SS Charles W. Wetmore - Operating History

Operating History

The Wetmore was the first whaleback to operate outside the Great Lakes, when in June 1891, as a way to promote the whaleback design, she was sent to London and Liverpool, England, carrying a cargo of 95,000 bushels of grain. This required traversing the rapids of the Saint Lawrence River as she was too big to fit through the locks of the time, and was therefore practically a one-way journey. After her visit to England, where she reportedly caused a "sensation" she returned to New York and loaded machinery and equipment there and in Philadelphia. She then sailed to Everett, Washington, via Cape Horn. Her journey was covered in the Puget Sound local press. The equipment was to be used to start a new shipyard, The Pacific Steel Barge Company, and to outfit a nail mill and iron smelter.

Her designer, Alexander McDougall arrived in Everett in early December, in advance of her arrival. When almost there, she lost her rudder (it had gradually been coming unriveted since the Galagapos Islands according to her captain) and she had to be towed in by the SS Zambezi out of Hong Kong. As was typical marine salvage practice at the time, the owners of the Zambezi filed a salvage claim for one third the value of the ship and cargo. She was nevertheless received with great enthusiasm by the local townsfolk.

Her career was short: she ran aground on 8 September 1892 in fog off Coos Bay, Oregon while carrying a load of coal from Tacoma, Washington bound for San Francisco. Salvage attempts were frustrated due to bad weather, and the vessel was abandoned. Meanwhile the Pacific Steel Barge Company yard, founded with the equipment she brought, built the SS City of Everett. No other whalebacks were built by the shipyard.

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