Sir Erik

A Homestead Headlines Article by Chuck Oldenburg

June 2013

The May 2013 history article was about Erik Krag’s ship, a replica of the famous steam schooner Wapama. Further description is appropriate.

On the prow of the ship was a figurehead of the Oregon Indian Princess, Wapama. There were two decks, a flying bridge, two masts and a funnel bearing the insignia of the Inter-Ocean Steamship Corporation. The  hull was made of plywood as was the lifeboat that hung on davits. The ship was all electric: interior lights, floodlights to illuminate the funnel and superstructure,  heating system,  the stove in the galley, the alarm system, navigation gadgets, and the communication system connecting all rooms. A motor-driven device imitated the sound of diesel engines.

The main deck had a large social room, a combination galley and pantry and a large double stateroom. On the upper deck was a pilot house with a gyro compass,  control instruments for the engine, steering and navigation, plus a locker for signal flags and the Krag house flag.  Just outside was a signal gun. A few steps from the pilot house was the captain’s day room, a place for small informal gatherings.  From the second deck, a ladder led to the flying bridge which was equipped with all the essentials of navigation, including a regulation ship’s telegraph. Thirty years later, in 1970, Krag’s ship had deteriorated to the point of uselessness and it was hauled away.

The Wapama Steam Schooner, a National Historic Landmark owned by the National Park Service, is deteriorating in a Richmond dry-dock. It is the last surviving example of some 225 steam schooners specially designed for use in Pacific Coast lumber trade and coastwise service.

Erik Krag was also interested in the Gjøa, the first vessel to transit the Northwest Passage. With a crew of six, Roald Amundsen of Norway traversed the passage in a three-year journey, finishing in 1906 in San Francisco. Rather than undertake a return voyage around the horn to Norway, Amundsen donated the Gjøa to the city. It was put on display in Golden Gate Park. Over the following decades the Gjøa slowly deteriorated. In 1939, Erik Krag founded the Gjoa Foundation which undertook a complete refurbishment that was completed in 1949.  In 1972 the Gjøa was returned to Norway where it was rebuilt for display in Oslo. In recognition of his efforts in preserving the Gjøa, Erik Krag was knighted by King Olaf of Norway. From then on, friends would jokingly refer to him as Sir Erik.

After his  retirement in 1960, Erik and his wife, Dagny,  split their time between their Homestead Valley home, Crow’s Nest on Rancho del Topé, and their papaya plantation in Hana on the Hawaiian Island of Maui. They left Homestead Valley for good in 1975. Dagny died in 1981 after sixty years of marriage. Erik died in 1983 at age 91.


If you have comments or questions about this article
or other topics pertaining to the history of Homestead Valley,
please feel free to e-mail Chuck Oldenburg.