San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park
Lower Fort Mason, Bldg. E
San Francisco, CA 94123
WELCOME to Alma
The scow schooner Alma, sailing on San
- Overall length: 80 feet
- Registered length: 59 feet
- Beam: 22.6 feet
- Depth: 4 feet
- Gross tonnage: 41.76
- Height of foremast: 67 feet
Alma is a
wooden-hulled scow schooner built in 1891 to carry bulk cargo. The
flat-bottomed hull was designed to navigate the shallow waters of
the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta and to rest on the bottom at low
With few bridges and connecting roads, scow schooners
delivered goods all over the Bay and Delta much as trucks do today.
By 1880 there were 250 sailing scows on San Francisco Bay.
Fred Siemer came to San Francisco from Germany
in 1865, and started his own shipyard at Hunters Point (located in
the southeastern section of San Francisco).
He constructed two scow schooners. Siemer
named the first after his daughter, Adelia. After Adelia married,
Siemer built the second scow for his son-in-law, James Peterson.
That boat, constructed in Peterson�s front yard in 1891, was named
for Peterson�s daughter, Alma.
construction was not unique, but it was unusual; her bottom planking
was laid athwartships (side-to-side) instead of fore-and-aft. Called
"log built" because the horizontally-laid planks were
quite thick, scows like Alma traded a bit of speed and
ease-of-repair for economy and strength. This photo of Alma underway
on San Francisco Bay dates from about 1900.
Alma hauled a
wide variety of cargoes during her career. She carried hay and
lumber under sail, and after Peterson removed her masts in 1918, she
freighted sacks of Alviso salt while being towed as a barge. Frank
Resech, who purchased the vessel in 1926, installed a gasoline
engine in her, and from then until 1957 her cargo was exclusively
oyster shell � carried in a 22� by 36� wooden bin installed on
A number of sailing scows ended up as oyster
shell dredges. The shell was free for the taking and vast deposits
lay in the San Francisco Bay. Both Resech and his wife lived and
worked aboard Alma for a time; Mrs. Resech handled the
steering while her husband operated the dredging machinery. During
those days, Alma hauled 110-125 tons of shell per week to
Petaluma, California, where it was ground and used for chicken feed.
In 1943, Resech sold the vessel to Peter John
Gambetta, who continued to operate her as a dredger until 1957. When
Gambetta retired Alma she was still seaworthy, but no longer
The State of California purchased Alma
as she lay on the Alviso mudflats in 1959, and restoration work
began in 1964. She was transferred to the National Park Service in
1978, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988.
Alma is now part
of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park�s fleet of
historic vessels at Hyde Street Pier. She sails every season, and
participates in the revived Master Mariners Regatta every May.
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