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Hove down in Panama

Ship for sale: $500. The 172-foot C.D. Bryant is hove down in Colon, on the Pacific coast of Panama, around the turn of the 19th century so her bottom could be “got at.” There’s a steam winch on the left with a cable leading to the main mast, just above the lower yard. Once the three-masted bark was on her side, she could be tied down at various points, and workers could recaulk her seams and recopper the bottom.

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The scant information about the picture suggests the ship might have needed a specific repair before she was sold to new owners.

The C.D. Bryant was launched from the Josiah Dutch yard in Searsport, Maine, in 1878. She immediately sailed for California and spent her entire career working the West Coast out of her home port of San Francisco, running from Alaska down to South America and out to the Hawaiian Islands.

She’s a true Down Easter — as evidenced by the distinctive trunk on her poop deck — built in one of the nation’s foremost seafaring towns. Nineteenth-century Searsport built and launched more than 200 ships from its 17 yards, at one point boasting more sea captains per capita than any other town in America.

The ship appears here and there in West Coast shipping reports. The Daily Alta California recorded her arrival in San Francisco in 1890 after a rough voyage from Hawaii with “decks swept” and “lost sails.” The San Francisco Call noted a smoother 30-day summer passage from Honolulu in 1902. Two decades later, in 1922, the C.D. Bryant was “laid up, Port of Spain” in what is now Trinidad and Tobago, the last report of her known whereabouts.

August 2014 issue