Cruise history: The GOLDEN BEAR II – California Maritime Academy’s third training ship started as a cargo-passenger vessel. The Delta Line’s DELORLEANS served briefly on the “banana” South American run just before World War 2. But her destiny was great. Training 1000s of American student cadets.
The DELORLEANS leaving New Orleans for South America in 1941.
The California Maritime Academy’s GOLDEN BEAR II – and later the ARTSHIP.
The DELORLEANS, later to become the California Maritime Academy’s GOLDEN BEAR II, was originally built as a combination first class passenger-cargo ship just prior to World War II.
DELORLEANS docked in New Orleans with American flag seen on hull.
She sailed from New Orleans to South America on 49-day cruises.
A segment of the DELORLEANS log book of South American voyages from New Orleans.
An American flag was painted on her hull proclaiming she was a neutral ship.
World War II was well underway in Europe. Americans were not taking holidays in Europe. Delta Line’s South America run out of New Orleans was neutral territory.
There were to have been six sister ships to serve the Delta Line’s “Coffee Run.”
Offering American flag service, between New Orleans and South America.
The ships were to be symbols of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy with South America.
They would be the first passenger-cargo ships of the 1938 Merchant Marine act – the DELBRASIL, DELORLEANS, DELARGENTINO, DELURUGUAY, DELORLEANS and DELARGENTINO.
But only three of the six ships had brief pre-war careers on the South American run.
The ships resembled Adriatic-built Italian motor liners, with counter stern and a compact “motor ship look” funnel.
All were cargo carries and carried 67 first class passengers.
Lounge with fireplace.
They had a Art Deco look that was very modern American popular in the late 1930s.
Entrance hall and modern stairway.
Streamlined, dramatic use of maple-wood for the dance floor, seating alcoves, red leather and contrasting black and white linoleum decking. They all had indirect lighting.
Since they were combined passenger-cargo ships, they had large staterooms compared to liners devoted to just carrying passengers.
Public rooms included a lounge, dining room, bar, smoking room and veranda café with a dance floor.
A swimming pool was located on the boat deck.
There was also a large promenade deck – partially glass enclosed.
All cabins had private facilities.
There were single, double or triple berthed cabins.
The DELBRAZIL, DELORLEANS and DELARGENTINO during their brief careers doing the “Coffee Run” to South America, did a brisk business.
Americans sought the safety promised by the large Stars and Stripes painted on the Del’s hulls.
And Copacabana beach seemed far from the blitzed battlegrounds for Europe.
Passage one-way from New Orleans to Brazil cost $200 per person.
This included transportation, accommodations and all meals.
The cuisine was first class and staterooms unusually spacious. All were outside with two windows (not portholes). There was a grand piano in the lounge. Entertainment included shuffleboard, bingo, horse racing, bridge, concerts and dancing. An orchestra was not carried but a retro version of a disc jockey played the latest big band dance music. Movies were shown.
But since the passengers list was limited, those traveling aboard these new ships amused themselves with reading, conversation and making new friends. Many of the travelers would have been business people. So they would have kept in touch with their home offices by the ships wireless. Many of the passengers were Spanish or Portuguese speaking. The atmosphere was sophisticated and cosmopolitan.
They sailed at 1:00 pm from New Orleans on a six week round-trip itinerary, calling at: Pemambuco, Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Montevideo and Buenos Aires.
The ship’s careers were brief.
The service ended with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
After WW 2, Delta Lines would resume the service with the newly deluxe cargo-passenger ships Del Sud, Del Mar and Del Norte.
The U.S.S. CRESCENT CITY.
With the advent of World War 2, requisitioned by the U.S. Government in 1941, stripped the DELORLEANS for duty, and commissioned her as the U.S.S. CRESCENT CITY. She served during World War II in most of the major campaigns in the western Pacific theater.
The Cresent City (DELORLEANS) was decommissioned in San Francisco on 30 April 1948 and laid up.
Her two sisterships, DELBRAZIL and DELARGENTINO, were refitted and sailed as Farrell Line’s AFRICAN ENTERPRISE and AFRICAN ENDEAVOR operating from New York to South Africa into the late 1950s. They were scrapped in 1969.
AFRICAN ENDEAVOR docking in Brooklyn the 1950s.
Dining aboard the Farrell Lines (the Delorleans’ sister-ships) from New York to South Africa.
Untouched until 1971, the DELORLEANS was finally revived by the Vallejo-based California Maritime Academy.
The T. S. GOLDEN BEAR on her annual cruise.
The T.S. GOLDEN BEAR in Sydney passing the Opera House on a cadet cruise.
Cadets aboard ship and crossing the Equator in the 1980s.
She would become the California Maritime Academy’s third training ship GOLDEN BEAR. By the time most of the other twenty-three C3P ships (including her five sisters) had been scrapped. The former DELORLEANS was readied for a successful new career phase.
The first California Nautical School (that was the Academy’s original name from 1930 – 1940) was the U.S.S. Henry County, and renamed the T.S. California State after refurbishing in 1931. At the beginning of WWII is was, again, renamed T.S. Golden State, and served as the Academy’s training ship from 1931 – 1946. Then it was replaced with the T.S. Golden Bear I, which was in service from 1946 – 1971, when the T.S. Golden Bear II, came into service for the California Maritime Academy.
As the T.S. GOLDEN BEAR, ex-Delorleans, classrooms and dormitories were built into her holds. She sailed for 24 years with a full company of cadets. The T.S. GOLDEN BEAR II sailed on 28 major ocean cruises all over the world.
The T.S. GOLDEN BEAR II was finally retired and laid up at Suisun Bay in 1995 and replaced by a new ship – the T.S. GOLDEN BEAR III.
The T.S. GOLDEN BEAR III is the fourth and largest training ship at California Maritime Academy and the third to carry the name GOLDEN BEAR. She is sometimes nicknamed “Square Bear” because of her unique profile.
The T.S. GOLDEN BEAR II was later acquired by the City of Oakland for use as an art colony and named the ARTSHIP.
The stairway in its final days as seen on the ARTSHIP. The following photos are from the ARTSHIP project.
Initially ARTSHIP planned and crafted two programs and was on the brink of bringing in $1.5 million support from the US Department of Commerce for maritime and culinary industry job training. The Sailor’s Union of the Pacific endorsed the project. Maritime curriculum was created by one of the founding members of the ARTSHIP and Captain Ray Addicott who had been chairman for seven years.
The possibility lost. The pressures of Bay Area real estate interests won out for Oakland’s waterfront development. The City of Oakland sued and evicted ARTSHIP on January 1st 2004. Its agency the Port of Oakland strong-armed ARTSHIP Foundation to renounce its title to the ship and sold it for scrap.
The DELORLEANS, CRESCENT CITY, GOLDEN BEAR II, ARTSHIP still exists, has not been scrapped and is located in Vallejo harbor.
For complete information on the California Maritime Academy click here.
Credit for information on the Delorleans is from Peter C. Kohler’s article on the SOUTH ATLANTIC SISTERS published in the Summer 1993 edition of The Steamship Historical Society of America’s Steamboat Bill. Photos from society’s collection, author’s collection along with the Artship and Academy’s website.