Jerimiah O’Brien Cruise, SF Bay, 9-9-2017
The Jerimiah O’Brien is a WW2 Liberty Ship that has been restored and is operated by a volunteer crew in San Francisco. It has been steaming for quite a few years now, and participated in the D-Day 50 year commemoration in 1994, one of the few ships that was there in June 1944 to come back 50 years later. It is one of 3 Liberty Ships still operational.
I’d long wanted to visit the ship and when I saw a wine tasting cruise advertised for 9 September, it turned out to be easy to talk Anne into a trip to San Francisco.
We took an F line PCC to Fishermen’s Wharf, and boarded the J O’Brien well before the scheduled noon departure. We found seats at a table on the cover of the #2 hold toward the bow of the ship.
A good variety of wines was available at tables set up by different wineries. Box lunches were catered by a local bakery and a chocolate company was also handing out its very popular wares.
As departure time approached, a tug arrived to pull us away from the dock and the pilot boat brought a pilot (no a pirate) to guide the ship around the bay. The captain was in uniform, while the rest of the crew generally wore clothes identifying themselves.
At noon, the whistle blew and we pulled away from the pier with the help of the tug. We steamed north of Alcatraz en route to the Golden Gate. A crewmember narrated points of interest along the way and the history of the bay and the various forts that have been built over the years to defend it. None ever fired a shot in anger.
We cruised under the Golden Gate Bridge, then turned around and sailed along the San Francisco waterfront to somewhere a bit south of the Giants stadium, where we turned again and headed back to the pier. The cruise took 4 hours.
A museum and gift shop are set up in the forward hold, featuring displays about D-Day, convoys, and the construction and fate of the over 2000 Liberty Ships built during WW2. The Merchant Marine had a higher mortality rate of any the military services. The convoy system helped against submarine attacks, but a lot of ships and crews were lost during the war.
The 3" gun at the bow of the ship can be moved and people were on it throughout much of the cruise raising and lowering the barrel and turning it to point at various targets.
Most of the ship was open for viewing and I went up to the bridge and flying bridge. The ship was being steered from the flying bridge, above the bridge, which could be used in case of bad weather or attack. Volunteers were stationed around the ship to answer questions. The various crew bedrooms, chart room, radio and room and the like were roped off, but the doors were open for people to see inside.
The engine room was hot and fascinating. The 3 cylinder triple expansion engine reminds me of what a Shay locomotive expanded to Babe the Blue Ox size would have. It is about 3 stories tall, and has Stephenson link valve motion controlling the valves, with the cams on the crankshaft providing a counterpoint to the massive connecting rods.
At 4 hours, the O’Brien cruise took about twice as long as the Blue and Gold and Red and White bay cruise boats take for the same run, but I was ready for a longer trip when we returned to Pier 45.
Dinner was nearby at Scoma’s, a place that has been at the Wharf since 1965, getting bigger and more upscale over the years. Great seafood.
We caught another PCC back to the ferry building and were walking back to the hotel when we stopped to hear Mr. Ron Bass sing a Motown song. We stuck around as he did another, and another and then a few more tunes before he called it a night. Skateboarders jumped their boards in the plaza and a couple of people danced to Mr. Bass’ music. He has a great voice and plays 6 string bass, so if you are around the ferry building look for him and give him a few bucks if you agree with us that his talent should be rewarded.