SOS as Time Runs Out for Falls of Clyde in Honolulu Harbor

The state put the historic sailing ship up for auction after the vessel started to sink.
Falls of Clyde


The fate of the historic sailing ship Falls of Clyde remains unknown after the state announced this week that the aging mariner may be sold to the highest bidder by the end of February.


The ship’s journey has been long and interesting, first at sea and then moored prominently in Honolulu Harbor, including time spent as a maritime center and a part of Bishop Museum. The state Department of Transportation says it has not charged any rent or fees since April 2009.


The 140-year-old wrought-iron vessel is listed as the last surviving member of Hawai‘i’s original Matson fleet and the world’s only surviving full-rigged, four-mast sailing ship.


Now, the state says it has no choice but to act to protect the lifeline of the harbor from the deteriorating vessel.


SEE ALSO: The 5 Most Endangered Historic Places in Hawai‘i (2016)


Falls of Clyde


“The condition of the vessel is at a critical point, which jeopardizes the vessel’s ability to stay afloat and threatens the safety of Honolulu Harbor,” the state says.


For more than a decade, the state has tried to work with the Friends of Falls of Clyde and its supporters on numerous attempts to raise funding and repair the vessel, all of which have been unsuccessful.


Bruce McEwan, president of the Friends of Falls of Clyde, says he understands that the Save Falls of Clyde International group is still working to coordinate moving the ship back to Scotland but hit a logistics snag for the planned pickup of Feb. 3.


“We were disappointed that they (state officials) didn’t take into consideration the progress that is being made by the folks in Scotland,” McEwan says.


He said he understands that the harbor officials want the aging ship moved “sooner than later” with a hard deadline of June 1, the start of the next hurricane season.


The state points to the harbor’s role in delivering critical items such as food, medicine and supplies to the Islands. Hawai‘i imports more than 80 percent of all goods consumed by residents and visitors, most of which flows through Honolulu Harbor. 


The Friends of the Falls of Clyde earlier had a permit for the berth, but that was terminated in 2016 and the ship impounded, the state says.


In December, the vessel began taking on water, and a hole in the stern was patched. Then in January, the ship listed to port, another hole was found and patched, followed by more holes and cracks and patches, the state says.


Potential bidders may inspect the vessel and its contents at their own risk at 9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 15, at Pier 7 where it has been docked at Honolulu Harbor. Sealed bids—including a performance bond of $1.5 million guaranteeing removal of the vessel from the harbor—must be received by 11 a.m. Feb. 28 with a public announcement of the bids scheduled later that day.


The notice and more details can be found by clicking here


In 2007, then-owner Bishop Museum closed the ship to visitors because of the advanced deterioration. A surveyor delivered a 195-page report that predicted the ship would cost $24 million to $32 million to restore and another million dollars a year to keep up. At the time, the museum’s entire annual budget was $16 million.


The fate could now include being rescued again with a mysterious future, or stripped of any artifacts that can be salvaged before sinking. The friends group still maintains a website at


SEE ALSO: The 8 Most Endangered Historic Places in Hawai‘i (2014)


Falls of Clyde




Dec. 12, 1878, in Port Glasgow, Scotland, on the banks of the River Clyde.



1898: Served in Matson’s growing sugar fleet, running from Hilo to the West Coast more than 60 times between 1899 and 1907.



In 1907, converted to a sail-powered oil carrier, bringing oil to Hawai‘i’s sugar plantations.



In 1920, the Clyde left the Islands, changing hands repeatedly until 1958 when it seemed the obsolete vessel would be scrapped.



In 1958, a private owner bought the Clyde, towed it to Seattle, and tried to find a city that would adopt it. Bob Krauss, a columnist for The Honolulu Advertiser, and Hawai‘i philanthropists launched a grassroots effort to save the ship, raising $35,000. By 1963, the ship was a fixture on the Honolulu waterfront, undergoing $3 million worth of restoration over 34 years.