Convoy

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Convoy (#) (c. 1828-1836+), a wood-hulled American brig of almost 138 tons which was used in the pursuit of sea otters around the California Channel Islands in the 1830s, during the time the islands were owned by the Mexican nation. [Davis, William Heath. Seventy-five years in California, page 76-77.]

From 1828-1830 Convoy was owned by Josiah Marshall of Boston. Dixey Wildes Thompson was her master when she sailed from Boston with an outward cargo of horses. She visited Tahiti, the Columbia River, Honolulu and San Francisco. The Mexican government considered Convoy a contrabandista. According to Richard Henry Dana, Jr. [Two Years Before the Mast, 1841]:

“Her armament was from her being an illegal trader. The otter are very numerous among these islands, and being of great value, the [Mexican] government requires a heavy sum for a license to hunt them, and lay a high duty upon every one shot or carried out of the country. This vessel had no license, and paid no duty, besides being engaged in smuggling goods on board other vessels trading on the coast, and belonging to the same owners in Oahu.”

In 1831, Thompson became part owner of Convoy, along with William French, Eliab Grimes, and John Coffin Jones, Jr. Jones wrote to a potential Mexican partner:

“The Convoy is intended, if possible, to be put under Mexican colors and remain on the coast of California to hunt [otters] according to the plan we talked of when I was in Monterey.”

Thompson wanted a portion of her to be sold to a Mexican citizen, warning that “security and caution will be necessary in proceeding.” [Ogden. California Sea Otter Trade, 1941.]

In 1831 and 1832, Convoy traveled between Honolulu and California (San Francisco to San Diego), with Benjamin Pickens, Jr. as master. Her cargo included sea otter skins, tallow, cattle hides, and horses. She continued otter hunting through 1836. What became of her after that is unknown.


Convoy spent the summer in pursuit of sea otters around the Channel Islands. While anchored off of Santa Cruz [Rosa] Island, Indians returning to the Llama in their canoes from the day’s hunt, were confronted by Captain Bancroft for not having obtained the usual number of otters. A fight ensued in which Captain Bancroft was killed. His wife died of her wounds later. [Davis, William Heath. Seventy-five years in California, page 76-77.]