Undine

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Undine (#none) (1890-1890), 42-foot steam yacht constructed in San Francisco for Captain George F. Ellis of Santa Barbara. The Undine, “schooner in rig,” was to be used in the establishment of a fishing camp on one of the islands, and to take passengers back and forth to the camp. She was named for captain Ellis' only daughter, Undine, who was born in 1886. Shortly after her launching, and apparently before she had been assigned an official number, wreckage of the Undine was found floating in the Santa Barbara Channel near Anacapa Island by the steamer Santa Cruz. Captain Lord, the engineer and a crewman drowned. The wreck report supposes Undine collided with another vessel.



In the News~

March 23, 1890 [LAT/Cor]: “A new naptha launch boat, called Undine, has been added to the hotel fleet…”


November 19, 1890 [SBMP]: “Captain G. F. Ellis arrived from San Francisco yesterday morning in his new steam yacht the Undine, which will be a notable addition to the fleet of this port. He has been in San Francisco for several months having the craft built to suit his nautical taste and she certainly is a credit to her designer. The Undine is a schooner yacht in rig and is of a handsome model and has proved very speedy under sail. She is painted white and has very tall masts for her size. She registers fifteen tons. Her motive power is fifteen horsepower Pacific gasoline engine, which easily drives her at a ratio of eight knots an hour. This is the largest engine of the kind yet put in a boat, and is of very compact build. It requires no smoke stack and there is no fire, or smell about the engine and very little heat. The motive power is supplied from gasoline, the gas exploding in the cylinder. There is no external indication about the boat that she has a screw propeller and she attracted much curiosity in San Francisco as she glided rapidly about the bay without any visible means of propulsion. The Undine has ample cabin accommodation for her size, and a roomy hold for freight. She can readily carry thirty-five deck passengers. It is Captain Ellis’ intention to establish a fishing camp on one of the islands and run his boat regularly every day to bring over their catch, which will be shipped on ice by fast freight to San Francisco where there is a constant market for fresh fish. Passengers will be taken to the islands and brought back the same day if desired.”


November 20, 1890 [SBMP]: “On invitation of Captain G. F. Ellis, a party of about fifteen gentlemen enjoyed a sail in his new yacht, the Undine, yesterday afternoon. The little craft worked beautifully and all were delighted with her. There was no wind and her sails were not used, but the gasoline engine sent her along eight miles an hour.”


December 6, 1890 [SBDI]: “The Undine. Lost in the channel in the storm supposed to be Captain Ellis’ new launch, with all on board. Our city was shocked last evening by the news brought by the captain of the steamer Santa Cruz. It was that the pretty new schooner Undine was wrecked. Worst of all three lives were lost. The story was about as follows: Early yesterday morning the Santa Cruz was steaming towards Santa Barbara in the face of a terrible storm — one of the worst for years. When off Ventura about seven miles offshore, the officers heard a cry of distress. The engines were stopped and a boat was discovered in a half-submerged condition. On it was a man. A number of ropes were thrown to him, but for some reason he failed to grasp them. The heavy seas caused the boats to drift apart rapidly. A boat was lowered and at the risk of their lives a crew started out on its mission of rescue. Some time elapsed before the wreck was again discovered, as it was pitch dark. When finally after great efforts the little boat found the wreck the man was gone. On the stern the words, ‘Undine San Francisco’ were made out. The Undine was owned by Captain Ellis of this city, and had lately been put on the coast, making trips between Santa Barbara and the Island Santa Cruz, at the latter point Captain Ellis having a fishing station. The schooner was fitted up with a gasoline engine as a motive power. She had a register of fifteen tons and cost about $4500. The vessel was under the command of Captain Joseph N. Lord. There was also on board an engineer, and a Spanish boy named Ramon [Rosaline] Vasquez. Captain Lord was well known in this city and was about thirty-eight years of age. He leaves a mother, wife and two children. Up to this noon no further news was heard regarding the wreck. Captain Ellis went to Ventura last evening to look up the matter as far as possible. The cause of the wreck is supposed to have been by the engine supports working loose and shifting. Of course, this is a matter of mere conjecture, nothing being definitely known.”


December 6, 1890 [LAT]: “Lost in a storm. The sloop Undine capsized off Hueneme. Three men drowned before assistance can arrive. A passing steamer finds the wreck too late. The sloop Undine, a sixteen-ton steam propeller owned by Captain Ellis of Santa Barbara, was wrecked at 4 o’clock this morning, ten miles from this port. She was used in the fishing trade and was returning from Anacapa Island with a cargo. The crew of three men whose names are unknown were all lost. The steamer Santa Cruz sighted the wreck, and found one man clinging to the bottom, but he sank from exhaustion before assistance could be given him. The Undine was a small naphtha launch recently brought from San Francisco by Captain Ellis and was used to carry passengers to and from the points of interest on the Santa Barbara islands, and also in the transportation of supplies to the sheep-herders of Anacapa. The wreck occurred off Hueneme, and the capsized sloop was passed by the Santa Cruz while on her way from that point to Ventura.”


December 6, 1890 [LAT]: “The Undine was a small naphtha launch recently brought from San Francisco by Capt. Ellis, and was used to carry passengers to and from the points of interest on the Santa Barbara Islands, and also in the transportation of supplies to the sheep-herders of Anacapa. The wreck occurred off Hueneme, and the capsized sloop was passed by the Santa Cruz while on her way from that point to Ventura.”


December 8, 1890 [DAC]: “Captain Tribble, of the Pacific Coast Steamship Company’s steamer Santa Cruz, which vessel arrived in port yesterday from San Pedro and way ports, reports that the steam yacht Undine was wrecked between Hueneme and Ventura some time during the recent storms. The Santa Cruz sighted the wreck on her way down to San Pedro, and shortly after some members of the crew rushed to Captain Tribble and informed him that a man, who was evidently a member of the crew of the Undine, was clinging to the wrecked vessel. Captain Tribble, as quick as circumstances would permit, got the Santa Cruz as near the wrecked vessel as possible, and then threw a line to the man. The latter made many efforts to catch hold of the line, but being too weak failed ion all of his attempts to save his life. Captain Tribble then began to realize the condition of the man, and lowered a boat to go to his assistance. The man made all efforts to cling to the wreck, but before the boat reached him he lost his grasp, fell into the water and was never seen again. The name of the man could not be ascertained, neither were any particulars learned of the cause of the wreck. It is impossible to tell the exact number of men aboard the Undine when she was wrecked, but it was learned yesterday that in ordinary circumstances she carried three men — the captain and two seamen. Captain Ellis was in command of the vessel, and it is feared that he and the seamen perished in the wreck. The Undine was well known to the shipping men of this city. On the 7th of November last she sailed from this city for Santa Barbara, but on the following day she was obliged to return on account of having broken some of her machinery. She sailed again two days later. She was a schooner-rigged craft of fifteen tons, and was owned by a company in Santa Barbara, of which Captain Ellis was at the head. She was used for fishing purposes more than anything else, and lately has been engaged as a tender, carrying fish from Santa Rosa Island to San Diego. She was built at Turner’s shipyard at Benicia, and was only completed a few months ago.”


December 9, 1890 [SFCall]: “A few days ago word was received here by telegraph that the steamer Undine had been lost in the Santa Barbara Channel and her crew of three drowned. Captain Tribble of the steamer Santa Cruz, which arrived on Sunday, reported that he had sighted the wreck and endeavored to rescue on of the crew who was clinging to the vessel, but was unsuccessful. Captain Leland of the steamer Bonita, which arrived yesterday, states that on the passage up he called at Santa Rosa Island, and Captain Moore, the superintendent there, told him that on Tuesday evening last he saw a schooner-rigged vessel, with mainsail and two jibs set, blow up and take fire. This was undoubtedly the Undine. She was run by means of an electric motor, the power being generated by means of naphtha or gasoline, and thus, no doubt, exploded. The Undine plied between Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz Island.”


December 10, 1890 [SBDI]: “At last the mystery of the schooner Undine solved. Rosalino Vasquez arrives on Star of Freedom. He is the only survivor. Early this morning people at the beach sighted a small schooner which old seadogs pronounced the Star of Freedom, a small vessel belonging to the Santa Cruz Island Company. The wind was light and it was eleven o’clock before she got within easy distance. Then Fred Forbush jumped into a small boat and just beyond the kelp boarded her. On the vessel he found Rosalindo Vasquez, the last survivor of the unfortunate schooner, the Undine, which left this port one week ago today, bound for the fishing camp on the Island Santa Cruz. A representative of this paper visited young Vasquez and from him learned the full details given below. The young man looked pretty well used up and shows in many ways the hardships he went through. He told his story in a simple manly way quite touching to hear. The story. ‘We left Santa Barbara at seven o’clock A.M., December 3rd,’ said Rosalindo. ‘All went well till we got within five miles from Lady Harbor, Santa Cruz Island. The wind had been severe for some time and the sea was choppy and boisterous. The propeller became useless and one moment was deep in the water and next entirely out of it and racing terribly. We stopped the engine and ran along under full jib, full foresail and double-reefed mainsail. We pitched and rolled terribly and Fred, the engineer, asked if we hadn’t better take in sail? The Captain said ‘I am running this vessel and know what I am about.’ He then went below. At that moment an angry puff of wind caught us and turned us over, the vessel like a shell. We took in a vast wave which burst the hatches, and we were capsized. I was at the foremast, the engineer was at the wheel and the Captain rushed on deck and ordered the halyards cast lose, but the wind was too heavy and the sails would not fall. I grabbed my knife and cut the painter on the small skiff on deck. As the boat turned I jumped in, losing the oars. I called ‘For God’s sake try and get into the boat with me!’ But I had no oars and drifted away beyond reach, and Captain J. N. Lord and the engineer, Fred, were left on the capsized vessel. I drifted on and on. All that afternoon and that terrible dark, windy, rainy night I was on the water in that little boat. About sunrise, December 4th, I drifted on to Anacapa Island. I had no way of building a fire and nothing to eat. I killed a sheep and my hunger at length drove me to eat a little of the raw meat. I was on the island three days. Last Saturday I got into my boat and managed in four hours to reach Santa Cruz Island. I went to the fishing camp and got food. Last night I embarked on the Star of Freedom and we got here today as you see. I am the only survivor and have had a terrible experience. I am very glad to set foot on shore again.’ It seems that the great reason of the capsizing of the Undine was the insufficiency of ballast. Captain Ellis was intending to add a good deal to it on her return. The saving of this young man was almost a miracle. He was entirely without oars, food or water. Chance only saved him.”


December 10, 1890 [SFC]: “Details of the wreck of the Undine. Santa Barbara, December 10.—Last week the new boat Undine, propelled by a gasoline engine and under command of Captain J. N. Lord, started from here just previous to an impending storm for Anacapa Island. Two days afterward the steamer Santa Cruz found the boat in a submerged condition with one man on the railing calling for help. A line was thrown to him, which he was unable to catch, and a boat was lowered to rescue him, but the man had fallen into the water, and, overcome by his long exposure, could not be found. There had been three men on board, James N. Lord, Coles [Colice] Basquez [Vasquez] and the engineer, a man from San Francisco. The owner of the Unidine went from here to look for his craft, which he found off Anacapa Island, when, procuring a tug to tow it to San Pedro, after going nine iles, it sank in sixteen fathoms of water with a buoy on the end of the roof. Today Basquez [Vasquez] returned. He reports that when nearing Anacapa Island the Undine capsized in the storm and that Captain Lord gave him a knife to cut loose the life boat, after which he was struck by a big wave and in the heavy wind was carried far away from the Undine. Finally he took out one of the seats and paddled to Anacapa Island after believing the Undine had sunk and the other two men were lost. The vessel cost $4000.”


December 11, 1890 [LAT]: “Santa Barbara. Carlos Vasquez, one of the crew of the wrecked yacht Undine, arrived here today from Anacapa Island. He says that the Undine was capsized during the storm. He cut away the lifeboat and a big wave carried it away from the yacht. Captain Lord and the engineer were drowned.”


December 12, 1890 [SBMP]: “Captain G. F. Ellis was in town yesterday awaiting the arrival of the insurance adjuster with whom he will visit the wreck Undine. It is Ellis’ intention to hire a steamer and attempt to bring the Undine ashore.”


December 12, 1890 [VFP]: “Last evening a Ventura Free Press reporter meet Captain George F. Ellis, the owner of the yacht Undine, which was recently wrecked off Anacapa Island. Yesterday the steamer Falcon of San Pedro, was at work trying to raise the Undine from where she sank while being towed ashore by the schooner Marguerite. The attempt was made to raise her by the rope which was attached to the buoy, and as might have been expected the rope broke... The Undine’s fate re-establishes and strengthens the sailors’ superstition about the bad luck of starting out a vessel on Friday. She was launched on a Friday, set sail for the first time on a Friday, and was sighted as a wreck by the officers of the steamer Santa Cruz on a Friday.”


December 19, 1890 [SBDI]: “The Undine. Captain Ellis informs us that he met the insurance agent at Ventura on Sunday and together they went to San Pedro and got a steam tug and started for the buoy, marking the resting place of the wrecked Undine. They grasped the cable, which had been left under and about the vessel, and attempted to raise it but the rope broke. Grapplings were next used and for a time it seemed as if they would succeed. But they, at last, proved unavailing and after remaining all day over the wreck all hopes were given up of rescuing the Undine, and the party returned home. This, probably, is the closing chapter of the neat little schooner. She cost $4500 and was insured for $1000.”


December 20, 1890 [SBMP]: “Yesterday the steamer Falcon of San Pedro, was at work trying to raise the Undine from where she sank while being towed ashore by the schooner Marguerite. The attempt was made to raise her by the rope, which was attached to the buoy, and as might have been expected, the rope broke. She was then grappled for with an anchor, and twice the anchor caught but failed to hold. A third attempt caught the anchor which held the buoy set to mark the spot where the Undine was, and dragged it some distance before it was known what it was they had grappled. This of course left the wreckers without an object to mark the spot where the Undine lay. To find her and to take the necessary measures to raise her would involve a greater expense than she was worth, and consequently the search was abandoned. The Undine’s fate reestablishes and strengthens the sailors’ superstition about the bad luck of starting out a vessel on Friday. She was launched on a Friday, set sail for the first time on a Friday, and was sighted as a wreck by the officers of the steamer Santa Cruz on a Friday morning.”


May 17, 1891 [SBMP]: “Captain G. F. Ellis’ new boat to take the place of the Undine will be launched about June 1st.”


December 1891: “The Santa Barbara Islands… It was the Undine, a safe, strong little boat propelled by a tiny steam motor. Its single, sailless mast had hardly evened with the wharf when an old sailor shouted— ‘You will not be going to sea again soon?’ ‘Yes, to Anacapa in a day or two.’ The Undine went as usual with Joe Lord, an old experienced sailor, an engineer, and a Spanish boy. It never came back. Search found the Spanish boy half-starved on an island reef. The Undine had capsized without known cause off the coast of Anacapa. The white sailors were drowned, and—an unprescidented thing in these waters — their bodies never recovered. The Undine can be seen at the bottom of the channel just this side of the Island of Deamons...” (Martinette Kinsell The Santa Barbara Islands in Overland Monthly 18:108 (623).


'December 13, 1898 [SBMP]: “...Rosaline [Vasquez] has been the survivor of three wrecks in the Santa Barbara Channel, but has always escaped unhurt. In 1890, he was the only one saved from Captain Ellis' Undine when the vessel capsized six miles off Santa Cruz Island. The year following he was with the Fishhawk when she was wrecked on Santa Rosa. And now he lives to tell the story of the Helenes wreck...”