Official Number: 226224 Built: 1927, Moore Drydock Co., Oakland, CA. Hull: Steel Length: 256' Beam: 68' Draft: 15' 7" Weight: 2075 Tons
Propulsion: Turbo-Electric Horsepower: 2,600 Autos: 0 Passengers: 2000
A brand new Peralta enters service in 1928. Author's collection.
The Jinxed ferry of San Francisco Bay
The Kalakala's history on Puget Sound is well known, but not many people
realize that she started out as an equally beautiful vessel for the Key System
Ferries on San Francisco Bay. Built in 1926, the steam-turbine ferry Peralta
was the flagship for of the fleet. Her orange livery unmistakable on the Bay, and
she and her sister Yerba Buena were noted for the luxury of their fittings and
nearly soundless engines.
While the Yerba Buena seemed to have a charmed life, the Peralta had difficulty
from the start--an unlucky vessel from the moment of her launch when she got
stuck on the ways as she slid down the ramp at the Moore Drydock Company.
Scarcely six months in service, the Peralta went on to bash both the Oakland
and San Francisco docks. The worst was yet to come though, when the ferry was
involved in one of the worst accidents in the history of the Bay area.
On a routine crossing in February, 1928 the Peralta was approaching Oakland
when passengers noticed her bow dipping abnormally low. Passengers always
crowded to the front of the vessel as to be the first onto the trains. This night,
however, an inquiry would later find, the Peralta's nose slammed into a trough.
The lower deck was suddenly awash in as much as five feet of cold salt water,
sending terrified passengers scrambling. Over thirty were washed into the Bay.
Five people died in the cold water.
It was never determined if the Peralta's ballast tanks, used to trim the boat as she
approached the dock, were incorrectly filled at the wrong end as many supposed.
In the end, it didn't matter--the tanks were never used again.
The Peralta finished her unlucky career on the night of May 6th, 1933. The Key
System pier was set on fire by an arsonist, and the Peralta, tied up to the pier and
shut down for the night, was soon ablaze. Her mooring lines cut, the vessel,
completely engulfed in flame, drifted out into the Bay. By morning, all that was
left was a smoldering, twisted mass of scorched metal. Her hull was still intact,
but the ferry was effectively rendered useless.
The Key System decided not to rebuild the ferry. The insurance company wrote
the Peralta off and the hulk was offered for sale or scrapping. Captain Alexander
Peabody, who was looking to build a new flagship, was alerted of the sale of the
Peralta and purchased it.
Still sound below the waterline, Peabody knew that the most expensive work was
already done, and that grafting a new superstructure on the hulk would be an
The only question to be answered was what form the new vessel would take.
At top, the beautifully appointed interior of the Yerba Buena, sister to the Peralta. The
ferries were identical. Courtesy of Tom Sanislo. Above, the fiery demise of the Peralta.