Of the thousands of vessels that have called British Columbia a home port the Casco had one of the most exotic backgrounds of any of them. Maritime heritage knows no boundaries and this story ties in themes from California, the South Seas, Alaska and Siberia.
The Casco was a fore–and–aft teak–hulled schooner (90’ x 25’ x 12’) built c1878 in California as a yacht for Dr. Samuel Merritt of Oakland CA. She was opulently fitted out and "The Turner Model" sail plan using Bermuda–rig sails without a gaff made it easier to bring down sails during sudden Pacific squalls.
Dr. Merritt (1822–1890) was a San Francisco physician and the 13th Mayor of Oakland, California from 1867–69. Originally from Maine (Casco Bay is in Maine), when he moved to California he bought land in what is now the city of Oakland in 1852 and moved there in 1863. As a young physician in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Merritt attracted the attention of Daniel Webster when he successfully performed a difficult operation on Webster’s neighbor. Webster encouraged him (like Horace Greeley) to come to California, saying, "Go out there, young man. Go out there and behave yourself, and free as you are from family cares, you will never regret it." Merritt bought a ship, loaded it with general cargo, and set sail from New York for California at the end of November in 1849.