Steam Ferry Berkeley


An 1898 Steam Ferryboat From San Francisco Bay


The Berkeley is an 1898 steam ferryboat that operated for 60 years on San Francisco Bay. A California State Historic Landmark, and a National Historic Landmark. She is, in a word, “irreplaceable.”

Berkeley’s importance to the Maritime Museum cannot be overstated. Aboard the vessel are the museum’s offices, a major maritime research library, workshop, model shop, the museum store, special events venue with room for 800 guests, and numerous dry storage and archive areas.

The ferryboat’s lower deck and main deck contain many important exhibits and displays, including her fully restored triple expansion steam engine, which, although no longer steam-operated, today performs for visitors with the aid of hydraulics and compressed air. Berkeley’s engine room is unique worldwide. During the 1906 San Francisco earthquake Berkeley carried thousands of survivors to safety. Her captain and crew, not knowing the fate of their own families, worked night and day to help victims escape the burning shores of San Francisco. Their unwavering and unselfish efforts saved many, many lives. The upper deck of the ferryboat has played host to thousands of weddings, corporate and other special events since her arrival in San Diego in 1973. Berkeley has a unique historical and architectural significance that is reminiscent of the Victorian Age. She is the finest example of a 19th century ferryboat afloat. The Berkeley’s hull underwent a revolutionary hull restoration process during the spring of 2003 that is expected to last for 50 years and may serve as the benchmark for the preservation of historic iron and steel hulled ships around the world.

  • First successful propeller driven ferry on the West Coast
  • Difficult to steer. Earned nickname “Pile Drivers’ Friend”
  • Operated day and night rescuing victims of San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake/fire
LOA 279’
Engine steam, triple expansion, 1450 hp
Beam 64’
Maximum Draft 9’
Gross Tonnage 1883
Original Seating Capacity 1691

Photo credits: Maggie Walton, Alex Saikowski, various museum staff