by Annie Sutte
In 1925, a small boatbuilding company settled in the area of Sausalito known originally as Whaler's Cove, and later as the Valley St. Beach, or as Swede's Beach. It was place long used for boat building and repairing, and all along the cove's beach were the remains of piers and wharves in varying states of repair and disrepair. When the boat builders settled on their site in 1925, sailing ships had been filling their water casks from the springs on the beach for over 100 years. In the 1820s Sausalito's first settler, William Richardson, brought water down to the beach and built a wharf for his launch Water Nixie, which carried water to San Francisco.
In 1925 there was a pier and a boathouse at the south end of the cove, built in the 1880s by the Pacific Yacht Club. To the north of the cove were the Walhalla Beer Garden and a boardwalk, and two small piers, both of which were sound and in use, unlike the decayed remains of one at the foot of Richardson St. built around 1890 by the California Launch Building Co.
A dilapidated pier at Valley Street was used by fishermen who moored their boats at the cove — mostly 26’ Monterey type crab boats — and they lifted their crab boxes off the boats with davits and sold fresh crabs to the locals for 25 cents. For repairing, at high tide the fishermen hauled their boats up onto big timbers set out on the beach.
Kids who played on the beach in the 1920s remember changing into swimsuits in an old piano case that had been dumped there, and they remember how easy it was to siphon gasoline from the big tank the Spreckels kept under their boathouse for the Lurline. They remember finding liquor bottles buried in the sand beneath the Walhalla, a legacy from bootleggers who used the trapdoor beneath the beer garden at high tide.
It was an area rich in history even in 1925 when the small boatbuilding company bought the Reliance Boat and Ways Co. at the center of the cove at Main Street. An old set of ways, two piers and a building became headquarters for a boatyard that would become famous for its quality of workmanship, for the variety and number of craft turned out, and for its yacht designs; the Nunes Brothers Boat and Ways Co.
Find out more about the boatyards of early Sausalito by visiting the Historical Society’s Virtual Exhibit. This online exhibit includes photographs and information from the SHS archives and uses software that pulls images and data from the database