Updated Post—The Wreck of the S.S. Tennessee

The older I get, the more I come to realize that we can never truly understand the far-reaching, unexpected effects of our actions. On March 5, 2012 I wrote a post titled The Wreck of the SS Tennessee and at the time I had no idea that 2 years and 9 months later someone on the other side of the world named Frizz would read it and be inspired enough to make a watercolor drawing of the ship for a that he was making for his grandchild.

Frizz has a WordPress blog at Flickr Comments where he has posted . I have edited my original post and replaced the black and white sketch that I originally used with Frizz’s watercolor illustration.

Thank you, Frizz, for sharing your talent with us and, by your actions, for reminding me to keep an open heart and to look for the best in the people that I meet.

Auf Wiedersehen für jetzt.
(I hope that Google got that right)

Watercolor sketching by Frizz © Frizz, All Rights Reserved

Watercolor sketching by Frizz
© Frizz, All Rights Reserved

Reprinted below is my original post about the Maritime tragedy.

…She was a favorite craft and one of the best sea boats that plowed the Pacific ocean. She was the home, the pride and the refuge of her officers and crew, and many a tear as salt as the brine that surrounds her shattered hull has coursed unbidden from manly eyes and sprung up involuntarily from the bold and courageous hearts of those whose pride and delight she was, as they have gazed on the last resting place of the gallant Tennessee. —Daily Alta California, March 9, 1853

The early morning hours of March 6, 1853 saw a thick fog settle in along the coast of Northern California as the S.S. Tennessee steamed towards the entrance to San Francisco Bay, some 100 miles away. Approaching from the South, after leaving Panama on February 19th, Captain E. Mellus continued on using dead reckoning to reach Mile Rock, about 2 miles Southwest of the Golden Gate.

What Capt. Mellus did not realize was that he had passed Mile Rock in the fog during the night and was turning East, sailing not into San Francisco Bay but into Indian Cove, nestled in the Marin Headlands. The fog lifted in time for the Captain to see land and realize that it was not Mile Rock. The horse-shoe shape of the cove made it impossible to back up and turn around so Capt. Mellus ran the Tennessee aground on the beach and removed 550 passengers, personal effects, cargo and mail from the ship in hopes that a higher tide would assist him in getting the ship afloat.

Some people went ashore where they set up tents and others boarded two waiting ships, the Goliah and the Confidence. There were no injuries during this evacuation, in fact the passengers lauded the Captain and his crew for their, “…coolness, good judgement and entire competency…”.

Unfortunately, during the night rolling waves came in, lifting the Tennessee up and dashing it down on the sandy bottom of Indian Cove. The next morning it was discovered that the ship’s back was broken and it had taken on water.

The area where the Tennessee ran aground and broke apart was re-named in her honor. We know it as Tennessee Cove and it is part of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. According to the GGNPC’s web site, “Coordinate your visit with a low tide and seasonal sand alignments to see the engine of the shipwrecked SS Tennessee.”

It is 159 years since the early morning fog claimed the Tennessee and, as if in tribute, the fog moved up the coast and into the Gate tonight, just like it did for Capt. Mellus. I turned on the fog horns at 22:28 hours and from the look of it on my way home a half hour later, this fog is thick and will probably remain until dawn, just as it did for him all those many years ago.

I wish that the SS Tennessee had our fog horns to help guide her back in the day.

Tennessee Valley contact information: Tennessee Valley Road, Sausalito, CA 94965    

  14 comments for “Updated Post—The Wreck of the S.S. Tennessee

  1. December 13, 2014 at 4:28 AM

    That is wonderful … how all that came together! The www is fantastic.


  2. December 13, 2014 at 3:16 AM

    for you, Allan:


    • December 13, 2014 at 5:49 AM

      Thank you, Frizz. We should come up with something for this collaboration—your watercolors of my photos. I love seeing your interpretation of the event that I witnessed and documented. It opens another door in my mind and I move into an adjacent room and look out another window at the same subject.

      I hope that makes sense to you. I find it a great experience.


  3. December 13, 2014 at 12:59 AM

    thank you Allan, for using my illustration! Since I read, that you were balancing 14 years on the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge I was fascinated by the frames of your life! Maybe my next drawing is inspired by https://ohmsweetohm.me/2014/02/13/constant-change/


    • December 13, 2014 at 1:06 AM


      • December 13, 2014 at 5:43 AM

        That ship came from your neighborhood.


      • December 13, 2014 at 10:05 AM

        I have a friend who works in the Hamburg harbor controlling container ships – and he plays blues harp adding his talent to my guitar instrumentals:


      • December 14, 2014 at 6:34 AM

        Thanks for the link. I like the tune, do you play together often?


      • December 14, 2014 at 6:50 AM

        yes we do – virtually jam sessions, sending each other the tracks via e-mail to add something – we never saw each other in reality = the surprising chances of world-wide-net = as our collaboration!


      • December 14, 2014 at 6:57 AM



    • December 13, 2014 at 5:42 AM

      Sounds good, Frizz. If you would like some background or commentary from me about this, or any other photos you wish to paint, let me know and I can give it to you. You have my email address.


  4. December 12, 2014 at 10:59 PM

    I love how this came together between you and Frizz. I love his sketches…he has a lucky grandchild.


    • December 13, 2014 at 5:39 AM

      He certainly does have a lucky grandchild and we are fortunate that he is sharing his stories with us too.


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