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Historic Shipwreck Profile

Five-masted Schooner William H. Smith
Wooden hull of William H. Smith exposed on beach after storm event. Courtesy of R.Yerena/NOAA.

William H. Smith

Five-masted Schooner

shipwreck location map

Casualty Location: Del Monte Beach, Monterey, Monterey County, California, USA

Location Status: Located (see Important Note)

Casualty Date: 1933 (Feb 23)

Owner: Horace Cochran

Home Port: San Francisco, California, USA

Length: 232.4 feet Beam: 43.3 feet

Gross Tonnage: 1957 Cargo:

Builder: Goss, Sawyer & Packard

Launched: 1883 (Bath, Maine, USA)

Official Number: 80954

Description: The William H. Smith was anchored in Monterey Bay when a blustery evening northwester caused it to slip anchor and it was dragged to shore just east of the old Del Monte bathhouse. Within three hours, the vessel began breaking up on the shore, resulting in a total loss. Watchman Edwin Berglund was aboard when the vessel broke adrift. Unable to swim, he spent the night on the sinking vessel and was taken ashore in the morning, as breaking waves embedded the keel into the beach sand. No lives were lost. Launched in 1883 from the famous shipyards in Bath, Maine, the William H. Smith was used for cargo and passenger service and had a record of 18 round-the-world cruises and many other voyages. Owner Horace Cochran had purchased the vessel only one year prior, as a fishing schooner and commercial pleasure craft. Valued at about $6,200, it was fully insured. Today, the vessel hull is occasionally exposed on the beach after big storms. Note: Cochran also purchased the four-masted schooner Aurora, which followed a similar fate during a northwester in 1935, losing anchor and grounding at Del Monte Beach.

Nature of Casualty:

Newspaper header1 from Monterey Peninsula Herald 24FEB1933 of shipwreck William H. Smith

Newspaper header2 from Monterey Peninsula Herald 24FEB1933 of shipwreck William H. Smith

Newspaper clipping p1 from Monterey Peninsula Herald 24FEB1933 of shipwreck William H. Smith

Newspaper clipping p7 from Monterey Peninsula Herald 24FEB1933 of shipwreck William H. Smith

Source: The Monterey Peninsula Herald (Monterey, CA), 24 February 1933, p.1 (col 2), p.7 (col.7)
Courtesy of Monterey Public Library



William H. Smith Breaking Up Rapidly On Beach Near Old Del Monte Bathhouse

Watchman Who Stayed On Vessel All Night Had Narrow Escape

Relief Council Salvaging Timber Brough Ashore By Heavy Surf

By W.F. Gleeson, JR.

Driven ashore by high winds that whipped Monterey bay info a froth of whitecaps yesterday, the five masted schooner William H. Smith today was breaking up in a heavy surf just east of the old Del Monte bathhouse.

Fate decreed an inglorious end for the old ship, one of the few remaining relics of the days when white winged barques were the backbone of world commerce.

Unlike many of her sister ships whose careers were climaxed spectacularly on rocky reefs during furious storms in far off places, the Smith merely gave a heavy lunge, broker her anchor chain and set out for her last brief cruise late yesterday afternoon.

Driven Ashore By Winds

A high wind sweeping across the bay carried her ashore quickly and all night she rolled in the breakers her keel firmly imbeded (sic) in the beach.

Real tragedy almost marked the end of the old craft. Edwin Berglund, 28, watchman, was aboard her when she broke adrift and was forced to spend the night on the vessel because of the danger of leaving her in the dark, dusk having settled down shortly after the boat struck shore.

Berglund had a narrow escape this morning when he was taken off the Smith. Stiff and tired from a night spent in the rocking craft, he lost his grasp on a line on which he was making his way to shore hand over hand and fell about ten feet from the ship.

Unable To Swim

The water already was strewn with wreckage and Berglund, unable to swim, was in danger when the rope which he lost hold of was lowered within his reach. Once again it was drawn taut and the watchman finally made his way to shore, none the worse for his experience, aside from a ducking and a sleepless night.

Hundreds gathered along the beach today as the boat broke up under the relentless pounding of the surf. Piles of wreckage were strewn along a wide section of the shore and scores of men and women were busy salvaging or looking for bronze bolts or fittings that might serve as souvenirs.

Valued at about $6,200, the William H. Smith was fully covered by insurance, according to her owner, Horace Cochran, Monterey business man. Cochran, who bought the Smith and the Aurora, a four masted schooner, about a year ago, had spent several thousand dollars recently in cleaning up the larger boat and building a dance floor on the craft.

Relief Council Gets Wood

Salvage rights were given to the Unemployed Relief Council today by the owner and a crew of more than twenty men supervised by H.D. Coon, president and manager of the council, were busy stacking timbers on the beach and loading them on trucks.

Buffeted by the storm which came up yesterday afternoon, the William H. Smith dragged anchor frequently despite Berglund’s efforts to located a firm hold in the sandy bottom. Late in the afternoon the watchman let our more chain as the vessel drifted and the anchor finally caught.

A short time later, however, the craft was struck broadside by a large wave and the chain broke. At the time the vessel was a short distance off the old Del Monte bathhouse. Less than an hour later her keel struck the beach about a quarter mile to the south.

Masts Crash To Deck

Pounded by heavy seas throughout the night, the ship started to break up this morning. Her tall masts, which caused the vessel to roll in a wide arc, were shaken
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(Continued from page 1)

down onto the decks with a splintering crash about nine o’clock.

The tide started to turn a short time later and with the sea increasing in roughness the water and the beach were soon littered with wreckage. Cochran expects the boat to be completely broken up before this evening.

The William H. Smith was built at Bath, Maine, in 1883. Her length is 234 feet, beam 43 feet, depth 16 feet and net tonnage 1868.

Used in passenger service at one time, the vessel had the records of eighteen round the world cruises and many other voyages on her log.

Built of sturdy northern pine timbers, the Smith was constructed to withstand the pounding of mountainous seas. She did for years and when brought here by Cochran was as staunch as when first built.

With her keel deep in the sand, however, there was no give as the breakers struck today and the craft broke up rapidly.

Cochran kept a watch on the beach throughout the day waiting for the Smith’s cabin to come ashore. The interior is finished in Spanish walnut, mahogany, teak and oak which he plans to salvage.

Additional Information: Wreck
(click headline to access full article)

Newspaper headline from Salinas Index-Journal 24FEB1933 of shipwreck William H. Smith

Source: Salinas Index-Journal (Salinas, CA), February 24, 1933, p.1, col.6.
Courtesy of


Gale Pounds Old Ship To Destruction

Newspaper headline from Santa Cruz Sentinenl 26FEB1933 of shipwreck William H. Smith

Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel (Santa Cruz, CA), February 24, 1933, p.6, col.4-5
Courtesy of California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside.



Additional Information: Vessel

Newspaper headline from The Daily Examiner 22MAY1883 of shipwreck William H. Smith

Source: The Daily Examiner (San Francisco, CA), May 22, 1883, p.1, col.4


A Handsome Ship

Referenced and Additional Resources

Important Note: Section 922.132 of the sanctuary regulations prohibits or restricts several activities in order to safeguard sanctuary resources, including: Moving, removing, injuring or possessing historical resources.

For a complete “official text" of MBNMS regulatory prohibitions, see Title 15, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 922.132 published by the U.S. Government Printing Office.

Reviewed: April 11, 2024
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service

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