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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 200, 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. The photo in this profile features a handcrafted windvane of the 1902 WA-built lumber schooner CAMANO. The metal vane was designed, fabricated, and given to the maritime community by John M. Campbell. The schooner was linked to the life of one of the early, well-known, residents, Captain Lyle E. Fowler, born in 1901 on Shaw Island. Following a long passage on the CAMANO, he spent his entire career working on the inland waters of the PNW. The CAMANO windvane is installed on the roof of the Shaw Island community building, near Blind Bay, where she is easily viewed by passersby.

26 July, 2014

Queen of the Steam Whistles––in Chinese Bronze

Dick McKay & Jim Vallentyne (l-r), Seattle, 1962,
 with the antique bronze steam whistle from
the Russian built POLITKOFSKY.

Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
Letting off steam
Whistle from the POLITKOFSKY
L-R, Joshua Green, Jim Valentine, Ralph Hitchcock
Unknown event/date.
Courtesy of historian Ron Burke, Seattle.

      The POLITKOFSKY whistle from 1850 was acquired when the gunboat was turned over to the US by the Russian government in connection with this country's purchase of Alaska, 18 October 1867.
      This whistle was used to open the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle in 1909. 
President Taft, by telegraph, 
opening the AYP Exposition, 1909, Seattle, WA.
Photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©

      Steam whistles once were an organ concert of the industrial and economic life of the city. Men went to work, ate lunch, and left work––all to the deep-throated blast of a steam whistle at factory or mill. There was no dispute about the correct time––the whistle was absolute.
      Whether it was the sharp "toot" of donkey engine or the deep-toned blast from the Stimson Mill or Seattle Cedar Lumber Man. Co., Ballard whistles were a veritable symphony each morning, noon, and evening––the steam whistle was king.
      At that time, many housewives used the sound of the "5 o'clock quitting whistle" as a reminder to start dinner.
      But, alas, the assembly-line production of wrist watches, radio time announcements, and other modern conveniences (including the electric air whistle) spelled the doom of the colorful steam whistle ejecting a long white plume (often you could see and count the plumes long before you heard the whistles, especially if the wind was strong and the distant sound of the whistle was carried away on the wind.)
      The whistle is in the collection of the Museum of History and Industry, Seattle, WA.
Above words by John J. Reddin for The Seattle Times, March 1962
Letting Off Steam
"The speaker was the wharf agent of a large steamship company, and he was seated in his cool office looking hot and worried. The reporter to whom the remark was addressed, admitted that he sometimes felt so inclined, but rarely.
      'Next time you feel that way I want you to run a little two-line item in your marine column, saying if the captains of the various steamers would hang onto their whistle ropes thirty seconds instead of fifteen minutes when landing or departing, the waterfront business men would deem it a favor.
      'The way of it is this: There are a large number of boats in and out of harbor daily. For some reason––probably some savage blood in their veins––the captains delight in hearing the sound of their own whistles. A year or so ago it was bad enough, but now the owners are vieing with one another, as to who can get the most unearthly sounding one. They have got to using combinations to deepen the sound-rending shrieks. The BAILEY GATZERT has a triple affair that is enough to turn a man's hair gray. The GREYHOUND sports one of the same character, but more piercing than deep; the PREMIER has one with a dull rumbling roar, that shakes every beam in the wharf when it goes off. There there is the MOCKING BIRD. I feel like stealing out some quiet night and contriving a scheme to sink her.
      Every fifteen minutes in the day some of these diabolical contrivances are going off. The captains hold onto the ropes as if they were the ladder to salvation instead of to––well, anyhow, they ought to let go sooner.' The agent then subsided, but began again as the reporter was quietly leaving. The last words the latter heard were 'fiendish,' 'hair-raising'.
Above text from March 1973 Sea Chest, quarterly journal of the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society

24 July, 2014


Tug TYEE, locking through, Seattle, WA.
Original photo from the James A. Turner Collection,
Saltwater People Historical Society©
Click to enlarge.
"The big tug TYEE, of the Puget Sound Tug Boat Co's fleet, entered Friday Harbor from Ladysmith [BC] after clearing for Victoria, went to Waldron Island to tow a barge of sandstone to Grays Harbor. 
      The tug is equipped with wireless apparatus and the captain, who had never been here before, sent a message to the deputy collector of Friday Harbor, asking him if it would be all right to come here, enter, and clear that evening. The tug was 12 miles away when the message was sent and the answer was received in five minutes and the tug was here an hour and ten minutes later."
Above text from the Friday Harbor Journal, June 1909. 

21 July, 2014

Crab Trap Salt ● ● ● with June Burn in 1930.

 Washington State fishermen with cooked crab. 
Photos from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
"Haven't you read stories in which sturdy old salts go out in stormy, blizzardy weather to lift the lobster and crab traps? Don't they always thrill you, make you feel somehow as if your soft life lacked something? When Amundsen, Byrd, Stefanson, and the Lofoten fishermen go off on their wild ways, aren't you drowned with envy and yearning to go off with them, to endure hard things, to feel blasts of icy winds on cheeks already nearly frozen? The hard things. Only they are worth doing, really.
       Not that the little storm we are heading into now is dangerous, or that sitting in the back of Mr. Thompson's skiff while he lifts his crab traps is very hard. But it feels as if one were getting close to reality, anyhow. I am shivering half with delight, half with a blowing rain that is not far from being sleet, as one by one the big traps come out of the water, are emptied into the boat.
      ...Word came last night that I might go at 8 AM this morning with Mr. Thompson, a Dane, to lift the crab traps. It rained all night, so Thompson goes ahead on the trail with a stick, knocking off as much water as possible.
      The boat lay the the top of the beach. Thompson bailed it out, tipped it to let all the water run out, and we dragged it down over the gravel into the water, where it began to leak again. With an old putty knife that he keeps handy for the purpose, the master of the skiff stuffed old rope into the cracks and we put to sea, the wind having died down somewhat under the lash of the rain.
      In Thompson's early days crab fishing flourished. There was a crab cannery at Blaine. He ran 

14 July, 2014

"A lovely place," Lopez Island with June Burn.

Washington's Head
Lopez Island, pre 1930.

Photographer unknown.
"Lopez, what a prosperous, beautiful island it is! New England farms look no mellower, no healthier than these big Lopez farms. I suppose the Eastern farms were reclaimed from the wilderness a few hundred years ago. But ours have been reclaimed in the last seventy-odd years, most of them in the last half century. Yet they look like generations of people, of cattle, of crops that have grown up here.
      Grassy pastures and orchards in blossom on the Strafford farm. Berries and cattle, green fields,  and a tractor plowing on the neat Erb place. Rolling green slopes and dozens of gorgeous apple trees on the Kilpatrick farm.
      Down the road along the backbone of the island, beautiful farms falling away into pleasant valleys on both sides. Sheep in the pastures, chickens cackling from modern henhouses. Loganberries on the Joe Ender's place. The McCloud house low and brown, nestled on a big rock.
      The pale blue and white line of the Olympics off yonder to the south, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 
      Pheasants and mountain quail in gardens. The McCauley farm, lush and lovely, on both sides of the road. 
      Down the dim cathedral woods to McKay Harbor. Hemlock, white fir, and cedar. Long curving beach washed by a gentle surf. The pretty white Tralness house above the beach and a lavender-pink mass of starry flowers on the edge of the road. 
      In Barlow's Bay a great flower-covered rock. Lacy yellow blooms. Sedum about to burst into fragrant blossom. Dark blue verbena-like flowers. Crane's Bill. You would not live here so long without knowing all the flowers by their real and common names, would you? Well, I knew them once. And I shall know them again!
      We climb up into the woods and around the outer bluff of the island to find Washington's profile. We find the bluff where the face used to be, but something seems to have happened to the nose.
      But we find dark blue Camas in bloom. And against an old abandoned house a gorgeous lilac heavy with purple flowers. The woods are full of wild flowers. Lady slippers, Oregon grape, star flower. soapalalee will be along presently. From these berries the Indians make a bitter foam which some call Indian ice cream.
      Across the island, John Thompson's big lonely home where the white-headed old mariner lives alone. He promises to take us with him to Smith Island next week.
      The Mud Bay schoolhouse and Eaton's pretty home. On up and around to the Vogt loghouse built a half-century ago of alder logs, mind you. Inside, an old square piano, hooked rugs in original designs, handsome ship models made by the son while tending fishtraps. Outside, flowers and blossoming fruit trees, green meadows and the forest not a hundred yards away. A lovely place."
       Above text by June Burn, Puget Soundings. 1930.

07 July, 2014


Star boat ROWDY, SYC.
Skipper Betty Osborne, July 1947.
After this update there was space for 17 sailboats on this dock.
Original photo from the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©
"Jack Graham and Ted Geary influenced competitive racing on Puget Sound with the introduction of the Star. The Blanchards built four Star boats in 1923. The Star became an international design and was popular on the East Coast and in Europe. The original design was by a man called Gardner.
      The Star was a natural evolution from the cat-boat and was almost unsinkable. Nonetheless, its popularity dropped off quickly in 1925, after a tragedy on Lake WA in which four Univ. of WA. students drowned. These students were on their way to a frat party across the lake. They filled the forward flotation compartments with party supplies and removed the foredeck hatch to provide room for an ice cream freezer. Then three couples climbed aboard. This was too many even for calm water. A sudden storm blew up, and in those days before floating bridges curtailed the sweep of the wind, huge swells swamped the boat. Two of the women survived, but the loss of four young lives put a damper on Star boat sailing. The boat was marked as unsafe; this was a bad rap.
      Originally the Star had what was called a sliding Gunter rig. Later, taller rigs became popular with a full main but with a much shorter main boom. Class rules were changed accordingly.
      The Star recovered its popularity by 1931. A meeting in the late fall of 1929 attracted about 50 sailors in an effort to establish a common design for competitive racing. Some wanted high-performance catboats with hard chines because these boats were easier to build and cheaper, and others wanted a more sophisticated boat that could perform better. There were a lot of ideas for boats under 30-ft. The Star was the consensus choice of most of the sailors. Stars were popular worldwide and were raced in many championships, including the Olympics."
      The Seattle sailor who brought home the Olympic Star class trophies can be viewed on a post here.
Article above from Seattle Yacht Club 1892-1992 by Warren, James R.

The Star was designed in 1910 by Francis Sweisquth––draftsman for William Gardner's Naval Architect office––and the first 22 were built in Port Washington, N.Y. by Ike Smith during the winter of 1910-11. Since that time, over 8, 400 boats have been built. The Star began as an Olympic Games class in  1932. Although far from a modern design, the class remains popular today, with about 2,000 boats in active racing fleets in North America and Europe.
Above text from Wikipedia /2014.

04 July, 2014

4th of JULY Greetings

Card mailed from the revered Captain Sam Barlow, Lopez Is., 
to friend Mary Hudson on Harney Channel,
Shaw Island, Wa. 1910.

From the collection of the Saltwater People Historical Society©

29 June, 2014

SUCIA ISLAND, San Juan County

Sucia Island, San Juan Archipelago, WA.
Vintage photographs from the collection of
the Saltwater People Historical Society©

"Thanks to the members of the various yacht clubs making up the Interclub Boating Assoc of WA, Sucia Island is preserved as a marine park.
      Sucia, the island paradise that Puget Sound boating people bought without the aid of governmental funds, was publicly turned over to the WA State Department of Parks on Sunday, 29 May 1960, in ceremonies at one of this island's major harbors––Fossil Bay.
      The donor of Sucia Island is the Puget Sound Interclub Assoc, a service group of 42 WA State boating organizations.
      It has been a refreshing acquisition of a recreational playground. In an age when public bodies at all levels are besieged with requests for funds to buy lands, build roads, improve parks, and other worthy-enough projects, this group of NW boating people is probably the only group in the country today [1960] that decisively walked out, signed sizable notes to insure a major purchase, raised the funds from its own, then turned the island over to the state to maintain as a boating playground forever. It has been a monumental five-year effort.
      Sucia Island is one of the most beautiful of the 174 islands in the San Juan Archipelago. Comprising 362 acres of land, it is directly north of Orcas Island. It is not as large in land-area as the other major islands, but is an ideal marine park with extensive water boundaries, four harbors, many beaches and other tiny islands and indentations."
Written for the SYC Binnacle, June 1960