With the Alaska Packers
Sailing vessels linking San Francisco and the Hawaiian Islands began to slip into the past. In 1908 the Planters Line of sailing packets was absorbed by the Matson Line.
The energetic William Matson saw a future for the Islands that the leisurely pace of sail cou ld not sustain.
In 1909 his new steamer Lurline, carrying 41 passengers (in contrast to the Kaiulani’s maximum berthing fo r 16) entered service.
She was followed by the Wilhelmina in 19 10, carrying 141, with appointments rivalling the finest in the Atlantic. Modern tourism had begun .
And in 1910 Kaiulani, outmoded after a decade’s sailing as Hawaii packet , began sailing for the A laska Packers.
This was a more somber trade, seasonal, stra nge to deepwatermen.
Hjalmar Wigsten, Kaiulani’s captain in her last voyage in 1941-42, used to boast that he had never engaged in it, nor, for that matter, in coastal steam schoonering.
From San Francisco to Alaska is approximately 2,500 miles-not far as sea voyages go.
The salmon packet was rarely more than three months at sea. Each spring she was loaded on the San Francisco waterfront with the same cargo-coal, pilings, tin plate, box shooks, “columbia River”
gillnet fishing boats, and spare machinery for a gaunt wooden cannery standing silent on the muddy Nushagak or some other A laskan river.
Scandinavian and Italian fishermen who served as sailors moved boisterouslyaboard.
The cannery superintendant, a few German machinists, and other functionaries occupied the row of tiny cabins along the port side.
Chinese cannery workers by the score were shunted to their special quarters in the ‘tween decks “Chinatown,” a scene of opium smoking and gambling never ending.
In later years Mexican and Filipino cannery hands began to go north in great numbers.
There was a “Chinaese galley” and a “Mexican galley” and still another where pasta was prepared for the Italians.
Pinkerton men walked the wharves to make sure that the contract laborers for the cannery did not have a last-minute change of mind.
The fishermen were split into gangs of from twelve to eighteen men during the voyage north.
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