"Of all national assets, archives are the most precious:
they are the gift of one generation to another,
and the extent of our care of them marks the
extent of our civilization." Arthur Doughty.

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 500, 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.

17 September 2017

❖ MEMORIES OF BIG RED ❖ with Glen Carter (1923-2002)

Built 1942.

"My favorite Coast Guard icebreaker is up for sale. She's Big Red, moored at Pier 90. I drive past her each morning from home to work. She's formally known as the Staten Island and by either name is a good old gal.
       But she is 33 and retired. I don't think I will bid on her through the General Services Administration. She would cost as much as a yacht at 269-ft long, 64-ft wide, and drawing 29-ft of water.
      Besides, at today's high fuel costs, I couldn't steam far on the six main propulsion engines totaling 10,000 HP. The fuel tanks hold 676,000 gallons of diesel oil plus 17,000 gallons of jet aviation fuel. A helicopter on the stern isn't part of the package.
      Big Red got her nickname from me as a news chronicler. All the Coast Guard's breakers used to be white. But they were difficult for returning helicopters to see against dazzling white polar ice and snow.
      So she was painted red––as eventually, all others were, and I dubbed her in newsprint as the first Big Red in the Pacific Northwest to wear that color.
      I live near Piers 90-91, her home base, and got acquainted with her men and skipper, Capt. Bob Moss. They showed me around. Big Red is the only ship I've seen that could rock-'n-roll her way out of an ice trap. Huge ballast tanks were in her. Water was pumped at a tremendous rate from one side to the other to make her roll from side to side. Or maybe she wallowed with a waddle––whatever.
      She was packed with sophisticated electronic equipment. In March of 1973, I was sitting at home and the phone rang. Big Red was somewhere in the Arctic on a scientific mission with Russians. The caller was Captain Moss. His radio voice was loud and clear and it ricocheted off a satellite spinning somewhere in space.
      Moss phoned to tell me that all was going well in Big Red and with the Russian ship Priboy. They were in an ice pack with the ship positioned to permit the radio Ping Pong game with the satellite.
      The captain's radio voice traveled 186,000 miles a second and bounced off the satellite to a Kodiak station that relayed the communication to my home by a telephone line. The conversation was monitored by stations in Hawaii and Alaska and by a Goddard Space Center station in Maryland.
      The Big Red had historical character. She was built in 1942, in San Pedro and delivered to Russia under wartime lend-lease. She was returned to the USN in Germany in 1951. In 1955 the Navy transferred the ship to Seattle and assigned her to the Coast Guard in 1966. 
      A national news-service reporter said crewmen nicknamed her Big Red because she had been used by Russians. The story was teletyped nation-wide. But Big Red got her nickname because I tagged her with it after she was painted.
      The old seahorse made many trips to the Arctic and Antarctic, but she first gained national prominence by helping the Manhattan then America's biggest tanker, make its historic voyage through the Northwest Passage.
      But I remember her best for her last return from the Far North on 2 October 1974 when I reported:
      'Big Red came home with ice-damaged bow sections last night from her last voyage, but she wasn't limping.
      The 269-ft breaker and her 175 men came steaming around Magnolia Bluff with all six engines pounding smoothly at 16 knots. The old gal slid around Pier 91 with a flourish and skirts flying.
      The Staten Island was back from 11 weeks in the Arctic and three decades of service. A thousand kisses and hugs were exchanged in a matter of minutes.'
      That night I encountered Lt. Pat Denny who regarded Big Red as special for personal reasons. His mother had worked in the wartime shipyard at San Pedro, CA, and helped build her. Denny served aboard as a CG officer, and in 1973 his son, Pat was aboard as a civilian shipyard worker.
       That made three generations of involvement with Big Red, and she was my favorite."
Above essay was written by Glen Carter from My Waterfront. Seagull Books. Seattle, WA. 1977. 
Carter was a Chicago-area reporter before joining the Seattle Times in 1967. He was their magazine feature writer and columnist––then became Editor for Maritime and lived aboard CAROSEL. Four other articles of his are included on this Log.

14 September 2017


Courtesy of Wikipedia.
"A monster of the sea turned up in Dolphin Bay [Orcas Island, WA.] last week and convinced a number of people that they didn't particularly want to go swimming just now, anyway.
      John Sorenson spotted the creature under his dock in about a foot of water. When he saw it crunch a large clam––shell and all, you understand––in one or two bites, he didn't waste any time getting his 30.30. After it had been thoroughly shot, three times through the head, he gaffed it and brought it ashore.
      The ferocity and viciousness with which it fought must be experienced to be realized, Mr. Sorenson says, but to give you some idea, two hours after it had been shot, it severed a stout piece of wood neatly in two with one vise-like snap of its jaws.
      When the fish finally gave up the ghost and could be measured, it proved to be 5-ft 1 inch in length and weighed about 40 pounds. But the statistics don't give an accurate picture of its powerful and horrible appearance.
      The skin was a dark gray, mottled with black spots not unlike those of a hair seal. The head was massive and the jaw well studded with great, strong teeth, as it so amply demonstrated. The tail, Mr. Sorenson says, was its secondary weapon and with it his catch lashed madly and violently. One good swipe of it would have sent a hefty man spinning.
      The Sorensons brought their trophy to Orcas to display it and, if possible, identify it. Mr. Sorenson's suspicion that it was a wolf-eel was confirmed by Bill Lindholm. Mr. Lindholm says that wolf eels as much as eight feet in length were commonly caught in the waters off the coast of Finland, his native country.
      The only other wolf-eel so far heard from, caught in these waters, is one which Bill Lindholm got off Broken Point, Shaw Island, a few years ago. On this somewhat embarrassing occasion, Mr. Lindholm had the misfortune to hook the eel and bring it into his boat before he realized what was on the other end of the line.
      This one attacked as ferociously as the Dolphin Bay product, which would be even less fun in a small boat than on dry land. Mr. Lindholm, however, managed to "cut off his neck," as he says, with a butcher knife he, fortunately, had with him. This one, he thinks, was smaller than Mr. Sorenson's.
      The encyclopedia is a little less understandable on the subject of the wolf eel, being too full of knowledge. However, the latin name is anarrhicthys, and according to Mr. Britannica, has strong, conical canines in front and large molars at the side, which ain't no lie. It has no pelvic fins and is a "large fish of northern seas."
      The carcass was on display at Orcas for a couple of days, but owing to natural circumstances had to be cast back into the sea from which it came. Mr. Sorenson did get some remarkably fine photos of the eel in all its huge and hideous strength, so the island is not without some memento of its caller from the deep."
Written by Margaret Exton for the Orcas Islander. 6 June 1946.
Here is a link to some Wolf eel notes on Wikipedia

08 September 2017


From the library of the S.P.H.S.
Knee Deep in Shavings: Memories of Early Yachting and Boatbuilding on the West Coast.
Blanchard, Norman C., with Stephen Wilen. Victoria, BC; Horsdal & Schubart Publishers. Ltd. 

      "In 1778, the sailors' sailor Capt. Cook blithely sailed past the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the 15-mile-wide entrance to Puget Sound. He didn't have a clue there was anything down there. In the 1920s and 1930s, the golden age of yachting, publications featured who was who in New York, Newport, and Boston. They also didn't have a clue there was anything out there in Puget Sound.
      This book is the opening of a long-lost treasure trove of information about some of yachting's finest designers, builders, and sailors, whom virtually no one knew about. Although the book's title refers to the West Coast, it is focused on Puget Sound not only because the chronicler, Norm Blanchard, built boats in Seattle, but also because that's where most of the action was. Puget Sound and its adjoining passages are blessed with islands, fjords, bays, and coves unnumbered. Its forests provided unending supplies of high quality, long-length native woods. 
      This environment spawned numerous boat yards and attracted great craftsmen. In fact, they were so busy that in 1936 the Board of Education of Seattle, the funky little town in the center of all this activity, hired one of the builders, Jim Chambers, to establish a boatbuilding school, Edison Tech Boatbuilding, in order to keep up with the growing demand for the wooden boats. That school, now Seattle Community College School of Marine Carpentry, is still in operation because yacht clients with high standards of excellence find the best quality craftsmanship there in Puget Sound.
      The special wonder revealed by this book is that the West Coast boats were designed mainly by homegrown folks, including Ted Geary, Ben Seaborn, Ed Monk, and Bill Garden. Geary and Seaborn designed most of the boats Norm mentions, and thus he talks most about their personalities, as well as the outstanding vessels they drafted. Norm does a good job of bringing these two geniuses to life. West Coast designers had little coverage during the high times of wooden yachts. But look at the photos, read of the vessels' performances, and believe that some of the Puget Sound naval architects should arguably be in the designers' Hall of Fame.
      The first quarter of this book begins with a history of the Blanchard Boat Co and Norm Blanchard's family. So many exquisite yachts were launched there, mainly for the middle-class backbone of the West Coast. From 1905 to 1941 the yard's production was a long line of top design and fine craftsmanship. The work of the Blanchard Co was recognized and praised by the designers and the clients; thus orders kept coming for more boats. However, typical of so many renowned yards, Norm states, 'Except for the SILVER KING, and maybe one or two other contracts, the company had been so unprofitable in the prewar years that we could barely justify our existence. If Dad had any business sense at all he would have given up years earlier, but building boats was all he ever wanted to do.' One may well assume that great boatbuilders are born that way, and the profit-and-loss departments of their brains are only vestigial.
      The book is a series of memories narrated by Norm Blanchard and recorded and edited by Stephen Wilen. Norm couldn't be a more ideal chronicler of the happenings in Puget Sound. He has an encyclopedic memory, a great photo collection, and he treats the cast of characters involved with the yachting scene in a straight-arrow manner, compassionate and nonjudgmental. However, he hands out a few sharp rebukes to a couple of customers for their lack of courtesy, and to William Atkin, the naval architect, for sloppy tables of offsets.
      Norm is a kind and patient soul but he suffers no fools. However, Norm doesn't knock people for trying. I enjoyed this story about the man who in 1932 commissioned the beautiful 58-ft sloop CIRCE, designed by Ben Seaborn when Seaborn was in high school. 

Ben Seaborn designer
Ray Cooke, owner. 
Seattle, WA. 1934
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

CIRCE had the fine lines of a fast vessel, but the owner insisted on buying cheap sails that would become baggy in a short time. The sloop never did particularly well at races. Norm kindly concludes this story with: 'Anyway, the CIRCE was a wonderful design, especially for a kid who was still in high school when he designed her, and we have Ray Cooke to thank for her existence. Ray Cooke was never the yachtsman that he aspired to be, but he was a man who played a big role in my early years of sailing.'
      Norm also shares other perceptive observations about the flashy guys and the spear carriers he feels played significant roles in the West Coast yachting scene. He is a good journalist and senses interplay of attitudes. 'My acquaintance with Roy was made when he was having his first ever sail with Geary on SIR TOM. I think he thought that Ted [Geary] was going to buy a Cadillac from him, and I'm just as certain that Ted had thought that Roy [Corbett] was going to have himself a yacht.'
      The work of Ted Geary especially shines through in this book. His sailing vessels were virtually unbeatable. SIR TOM, an R-class sloop, lost only one race and that was to PIRATE, another Geary-designed "R" boat. His motor yachts, including MALIBU, PRINCIPIA, CANIM, AND BLUE PETER, are still going strong and still calendar art specimens of beautiful vessels.
      Knee Deep in Shavings is a valuable part of our maritime heritage. It tells us in fresh words and many never-before-published photos how a small population, still carving its existence out of the wilderness, ensnared yachting as part of its life and created some of the most fabulous vessels imaginable."

This review was written by the late, great Dick Wagner for The Sea Chest, June 2001. The journal of Puget Sound Maritime, Seattle, WA.
Here is a  link to a post on one chapter  about sailor Roy Corbett, from Knee Deep in Shavings by Blanchard on S.P.H.S. and 
another link here on a chapter about sailing in the San Juans, also by Blanchard.

03 September 2017


Labor Day was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century to celebrate the achievements of workers. It is considered the unofficial end of summer that became a federal holiday in 1894.
      Labour Day in Canada has been celebrated on the first Monday in September since the 1880s.
      From this historical archive, we remember some of the workers from the maritime industry, hard working people who were caught on film, from an industry spread wide and deep throughout the Pacific Northwest. We start with a salt born in San Juan County;
A lifetime career of safe transport of 
passengers & freight in the PNW.
Sam Barlow served on many vessels but 
he is most remembered for his work on 
Original photo from the S.P.H.S.©

Hail to the workers transporting the lumber.
Puget Sound Freight Lines 
On land and sea 
Original undated photo from S.P.H.S.©

George Leis
Keeper of the Canoes for 37 years!
at the time of this 1950 photograph at the U of WA.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

Capt. John Backland, Jr., 1937.
Highly regarded Arctic trader,
Schooner C.S. HOLMES.

Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

trying to save the

Schooner WAWONA,
Seattle, WA., May 1950.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

Hauling gold ore into the Port of Seattle,

Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

Chet North
building a set of reefnet boats
at his shop in Deer Harbor,
Orcas Island, in the 1940s.
Photos kindly submitted by
Barbara Brown, Orcas Island.
Commercial fishermen pulling in salmon
on a reefnet boat near Squaw Bay.
Crew Jim Sesby (L) and gear owner 
Ed Hopkins (R) and top, 1983.
Shaw Island, WA.
 photo copies courtesy of the Hopkins family.

Bob Schoen and his freight boat
Built in Hadlock, WA. in 1929

for the Port of Pt. Townsend.
Required crew, one.
Bob Schoen found her in 1950 and brought her
to the San Juans where she carried
lumber, power-cables, toilets & sinks, people,

groceries, sheep to slaughter, logging equipment, 
gas, diesel, lube oil by the barrels, cattle.
Other later skippers were Dave Strickland,
Steve Barnes, Corkey North and Al Jones.
Original photos courtesy of the Schoen family & Steve McKenna.
Click to enlarge.

Island Belt Cannery fill-in workers from the community
on a day when tenders delivered an overload of fish.
Bruns, Crawford, Fowler, Lee, and Stillman family
members have been identified in this photo with help
from the young boy in the front row, right, Lee Bruns.
Harney Channel, Shaw Island, c. 1920.
Riggers and sailmakers,
Rupert and Grenville Broom,
at the historic sail loft established by their father, George Broom.
For ships sailing in the war service, they have been
manufacturing boatswain's chairs, pilot ladders, lifeboat sails, 
and debarkation nets of many kinds. 
Pier 8, Seattle, WA. 1943.
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
Rev. Glion T. Benson
with his new 26' mission boat,

in the San Juan Islands.
Dated June 1957.
Original photo purchased for the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

28 August 2017


Boats are available for free viewing on the marina docks of Deer Harbor, San Juan Archipelago, WA. Not only viewing but there is the usual informal potluck on the dock on Monday c. 6:30 and a paddle/rowing race at noon on Tuesday 5 September 2017 and a dinner served from 5:30-8:30 on Tuesday, provided by Island Pie.
For more information please go to this link:  http://woodenboatsocietyofthesanjuans.org

This announcement kindly submitted by the D.H.W.B.S.

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