The National Park Service will re-christen the 1895 West Coast lumber schooner C.A. Thayer this weekend, after transforming the historic vessel from a lifeless hull to a grand three-masted sailing ship.
The park service will do the honors at Hyde Street Pier Saturday during the Festival of the Sea, which will feature 20 musical acts plus seafaring demonstrations.
The Thayer is the last existing lumber schooner of a fleet that helped build the West by transporting supplies to the burgeoning cities like San Francisco. National Park Service maritime workers have spent years researching the Thayer’s original features, and then constructing them using traditional methods.
"That’s how it was done," said Courtney Andersen, the Park Services Historical Ship Rigging Supervisor. "If we didn’t do it this way we wouldn’t be telling the truth about the past."
This week on board the Thayer, a pair of workers scaled a web of ropes on a mast seventy feet above deck, attaching the rigging that will eventually hoist sails which the ship hasn’t sported in decades.
Inside a nearby workshop, a trio of Park Service workers were bending and splicing thick wires by hand — a laborious technique used by early mariners.
"If we cut corners or do thing the more modern way or with modern materials," Andersen said, "we’re kind of not doing what we’re supposed to do as a museum."
Earlier this year, the team hauled the mast-less hull of the Thayer to an Alameda shipyard where it got a paint job, and three new masts. The ship was towed back to Hyde Street where Andersen and his team are installing the rigging with plans to eventually sail the ship.
Andersen said in lieu of champagne, the Park Service would re-christen the ship with a bottle of water collected from Eureka, California, just down the road from where the Thayer was built.
"I thought it’d be kind of cool to get water from Fairhaven Bay," Andersen said, "the same area where she was splashed in 1895."
The re-dedication comes at a fitting time as the National Park Service celebrates its centennial this year. It’s a time to appreciate the past and treasures, like the Thayer, that have survived.
Andersen watched the flurry of work around him, and pondered the plight of the lumber schooners — the workhorse vessels that helped build San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area.
"They weren’t built to be a yacht, they weren’t built to be pretty," Andersen said. "They did what they did — they did it honorably and they did it for a long time."
The Festival takes place on the Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco Saturday August 20th from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.