"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.

04 February 2016

❖ BAILEY GATZERT, Once Queen of the Sound

ON 3488

Williamson Collection
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
"A dingy storeroom float rode at moorings at the plant of the Lake Union Dry Dock & Machine Works. Fishermen climbed aboard to store gear in rows of lockers. The long, narrow frame structure was spacious and conveniently near a score or more of trim schooners repairing, over-hauling or tied up to wait the opening of the 1940 halibut fishing season. Few of the fishermen or busy shipyard employees gave a thought to the fact that beneath the dingy storeroom was the hull of the swift stern-wheeler BAILEY GATZERT, that made steamboat history on Puget Sound and the Columbia River.
      There was a fascination in the name "BAILEY GATZERT" to old-timers on the waterfronts of Puget Sound. There was an air of grandeur about the famed vessel. She was a floating palace in her day. The BAILEY GATZERT met the fate of all ships a number of years ago, but her memory still lives––on Puget Sound and the Columbia River.
     The famed stern-wheeler's nameplate, a weather-beaten piece of timber, has adorned a wall in the offices of the The Marine Digest in the Canadian National Terminal on the Seattle waterfront ever since she reached the end of her career. Jackson B. Corbet, editor and publisher says it is not unusual for some stranger to come into his office and ask for the privilege of sitting down and gazing at the plate with affection and reverence. 'They come from all over––the Columbia River, San Francisco and Los Angeles,' Corbet said.
      On Puget Sound, the BAILEY GATZERT is remembered chiefly for her great record in the Seattle-Tacoma and Seattle-Bremerton routes, but she also operated between Seattle and Olympia, plying in this service more than a year in the early part of her career.
      With her wheel, twenty-two feet in diameter, churning the waters of the sound, the BAILEY GATZERT defeated the swift sternwheeler GREYHOUND in an exciting race. Later she left the sidewheeler T.J. POTTER astern in one of the most furious races in the history of the Sound.
ON 3488
177.3' x 32.3' x 8'
Williamson Collection.
Original photo from the S.P.H.S.©
      Launched broadside in Ballard in the fall of 1890, the BAILEY GATZERT moved away under her own steam. The launching party which made the journey from Seattle to Ballard by train, was carried by the new vessel on an excursion cruise to Tacoma and return. The vessel was built by the John Holland yard for the Seattle Steam Navigation Co. Her first service was in the Seattle-Tacoma route.
      In 1891 her original owners sold the BAILEY to the Columbia River & Puget Sound Navigation Co, which immediately transferred her to the Seattle-Olympia route. In 1892, the vessel went to the Columbia River. The BAILEY GATZERT's career on the Columbia and her subsequent return to Puget Sound to become one of the queens  of the inland sea is an interesting chapter in the history of navigation in this region.
      The BAILEY GATZERT was the finest vessel of her day plying inland waters. Her interior decorations were carried out under the direction of an English artist named Harnett. The panels in her engine room were the work of Capt. Howard Pemfield, who was first to hold the position of mate in the vessel. The GATZERTS's first master was Capt. George I. Hill, who had as his engineer, Charles Follett.
      Skippers of the BAILEY GATZERT included Capt. Harry Anderson, now port captain of the Puget Sound Navigation Co; Capt. Gilbert Parker, who took the GATZERT to the Columbia River in 1892, and Capt. R. B. Holbrook, who brought the vessel to Seattle in 1918 after she had been sold by The Dalles, Portland & Astoria Navigation Co to the Navy Yard Route.
      In the spring of 1920, the BAILEY GATZERT became the first automobile ferry between Seattle and Bremerton. The vessel was named for Bailey Gatzert, one of Seattle's most widely known pioneers, who came to this city in 1869. He was a member of the City Council in 1872 and 1877 and was elected mayor in 1875.
      Bailey Gatzert helped to organize the Seattle Drydock & Shipbuilding Co and was its first president. He died 19 April 1893 and as a tribute to a life rich in ability, enterprise and charity, one of Puget Sound's most remarkable steamboats was named in his honor."
Unidentified publisher. 
Below notes from H.W. McCurdy's Marine History of the PNW. Newell, Gordon. (1966)
The BAILEY GATZERT was extremely popular during the Lewis & Clark Exposition of this year and a popular song, the Bailey Gatzert March was published. 
She was reconstructed with heavier hull & engines. 
Her whistle, one of the most melodious among the Northwest steamboats, and her ornate name board are preserved by Seattle's Museum of History and Industry on South Lake Union.

01 February 2016


Undated, original photo collected by J. Williamson,

photographer unknown.
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"While hijacking an ocean liner is theoretically more practicable than trying to divert a passenger train from its ordained course, it poses many problems. Several thousand tons of very solid steel make a much less vulnerable target for gun or bomb than does or a thin-skinned airliner, and there is a crew of from fifty to several hundred widely dispersed and horny-fisted seamen and engineers to contend with. For these and other reasons, hijackings were rare on the coastwise sea lanes. The few which were attempted were not successful.
      Some were farcial from beginning to end. Back in 1903 the old Pacific Coast Steamship liner, UMATILLA, set out from Seattle on her regular run to San Francisco. Along the way a passenger, either mentally deranged or overcome by the liberal service of the UMATILLA's bar, became convinced that he was the ship's captain and the only man aboard who could save her from disaster.
      Mounting to the bridge, he began issuing orders to the crew, much to the amazement of Capt. Louis Nopander, the steamer's veteran skipper. Finding the uninvited guest to be harmless, Capt. Nopander decided to humor him. The self-appointed navigator remained on the bridge all the way down the coast, periodically bellowing orders that he felt essential to the safety of the ship. The crew responded politely with "Aye, aye, sirs" and went on about their business.
       At San Francisco the deluded passenger politely turned the bridge back over to Capt. Nopander before being escorted ashore by several men in white coats."
Above text from the Sea Rogues' Gallery. Newell, Gordon. Superior Publishing Co. 1971.
1918, 5 March
One of the best known of the Pacific coastwise fleet and the survivor of many a stranding during her years of service, finally became an apparent total loss in the offshore service of Admiral Oriental Line. The UMATILLA, the old iron steamship, stranded off the coast of Japan this day. All of the 55 persons aboard were removed safely, but the veteran steamship, built in 1881, was considered to be a hopeless wreck and was abandoned. In subsequent months a sandbar gradually built up between the wreck and the shore and the Japanese took advantage of this development to dismantle the UMATILLA plate by plate. They later reassembled the vessel from plans obtained from the original builders, and this remarkable and virtually indestructible craft was subsequently operated for many years as a Japanese steamship.  
The H.W. McCurdy Marine History of the PNW. Newell, Gordon. Seattle. (1966)    

29 January 2016

❖ FREIGHT JITNEY going down ❖

ON 167601
Built Tacoma in 1919.
896 G.t. / 896 N.t.
130.9' x 35.2' x 9.3'
Back stamped date of May 1938.
Documented until 1946.
All that was visible of the barge JITNEY of Anacortes, WA after she sank in Elliott Bay, Seattle. She was loaded with 35,000 cases of empty cans, consigned to a floating cannery. She had just undergone repairs at Tacoma.

23 January 2016

❖ CHIEF ENGINEER without an engine

Schooner AZALEA
ON 106787
Built 1890, Fairhaven, CA.
344 G.t. 327 N.t. 
150' x 35' x 11'
Face of photo inscribed, "late teens or early 1920s."
Photo donated by Miles McCoy of Orcas Island.
This photo hung in the office of Rich Exton for many years.
Thank you Miles.
"About 1914, the AZALEA went into the Bering Sea long line cod fishing. I heard she carried 24 dories for Robinson Fisheries of Anacortes. About 1920, Robinson remodeled her, put a full deck house on and installed a one-line, one-pound, tall-can salmon fish cannery. They didn't make any money.
Leaving for the Bering.

A little later than Eber Bruns employment.
Photo by James A. Turner from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
 In 1924 I went up on her. That year we all signed on before a shipping commissioner. When he asked the skipper my duties he said 'chief engineer.' So I was chief engineer of a full rigged schooner with no power.
Eber Bruns, the highest in the rigging.
Image shared by his daughter,
Ellen Madan, Orcas Island.
      My job with the cannery was to try and keep all engines workable, cannery boat, beach seine winches, outboards and any other thing that needed doing. That included running the cannery for about 10 days when the foreman got sick. I went back again in 1925. Long hours when the fish were running good, but fun in lots of ways.
      I was furnished a boat the first year, a 32-ft troller with a 16-HP. The second year, a 44-ft seiner with 40-HP. We used to run her up and down the coastline so I could check the winches the fishermen used on the beach for pulling seine.
      The schooner was anchored out from shore about 1/2-mile in the middle of the long bay. We had to bring water from shore in a scow, out to the cannery. We had a chute fixed up at a creek to fill the scow, then pumped it aboard.
      The AZALEA was towed from Seattle to off Cape Flattery. They sailed across the Gulf. We were met by one of our power boats and towed into Zacher Bay, Kodiak Island, AK."
Above text by Eber Bruns  (1902-1982). Shared with web admin by his daughter Ellen Madan of Orcas Is.

1939: SOPHIE CHRISTENSON, AZALEA, and WAWONA made up the Bering Sea codfishing fleet this year, making a combined catch of 863,263 fish.

1946: Robinson Fisheries received WAWONA back from the government, succeeded in refitting her, but the AZALEA was hard-used by the Army as a barge and was not returned to service by Robinsons. AZALEA ended up in Sausalito Harbor where she sunk, stern to the old schooner BEULAH of 1882.

❖ Eber was born on Lopez Island, raised on Blind Bay, Shaw Island and then later moved with his wife, to raise their children on Orcas Island. 
      Bruns worked on the mailboat SAN JUAN II, under ownership of San Juan Transportation Company out of Bellingham, the work boat CALCITE of Roche Harbor, towing scows of lime rock to paper mills down sound, as an engineer on SALMONERO for Henry Cayou of Deer Harbor, as engineer on the ARTHUR FOSS, and on the M.V. FEARLESS, buying fish for Capt. Jones for the Deer Harbor Cannery. 
      After his time as a well-known commercial boatman on Puget Sound, the Orcas Power and Light Company hired Eber as chief engineer and operations superintendent, where he kept things running for almost thirty years.
Schooner AZALEA 
Winter moorage tucked in behind

her big friend WAWONA.
Undated photograph by James A. Turner, Seattle. 
Original from the archives of S.P.H.S.©

20 January 2016


S.S. ISLAND MAIL (474-ft)
Adjacent to the Anacortes ferry landing.

No injuries. 
Standing by in this photo, the USCG, an unknown tug, 
and the beautiful Seattle yacht THEA FOSS.
Wire photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"The C-2 motorship ISLAND MAIL of American Mail Line, commanded by Capt. H.D. Smith and in charge of Capt. Dewey Soriano, Puget Sound pilot, struck a submerged object off Smith Island between Port Townsend and Anacortes, 29 May 1961. 
      A 134-ft gash, ten feet in width, was torn in the vessel's hull on the starboard side although the inner hull was only slightly penetrated. Even so, it was necessary to beach her in 25-ft of water off Fidalgo Island to prevent her sinking in deep water. Following temporary repairs, she was towed to the Todd Seattle Yard for dry docking and major repairs."
Above text from the H.W. McCurdy's Marine History of the PNW. Newell, Gordon. Superior.(1966)
San Juan County mariner, Skip Bold, has memories of viewing this scene on one of his early trips to the family summer house in the islands. Skip and his dad had driven up to park in the car lanes to await a westbound ferry, looked over the hood, and saw this big girl within 200-ft of the shore.