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Sonoma Coast Wreck Hunter - North California

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Hello to all,


I'd like to introduce myself and what brought me here.  I'm not a ship model builder, unless you count my 2 foot long scale model of the Kilo Moana in Lego; although the hobby appeals to me so much that I may yet add it to my hobbies - and starting slowly, as advised to new members.  What brought me here is looking for help in identifying parts of steam and sailing ships.  I am a volunteer scientific diver with The Bodega Marine Lab of University of California, Davis, and I have been working more recently with NOAA and California State Parks on maritime archaeology of shipwrecks on the Sonoma Coast.  Especially through the late 19th Century, the rich coastal lumber trade combined with the treacherous, rough, fogy, rocky coastline resulted in many wrecks of lumber schooners and many other ships.  With the State and Federal agencies, we are interested primarily in identifying and documenting the maritime historical resources as the lay.  Most of these ships have passed into ocean entropy, of course, but if bits are found where ships are known or suspected to have wrecked, then I might look to you as experts in visual identification.


In conjunction with the older wrecks, I am currently undertaking a project to map the entire wreck site of the SS Norlina, A 385 ft cargo steamer which was launched as the SS Harfluer in 1909 and, after having been Commissioned USS Norlina in 1918-1919, wrecked on our coast at Salt Point in 1926.  Since it broke in half during attempted salvage operations, and was finally demolished with dynamite, one can imagine the size and scattered nature of the debris field.  So, since I am not an expert on steam (or any other) ship parts or construction, I thought to engage with this community to browse and pose identification questions once I have them formulated clearly enough.  There are many forms I see and have filmed diving through he wreck site which are clearly unique and I imagine are identifiable but that I can't identify.


By identifying characteristic items and cross-referencing their positions, I hope to map the site and virtually reconstruct the ship as much as possible from it's present state.  So far, the larger features are two main boilers, a triple expansion engine, a 40 meter drive shaft, a couple of propeller blades, several windlasses, and lots of double bottom hull and scattered iron beams.  It's a fascinating site, and I've put several raw dive videos from it on my youtube.


If this seems to you all to be an appropriate purpose to taking part in the community as a non-builder, please let me know.  Otherwise, I will just browse and learn without tying up bandwidth.  Also, if anyone has ideas of additional or more appropriate resources, please let me know!






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Its absolutely fine.   Please do post any photos or images and our little community will do its best to help identify them.  I am sure we have a bunch of members familiar with this era and type of vessel.




MSW Admin

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John, I have made a study of West coast wood steam schooners for the last 20 years. Much of the steam gear that was on steel ships were not much different. So if I can be of help let me know. Via here or by PM.



Zipper hydroplane(Miss Mabel ) finished

John Cudahy  Scratch build 1/4" scale Steam Tug

1914 Steam Tug Scratch build from HAMMS plans

1820 Pinky  "Eagle" Scratch build from; American Ships Their Plans and History

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John, I grew up in Humboldt County and did fisheries work on timber lands there and in Mendocino County. The sailing and steam schooners were of course vital to the lumbering trade, so I have long had an interest in those vessels. I'm keen to see your photos, though I don't know how much insight I can offer.



Chris Coyle
Greer, South Carolina

When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk.
- Tuco

Current builds: Brigantine Phoenix, Speeljacht

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Thanks to each of you for the warm welcoming.  I do set aside a lot (hobby) time for this project, but  it's also limited by the overlap of my schedule with less flexible dive buddy schedules, and infrequent windows of calm ocean conditions.  In any case, I'm working towards increasing the time I have to dive and maximizing the efficiency when I do.


I'll take some video screen caps of a few items that I think might be more identifiable, and some that just might be interesting to this community.  I'm not so experienced in social networking, as they say, but I guess I should post in new thread outside the intro area.  But just to give you an idea of what this stuff looks like, I'll put a few here for now.


Of both large boilers that I've accounted for (there's still a donkey boiler out there somewhere unless it was successfully salvaged) both are resting on their backs in ~ 20 ft depth water with their faces about 5 ft from the surface. The face of the further out one is shown here.  Also shown are the end and side view of one of five windlass-looking structures I've located.  There should be 9 total, according to the original shipyard book pages I got from the Hartlepool museum in the UK.  I should also say up front that these images were taken on a day with uncharacteristically good visibility, but I'll do my best.


Thanks again!




face of far boiler.png

windlass 1 end.png

windlass 1 side.png

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Here would probably be the best place to continue..https://modelshipworld.com/index.php?/forum/5-nauticalnaval-history/

"The shipwright is slow, but the wood is patient." - me

Current Build:                                                                                             
Past Builds:
 La Belle Poule 1765 - French Frigate from ANCRE plans - ON HOLD           Triton Cross-Section   

 NRG Hallf Hull Planking Kit                                                                            HMS Sphinx 1775 - Vanguard Models - 1:64               


Non-Ship Model:                                                                                         On hold, maybe forever:           

CH-53 Sikorsky - 1:48 - Revell - Completed                                                   Licorne - 1755 from Hahn Plans (Scratch) Version 2.0 (Abandoned)         



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