27 Jun All Aboard
Two weeks so far at SF Maritime and I’m still adjusting to it all. Not knowing too much about maritime history or having done much seafaring myself, has made absorbing it a bit overwhelming. But that’s in part why I am here, so I am up for the challenge. I’ve had ample opportunities to rove the park and look at exhibits and listen to ranger talks to try and soak it all in. Learning sailing/ship jargon has been quite the challenge especially while actually sailing… I got to start this busy week off by going sailing out on the bay on the park’s very own ship, the Alma. From the SF Maritime website:
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 tide. 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.
Visitors can go out on this ship for an afternoon sail on the weekends and an interpretive ranger comes along (with the ship crew as well) and gives talks. I went out in the morning and trained with the volunteer crew and then again for the first sail of the season with visitors that afternoon. Being out in the water like that can be pretty scary. There were many moments when I would catch myself staring at the dark, emerald colored, opaque water and think about how deep and unforgiving it actually is. But then I’d have to snap out of it to find a better angle to get a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge or move out of the “no-zone” where the ship’s boom was swinging around as the sail caught the breeze to change direction. Along with my very first sailing experience in the bay, I also got to kayak for the first time. During the summer I will assist in a summer kayak program so I went out for training with the partner organization, SF State University Paddle Club, which will be taking groups of teenagers kayaking for a few weeks. Later this summer the SF Maritime will host a Healthy Parks Healthy People event which will include a walk which I helped map out and find connections back to SF Maritime history. We spent a few days scouting out routes and landmarks like the Coit Tower and the “Crookedest Street” on Lombard st. Also part of my internship here is to reach out to the broad spectrum of Latin/x communities to increase park participation and investment. To do so, I feel like I have to provide relevant history and information… which has been pretty sparse. This week I spent some time at the park’s research library (and asking around) the little I have found or been told about Latin/x folks and West Coast maritime history has been about Mexican cannery workers. Unfortunately, to put it lightly, these workers were subjected to exploitative labor practices. Usually they were told they’d have decent pay and good working conditions only to find the opposite. Workers were discriminated against aboard segregated and cramped conditions on Alaska bound ships. So nothing really uplifting or something I feel like folks would be looking forward to come check out- but US history tends to play out like that in general for people of color. Although a difficult history to learn about, I feel that this not only mirrors the current plight of many hard working immigrants, but in part this history shows the fallacy and bias in certain contemporaneous discussions about Latin/x immigrants in which they are accused of either “taking jobs” or are characterized as “lazy” (or other misnomers currently prevalent in this election cycle). Like many low income labor intensive positions today, these were the jobs no white person wanted, so they weren’t being “stolen” furthermore they had to lie about the conditions in order to get folks on board. I found it really interesting how these intersections of race, class, and labor intersected back then and how they continue to be evident. Another component of my internship here at SF Maritime is to do some work in the small boat shop. Since I have some basic carpentry skills, I was asked if I wanted to help out as they are building a small boat that they expect to finish for the National Park Service Centennial. I was supposed to finish my week off here, but when I checked in I was told that some things changed and the ranger in the boat shop had to go out on a training for the Grace Quan, a replica of a San Francisco Bay Chinese shrimp fishing boat that was prevalent between 1860 and 1910. So I was out in the bay for the third time in a week. I really should figure out this whole swimming thing one day…