Educational tall ship coming together in Sausalito


Over the last three years, the tall ship Matthew Turner has come together plank by plank in Sausalito, Calif. The vessel launched on April 1, and if all goes well the two-masted brigantine will be ready for sea trials by the New Year. In addition to the vessel’s sailing rig, it will have a state-of-the-art hybrid-electric system on board.

Call of the Sea, also based in Sausalito, is building the 132-foot wooden ship to expand its educational and environmental programs. The nonprofit already operates the 80-foot schooner Seaward, but Matthew Turner will more than double organization capabilities, according to Alan Olson, its director of construction.

Matthew Turner is named for a prominent 19th-century San Francisco merchant and shipbuilder, and the vessel is based on one of Turner’s designs. Tri-Coastal Marine of Richmond, Calif., modified those plans to modern standards.

The ship is designed to be extremely green and environmentally friendly. Its volunteer crew of builders used Douglas fir and Oregon white oak donated from certified sustainable forests for the frame and hull. Non-toxic paints and adhesives were used where possible.

Matthew Turner is equipped with a unique BAE Systems HybriGen propulsion system consisting of lithium-ion batteries and diesel generators. All electrical needs on the ship will come from the batteries, including the twin 265-hp electric motors. When under sail, the freewheeling propellers will generate electricity and recharge the batteries.

“The system controller decides whether to pull the needed power from the energy storage system composed of Li-ion batteries, or the diesel engine, depending upon which is most efficient for the desired load,” David Adamiak of BAE Systems said in Cummins press materials about the project.

Turner’s sailplan.

Courtesy Matthew Turner

When tied up at the dock in Sausalito, the ship recharges the batteries with electricity from a large solar array. At full charge, these batteries can provide propulsion for four to six hours and one to two days of electrical needs. Two 301-hp Cummins diesel generators can fire up to charge batteries as needed.

As of early May, crews had begun installing the spars and were making progress on the lower masts. The foremast was about done, and the main mast was being shaped. Force 10 Sailmaking and Rigging was nearly finished making the sails from a tightly woven Dacron cloth.

Olson co-founded Call of the Sea in 1985 to promote sailing and education in waters around San Francisco. The organization currently takes about 5,000 students on board each year, in addition to offering overnight excursions into the Pacific Ocean and along the coast.

Olson and others involved in the Call of the Sea and the Matthew Turner project are longtime sailors. He said they recognize the value of spending time on the water, feeling the power of nature and developing a connection with the bay and its ecology.

“It’s so important nowadays,” he said. “Kids need to get into nature, and many have what I call a nature deficit. Most people these days have their heads in screens and don’t interact, and this our way of trying to give them that opportunity.”

Fundraising is about 80 percent complete for the Matthew Turner project. To learn more, or to donate, visit:

By Ocean Navigator