In 1850, the first steamship line between San Francisco and San Diego was established, touching at San Pedro, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Monterey. The first line was owned by a San Franciscan named Wright. In 1856 he transferred it to the California Steam Navigation Company, and they soon sold to the Pacific Coast Steamship Company. The first steamers were the Ohio, Goliah, and Fremont, while the Southerner, Senator, and Thomas Hunt also ran at times. In later years the Ancon and Orizaba were the regular coastwise steamers. They were all side-wheelers of small tonnage. As they approached the wharf at San Diego, it was the custom to fire a cannon-shot from the bow, to give notice of their arrival.
The first steamers were the Ohio, Goliah, and Fremont, while the Southerner, Senator, and Thomas Hunt also ran at times. In later years the Ancon and Orizaba were the regular coastwise steamers. They were all side-wheelers of small tonnage. As they approached the wharf at San Diego, it was the custom to fire a cannon-shot from the bow, to give notice of their arrival.
The Pacific Mail Steamship Company's steamers from Panama also called in San Diego twice a month. Among those calling in 1851 were the Northerner, Tennessee, and Antelope.
Under American rule, the coastal trade up and down the West Coast of the United States opened quickly. In the Herald, May 29, 1851, the marine list for ten days shows eleven vessels of all classes arrived and ten cleared, and the following week four arrived and three cleared.
In December of 1852, traffic was so brisk that the steamer Sea Bird was chartered from the Pacific Mail Company and put on the route between San Diego and San Francisco by Captain Haley. In 1857 two packets ran regularly to the Sandwich Islands. The fare for passengers was $80, and the trip was made in about twelve days.
The first boat of American build regularly used on San Diego Bay is believed to have been the one brought to San Diego in 1850 by Lieutenant Cave J. Couts. It was built for the use of the boundary survey expedition under Lieutenant A. W. Whipple, and first launched in Lake Michigan. This boat was 16 feet long and 5 feet 6 inches wide. It was equipped with wheels on which it traveled overland, and was used for crossing rivers on the way. At Camp Calhoun, on the California side of the Colorado River, late in the year of 1849, Couts purchased this boat and used it for a ferry. On his return to San Diego, he brought it with him and used it to navigate the waters of San Diego Bay.
On August 13, 1857, the schooner Loma, the first vessel ever built on the San Diego Bay, was launched. She was built at the shipyard of Captain James Keating, and was christened, as the Herald informs us, "in due and ancient form."
Pacific waters along North and South America are littered with ships that wrecked in the dense fogs off of the coastline. The steamship Golden Gate, Captain Isham, wrecked in January, 1854. This steamer came up from Panama with a large number of passengers. She broke a shaft, below San Diego, and came in with only one wheel working, arriving on Wednesday the 18th. Her provisions were nearly exhausted and the passengers very hungry. After securing supplies, she put to sea again on the evening of the same day, in a storm. Her engine gave out, and, in spite of attempts to anchor, she was driven ashore on Zuñinga shoal.