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Pat Broderick Presents “Ghost Ships of San Francisco Bay” Tonight

Have you heard of the ghost ships of San Francisco Bay? It’s estimated that over 4,000 ships have met their end on San Francisco Bay, the adjacent Pacific Ocean, and the Sacramento Delta. Some foundered in the notorious fog, some succumbed to storms, some became part of downtown San Francisco after being abandoned by Gold Rush crews; surprisingly, some drifted ashore due to tidal action and lack of wind, and others simply vanished.

Tonight (Wednesday, October 5) local sailor Pat Broderick is presenting his talk “Ghost Ships of San Francisco Bay” on Zoom, at the Mill Valley Historical Society, as part of Mill Valley Library’s virtual events.

Pat has sailed on San Francisco Bay since 1971. He’s well known to Bay Area racers as both a race organizer and a competitor, currently sailing his Wyliecat 30 Nancy. Pat became interested in San Francisco Bay nautical archaeology when a tugboat engineer neighbor came home with wine bottles from a Gold Rush-era ship uncovered by construction along the old Embarcadero.

USS Benevolence lies awash on her side
The USS Benevolence, a Navy hospital ship, lies sunken and awash about three miles off Lands End, just south of the shipping channel.
© 2022 US Coast Guard

We don’t want to give too much away, but this excerpt from Pat suggests his talk will be very interesting:

“The first ship to enter the San Francisco Bay was the Spanish packet San Carlos, commanded by Lieutenant Juan Manuel de Ayala, on August 5, 1775. The San Carlos departed Sept 18, 1775. Since that day, not all ships have departed the Bay or arrived successfully. The first recorded wreck, the Spanish galleon San Agustin, washed ashore during a storm in 1595 at what we now call Drake’s Bay, about 30 miles north of the Golden Gate. Four hundred twenty-seven years later, winter storms continue to cause anchored boats to break loose and wash ashore, adding to the total.

“How many shipwrecks lie scattered on the floor of the Bay, or in nearby waters or landfill? Few of us are aware of these relics from San Francisco’s maritime past, many forgotten for a century or more. Yet every day Bay Area residents pass over long-buried ships. Some Muni riders even tunnel through a ship on their daily commute.

“This evening’s talk will visit some of the steam schooners, Gold Rush ships, workhorse steam schooners, Golden Gate wrecks, and US Navy ships that forever remain ‘ghosts’ in our waters, if not in our memories. It features a video of our late friend Garland Sloan, who survived the sinking of the only US Navy hospital ship to sink — just a few miles beyond the Golden Gate.”

The presentation begins at 7:00 p.m. (PT) on Zoom.

Advance Registration is Required. Register here: Ghost Ships of San Francisco Bay

The talk will also be available on the Mill Valley Library website later this week.

Pat presented his talk at the Corinthian Yacht Club in February this year. If you missed it then, here’s your second chance.

1 Comment

  1. Christine Weaver 2 years ago

    “Ghost Ships of San Francisco Bay” is now available on YouTube at courtesy of the Mill Valley Library’s historical program.

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Sailing in Winning Company
John Clauser from Walnut Creek, known locally as an avid sailor aboard his 1D48 'Bodacious+,' has won a Nobel Prize for his work and experiments as a physicist.