Ferryboat Sausalito History


Kathie's December 2016 Article

Historian Kathie Hammer

Getting ready for Christmas already? Mark December 10th, for a favorite event at the Club—the arrival of Santa Claus by boat. Of course, the boat is all lit up and Santa waves to all the good boys and girls.

He arrives on West Island and lets his reindeer feed on asparagus while he visits one and all.

Before he arrives everyone brings food to share, then I will read the book “The Night Before Christmas” and sing with the children.  I have been doing this for 23 years and still enjoy watching their smiling faces as they sing and ring jingle bells.

It has always been a magical night. Don’t forget to bring a wrapped gift for all the children you bring with your name,  their name and age on each gift. When Santa calls them up one by one to talk to them, their faces light up. Sometimes it is hard to wait, but in time all of the children get to talk to Santa.

Then we wave goodbye to him as he boards the Lighted Boat and he is off to West Island to collect his reindeer. If you listen very carefully you might hear him say, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”



Kathie's November 2016 Article

Imagine traveling to San Francisco by ship in the early 1900s. Dense fog was often expected during the night and this kept the lighthouse keepers on edge.

When this happened, the lighthouse keepers at Point Reyes, the Farallon Islands, Point Bonita, Pigeon Point, and many other lighthouses around the Bay would climb their towers for “light up.”  Soon the Fresnel lens would brighten, and each would send its own distinctive pattern of powerful light beams for miles out to sea. The banked fires for the boilers in the fog signal building would then be fired up. Soon, the repeated blasts of steam powered fog whistles and sirens  would roar across the water. At some lighthouses, a huge fog bell gave the warning, and its mechanical bell striking timer would be set in motion, an oversized hammer would hit the exterior of the fog bell and its clanging would join the maritime chorus. 

The lighthouses of the Bay brought many ships safely into port.

 Lighthouses Website


Kathie's October 2016 Article

On her last run, the train ferry Solano was dressed in flags and crowded with people who had walked on board the 51 year old train ferry. She completed her last scheduled run on November 1, 1930. She was built in Oakland in 1879 by the Central Pacific Railroad Company and spent her career carrying railroad cars across the Carquinez Strait on the Benicia Port Costa route for the Central Pacific and its successor the Southern Pacific Railroad. The opening of the Southern Pacific’s Benicia Martinez Railway Bridge made the Solano Ferry unneeded and she was scrapped soon after.


Kathie's September 2016 Article

While we were the Lighthouse Keepers for the month of July, Keith would raise the flag every morning at 8 a.m. and take it down at dusk. It became an important duty and we knew hundreds of people were watching it proudly fly on top of our small island.

Have you ever watched an honor guard fold a flag, always paying meticulous attention to fold it 13 times? The following is what each of those folds mean.

The 1st fold of our flag is the symbol of life.

The 2nd fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.

The 3rd fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing our ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout the world.

The 4th fold represents our weaker nature, as American citizens trusting in God. It is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in time of war for His divine guidance.

The 5th fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our Country,” in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country right or wrong.

The 6th fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All.

The 7th fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our Republic.

The 8th fold is a tribute to the One who entered into the Valley of the Shadow of Death, that we might see the light again.

The 9th fold is a tribute to womanhood and mothers. For it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty, and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded.

The 10th fold is a tribute to the father, for he too has given his sons and daughters for defense of our country since they were first born.

The 11th fold represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies, in the Hebrews’ eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The 12th fold represents the emblem of eternity and glorifies, in the Christians’ eyes God the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.

The 13th fold, or when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding us of our nation’s motto, “In God We Trust.”

After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, reminding us of the soldiers who served under George Washington and the Sailors and Marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones, who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States preserving for us the right, privileges, and freedoms we enjoy today.


Kathie's August 2016 Article

Here we are back at the lighthouse. Today it rained, but it has been very sunny at about 65 degrees. Nice and cool. We have had hundreds of guests from all over the world. Everyone is very interested in the history of the lighthouse. Keith is selling many gifts. We have to vacuum and dust every day because of the sand and rocks that come into the house on shoes.  Our visitors have to walk across the bottom of the ocean when the tide is out.

This year’s schedule is quite different than other years. We have five days in a row that the lighthouse is closed and we cannot get off the island and no one can get on because of the tides.

I have one ghost story for you. I am giving a tour of the kitchen where there is an old fashioned telephone. It is wood with a receiver and the place you talk into; that's all. Well, while I am talking, the antique phone rings one time. One of the guests said to go ahead and answer it, which I did. Of course no answer! In our five years being lighthouse keepers, that has never happened before. The ghosts are happy we are back.


Kathie's July 2016 Article

As you read this article, Keith and I will be in Crescent City serving as the Lighthouse keepers at the Battery Point Lighthouse for the month of July. This is our fifth year and we enjoy every minute of it!

We have daily visitors from all over the world. I give the guided tours and Keith runs the gift shop; we also have RVers who help us daily with the upstairs tour and tower. It is open from 10am to 4pm daily if the tide is out.  Battery Point Lighthouse is on an island, so you can only get on it at low tide. You actually have to walk across the bottom of the ocean to get there. Some days it is closed because of the tides and other days it is only open for one, two, or three hours. It is an actual museum with many original artifacts. We live in the museum and have to make sure it is clean and tidy for our visiting guests because the whole house is part of the tour. The kitchen might still smell like breakfast but that just gives it more charm.

Yes, as I have reported it is haunted and is recorded in several books about the happenings at the lighthouse, and, yes again, we have had several experiences with them. I met a woman at the lighthouse and she had her Masters Degree in Paranormal from the University of California and she said she could tell it was haunted, but they were peaceful ghosts because nothing violent has ever happened there. She also said they will only give you a ghostly experience if they are happy the way you are taking care of the house. We vacuum and dust every day, so I think they are happy with us. In the August or September  Newsletter, I will report if we have had any new ghostly happenings.



Kathie's June 2016 Article

(Part 2—Continued from May)

At the end of the War, the Delta Queen was purchased and taken through the Panama Canal to the Mississippi River. The engines of the Delta King were taken by the Delta Queen and ever since it has been towed from place to place. At one point it was even towed to Canada to be used as barracks.

In 1984, the Delta King partially sank in the San Francisco Bay and stayed that way for 18 months. The Coyne Family purchased and towed it to Old Sacramento where they completely renovated this historic riverboat.  It took them five years to be able to open it so it could reign once again.

Today the original 88 rooms have been made into 44 staterooms. The bathrooms are as big as the bedroom and they have pull chain toilets. The Pilothouse dining area is elegant with a beautiful view of the Sacramento River.  There are city view staterooms and river view staterooms; I suggest the river view. It is so nice to enjoy the view of the Sacramento River and think of the elegant days gone by.

Kathie's May 2016 Article


I know many of you have bucket lists. I was able to check one off my list in March. Keith and I spent two nights on the Delta King in Sacramento.  I have written about the Delta King and Delta Queen several times and her grand past, so being able to stay on her was very exciting.

The historic Delta King is a real riverboat. She is 285 feet long and has an identical twin sister named the Delta Queen. Both of these riverboats were christened on May 20, 1927, and began their daily trips from San Francisco to Sacramento in June of that year. Promptly at 6:00 pm each day, ladies and gentlemen boarded the grand sternwheelers and started a 10 hour trip where they enjoyed drinking, dancing, gambling, and fine dining. A stateroom was $3.50, but for a dollar you could use your own blanket and spend the night on deck.

The King and Queen cruised up the Sacramento River until 1940. By this time the roads were improving, bridges and automobiles were more efficient and faster than the grand riverboats. Because of the Depression and World War II, it was the end of the stern wheel era. Both the King and Queen were drafted into the U.S. Navy. They served the San Francisco Bay as floating barracks, troop transports and hospital ships.

(Part 2 of this article will be continued in next month’s Newsletter.)


Kathie's April 2016 Article


The ferry boat Contra Costa was built in 1914 at the Southern Pacific yard in Oakland and was eventually dismantled in 1930.

The Contra Costa was known at the time as the largest ferry in the world. She carried passengers and railway cars across the Carquinez Strait between Port Costa and Benicia where the Sacramento River meets the northern part of San Francisco Bay. Open at both ends, the ship’s deck had rails that linked directly with a railroad track at both terminals, allowing trains to roll directly on board or off.

Below is a photo of what the trains looked like when on board.


Kathie's March 2016 Article


In the early days, many people who lived in San Francisco would go up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower to watch the beautiful Delta King go through her paces. With its twin ship, the Delta Queen, these sternwheeler ferryboats linked San Francisco with the California capital at Sacramento. The ferries operated at night, leaving either city at 6:30pm and arriving at their destination the following morning at 5:30 am.  Built in Stockton from parts prefabricated on the Clyde in Scotland, they operated from 1927 to 1940.  After retirement as a ferry, the Delta King was drafted into the military service in WWII serving as a floating dormitory in Alaska. Today, it offers a rather more luxurious accommodation as a floating hotel in Sacramento’s Old Town.

Kathie's February 2016 Article

We recently went to the Beach Chalet in San Francisco for breakfast. It is located right on the Great Highway, so as you eat breakfast you have a wonderful view of the ocean. The restaurant is upstairs and there is a small museum downstairs and, for the first time, a small gift store.

I purchased the book “San Francisco’s Playland At The Beach The Golden Years,” written by James R. Smith. I was so excited to find it! Anyone who grew up in the Bay Area in the 40’s and 50’s visited this wonderful exciting place.

You were greeted by laughing Sal. We would stand and watch her, and laugh with her as she put us in the mood for a wonderful adventure.

The Fun House was always a favorite, with its mirror maze and unexpected spurts of air. The giant wooden slides were marvelous to go down sitting on burlap bags. The fast turning top was my favorite; no matter how hard you tried, when it started to spin, you were thrown off. There was a beautiful Carousel which you rode and could collect brass rings and throw them in a clown’s mouth. The bumper cars were great fun and I remember the floor being very slippery. Of course, there were some scary rides and the famous Big Dipper roller coaster.

It was built in 1921 and was enjoyed by thousands of people until it started to go downhill in the sixties and closed its doors in 1972. Now there are just wonderful memories of times gone by.

Kathie's January 2016 Article

First I would like to wish everyone a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

At our last meeting, it was wonderful to hear of all the work that was accomplished this year, especially the new roof. Next time you are at the Ferry just look around; the galley looks wonderful and now the bar will be brought up to date.

While looking through some old bulletins, one caught my eye.  In a bulletin dated 1972, there was an Aspirations List:

1.   Rewiring the ferry

2.   Dredging the harbor.

3.   Berth maintenance.

4.   Oiling and compacting our entrance road.

5.   Have the boat owners scrap and weed the ground in the trailer parking area.

6.   Painting: a couple of areas of the Ferry boat that never received even a first coat of paint during that project a couple of years ago. Finishing the job would greatly add to the old girl’s appearance.

(Postscript) Before this bulletin came into print, two members were inspired to don coveralls and began painting all on their own. It was Sunday, January 16, 1972; visibility was about 100 yards, temperature about 36 degrees. How inspired can you get?

Work has been going on since members brought our ferry into our harbor in 1939. Without the workers, our ferry would not be what it is today. Thank you to everyone past and present for all of your hard work.


If you should happen to have old newspaper articles, photos, other artifacts, or personal knowledge relevant to the history of The Ferryboat Sausalito, please contact Historian Kathie Hammer. Please see "Contact SYC Staff" on Home page.  Thank you.