were forced to ride out in their frail craft, Captain George W. A. Waard and his wife arrived here today aboard the Chinese junk Amoy, 91 days out from Shanghai.

February 13, 1923, Madera Mercury, California

Crew of Three Make Long Cruise

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 12—The Chinese junk Amoy, with her crew of three and her ship’s eyes painted on the prow, made bright with a polish of Chinese wine, is in port after an eight month’s cruise from Shanghai by Victoria, B. C. The Amoy originally had a “crew” of one Chinese seaman, but Captain George Waard, the American skipper, explained that the “crew” deserted at Victoria “as one man.”

The remainder of the crew are officers, Captain Waard, Mrs. George Waard, his Chinese wife, pilot, and Bob Waard, their son, first mate. Bob is but nine years old. The Amoy is credited with being the smallest ship to cross the Pacific, being but 14 tons. Mrs. Waard acted as the navigating officer from Victoria to San Francisco after the desertion of the “crew

April 14, 1923, Sausalito News, Sausalito, California


Chinese Junk Amoy. 1923.

The Chinese junk, Amoy, which sailed across the Pacific last fall, is lying alongside the end of Arques wharf at the foot of Johnson street and the public will be given an opportunity of going aboard the junk today and tomorrow. Captain Geo. Waard and his Chinese wife and their son will show the party through and tell of their experiences in crossing the Pacific in such a small craft. They are here to have the junk go on Madden’s ways and have the bottom cleaned and repainted before leaving for San Pedro on their way to the Atlantic coast via the Panama canal.

The Amoy left Shanghai, China, on June 22, 1922, arrived in Victoria, B. C,.. on September 19, and arrived in San Francisco bay on February 10, 1923.

May 5, 1923, Sausalito News, Sausalito, California

The Chinese junk, Amoy, Captain Waard, left on Monday for the Atlantic coast via San Pedro and other ports. Mr. andMrs. Alfred W. Nilsson went with them as far as San Pedro.

May 12, 1923, Sausalito News, Sausalito, California, U.S.A.

Mr. and Mrs. Alfred W. Nilson returned home from San Pedro on Saturday afternoon. They sailed down on the Chinese junk Amoy, Captain Waard, leaving here Monday noon and arriving at San Pedro late on Thursday. They report having a pleasant trip.

August 12, 1955, Sausalito News, Sausalito, California

Recall Junk Amoy?
It Was Here In '23

The Free China which sailed through the Golden Gate Monday afternoon wasn’t the first Chinese junk seen in this area in 100 years as over-enthusiastic journalists had noted.

On February 10, 1923, the Amoy slipped into Richardson Bay and when she again more than two months later, her crew included a Sausalito man, Alfred Nilson, brother of Mrs. Ramona Power, Sausalito elementary school teacher and a resident of 19 Lower Crescent Avenue.

While here, she was anchored at the old Standard Oil wharf at the foot of Pine street, approximately where the Byron Edwards' barge rests today, and for a brief time she was on the Madden and Lewis ways undergoing some repairs. There are many Sausalito men today who recall the Amoy which captured their imaginations as young boys.


Nilson, a Northwestern Pacific railroad clerk, also enraptured by the dramatic looking vessel, srailed aboard her down the coast, through the Panama Canal and up to New York, and in 1925 bought her.

Today she appears as the grand finale in orchestra leader Guy Lombardo’s pageant, “Arabian Nights,” at the Jones Beach Marine Theatre in New York and off-duty serves, as she has for 30 years, as the home of Nilson and his wife, who raised three sons aboard her.

The colorful 68-foot-long Amoy, the giant eyes on her prow washed in a Chinese gin, samshu, sailed clear-eyed from Hakodate, Japan in May, 1922 and arrived 87 days later in Victoria, British Columbia, where her Dutch captain, Captain George Waard, decided to farm. (The Free China’s voyage from Formosa lasted 54 days.)

It was the late cinema star, Douglas Fairbanks, who suggested to Waard that he charge 25 cents admission. Ward made $100 the first day and gave up farming. From then on, she was exhibited wherever she went and has been ever since. Today, in fact, she’s billed as the "first junk in the Atlantic.” The admission is still 25 cents.


When the Free China arrived, Mrs. Power unearthed a scrapbook containing pictures and magazine articles about the Amoy. Among the vital statistics noted:

She was built in the Chinese port of Amoy in the winter of 1921-22 and left the following May. Her cost was $5,000 and she is deemed by the Nilsons as being “good for another 300 or 400 years.”

Her hull, is of camphor wood because the oil in the wood is deemed immune to worms and marine life, the planking is of Chinese fir, the masts of Foochow pine, the keel of ironwood, Full rigged, she carries 1,000 square feet of red sails, the canvas having been dipped in ox blood, considered a preservative and waterproofing agent.

The Nilsons have found her steady in all kinds of weather because a huge air pocket in her stern can absorb up to a ton of water.

Mrs. Power recalled that Captain Waard, his Chinese wife and son, Bob, were accompanied here by a crew of three Chinese. Waard sold the boat in New York to a man named Rhodes, who sold it to Nilson. "When last heard of Waard had gone into silver fox farming in British Columbia, but I don’t think my brother has heard from him in some time.”

The teacher spent six weeks abroad the vessel a few years ago, and at that time it had chalked up 291 ports. While his wife shows the junk to the public, Nilson commutes to New York City where he is a radio engineer.

“One of the most beautiful parts of the Amoy is the main cabin which has murals of Chinese fairy tale figures that were painted by an artist with his 7 inch-long fingernails dipped in paint . . . the junk has everything including a telephone and hot and cold running water. The only thing missing is a bathtub,”;she said.

The Amoy’s sailing days are not over. According to the Long Island newspaper, “Newsday,” the Nilsons plan to take her up the Hudson River, through the Erie Canal to the Groat Lakes and then down the Mississippi. The sight of her on all those inland waterways will probably delight everyone as it did here some 32 years ago.

World War II: Sausalito Shipyards

World War II changed the town dramatically when Bechtel Co., with contracts to build "Liberty Ships" for the Navy, built the enormous Marinship shipyard in Sausalito.

Marinship's 70,000 workers built 15 freighters and 78 tankers in less than 4 years an average of one every 13 days. It not only changed Sausalito; it created Marin City, which began as a housing community for the shipyard workers. During 6 months in 1942, Marin City went from literally non-existent to a city with more residents than Sausalito itself. (The area formerly occupied by the ship-building ways is now the Army Corps of Engineers dock, Marina Plaza, Cass' Marina, and Arques Shipyard and Marina. The huge Bay Model building was the warehouse for the shipyard. The ICB building, of which West Marine now occupies a small part, was a shipyard office building.)

America and the Sea.
America and the Sea: 
A Maritime History 

America and the Sea.Benjamin W. Labaree, William M. Fowler, Jr., Edward W. Sloan, Jhon B. Hattendorf, Jeffrey J. Safford, Andrew W. German
Spanning the centuries from Native American and Viking maritime activities before Columbus through today's maritime enterprise. A new history of the U.S. from the fundamental perspective of the sea that surrounds it and the rivers and lakes that link its vast interior to the seacoast. America and the Sea has been gracefully written by six prominent maritime-history scholars whose individual areas of research and teaching range from labor to technology, from the fisheries to the U.S. Navy.

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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