California Fact File

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Owner: North Western Shipping Company (White Star Line)

Ship Details


Vessel Type: Sailing ship

Official No: 697769

Builder: Harland & Wolff Ltd, Queen's Island, Belfast

Yard No: 225

Laid down: -

Launched: 22 February 1890

Handed over: 24 April 1890

Port & Date of Registry: Liverpool, April 1890

Managing Owner & Address: William Imrie, 10 Water Street, Liverpool


Number of Decks: 2

Number of Masts: 4

Rigged: Schooner

Stern: Elliptical

Build: Clencher

Framework & Description of Vessel: Steel

Number of Bulkheads: 1

Number of water ballast tanks: -


Length: 329.3 ft

Breadth: 45.2 ft

Depth: 26.7 ft

Gross Registered Tonnage: 3,099


Engine Builder: -

Engine Type: -

Cylinders: -

Stroke: -

Nominal Horse Power: -


Description: -

Number: -

Iron or Steel: -

Pressure when loaded: -

Screw: -

Speed: -

Signal Letters: -


California was the last wind ship built for the Company and at the time of her entry into service the largest sailing vessel in the world.

Intended for the general trading business between Liverpool and San Francisco via Cape Horn, the four masted clipper was so large that steam powered windlasses, winches and patented winches for working her top sails were required in order to set her canvas.

Fitted out in the Hamilton Graving Dock, she was completed in April and scheduled to leave for Liverpool under tow of the steam tug Blazer but bad weather prevented her departure by one day to the 24th.

One contemporary commentator said of her ‘California, huge, slow as time’ but this was rather unfair for she could keep up with the best clippers in the trade and on occasions set records for the number of nautical miles covered in a single day.

With her sale to German interests in 1896 White Star severed its connection with the era of the commercial sailing vessel. In 1908 the Company realised the value of training their officer cadets under sail and purchased the full-rigged ship Mersey for use as a training vessel.

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