The scow Schooner was a unique type of working sailing craft developed to transport cargo around San Francisco Bay and its tributaries. These thoroughly effective and practical vessels combined a variety of desirable qualities: they navigated shallow rivers, were easy to work, handled well under different conditions, and maneuvered well in close quarters. GAS LIGHT is fashioned after the famous San Francisco hay scows that plied the bay during the nineteenth century, until the advent of the internal combustion engine.

The original GAS LIGHT was built in the 1870's. More than a century later, in 1991, the new GAS LIGHT was launched. Billy Martinelli, previous owner and primary craftsman, conceived and built the new Schooner GAS LIGHT as a window on the proud heritage of the original working scows.

For a more in-depth history of San Francisco scow Schooners, click the links below:

GAS LIGHT is the result of one man’s labor and passion, Billy Martinelli.  In 1989 this native of San Francisco with over 30 years of maritime experience decided it was time to build a boat that spoke to the traditions and conditions of the San Francisco waterways.  He had spent many years serving as crew and shipwright on wooden schooners so it was natural that when it was time to build his own boat, he chose to build a schooner (a two-masted sailboat with the mainmast taller than the foremast).  His decision to build a scow schooner was the result of research and a desire to build a boat of exceptional stability and comfort.  A scow’s hull is flat-bottomed and rather square which means it is efficient to build and offers a maximum amount of deck and below-deck space.  It also means that it can float in only 3’ 4” of water!   With the help of his mentors, Harold Sommers and Karl Kortum (co-founder of the SF Maritime Museum), Billy zeroed in on the design of the original 1874 Gas Light.  He decided to build the hull out of steel (16 tons of steel went into the construction) and consulted a well-known naval architect for structural plans.  In 1990 he began work on the modern day Gas Light on a 60 foot lot at the foot of Locust Street on Sausalito’s waterfront.  In 1991 he launched the bare hull into the Bay.  Nine years later Gas Light was completed and certified by the US Coast Guard to carry up to 49 passengers.

Boat Specification

Every element of the boat, the engine, ship’s wheel and steering harp, capstan and rig has a story, for instance, in 1995 the two masts were Douglas fir trees growing on the north side of a mountain owned by a friend of Billy’s in Humboldt County, California. Billy researched the proper way to choose and cut trees for masts, and with the help of a couple of friends, he found and cut down the trees now standing as masts on the schooner GAS LIGHT. The growth rings indicate that the mainmast tree was 100 years old and the foremast tree, 98 years old. They were cut in the winter when the sap was down, stripped of their bark, and towed to Sausalito using an ingenious trailer rig. Billy then shaped the masts and dried them for two years, rotating and saturating them repeatedly with a linseed oil mixture.

Sailing on the GAS LIGHT offers a rare glimpse into the life of the Bay Area before the age of highways and bridges.

GAS LIGHT features a 18' by 30' wide-open cabin below decks with a 12' long mahogany salon table and plenty of cushioned seating. Because of her flat-bottomed hull design she sails very flat and stable, making food and beverage service unusually easy and comfortable. GAS LIGHT is now available for birthday parties, weddings, memorials, corporate tembuilding and special events. We also provide knowledgeable local guides for historical, ecological or educational tours of the Bay.

  • Overall length 72'
  • Length on deck 50'
  • Beam 19'
  • Draft with centerboard up 3'4"
  • Draft with centerboard down 7'4"
  • Height of mainmast above waterline 68'
  • Square footage of sail: 1991 sq ft
  • Engine: Detroit Diesel 671
  • Hull: steel
  • Masts: Douglas Fir cut from Humboldt County
  • Cabin tops and interior: Fir and Cedar
  • Rig: Gaff Schooner