Friday, February 29, 2008
Scow Schooners of Texas
Back in the 1800's the scow schooner became quite famous in the US as a boat that could handle the very shallow waters of the back bays of harbors such as Port Arthur, Galveston, Matagorda, and possibly even SPI. I have not found any specific documentation of them being here but will ask the local historians. They were log-planked completely flat on bottom so if the did hit a sandbar, they would just wait for high tide and move on. Centerboards were used as portable keels that went up and down.
The above picture was a scow schooner in Galveston Bay. It is obviously lightering cotton, hay, or some heavy load for a large ship. At one time there were reported to be many working the Texas coast because the big ships sometimes needed so much water they had to anchor outside in the Gulf - there was always a wicked sandbar to contend with in the sea channel. I wish I knew more about them but they look cool.
The above picture is the Alma of San Francisco, which is still sailing today thanks to conservation efforts. It is reported to be one of the fastest schooner barges ever built. At the heyday in San Francisco about 400 were involved in lightering, coaling, and garbage operations (urk!). They are tremendously stable and even when I was there in the 30-knot breeze, the Alma didn't even tip over a bit.
The folks in Galveston are building one and I thought gee, why not us?