The Fremont Street Wharf angled 500 feet northeast into the bay from this place from 1869 to 1907. At that time the Alaska Packers; fleet of wooden and iron square rigged ships and barks loaded here, sailing 2,500 miles north to Alaska each spring with fishermen and cannery hands. As many as 300 men crowded on board each vessel to make the trip north - Italian fishermen from San Francisco's North Beach, Scandinavian and some North German fishermen and sailors, as well as Chinese and Mexican workers to operate the canneries. They sailed the square-rigged ships, fished from small boats in Alaskan waters, packed the salmon in the local canneries, and sailed back to San Francisco each Autumn with a full salmon pack. The Vessels Whose Names Appear Here Were Owned by the Alaska Packers and Sailed from this Pier
The Star of Alaska noses along with a brisk wind filling her canvas, Said to be the fastest windjammer of the fleet, she made the trip from San Francisco to Bristol Bay, Alaska, in fifteen to twenty days. Christened Balclutha in 1886, the big steel-hulled ship sailed around the horn seventeen times before the Alaska Packers bought her for $500 in 1904 when she ran ashore on a reef near Kodiak Island. Worth about $50,000 when salvaged and repaired, and given the name Star of Alaska, she sailed for the Alaska Packers when they operated twenty-three canneries in Alaska and employed seven thousand workers - brought up from San Francisco each sprig to put up the lucrative salmon pack. Now a National Park Service museum ship and given back her christened name -Balclutha - she and the museum ship Star of India are the sole survivors of the Alaska Packers fleet.
Axel Widerstrom recalls shipboard life as a cabin boy on the Star of France, when his father, Captain John Widerstorm, was master. "On board the Star of France in 1918 - before she got stuck in the ice. There was a lot of trouble that year - the Italians complained about the food. They wouldn't eat in the mess room, instead, they insisted on eating out on deck, as you can see here. All kinds of food was thrown overboard - mush, bread, bacon, salt beef, salt pork. They demanded fresh meat: the old man told the they could have dog." Later Captain Widerstorm found out that the man responsible for buying provisions bought the cheapest food he could find and pocketed the difference. He never sailed with Captain Widerstorm again.
Fishing started in the middle of June, and the boats would be busy all July - it would be the first part of August before they were called back. Fishing crews worked two to a boat to handle the nets and pick the fish out. When their boat filled with salmon - two thousand or more - they sailed to a barge at anchor and tossed the fish aboard, counting each fish. The tallyman kept track; fishermen got so much a fish, regardless of size.
Once a day they would sail over to a bunk-scow, anchored in the river, to get a hot meal, pick up supplies and water - but they slept in their fishing boats. These are Scandinavian; you can tell by the way they unstepped their masts to rig small tents.
The Alaska Packers' fleet winters at Alameda in the Oakland estuary - it was the last large commercial sailing fleet out of San Francisco - operating from 1893 until 1929, when the last sailing ships went north.
(on the back of the pylon)
George Skofield, a wooden ship · James A. Borland, a wooden bark · Will A. Case, a wooden bark · Nicholas Thayer, a wooden bark · Merom, a wooden ship · Llewelyn J. Morse, a wooden ship · Prosper, a three-masted wooden schooner · Oriental, a wooden ship · Sterling, a wooden ship · Bohemia, a wooden ship · Levi J. Burgess, a wooden ship · Santa Clara, a wooden ship · Carondolet, a three-masted wooden ship · Eclipse, a wooden ship · Centennial, a wooden ship, converted to a four-masted barkentine · Reaper, a wooden bark · Indiana, a wooden ship · Issac Reed, a wooden ship · Tacoma, a wooden ship · Two Brothers, a wooden ship · Star of India, Formerly Euterpe, an iron bark - restored as Star of India · Star of Chile, formerly Coalinga, formerly La Escocesa, an iron bark · Star of Russia, an iron ship · Star of Peru, formerly Himalaya, an iron bark · Star of Alaska, formerly Balclutha, a steel ship - restored as Balclutha · Star of France, an iron ship · Star of Italy, an iron ship · Star of England, formerly Blairmore, formerly Abby Palmer, a steel bark · Star of Scotland, formerly Kenilworth, a steel four-masted bark · Star of Iceland, formerly Willscott, a steel bark · Star of Holland, formerly Homeward Bound, Otto Gildenmeister, Zemindar, an iron bark · Star of Greenland, formerly Hawaiian Isles, a steel four-masted bark · Star of Finland, formerly Kaiulani, a steel bark · Star of Bengal, an iron bark · Star of Lapland, formerly Atlas, a four-masted steel bark · Star of Zealand, formerly Astral, a four-masted steel bark · Metha Nelson, a wood three-masted schooner · Star of Poland, a steel four-masted bark · Star of Sydney, a six masted barkentine · Star of Shetland, formerly Edward Sewall, a four-masted steel bark · Star of Falkland, formerly Arapahoe, Northern Light, Steinbek, Durbridge, a steel ship