TS Golden Bear 1971-1995

Maritime Academy Training Ship, now ARTSHIP

Faded photo of the Training ship Golden Bear

The training ship Golden Bear was built in 1939 and originally known as the Del Orleans. The ship's initial purpose was to transport merchandise and passengers between North and South America. It served in World War II as the USS Crescent City. The ship became the second training ship for the California Maritime Academy, serving until 1995. The vessel is now moored at the Port of Oakland under the name ARTSHIP.

The Bear's Story

Golden Bear set in the Linoleum floor on the entry deck.

Golden Bear is the name with which the California Maritime Academy designates each of its training ships. However, each of the school's training ships has its own history and the Golden Bear II is no exception. When the California Maritime Academy administration found the ship in 1971, its life could have very well been over. The ship had been anchored at the Suisun Bay reserve fleet for 23 years under the name USS Crescent City, after having served both as a passenger/cargo vessel and as a troop transport ship during the Second World War. But the ship was meant to resurrect to a thid life, as the Golden Bear II. The school officials from the Maritime Academy found a well-preserved, cherished ship that had stood the test of time. ‘According to Captain Carl G. Bowman, skipper of the new Golden Bear, finding her in the Suisun anchorage was “like finding grandpa's Rolls-Royce after it had been jacked up in the garage for 20 years. ”’ ¹ Labor and funds were put into transforming the 1939-built ship into a maritime training ship, and midshipmen and academy staff worked to hard to diminish the actual costs, which shrunk from an initial estimate of $1.2 million to $287,000. After complete repairs, a successful trial run of the new Golden Bear proved that the ex-mothballed ship could reach speeds of 15 knots per hour and serve the Academy well.

But beyond functional success, the Golden Bear II provided better living conditions, more elegant lines and more comfort than the previous Maritime Academy ship had. Despite being a rather old ship (built in 1939, the ship became the Golden Bear II in 1972), the former Crescent City had been well tended to. According to Jacob Madison Seibel, Jr., who graduated from the Maritime Academy in 1972 and participated in restoring the Golden Bear II, a grease-like substance called cosmoline was used to preserve the engines up until 1972 when a crew staff, cadets and alumni cleaned up all the pipes using low pressure steam.

¹Captain Walter W. Jaffee, The track of the Golden Bear, The California Maritime Academy scholarships, 1996
Faessel, Victor, Future of the Past: Golden Bearlives on as ARTSHIP, Oakland Heritage Alliance News, summer-fall 1998

Tiffany Brockman, California Maritime Academy 2001 graduate

Tiffany Brockman thought the California Maritime Academy would be a completetly different experience from the usual college. When she applied to the Academy in 1999, she did not know exactly what she was getting into, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience to last for a lifetime. Being one of the few women to study at a school that traditionally attracted mostly men, Brockman ended up making a lot of friends and had great fun on the Golden Bear's cruises. She trained on the Golden Bear III, but says she would have enjoyed the previous Golden Bear, the former Del Orleans. “(Golden Bear II) is a good shiop, and it would have been much easier to be a group on that ship, because of its older, artistic design, its open decks and the general training-friendly atmosphere,” Brockman says. On the other hand, she did not like the impersonal, modern design of the Golden Bear III. Most girls on the Golden Bear worked in the deck area, whereas the engineering department was mostly men. During Brockman's time at the Academy, the ration of men to women was about 7 to 1.

Steve Reichardt, California Maritime Academy 1989 graduate

Cadets taking a goofy picture aboard the Golden Bear II

Steve Reichardt's first encounter with the Golden Bear was completely unplanned. He was fresh out of high school, still very involved with his buddies, when his father, who worked next door to the Maritime Academy in Vallejo, mentioned the school to his son. Reichardt calls his ending up on the ship "blind luck." He had initially applied for the deck major, involved with navigation, but he failed his physical exam because he is green-red colorblind. So he decided to try engineering instead.

Fifteen years later, Reichardt is the chief engineer for the San Francisco office of the ABM Engineering Services. “I was hired for my current job partly because of the school's reputation of training responsible young professionals.” It was a combination of very talented teachers and staff and a good ship that made Reichardt's time on the Golden Bear II memorable. “For a ship that old, it was in great shape,” Reichardt says. “It was great to train on a floating functional museum. And the staff was very qualified.”

Reichardt applied and got accepted to the California Martime Academy in 1987. That year was the first time he went outside the US. With the Golden Bear II that year, Reichardt saw the Orient: Tokyo and Kobe, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. He has great memories of this pivotal time in his life. He remembers the ship the way he would see it docked in foreign ports, when he and the other cadets would come back to it after having spent time on land. Reichardt calls himself a ship lover.

In 1988 it was time to see South America. The Golden Bear went to the Panama Canal, Columbia, Peru, Santiago de Chile and Guatemala. The training ship was mostly on missionary trips, acting as a US ambassador to these countries. In its trip to Guatemala, the Golden Bear II brought a fire truck from the US and donated it to the local government.

In 1989 the Golden Bear II went to Fiji, Sydnet, Australia, and Hawaii. In Fiji, the cadets met all the local dignitaries at a party on the ship. Reichardt says he will never forget the time spent on the Golden Bear II: the ship accepted him as a boy fresh out of high school and turned him into a young man out of college. “I love the look of it, I love the smell of it,” Reichardts says, pledging his attachment for the ship and thankful for its role in his life.

Cadets on Golden Bear II decks for the equator crossing ceremony

The 1987 Equator Crossing ceremony on the TS Golden Bear's forward decks, courtesy of Steve Reichardt, CMA graduate 1989. The initiation ceremony consists of dragging the "pollywogs" through the "mud and trash" while "Neptune and his Royal Court" supervise the process. At the end of the mock ordeal, the initiates have become shellbacks.

The ARTSHIP Foundation has formed the Engine-Deck Club for the Old Bear.

During the next year the Foundation plans to fire the boilers and reactivate the engines

Low and high pressure turbines of the main engine aboard the ARTSHIP
The low and high-pressure turbines of the main engine.

Long view down Shaft Alley
View down shaft alley.

The Golden Bear II (affectionately referred to by graduates as "Old Bear") was built with advanced technology at its time. More than 60 years later, that technology has long been surpassed. That is no reason to dismiss the Old Bear, former Del Orleans, at least not according to marine estimator Jurgen Dietrich.

“I am interested in this vessel because it's like looking at the not-too-distant past (the ship is a good example of a very luxurious pre-World War II ship) and see the merging of industry and art,” Dietrich says. “Today's ships don't have that plummage,̶ he explains, referring to the impersonal design of modern ships.

According to Dietrich, the ship's machinery is in good condition. “It would take approximately $400,000 to get the ship back running,” Dietrich estimates. The sum will come from small donations, grants and indirectly through volunteer work.

Photo of the ship's anchor

The ship is a combination of riveted and welded constructions. Before World War II, most vessels were riveted. “This vessel incorporates different technologies, and it was one of the fastest commercial vessels at its time,” Dietrich says. The ship used tobe a so-called banana boat, transporting fruit and coffee from South America to the US. The ship had to be fast to preserve the refrigerated fruit. But “engineering is just one aspect of this ship,” Dietrich says. “This ship has many stories and many ghosts that talk to me, and every exhibit aboard this vessels speaks to that.”