Jack Dickerhoff was, Ernest Gann wrote in his “Song of the Sirens,” royalty and he knew it. The rumble of his voice was the sound of a
squall on the horizon”
Dickerhoff was the master rigger who in the early 1950’s brought the full rigged ship Balclutha back to life emulating her Cape Horn days
under the Red Duster. During the last decade of his life, Dickerhoff, was the San Francisco Maritime Museum’s master rigger and sailed as
Chief Mate on the last voyage of the CA Thayer from Seattle to San Francisco. After rigging the Star of India, in San Diego, Dickerhoff was
off to Hawaii, hearing the Siren’s Call of the Falls of Clyde. In early 1970, Dickerhoff restored the rigging on the historic 4 masted full rigged
ship Falls of Clyde, and in the process he taught a new generation the art of the sailing ship rigging. It was on that job the Dickerhoff ignored
his failing health to get the ship past the critical point in her restoration.
“Dickerhoff was royalty and he knew it for he was recognized as master of a vanishing art. He was a rigger extraordinaire and all about him, ordinary men became obsequious when he spoke. When he cared to expound, there came from his thin lips all the wisdom of a hard-sailing generation at sea”. – Ernest Gann.
As the poet said:
The Sailing ship “seems to draw its strength from the very soul of the world,its formidable ally, held to obedience by the frailest bonds, like a fierce ghost captured in a snare of something even finer than spun silk. For what is the array of the strongest ropes, the tallest spars and the stoutest canvas against the mighty breath of the infinite, but thistle stalks, cobwebs and gossamer?”
Thinking of the current state of distress the Falls of Clyde is in has made me think upon Dickerhoff, Kortum, and Pacific sailor/journalist, Bob Krauss, whose column in The Honolulu Advertiser spurred the campaign that saved this icon as a museum ship and all the other believers that gave so much to preserve her. A great read on the restoration and history of the ship is the wonderfully illustrated book “Indestructible Square-Rigger Falls of Clyde: 324 Voyages under Sail” by Bob Krauss.
In the late 1980's I did some consulting for the Bishop Museum on the Falls of Clyde rig. I only hope that she is around long enough for her
spars to once again reach skyward. With her new guardians ~ the Friends of the Falls of Clyde , I trust that will happen.