"The cure for anything is salt water––sweat, tears, or the sea."
Isak Dinesen


About Us

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San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 400, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

28 September 2016



Cracking out the canvas, preparing to unfurl–– the 
Japanese sailors handled the sails departing San Francisco. 
The STAR OF ZEALANDknown in the PNW
when she was part of the salmon fishing industry,
headed for the scrap metal pile in Japan.
Original Acme photo with back-date stamp of Aug. 1935,
from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"1900: A four-masted all-steel bark, originally named the ASTRAL, was built for the Standard Oil Co by Arthur Sewall & Co. at Bath, Maine, for carrying case oil and general cargo. Her overall length: 349.6' x 45.4' x 26' with a gross tons register of 3,292. The vessel had a sloping stem, rather sharp; the jib boom appeared low, and her sides were straight with very little sheer; large chart house and wheel house aft and a rounded stern. Main deck had 8,735 sq ft of clear space with four cargo hatches.
from SHIPS, by Wilfred S. Stephenson with his text below.
1908: On 5 October, while known as the bark ASTRAL, the vessel was caught in a hurricane off the Bermudas, and was hove down to her hatches, flooding deck houses and cabin. Her lower topsails, fore, main, and mizzen topgallant masts and royal yards were carried away. All furled sails were blown from their gaskets, and she was twelve hours on her beam ends when the cargo shifted. Ten days later, on 15 October, she arrived back in New York harbor. 

1910: While on a passage from New York to San Fran, she lost her three topgallant masts off Cape Horn in a gale of wind.
           This year the vessel was purchased by Alaska Packers Assoc from the Standard Oil Co, for the salmon trade to Alaska and renamed STAR OF ZEALAND.
Leaving the fishing grounds of Alaska.

Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
1911: While on a passage from San Fran to Ladysmith, BC, for a cargo, a storm carried away fore and mizzen topgallant masts. Upon her return to San Fran, her fore and mizzen topgallant masts were replaced with stump masts and the mizzen-royal was cut down.

1934: On 7 November, the STAR OF ZEALAND was sold to the Trans-Pacific Commercial Co of Los Angeles, CA, for Japanese interests, who in August 1935, sailed her to Japan to be scrapped. [photo on top.]"
Words from; Ships, A Collection of Marine Illustrations. Stephenson, W.S.,USN. Ben Kreis Agency, Vancouver, WA. 1947. Saltwater People library.

21 September 2016


Schooner VIGILANT headed out.
She carried millions of feet of lumber from 
Bellingham, WA to Hawaii.

Click to enlarge.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

Alace A. Clift (L) and Ferle M. Rogers,
of Bellingham, WA. Dated 23 June 1932.
Down the west coast at the port of San Francisco, CA.

Photo by Acme Newspictures, Inc. from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
Alace A. Clift (L) and Ferle M. Rogers, Bellingham, WA., decided their most exciting vacation would be to journey to Honolulu on the lumber laden, five-masted schooner VIGILANT. She was one of the few sailing vessels still in active service. The gals were refused bookings as passengers––but before the vessel cleared, the two signed on as stewardess and supercargo before sailing down the coast and across the broad Pacific.
      Capt. Ralph Peasley and Capt. Charles A. Mellberg were two of the most famous in 
command of the VIGILANT. 

19 September 2016


ON 126766
128' x 19.5' x 6'
Original photo rom the archives of the S.P.H.S©
"The sternwheeler CITY OF ABERDEEN was built in 1911 on Grays Harbor, the same year she was sent to Puget Sound to operate on the Seattle-Olympia route for S. Wiley Navigation Co.
      She was commanded by a colorful character known as 'Hell-Roarin'Jack.' This steamer was noted for impromptu races, during which, anything flammable in the cargo was apt to be used for fuel. She once consumed several cases of choice bacon in a tussle with the GREYHOUND. As a result, she was almost worn out by 1907, but was completely rebuilt, given even more powerful engines and renamed VASHON."
"Under her new name the VASHON ran between Seattle
and Bremerton in the excursion trade and on summer
runs to a resort at Useless Bay, Whidbey Island."

Above notes from Pacific Steamboats. Newell and Williamson. Bonanza Books.
A Saltwater People post about one of the CITY OF ABERDEEN races can be viewed here

1911: "On 28 November a fire, presumably caused by spontaneous combustion, totally destroyed the steamer VASHON in Guemes Channel. The vessel owned by Mackie Bros who used the vessel in connection with their Whidbey Island resort. The occasional visitor to this port [Friday Harbor] was a total loss. Captain Robert Fredericks and the crew barely escaped.
      V. Widup, one of the firemen, was the only member of the crew to suffer from the flames. Widup was sleeping when the fire started. When making the rounds of his men to see if they were all safe, he was found still in his bed. He was assisted to the dock where he recovered.
      The VASHON had just arrived in Anacortes from Seattle, and was tied up to the Great Northern dock when the fire started. The VASHON was one of the oldest steamers on Puget Sound. Recently she has been on the Seattle-LaConner route, and also made trips to the San Juan islands. On this trip she was serving the Island Belt Co to load salmon canned at Lummi Island. She was 342 tons, valued at $20,000, with $5,000 insurance."
Above fire report from the San Juan Islander, 1 December 1911, submitted to the archives by Richard Schneider from Orcas Island, WA.

12 September 2016

❖ MOSQUITO FLEET MONDAY ❖ the VIRGINIA V, Our Sole Surviving Steam Mosquito

Built by Matt Anderson at Maplewod, Kitsap Peninsula, WA.
On her first trip to Seattle, Summer 1922.
From a litho postcard from the Clinton H. Betz ship collection
Archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"During the half century between Washington's statehood and WW II, very few towns along Puget Sound were served by highways or railroads. The few roads that did exist were usually dirt, that meant that at least half of the time they were not much more than parallel mud puddles. Thus, the inland sea literally swarmed with boats that hauled passengers, mail, and cargo. So many boats of all descriptions littered the waterways that people said they grew like mosquitoes on a pond, and those boats became known as the Mosquito Fleet.
      The VIRGINIA V (say 'five,' not 'Vee,') is the last steamer of this large fleet and is still going strong. As her number indicates, the VIRGINIA V was the fifth (and final) boat named VIRGINIA that the West Pass Transportation Co built. (The boats were named after Virginia Merrill, daughter of a local timber baron.) The company, owned by Nels G. Christensen and his sons Nels C., Vern, and Andrew, was headquartered at Lisabeula on the west side of Vashon Island. Their boats operated the 13-stop run between Seattle and Tacoma along he Kitsap side of Puget Sound, through Colvos Passage (or West Pass) between Vashon Island and the mainland. Only two of the towns from that era remain somewhat intact, Olalla and Fragaria.
A chart given out with a ticket to the 50th celebration 
of Steamer VIRGINIA V in 1972.
Click to enlarge.
      The VIRGINIA V was built in the winter of 1921-22 at Matt Anderson's boatyard at the now-extinct town of Maplewood on the Kitsap mainland near Olalla. No plans were drawn; Christensen told Anderson to follow the designs of two previous boats he had built, so they copied the superstructure of VASHON II and the hull of VIRGINIA III. When she was launched, the VIRGINIA V was christened with a bottle of water from Lisabeula Creek. One of her duties was hauling Camp Fire Girls to their camp on Vashon Island, a charter the boat continued to run for several decades.
      A former crew member of the boat, Gordon Grant, once described a typical day aboard the boat as beginning at 7:00 AM, when the VIRGINIA V departed from Tacoma for Seattle. She arrived in Seattle at about 9:45 AM after making several stops along West Pass. Not all 13 stops were made each trip––only those that had a flag out. At about 11:00 AM, she left Seattle for Tacoma and sailed nonstop through the East Pass to arrive at Tacoma at about 1:15 PM. She left Tacoma again at 2:00 PM, arrived in Seattle at about 4:15 PM and left for the last trip of the day to Tacoma at 5:00 PM. She logged about 46,000 miles a year until 1939.
      In 1940 and 1941, she was a troop ship, transporting men from the 248th Coast Artillery between forts Worden, Casey, and Flagler in Puget Sound.
      Her career faltered during the rest of the war. She was taken to the Columbia River to run between Astoria and Portland, OR. The owners went broke, and she was sold by the US Marshal. New owners brought her back to Puget sound and began the West Pass run again. But after the war, business declined, and like the entire Mosquito Fleet, the VIRGINIA V was relegated to the transportation backwaters when the State of Washington decided in 1950 to invest in its own ferry fleet as an extension of the State highway system. She was used almost exclusively for excursions during the next three decades.
      During this time, she went through a succession of owners until the VIRGINIA V Foundation, formed in 1976, bought her in 1979 with state and federal grants and matching funds from supporters.
      Today the boat continues to be chartered to private parties, carrying up to 328 passengers. She is operated in much the same manner as she was during her heyday on the Sound because grandfather clauses waive many Coast Guard regulations that apply to new boats––provided the VIRGINIA V is in good working condition."
From Workboats by Archie Satterfield and Walt Crowley. Sasquatch Books. 1992.

When you are a beautiful classic with stories to tell, you get lots of press. Here is another Saltwater People post about the VIRGINIA V by Ken Martin for the Bremerton Sun in 1972.
A VIRGINIA V compass story by Keith Sternberg can be viewed here

06 September 2016


Port Townsend, WA.

"In that nebulous period referred to by tow boat men as 'Now when I was in the ––,' there was a small tow boat leaving Pt. Townsend for Pt. Angeles with an oil barge. She had laid in, waiting for the ebb and the westerly to go down and, as it happens, favorable tides occur at midnight, just as the mate goes on watch.
      In short order she was underway, the towline was out and things were made shipshape.
      The skipper took her clear of Point Wilson, dusting the compass at intervals to clear the dust and fog from its surface. After 4 hours in Pt. Townsend things get a little hazy sometimes. The skipper turned to the mate with a smile. 'Do you know your way? When were you here last?'
      The mate said, 'Oh I s'pose so but it's been about 5 years ago.'
      'Well then I'll give you all the dope. Do you see that flashing light off the Port? That must be a new light on Middle Pt. buoy. Things look sort of fuzzy out so I don't think we can see Dungeness Light. The course is West 1/2 North or West by North or something,––I ain't sure. Oh Hell, that beer makes me sleepy. See you in the morning.'
      The mate settled down to work. He decided the flashing light was Dungeness after all so with a new course laid out he spent the next 6 hours steering, oiling valves, fixing the bilge pump, drinking coffee and thinking what a stinker the Old Man was. He could have brought back at least one beer.
      The watch passed smoothly and just off Ediz Hook, he took in most of the tow line so they would have time to pump enough air to juggle with in the harbor. A few minutes later as the mate was going down to get the Old Man out of the sack, dark thoughts crossed his mind. In fact they grew darker with each step.
      He shook the skipper awake and said, 'Hey Cap, this place don't look quite right.'
      The Old Man muttered, 'S'matter?'
      'Well, when you come into the harbor, is there a stone breakwater on the starboard side?' The Old Man, still in a big fog, just grunted so the mate added, 'It looks like a Blackball dock on the port side, and the C.P.R. dock on the starboard. Up ahead there's a big bulkhead with a big gray building that looks like a hotel and besides there's streetcars running in front of it. Do they have streetcars in Pt. Angeles? I haven't been here for 15 years but it don't look quite right somehow.'
      The skipper, becoming more awake as he listened to the mate's story, began to get a wild look in his eyes and growled, 'what did you say? Tell me that again.'
      The mate willingly complied but before he could finish the Old Man staggered to his feet and yelled 'C.P.R! Hotel! Breakwater! Streetcars! Oh my God! We're in Victoria and we didn't clear customs. What course did I give you?' With a leap he made for the wheel house.
      When the mate got topside the skipper was leaning on the wheel staring from side to side and rubbing his eyes. Then it dawned on him that he was safe in Pt. Angeles and not Victoria. He rested his head on the control stand, heaved a great sigh and moaned, 'Don't ever do that to me again––I couldn't stand it.
      And now, children, this nasty old skipper became a nice skipper and was always good to his mates ever after. Except that he had a deckhand named Boliver, but that's another story."
Source of text: Victoria Episode by Capt. H.M. Pixley. Piling Busters, Stories of Towboating by Towboat Men. Mitchell Publication, Inc. Seattle. 1951. 
In a later post for the lighter side of the marine world, we will share the background of the Piling Busters Association as written by historian Gordon Newell.

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