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


About Us

My photo
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.

05 December 2016


Alaska Steamship Co.
After she wrestled with the Colman Dock
and sunk the sternwheeler TELEGRAPH
25 April 1912, Seattle, WA.

Original photo by O.T. Frasch from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"Throughout their history, the smaller steam vessels operating on the inland waters of the Pacific Northwest displayed a rare ability to engage in sometimes spectacular mishaps with little or no injury or loss of life to their patrons. The Northwest 'mosquito fleet' was the victim of a rash of such misfortunes in 1912, the Puget Sound Navigation Company's stern-wheel steamer TELEGRAPH becoming a casualty of one of the more alarming of these. 
Destruction left from the S. S. ALAMEDA
Colman Dock, Seattle, WA.

Photo by Evans P & A Shop, original from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
Click image to enlarge.

      The TELEGRAPH was almost cut in two and sunk at her Colman Dock berth in Seattle on the night of 25 April when a remarkable blunder in the engine room of the Alaska Steamship Co liner ALAMEDA sent the heavy iron steamship crashing through the dock, demolishing the tall clock tower and smashing the outer end of the dock to splinters. 
Colman Dock with the S.S. TELEGRAPH on the bottom
Original photo by O.T. Frasch from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
Colman Dock splinters
Click to enlarge.

Photo by O.T. Frasch from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

      Capt. John Johnson, the regular master of the ALAMEDA was ashore at the time and Capt. John A. "Dynamite" O'Brien, acting as port pilot, was in charge. The vessel took on bunker oil at the Standard Oil Dock on the East Waterway, leaving at 9:45 PM and arriving off Pier 2 (now Pier 51) at 10:15. Capt. O'Brien planned to berth the steamer at the south slip and already had her moving under a dead slow bell toward that location when the man in charge on the dock shouted instructions to tie up on the north side. The ALAMEDA was then about 200 yards off the pier-head. The helm was put hard to starboard, but the vessel did not respond. Capt. O'Brien then rang for slow ahead and, as she began to swing, half speed astern and then full speed astern. Third Assistant Engineer Guy Van Winter was taking the signals from the bridge and relaying them verbally to Second Assistant Robert Bunton at the throttle. In some manner the last signal was misunderstood and the engine was set at full ahead rather than full astern. As he felt the powerful surge of the engines driving the steamer toward the busy passenger terminal, O'Brien shouted to the chief officer on the forecastle to get the anchors over. With the whistle cord tied down, the big ALAMEDA tore through the Colman Dock about 150-ft fro the outer end, emerging on the north side to smash into the TELEGRAPH amidships, driving the wooden stern-wheeler hard against the neighboring Grand Trunk Dock. Although the TELEGRAPH sank in less than 15 minutes, no lives were lost. John Frye, a fireman, was in the stern-wheeler's engine room working on a condensor when the bow of the ALAMEDA crashed through, grazing the spot where he was working. Water poured in like a flood, and although the engineer started the pumps, the TELEGRAPH was soon resting on the bottom in 40-ft of water. Although three women were injured on the dock, and several persons were picked up from the water by the boats that were promptly lowered from the ALAMEDA, the entire affair transpired without loss of life. 
      The damage to the ALAMEDA was so slight that she sailed the next evening for Prince William Sound, only 12 hours behind schedule. The Colman Dock clock tower, a landmark on the Seattle waterfront, had rolled from the deck of the ALAMEDA and was found floating the next day in the harbor. It was taken in tow by the tug ATLAS and beached at West Seattle, the hands pointing to 10:23, apparently fixing the exact time of the accident. Maritime men were unanimous in their praise of the prompt action of Capt. O'Brien, particularly in regard to the quick lowering of the anchors, it having been found that the starboard anchor had caught and stopped the destructive course of the steamer after 125 fathoms of chain were out, undoubtedly preventing from continuing her rampage through the GT Dock.
      The recent loss of the White Star Liner TITANIC was still fresh in the public mind, and Capt. Howard Bullene, master of the steamer SANTA ANA used that tragedy as an example in commenting on Capt. O'Brien's action. 'If the navigator of the wrecked TITANIC had exhibited one half the presence of mind of Capt. O'Brien, the most frightful disaster in maritime history would have been averted. With the same promptness the TITANIC could have been turned bow-on to the ice berg when it was reported a quarter of a mile ahead, and her bulkheads would have saved her.'
Blt 1903 by Portland Shipbuilding Co, Everett, WA.
She was placed in service between Everett and Seattle
along with the CITY OF EVERETT.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S©

      The TELEGRAPH had been thoroughly overhauled the previous year, including the installation of a new port engine, main steam pipe and crosshead, and on her trials in charge of Capt. Charles Brydsen had attained a speed of 20 miles an hour. The Puget Sound Navigation Co. turned her over to the underwriters following her sinking, asking damages of $55,000 from the Alaska Steamship Co. The US Commissioner conducting the hearing awarded damages of $45,000, the amount being reduced to $25,000 by the US Court of Appeals at San Francisco, that stated the market for stern-wheelers had suffered a slump since the TELEGRAPH was built and that to fix the value on a basis of depreciation from her original cost through wear was a wrong hypothesis. The steamer was subsequently raised and repaired by the underwriters and sold to the newly organized Independent Navigation Co., with Mitchell & Lonseth, Seattle shipwrights the principal owners. Her single-cylinder engines (28 1/2 x 72) were compounded to 15 1/2, 28 1/2 x 72 and she was renamed OLYMPIAN, being placed on a daily schedule between Seattle and Olympia via Vashon Island points and Tacoma. She was not successful, in this service and was subsequently transferred to the Columbia River."
Above text from: H. W. McCurdy's Marine History of the PNW. Editor, Newell, Gordon. Superior Publishing. Seattle. 1965.
      Gordon Newell in SOS North Pacific reminds us that the safety record, rather than the disaster toll "is the most remarkable thing about the Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet." He writes:
      The little ships carried their millions of people to and from a hundred harbors along the shores of the inland sea. They carried them somewhat slower than the modern automobile, but they carried them safely. Puget Sound steamboats could probably boast of a lower death rate than any other transportation system in modern history, but this is an age of Progress and they are all gone now. Faber, Jim. Steamer's Wake.

01 December 2016


Captain Dorr F. Tozier, US Cutter GRANT.
Top row right.
He brought the GRANT around the Horn from New York
in the 1890s and remained in command of her for 14 years.
Here he is visiting Numukamis Village on Barclay Sound, 

Vancouver Island, BC.
Photograph by Samuel G. Morse
21 Jan. 1902.
Courtesy of the WA. State Historical Society.
# 1917.115.217 

click on image to enlarge 

The text below is typed verbatim from the San Juan Islander newspaper 21 Jan. 1904:

"The Tacoma Sunday Ledger of 10 January [1904] devotes over eight columns of space to an illustrated article on Capt. Dorr F. Tozier, of the Revenue Cutter GRANT, and his great collection of northwestern Indian curios, the largest private collection of the kind in the United States, now stored in the Ferry Museum at Tacoma.
Revenue Cutter GRANT
courtesy of Capt. Davis (USCG) ret,
Coast Guard Museum Northwest,  Seattle, WA.
      Friday Harbor has long been one of Capt. Tozier's favorite ports on Puget Sound, and the GRANT, carrying four mounted guns, seven officers and thirty-three men, and still staunch and graceful despite her thirty-three years of service, often lies at anchor in the sheltered waters of our lovely harbor. 
      Quite a number of baskets and other specimens of Indian handiwork in Capt. Tozier's great collection were obtained in this county. The Ledger says of the collection as a whole that 'these records of the aborigines of the northwest will be known and valued by scientists and scholars and the name of their collector preserved when all trace of the GRANT and the people she cruised among shall have passed away.
      'Over 4,000 baskets, representing the best weaving of the northwest tribes, are to many the most interesting part of the collection, but for the student of ethnology, to the one interested in race history, there is an inexhaustible mine of information ready to his hand. There are twelve old tribal totems of different designs gracing the large room in awesome majesty. There are dozens of carvings, grave figures, feast bowls, tamanawas, emblems of every description. There are all kinds of hunting and fighting implements, kayaks of skin, and canoes of several varieties. A wonderful collection of ancient stone implements has been given close attention by the captain, who has sought particularly to make this collection educational in character. He is constantly adding new treasures received from the agents he has employed in the interior of Washington and Alaska to secure rare and interesting articles. On his last visit he brought to the museum a quantity of carved pieces of black slate-stone, the treasured work of a worthy member of the Chilkat tribe, very rare and very beautiful, even in the aesthetic, rather than the scientific sense. This work is exceedingly rare, and was purchased at a great price. It adds enormously to the collection, showing the high artistic development of some of the western tribes, and, an interesting point, the similarity of their ideas and workmanship to that of Asiatic peoples."

A fraction of Capt. Tozier's artifacts, c. 1905.
Model canoe, houseposts, sculptures, part of a house front,
masks and a replica of a copper.
The collection first exhibited at the Ferry Museum (Tacoma,)
then removed to Seattle in 1909 and finally to
the National Museum of the American Indian under the
Smithsonian, WA. DC.
This photo c. 1905 courtesy of the WSHS #19543.19
1894, October: 
      The GRANT, Capt. Tozier, normally cruising the islands from Pt. Townsend, was in drydock at Quartermaster Harbor to have barnacles scraped from her hull––120 bushels of them. Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

1907, September:
      Capt. D.F. Tozier has been placed on the retired list, having reached the age limit of active service. For several years past he has been assistant superintendent of the 13th Lighthouse District, with headquarters in Portland. He is a native of Maine, and has spent forty years in the government service, twenty of them on the Atlantic and then each on the Great Lakes and the Pacific Coast. He was in command of the GRANT when she came around the Horn from New York and for a time, had been master of New York Harbor. He has one of the greatest collections of Indian baskets and curios in America, most of them gathered during his service on the Puget Sound and Alaska. He is now in San Francisco. San Juan Islander newspaper.

1912, January 26 :
      According to the San Juan Islander newspaper––"Capt. Tozier was in Seattle this past week to visit friends in Seattle and was a guest of the Washington Art Association who purchased his great collection of Indian curios.*
      Capt. Tozier was often here [Friday Harbor] in the GRANT and had many acquaintances in this county. The old cutter that was condemned a few years ago and sold to a Seattle fish company, was recently wrecked on the coast of Vancouver Island. Capt. Tozier intends leaving soon for an extended trip to Egypt and European countries."

* There is more to the story of the art collection leaving Washington State and ending up in New York and then Washington DC. I suspect there will be another post on the heist, to follow soon.

26 November 2016


ON 126821

345 g.t., 328 n.t.
150.0' x 35.0' x 11..0'
Built 1891 by the well-known H. Bendixsen at Fairhaven, CA.
Purchased by the Pacific Coast Codfish Co in 1913;

she sailed out of Seattle to the Bering Sea with
Capt. Shields' 
schooner JOHN A. for many years.
Here she is saying her goodbyes to Poulsbo life; early 1950s.
The WILSON was purchased by E. Mahood in 1954 and
beached near Powell River, BC, for a breakwater.

Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.© 
"The proud old three-masted schooner CHARLES R. WILSON, a record of countless voyages over the seven seas etched in her still-stout hull and tight seams, was being cleaned up for the auction block.
      The WILSON had seen most of the world's ports. But, in this area she was best known for the 28 voyages she made to the Bering Sea in search of codfish. In a trade in which sail long since had become a rarity, the WILSON held her own in northern waters until the season of 1945. From then she had been idle.
      During the war, her owner, Capt. J.E. Shields of Poulsbo, successfully resisted efforts by the government to convert the old windjammer into a barge and continued to send the WILSON to the Bering under command of Capt. Knute Pearson of Poulsbo, a veteran of the fishing banks. 
      The 26-man crew of the WILSON saw the Japanese planes that bombed Dutch Harbor 5 July 1942. The enemy planes flew directly over the vessel, virtually a 'sitting duck,'  but did not molest her.
      The WILSON was built in Fairhaven, CA, in 1891, and she still is sound and stout.
      She recently had been beached at Poulsbo to have her hull scraped by use of a technique familiar to sailing men.
      At high tide, the vessel was run as close to the beach as possible. the receding tide left the vessel high and dry, and heeled over on one side. One side was cleaned and repainted. The the process was repeated, with the ship brought in at a different angle to expose the other side.
      The WILSON's hull is still in prime shape, men who worked on her, reported. No one knew just how many coats of copper paint had been slapped onto her hull. By now, however, the hull virtually was impregnated with it. The vessel is for sale, and among the early nibblers is a California motion-picture company."
Above text published by the Seattle Times, date unknown.

SCHOONER friends 
and JOHN A.
 Seattle winter moorage, dated Nov. 1941.
Original photo by James A. Turner,
from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

After procuring the consent of innumerable governmental agencies, Capt. Shields was permitted to enter the schooner CHARLES R. WILSON, in the Bering Sea cod fishery, this being the only vessel operating in the trade. Her catch was 177,477 codfish.
Capt. Knute Pearson sailed her home in August with 144,317 fish. 
Cod-fishing ended for the sailing ships and the CHARLES R. WILSON tied up in Poulsbo with her buddy the C. A. THAYER.

Names of some of the people who have commanded the schooner CHARLES R. WILSON:
Capt. John Grotle
Capt. Knute "Dempsey" Pearson
Capt. J.J. Kelly 
Capt. John Hanson

23 November 2016


Crew member Barbara Leighton
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©

Before the Schooner WANDERBIRD sailed into the hearts of hardworking Capt. Harold Somers and his wife Anna Lise, in California, for one of the most amazing restoration programs in the U.S., the good ship was sailing other oceans.
      Tompkins sailed for adventure and found it on the stormy 5,000-mile voyage from Spain to Florida in the little 76-ft schooner WANDERBIRD. 

     "Lief Erickson in modern dress made port [Miami Beach] the other day. His craft was the schooner WANDERBIRD, his crew totalled six men and two gals and his log told of a 5,000-mile cruise across the stormy Atlantic from Vigo, Spain to these tropical moorings.
      Half a century ago the WANDERBIRD, then the WANDERVOGEL, bucked the gales of the North Sea. She's just as sturdy and staunch today. 'No bigger than the Viking ships, but a sweeter sailing vessel and much more seaworthy,' said Capt. Warwick M. Tompkins.
      Tompkins and his crew, that included his wife, Gwen, and Miss Barbara Leighton of New Haven, CN, had no auxiliary motor on which to call in heavy weather, or calms. The WANDERBIRD is one of the few remaining deep-sea schooners that depends only on sail. 
      The women of the schooner's crew stood watch and watch with the men at the wheel, helping set canvas and going aloft when it was necessary to shorten sail for a heavy blow. The other members of the crew were Alfred W. Pain of Cambridge, Mass,  first officer; Alfred Lorens of Hamburg, Germany, second officer; two sailors and a cook.
      The WANDERVOGEL was one of a fleet of pilot boats built for the German government fifty years ago for service in the North Sea. She is framed and planked of solid oak throughout and copper-sheathed. Despite her staunch build, the schooner made 1,000 miles in six days from Vigo to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands.
'We logged ten knots under shortened canvas,' said Cap'n Tompkins. 'We had gales in the Bay of Biscay, the wind reaching a velocity of eighty-three miles an hour. But from there on it was better. We left Cowes, England, 20 September for Vigo and made port here in 48 days.'
      Tompkins whose home is in Berkeley, CA, attended the U of CA. His deep sea experiences date from war days when he held the battleship ARIZONA on her course as a quartermaster. He purchased the WANDERBIRD in Hamburg last July and with a crew of English and Dutch school boys made a 6-week cruise of the British Isles last summer. 
       His latest venture on the WANDERBIRD is not his first conquest of the Atlantic in a small sailing vessel. He was navigator of the 17-ton PRIMROSE IV* on a crossing of the North Atlantic by way of Iceland an exploit that won him the Blue Water medal in 1927."
* The Log entry of PRIMROSE IV can be seen here.
Above text from the Journal Gazette, Mattoon, IL. 1930.
aboard as navigator on PRIMROSE IV.
Well known sailor and one-time owner of
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©

17 November 2016


with flags flying and gold aboard, 
steaming for Seattle, WA. 17 July 1897.
Litho card from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"As the steamer PORTLAND neared Cape Flattery on 17 July 1897, Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporters had assembled at the offices of the Puget Sound Tug Boat Co in Port Townsend. Rumor had it that the steamship was carrying gold-laden miners from the Klondike region in the Canadian Yukon. The enterprising reporters wished to charter a tug to intercept the PORTLAND before it reached Seattle. Assigned the tug SEA LION, they headed out the strait to Cape Flattery, where they met the steamer and got their story, one of the major scoops of the century. On board the PORTLAND were 68 miners with $964,000 worth of gold dust and nuggets, estimated at one and a half tons of gold. 'A TON OF GOLD' the Seattle P-I bannered in understatement, but a nation and a world were nevertheless electrified by the news and the Klondike promise.
      The Port Townsend Leader chose, however, to ignore the event, noting only that 'the tug SEA LION went to the Cape yesterday;' they featured a story two days later, headlined 'MOUNTAIN OF GOLD,'  about the purported gold find of three Port Townsend men at the headwaters of the Big Quilcene River in the Olympics. 'We have a Klondyke (an early spelling) of our own right here at our door,' Dr. J.C. House proclaimed. Acknowledging the stampede that was gathering throughout Puget Sound for passage to the Yukon, House repeated, 'For mine, I will take my Klondyke in the Olympics and won't have to travel 2,500 miles to get there either.' As it turned out, chances were better in the Klondike. House estimated that his find was valued at 'thousands, if not millions,' but nothing came of it. But the economy of Puget Sound, moribund since the depression of 1893, surged into prosperity with the rush to gold.
      Pt. Townsend men were among the first to schedule trips north. Among them was William J. Jones, who founded the Leader but sold it to become a U.S. commissioner stationed at the Alaska-Yukon border. His concern for gold was secondary. Representing the US. government in the affairs of its citizens taking gold out of Canada, Jones also turned his newspaper background into a side enterprise  when he contracted as special correspondent with 21 newspapers, including Frank Leslie's Weekly, the New York World, and the New York Herald, but not the Leader. He received fifteen dollars from Frank Leslie for a one-thousand word article, and eight dollars to ten dollars per column from other periodicals. His early reports, reprinted by the Leader from other papers, told of the trials of the ill-prepared miners during that first year of scramble after gold.
      Port Townsend merchants did their best to make certain that no one was under supplied. 'Last on, first off' was the marketing slogan local outfitters used to attract the hordes of stampeders. Nearly all Klondikers en route to Skagway stopped in Port Townsend, their last U.S. stop before Alaska and the rugged Chilkoot Pass. Local merchants advertised in Klondike promotional publications, noting that the gold-seekers'  supplies would be stowed on top of those manifested in Seattle and would therefore be unloaded first, giving Pt. Townsend passengers an edge in the mad dash to Dawson before the snows closed access to the Yukon for the winter. The Pt. Townsend Board of Trade claimed that outfits could be bought in Pt. Townsend for 5 to 20 percent less than any other city on Puget Sound, and they even found miners to testify to that fact. Whatever the truth behind the hype, most gold seekers chose Seattle, and the booming business in the Queen City settled any lingering arguments about which town would be the primary metropolis of the Northwest. All Port Townsend got for its effort was an enduring though unsubstantiated legend concerning JACK LONDON.
Above words Simpson, Peter. City of Dreams. Bay Press, Pt. Townsend. 1986.

There is Seattle waiting to welcome the gold ship,
Photo caught O. by Frasch.
From the archives of the S.P.H.S. © 
"The PORTLAND came very near being two days late winning a place in history for herself. The EXCELSIOR had picked up the first of the Klondike miners at Nome and arrived at San Francisco on 15 July carrying almost as rich a treasure as the PORTLAND. It was a publicity man named Erastus Brainerrd who made the steamer PORTLAND famous, gave the great gold rush to Seattle and made Alaska a 'suburb' of that enterprising Pacific Northwest city." Newell & Williamson. Pacific Coastal Liners. Superior Publishing. 1959


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