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USS Zafiro at Cavite on 8 October 1903
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Class:        ZAFIRO
Design        Passenger & cargo, 1884
Displacement (tons):        1,062 gross, 1,200 displ.
Dimensions (feet):        220' oa, 213.7' pp x 31.8' x 14.5' mn
Original Armament:        None (1898)
Later armaments:        1-1pdr 1-37mm (1899);
2-37mm rev. (1900)
Complement:        45
Speed (kts.):        12.5
Propulsion (HP):        850
Machinery:        Compound surface-condensing, 1 screw

AF Name Acq. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
-- ZAFIRO 9 Apr 98 Hall Russell -- 16 Jan 84 10 Apr 98

AF Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
-- ZAFIRO 10 Jun 04 11 Jan 06 21 Oct 10 Sold --

Class Notes:
In January 1884 the shipyard of Hall Russell & Co. at Aberdeen, Scotland, launched the steel screw steamer ZAFIRO for the China and Manila Steamship Co., owned by the Hong Kong firm of Mussen & Co. She was flush decked and had a two-masted brigantine rig and one smokestack. The first steel steam vessel built at Aberdeen, she was specially designed for the trade between Amoy, Hong Kong, and Manila, being equipped with steam steering gear and the latest improvements for loading and discharging cargo. Accommodations was provided for 30 first-class and 300 second-class passengers or, according to another account, 30 first-class and 500 steerage passengers, the latter "needless to say" being mainly composed of Chinese. For the first-class passengers every comfort and convenience to be found in a good hotel was provided, including a gorgeous saloon aft and below deck, a smoking room, and separate cabins for the ladies and gentlemen. The gentlemen's cabins each had two beds, a folding couch, two cozy chairs, and ample arrangements for dressing. The steerage was "remarkable for the effectiveness with which the conditions of ventilation, coolness, commodiousness, comfort, and cleanliness" were ensured, and its range for cooking was also notable. The ship was also adapted for cargo carrying and was managed by Messrs. Russell & Co., Hong Kong.

On 26 Feb 1898 Rear Admiral George Dewey, who had recently taken command of the U.S. Naval Force on the Asiatic Station, received orders from the Navy Department to assemble his squadron at Hong Kong to prepare it for war with Spain. Anticipating the need to take coal and supplies with the fleet, Dewey purchased the collier NANSHAN at Hong Kong on 6 Apr 98 and the supply vessel ZAFIRO at Hong Kong from the China & Manila Steamship Co. on 11 Apr 98 (also reported as 9 Apr 98). Dewey left the vessels unarmed, retained their British crews on board, and placed on board each ship one U.S. Navy officer to coordinate actions at sea and a few sailors to handle signaling and fleet maneuvers. The commissioning date of 10 Apr 98 reported in Navy records for ZAFIRO may refer to the arrival of these personnel on board; otherwise the ship remained manned by foreign civilians. The two auxiliaries accompanied the fleet to Manila at the end of April and were the only support ships assigned to the Asiatic Station until BRUTUS arrived in company with the monitor MONTEREY on 4 Aug 98 and NERO arrived in company with the monitor MONADNOCK on 16 Aug 98.

In May 1898 Dewey had ZAFIRO cut the Manila telegraph cable after the Spanish authorities refused to share its use. During the battle for the city of Manila on 13 August 1898 ZAFIRO served as the flagship of General Merritt, then the commander of U.S. Army forces in the Philippines. She received two small guns from the cruiser BALTIMORE at Manila in June 1899. ZAFIRO continued to operate without Navy personnel assigned until 10 May 1900 when an ensign assumed command. The first logs for ZAFIRO now in the U.S. National Archives are dated 20 Sep 1900. The ship took part in the actions against the Filipino insurgency and in the campaigns against the Moro tribesmen. The Navy listed her as a supply ship between 1898 and 1902 and as a transport from 1903 to 1905. She was placed out of commission at Cavite on 10 Jun 04 (but logs also exist for May-June 1905) and was ordered to be sold and stricken on 11 Jan 06. On 10 May 07 a Presidential Executive Order directed the Secretary of the Navy to transfer ZAFIRO to the War Department for use as a cable store ship in the Quartermaster's Department. Another executive order dated 12 Jan 09 revoked this order and directed the Secretary of War to retransfer the vessel to the Navy.

In 1910 ZAFIRO was sold to J. W. Zeeve of Seattle, Washington for $10,000. Soon afterwards, on 20 Oct 10, Zeeve sold her to the Mexican Government, depositing in escrow a bill of sale made out to Mexican officials. In 1917 ZAFIRO reappears as the French-owned auxiliary power (primarily sailing) vessel BOWLER, which in that year was hauled on the ways of a British Columbia shipyard and sheathed with 3-inch wood planking over her entire hull. These modifications along with the entire rearrangement of her rigging so transformed her that her owner had difficulty getting a marine rating from Bureau Veritas or Lloyd's. Victoria parties proposed in late 1918 re-rigging her and turning her into a coastwise craft. By 1921 she had been renamed BELEN QUEZADA, and she was probably the ship of that name that on 20 Aug 19 became the first international ship enrolled in the Panamanian ship registry. She was then employed in running illegal alcohol between Canada and the United States during Prohibition. BELEN QUEZADA was deleted in 1931.

Ship Notes:
AF Name Notes
-- ZAFIRO Ex merc. ZAFIRO (completed 4 Mar 84). Sold to J. W. Zeeve 1910. Merc. ZAFIRO 1910, BOWLER 1917 (C. A. Godson), BELEN QUEZADA 1921. Deleted 1931.

Page Notes:
AF        1898
Compiled:        01 Jan 2013
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2013