Sudden storms beached many a boat over the years, especially before the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor opened for business in the mid 1960s. However, a sudden squall on October 7, 1972 beached a vessel like no other I can recall. The freak, southwestern gust that arose late that Saturday morning was too much for the 125-ft Shamrock’s anchor. The owner and crew had fatefully left Shamrock that morning to get parts for motor repairs at the yacht harbor. While they were gone, she drifted steadily into the breaker line and beached herself opposite the Giant Dipper station.
The impressive Shamrock had only dropped anchor a few days earlier and was the talk of the Boardwalk. On that fateful morning, I had seen the vessel during my early morning rounds on the Boardwalk, resting magnificently and safely at its mooring. I remember driving onto the wharf later that morning to get a closer look at the two-masted vessel. To my shock, I saw the ship floundering in the surf line after a sudden unforcasted southerly wind caused her to drag anchor into the shoreline.
Initial attempts by a Coast Guard cutter to tug the vessel off the beach failed. Fissures in Shamrock’s hull appeared and she began to flood, her 30-ton keel embedding itself in 9 feet of sand. Throughout the weekend, high tide breakers washed over the ship’s side while rocking her back and forth, but still up right.
News accounts attracted a growing number of onlookers. Several wanted to salvage the ship. By Monday, her owner consigned Shamrock’s fate to the tides and sold salvage rights for $5,000. This began a month-long odyssey to refloat Shamrock.
The stricken vessel tugged at the heartstrings of Central Coast ship lovers and, as press accounts continued to report the salvage process, the crowds grew. Even national broadcast news picked up on her fate. Every day, and under work lights at night, hopeful and somber spectators observed the salvage action that increased as the tide rose. As weeks passed, several bulldozers on shore pushed, while two marine vessels beyond the surf line pulled during each cresting high tide to move the ship seaward. I remember coming down to the beach near midnight several times to stand watch with many others. Honestly, it all seemed a futile effort as that ship weighed 100 tons. But, the salvagers were undaunted in their efforts and surprisingly, it all paid off.
On the morning of Friday, November 3, 1972, with one more tug-and-push effort, the shoreline released its grip on Shamrock VI. After 26 days of dedicated effort, the ship broke loose, and after a short hang up on a sand bar, freely floated seaward. The watching crowd was jubilant. The salvage crew doused themselves with champagne. You can view news footage of the salvage efforts in this youtube video.
Shamrock was deemed seaworthy enough to be towed to San Francisco and a sea-going tug boat began the journey that afternoon. Then news came in that the Shamrock was overcome by the ocean off San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. She sunk there the next day. Sadly, her fate had finally been sealed to the depths.
A simple salute to the memory of Shamrock VI resides at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to this day. Whiting’s Foods’ Bay Brews concession features a backdrop of a mural depicting the 1973 Boardwalk. It was painted by John McCullough, a Boardwalk employee of that era. In the surf line opposite the Giant Dipper station is the Shamrock VI still resting in the breakers nearly a half century after its fateful encounter with Santa Cruz Beach.
’till next time,