History of the Seacliff Beach Cement Ship

One of the most remarkable landmarks along the Santa Cruz coastline is the S. S. Palo Alto, more traditionally known as the old “cement ship”. Lodged at the end of the Seacliff State Beach fishing pier in Aptos, the ship remains a nostalgic symbol of local life and activities from the past.

Long before the waves and winter storms cracked the hull and sunk the ship into the sand, the S. S. Palo Alto was a 435-foot long, 7,500-ton oil tanker built for use during World War I. When the U.S. government commissioned new ships to replace those destroyed by German submarines, the U.S. Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation built ships from reinforced concrete, using technology developed by a Norwegian civil engineer, Nicolay Knudtzon Fougner, and his brother Hermann.

In 1919, the Palo Alto was constructed along with a sister ship, the Peralta, at the U.S. Naval Shipyard in Oakland, by the San Francisco Shipbuilding Company. The cement used for building the ship’s thin concrete hull came from Davenport, and it is thought that some of the brick used in place of gravel to lighten the weight was rubble from the San Francisco earthquake. The ship was equipped with a 2,800 horsepower steam engine, a bronze propeller, white Norwegian ash decks, and 14 compartments to hold 3 million gallons of oil.

The war ended before the Palo Alto was completed, so it was sailed from the shipyard in Oakland to be anchored at Pier 33 in San Francisco in January, 1921. Concrete ships were not popular post-war, so the Palo Alto was eventually stripped of her engine and propeller, and sold to the Seacliff Amusement Corporation in 1929. In 1930, the ship was towed to Seacliff Beach by a Red Stack tugboat, where it was beached to be refitted as a pleasure ship, and the 630 ft. fishing pier was built to connect with the ship’s stern.

S. S. Palto AltoThe Palo Alto’s renovations included a 54 by 154 ft. dance floor, a 54 ft. heated swimming pool, a café, and carnival type concessions. In the summer of 1930, 3,000 people attended the opening of the ship’s Rainbow Ballroom, which featured famous big bands like Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey. The ship was also a hotspot for games of chance. There were slot machines and bingo on the deck, and it’s rumored, gambling below it. As legend has it, during the Prohibition the surrounding beach was also a notorious hotspot for deliveries of illegal liquor.

Bow section of cement ship, circa 1940's.

Bow section of cement ship, circa 1940’s.

After two summer seasons the owners went broke. In the following winter of 1932, the Seacliff Amusement Corporation went bankrupt and a storm cracked the ship’s hull in the middle. The ship was stripped of its valuables, and in 1936, was sold to the state for one dollar. Originally, the ship’s estimated cost was $1.5 million.

In 2001, public access onto the S. S. Palo Alto was permanently closed. Battered by the storms of 2016-17, the stern upended, endangering the structure of the pier and leading to its indefinite closure. Despite its inevitable decline, the iconic cement ship still holds historical and sentimental value for locals and has created a sanctuary for sealife and sandbar for surfers. Only time and the elements will tell how long this unique nautical relic will remain above water.

Find out more about the cement ship at the Aptos History Museum and Seacliff State Beach Visitors Center.

Photos courtesy of John Hibble, Director of the Aptos Chamber of Commerce and Aptos Museum.

, , , , ,

13 Responses to History of the Seacliff Beach Cement Ship

  1. David McKinnon February 5, 2018 at 12:50 pm #

    nice to meet you Fleur.

  2. Jody February 18, 2018 at 3:31 pm #

    Thanks for expanding the history of this remarkable landmark!

  3. Glen p September 1, 2018 at 6:53 pm #

    I remember fishing off that boat in the mid-late 70s! Sad to see its condition today!

  4. Mike Hagmaier September 3, 2018 at 6:04 pm #

    I remember walking out on the deck with my Dad back in the late 70s when we stayed at a beach rental during the summer. Brought back a lot of great memories even though it looks so different now!
    Thanks for the great historical summary!

  5. jakob knuth September 24, 2018 at 1:37 am #

    I lived in Santa Cruz for abought 12 years and I am only 16 my parents had lived in Santa Cruz for almost 20 years. I remember hearing this story as a young boy and it is sad to see it go the history is so great even tho I didn’t walk out on the ship ever I do remember kids from the jr.gards going and jumping off the pear and swimming around it

  6. Tony Ferraro February 2, 2019 at 8:27 am #

    I caught my first fish off the end of the ship when I was 6 years old a link cod that was bigger than me
    Our family and friends spent many a weekend fishing off the Cement Boat
    Sure do miss those days

  7. David Surratt May 1, 2019 at 10:08 am #

    We spent many a summer at Seacliff and would go onto the boat in the Sixties. My grand father would go crabbing in the 30’s and 40’s. Sorry to see it’s condition now.

  8. BestCaitlyn July 21, 2019 at 11:46 am #

    I have noticed you don’t monetize localsantacruz.com, don’t waste your traffic, you can earn extra bucks every month with new monetization method.
    This is the best adsense alternative for any type of website (they approve all websites), for more info simply search in gooogle: murgrabia’s tools

  9. Tina February 11, 2020 at 4:35 pm #

    Used to go there a lot with my aunt and her sister, who lived nearby. I have fond memories of the cement ship. Sad to see the state its in

  10. sbobet June 3, 2020 at 12:01 am #

    Thanks for finally writing about >History of the Seacliff Beach Cement Ship | Local
    Santa Cruz <Liked it!

  11. situs casino online June 4, 2020 at 12:32 am #

    Fabulous, what a web site it is! This blog gives valuable data to us, keep it up.

  12. Danae June 7, 2020 at 11:59 am #

    For those of you who like to perform gambling of course, if you are looking for partners
    inside gambling activities, Mabosbet is usually the right choice.
    Mabosbetransfer You can contact our own customer care
    and make transactions with us. Mabosbet livechat is available 24 several hours nonstop and is prepared to serve you
    that help you online with betting.

    Mabosbet. com as the responsible gambling agent, we all
    always provide an alternative link to mabosbet to ensure that members feel comfortable.

    You no longer need to have trouble obtaining an alternate
    Jababbet link with regard to access, it is previously available
    for you.

    We also always give priority to the safety associated with
    our members, very strict protecting each of the privacy of members of Jababbet.

    Trustworthy Mabosbet From 2010

    Along with good praise, the service from the Headquarters is no doubt.
    Friendly, quick response, under 3 minutes.

    Mabosbet is highly valued by gambling bettors through Indonesia because
    whatever success you get will be recognized by mabosvip.
    We constantly want to provide the particular perfect
    for members with highest service. The site mabosmail. com is additionally very straightforward to access,
    since you only require internet access and option links
    mabosvip, no need to use proxies, newsletters, or troublesome applications.

    Of which is why many individuals join mabosbola and make deposits,
    then, win the match. The best plus quality alternative mabosbola option site.

    Come join mabosbet. com the trusted on the internet gambling
    agent in Philippines. Contact livechat mabosbet today in the lower correct corner
    to get a user ID. Welcome in order to the club.

    MABOSBET is a Trusted Online Gambling Site that has recently been established
    for more than 9 years with the greatest amount of
    online betting players. This gambling site also provides
    the most satisfactory online gambling game along with the most popular gambling providers in Indonesia.
    On the internet Gambling Games that can be played at MABOSBET are Sportsbook
    Soccer Gambling, Live Casino, Online Poker Card
    Gambling, Online Slot Wagering and Online
    Togel. Mabosbet itself has provided many different excellent facilities for internet gambling
    players in Indonesia ranging from 24-hour Live Chat Help,
    Bonuses with the least difficult conditions, additional wins regarding True Gambling Players.

    This specific MABOSBET Gambling Site also proves to become
    very trustworthy, while this Gambling Site can also pay for any winning
    player with no deductions. So you may play gambling comfortably plus safely without anxiety about paying.
    In addition to a new definite win at MABOSBET, you will also offer additional bonuses to offer a different experience actively
    playing online gambling.

    Online Soccer Gambling has become a really popular
    online gambling game within Indonesia where every online game has a market for
    betting. MABOSBET is becoming a good official partner of BOLA
    TANGKAS Indonesia, where more than a decade has provided football gambling games for
    betting players in Indonesia. This specific SBOBET Soccer Gambling Market allows a reasonable where gamers will actually be provided with the live market through the
    established match directly. So you will be very lucky to be
    able to play SBOBET in this MABOSBET.

    Online slot gambling is usually currently popular in Dalam negri,
    where online slots are extremely rewarding with huge jackpots and freespins
    that are straightforward to win. Because associated with that
    this MABOSBET very first provided Online Slot Games from 2012 for betting players in Indonesia.
    Where Jackpot is provided more than USD $ just one, 000, 000 for slot machine players who register in MABOSBET.
    The Slot Game machine at MABOSBET does not just use your Stability, the Slot Game has been designed
    with the FREESPIN Bonus that comes out there more often, so an individual
    will probably be Fortunately.

  13. sbobet June 12, 2020 at 1:30 am #

    Sbobet is a trusted gambling site that operates to bolster all fans of online gambling in the
    world. Founded in 2010, it didn’t acknowledge long for Sbobet to become
    the biggest online site in Asia and later than it comes to the amount of betting keep that rotates all week, Sbobet is
    with one of the biggest sites in the world.

    Sbobet is agreed popular, especially in the middle of Asian bettors,
    the explanation is that the site has been awarded as the best gambling operator for
    two years in a row. It offers a variant of football betting as soon as certainly low
    margins later compared to further sites in its class.

Leave a Reply