HNSA Crest with photos of visitors at the ships.

Dry-Docking: The Maritime Museum of San Diego Experience

John Jay Flachsenhar, Jr.
First presented at the 8th Maritime Heritage Conference, San Diego

Star of India

Introduction, Philosophy, & Bias

John Jay Flachsenhar, Jr. is a Marine Surveyor involved with marine facilities, pleasure and commercial vessels over a span of 40 years. Educated in Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley 1963. A member of the National Association of Marine Surveyors. Recognized by Heritage Preservation as a conservation assessor for vessels and/or marine facilities. Life member of SDMMA. Member of the Dubuque County Historical Society operators of the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, including the WM. M. BLACK an ex Army Corps. Steam powered pan head dredge. Presently semi-retired and residing in Dubuque, Iowa.

A Marine Surveyor is a person with knowledge of marine facilities, vessels and equipment who, when requested, conducts inspections and renders reports concerning conditions found and opinions relative to those conditions. Ordinarily the Marine Surveyor has experience, both theoretical and practical, with respect to the vessels, facilities or equipment subject of concern. The practice of a Marine Surveyor may include condition, damage or repairs to Hull, Machinery, Cargo and Facilities. To maintain objectivity it is important the Marine Surveyor not have economic interest in repair facilities, vessels or other services associated with Marine Trades.

Over the years the following have been observed:

  • Except those constructed of welded metal all vessels are held together by friction.
  • In general all boats, ships and associated machinery fall apart from the inside out.
  • Zinc used for galvanizing is not anode quality zinc.
  • Metal exposed to water or other electrolyte on both sides wastes on both sides.
  • Raw water inside tanks or voids, even with slight communication, is not the same as the raw water in which a vessel floats.
  • There are three distinct life cycles in river, estuarial, and near shore waters carbon based, nitrogen based, and sulfur based.
  • Atmospheres in voids or tanks which have been sealed may not support carbon based life cycles.
  • Most marine growth begins as very small microscopic life.
  • Compressed air will probably contain contaminants.
  • Relative humidity near the water is higher than away from the water.
  • Dust or other contamination on surfaces will generally cause trouble with coating films.
  • Applying urethane or other similar synthetic coatings over contaminated surfaces is a reinvention of Saran Wrap.
  • Conventional enamels, including most water based varieties, are more forgiving of marginal conditions during application than exotic coatings.
  • Not too much sticks to well cured epoxy coatings, barnacles and mussels excepted.
  • Clean bottoms move through the water more easily than dirty ones.
  • Efforts expended in vessel maintenance, and restoration, have value.
  • Other agency requirements must be recognized, accommodated, and reconciled where not compatible.
  • Most other agency requirements are based upon bad experience.
  • Corporate knowledge relating to shipbuilding and related subjects lasts about 30 years before rapidly fading or becoming legend.
  • Murphy is a shipmate.
  • No amount of forethought and planning can replace dumb luck.
  • The bicycle will never replace the horse.

Vessel Owners and Operators have more experience with an individual vessel and likely are the best source of information relative to the care, feeding, and cure of illnesses. It is incumbent upon the caretakers of historic vessels to have the knowledge base required to maintain their vessels, both individually and collectively. A good summary record of maintenance activities may prove invaluable to those entrusted with future efforts.


Built in 1863 by Gibson & Sons at Ramsey, Isle of Man as EUTERPE a ship rigged merchantman for service in the England-India trade. The hull is riveted wrought iron, in-out plated over a transverse iron frame. As constructed the iron shell was 15/16" at the garboards, 13/16" through the turn of the bilge, 11/16" sides, 13/16" at the shear and 11/16" bulwarks. Internally the structure consists of a centerline vertical keel plate backed by transverse floors and a box keelson, full frames including deck beams on 36" centers with intermediate frames without deck beams on 18" centers, longitudinal stringers atop the frames and two bulkheads. The bowsprit, fore and main masts, fore and main yards are wrought iron, the decks and balance of the spars are wood. She was built to Lloyds Rules at time of construction. Wrought iron is a low carbon iron intentionally contaminated with silica during smelting with the resulting glass fibers becoming oriented by rolling/working the hot billet of material. Her approximate present day displacement is 1350 L.Tons.

She was in active merchant service from 1864 to 1922. She entered service under British flag and became US flag through Hawaiian flag. Her rig was changed to bark shortly after 1900 to reduce manning requirements during transits to and from Alaskan waters. From 1922 to 1959 she can be considered to have been in lay-up receiving minimal or deferred maintenance. All the rig above the lower masts was sent below during WWII. She has been in San Diego since 1927 and subject of significant efforts 1959 to 1976 which resulted in her current rig and appearance. As a celebration of her physical condition and the US bi-centennial she was sailed on July 4, 1976. The 1976 sailing was intended to be a significant one time event with the vessel returning to her static permanently moored museum status. 1984 came along with another sailing in celebration of the Los Angeles Olympics and her 120 years of service. These two sailings resulted in;

Improved level of maintenance,
Restoration/realization of the physical requirements of the running rig,
Weather deck arrangements becoming/presenting those necessary for the vessels rig, and Initiation of a transferring of the skills/knowledge base required to sail/maneuver a square rigged vessel of significant size to interested members of the general public.
The frequency of the sailings gradually changed from one every three or four years to at least two every year.

The first drydocking after arrival at San Diego occurred at National Steel and Shipbuilding, San Diego in 1959. Ballast which had been aboard since 1922 and miscellaneous unrelated outfit which had been acquired and stored aboard over the years were removed. Much of the removal was accomplished with little or no regard to stability and some ballast had to be returned before she could be safely moved from her mooring, about where the Sea Port Village Marina Hilton is, to National Steel. The many years of growth were mechanically removed by hand and fire hose. Areas of external corrosion/mechanical damage were identified and a protective oil filled steel belt was installed to cover and protect the areas. The belt consisted of 3/8" mild steel plate plug welded to and stood off from the hull by 1-1/4" L toed and skip welded to the hull with top and bottom plate fairing covers continuously welded to the hull. Welding currents were minimum necessary and locations selected to reduce heat effects which might distort or compromise the rivet fastenings. The belt is at wind/water about 4' deep all around and extends about 8' farther down starboard forward of midship. After completion of the underwater body efforts and mechanical surface preparation the hull was coated with conventional oil based anticorrosive and antifouling. She was not being prepared for sailing as it was then intended she never be other than a permanently moored museum piece.

The next drydocking was in 1976 at Campbell Machine. This drydocking was specifically to determine underwater body condition as part of an evaluation of the physical condition for the proposed single day July 4, 1976 demonstration sailing in local coastal waters. Internal inspections before drydocking revealed some wasting and other anticipated conditions related to age, however, nothing of a severe enough nature to compromise structure during drydocking or sailing in the relatively benign local wind and sea conditions. After initial mechanical hand and water cleaning a visual inspection indicated the hull exterior was in relative good order. The decision was made to continue with preparation to sail. The inspection did reveal deficiencies of concern relating to the rudder, a mild indentation in the bottom plating above the garboard and well below the turn of the bilge starboard midships, and local pitting believed resultant from inclusions in the wrought iron plates. The rudder pintles were severely worn or eroded and clearance to the gudgeons well in excess of acceptable. The rudder structure is iron plate over an iron frame secured to the rudder stock by rivets and drifts. Time, exposure and lack of any recent maintenance had resulted in severe wasting of the skin and some of the internal structure. To allow complete inspection and repair the rudder was unshipped. To unship the rudder it was necessary to cut the stock above the main deck and below the steering engine on the poop as there was insufficient clearance between the rudder port and floor of the dock to rig the intact rudder clear. It was concluded the shell plate indentation either resulted from a lack of frame symmetry at time of original construction or a significant grounding on the reef off Lahaina in the late 1890's. The rudder was repaired by sand blasting, filling with high density closed cell urethane foam (used by Campbell as insulation surrounding the fish wells in their new construction purse seiners for the Tuna Fishing Trade), covering of the rudder with several plies of glass mat/cloth bonded with epoxy resin, and fitting sleeves over the remaining pintle material. The indentation was noted and not subject of any further effort. Prior to the drydocking it was proposed the underwater body be covered with a relatively high tech, modified elastomeric (rubber like) tank coating system with some antifouling properties, similar to that then being used on deep water oil platforms. The system was of a single coat high build or thickness nature applied over a primer onto a nearly bare metal surface, it was reported to be tolerant of surface contaminants and moisture during application. After local trial sand blasting using silica sand and evaluation by coating system technical representatives it was decided to apply the system under their supervision and direction with the anticipation the underwater body would be basically completely isolated from sea water contact for the foreseeable future. The hull was fully staged for access and the staging covered with drapes to contain debris. Silica sand blasting using the minimum pressure necessary to remove the build up of prior coatings took about one and one-half weeks. Original plate identification stampings and plate lap/butt caulking indentations remained visible as the bare metal was exposed. Local deficiencies in the belt seal welds were exposed and sealed using epoxies. Inclusion pitting was evaluated and sharp edges smoothed, two of the deeper pits and a pit penetrated during hammer testing were drilled through to allow hook gauging, physical measurement, of hull plating thickness in areas of obvious concern. Adjacent plating was generally in the range 60% to 80% of original, the holes were sealed with mild steel bolts and epoxy. In an attempt to leach the sea water which had become entrained in the plating the bare hull was washed several times with alcohol, appropriate precautions were taken during these efforts. After a final over-all light sand blasting to remove rust bloom and an air blow down to remove surface dust the coating system was applied. After reshipping the rudder, using a keyed muff coupling with open squeeze gap, she was undocked and returned to her berth. Some sails had been bent on prior to the drydocking, they were unfurled and set during the return to the berth to shake free the dust and debris of drydocking the tug, made up on the hip, did not apply power as the ship transited from vicinity of the Tenth Ave. Marine Terminal to B Street Pier.

Unfortunately the elastomeric coating system did not prove successful with failure as unbonding becoming evident within a year of the 1976 drydocking. The precise reason for the failure never was uncovered. Various theories were advanced with all supported by logic and reason. The most probable being; Entrained moisture and/or chloride contamination preventing or interfering with the bond between the hull/primer/topcoat, Volatiles in the coating system becoming entrapped and migrating to the warmer hull effectively destroying the bond, Shrinkage during cure process pulling the coating away from the plate lap sharp corners before bond could be achieved, and Optimistic expectations relative to the coating system leading to its' application into a service for which it was not intended. As the coating system was provided and applied well below cost the whole effort was deemed experimental and without recourse. Lots of head scratching and cathodic protection using suspended aluminum anodes occurred. The museum having acquired BERKELEY was not rich enough to front another drydocking and basic repeat of the entire effort.

In 1984 a couple of situations came together which resulted in the potential for an inexpensive drydock availability, Southwest Marine's acquisition of a brand new floating drydock and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics for which a non-Olympic celebratory sail was planned. The drydock did not arrive at San Diego as early as originally anticipated, hence the sailing was after the Olympics had concluded and the sail was re-delegated to celebrate the STAR's in service birthday. STAR served as a spectacular centerpiece occupying the off-shore third of the drydock during a celebratory party held on the drydock floor. Before the party most of the remains of the elastomeric coating were removed by hydroblasting followed by sandblasting, another deep inclusion pit was drilled and patch bolt/epoxy sealed, weepy belt seal welds epoxy sealed, the underwater body coated with epoxy barrier/vinyl antifouling, and everything washed down to be squeaky clean. The sandblast crew was, reportedly by regulation, no longer able to use silica sand and substitution of Black Beauty, a much harder and sharper, carbide abrasive became necessary. The drydock is equipped with mobile articulated arms with man-lift type baskets suspended from the wing walls. Scaffolding was not done for the sandblasting or painting. Detail inspection was not easily conducted due to limitations imposed by the man-lift arrangements and their necessary use by the yard crews. Even though there had been pre-drydocking cautionary discussions with the yard supervisors and lead men relating to the use of high pressure and very abrasive materials during sandblast efforts there was loss of surface material from the wrought iron hull which eliminated/erased many of the plate material stampings observed during the previous drydocking and damage occurred to the rudder fiberglass skin when its' top portion was removed. Due to this erasure of materials it was concluded tightly adhered elastomeric coating would not be removed and there would be no further efforts at the rudder. Unlike the coating system applied in 1976 the coating system used had been developed for service on the purse seiners in the Tuna Fishing Trade, in successful service for several years and was the product of a San Diego specialty marine coatings manufacturer. The system consisted of several layers of amide epoxy, the last being part of a tie coat, covered by at least two layers vinyl antifouling, the first being part of the tie coat. Although the painters had experience with the coating system the application was supervised by a manufacturer's representative. During return to the berth it was necessary to unfurl and set the bent on sails to shake away the debris from drydock dedication fireworks.

While it was not the direct result of the drydocking, STAR attained a speed under sail which left all except the Coast Guard escort vessels in her wake during the 1984 sail. Concern relating to her ability to tack and tendancy to heel resulted in a couple of hundred tons of additional ballast being placed aboard to add drag and reduce heel before a sailing in 1989.

1993 found STAR on drydock, an ex USN AFDL which was more appropriate for her size, again at Southwest Marine. Most of the coating system applied during the 1984 drydocking was intact and well adhered. Underwater growth was removed using hydrowash and local spot sandblasting to remove suspect areas of coatings was accomplished. Either from embarrassment or as a result of being able to better control the sandblasting process the material erasure problem seems not to have been an issue. Rust bloom and moisture entrained within the plating materials seemed to be significantly less indicating the epoxy barrier coat was having effect in isolating the hull from the sea. Prior to reapplying essentially the same coating system used in 1984 a crew of volunteers was given the opportunity to identify and seal/fair, with compatible epoxy paste, underwater body pitting deemed to be of concern to successful application/service of the barrier coats. Chafe and mechanical damage to the belt arrangements resulting primarily from an incident of heavy weather in January 1988 were evident, these were treated locally and patched using epoxy materials where necessary. The coatings manufacturer advised the antifouling characteristics of the topcoats were less than the previous topcoat and to expect a continuing reduction in antifouling effectiveness as regulations became more stringent.

In preparation for the 1999 Festival of Sail STAR was placed onto drydock at Campbell Industries. Coating conditions were similar to those observed when drydocked in 1993. Antifouling effectiveness had become nil and the underwater body cleaned using hydroblasting. Pitting appeared unchanged with the sealing/fairing applied in 1993 intact and not disturbed where impacted by local spot sandblasting. Scale rust on the rudder in vicinity of the fiberglass skin disturbed in 1984, rudder system mechanical clearances, and continued difficulty with the belt, both the chafe/mechanical damage and seal welds, were of concern. As mechanical clearances within the steering engine seemed to be responsible for much of the system "slop" observed and pintle/gudgeon clearances only slightly in excess of condemn for an active ocean going vessel, it was concluded the mechanical clearances were not a drydock issue. The rudder/fiberglass skin interface was addressed by mechanical removal of scale rust, application of rust converting primer, and sealing with epoxy prior to topcoating. The belt situation, however, was and remains of concern. Hot work is necessary to restore integrity to the belt and because of the original oil fill, now with the viscosity of roofing tar, it is not possible to obtain a gas free certificate or hot work permit without removal of the fill. Mechanical cold work removal of belt materials, by impact or chipping, was deemed impractical and probably structurally adverse. Detergent/solvent circulation cleaning seemed possible but lengthy and without assurance all the fill could actually be removed. Steam circulation was rejected due to the hull becoming a large heat sink, length of time probably required and adverse effects of heat on the structure. Creation of patch plates mechanically fastened to the belt stand off angles and bedded in epoxy was the option selected. Disturbed/weepy belt seal welds were again covered by epoxy. Advantage was taken of the time involved with belt efforts to epoxy fill/fair pitting which had not been subject of effort during the prior drydocking. Given the reduction in antifouling coating effectiveness, consideration was given to its' elimination and application of a dollar equivalent amount of epoxy barrier coat. The coating manufacturer indicated there should be no problem with this approach but they had not had any practical seawater experience without the vinyl antifouling coat which might provide an additional seal isolation membrane protecting both the epoxy and hull. The epoxy/vinyl antifouling system was applied.

STAR has not been drydocked since 1999. Prior to her sailings subsequent to 1999 the hull has been cleaned and diver inspected. Corrosion control since the early 1990's has been accomplished by zinc anodes connected to the ship and each other by insulated copper wire bus. The corrosion control is monitored by a voltmeter which has analog indication of the difference in potential between a pure zinc reference and the hull. As the individual anodes and hull connections are all accessible with the vessel afloat it is possible to inspect and assure low resistance connections and adequate anode materials exist. Technology has created a clamp-on ammeter which allows monitoring of direct current amperage or flow in the wire from each individual anode. This tool has proved valuable in monitoring the condition of the submerged portions of the system. The corrosion control monitoring also provides information relative to the condition of the barrier component of the underwater body coating system, extent of underwater body marine growth fouling, and unintentional direct current connections to systems such as telephone, shore neutral, or shore safety ground. The hull can never be fully isolated from the sea water as rudder pintle/gudgeons and chafe at the mooring camel will always exist. Theorists have expounded on the inadvisability of removing wrought iron which has been continuously exposed to sea water from the sea water environment. Removal might occur if an absolutely impervious coating system is applied, yet over a relatively long span of time this appears to be what we have done. Much of the STAR shell plate is internally accessible and it is possible to monitor some situations from the interior. There are internal indications of the belt oil fill having wept through at some areas. However, using ultrasonic gauging the hull plate thickness seems little different in belted versus non-belted areas. We have learned that by using a low frequency probe and oscilloscope it is possible for a skilled operator to evaluate wrought iron thickness using ultrasound, perhaps it is analogous to hammer testing and a good ear.


Built in 1898 by Union Iron Works, San Francisco for use on San Francisco Bay as a double ended, steam, screw propelled, ferry in support of railroad passenger service. The hull is joggle plated riveted steel over a transverse frame on 24" centers. As built the bottom plating low in the bilge was 1/2" with the balance of the plating being 3/8". The internal structure includes full and partial bulkheads, deep web frames, bilge stringers, and centerline vertical keel. The sponsons (main deck overhangs) are wood decks supported by steel external truss work, gussets, and braces to the hull at or near the transverse frames. The superstructure above the main deck is of steel reinforced wooden construction. A mooring stage for smaller vessels of the museum is located outboard and below the Port sponson. She is believed to have been built to the equivalent of American Bureau of Shipping Inland Rule requirements at time of her construction. She remained in active service, under USCG Inspection and Certification, on the waters for which she was designed until the mid 1950s after which she became an attraction similar to a specialty shopping mall at Sausalito. She was acquired by the San Diego Maritime Museum and towed to San Diego in 1973. Interestingly she also presently displaces about 1350 L.Tons.

She was drydocked in 1973 at Willamette Iron & Steel, Richmond, California as part of the preparation for tow to San Diego. During this drydocking underwater appendages (including propellers, bow rudder, propeller shaft extensions beyond support bearings) were removed and through hull openings externally blanked. The underwater body was mechanically cleaned, washed down and coated with conventional oil based anticorrosive/antifouling coatings.

From her arrival at San Diego to 2003 she was afloat in the immediate vicinity of her current location. She has been subject of efforts intended to present her as a representative of her type and service. Her machinery spaces have been made accessible to the general public. In January 1988 during an incident of heavy weather her starboard sponson was set atop the Embarcadero Pier Apron and the associated support structure severely damaged. The damage was repaired afloat at Campbell Industries. The internal condition of the shell plating became a concern as various spaces were given attention, particularly those low in the bilge which had served as stowage areas or voids since being removed from active service. In the mid-1990s the bilge areas, except Engine Room, were subject of cleaning and preservation efforts. The bottom shell plating was occasionally broached during these efforts and external patches were placed by divers. The bilges have been coated with a high build structural urethane, filled with high density closed cell urethane foam, and overcoated with structural urethane to about one foot above the waterline. During these efforts the framing and other internal support arrangements were observed in good general physical condition. Several options were considered to resolve or arrest deterioration of the shell plate. These ranged from fabrication of a fiberglass shell to be submerged under and raised to the underwater body with the vessel afloat to renewing essentially the entire bottom while on drydock. Eventually a coating system consisting of a high build ceramic particle epoxy was chosen for application, the system having no antifouling characteristics. To allow testing of the compatibility of hull and coating materials, a portion of the aft rudder shell was mechanically removed by divers. After various successful tests on the shell plate coupon, the coating system manufacturer and museum developed confidence the system would behave as anticipated.

Arrangements were made for drydock availability, underwater body preparation, and coating system application at Southwest Marine. Unless the big drydock was used at major expense, hurdles to the drydocking existed;

The vessel was and remains the administrative center of the museum,
Shipyard activity is not clean,
The shipyard was not as convinced as the museum the vessel would support her weight while on drydock,
The vessel extreme beam at the small vessel mooring stage was in excess of the width between the drydock wing walls,
If drydock vessel support blocks were made high enough to allow the Starboard sponson to be higher than the wing wall to accommodate the mooring stage the keel blocking for BERKELEY would not mate with drydock internal support structure, and
The BERKELEY internal urethane system precluded use of hot work when shell plating was holed during underwater body preparation for coating.

Each of the hurdles was addressed. Temporary trailer office space was created, exhibits were removed or protected as appropriate, internal inspection below Engine Room floor plates and other accessible support structure reduced concerns relative to structural integrity, removal of the mooring stage and sponson guard structures to reduce beam to about one foot less than basin width between wing walls at the sponsons, and use of mechanical or epoxy repairs to restore watertight integrity if broached. BERKELEY was drydocked in April 2003.

The coating system was to be applied to about two feet above the waterline by technical personnel and equipment from the manufacturer. Staging of the underwater body was necessary for access during cleaning, inspection, preparation, repair, and coating application. Hydrowash and mechanical cleaning revealed pitting and other anticipated deficiencies. Sandblasting fell through the shell in several locations. Fortunately the largest shell plate failure was in the Engine Room under the Condenser Pump, an area which could be made gas free and safe for hot work. This failure was allowed to remain after being externally covered by a doubler plate landed and welded onto sound material clear of rivets. Floor plating above the area was removed and transparent material substituted so the deterioration could be viewed with interpretive explanation by all. Other failures were addressed using epoxy fill/bond to the internal urethane.

Once started the application of the coating system had to be continuous and within limits related to humidity, atmospheric and surface temperatures. During application additional local small compromises of the shell plate were revealed, these were addressed by plugging and moisture tolerant epoxy compound sealing between coating layer application. To assure complete coverage she was "bumped" or "fleeted" (undocked, shifted, and redocked to expose areas originally obscured by support blocking) and locally exposed areas prepared and coated. On completion of efforts BERKELEY was undocked and returned to her normal mooring. After restoration of shore provided services, cleaning away of dust and shipyard dirt, and return of administrative outfit she was returned to her current service as a museum piece.

Since arrival at San Diego, BERKELEY has had anodic protection, including the monitor meter, for the hull similar in concept to that described above for the STAR. The anodes are hung from and connected to the sponson support structure. Given that the BERKELEY and STAR have nearly the same displacement and about the same underwater body surface area it was assumed for many years that the number of anodes required to indicate satisfactory protection for the BERKELEY would be the same to protect the STAR. After the 1988 weather incident the system of protection and monitoring for the STAR began to evolve and acquire all of the individual elements previously described. As part of this process it was discovered the BERKELEY monitor meter internal calibration had been altered at some point in the past, by persons and for reasons unknown, and the protection level for both vessels inadequate for a relatively long period. Prior to drydocking, BERKELEY required about thirty 90-lb. zinc anodes to maintain a marginally acceptable galvanic protection. Post drydocking, two anodes were more than sufficient to bring the hull potential nearly to the free potential of the zinc anodes, however for symmetry and redundancy there are four. This indicates the hull coating arrangements were basically successful in isolating the hull from sea water. Water appearing in the witness sumps and moisture atop the urethane cover of the internal urethane/foam system revealed the hull not completely watertight. Additional diver efforts with epoxy seemed to resolve the weeping issue. It is hoped the gradual covering of the underwater body by marine growth will seal any remaining undiscovered pin holes, a not very scientific or comforting resolution of this particular problem but possibly practical. There is no satisfactory method to determine extent of internal deterioration, if any, which might be resultant from the by-products of the various entrapped microscopic life cycles or isolated galvanic cells. Time will reveal if this approach is successful or if a future drydocking and application of some sort of structural/seal membrane will be necessary.


Built in 1904 by Stephen of Linthouse at Glasgow, Scotland as a riveted steel hull, single screw, steam yacht. As built the hull is believed to have been 1/4" plate over steel angle transverse frame with bilge stringers and jogged full bulkheads for internal support. She has served under six flags and in three navies during her life. She has a current USCG Inspection Certificate for service on San Diego Bay. She was acquired by Paul Whittier from Swedish Owners in 1969, brought to Long Beach as deck cargo, subject of considerable repair/restoration efforts at Whidbey Island, Washington, and brought to San Diego for donation to the museum in 1973. She displaces approximately 190 L.Tons.

When received by the museum it was apparent the hull, while basically fair and intact (she had voyaged on her own bottom up and back the entire Pacific Coast of the lower 48), was showing indications of the ravages of service and age. Local distortions associated with removals of internal coatings or scale rust, doublers over wasted or thin shell plate, and wasted elements of framing existed. Most of the internal wasting of the shell and frames was concentrated in very specific areas on the hull up-slope side of the frames. Most of the problems could be directly attributed to condensation from steam propulsion and heating in the colder climes of Europe.

After arrival at San Diego she was drydocked at about two year intervals rotating among the many local ship/boat yards with appropriately sized facilities and outfit. Typically she was given a "shave and haircut" hull coating treatment (epoxy/vinyl below the waterline, enamels above) and subject of USCG Inspections which included ultrasonic gauging of hull thickness. As time and internal preservation efforts proceeded, concern relating to hull condition increased. Various schemes were advanced to allow continued operation as one of the last remaining vessels of her type. These schemes included creation of a new underwater body (including framing and machinery support), acquisition of a vessel in the Northwest U.S. originally built as a steam yacht now converted to diesel and moving the propulsion system to a possibly more sound hull, and creating a structural underwater body using modern composites affixed to and supporting the remaining original hull. The modern composite approach was selected and USCG approval solicited. After much discussion, several iterations and significant passage of time the approach was approved by the USCG and efforts could proceed. The schedule ultimately approved consisted of glass mat plies, PVC foam, several mat/roving or cloth plies with core tapered to nothing at the boot, ends and keel (lay-up doubled around), and necessary through-hull penetrations.

Repairs and creation of the foam core fiberglass structural bottom incorporating the original hull shell were to be accomplished by Knight and Carver, a San Diego yard/builder with a breadth of experience with the materials but whose yard at Mission Bay could not accommodate the vessel. Arrangements were made with the San Diego Port District to create a temporary yard on shore of Berth 1 at the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal. MEDEA was taken out of service and her interior prepared for an extended drydock period in the fall of 1989 after which she was lifted using a floating crane and blocked at the Tenth Ave. terminal facility. The hull coating systems were removed by sand blasting, externally to the bulwark shear and internally (except Engine Room) below the cabin soles. To allow internal access for coating and ballast removals, portions of the shell were removed which were restored by welding after completion of preparation for application of an epoxy/urethane coating system. After external sand blasting, compromised or identified very thin areas of underwater body shell plate were either removed and inserted or doubled so as to be tight for vacuum bag processes involved in creation of the new bottom arrangements. Use of heat near rivets was held to a minimum but could not be eliminated altogether. Since there was to be a strong external watertight structure, rivets near heat effect areas were not caulked or ring welded. Creation of the new bottom spanned a fair period of time, involved both yard and museum personnel, and was subject of USCG scrutiny. On completion of the effort, MEDEA exterior coating systems similar to those existing before were restored. She was lifted back into the water, internal ballast returned, and she was returned to her mooring alongside BERKELEY to have various removals returned and her machinery brought back to service. Final inspections were conducted after all efforts were completed and she returned to service in mid 1990.

Drydockings have continued on approximately the same schedule with the same efforts, without ultrasonic gauging, as before the creation of the foam core bottom. Infra-red photographs taken on occasional drydockings show only the doublers and seem to indicate no moisture invasion or delamination has occurred.

There have been indications of adhesion difficulties between the top and epoxy coatings in some of the bilge voids. While not scientifically investigated, these are likely the result of surface contamination or fully cured epoxy at the time of top coat application. Eventually it will become necessary to remove the loose coating, roughen the exposed surface, and see if a conventional enamel or possibly alcohol based bilge coating will adhere. Mechanical removal of the internal coating and complete renewal of the coating system probably is not wise as distortion of shell plate and possible delamination of the foam core bottom system might occur.


Built in 1970 at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia as a wood hull, bluff bow, ship rigged sailing vessel patterned after and sharing the name of the 1857 British Royal Navy Frigate ROSE. The hull is single planked galvanize spike fastened over transverse double flitch sawn frames with full ceiling and steel watertight bulkheads. She displaces approximately 550 L.Tons. During her life she has been the subject of many efforts relating to planking, framing, installation of twin screw diesel auxiliary propulsion and the like. These efforts were of sufficient extent to allow her to enter under USCG Inspection. She served as a dockside attraction and sailing school ship before being altered and refit in 2002 to her present appearance as SURPRISE of the novel series by Patrick O'Brian for filming a movie. Considerable research was done by the movie production organization before her appearance alteration to assure her safe and accurate representation of vessels (French and British) of the size, type, and period portrayed in the novels. After her acquisition by the movie production organization, she was removed from school ship service and USCG Inspection.

During her January 2002 passage from Rhode Island to Southern California, immediately prior to her alteration, she had the misfortune of encountering some severe weather off New York on the leg to Puerto Rico. In preparation for this leg of the voyage, with consideration to weather/sea conditions which might be encountered, sails and some other rig above the lower masts were sent down and stowed, masts and standing rig remained. The gear sent down was restored at Puerto Rico with the intent of sailing as much as possible during the balance of the voyage. Unfortunately there was undetected damage in the main topmast at the hounds, probably from "whipping" during the weather situation and the rig was compromised by failure of the main topmast. Also compromised during the weather was a significant portion of her head gear deadwood structure forward of the stem. These damages were repaired, while on drydock in the AFDL at Southwest Marine and afloat at Ensenada, Baja California Norte, during her appearance alteration. During the 2002 drydock period the underwater body was sheathed by copper over Irish Felt from the waterline down about four feet, cutwater to keel at the bow. After hardening the cauking and assuring paying was tight, the underwater body was coated with antifouling color modified to approximate immersed copper sheathing. After the filming she was placed into semi lay-up with a skeleton crew performing minimal maintenance. She came to the museum under charter for display in 2003 at approximately the time as the opening of the film in which she appeared. In 2004 she was offered to and purchased by the museum to become part of the fleet.

She was drydocked at Southwest Marine in 2005 for routine underwater body maintenance and attention to topside coatings. Known hog was determined to be essentially unchanged. Wasting of rudder pintle/gudgeon arrangements observed marginally in excess of acceptable with correction deferred to a future drydocking. After undocking she was returned to her mooring for service as a display. Over the next year or so and as part of ongoing maintenance, various elements of her rig and outfit were altered from movie prop material to material more suitable for longer term service and display sailing. In 2006 the USCG, given their responsibility for port security/safety and with regard to vessel appearance/nature of outfit, was uneasy having an uninspected sailing warship plying the waters of Southern California. Hence it was their requirement she be returned to USCG Inspection before allowing any underway service other than transit to and from a shipyard for maintenance.

In 2007 she was hauled out at The Marine Group, Chula Vista facility by a Marine Travelift unit. Even though there seemed to have been an adequate and complete review of difficulties which might be encountered during the lift, there were unanticipated interference problems between the Travelift structure and rigging when the housed mizzen topmast was taller than anticipated and falling tide required a lift be accomplished. The topmast is now a bit shorter and the mizzen mast has been modified to allow its' removal without having to be unstepped through quarterdeck partners. In addition to ordinary underwater body maintenance the pintle/gudgeon clearance issue and other requirements of the attending USCG inspectors were given attention. Local borer damage was repaired and fastenings drawn observed in reasonable condition. Fastenings drawn were renewed with slightly larger spikes. After undocking and return to her mooring efforts have been directed to assuring systems met USCG requirements and complying with the requirement administrative details.


Built at San Diego in 1984 to USCG approved plans as a wood hull topsail schooner representing the US Revenue Cutter Service of the 1850's. She is primarily of Central and South American hardwoods single planked, galvanized spike fastened over transverse frame, bulkheads, and longitudinal stringers. She is similar in size and hull form to MEDEA, is outfitted with a diesel auxiliary engine, and displaces about 160 L.Tons. She has a current USCG Inspection Certificate for Southern California Coastal waters. She has been subject of USCG inspection during and since construction.

She came to the museum in 2002 when she was purchased from her original Owner and donated. As she was showing the effects of almost continuous service since new construction, she almost immediately entered a rather extensive overhaul and re-fit which involved all of her standing and running rig, mechanical and electric systems, and interior spaces. Part of this effort was drydocking. She entered active service in museum programs in 2003.

The drydocking of CALIFORNIAN after being transferred to the museum was at Knight & Carver, National City (the same as involved with the MEDEA bottom project at new location with much expanded capabilities) using a Travelift as part of the major overhaul/re-fit. Other than the usual concerns relating to integrity of seams, planking, through-hulls, and underwater body coatings there was concern relating to her auxiliary propulsion arrangements. The auxiliary propulsion since entering service had been less than adequate during maneuvering, even though calculations indicated it should be adequate, and the propeller shaft stern bearing housing fastenings had history of loosening or failure. Inspection and review seemed to show the propeller diameter was too small and the propeller shaft support bearings spaced too far apart. Complicating resolution of both issues was the arch or opening for the propeller was in the deadwood forward of the sternpost supporting the rudder and the propeller shaft had to be drawn inboard through a gland arrangement on the horn timber and bearing mounted on the aftermost watertight bulkhead. The auxiliary propulsion issues were addressed by hogging out and fairing the propeller arch to accommodate a larger propeller, fabricating a different stern tube forward bearing support/packing gland arrangement and adjusting shafting alignment. Also of concern was build up/adhesion of the vinyl antifouling coating. Loose coatings were removed by judicious use of high pressure wash, surfaces roughened and new coating applied. Seam paying was intact and serviceable. Issues associated with adhesion were expected to be unresolved as it was believed they were in part related to the oil content of the hull planking material and in part related to changes in coating solvents/volatiles required to conform with regulations. After undocking, performance of the auxiliary propulsion system seemed improved but perhaps a bit noisier at certain shaft speeds.

At subsequent routine drydockings, the concerns and resolutions, except auxiliary propulsion, have been essentially the same. Difficulties with propeller pitting have been experienced which seem to be the result of the thick deadwood and cavitation rather than galvanic or impressed current corrosion, although the possibility of the iron included in propeller bronze having pooled during casting or cooling can not be ruled out. Propulsion system noise was reduced when the propeller was changed to one with more blades with slightly different shapeand pitting issues seem much reduced.


Built in 1914 by Goulart Bros., San Diego as a wood hull, plumb bow, fantail stern, flush deck vessel for service placing and removing Harbor Pilots at the entrance to San Diego Bay. The hull is single planked over transverse frames and bulkheads with bilge stringers and clamp. About 35 L.Tons displacement. She served as the Pilot Boat for San Diego, including service under the Navy/USCG during World War II, until 1996 when it was deemed she could no longer keep up with or survive the slamming into ships arriving or departing San Diego.

After removal from service, she was donated to the museum by the Pilots Association. She then became subject of a considerable physical effort spanning 1999 to 2002 which resulted in her being returned to service with a USCG Inspection Certificate for service on Southern California waters similar to San Diego Bay and to transit between with crew only aboard.

When she entered the museum, it was with the assumption and agreement she would be restored to service in a manner consistent with presentation of her previous service and as an adjunct to the education portion of the museum mission. It was recognized the demands of her years of service had taken their toll on all parts of her structure and outfit and significant efforts would be required to accomplish the intended goal. It was hoped the efforts could be accomplished as an active interpretive museum display, however, the museum space was not adequate. Investigation into use of the Embarcadero Pier Apron or a barge alongside the Embarcadero as a temporary boatyard met with regulatory issues which could not be readily overcome. The major issues were not being able to adequately control debris and rain water runoff as part of the Air and Water quality requirements. The site ultimately arranged was in the shore end of the B Street Pier Warehouse, which already housed museum storage, with the requirements the area be kept clean and free of debris, hazardous materials, and with doors closed.

It was recognized the planned efforts had to meet the requirements for a USCG Inspection Certificate and the result remain recognizable as PILOT. Meeting the requirements for coastwise 20 miles from nearest port of refuge with no guest overnight accommodations was set as the goal. Incorporated into the layout were arrangements to be able to provide wheelchair access on the weather deck, provisions for remote indications of electronic navigation equipment, future minimal wet lab facilities, possible towbit, other utilitarian functions, and ability to service the needs of the Port Pilots if necessary. Complicating the project was a series of changes in the Inspection regulations scheduled to take effect during the efforts.

Ultimately the PILOT was reduced to keel, floor timbers, bilge stringers, clamp, engine stringers, deadwood, horn timber, fantail rim log and planking. With very few exceptions everything else was renewed, either in-kind or equivalent, and necessary bulkheads created. New frames were laminated in place and old frames removed. Much of the original white cedar planking was kept. The copper riveted scarph butts in the original planking were kept, some fitted with shaped dutchmen backed with blocking. Some original planking was fitted with new edges to accommodate slack resulting from slight change in vessel shape and dimensional change from loss of moisture. Deck layout alterations included narrowing the cabin and wheelhouse, shortening the wheelhouse, extending the engine trunk cabin to incorporate lazarette access and eliminate a deck hatch wheelchair hazard. Many of the deck layout modifications were done with an eye to balancing rail length, deck area, and cabin top seating width guest/passenger accommodation requirements. Height of the cabins and wheelhouse were increased slightly to comply with overhead clearance requirements. Unlike the original construction the deck, cabin and wheelhouse sides and tops are now plywood of thickness similar to the original planked materials. This change should contribute greatly to the transverse structure stability. The engine, believed to be her third, was removed to the local Caterpillar dealer for dyno testing after which some refurbishing of external outfit occurred. Fuel capacity was reduced and some internal ballast eliminated to restore approximate as built freeboard. The steering system was changed from wheel with tiller ropes to the quadrant to wheel controlled hydraulic to simplify the necessary bulkhead penetrations. Much of the original hardware was reused. Fresh water is in portable containers, lavatory sink drains to a portable sump and the toilet is a self contained portable unit. Fuel tank fill and vents are located in a common containment which has provision for draining into a portable container if necessary. Care was used in setting caulking and application of paying, including selection and use of paying materials applied to the deadwood and rudder so as to accommodate the swelling of wood on return to the water.

After initial coating she was moved overland to Knight & Carver, National City where after restoring some moisture to the hull using burlap and soaker hoses she was launched. After a relatively short period of swelling the hull became tight. About the only difficulties experienced in preparing her to enter her new service were correction of a rotation "glitch" in the engine driven hydraulic steering assist pump and some administrative issues to complete compliance with the USCG requirements.

Since launching after the major effort she has been routinely hauled out, usually by Travelift, for underwater body maintenance and topside coating. After the first haul out when seam paying was attended to, the hull has indicated it is stable and no untoward conditions observed.


Drydocking is expensive and removes a vessel from service of any sort.

There are some basic reasons to drydock a vessel.

One is to inspect the underwater body and its' appurtenances.
A second is to remove the obstructions to smooth passage of the hull through the water.
A third is to assure a membrane exists which reduces or eliminates contact between sensitive hull materials and the water.

Most vessels in museum service are static and permanently moored. They do not and will not go any where as they have been deemed irreplaceable representatives of their type or class or Owned by an entity other than the museum and displayed with restrictions as to their use. It may be that careful attention to mooring arrangement/conditions and monitoring of underwater body conditions by divers/instrumentation while afloat can significantly extend drydocking intervals for a vessel which is static. Conceivably, given the correct coatings and conditions, it might be possible to defer drydocking for a couple of generations if there is no internal deterioration. Bilges must be kept dust dry and leaking from the top down eliminated. Condensation must be reduced to a minimum or eliminated.

Growth on the underwater body will not occur if active corrosion exists. Marine growth might actually be beneficial in creating an isolation between water and the hull. Lack of marine growth on the other hand might simply be an indication the water is so contaminated or polluted life cannot exist. A reasonable test of whether lack of marine growth is an indication of corrosion might be if wooden structures immersed in the waters disappear because something is eating them.

All vessels will have difficulty at wind/water which will require attention. Any good barrier coating system should be carried well above the normal waterline in an attempt to mitigate the unavoidable deterioration at wind and water. Perhaps in the future a floating cofferdam arrangement will allow preservations/coatings application in this area without requiring drydocking.

Wooden vessels are subject to attack by marine organisms which can and will gain access through breaks in coating films. Wooden vessels might actually benefit from being afloat in highly contaminated or polluted waters. Drydocking of wooden vessels should not be deferred as any break in the coating film may allow "beasts" to take up residence in the hull materials. Weeping, including shaft packing glands, will allow the entry of wood consuming organisms which will eat the vessel from the inside out and result in deterioration of framing end grains as well as frame/planking faying surfaces. Seam motion, wide or over caulked seams, and deteriorated fastenings or slack at frame/plank faying surfaces must not be allowed to continue. Salt in the bilge or behind ceiling will in the long run be less valuable than good ventilation. The value of encapsulation of wood by synthetic materials remains suspect. Films coating wooden structures must be flexible.

Some of the old time remedies or potions may still have value.

Liquid sulfur used to be a remedy for curing weeping through thin gaps or "working" faying surfaces.
Metal ship underwater bodies used to be coated by a lard/creosote mix applied hot.
Irish Felt contained long lasting mercury compounds.
Red lead prevented surface growths and filled little imperfections.

A review of Mackrow's handbook or other shipbuilders handbook spanning the late 1800s through early 1900s will reveal lots of useful, but probably, no longer acceptable similar things. (The Naval Architect's, Shipbuilder's, and Marine Engineer's Pocket-Book -- Clement Mackrow and Lloyd Woollards-- Eleventh Edition Thoroughly Revised 1916.-- The Norman W. Henley Pub. Co., 132 Nassau St., NY)

Return to HNSA Operations Handbook Home Page


Copyright © 2007-2008, Historic Naval Ships Association.
All Rights Reserved.
Legal Notices and Privacy Policy
Version 3.03