BAUE Barge Project

February 18th 2006

Dive Site Information:

The bottom is at 64’.  When diving from shore, divers must plan MGR appropriately, as the dive should be planned as an overhead environment due to boat traffic in the immediate area.  General directions for the swim/scooter to the barge: swim along breakwater to the edge of the cement blocks, descend, and follow a north (0) degree heading for 600ft.  When diving from boat, make sure to return to the anchor line; if you must swim to shore, follow a SSW heading towards the breakwater wall.

Birdseye shot of the barge

What we know:

Dimensions:  103.1' long, varies from about 10' to 13' across
GPS Coordinates:  N36 36.638 W121 53.409
Structure:  Wooden, with charred portions
Suspicion: Wreck is listing to port
Cargo: Scattered debris among the wreckage includes a cement parking divider that may or not belong to the wreck

Survey Details:

Link to all video and pictures taken, including surface pictures:

BAUE Barge Pictures

BAUE Barge Video

Survey lines were layed at the start of the day, estimating the approximate size of the barge and tied off at a number of points. The surveying was completed by taking compass readings at each point noted in the graph above. All surveyors were required to start at point 0 and progress around the wreck in a clockwise manner, ending up at point 0 again. Multiple groups were involved in surveying the wreck and at the end of the project a consensus regarding the most accurate result was agreed to. This data is shown in the table below. All the survey lines that were layed during the project were removed at the end of the day.

ID Depth (ft) Heading (degrees) Distance (ft)
0 61 115 24
1 61 120 20.8
2 63 180 9.3
3 62 275 11.5
4 62 300 25.4
5 62 302 38
6 62 300 22.3
7 64 340 15.3
8 63 120 58.3

Period history when the barge was sunk:

During the gold rush era many vessels were built on the east coast of the US for the transportation of cargo/people to the west.  Once they arrived in SF Bay and cargo was unloaded, the vessels were often abandoned.  Old photos from the era depict a setting in which there were so many vessels anchored or adrift across the bay between SF and Oakland, that a nimble person could almost jump from boat to boat to cross the bay on foot. 

Over time as these vessels became derelict, they were often burned, leaving only a ‘surfboard’ of a vessel that would then sink to the bottom.  This was the way (in those days) of making sure the vessel did not become a navigational hazard.  Of course most of the usable parts such as rigging/machinery/fittings would have been salvaged prior to its demise.  Literally hundreds of boats were disposed of in this fashion back in the mid 1800's.  It could be that this ‘mystery vessel’ faced the same fate.
BAUE member James Noveas heard of all this from some old timers at a museum years ago. He has also picked up quite a few pieces of burned wood in SF bay, which could have been left over from the 1906 fire. He says he just doesn't know for certain, but finds it quite possible that the vessels were burned in that manner.

Research Clues:

It might be a good idea to take a sample of wood to verify the type of wood used in its construction.  Some woods are native to the east coast and vice versa.  It would also be useful to take a close look at the keel of the vessel if at all possible.  This piece is the ‘backbone’ of any wooden boat; usually they were made with particular pieces of large wood, which would help determine the age of the boat and the location of the region where it was originally built.

Cannery Row history would be significant in this quest.  Monterey isn't that big of a town and when a vessel catches on fire and sinks relatively close to the center of town, the paper will usually run a story on it and sometimes include photographs.  It might be worth going through the microfilm at the library to find anything in the Monterey papers around the suspected time of sinking.  

Theories of what it is:

It is believed to be a pre WW2 wreck.

According to some stories, the barge is an old, wooden sailing ship whose masts were removed.  It was being used as a cargo barge when it sank.  Charred portions on the wreck suggest that it had burned before it sank.

Expanding on this theory, others suspect that it was a vessel belittled and used as a barge, but ultimately was not a barge at all, especially with the sort of beam it demonstrates, at only 13' wide.  Barges are usually wide, for this wreck to be a true barge it would have to have a beam of about 30 feet at least.
Another possibility is that this vessel was a holding stage for the fisheries (hence the term ‘barge’), used as some sort of standby loading vessel.  Fishing vessels would come in and load off the catch onto it, before heading back out to sea for more fishing.  This is a common practice in fisheries, especially when there is a required quota and limited docking space for rapid unloading.  This could definitely be just that kind of wreck.  Unfortunately, the fact that a vessel was used in this way indicates that it wasn't worth much of anything as a vessel anymore, but because the hull was probably rather intact it became a perfect candidate for a holding "barge".  As a result, it may prove difficult to find the actual name of the vessel, not entirely undoable, just requiring deeper research.  If we are rather confident that the vessel went down in the 50's it might be that there is an article in the paper… it is quite possible that it did go down in that time period, and wood would not last for very long in such waters.

Future Project Ideas:

Another project to tie in with the barge would be to survey and map all the pipes lying in the water, and create an ‘above and below’ map of Monterey shores.   There is a great deal of rich fishing history in the Monterey Bay, well worth preserving.  I'm sure the community would appreciate the work as well, as an augmentation to all the cannery history we hear so much about.

Barge Dive Day Project Participants:

Name Roll
Alberto 'Beto' Nava Videographer, Set Up
Susan Bird Project Coordinator, Set Up, Clean Up
Clinton Bauder Videographer
Harry Babicka Surveyor
Mark Lloyd Photographer
Libby Guethlin Set Up, Shore support, Photographer
John Heimann Surveyor, Clean Up
Nick Radov Surveyor, Clean Up
Jason Warshawsky Photographer
Sandra Tullis Surveyor
Sylvie Stulic Surveyor, Social Director
Mark Weitz Surveyor, Base Camp Supervisor
Anibal Mata-Sol Surveyor
James Novaes Researcher
Martin McClellan Consultant
Dionna House Photographer
Suzzane Baird Surveyor
Kawika Chetron Boat Captain, Researcher
Phil Sammett Boat Captain
Ben Villao Surface Manager and Point of Contact
David Chamberlin Surface Manager and Emergency Point of Contact
Mike Fletcher Surveyor
Chris Buettner Underwater Support
Nicholas Gascon Underwater Support

Update - March 12th 2006

What the Local Historian had to say: 

Tim Thomas, Monterey Maritime Museum Historian, was kind enough to meet with BAUE representatives to discuss the findings of our survey and documentation efforts. Tim seemed impressed with our collected information, which he viewed on the BAUE/barge project website. He referenced the sonar map to determine the location of the barge, and then studied the panoramic still photos of the barge. Upon inspection of our findings, he definitively ruled out the likelihood that the wreck could be the sunken remains of the ‘Gipsy’, which had been a leading candidate in our search for sunken wreck possibilities.

Based on the measurements of the structure (103 ft in length), Tim confirmed that the wreck is most likely not a barge. This information refutes another popular theory of the origins of ‘the barge’, as the structure is evidently far too big to have been a sardine barge used for loading and unloading of local catch. According to Tim, “A big barge is considered to be 60ft in length, at most”. 

When BAUE representatives directed his attention to the charred portions of wood found on the wreck, Tim suggested we contact the Monterey Fire Department. MFD should have records of incidents and might be able to reveal some information on this mystery wreck.

Tim also suggested that this “boat” could have been used to carry lumber or concrete in 1932, during the construction of the breakwater. (He suspects that the concrete parking lot divider, seen clearly among other debris in photos, was probably thrown down there by someone more recently.)

In the meantime, Tim agreed to work on researching this mystery, and will be making some contacts and doing some digging in his research files. We will contact him in 2 weeks, to continue our research exploration effort. He also mentioned he would give us the name of the person to call at the Monterey Fire Department. 

Monterey Maritime Museum:

Through our process of discovery, we recently learned that the Monterey Maritime Museum is located right on the wharf. How convenient! The museum can be found by walking for 10 minutes along the trail from the breakwater to the wharf. The historian, Tim Thomas was willing to meet us with very short notice, however it is advisable to call in advance for an appointment. Tim’s office/library is located on the second floor. The phone number for the museum is: (831) 372-2608.

More Feedback and Impressions of the Wreck:

I seriously doubt that the beam of the barge is really only 13 ft. Take a look around and try to find a 100 ft boat with a 13 ft beam.  There aren't too many and I suspect that the port edge of the wreck is not the port side of the original boat, but rather starboard edge of cargo hatch.