Larry Clinton/Sausalito Historical Society
A beautiful model of the Northwestern Pacific Line’s ferryboat Cazadero has been donated to the Historical Society by one-time Sausalitan Richard Aufort. The scale model was built by Richard’s father.
It turns out that the little-known Cazadero ferry had quite a unique history.
According to a 1995 edition of Northwesterner, a publication of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Historical Society, “When the Cazadero was launched, it didn’t go anywhere because the paddlewheels did not hit the water. Somewhere in the design it was not allowed enough weight. So the engineers decided the best thing to do was to put ballast in the bottom. With enough ballast, the paddle wheels hit the water and away Cazadero went.”
Despite that early snafu, the Cazadero was pressed into service almost immediately, according to an article in the Sausalito News of May 23, 1903: “The ferry Cazadero, built on lines similar to the Tamalpais, is now running although the boat is not entirely fitted up. However, this was found necessary owing to an accident to the Tamalpais. The old-time commuters inspected the new boat from bow to stern and pronounced her all right. She makes excellent time; is exceptionally steady, her engines not causing her to throb as is so frequently the case with ferryboats built for speed. The upper cabin is nicely arranged and over the wheels is built a cabin raised somewhat above the main saloon. The new boat is a valuable addition to the Sausalito fleet.”
The paper later described the 257-foot paddle wheeled steamer as “elegantly equipped,” with “a larger seating capacity in its cabins than any of the other boats now owned by the company.”
But the ferry endured a series of bizarre incidents throughout its four decades of service. In January, 1925 the News reported that a Coast Guard rum tracer ran into the side of the Cazadero “in a dense fog off Alcatraz Island while the ferry was headed for Sausalito yesterday morning. When Captain A. S. Shapley felt the crash and heard the cries for help he immediately stopped the ferry and had a lifeboat lowered. The lifeboat picked up the captain and one of the crew of the Coast Guard boat and returned them to their boat. In the heavy fog it was hard to ascertain the extent of the damage to the Coast Guard boat but the ferry was torn amidship. Very few passengers were on the ferry which arrived In Sausalito at 8:55 o’clock.”
A few months later, a unique passenger created an uproar, as described by the News: “Hugo protested so strenuously at being forced to ride on the Cazadero that he nearly wrecked the engine room and the lower deck. All the passengers on Hugo’s side of the boat moved out and gave him plenty of room, thereby showing their respect for him. Hugo, the belligerent one, is a horse, and Wednesday afternoon he was being taken from San Francisco to the Mill Valley golf club to assist in the building operations now in progress there. He kicked and protested all the way across the bay, but [his handler] managed to keep him as quiet as possible, so that the engine room was still intact when the Cazadero landed at Sausalito.”
In January, 1938 the crew witnessed an attempted suicide. According to the News, a commuter named Donald Campbell “jumped into the bay from the upper deck Tuesday afternoon while the boat was about a mile from the Sausalito slip. The water was so cold that Campbell evidently forgot his family and financial troubles, which he later said prompted his rash act, as he struck out swimming toward the lifeboat which Captain Alfred Wahrgren had quickly lowered. When the ferry docked here, Campbell was given a hot bath and first aid treatment at the Hotel Sausalito before being taken by his mother to the Ross General Hospital where they report he will recover.”
A happier event occurred the following year, when the ferry crew rescued a wayward swimmer: “Jerry Reynolds, U.C. student from Los Angeles was caught by an incoming tide Tuesday afternoon while swimming at Baker’s Beach, San Francisco, and carried nearly four miles away off Alcatraz Island until he was rescued by the crew of the N.W.P. ferry Cazadero, bound for San Francisco. He was taken from the water in an exhausted condition and given emergency treatment upon landing.”
By early 1943, her days were numbered. On March 4, the newspaper reported: “The Northwestern Ferry Cazadero has been taken away and the old-time coastwise steam schooner Santa Barbara has come back from her temporary sojourn in the South Bay. She’ll now function as she was intended to earlier, as a part of the harbor breakwater.”
And then, in January 1949, the News announced the demise of the old girl: “The final death knell of the former Northwestern Pacific ferry Cazadero, a familiar sight to thousands of Marin commuters for close to 40 years prior to the demise of the ferry system in early 1941, took place last week in the murky bay waters of San Francisco Bay near San Mateo.”
She was then moved farther south in the bay, where the ship that was once too light, ironically, “sank of her own weight,” according to the News. Navy salvage crews blasted the old, rugged, wooden hull into 12 sections and salvaged them for scrap. “Thus ends another of the colorful links with the past history of Marin’s growth,” lamented the newspaper.
While City hall is closed, the Historical Society is exploring how and when the model will be on display for the public to view.