Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Ferry Sunol

Among the many beautiful ship models on exhibit at the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum is a model of the ferry boat Sunol. The model was donated to the Museum in 1989 by Mr. Peter Stauffer of Lausanne, Switzerland.

The Sunol was a stern-wheeler built in 1890 in San Francisco and operated by the Aden Brothers Ferry Co. Sunol made regular daily trips between Vallejo and San Francisco but her running time of 3 hours and 45 minutes made her impractical as a commuter ferry. In March of 1897 the Sunol was sunk in a collision with the sailing ship Olympic. Fortunately no lives were lost. This is how the Vallejo Evening Chronicle reported the story:

“The steamer Sunol was wrecked at 4:15 o’clock Wednesday afternoon in a collision with the sailing vessel Olympic, and turned over in the water. The accident occurred near Alcatraz, soon after the vessel had left her moorings at San Francisco on her 4 o’clock trip to Vallejo. No lives were lost, but during the collision the greatest excitement prevailed.
“The Olympic caught the Sunol almost amidships on the port side, while going at a speed of about three knots. The impact of the steamer on the vessel’s bow, and the resistance of the water created by the moving of the ship, kept the steamer up a sufficient length of time to permit every passenger to escape in safety to the deck of the Olympic.

“Naturally during the collision great consternation prevailed, but it is reported that the crew of the Sunol acted gallantly throughout the whole scene. They assisted in the transfer of women and children to the Olympic, and wisely examined every stateroom and the decks to see that no one was injured or hemmed in, preventing their escape. Captain Dye was the last man to leave the steamer.

The Cause.

“There seems to be many opinions regarding the cause of the collision, and who is at fault, but probably the nearest to being correct is the statement that it was of a misunderstanding of Captain Dye of the Sunol, who thought that the Olympia was at anchor. As the steamer was proceeding up the bay Captain Dye saw the bark Alden Besse being towed in by the tug Reliance. The Alden Besse was off the seawall at the time, and though the Olympic was ahead, she had no tow, and Captain Dye made a disastrous mistake in believing the bark to be at anchor.

“The Olympic was sailing in without a pilot or a tugboat, as Captain Gibbs considered he was able to manage his vessel without assistance. The Olympic was moving slowly through the water with her sails all clewed up but not furled. There was a good breeze blowing, and the unfurled sails caught considerable wind. As the Olympic is a very heavy vessel, it had a considerable impetus, and moved slowly but with great force.

“When Captain Dye of the Sunol realized that the Olympic was bearing down on him he signaled to back but the order came too late.

“When the crash came, all that the crew of the Olympic could do was to help the passengers on the Sunol to a place of safety on the decks of their own vessel. The passengers swarmed over her bow and the helpless were given every aid, so that all forty-five were safely transferred to the Olympic.

Minds Relieved.

“When the news came to town of the accident, R. J. R. Aden was besieged with inquiries by anxious ones, particularly those who had relatives on board, and naturally having so many passengers on board it was thought surely that there must have been some lost. The news at first was indefinite, but a half hour later the first dispatch was received another came, stating positively no lives were lost. This was a great relief, very much so to Mr. Aden who said for his company; “we can restore the boat, but not lives,’ and Mr. Aden was relieved in mind and his face was brightened with smiles when he got the good news that there were no lives lost. As for the loss of the boat and its freight, of course it was considerable yet he looked on it philosophically.

The Losses.

“Estimates as to the loss occasioned by the collision ranged from $25,000 to $150,000, but it is no doubt nearer the first figure. The boat is values at $20,000. According to the reports received to-day, her hull and machinery will be saved, as she is now on the Berkeley mud flats, and can be raised. The sum of $5,000 is an outside figure to make her good as new.

“The freight that she carried is a total, loss and it is likely the shippers are the injured ones.

“Two valuable brood mares belonging to B.C. Holly were a part of the cargo. One of the animals was lost and the other is probably injured.

“K. Casper had from $300 to $400 worth of piping and fittings for his electric station on board. They were from the firm of Keogh & Co. and are a total loss. Mr. Casper had ordered one of the dynamos to be shipped in the afternoon, but for some reason it had not been placed on board.

“Roney’s Express was also a sufferer, for all the business of the Express is done on the Sunol.

“The heaviest loss will fall on the Selby Smelting Works. For these works the Sunol had 1,500 bars of lead valued at from $6,000 to $10,000, also a few bars of gold bullion which were locked in the safe. Unless the safe went overboard, which is not likely, this is safe.

“The decks of the Sunol were filled with freight of all kinds, all of which of course fell overboard.
The Humorous Side.

“The Call says that: “In the safe there was $25,000 in specie for the Mare Island Navy Yard. In the big iron tank on the forward deck in which the bullion and crude ore for the Selby Smelting Company was carried, there was about $40,000 worth of raw material and the general merchandise would probably amount to $5000 worth more. The steamer was valued at $25,000. So somebody will be “out and injured.”

“The crew lost everything they had except the clothes they stood in, and as all the passengers had been on shopping expedition they lost all their purchases, and consider they were lucky to escape with their lives.

A Swift Kick.

“In another place the Call says; “As each male passenger was helped aboard he was given a swift kick by the crew of the bark, because they had shoved women and children aside in their hurry to reach safety.”

The Crew and Passengers

“The crew of the Sunol numbered sixteen all told. The officers were: Captain S. Dye, Mate Charles Ostrowski, Chief Engineer Ed. Mahoney and Second Engineer J . F. Wallace.

“Among the passengers were : Wm. J. Moore, T. Lynch, Mrs. F. Cooper and two children, Harry LeClaire J. Johnson, William Fahr, John Ingle, Michael Byrne, Edward Harris, Mrs. F. P. Worshaw and child, Mrs. W. E. Lane, Emil Stoltenburg, of Oakland, O. B. Rowell of Butte, Mont., R. J. Lennox, Misses Josie, Mary and Madeline Tinelli, and H. F. Stahl.

Will Be Raised

“R. J. R. Aden went to the city this morning to consult in regard to raising and repairing the Sunol. The steamer is now on the Berkeley mud flats, and in such a position that no difficulty is anticipated in raising her.

Volunteered Assistance.

“Captain Hatch with the steamer Monticello left San Francisco in the wake of the Sunol and witnessed the collision. He steamed around the vessel twice and offered assistance, but in the excitement and the difficulties of working to advantage, his proffered assistance could not be accepted.

“There were about 140 passengers on the Monticello, and among them there was considerable excitement. Captain Hatch remained fully half an hour at the scene of the wreck before continuing on his course.

The Grace Barton.
“The Piper, Aden, Goodal Company have engaged one of the Red Stack tugs, so that their freight and passenger business will go on as usual. In a day or two they will put their streamer, the Grace Barton on the run.”