PROLOGUE: Bill Leach’s first trip to Venezuela was made on a tanker as was his trip home for his vacation but his return to Venezuela was made by a passenger liner of a mail service company which meant it was a relatively new and relatively fast ship. Although many take cruises today the liner experience, like travelling by train, is largely a thing of the past. The accommodations were comfortable, the food was good and the amenities were pleasant. There was not a cruise director nagging at your every waking moment and the ships were by and large filled with people who were actually going someplace and not part of the Geritol for lunch bunch set floating around waiting on God. These were working ships and had the dignity of purpose that goes with the title.
To comply with its mail contracts, Grace had agreed to build four new ships. These the SANTA ROSA class were ordered from Federal Shipbuilding Co. Kearney, New Jersey and delivered in 1932-1933. They were designed by William Francis Gibbs, who had also drawn plans of Matson’s MALOLO and later to draw those of the AMERICA and the record-breaker UNITED STATES.
These ships had some general resemblance to MALOLO, with her great beam and low stern. their original gross tonnage of 11,200 was later reduced to 9,100 by the cutting of tonnage openings in # 6 shelter deck. Subsequently their tonnage was again changed, all of which reduced tonnage dues and Panama Canal tolls. Their overall length was 508 ft. and beam 72 ft.
Their power plants were at the time second to none in efficiency. Each of the water tube steam generators with a pressure of 430 lbs. produced 6000 hp. and each ship could make 18-1/2 knots with only three boilers active. The main engines were double reduction turbines. The screws turned inward, and for this reason were very awkward to maneuver. The passenger capacity of the SANTA ROSA class was 209 in first class and about 50 in steerage. Their public rooms were all on the promenade deck, with the dining salon extending two and a half decks in height to a roll back dome. The after dining room bulkhead was adorned with a large oil painting of a Grace clipper. Each cabin, whether single or double was equipped with private bath.
With the new quartet the Grace Line established the first passenger service between New York and Seattle. Calls were made at Havana, Puerto Colombia, Cartagena, Canal Zone, Punta Arenas, La Libertad, San Jose, Mazatlan, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Victoria. The first ship the SANTA ROSA sailed November 26, 1932; the last, SANTA ELENA, April 4, 1933. New York Seattle running time was 20 days, including one day in Los Angeles and two in San Francisco. Average speed 18-1/2 knots. Before the New York sailing, each ship called at Philadelphia for cargo only.
In 1934 the port time in New York was greatly reduced and the call at Philadelphia eliminated. The time saved enabled the ships to make a shuttle run between Seattle and San Francisco. The 20 knot service and the ship’s superior accommodations to anything the Pacific Coast shipping had to offer made this an exceedingly popular run.
It was not long before other companies complained that, since Grace ships were subsidized for foreign trade they should not compete in the coastwise business. By the end of 1934 Seattle ceased to be a port of call and the voyage ended in San Francisco. Since three ships could now maintain the service, the SANTA LUCIA was reassigned to the South American run. Late in 1936 Grace acquired the Red D Line and its Caribbean Service, and early in 1937 SANTA ROSA, SANTA PAULA and SANTA ELENA entered that service: New York to Venezuela, Curacao, Colombia, Cristobal and Haiti.
Vacation time over good old U.S. up to May 5th at which time I was ready to sail again for Venezuela.
May 5th took the Grace liner “Santa Rosa” with a rather good-sized bunch of refinery workers also destined to go to Caripito. Pete Willis was my roommate on this trip.
Had a relatively good time on the cruise. Of course I would meet as usual my brown-eyed “Susan”. Anyway, her name was Anne Watsik and I expect to hear a good deal from her. Also met a Helen Korday who turned out to be a real fine girl – she was on the cruise boat taking a rest cure. Many other passengers were fine, especially the U. S. Naval group that was headed for Cartagena and Barranquilla, Colombia.
Stopped at the Dutch Island of Curacao and had a fairly good time but what a place. Many negroes, Englishmen, Arabians, Spaniards, etc. cluttered up the island. The houses were again the typical loud-colored painted type as at Aarangastaad, Aruba.
Arrived in La Guaira on the 10th of May and went through the customs. In the afternoon we left our luggage at the Hotel Miramar, Macuto and then proceeded to enjoy myself by an excursion trip to Caracas. Sure had an unhealthy ride with the taxi driver for he took no regard for caution or the dangerous and curvy hilly climb.
Left La Guaira on the Caripiteno on the 11 th and headed for Guanta, which I reached on the 12 th. Remained there overnight. Left Guanta on the 13 th and headed for Caripito, where we arrived at noon on Sunday the 14 th.