In the days before the Gulf Clipper and the Flagship, there was the Japonica...a 98 ft. long vessel that docked at the end of the Pleasure Pier.
Built in 1906 in New Orleans, it was brought to Corpus Christi in 1911 by E. E. Jenkins and sold to Capt. Andy Anderson in 1913 for $3,000.
Andy’s brother, Ben, operated the ship as a passenger vessel between Corpus Christi, Ingleside, Port Aransas. It was a familiar sight on the bay from 1911 through the early 1930’s.
It was one of those ships that seemed to be indestructible.
In the Hurricane of 1916, the Japonica was partially sunk by the storm surge. But, it was quickly raised and put back into service after the storm.
It was badly damaged in the 1919 hurricane, being driven inland over 300 yards by the storm. It came to rest at the foot of the Bluff, directly below the home of W. W. Jones.
It was salvaged and repaired and continued to sail the Bay waters for another 15 years.
In the mid 1930’s, she was sold and was moved back to New Orleans, where she made runs up and down the Mississippi River.
In 1935, the Japonica was sunk in a river accident on the Mississippi. Once again, she was raised, repaired, and continued to sail the river.
Her end finally came in 1946 when she caught fire and burned to the waterline.
I, of course, am way to young to have ever seen the original Japonica. But, I certainly knew of the ship and its legacy in Corpus Christi.
In 2010, I was thrilled to see a new “Japonica” come to the city’s Bayfront.
It’s not an exact replica of the original ship….but, it’s close enough.
Docked beside Harrison’s Landing on the Peoples Street T-head, the new ship with the historic name once again sails the waters of Corpus Christi Bay, bringing joy to tourists and locals alike.