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

LOG OF THE SALTWATER PEOPLE HISTORICAL SOCIETY



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 over 300, 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.

21 July 2015

❖ SCHOONER ALICE ❖

Schooner JOSEPH RUSS.
Sister ship to Schooner ALICE, 
the latter absent for her photo appointment today.

Both ships served Robinson Fisheries of Anacortes, WA.
Original photo by J. Thwaites from archives of S.P.H.S.©
"When the 232-ton schooner ALICE crossed the Humboldt Bay bar in April 1884, her cargo consisted of 253,000 bf of redwood lumber. Her destination was Seattle, WA Territory. Local newspapers trumpeted the opening of this new market for Northern CA products. The Humboldt Daily Times-Telephone gleefully proclaimed that the Seattle lumber dealers, Brockway & Webb, had appropriate finishing material to the fir-rich Puget Sound country. The Seattle Herald was quoted as saying that "for a long time there has been a demand––for finishing material and in many cases builders have been obliged to import individual shipments of considerable trouble––" Brockway & Webb were to be congratulated for inaugurating a trade that was sure to extend as far north as Whatcom.
      The two-masted ALICE was no stranger to Puget Sound waters. Shipbuilder Charles Sanders launched her in the spring of 1874 from his property on the south side of Port Blakely Harbor. While early records describe that property as "Bean's Pt.", it has been established that Sanders purchased 108 acres at what is now called Restoration Point in 1868 from one Theodore O. Williams. He lived there until he sold out to his brother Eric in the ear after the ALICE launch. The Sanders brothers were natives of Sweden and had practiced the shipbuilding craft in San Francisco as early as 1865. Sanders very likely obtained the timbers for the ALICE from Renton & Holmes Co, forerunners of the famous Port Blakely Mill Co. 
      The ALICE's documentation described her as 232.14 gross tons, one deck, two masts, billet head and elliptic stern. She measure 115' x 31' x 10'. She was put into the coasting trade by those astute mill owners and lumber promoters John A. Hooper and F. P. Hooper of San Francisco. F. C. Glidden was listed as her first master. It can be presumed that ALICE carried a cargo of fir on her maiden voyage to San Francisco.
      The ensuing years were busy ones for the little vessel. In November 1881, she was chartered by agents of the Sinaloa & Durango Rail Road Co to carry a cargo of lumber and piles from Port Blakely to Altata, Mexico. The charter specified that $5,000 in U.S. gold coin would be paid at the San Francisco offices of Renton & Holmes upon 'presentation of Bill of Lading' duly endorsed by Charter Agents at Altata."
      It was also agreed that 15 lay days would be spent to load cargo and 15 days to discharge. All cargo was to be loaded and discharged alongside the vessel, within reach of her tackles. If there was insufficient water at the Altata bar, cargo was to be lighterd outside the bar. In that case, piles stowed on deck were to be delivered to rafts secured by dogs and chains.
      On a run from Port Townsend to San Pedro, in 1903, her master, W. J. Moloney, recorded mutinous actions by second mate Arndt Thiele. Twenty days into the voyage Thiele neglected to secure two brand-new full coils of rope, that were lost overboard. Two weeks later Capt. Moloney Himself was forced to put rovings in the head of the foresail when the second mate refused to do the job and encouraged the other men on watch to rebel.
      Thiele was ordered to take his clothes forward. When he refused, Moloney threatened to put him in irons. Thiele 'feigned illness' and spent the rest of the voyage in the forward cabin. When ALICE arrived in San Pedro a few days after Christmas, the captain discharged the man. He offered the mutinous mate $43.39 for services rendered. Thiele disdained the offer and demanded full second mate's pay. Capt. Moloney deposited the partial payment with the Judge at the Commissioner's office and considered the mater closed. 
      During her last year in the lumber trade, ALICE, made voyages from Puget Sound ports in San Francisco, San Pedro and to Nelson Lagoon in the Aleutian chain. At Nelson Lagoon she experienced minor damage to her hull when under tow of Lagoon Packing Company's steamer PRINCESS.
      1904 saw the schooner's conversion to a codfisher by William Robinson of Anacortes. The little ALICE soon to be outclassed, as far as she was concerned by her sisters, JOSEPH RUSS, WAWONA  and AZALEA, served Robinson Fisheries Company faithfully for over 20 years. It was not until May 1927, that she was honorably retired and sold to motion picture interests in southern California.
      Was it the ALICE that we saw in some of those early schooner movies? Very possibly. Dr. John Lyman recorded that her hull could still be seen on the mud banks of San Pedro harbor in the late 1930s.
Text by Harriet T. DeLong for The Sea Chest, quarterly journal published by Seattle's Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society. March 1983.
1906: Robinson Fisheries engaged 40 experienced cod fishermen in Gloucester, MA and brought them to the coast, shipping them as crew on ALICE & JOSEPH RUSS.

17 July 2015

❖ Schooner COMMODORE ❖ Racing Against Leakage

SCHOONER COMMODORE (ex-Blaatind)
Photo taken off the Washington Coast when a tug was
attempting to get a line aboard during heavy weather.
AP Wire Photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"A modern day counterpart of Mutiny on the Bounty was disclosed by a seaman who returned here after a tortuous 143-day voyage in a leaky four-masted schooner with a captain who was partially 'out of his head' with a brain tumor.
      The scene of the marine drama was aboard the once proud schooner COMMODORE, famed for her cross-Pacific races. Her latest race was against leakage, malnutrition and death. The course was the length of the Pacific and breadth of the Atlantic. 
      James Gallagher of Seattle related in a Post-Intelligencer interview how the crew ate chicken feed for mush, a steady diet of salt meats and a 'can of peas or corn between 14 men every day, but that was about all.'
      In two regards, the saga of the trip from Puget Sound to Durban, South Africa, paralleled the famous story of Mutiny on the Bounty. Pitcairn Island figured in both dramas. The COMMODORE put in there and picked up a few chickens to vary the fare.
      The crew took over from the captain before reaching Cape Horn, Gallagher said, after the mate called for a vote of the crew members because of the skipper's strange actions. He said a military court later cleared the crew of mutiny charges made by the captain.
      'We kept him in his cabin for a month,' the seaman related. 'The captain was a good seaman, but he went out of his head.'
      The schooner 'began leaking a couple of weeks before we rounded Cape Horn,' Gallagher said, 'and after that we stood up to the hips in water in her hold and pumped by hand, day and night. The captain got sick at about the same time. We didn't know what was the matter then but later, when he died in Durban, the doctor said he had a brain tumor.'
      Gallagher said he left Africa in February while the crew members' suit for most of their pay was still pending. The COMMODORE had been sold at auction for $65,000."
The Spokane Daily Chronicle, 20 April 1943.

13 July 2015

❖ TRANSPAC HAS THE FIRST START TODAY ❖ MONDAY 13 JULY

Schooner Martha
Photo by Louellen McCoy, Orcas Island, WA.
Have a safe trip everyone. 
GO MARTHA, Port Townsend, WA!
Team photo can be seen on their own site
Here is the official YellowBrick tracker site for 2015 (6 hours behind real time).

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TRANSPAC RACE
Swimming in the ocean for thirty hours;
JULY 1951
Yacht L'APACHE crew member Ted Sierks, 
being hauled by a line to the rescue ship, 
USS DOUGLAS A. MUNRO
Press photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.
The alert sailors who first spotted Ted Sierks
in the rough sea and made his rescue possible;
 Sierks waves greeting as the destroyer escort 
MUNRO docks at Honolulu Harbor. 
L-R: Rene Cortex of Texas, Transpac sailor, Ted Sierks, and
Ronnie Peoples of Jonesboro, AK.
Press photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.

07 July 2015

❖ A TRUE COURSE ❖

Tug NEMAH (ON 225166)
Photo image from King County Snapshots,
University of WA Libraries.
Photographer and date not listed.
"A few years ago I was the skipper on the tug NEMAH. My cousin came out here from Montana that summer and asked me for a job. We were in need of a deckhand so I gave him the job. I figured he couldn't be any worse than some of my previous so-called deck hands.
      We had just installed a new engine and were doing most of our towing from Olympia to Everett at the time. The first trip with our new deckhand I made him steer a lot of the time and when I gave him a course I gave it to him in degrees so he would understand what I was talking about.
      On our second trip out it was a nice evening but blacker than Satan. We were rounding Johnson Point when I gave him a course for Devil's Head. I was working down in the engine room and every so often I would come up and see how things were going. Everything okay, so back to the engine room.
      Either I was awfully busy or we were moving as fast as a short beer down a tall Swede (and that's fast) because the next time I looked out we were around Devil's Head and heading for Balch Pass.
      Now if you come around Devil's Head pretty wide you steer 32 degrees for the pass. I looked at the compass and this new deckhand was right on course. I asked him how he knew what course to steer. He replied that was easy, he got it off the chart. I looked at him in mouth-opened amazement. Finally I asked him to show me how he arrived at the course. I thought maybe my cousin had more on the ball than  had given him credit for.
      He taked down the chart table and takes the rules and lays it for Balch Pass. (At one time he had seen me use the rules but hadn't asked any questions so I hadn't told him anything.) It went right through the middle of a 32 fathom mark. There he says, is your course.
Words by Captain Walter (Yobby) Torgesen.
At the time of this writing for Piling Buster Yearbook 1951, Stories of Towboating by Towboat Men Torgersen was master of tug CROSMOR for Olympia Towing Co. Source: Library of the Saltwater People Historical Society.
NEMAH was a 120 HP Diesel built for Nemah Towboat Co of Raymond, WA. 
27 G.t. / 18 N.t.
49.9' x 15.2' x 5.4'
Home Port: Seattle in 1935.
US List of Merchant Vessels, published by the US Gov't lists building year as 1925 at Hoquiam, WA.
McCurdy's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, Newell, G. editor, lists her date of building as 1929.

03 July 2015

❖ 4th of JULY ❖

Postcard inscribed by the highly regarded
Capt. Sam Barlow, born into one of the earliest families 
on Lopez Island.
Sent to Mary Hudson, of a homestead family 
farming along Harney Channel, Shaw Island.
Mary fell in love with Capt. Robert Griswold westward 
along the coast in Blind Bay. Mailed 1910.
Recalling the 4th of July 1895
"I tell the story as it was related to me, by my sister Mrs. E. W. Harrison, who was one of those present. The Mt. Constitution 'switchback road' was made entirely by donated labor, and was a tremendous undertaking, considering the difficulties involved.
      About 35 people attended the picnic, few of them now living on the Island [Orcas.] It was a very rainy day, but in spite of that fact, the start was made about 9 am. There were two teams, one belonging to Eb Harrison, and another consisting of a bull and a horse tied up together, belonging to Dr. Hilton.
      The women and children were in the wagons, together with an organ for there was to be a dance; numerous baskets of lunch and a big freezer of ice cream. The bull and the horse went bravely for a time, but finally became stuck in the mud, and the other team came to the rescue and pulled them out. It must be remembered that this road had just been completed; it was therefore soft and the rain descending steadily did not help matters at all. The summit was finally reached, a fire made, and a few dispirited attempts made at dancing in the 'pavilion,' that was a big-framed structure, then in existence. The lunch was served under the friendly roof, the picnickers visiting the bonfire to thaw out between bites of ice cream. A tent had been erected for the babies and it was pretty well filled. Everybody shivered––the babies cried––and Mollie Harrison was said to be the only cheerful one present. She was four years-old and gave a recitation as follows:
            'Mamma had a chicken,
             Its feathers were white as snow
             Along came a Methodist preacher
             And the chicken had to go!'
Above the clouds that dim the blue,
Early Mt. Constitution, Orcas Island, WA.
click to enlarge.
      After the chronicle of this sad event, the horses becoming cold and restless, it was decided that the celebration was over and the return trip was made in much shorter time than the previous one.
      But the road was made, and the picnic celebrating its completion was a fact, and succeeding generations trailing over it probably have little idea of what it meant in those times to project and carry out such an undertaking."
Agnes B. Harrison; Friday Harbor Journal, 5 May 1932.
      To read more about Dr. Agnes Harrison of Eastsound, WA, here is a Link