West Sea Company

Meet Us

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WEST SEA COMPANY has been serving the nautical antique needs of institutions and private collectors around the world for over three decades. Begun as a "Mom and Pop" operation in 1975, we still operate under the same ownership, and have continued at our present location for the past 28 years. Some of our more notable customers include the Kendall Whaling Museum, formerly located in Sharon, MA; the New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford, MA; the Mariners Museum, Newport News, VA; the San Diego Maritime Museum, San Diego, CA: the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC; the Philadelphia Maritime Museum, Philadelphia, PA; Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic, CT; the National Maritime Museum, San Francisco, CA; Disney Productions; America's Cup winner, Dennis Conner; the movie "TITANIC"; the movie "MASTER and COMMANDER"; the movie"PIRATES of the CARIBBEAN," actor Tommy Lee Jones; "America's Most Wanted" TV host John Walsh; and even pop singers stars Billy Joel and Elton John!


Background

The Early Years

With the end of the Vietnam war in 1975, the world saw the greatest number of aging, unfit merchant ships afloat at any time in history. The reasons were threefold. 1973 marked the passing of 30 years since the peak worldwide output of military equipment and ships during the Second World War. 30 years is the average life expectancy of a ship. Secondly, America's massive movement of material into Southeast Asia during the 60s and early 70s relied primarily on older subsidized chartered vessels, viewed as being expendable. The corrosive tropical climate coupled with neglect and lack of maintenance, hastened the demise of these old bottoms. Finally, technology of the 70s had rendered the labor-intensive steam plants of the World War II era obsolete. They were neither practical nor cost effective to run. This fact was exacerbated by the onset of the first OPEC oil embargo in 1973.

The result was a worldwide glut of vessels waiting to be salvaged. International salvaging ports took up the call: Bombay, Pusan, Hong Kong, Brownsville. But the grand daddy of them all was Kaohsiung, Taiwan, which in 1975 scrapped a record 700+ ocean-going vessels -- nearly 2 a day!


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Pier 17, Kaoshiung, Taiwan, March, 1975. American freighter, Kaohsiung Harbor, March 1975.


Fully 95% of a salvaged vessel's value is in its steel hull. But pre-1960 vessels contained wood, brass, and glass embodied in instruments, furniture, equipment, and objects d'art the likes of which no modern vessel will ever carry again. It was this mere 5% , the fascinating relics of the sea, that launched WEST SEA COMPANY.

It was a classic example of being in the right place at the right time. Two Naval officers met: one fresh from carrier combat air duty in "Nam" and the other heading the Military Sealift Command (the Navy's version of the "merchant marine") office in Kaohsiung. The result was the formation of White Star Recovery Co., Ltd. named in wistful homage to the greatest potential salvage opportunity of all time -- the RMS TITANIC

During the next 3 years, with the 2 principals still in the Navy, but devoting more and more of their time to the fledgling business, White Star grew. In 1978 there were two locations, Norfolk, Virginia and San Diego, California.

Before long it became apparent that our White Star had risen and the business was too big to be continued on a part time basis. Both officers resigned their commissions of 9 years and leapt headlong into the nautical antique business consolidated into a single headquarters in San Diego.

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"The Lot." Our outdoor salesroom, November 1978.

By the end of the year we were "on the street" selling nautical antiques displayed on and around an old 60 foot tuna boat propped up in a parking lot adjacent to the busiest intersection in the city. "The Lot" as it was fondly referred to, generated more response than ever dreamed possible. It prompted a second "Ugly Old Boats" location in the nearby town of El Cajon.

Maturing

We entered the 80's with a new name, West Sea Recovery Co., and a new permanent location in San Diego's Gaslamp District. In the next 10 years the business grew and ownership was consolidated to its present form. More and more our focus turned to buying and selling only museum-quality nautical items.

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Our San Diego Showroom (Updated July 2015)

Now

In late 1989 we moved to our present location at 2495 Congress Street, San Diego, California 92110 in San Diego's Historic Old Town district. In recognition of the fact we no longer dealt in ship's salvage, we dropped "Recovery" from our name. In 1999 we joined the Internet with this evolving website. Today, 18 years later, we remain WEST SEA COMPANY. Well into the new millennium we celebrate our fourth decade in this business!

The Future

With 39 years of experience and tens of thousands of sales, we've got it right. Our pledge is to continue providing YOU, our loyal customer, with the finest quality nautical antiques and art at the very best price anywhere in the world!! We realize the competition is only a mouse click away.

Smooth sailing.

 

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