The Stern of the Brigantine Galilee – San Francisco, California - Atlas Obscura
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San Francisco, California

The Stern of the Brigantine Galilee

Once the fastest ship from San Francisco to Tahiti, the Galilee now lays in pieces in three different cities. 

In the parking lot at Fort Mason, a huge ship’s stern sits propped up against a retaining wall, without signage, held up by shims; the name GALILEE is barely discernable painted across the back. This mysterious and seemingly neglected bit of Bay Area history actually has an amazing story.

Built in Benicia shipyards in 1891 by Matthew Turner, one of the Bay Area’s master boat builders, the Brigantine Galilee started her career as a packet ship, delivering parcels between San Francisco and Tahiti. In 1905 she began a second career as a research vessel of scientific exploration by the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism.

After some time as a fishing vessel, the Galilee was beached in Sausalito in 1933 in what is now known as “Galilee harbor”, marking the end of her sailing days. The ship became a houseboat and offices, part of the vibrant houseboat culture that first spring up after the 1906 earthquake and carries through to this day in Sausalito.

After the boat was declared no longer fit for habitation she sat empty and deteriorating for many more years. Finally, the stern portion of the boat was removed and relocated to Fort Mason, where it sat mysteriously unmarked and mostly exposed to the elements, under a small shelter. Today the midsection of the Galilee is still in Sausalito, sunken into the mud in Galilee harbor and the bow is located at the Benicia Historical Museum.

Know Before You Go

The Galilee is propped up against the park-side retaining wall in the Fort Mason parking lot