Doghole Schooners

Salt Point
Hello and welcome

UPDATED:  FEB 3, 2020


This website will discuss four topics.

1. The first will be a review of the doghole schooner and its forgotten place in California maritime history.

2. A second topic is a small amount of family history. It seems my family history is entangled with the California north coast marine history far more than I ever understood. 

3. A third topic is the discovery of an amazing model on our bookcase - with the help of the San Francisco Maritime Museum - skip to the old model.

4. A fourth subject is the development of an accurate
doghole schooner model - skip to the doghole model in process.

"CONTACT ME" is at the bottom of this page - skip to CONTACT ME.

This paper is written in a two column format to make reading easier in sections 1 through section 8.


Most of my knowledge and enthusiasm for doghole schooners came from inspiration caused by a NOAA article by Dr. Delgado describing a lost class of ships referred the west coast "doghole schooner". The article is here: doghole ports co-authored by Dr. Delgado.

A doghole schooner is a specific design and and has a very specific purpose. They are usually over 50 feet in length and less than 100. They have an extremely shallow draft for their beam. The beam of a dogholer is generally one third of the length. So a typical "dogholer" would be 75 feet in length and would have a 25 foot beam with a draft less than 7 feet, loaded with a full cargo.

This is a dogholer in a race in San Francisco Bay...

A Doghole schooner

A doghole schooner under full sail

Now imagine the schooner in the photo to the left sailing, with great care, into this port entrance above. It could be done but with only the best of captains, crew, and a great schooner.

Introduction continued above right...

Introduction continued...

Salt Point
A view of a typical dogholer port entry

The port above was originally quarried for a highly compressed sandstone but a rock that can be split almost like wood into  blocks. These blocks were used to build mid-sized buildings in San Francisco. This port and surrounding land is called Salt Point.

Later this port was used simply for supplies to people in the area and for some lumber.

A good captain and crew could place the doghole schooner in most small ports several times a day. The photo below on the left is another port shown with a simulated schooner in the port. The only entrance and exit in the photo below is to the right (west, then north)!

A captain or owner of a modern 60 to 100 foot, deep keel, schooner yacht at 75 to 150 tons would enter the "port" they see in the photo to the right. But doghole schooner captains and crew did this commonly with shallow draft, schooners, and a lot of skill, and years of experience!

I have carefully described my evolution and ultimately my discovery of a family model and the model's real value. The model discovery is described below. I am really trying to raise awareness of the great period of California development where doghole schooners, captains, and  crews, made of steel, supplied critical perishables to isolated coastal communities in all weather conditions. And the scattered population centers of the north coast of the state assisted in this supply process.

See below for more on doghole schooner evolution and history.

More on doghole schooners

A good example of a schooner in the Fort Ross port is simulated below using a photo shop insertion process. Add occasional extreme weather, variable winds in the port, almost constant fog, significant tides, and a very tough and captain and crew and you have a doghole schooner and crew - at work. The red arrow points to a doghole schooner anchorage point still held on the surface by a float.

doghole schooner
The photo above is a typical entrance for a doghole schooner. I was standing on the suthern edge of this port taking this photo. I used a wide angle lens, so this port is much smaller that it looks in the photo above.

Imagine a modern 80 foot, 150 ton, two masted schooner entering this narrow entrance, turning around in the port, anchoring, getting loaded with, or unloading cargo. Then sailing out and facing an almost standard 20 MPH wind from the North with sudden and surprise calms along the coast - that was doghole schooner sailing!

Continued above right...

Dogholers Continued...

A doghole schooner was usually quite fast and could handle most Pacific coast weather. There was never a problem with hurricanes (Typhoons in the Pacific) because they almost never hit the north west coast of California. Gail force winds along the coast do happen and could occasionally sink a schooner  or at least part the lines and leave the schooner adrift.

Dogholers were initially built to carry lumber from redwood and fir forests of Northern California. Many of the ports were very small and some rocks along the edges of the port were in and out of sight depending on the wind and tides. Winds were predominantly from the north east. This made sailing down (south bound) the coast easy. Sailing north in a strong north east wind might take days and sometime weeks. General good use of a schooner required a very tough and seasoned captain and crew.

Although I am a newbie to the large craft sailing world
, I have been studying the doghole schooners for more than two years trying to get ready to build an accurate model.  I do have a small knowledge of the schooners and I will know a lot more in the next year or so after I have shaped a number of hulls of solid wood by hand. I also found, through the help of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, that I have a very special model sloop. The sloop will be discussed later in text below.

Because the model I have is so special, I have become very interested in California coast maritime history.

By the way, the largest single loss of the doghole schooners in the 1850s to 1900s was anchorage parting - breaking the of lines holding the schooners at anchorage - especially in storms!

The details of my family history may be a little tedious but it is entangled in local maritime history.

Fort Ross Rocks
   Fort Ross doghole port, rocks on the north side of the port entrance


This is a website dedicated to schooners primarily used in northern California in the 1850 to 1900 period. The name "doghole schooners" refers to the size of the schooner and the very small and shallow ports they were able to access. Most of the schooners had a very wide beam. A typical ratio would be three to one, length to beam. So a 75 foot dogholer would have a 25 foot beam!

The actual name, “doghole ports,” was so named because they were so small and exposed that mariners joked they were barely large enough for a dog to turn around (in) (note1).

dog hole schooner at Ft. RossAnother term for this type of schooner is simply "Lumber Schooner". But as these schooners evolved in the 1850s to 1880s and they developed a very specific style such as an extremely shallow draft and very wide beam. But in deep water, that same shallow draft could allow the vessel to drift sideways. The dogholer was limited to courses very close to the shoreline but well away from the rocks of the California coast. This coast is over what is known as a shelf in geological terms but highly modified by the San Andras Fault. Some areas such as Salt Point shown in the top image. The rocks which look as though they were dumped there, WERE formed there by the San Andras fault, which can be very active. Most of the time the San Andras is quiet and safe, in the north coast area.

Blue water schooners, even at 80 feet in length have deep keels and a draft too deep to access any but the largest of ports such as San Francisco Bay. They were limited to the deep water ports of California because of their deep drafts (ship's depth in the water).

doghole schooner

To the left is a 75 foot, 64 Ton schooner (inserted using PhotoShop as a simulation), with a minimal keel, and a 5 foot draft. The typical doghole schooner came into the port
and maneuvered under sail and people power alone. In this port photo the rocks seen behind the masts are continuous and on three sides of the schooner. Basically this is a "U" shaped port. This NW  wind (wind from the North west) direction is almost constant so departure would be north directly into the wind.

There were anchorage points around the schooner to hold her in fair weather but would not hold in heavy storms.

The schooner could hold cargo usually lumber products and sometimes  2 to 3 passengers - more passengers if they were VERY good friends. Depending on the placement of the schooner in the port. This is a modified color image is to to illustrate the realities of the shipment of materials and the delivery of occasional passengers.

Below is a photo of a schooner being placed under a chute. These chutes loaded lumber by gravity and the lumber speed control process was critical. With an aft cabin, lumber was loaded to the forward ares then amidships, then on both sides of the cabin. Sometimes the lumber was loaded to just below the aft boom. The northern rocks to the port can be seen in a color enlargement at the top of the section.


Positioning chute to schooner
Aligning a visiting schooner to this port's cargo chute

My grandmother taught school at Fort Ross in 1908 a few hundred yards from the camera view for the upper (color) photograph and she was their in the same time period of the sail powered doghole schooners.

1Doghole Ports on the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries site at  Maritime Cultural Landscape initiative supports targeted research in the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

This study of dogholers and the discovery of my model sloop was an amazing series of events and certainly got me started in maritime history in the SF Bay Area. The website listed above has a lot to describe and teach in there articles! The articles ALONE on the website help find an important "model" I had from that time, which my wife and I donated to the Maritime museum as a gift. One article/project led to a new maritime artifact discovery of significant value! Thank you for funding that project!!! The Article also caused me to create this website - a kind of "pass it on" process.


A very small craft survives 140 years - a little family history connected to these schooners and sloops

Background and origin information - What is a doghole schooner?

These schooners were developed to provide provisions and general trade to north west coast area which was not developed in 1850. The gold rush caused even more needs for supplies. The usual methods of supply such as rail and roadways were not developed to the coastal ares of California.

Finally the wreck of the China clipper Frolic on the north coast left massive amounts of commercial goods near the wreck but with no way to get the salvaged goods to San Francisco. During salvage attempts, the massive redwood forests were discovered along the coastal areas. The redwood timber was of much higher potential value then the salvage of the Frolic.

But still now way to market except by ship. A small, shallow draft schooner was developed for the 1850 period of trade in California. These schooners were incredibly agile and fast. From 1850 to 1900 they thrived along the California coast.

continued above right...
Part 1 continued

These schooners, as long as 110 feet, could enter and anchor in very small ports call doghole ports. The details and a photo are shown above.

By 1900 steam power was taking over in commercial shipping and rail and roads were developed by 1900 so the doghole schooners were abandoned to cheaper shipping costs and very sadly, the schooners were lost to time.  Today all but photos are left for people to see to and understand the amazing schooners developed from 1850 to 1900.

Model building is almost impossible for lack of drawings and models of the time. From all that I can find there is a single half model of the schooner "Maid of Orleans" kept at the Maritime Museum at San Francisco. There are no drawings or documentation on details of these schooners. The history is completely barren  - nothing - not even a sketch.

A Great Paper And An Inspiration
I happened to read a recent paper on doghole schooners, anchorages, and the chutes used to move cargo and people.

One of the directors of this project and authors of this report is Dr. James Delgado. I wrote to Dr. Delgado and explained my connection to his diving and anchorage work and we have become friends as I report on my experiences with my model and visiting various ports near me.

Dr. Delgado is an amazing person, a fine person to write to, a teacher, and very easy to talk with. Dr. Delgado is one of two inspirations for this website project and almost directly responsible for my wife and I discovering our family  model. Stephen Canright, history Curator, SF Maritime Museum was also critical in this sequence described  below.
continued above right...

Part 2 continued

I am not an expert or specialist in sailing craft. I do have a deep interest in the working schooners and sloops of the San Francisco area especially in the 1850 to 1900 period. I do have an unusual insight into boats of this type and time. Please forgive a fairly boring description of my family history and the Howland family history but it does become amazing  and important as you see the pieces of this story merge.                                         

This Location, Ft. Ross, is especially important to me because my grandmother taught school at Fort Ross in 1906. Historically the fort was the furthest location south in the US, occupied by the Russians (1812 to 1842). This location is also the closest doghole port to my home  - about twenty minutes by car.

Dr. Delgado's paper is here 

            THE RIALTO

My family is descended from Wales, as best records in Britain can confirm. This connection to of a Luce/Welsh heritage has been confirmed by a DNA marker specific to the Luce line and has been tested and shown to exist in my direct line of heritage. I am tractable to Henry Luce, the first Luce in this country.

Henry Luce arrived in America in approximately 1640. Henry is tractable to a Welsh family in wales in the late 1500s. That Welsh family is believed to be a clan in Wales with roots going back to at least the early 1500s in Wales and probably earlier. Records for the 14th century in Wales, including clan histories, are a bit thin.

Henry voted in 1644 in an American local election which is the first documented date of the Luce family line in America.
I am a direct decedent of the first Luce in America.

continued above right...

Henry Luce settled in Holmes Hole (now Tisbury), Marthas Vineyard. The family became well established in Marthas Vineyard by the mid 1700s. In the late 1840s, a few members of the family decided, to take part in the "gold rush" of 1849 in California.

Sometime in 1848-1849, The family bought, a fast, light schooner named the Rialto. Family members then sailed her around the horn to California in 1849.

Later, the Rialto was proven to be so fast and maneuverable, she was purchased and used as a pilot boat (Bar Pilots info) for ships arriving at the San Francisco Bay entrance after 1851

More on the Rialto is mentioned in an amazing ship to ship chance meeting  below. 

meeting at sea

  Those are rocks but they do look like two ships at sea 


          PART 3

A Meeting At Sea

Image result for two sailing ship meet at sea

MARCH 15, 1849


 My great, great, grandfather Jirah Luce, was a passenger and part owner on this voyage of the Rialto.

From article: "THE LOG OF A 49er" on his trip around cape horn - Jan, '49 to July '49 from the diary of THEO. MESSERVE. NOTE: This is a personal log of Theo Messerve, from an 1849 trip to experience a trip around the horn on the Panama. The captain of this ship is Captain Bodfish. This conversation shown below is a quote from Messreve's book.

Note : This was an actual meeting of the two ships at sea where the two captains could compare locations and other position information. There might also have been an exchange of mail and news of each port. It was also an opportunity to exchange news concerning weather and sea conditions around the cape. The image above is a likeness to the Rialto. There are no known surviving photos of the Rialto.

Book entry as a (real-time) diary. The diary entry is as follows:

"March 15 1849.

Has been a clear day, with but very light winds.

This morning after breakfast the bell rang for all hands to make their appearance on deck, as the Captain had a few remarks to make to the company.

After all arrived on deck, he addressed them at some length about the outrage committed last night at the time of the speaking of that ship;

He said he would be justified in putting the individual who made the disturbance on the evening previous in irons for a month, but excused and forgave them, as he knew it was not done from bad intent, but from ignorance. He concluded by informing them of several things which are out of order on shipboard.

Just after the Captain concluded, the cry of Sail ho ! was given, and a small craft was seen behind us.

She continued to draw nearer, and by ten o'clock came along near enough to talk with those on board without the aid of a trumpet. She proved to be the schooner Rialto from Edgartown, Marthas Vineyard."

Conversation shown above top right of this section...

Recorded ship to ship conversation...

"Where are you from?"                                  

"Edgartown, Marthas Vineyard."

The ship to ship actual conversation at sea opened as follows (quoted from the  Messerve  Book):

"Who is Captain of the Panama?"


"How is Captain Bodfish?"
"Very well, I thank you. Who commands the Rialto?

"Captain Luce."

"Is Captain Luce well?"

"Yes, sir"

"Where are you from?"                                  

"Edgartown, Marthas Vineyard."

 "Where bound?"

"California." (Three cheers from the Panama.)

"How many days out?"

"Thirty-seven. How many are you?"

"Forty. Have you spoken anything?"

A number of questions in relation to our latitude and
longitude, the wind and weather each has experienced, follows.

They have had very rough weather, and intend  putting into St.Catherine's.

"She dropped astern of us and then came around to windward."

"We gave them three hearty cheers, which they returned, and passed by us like an arrow."

She is a beautiful little schooner of 100 tons, is new, and looks beautiful with her new white sails and black hull.

This account comes from a book or magazine
titled "THE LOG OF A 49er" on his trip around cape horn

- Jan, '49 to July '49 from the diary of THEO. MESSERVE.

Captain Warren Luce was a distant relative of mine. One postman in Holmes Hole was heard saying - "...those Luce's are like rabbits at Holmes Hole - all over the place...".

A second version of the Rialto passenger list from "

Schooner Rialto, from Holmes Hole, February 7th, 1849:

Wm. Merry, Geo. B. Manchester and Zenas Dillingham, Warren Luce, Jireh. Luce, 
George Luce, John Robinson, Thos. Robinson, Alphonso Smith, Wm. F. Daggett,
Benj. Merry, Benj. West, Abm. Chase, Richard Hursell and Rev. Geo. Denham.

Tisbury Details

Tisbury Harbor , Marthas Vineyard ( formerly Holmes Hole* )

Tisbury MA

This early and fairly routine west- ward migration documentation can be difficult to establish in accurate detail. But it is critical to my linkage story to under-stand that Tisbury (Holmes Hold, Marthas Vine-yard) was a VERY small sea port town.

It is our family's best guess that Jirah Luce and the Howland family were well established families of Holmes Hole, MA before sailing to California and knew each other fairly well In 1849.
Jirah Luce and Captain Warren Luce (the Captain mentioned in the article above) knew each other. The Rialto left for California in 1849. Jotham Howland (probably) left for California in 1850. A year or two later, Jotham Howland became the Napa County Recorder and Jirah Luce was the Sonoma county Recorder.

     *You do have to admit that the name "Tisbury" sounds a lot better than "Holmes Hole".

continued above right...

Tisbury continued

Jirah Luce was part of the group of people (not listed in this article).  The sailing departure date was February 7th from Holmes Hole.

John Howland and some family members made the trip to the San Francisco bay and then made their way to Napa County. John Howland was a very well know whaler on the east coast and later became well know as an excellent sea captain on the west coast.

Holding the same positions as county recorder in each county, and living 50 miles apart in CA, they very likely knew each other and became friends again in the North Bay Area with a whole new context about their livers. The name of the model I have is the "H. P. Howland". Jotham Howland had a daughter and her name was Harriet P. Howland - thus the model transom name:
H P Howland.

Article below for the Tuesday, February 13, 1849 edition.

Warren Luce was a qualified captain of this type of vessel. During the voyage, Captain Downs became seriously ill and Captain Warren Luce took over.
NY herald paper
Rialto article


   Grasslands and Redwoods in a fading fog near Ft. Ross, CA

Family members arriving in California

Family stories about sea captains in the family and seeing the model that has become so important

My grandmother lived a few miles from the area in the photo above - she was a school teacher at Ft. Ross. (a busy doghole port in the 1880s to 1920s). It is extremely likely my grandmother watched doghole schooners arrive and unload freight at the Fort Ross port.

Much later, during my early life, I remember numerous, and endless at the age of 10, family discussions listing relatives. I later understood the reason for chats about family history since my mother was deeply involved in family history, and she had a great memory, she remembered most relatives in amazing detail.

My mother helped write a massive history of the Luce family (4 books at 700 pages each - about 3000 pages total). There were a number of sea captains in the family including my namesake Admiral Stephen Luce of whom I am very proud.

There was a Captain Warren Luce (about half way down the page on this link) who worked out of Tisbury. He had a very interesting life as he describes it.

Jirah Luce became the critical connection to my model and early life in California, Jireh Luce arrived in California in 1849. He was quite an entrepreneur for his time.

My father and uncle were both Naval Intelligence officers, in the Pacific, during world war II.

We are still checking the timing Warren Luce as he stopped off in San Francisco in 1849 apparently as the captain and also part owner of the Rialto. His account of the Rialto is that he owned it and sold it and went back to Holes Hole - gold mining was not for him. His claim was that he sold the Rialto to a San Francisco group to be used as a "Pilot Boat" in the 1850s.

While visiting my grandmother as a child, I remember seeing a small model ship. I asked about the model and I was told there was a sea captain in my family and the model was related to him.

continued above right...
Part 4 continued - A MODEL APPEARS IN MY LIFE
 There was a mention of a Captain Wines known to my family. But this captain may have come from the Howland family connection.
I do not remember names or where the model came from but I do remember one of those odd memories of childhood when I was told the model was given to us by Captain Wines. Later in my life I remember living with my grandmother in Berkeley while I was going to college. We had many discussions of her time at Fort Ross.

I saw the model again in my grandmother's house and asked again but I do not remember any details about the model other than it was a gift to my grandmother or grandfather. But my memory of Captain Wines still is with me today.

Still later my father was given the model by my grandmother when she was sorting and downsizing.

My father gave the model to me when he was downsizing his house.

My wife and I searched the net for more information on the model and we are continuing the search as I write this story. In my search for information on my model, I ran across a great article on San Francisco Bay Area shipping in the 1880s and this outstanding article on Doghole schooners and their ports.

I studied the article and area maps for several months and still look to it for guidance on each of the doghole ports. This is an very fine article and is what got me going on doghole schooners and ultimately uncovering my model I have as a sloop very similar to larger doghole schooners. Our guess is the sloop would have been about 40 feet in length.

Reading this article and talking to Dr. Delgado was quite an experience for me since the front cover photo is of a doghole port (Fort Ross) and about 20 minutes from my present house.

It is very important for me to say Dr. Delgado's report got me started on all that follows including understanding my model.

Thank you Dr. Delgado!

The age of how old is old, is the question!

 calla lilys and old fence
Fence at the Call Ranch    

So I have an interesting model but how important?
Is this model accurate?

As I have said, I became involved in the doghole schooners from the article and work of Dr. Delgado. I made a trip to the San Francisco Maritime Museum. By calling ahead, I was able to make an appointment to meet the history curator of Maritime history, Stephen Canright and visited the research center.

Stephen was an excellent person to know and he was very patient with me even though I was as green as they come in Maritime history and ship knowledge.

At one point in our discussions I very casually mentioned my model of a sloop. In my total ignorance of doghole schooners I said I had a model that looked something like a "dogholer" but the masts were wrong - my model only had one mast.

Stephen was  startled and he told me there was a whole class of one masted commercial (sloops) in the 1850 to 1920 period in the San Francisco bay area but no information on the sloops.

He told me the working sloop of that time was very common before 1900 in the Bay Area. He then asked me what my model looked like and I described it and he became very interested.

Being totally ignorant of San Francisco Bay Area sailing vessels, I did not understand his interest. He told me he had been researching the commercial sloop history for several years.
continued above right...
Part 5 continued

He had a list of sloop names that documented the sloop which probably numbered more than 500 in their peak usage around 1880. But there were very few photos and absolutely no technical documentation. No drawings and no models.

Even I knew the model might be important so it started a rapid exchange of emails and photos between myself and Stephen.

The model in this photo below is about 20 inches long, it has a very wide beam of 7 inches, a very shallow draft and the mast lying against the base in this photo is 20 inches long. I will show many more photos on a separate web page here I will call "model photos".

Stephen Canright was so intensely interested in my model, I came back to my home in the North Bay Area and sent him a couple of photos. I suppose most model makers and sloop knowledgeable people can easily understand what this photo below means. Stephen asked me to bring the model to him at the museum.

Sloop  Model
                   The Basic Model after so many years

The answer to what value? Priceless

What do you do with a priceless antique?

I made a box to carry the model and my wife and I made a trip to the museum. When Stephen Canright saw the model for the first time, I could see that the model meant a great deal to Stephen just to see it in reality - and to examine it in detail. Stephen studied the model and consulted a few friends and let me know the model was authentic.

This model is an authentic and appears to be quite accurate. The model was probably built about 1880. The model was a detailed copy of the sloop to be built or a model of a sloop built in that time period. We do not know if a full sized sloop was built. The documentation of commercial sloops is difficult to find and registered sloops are rare. The model was probably built between 1860 and 1880. After making laser measurements of the hull I found the shape and detail of the hull to be extremely well done and probably quite accurate.

I felt quite strongly about the model and I needed to make a decision about who was to care for it now that we had an idea of its historical value. I was told by the San Francisco Maritime Museum people that the model was "Smithsonian" or "Maritime Museum" in quality and some of my documentation concerning the model went to the State of California because they were interested also.

At this point my wife and I had to decide where the model should be kept. The next place for the model would be

  • Back in our home,
  • At a State of California facility, (History Department)
  • At the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Museum (part of the US National Park system
  • At the Smithsonian
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A closer look at the bow- about 1 inch slabs of possibly balsa

Part 6 continued

We ruled out keeping it at home and looked for the best access for the public to see the model and a secure, safe location. Since the model is from California, as I am, my wife and I elected to keep the model at the San Francisco Maritime Museum.

My wife and I also had to decide on trying to sell or auction the model which both my wife and I ruled out immediately - selling history would be such a loss to the sailing world except possibly to the buyer!

By this time the Maritime Museum had time to do a quick survey of the model and told us the model is extremely rare and very likely the only known model of a Commercial Sloop in the world. My point here is that even though the Maritime Museum wanted the model for its collection. They felt an obligation to tell us it was very rare and would be difficult to appraise for monetary value.But the model was "Smithsonian Quality"

For my wife and I it was "San Francisco Maritime Museum Quality" and that is where hoped it might be kept as a part of their collection.


It is my opinion that my great great grandfather, Jireh Luce, knew the Howland family form his early youth to adulthood in Holms hold on Marthasthe Howland Vineyard.

I believe both families knew each other in Holmes Hole and when Jireh Luce settled in Sonoma county in the 1850s, so the Howland family settled in Napa County - about 70 miles apart.

On a personal note: I have lived in both the Napa Valley and the Sonoma Valley most of my life. I know the two valleys are connected by trade and growth and even by twin rivers that both empty into the SF Bay. Both rivers can be navigated buy supply craft such as the sloop which might have been built by the Howland Family based on this model.

It seems extremely likely that both families met often, and in particular, my great great grandfather Jireh met with the Howlands including John Howland - the great sea captain. My family has owned stores and supply houses for the Sonoma county area and it seems likely both families met to discuss combined valley business including shipping supply issues of the Napa/Sonoma area. at some time in the business exchanges, I believe the model shown here was given to my grandfather Jireh Luce by the Howlands. The model has been in my family since that time, which seems to be about 115 years.

It is this kind of care of a special object, such as this model, that makes it so important to a great museum like the San Francisco Maritime Museum.

With deepest respect,

Stephen H. Luce

What to do with the model?
(Like The Magic Flute of Mozart)

My wife and I considered the issue of price and she and I easily and quickly felt there was no way to price the model and that we would never sell the model for cash.

At this point we knew Stephen Canright was deeply involved with the model and had even written an earlier paper on the commercial sloop. His paper was written without ever seeing a 1875 vintage commercial sloop but was based on good information from Bay Area sailors who had told him of the existence of a commercial sloop and what they remember about the sloops.

By the way, Stephen's description in his paper, never having seen one, was amazingly accurate. So we let Stephen Canright know what our decision was - we would donate the model to the Maritime Museum.

Stephen was pleased and understood our reasoning. I asked one consideration in return and that was the model would be made a permanent part of the Maritime Museum collection.

My family has given special items in the past and I later found that these "special items" were traded or sold to support the recipient organization. I understand the increasing challenges non-profits are facing but we could not stand the idea that this model would end its days in a private collection or worse - destroyed in an earthquake or fire. The Maritime Museum was very helpful and assured me that it would be entered into the permanent collection of the museum and made the agreement we signed with the museum "irrevocable".

You might ask why I did not know this was authentic - answer - I have had the model my whole life and simply saw it as a beautifully shaped boat model. Now I miss it - a lot - but I did make an exact copy of the hull, in wood.

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Transom area with laser line to define the hull shape

Part 7 continued

It seems to me that eBay is a new challenge to non-profit museums and seeing the model on "sale" on eBay would have been deeply hurtful to me and my family's effort to keep the model in good condition for 108 years. And the Howland family for 30 years before my family.

And the critical point is to make is that the vessel, of which this is a model was, was probably 40 feet long, and the beam would be about 12 feet. And a draft of less than 3.5 feet or draft of about 40 inches! A 40 inch draft could sail rivers of the area!

This amazing hull and very shallow draft is what makes these forgotten sloops and schooners so special. Look at the complexity of the lines near the transom. When I copied this area by hand, by eye, and by feel, I realized how much effort went into the model. It is a beautiful sculpture and I love the functional and aesthetic beauty.

Up Close - Just as the model maker made it 140 years ago
with a little aging as we all show at over 100 years.

And now we discover what a treasure the model is!

The model has been on my shelves in various houses over the years and now it is gone. Only now do I understand what treasure it was and is. But I was a steward not an owner and now it is safe for many years to come.

This model is completely original. It is just as the builder made it. No paint repair or update - ever! No major parts added or lost except the rudder, original fittings, some of bone or ivory, and even the base is as the original builder made it - no changes have been made to the model and it has never been damaged or dropped. There were a few pieces of the rigging lost. It is my guess that the model is about 148 years old. This model has been in the Luce family for 115 years. Many more images on this page: THE SLOOP MODEL  photos. More detailed information on the life and history of the model on the model photograph page.


In this photo to the right, you can see a strong magnification of the original hand applied paint with brush hair from the original builder's brush left during the painting of the model.

transom paint detail

Magnified view of the original model paint including a brush hair left by the model maker

This was his time to see Cali
    PART 9
What all of this means to me - stay off the rocks maybe

A huge irony - almost magic

After all the weeks of time I spent working with my wife to find drawings of a dogholer on the net we had no results. But after a few emails from the Maritime Museum, we found a good view of a doghole schooner and an almost complete answer was a few feet from me in our living room. I was desperate for just a side view and I had live 3-D view of a doghole hull design sitting quietly, for a 115 years in my families' various houses, and it was now in front of me!

the model
But keep in mind I have been aware of this model for more than 60 years and understanding it was a treasure took me some time to understand - it was just a good friend and had been my friend for my entire life! This was one of my earliest memories of my life - I loved this model.

When I got an email from the curator of sailing history at the San Francisco Maritime Museum telling me the model was important and to bring it to the museum as soon as possible, I began to understand this little model was important to others and it was more than just a model.

When I got an email from the curator of sailing history at the San Francisco Maritime Museum telling me the model was important and to bring it to the museum as soon as possible, I began to understand this little model was important to others and it was more than just a model.

It may be easy to see its value from these photos if you know sailing and especially if you know the history of west coast sailing but it was a total surprise to me! To me it was an extremely important model and I loved its shape but it was just a model  -   WRONG!!

My grandmother would be surprised and very pleased - I guess she knew and that is why she was so meticulous with the model for most of her life (101 Yrs)  just as I have been.

My grandmother had the model in the San Francisco earthquake and the model survived without a scratch of damage. My grandmother told me that she woke up during the quake and rode her bed from one side of her bedroom across the room to the other side - she was shaken you might say but OK.

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake was a 7.9 and she was a few miles from the epicenter and I believe the sloop was on a shelf but survived without a scratch. Sadly, 3000 people died  and over 60 to 80% of cities in the area were destroyed. The earth displacement in the area near her house was 20 fee


As I studied many hull shapes of the doghole schooner, I realized that the shape

doghole with wide hull

of the model I had was very close to a doghole schooner. I believe

now that the shape of the typical doghole schooner is identical t

o my model but enlarged and possibility has a slightly deeper draft. I have sculpted my doghole model to the shape of the beached schooner to the right - but I also carefully used the lines of the model hull as a reference.

The model hull followed my adjusted photo model very closely. I have laser line images of every half inch of the model hull.

I transferred the lines of the hull in this photo to a CAD drawing. using the CAD program I adjusted for the angels needed to convert the angle of the masts to vertical. The resulting (half) hull shape was then transferred to paper and then to a template.


I sculpted my model by hand using the CAD template and using the general shape of the model laser lines.

The two sets of lines agreed quite well.

As a final check to my model shape , I used an aft photograph of a second dogholer and adjusted the transom to the aft photo to the right of a second schooner.

Larger images and more detail of this process is described below in part 10.

schooner model

The photo to the left is a view of the model hull in development.

The development of this hull took more than a year from drawings to a final sculpted shape.

This process has produced a composite model but it is from the best possible photos of real doghole schooners, all about the same weight and draft. This model hull is about 30 inches long and with a 10 inch beam. 

No matter how hard I try to be accurate with this hull, it is also an art project with major considerations for proportions - as must have happened to the designers 150 years ago - so far both are true for them and for me.
NEW NOTE (Feb 3, 2020): I have looked at this hull shape for several months to be sure of its proportions. I find the shape real, functional,  and beautifully in proportion. I have started planking the hull. The deck is planked of ceder but will need a black calking material between deck planks. The planking wood for the hull is of home-made redwood planking in careful model proportions - no 75 foot hull planks


Fort Ross Head
Fort Ross Headlands

New Projects


1. To bring my model back to my home - in spirit.

Bow resized
It is my intention to first build an exact replica of the model I had - an 1880 commercial sloop but I will finish it. This will include deck and hull planks on a solid hull, deck hardware, and complete rigging to the best of my knowledge and assistance from others. This would help with the loss of my original model by moving it to the Maritime Museum, and bring it back home in a sense.

 2. Do my best to enhance the knowledge of the doghole schooner for people in the future.

I will also build a accurate model of a doghole schooner using my sloop and an authentic half model of a somewhat notorious part time dogholer called the "Maid of Orleans"at 110 feet. The very precious half model from which the "Maid" was actually built is in the Maritime Museum collection in San Francisco.

I will use hull lines from both ship hull models as well as the many photos of dogholers to make a solid hull shaped exactly to the dimensions of the combined hulls. I will then plank the hull with planks of proportional size and add rigging based on  many good photos available. To say this a different way, I have accurate lines from a 40 foot sloop  and a 110 foot schooner from which I hope to build a model of a 75 foot doghole model schooner.

schooner modelThis model in progress is to the right:
This hull shape was based on the old photo below, right. The hull is solid redwood and not possible to hollow until the shaping of the hull from a laminated solid slices of the wood was completed and messing with hollowing with a router bit is a very dangerous process - the router bit can break through the hull.             

This hull is a typical beam which is 1/3 the length or 10 inches wide approximately - the hull is 30, inches in length. The shaping of this hull took about 2 months. The complex hull shape is a mater of a rough cut and then a LOT of sanding usually with a 60 grit. The small powered hand sander was my primary sculpting tool. Measurements on summitry were made with calipers and other tools like templates. More on the "Project 2" page

It is this photo I drew much of my hull shaping from. The actual  story about the Nettie beaching shown below in a photo is as follows:doghole with wide hull

"... She was moored at the Hardy Creek Lumber Company’s dock, preparing to load bark when she broke her moorings in heavy seas.

Attempts to secure the ship were unsuccessful, and with his crew safely in the riggings, Captain Johnson decided to cut the remaining stern lines and allow the ship to drift ashore.

The Nettie Sundborg was subsequently repaired, and she continued operating along the Pacific Coast until she wrecked for a final time near the entrance to the Suislaw River, Oregon on December 28, 1902..." (Note 2)

One question - why the hull bulge below the aft mast?

The old photo above is the the Nettie Sundborg. You can see the significant bulge in the Nettie under the aft mast. I gave this a lot of thought including the possibility that the beaching could have caused the  bulge.  My best guess is that the framing is too strong and if the aft region of the hull was damaged by the beaching it would have been very difficult to repair  the distortion in the hull.

If this was hull damage it would have been significant and the ship would not have floated back for repair.  And for crew safety  the captain would not have allowed the crew back on board to move to the repair area.  The rigging is also very tight on both sides and the mast is parallel to the forward mast. And, the water line curve is very much inline with the forward line.

The only other explanation is that the shape was shifted slightly from a pure ""V" shaped round bottom" to a more square shaped "round bottom" hull aft for a reason. This small change would have increased the hull capacity. To me this is a brilliant design addition. This ship also was considered one of the fastest Dogholer in the 1880 period.

More design and modeling issues and model progress will be shown on the "Project 2" page which will be only concerned with this Dogholer model. Click your browser back arrow to get back to this location.

3. Find help - from good model makers and help from people who understand 19th century sailing craft.

4. Develop the best possible sources and resources.

I hope to find ways to collect any lost, or misplaced (attics, old boxes, etc.) documentation, models, and drawings on doghole schooners. If I do find sources on dogholers it very likely will help me with my model maybe others have the same issues.

The model hull shape mates exactly with the photo and looks good when you see it from the top.

Here is a "doghole"  schooner on the San Francisco Bay in all her glory.

Keep in mind that this schooner has a draft of less than 5 feet. This image is what I see as a very beautiful schooner with a magnificent shape in her fast sleek but full hull - sounds like I am talking about a woman!

The masts are like telephone poles and as such, are very strong and can take a very large mainsail/gaff combined! Imagine the weight of that sail in rain and what it would take to raise it. The crew on a schooner like this was three to five men.

This photo to the left is a typical doghole schooner under sale. They were fast and used a lot of canvas when the winds were right. This is the "John McCullough". She was 76.5 feet long, 24 feet across the beam and displaced 72 tons.2

This dogholer in this photo was built in 1873!

This image shows the beauty of the schooner under full sale in a good wind on the San Francisco Bay.

This image is one of the images I am using to shape my doghole schooner model hull without drawings.

A technical note...the photo above combined with the very powerful PhotoShop shows a great deal of information about a transom, waterline empty and rigging of the time.

information and photo from a great website:
http  (if you are interested in this photo it is under "J" for "John McCullough")

Also NOTE 2:This information on the Nettie (above) is taken from the same website

The photo was originally from a master photographer with his collection at the Bancroft Library in Berkeley. This photo looks good now but was taken 140 years ago probably about 1880 to 1890.  This was photographed from another craft on the San Francisco Bay - amazing.

This schooner was wrecked in 1893.

Last Thoughts

Working on the hull shape of the ghost ships - The Doghole Schooners

dogholer on SF Bay
I will be updating the model of the true schooner which is shown below as"Project 2". This is a slow process - it has taken almost a year of study before even cutting a rough blank shown on the project 2 page. The shaping of the hull is as much sculpting as the marine engineering and model maker processes. Progress is hour by hour but the model will be extremely accurate considering the fact that there are NO drawings of any dogholer and that is part of the purpose of this website.

The photo to the left is enlarged, refocused, etc. and has adjusted light details to see the transom shape and the size of the Captain to be used as an estimation of dimensions and a little about the rudder. The captain can be compared to mast thickness, planking above and below the deck line and a hint at low and high waterlines as well as scupper detail. Some mast rigging detail such as the range over which they expect the boom to be used is probably controlled by the rigging detail just above the boat name and home.

She is wide in the beam and is not a "Bluenose" or an America's Cup racer but to me she is a beauty

The buttons just below will open new windows on my projects related
to the sloop model and the general subject of the dog hole schooner.
I am presently working on a 30 inch hull of the doghole schooner based partly on this photo above in project 2.

pages sloop model photos



Communication with this website viewers on details of this website is
critical and welcome for several reasons:

1. I need experienced people with a knowledge of "doghole schooners" or lumber schooners of the west coast, to review this website for accuracy. I need help - whatever knowledge and documents might be out there. Please send information even if you use the anonymous form referenced below.

2. Any suggestions,  comments, or corrections will be gratefully accepted.
The more accurate the information on this site the better.

3. I will also offer a totally private comment page below where entries will not need a return email address unless you wish to share your information with me. I can not and will not try to track information given on this page. Supplying information is private to you and I.

4. We might uncover important new information on doghole schooners. If we find new information involving authentic drawings, sketches, or half models, from the time of the building of the sail powered doghole schooners (1850 to 1900), the information might be of financial value to the maritime community.

My contact information methods:

#1. Direct email contact to me (Steve Luce), by email:  JM2019 (at) sonic (dot) net
where ( at ) = @ , and  ( dot ) = .

This contact method does require that I know your return email address. The method below does not require any information about you in your communication to me.
There is no backwards trace possible using the communication method just below.

#2. Contact page (opens as a new private page) with total anonymity:   contact_me.html

This special contact page shows an absolute anonymity entry form. This form will open on a separate page. The message, if entered, will be delivered to me alone.

Please note - by going to this page I can not and will not tract you, or try to collect data, (there are no cookies or scripts - this is a clean page)!

Note: I do not collect data or track on this website on any page.

Visiting this contact page and sending information will reveal only the information you wish to share with me. Anonymous comments of any kind related to these schooners are very welcome and very safe!!!

More about us

UPDATE: I am in the process of building a doghole schooner based on books I have, photos like the one above, and the line and hull information from my model sloop donated to the Maritime museum.

Because of our surprise find of an important model on our shelves, I would like to thank the following institution and people at the Maritime museum:

  • The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
  • Stephen Canright (History Curator)
  • Gina  Bardi (Librarian and research)
  • Kirsten  Kvam (Registrar)

And others that assisted me with all that I did and all that I discovered at the museum. Without these people, I would not have understood or found the nautical treasure my own home. I need to be clear about this, without the help of these people, my model would have gone unnoticed and eventually sold, probably on eBay - I am positive - thank you all for saving the H.P. Howland.


I am also hoping to make contact with others concerning ship and general nautical history of California.

A special technical issue to let each reader is that I am hoping to make contact with any person interested an any subject related to doghole schooners and the ports from which they sailed. This includes all forms of life from lichen to whales in and around the ports.

I also would like to be sure that all who visit this site can be assured that absolutely no data is collected from the visitor to this website or from a visitor who emails me. I have an obsession and a disdain with data secretly collected data from a website visitor. I do not ever collect such data  - not by the website code or the email data, other then to answer or chat with a visitor by email.

My wife and I hope to chat and exchange ideas with visitors to the website - thank you for this visit and please write if something interests you on this site on any subject and by any knowledge level of the visitor. We have seen a lot of Whales at Salt Point and we have a pair of ravens at Salt point - Betsy and Ross - who know our car and land near us to enjoy sharing our food with us.
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