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Historic Shipwreck Profile: Additional Information on Wreck Event

William H. Smith

Five-masted Schooner

Newspaper clipping from Salinas Index-Journal 24FEB1933 p1 col6 shipwreck William H. Smith

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


Gale Pounds Old Ship To Destruction

Five-Master Is Driven Ashore At Monterey, Hammered To Bits By High-Running Waves

Debris Salvaged For Firewood By Jobless Combing Beach; Boat Had Colorful History

Howling Into Monterey Bay yesterday afternoon a blustering northwester today had consigned a once-proud clipper to firewood.

Swaying at anchor a few yards from Monterey municipal wharf, the five-masted William H. Smith basked in the warm sunlight yesterday morning.

Suddenly, without warning, the nor'wester swept into the bay, sending fishing boat and other small craft scurrying for cover behind the "little breakwater.”

Instantly the glassy bay became a choppy carpet of whitecaps. Wave spanked against the ship's wooden sides, no longer as staunch as in the days when the William H. Smith scudded over the seven seas, bearing cargo from Maine to Malay.

Time and the advent of steam had reduced the William Smith from her rank as a clipper to that of a schooner — but the old ship gave her owner, Horace Cochran and others promise that she would ride out this unusual storm, taking place beneath clear blue skies.

However, at 6:50 last night she slipped her anchor and dragged toward shore – and disaster.

Pounding breakers, ever growing higher, followed up their advantage and hammered the William Smith to the beach.

She grounded. The wind increased to gale proportions. The William Smith was doomed.

While fishermen sympathized from their protected craft in lee of the breakwater, the old ship slowly crumbled. Her bow cracked first.

Water poured through ever-widening seams. Masts and spars trembled. As the salty water ate its way through oakum and pitch, plank after plank dropped from the William Smith's sides.

A mast toppled, crashing the fo’castle with it. Others soon followed, scattering rigging atop the battered hulk.

This morning the gale had completed its havoc. For more than half a mile the beach between the old Del Monte bathhouse and Seaside was strewn with debris. Some of the masts bobbed, like corks on the bay, still whipped by the gusts which had destroyed the boat.

As the swells carried remnants of the William Smith to shore eager jobless and others waded into the surf and dragged spars, planks and masts to dry land – for firewood.

A large crowd cheered their efforts.

Meanwhile owner Cochran directed a salvage crew which wrested more desirable pieces of equipment from the beachcombers and stowed it on the beach under guard.

Launched from the famous Bathe, Maine, shipyards in 1883, the William Smith originally was a trim craft especially under full canvas, topsails and all.

She is credited with 18 world cruises – voyages that carried her past old Sugarloaf at Rio De Janeiro, off forbidding Diamond Head at Hawaii, along the Bund at Shanghai and into harbors at Singapore, Bangkok, Calcutta, Liverpool and others.

Later she fell to a sorry lot and was remantled by the Nelson Lines for coast-wise lumber trade. Her last voyage carried her from San Jose de Guatemala to San Francisco

Cochran saved her from slow rotting death about a year ago when he purchased the William Smith and had her towed to Monterey. There the boat was equipped as a commercial pleasure craft and fishing schooner – for the benefit of romantic tourists.

Tonight, or as soon as the spray has been driven from it, the last vestige of the five-master will be crackling in peninsula fireplaces.

And the sea will have claimed another victim from the thinning ranks of the sailing craft whose canvas once crackled over the seven seas.

Newspaper clipping from Santa Cruz Sentinel 26FEB1933 p6 col4 shipwreck William H. Smith
Newspaper clipping from Santa Cruz Sentinel 26FEB1933 p6 col5 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..



While no damage was done on the local waterfront during the time the heavy north wind swept over the bay Friday, there was a different tale to tell on the Monterey side, where a gale of this sort makes it dangerous for either small or large boats. One large craft went ashore and in comment on the disaster the Monterey Peninsula Herald takes occasion to refer to it as follows:

"Driven ashore by high winds that whipped Monterey bay into a froth of whitecaps Friday, the five-masted schooner William H. Smith today was breaking up in a heavy surf just east of the old Del Monte bath house.

"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, broke her anchor chain and set out for her last brief cruise.

“A high wind sweeping across the bay carried her ashore quickly and all night she rolled in the breakers, her keel firmly imbedded 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 on 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 10 feet from the ship.

"The water already was strewn with wreckage, and Berglund, unable to swim, was in danger when the rope which he lost hold of was again lowered within his reach. Once more 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."

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

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