Shipbuilding



 
One of the main industries at the Fort Ross settlement was building ships for conducting trade. The manager of the Fort was assigned to oversee construction of the ships, which took place at the shipyard set up in Sandy Cove. The Fort Ross carpenters and shipwright Vasily Grudinin built four ships between 1816 and 1824: the Rumyantsev, the Buldakov, the Volga, and the Kyakhta. Some used oak timber, while others used redwood, especially for constructing large masts. Unfortunately, none of the ships built at Fort Ross were very durable due to a misuse of timber which caused it to rot, and none lasted longer than six years at sea. In the end the Fort Ross shipyard had to close - they had used up all of the most accessible timber, and the carpenters were beginning to demand higher wages than the company could afford.

From The Khlebnikov Archive - Unpublished Journal (1800-1837) and Travel Notes (1820, 1822 and 1824), © 1990, University of Alaska Press. ISBN #0-912006-42-0

  • "I reported to Ivan Aleksandrovich on the state in which we had left the ship, whereupon he suggested sending the shipwright Grudinin to examine whether the ship was still intact and see whether it could be raised with rollers, propped up, and put afloat, the depth of the water permitting." p 56
  • "Two ships have been built and a third is under construction; thus, suitable wood is no longer available in the immediate vicinity, but there is no obstacle to its delivery from farther away. Apart from the type of oak generally used here in ship construction, which does not meet the high quality requirements, there are also varieties whose leaves consist of five pointy lobes (palm, maple, laurel) and other types of trees, but these have not been tried out in shipbuilding despite their excellent hardness and weight. The small plateau at the top of the mounntains can furnish material for·several ships, and farther on there are entire wooded areas that promise to supply wood for shipbuilding for many years to come. If shipbuilding is to grow, it will require more resources and increased efforts. But nothing is impossible for the mighty hand of a powerful Russian." p.58
  • "The pine trees here have an unusually high concentration of pitch. In this industry, a craftsman is needed to boil the product, and then wax, pitch, and turpentine can be obtained for the ships." pp.59-60
  • "Grudinin came to see me in the afternoon. He said that he was planning to stay to build a new ship. He was very dissatisfied with his pay, and said that even with bonuses he had difficulty leading a decent life. If he were paid a better wage, he said, he would not object to staying on awhile longer. In my opinion, if the Chief Manager does not cancel his plans for shipbuilding, a special contract might be concluded with Grudinin for paying him a better wage, in exchange for which he could choose two or three capable men and teach them the rules of shipbuilding, so that he might then be replaced at a later date." p.66
  • "Padre Luis, the wealthy monk from San Luis Mission, and Mr. Noriega, Commandant of Santa Barbara, approached us about purchasing the Buldakov in exchange for grain. I thought that such a trade might be very advantageous, and so I calculated how much the Buldakov was worth and what price we could ask for such a ship. Mr. Kuskov informed me that the materials used to build the ship cost 52,000 rubles. It was assumed that 30 men had worked on the construction of the ship for a year and a half and that their yearly wage and ration amounted to 400 rubles each." [calculations follow] p.78
  • "The wood prepared in the summer of 1821 by Mr. Kuskov for building a ship and which had been left outside northwest of the fort had rotted, and the shipwright said it could no longer be used. So it was necessary to produce all the pieces again, which were then placed in a shed during construction. The boards for the planking were allowed to soak in a pond that had been made when the level of the river had fallen. Almost everything is ready for the sides and the planking. Another ten trees have to be cut for the lower part. The knees and gussets needed for fastening the upper part of the bow will be made after the ship's frame has been assembled, which should be finished at the beginning of next month. Mr. Schmidt deeply regretted the sudden death last year of the best carpenter, Vasili Antipin. None of the other men had any shipbuilding skills, except Korenev, who wants to leave, and Permitin. On the orders of the Chief Manager, I advised Mr. Schmidt to do all within his power to build the ship, which might be the last. The shipwright Grudinin agreed to take charge of the ship's construction. It is virtually impossible to continue building ships. The wood needed is very far away and extremely difficult to bring back because there are not enough men available. The wood is cut in a deep ravine and must then be carried onto a road, where it is loaded onto horses that can take only one log at a time. From there it is taken to a better road and transported to the fort, but the distance is such that no more than two trips a day can be made." p.96-97
  • "A second letter (no. 112) discussed the apprentice Kochetov, who had helped build the Kiakhta. In addition to odd jobs, he had made all the masts and spars for the ship. He was energetic and diligent and had never misbehaved." pp.161-162

From So Far From Home - Russians in Early California, edited by Glenn J. Farris, © 2012, Heyday and Santa Clara University.
ISBN# 978-1-59714-184-0

  • "In addition to various farming ventures, the colony was active in building ships and launches suitable for sailing along the coast and within San Francisco Bay. Other projects included brick-making, tanning hides, milling grains, and even building prefabricated wooden structures. When Karl Schmidt took over as the second commandant of Fort Ross, he made greater efforts toward the development of gardening, cattle husbandry, and the growing of crops, and also continued the colony’s shipbuilding industry." p.153
  • "Various items of industry that bring benefit to the Company, apart from grain cultivation and stock raising, include: ... 3. the supply of Novo-Arkhangelsk Port with a small amount of tar, good quality bricks, and sturdy timber (laurel) necessary for various articles on ships." p.162
  • "The force at Ross consists of 30 soldiers, 50 Kodiak Indians, [blank] cannons of all calibers, and some wild Indians who help in the construction of ships." p.216
  • "We went with Mr. Shelekhov to view his timber production. In addition to the needs of his own settlement he cuts a great quantity of planks, beams, timbers, and the like, which he sells in California, in the Sandwich Islands, and elsewhere; he even builds entire houses and ships them disassembled. The trees felled are almost all conifers of several kinds and especially the one called palo colorado (redwood). The only virtues of this tree are that it is quite straight and splits easily; for the rest, it has little resin and is very brittle. It is the largest tree that I have ever seen. Mr. Shelekhov showed me the trunk of one that had been felled recently; it was twenty feet in diameter measured two feet from the ground and from one burl or buttress to the other; the main trunk was more than thirteen feet in width. I measured two hundred and thirty feet from the stump to the crown, lying where it had been parted from the bole. Imagine what a huge quantity of boards can be obtained from a tree of this size. The stacks of them from one such covered a considerable stretch of ground. Not all the palos colorados are this prodigious, but one can see many that three men would have difficulty stretching their arms around and that would make, as a single piece, the lower masts of our largest ships of war." pp.224-225
  • "The topmast that had broken on our entry into Bodega Bay had been replaced without much expense by a superb tree that had been cut near the fort and carried to the ship aboard a large baidara." p.259

From Russian California, 1806-1860, A History in Documents. Volume I, edited by James R. Gibson and Alexei A. Istomin, © 2014, The Hakluyt Society, ISBN# 9781908145062

  • "To offset the decline of ‘otter’ hunting and to occupy the colonists, shipbuilding became one of Ross’s economic activities. It was proposed by Baranov, who misjudged the quality of the local oak. The promyshlennik Grudinin, who had worked as a carpenter under the American shipwright Lincoln at New Archangel in the 1801s, was sent to build ships. There were few qualified carpenters, and the commencement of shipbuilding was conditional upon the completion of the construction of Ross (subsequently, to the contrary, the necessity of renovating the buildings prompted Govermor Murav’yov to halt shipbuilding at Ross for want of hands). The shipyard itself was found below the fort at the mouth of Fort Ross Creek (in 1996 its remains were discovered and examined by American archaeologists). Launched ships were taken to Bodega Bay for outfitting and embarking." p.31
  • "Khlebnikov recommended that Schmidt be replaced by his assistant, Pavel Shelikhov (sometimes also spelled Shelekhov). The latter, however, wanted nothing to do with shipbuilding, so Schmidt was left in his post until the Kyakhta, the last ship built at Ross, was launched in late August of 1824." p.42
  • "Long before the demise of the sea otter hunt, however – indeed, with the depletion of sea otters on the coast of Russian California itself in the second half of the 1810s – alternative sources of profit were sought by the Russian-American Company at Ross. The first was shipbuilding. Besides a number of smaller craft, the 160-ton brig Rumyantsev was built in 1816–18, the 200-ton brig Buldakov in 1819–20, the 160-ton brig Volga in 1821–2, and the 200-ton brig Kyakhta in 1823–4 in Fort Ross Cove (named ‘Little Rumyantsev Bay’ on the 1817 ‘site plan’ of Ross) from California oak under the supervision of the shipwright Vasily Grudinin. In 1821 Governor Murav’yov even told Manager Schmidt that ‘the main purpose of this settlement is shipbuilding, and give it all of your attention’. However, the Buldakov and Rumyantsev demonstrated that the oak lacked durability; both required extensive repairs as early as 1821, when it was decided to henceforth use redwood for planking and laurel for ribbing, but they, too, proved unsuitable, the damp wood rotting rapidly. None of the ships built at Ross remained seaworthy for more than five or six years; the Buldakov, for example, ‘on account of rot’ was stripped of its masts and armament, moored, and used as a storehouse in the autumn of 1825 after being inspected by Governor Murav’yov. Moreover, as the Company’s official historian Tikhmenyov noted, ‘ships built at the settlement were more expensive than those purchased from the Americans or built in New Archangel, because of the large number of men that had to be employed to transport the timber from the remote forests to the shipyard’. By the summer of 1820 the timber was already being felled nine miles away in the mountains for the Buldakov; at that time Khlebnikov acknowledged that ‘suitable wood is no longer available in the immediate vicinity [of the fort], but’, he asserted confidently, ‘there is no obstacle to its delivery from farther away’ – presumably because, as he added, ‘nothing is impossible for the mighty hand of a powerful Russian’!" p.65
  • "The Company’s Board of Directors told Governor Etholén in 1839 that ‘repeated attempts’ at the building of vessels displacing more than 75–100 tons in its colonies and at Okhotsk had cost ‘large sums’ for ships that had gone out of commission ‘very soon’ and that henceforth shipbuilding at New Archangel was to be limited to boats, small schooners, and rowed craft, it being ‘more advantageous to buy brigs and sloops from foreigners as needed’." p.66
  • "Nonetheless, Khlebnikov gave a rather glowing assessment of the counter’s economic prospects with respect to the cultivation of both alimentary crops (grain, vegetables, fruit) and industrial crops (tobacco, flax, hemp, poppy), sheep breeding (for wool), shipbuilding, tanning, pitch and turpentine extraction, and the exportation of millstones, whetstones, and mother-of-pearl." p.68
  • "Crop growing and stock rearing remained the chief source of food, but they were prevented from prospering by a variety of cultural and physical obstacles. Both suffered from outright neglect before the middle 1820s; until which time they were overshadowed by hunting, trading, and shipbuilding." p.77
  • "Especially boats were built for the Californios. In 1806 von Langsdorff was incredulous to find that the three missions of San Francisco, Santa Clara, and San José around San Francisco Bay communicated with each other only by land on horseback, not by water, because none of them (and not even the presidio and port of San Francisco) had any kind of boat for doing so. And during Kotzebue’s first visit to San Francisco in 1816 Chamisso noted that ‘Spain does not have a single boat on this bay’. In 1823, 1826, and 1827 Fort Ross’s Russians bartered longboats (launches) with the Californios for provisions for both Russian California and Russian Alaska (in 1823 an old longboat was sold to Commandant Martínez of San Francisco for 322 bushels of wheat, and in 1827 the padres of San José Mission paid 1,129 bushels of wheat for a longboat)." pp.95-96
  • "Almost all of the northern side of the bay abounds in large trees that are unknown to me save only the chestnut; I can vouch that another tree [redwood?], a piece of which I had the honour to present to His Excellency, is especially strong and suitable for shipbuilding." p.186
  • "This attempt only ended when they found at 38°39 ́ North latitude and 236°21 ́ longitude [east] of the Greenwich meridian in the vicinity of the Spanish Californian port of San Francisco an adequate harbour in the gulf and bay of Bodega [Bodega Bay and Bodega Harbor], a beautiful locality with land suitable for cultivation, an abundance of pine [redwood?] and oak timber for construction and shipbuilding,..." p.287
  • "After the necessary buildings had been finished in our settlement of Ross, it was decided to begin, with the help of God, the construction of a ship from oak, although ... " p.327
  • "Please notify the Company employee [Vasily] Grudinin that I have recommended him to the Board of Directors for a reward [bonus] for the construction of the ship Rumyantsev of a one-time payment of five hundred rubles; kindly apply this reward to his credit on the account of the ship. On your recommendation I have also decided to select and nominate the employee Pal’yanov for a one-time [reward] of seventy-five rubles for his work in cutting the sails and carving and finishing the tackle; please apply this to his credit and enter it in the account of the ship and then submit it to me for dispatch." p.335
  • "Besides agriculture, which enables him to supply Company ships with the best necessities of life, Mr Kuskov has been able to profit from an abundance of excellent construction timber. At Port Count Rumyantsev he has built – under the guidance of an ordinary promyshlennik who learned shipbuilding from an Englishman, a former shipbuilder at New Archangel – two seagoing vessels,* the brigantine Rumyantsev and the brig Buldakov, as well as several rowboats. [footnote: *They were built from so-called American oak and the decks from spruce [or fir] planks.]" pp.357-358
  • "Moreover, at the settlement of Ross I. A. Kuskov has established a shipyard, where he builds vessels, which are brought to this port for final arming and loading. Here we found the first of the ships built by him; it was a schooner of about 80 tons called the Rumyantsev,* which had been readied to go hunting on the Farallone Islands. [footnote: *The name Rumyantsev is encountered there often because of the fact that the honourable state chancellor, Count Rumyantsev, is the first patron and one of the earliest shareholders in the Company.] Another ship, the Buldakov, was still on the stocks at Ross, but it was already being completed. The plans for these ships were made by a shipwright, an Englishman in the Company’s service (whom we had not yet met); they are built by an ordinary promyshlennik [Vasily Grudinin] from [the ranks of ] Irkutsk’s meshchanins who had never set his eyes on a sailing vessel before and only knew how to work with an axe. In addition, perhaps he had happened to work repairing Company ships, and this constituted all of his prior training. After the plans were sent to Ross, he examined them and tried first to make models, and when they were approved he began to build a ship. That seen by us – the Rumyantsev – was very well built, it being possible to judge how well by its exterior, and it did not at all resemble what an ordinary promyshlennik would build. This honours the talent of as much as it dishonours the Company from which this useful man receives a salary of only 400 rubles. How can it expect decent people to enter its service if it rewards them so poorly[?]." pp.388-389
  • "Only two gold ones have been traced – one of which he gave to the aforementioned prikazchik Molvo and the other he sent to be placed around the neck of King Tomi-omi [Kaumualii] of the Sandwich Islands [Kauai Island] so that he would graciously accept the Company’s ships and their crews that were dispatched to Doctor Schäffer [Baranov’s agent in the islands] – as well as one large silver medallion that he gave to the promyshlennik Grudinin, who had shown much talent and success in shipbuilding [at Ross], which Hagemeister during his sojourn at the settlement of Ross examined closely and praised highly." p.406
  • "Take pains to persuade Grudinin to remain in the Company’s service, his salary can be set at 500 rubles a year, and in addition if he builds a ship, promise him a reward, provided he stays in the Company’s service." p.413
  • "You will receive the Board of Directors’ order no. 102 about rewarding Grudinin and others for building the ships Rumyantsev and Buldakov; the reward is not for all of the men but should be given only to those who especially exerted themselves during the construction of the ships, such as the best carpenters and other skilled workers, and I beg you to inform me which of those you have rewarded in accordance with the order of the Board of Directors." pp.413-414
  • "You have a lot of timber and not very many hands, but do not overlook the exceptional skill and will of the hands under your command and the goals proposed by you so that through shipbuilding all of the benefits that the Company expects from our settlement and from your reputation will be incurred. You know that the Board of Directors has offered to award Grudinin 500 rubles for every ship built [by him], and assure him that this is not the limit of the Company’s gratitude; he can expect even more in proportion to his services, and I have guaranteed him this." p.446
  • "All is well at our settlement of Ross, however, and we are engaged as much as possible in the construction of a vessel [the brig Volga] with a keel 61 feet long." p.449
  • "Flattering myself that Your Honour will graciously favour a positive approval of the above, I make bold also to submit for your consideration the promyshlenniks Vasily Grudinin, Vasily Antipin, and Aleksey Korenev at Fort Ross. The first of these, being a shipbuilder, differs from the other promyshlenniks in receiving 500 rubles, but it seems that he expects management to notice him; the second, the best carpenter, differs in his agility and unflagging diligence, and, in addition to his trade, he is one who cultivates the soil for grain; he and the last, who is likewise a carpenter and a joiner, exhibit commendable behaviour and uncomplaining obedience – according to the assurance of the hon. Commercial Counseller Kuskov – and they merit the attention of management." p.450
  • "I have raised [Vasily] Grudinin’s salary as of 1 January 1821 by 100 rubles, so he will receive 600 rubles [annually], and if he builds the ship under construction well and fast, then his raise can be increased; meanwhile, timber for another ship has to be stocked. I do not intend to keep the blacksmith [Andrey] Galushin, and his demands are great; you can give a raise commensurate with his work to the Creole who can take his place so well after the building of the ship. I sanction all of your salary raises. I myself am sending a raise of 25 rubles to Andrey Chechulka,1 and I ask the others to rest assured that after the building of the ship they will all be rewarded according to their merits." p.453
  • "The construction of the ship continues on the model of the brig Golovnin; the interior planking has been laid in 4 strips per side." p.457
  • "Here the building of the ship, which was begun during your stay, is continuing, and not unsuccessfully, considering the small number of men who know how to work with an axe, and I am leaving the others, who know nothing;..." p.461
  • "Shipbuilding there is going very well, and a new ship will be finished by the autumn." p.462
  • "I have named the ship now under construction the Volga." p.462
  • "Learn the prices from Ivan Aleksandrovich and our Company’s agents, but the chief object of this settlement is shipbuilding, and turn all of your attention to it. Cultivation and stock rearing should be neglected. Make yourself an example to the others and then work will go well. I would like Grudinin to build another ship. Try to persuade him; otherwise, [Efim] Munin will take his place. You should know Munin; he is clever and active but useless when drunk. After assuming your duties write to me about everything in detail, and fulfil your duties openly. I may see you soon. You are not in a position to tell Gribanov what to write; he indiscreetly told me what you said. Sukhanov will remain in the same position for the time being, and there is a place at Sitka for him. The new ship must be built after the same plan." p.470
  • "The ship built here at the settlement of Ross during my management, the brig Volga, is ready on the stocks for launching." p.472
  • "[Concerning] the time proposed by you for the launching of the brig Volga, if on account of circumstances it does not occur and, besides, no axe work at all is required, in that case order a start to the procurement [of timber] for the future construction at the settlement of Ross of a proposed ship, for which various lengths of oak have been prepared. A note about this is enclosed for your information, and conform to it in preparing the required lengths. Because the oak timber near the fort and settlement of Ross that is suitable for shipbuilding has been felled for the construction of 3 ships, it has therefore been decided to prepare [it] at some distance from the settlement but not very far from the seashore." p.473
  • "After the procurement of all of the required timber for the construction of the proposed ship, the barracks, and the 30 or more oaken barrels that are to be made, if no other work occurs begin the procurement of timber with an appropriate number of men for the construction of a small outbuilding [svyazka] for visiting Spanish guests, our ships coming from New Archangel, and decent rooms in it for the counter, too." p. 474
  • "Although shipbuilding continued and Argüello’s permission gave hope of regular hunting in the Californias, the Company, retaining the colony in spite of the government’s doubts, focused upon the realization of its longtime plan of making Ross the granary of Russian America and the Russian Far East (the Okhotsk Seaboard and the Kamchatka Peninsula)." p.478
  • "On 21 September [1821] the Buldakov under the command of Mr Benzeman set off for California, and on it dispatched Mr Tuman in with a crew for the newly built ship (which, I hope, is already nearly finished); I have named this ship the Volga, and God grant that it is as charitable to us as the aforementioned river is to our northern capital. I have put a cargo on the Buldakov for both ships for trade in California, for both it and the newly built ship have to go for grain; I wrote to the governor about grain." p.480
  • "At my age and with my ambition it would, of course, be more gratifying to see a ship on the stocks again than men sowing ploughland. But, on the contrary, I have maintained, and always will maintain that it is possible and more useful to grow our own grain than to buy it from the Spaniards. But it is not my decision; I must procure timber for the future, and for the last ship – against my will – 7 verstas from the settlement through hills and ravines and with the loss by exhaustion of men and horses." p.483
  • "As I expect that the fort and entire settlement of Ross has fallen into disrepair and is in danger of collapsing, then after having built the ship now under construction it will not be necessary to rebuild but instead to repair the old structures; Grudinin, having built this the ship, will come in it to Sitka." p.488
  • "The cultivation begun by you gladdens me greatly, for thereby it is possible to occupy the men, and it will compensate somewhat for the expenses incurred by Ross, although now the ship under construction must be finished. Tell Grudinin that both masts must be moved back a little in the steps, make the tops a little larger and the masts a little thinner, but choose such trees for them that need as little finishing as possible. The helm at the head of the Volga is weak, and on any ship the helm head must be more dependably made; let Grudinin consult with [Navigator] Adolf Karlovich [Etholén], and I have talked to him about this. It is not necessary to make heads, and the sternpost should be as on the Golovnin; make the transom a little higher – I mean the quarterdeck transom, not the taffrail. On the boards on the upper deck it is necessary to cut channels without nailing on strips. The launch must be built after the design of the Buldakov’s. Send templates for the brass hinges." p.489
  • "After the building of the ship under construction, to which you will give your attention, begin the repair of the second vessel, but refrain from undertaking any new expensive construction without my authorization. Tell Grudinin that when the ship is finished, he can come to Sitka in it with honour." p.490
  • "1. Shipbuilding. In the summer of 1821 Mr Kuskov prepared timber on the coast NW of the fort for the building of a ship, but from lying in the open air all of November it rotted, so that, according to the testimony of the master [shipwright], not one piece was fit for the job, and so it was necessary to procure it [timber] again and put the pieces for trimming under a shed and the boards for planking in a pond created from the outflow of a stream into the sea. Almost all of the assortment for planking has been procured and delivered, and it only remains to bring out the knees for the upper part [of the hull] and several other pieces. The laying of the [keel of the] ship will follow shortly. I advised Mr Shmidt to do his utmost to accelerate the construction of this ship, which, it seems, will probably be the last, for the means for the continuation of shipbuilding have been completely curtailed; the timber required for the components is already very distant, and its procurement, given the shortage of personnel, is attended with great difficulties. The timber has to be brought on the men’s shoulders from the steep ravines in which it is cut until [it reaches a place where] it is feasible to wheel it, but even from there it is conveyed on a long road to the fort. Master [shipwright] Grudinin, having finished this ship, intends to leave in it for Sitka on his way home [to Russia]." p.497
  • "I am not sending copper hinges to you now for the ship under construction, and so as to spare the iron hinges you should not sheath the ship with copper; it is necessary to sheath from the lower hinges nearly to the keel, almost as on the Chirikov." p.505
  • "If we receive all of these here, then I will share them with you, and on a future occasion I will send you the requested clamps and wheels as well as the brass hooks and hinges for the new ship that for lack of time and charcoal we have not managed to cast, and so you should economize on iron hinges, and the ship should not be sheathed in copper. I am sending you cannons at the earliest opportunity. Tell your shipwright [Grudinin] for me that I hope to see him here in New Archangel this summer, coming on the newly-built ship, the brig Kyakhta, on which I hope to receive everything that I requested in July 1823." p.516
  • "The planking of the ship [Kyakhta] will end soon; little by little we shall finish it before your arrival here." p.521
  • "We began to mend the sails and to repair the water barrels, many iron items, and the rigging." p.523
  • "I decided beforehand not to send them; moreover, to have sent 17 Russian men in an umiak would have caused a long stoppage in work on the ship, especially if the wind were to have detained them a long time. For my part I did my best to finish the ship before early July in order not to miss the time of high water most suitable for the launching of the ship." p.534
  • "The [ship’s] slipway is nearly ready. Just one raft is still lacking, and my head is spinning. The shipwright requires more men. Stepan ... is charcoaling[?]. Kyundu[kov’s] men are harvesting grain ... or Linden’s men are threshing. Korneyev will finish the slope. Styupnov’s men are helping to lift the heavy items onto the carts. P[rokopy]. S[avel’yevich]. is busying himself with some sort of planks for the ship." p.538
  • "At last the ship is completely finished, and tomorrow a small umiak will go to Bodega for the last time, and the shipmaster has promised to depart the day after tomorrow." p.543
  • "Shipbuilding will cease there after the successful launching of the brig Kyakhta, and I have ordered all of the personnel to turn to the repairing of buildings and to engage primarily in grain growing, gardening, and orcharding." p.547

From Russian California, 1806-1860, A History in Documents. Volume II, edited by James R. Gibson and Alexei A. Istomin, © 2014, The Hakluyt Society, ISBN# 9781908145079

  • "The abundant and superior timber has afforded a means to the colonial administration of constructing several seagoing vessels at Ross, with great benefit to the Company." p.8
  • "In addition, the abundance of oak and pine [redwood] timber for construction made it possible in emergencies to build some seagoing vessels there, and this shipbuilding (as well as the use of the ships) has been very beneficial to the Company." p.13
  • "The construction timber will provide an opportunity to build good ships, and with them it will be possible to have considerable trade with the Sandwich Islands, which need it for the building of houses." p.18
  • "I will not fail to begin construction of Mr Richardson’s longboat after I have finished that being built now for Luis [Antonio Argüello?], and it will probably be ready by the time of the arrival of our ships next year." p.107
  • "Two longboats, 21 feet in length along the keel, were constructed for the Californios and sold for 700 piastres each." p.123
  • "After the settlement’s chief purpose of sea otter hunting had collapsed, and no benefit whatever was being derived from the establishment’s existence, Mr Baranov proposed that shipbuilding be undertaken, thinking that the local oak was especially suitable for this. The promyshlennik Grudinin, formerly a carpenter engaged in shipbuilding at Sitka by the American Lincoln, offered to do the work himself. For a long time they were was mistaken in their opinion of the durability of Californian timber and he continued to build; but the results proved their mistake, and shipbuilding was abandoned. Perhaps if the oak had been felled at the proper time and placed in water for several months, it would have acquired the necessary durability, but this precaution was never observed; most of the timber was cut sappy and green and then used. During construction in the rather warm climate the dampness produced mould, and the ships were launched with this implanted in them. After 3 or 4 years with the changes of climate from warm to damp, the rot increased in all of the main parts of the vessels, and it was impossible to repair them. Thus, none of the 4 ships built was used more than 6 years. They were built in the following order:
    (i) Under Mr Kuskov.
    1. The galiot Rumyantsev, both its keel laid and its construction completed in 1818, had a displacement of up to 160 tons and cost 20,212 rubles, 63 kopecks, including materials but not the shipwright’s labour. This brig was placed under the command of Lieutenant De Livron1 in 1819 and was brought to Sitka and used until 1823 and then declared unfit after the discovery of rot in all of its parts. 2. The brig Buldakov, its keel laid in 1819, sheathed with copper, and launched in 1820, had a displacement of up to 220 tons and cost 59,404 rubles, 75 kopecks, including materials, instruments, instruments, and other expenses. This calculation included bonuses for shipbuilding, on the orders of the governor, of 500 rubles to the master shipwright and 2,000 rubles to the workmen. In the same year they sailed in it to California as far as Santa Bárbara, and afterwards it was used until 1826, whereupon after the detection of rot it was stripped and stationed at the roadstead [of Sitka] in place of the ship Otkrytie as a storehouse for wheat. This brig cost the Company up to 80 thousand rubles.
    (ii) Upon Kuskov’s replacement.
    3. The brig Volga. Oak timber for this ship had been cut under Kuskov, but during his managership it had not been opportune to bring it to the settlement; afterwards, upon examination all of the pieces were found to be rotten and were discarded, and new timber was cut. They laid the keel of the brig Volga of about 160 tons in 1821 and launched it in 1822; with rigging and materials it cost 36,189 rubles, 54 kopecks. Mr Tumanin was named captain. This brig was used until 1827, when it was declared unfit, but it was sent in 1828 to the island of Atka and used to store timber.
    4. The brig Kyakhta of about 200 tons had its keel laid in 1823 and was launched in 1824; it cost 35,248 rubles, 36 kopecks. It was built of pine, but the keel, stem and sternpost were of oak. Mr Tumanin was named captain. This brig made several trips to California and one to the Aleutian Islands.
    (iii) Comments on shipbuilding. Experience demonstrated the non-durability of the wood, and for that reason they began to contemplate the cessation of shipbuilding, but in the meantime in order not to leave the men completely unoccupied they started to intensify grain growing. No actual benefit whatever was derived from shipbuilding except some fame among our indolent neighbours, the Californian Spaniards. They were amazed at an activity that they did not understand, seeing the building of four ships, one after the other, on top of the usual everyday operations of the settlement." pp.176-177
  • "For the Californios and missionaries were built longboats for 500 piastres, two-wheeled carriages for 100 piastres, and 8 pairs of wheels for 320 piastres. In addition, the personnel were engaged in various field tasks. Now I have ordered that a shed be built at Bodega for storing colonial goods bound for Sitka and that they always be delivered to Bodega at a good time of the year." p.213
  • "At first he paid attention primarily to the hunting of sea otters, which then abounded in the vicinity, but the sea otters were soon depleted and hunting ceased; when Governor Baranov resolved to build sailing vessels, 4 brigs were built from 1817 to 1824. Experience showed that the local oak did not have the required durability, and for that reason shipbuilding was abandoned. Among other occupations, grain growing and stock rearing were undertaken as far as labour and means allowed; attention was paid mainly to these activities upon the cessation of shipbuilding, and from 1822 to 1832 31,655 puds of wheat and 4,482 puds of barley were harvested." p.254
  • "If the Mexican government needs small- or medium-sized ships, fully rigged, then conclude terms for their construction and delivery, with the designation of tonnage, length along the keel, quality of rigging, and fixed price." p.306
  • "At Ross kindly leave [Vasily] Bykov and [Tomas] Uimoin, who were detailed to complete the construction of the longboat." p.328
  • "A longboat has been sent in pieces on the Urup for the purpose of conveying wheat from the missions and elsewhere to our ships at San Francisco. This longboat must now be assembled at Ross, braced, and sheathed with copper, and for this Bykov and Uimoin, good carpenters who understand this business, have been sent; the counter will return them to New Archangel on the first transport this autumn. Old tarred canvas – from, say, the unfit sails of umiaks – must be put under the copper." pp.328-329
  • "Initially the the settlement of Ross was intended for the hunting of sea otters and the building of ships. The sea otters abounded here, but now, on the contrary, there are none at all; and the timber for shipbuilding was found to be unsound, and for that reason attention has recently been turned to this settlement from the viewpoint of agriculture." p.395
  • "According to Mr Kostromitinov’s statement about the advantageous terms for the Company that he concluded with Mr Leese, 600 fanegas of wheat were to be obtained from him in exchange for a longboat built by us in accordance with the dimensions that he desired; the components of this longboat were made, in spite of our severe shortage of workers and the numerous necessary jobs that had accumulated at the port [New Archangel], although they were not finished, and in the course of the summer they were sent on the sloop Sitkha to Ross with all necessary materials for the completion of the construction of the longboat there during the coming winter." pp.458-459
  • "The longboat will be finished and dispatched by the autumn; unfortunately, I had to refuse for now to build the steamboat because of a lack at present in Sitka of the necessary materials, such as were used in the construction of the steamboat Baranov, whose sale I did not authorize, not having the possibility of immediately replacing this most useful (to us) vessel with another such one." p.553
  • "The original purpose of our settlement on the coast of California was the construction of seagoing vessels for our colonies. In 1812 one of the Company’s employees, [Ivan] Aleksandrovich Kuskov, founded the settlement of Ross. But subsequently the wood for shipbuilding proved inferior in quality and the Company preferred to buy its ships from the North Americans." pp.560-561

 


 


Fort Ross Conservancy, a 501(c)(3) and California State Park cooperating association, connects people to the history and beauty of Fort Ross and Salt Point State Parks. 

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