Docked at the lovely Honolulu Harbor, the Falls of Clyde is the last remaining four-masted, fully rigged sailing ship in the world. Although the Polynesian canoe is a popular sight around the Hawaiian islands, the Falls of Clyde is an equally famous sight from long ago that once gracefully sailed the ocean waters. Sitting beside the Aloha Tower Marketplace in the harbor, the Falls of Clyde ship is a huge attraction for mariners and equally intriguing to thousands of tourists taking Oahu vacations each year. It's now a prominent part of the Hawaii Maritime Center in Honolulu.
To see this incredible ship in Honolulu is to see a special part of history. Spanning almost 90 yards in length, and weighing more than 1,000 tons, the Falls of Clyde Honolulu was engaged in a spectacular route before reaching the Pacific islands. Originally constructed in Glasgow, Scotland in 1878, the Falls of Clyde was first employed as a trade ship. The very first voyage of the ship was to Karachi, Pakistan along with successive routes that took her to India, Australia, Britain, New Zealand, and California.
Captain William Matson, a Swedish sailor who began his seagoing at the ripe age of ten, purchased the Falls of Clyde ship in 1899. It was then inaugurated as the very first four-masted sailing ship that flew under the Hawaiian flag. Later on, the Falls of Clyde Honolulu was equipped with passenger quarters and served as a cargo ship, transporting sugar, most of it originating from the Hawaii Plantation Village, outbound from Honolulu and general goods in from San Francisco.
In 1907, the Falls of Clyde ship was bought by an oil company and transformed into a bulk tanker. After WWII, the ship voyaged to Denmark and made her last journey to Brazil. Another sale in 1925 saw the Falls of Clyde owned by the American General Petroleum Company, which used the vessel as an Alaskan oil barge. By 1963, the Falls of Clyde was officially owned by the bank, who decided to sell the ship to the city of Vancouver, British Columbia. Officials there wanted to sink the ship as part of a massive seawall, but the plan collapsed and Clyde eventually was purchased by the city of Honolulu to be used as part of a special public exhibition.
Remarkably, the Falls of Clyde Honolulu was restored—in part by the grandson of her original creator—and presented to the public in 1968. With various fittings and masts donated by the Glasgow shipyard the Falls of Clyde came from, the ship once again resembled that of her old self, in all her past and new glory. Now sitting proudly on the National Register of Historic Places, the Falls of Clyde is available for tours at the Hawaii Maritime Center, which is open from 8:30 am to 5 pm daily.