A Visit To Hawaii On A Tramp Steamer
Dad always wanted to travel so finally in 1953 he went to Hawaii on a "tramp steamer" and really enjoyed himself. He was gone about two and a half weeks but had fun. His pictures were pretty bad and most were lost in an airplane crash that took our Mom's house in 1989. But we do have memories.
Definition: A tramp steamer, or tramp for short, is any ship which does not have a fixed schedule or published ports of call. As opposed to freight liners, tramp ships trade on the spot market with no fixed schedule or itinerary/ports-of-call(s). Steamers are infrequently seen today, as steam power has largely been replaced by diesel engines, which can be operated more economically. Because of this, the term tramp freighter is sometimes used. The term is derived from an old meaning of "tramp" as itinerant beggar or vagrant, and is first documented in the 1880s, along with "ocean tramp" (at the time many sailing vessels engaged in irregular trade as well).
The construction of the so-called C-3 cargo vessels began during World War II, after the famous "Liberty" and "Victory" ships. This standardized type of ship overtook all other ships as it was more modern and longer and could also reach a higher speed. After the Second World War these ships were converted into ordinary freighters and sold to various shipping companies. The Hawaiian Pilot was built in 1944 and first went into service as the USS Burleigh. After the war ended it was acquired and refitted by the Matson Navigation Company and mainly traveled the Los Angeles, San Francisco and Hawaii routes. The cargo consisted of normal consumer goods of all kinds and agrarian products primarily bound for the West Coast of the USA. The vessel had a cruising speed of 16.5 knots and a total cargo capacity of 12,500 tonnes.
Hawaiian Pilot 1944 ex- Sonoma, 1961 transferred from Oceanic renamed Hawaiian Pilot, 1962 sold renamed Smith Pilot.
It is now 1952 and Dad gets wanderlust trying every trick he knew to get Mom to go on a boat. Water and Mother did NOT mix. in fact, Mom finally went on a boat across the English channel in 1975 and that also was a disaster, but that is another story.
Dad always wanted to be on the go and see things. I guess growing up in Arkansas and seeing little for most of his live left him curious. Dad was a travel log addict as these shows were extremely popular in the 1950s.
Remember in 1952, just after the war, there were no cruise liners like today. Dad settled for a freighter. It was not a tramp steamer - a commercial steamer for hire; one having no regular schedule. The Hawaiian Pilot was a Los Angeles to Honolulu scheduled freighter.
The Hawaiian Pilot was one of the Matson Line freighters. Matson Line was formed in 1882 by Captain William Matson to operate the Hawaiian trade. In 1926 the Oceanic Steamship Co. was purchased and became a Matson subsidiary. The company thus extended its sphere to Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands and the Far East.
Dad begged Mom. Nope! Mom says "If God wanted me on the water, I'd been born a duck".
So in 1952, Dad sets off to Hawaii on the freighter Hawaiian Pilot. (ex- White Squall. 1947 purchased by Oceanic renamed Sonoma, 1961 traded to Matson renamed Hawaiian Pilot, 1962 sold renamed Smith Pilot.) The Pilot was an 8,200 ton freighter, pretty small by today's standards.
Mom, Claudia (my cousin) and I saw Dad off that afternoon. I remember going on the vessel and seeing the cabin and walking around the deck. Dad enjoyed the trip as there were only eleven other passengers, in those days that meant they did not have to carry a doctor. Plenty of food and the frig was open to the passengers 24x7.
The Revell Model Company even made a plastic model of her which I wished I had bought when it cam out.
I remember it well! We went on board to see him off!
On July 14, 1953 the freighter Jacob Luckenbach from SF rammed the Matson freighter Hawaiian Pilot near Point Montara, 17 miles from the Golden Gate. The Luckenbach sank while the Hawaiian Pilot limped to SF. Oil leaked from the Luckenbach later killed numerous birds. Dad joked about this... saying "the Captain of the Luckenbach was looking back".
Dad brought back a lot of pictures, most of them lost to the ravages of time and a 1944 P-51 Mustang that took out our home. I remember pictures of Dad in a bathing suit at the blank sand beaches.
Dad had pictures, black and white of course, of the black sand beaches. In Hawaii the term black sand beach has been used only for beaches dominated by grains of black volcanic glass. Lava flows entering the ocean chill and their glassy rinds shatter. Waves and currents may build a beach from the black grains of glass. There is no black sand beach on Oahu. There aren't even many light-gray beaches on Oahu. Black sand is only present as distinct beaches on Hawaii (Big Island), at Punaluu (Kau district), at the west and east edges of the new lava delta from the current flank eruption (Puna), and in front of the recent flow that covered most of Kalapana and the famous former black-sand beach at Kaimu (Puna).
He also talked of Diamond Head and I never knew what it was until I went to Hawaii with Riley a few years later. The most famous volcanic crater in the world is Diamond Head, located on the South-east Coast of O'ahu at the end of Waikiki overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was originally named Laeahi by the ancient Hawaiians. The name meant "brow of the tuna" and looking at the silhouette of the crater from Waikiki, you can see the resemblance. The current name came was given to the crater by British sailors in the 1800's. When they first saw the crater at a great distance, the calcite crystals in the lava rock appeared to glimmer in the sunlight. The sailors mistakenly thought there must be diamonds in the soil. Diamond Head is a crater that has been extinct for 150,000 years. The crater is 3,520 feet in diameter with a 760-foot summit.
We were sure happy to get him home but that set Dad on his other dreams of Europe and Alaska.