"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 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.

24 November 2014

ENGLISH CAMP ❖ ❖ ❖ Then and Now

Mary Crook Davis, 1946
English Camp, San Juan Island, WA.

Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
"This day's story is a guided tour with Mrs. Davis, whose Englishman-father William Crook, homesteaded this land while it was still warm from the tread of soldiers marching up and down 12 years from 1860 to 1872. Mrs. Davis was a very small girl then, but she has lived here all her life; she knows the story by heart.
      First, you come down a long private road, through woods and pasture, into the yard where the house is. You knock on the door, pay your 10 cents that Mrs. Davis reluctantly accepts, and then this strong, well-presered pioneer woman takes you into her front room to see pictures and a few relics she keeps there. You ask about Jim Crook, the brother you have heard so much about––how he makes his own clothes from the sheep's back to his own.
      "Oh, you won't see Jim today, he's out with the wheat. He's busy––yes, he did spin some wool once, and weave himself a suit of clothes. The old loom is still here and the clothes, too, if you want to see them; he's had a lot of notions. His latest is a sawmill and an electric plant run by a windmill..." Mrs. Davis says.
      Now, you go out into the grounds along a road made by the soldiers in the 60s. The trees are planted along the sides in even rows as the English always do things, native firs transplanted in two long rows.
      Ivy grows thick up the trees and all around, Mrs. Davis says. It was brought from England by Mrs. Delacombe, the second officer's wife, who was very homesick here.
      The winding switch-back trail down the hill from here soon arrives at the old blockhouse on the  beach. This building is in better repair than it was when I saw it 15 years ago. Mr. Crook has shingled and mended and whitewashed it afresh. The old frayed shingles from the days of the occupation are neatly piled in heap for souvenir hunters.
      There is a sturdy new stair-ladder up to the second story where the gun holes ring the low wall. If you peep through one of the holes you see Garrison Bay, Henry Island, Vancouver Island across Haro Strait and nearby green points hemmed in blue.
      The blockhouse sits right down on the beach. High tide laps it. Low tide leaves it at the edge of a wide mud flat––the same mud that prevented out coming here by water today and that prevents our going on to Mitchell Bay and Yacht Haven. If anyone but the Crooks owned this place, the blockhouse might itself be part of this mud by now.
      From the blockhouse, you cross the parade ground that is now an orchard. The old barracks building still stands over at the edge where orchard meets woods.
      When you are ready to go, your guide comes with you part of the way back up the hill to the public road again, explaining as you walk together between the Queen Anne's lace, how to get to the little English cemetery where 10 boys are buried. You cross the road and go over a stile and up a hill, or you go through the cows' underpass below the road. Beyond, you follow an indefinite almost-road for a quarter of a mile up the hill to a grove of trees on a knoll of its own overlooking Canada's waters around Vancouver Island.
      The 10 graves are enclosed with a green picket fence. You climb another stile over it to read the inscriptions. Some of them were apparently composed and ordered by the boys themselves, the spelling all their own.
      "In memory of JOs Ellis and THOs Kiddy, Private R.M.LI. who whare accidently Drowned JANy 4th      1863. This Tabblet is Erected by their Comrads...In the midst of life, we are in death..."
      Back at Roche Harbor, tired and dusty from six miles of walking that morning, we said goodbye to the pretty village and rowed away. The flood was running now. It would take us as far as Limestone Point on Orcas. We'd put up our oars, ride that tide, and have a cold lunch in the boat as we slid along.
See you tomorrow. June."
Day 73 of 100 Days in the San Juans, Burn, June. First published by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 1946.
Book in the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society, SJC.
There is an English Camp Holiday Social on 6 Dec 2014. Contra dancing, honoring the volunteers, potluck, hot fires, free admission.  For details

19 November 2014

✪ ✪ ✪ STAR OF INDIA (ex-EUTERPE) Museum Ship

San Diego, CA.
Photo postcards from the archives of
the S.P.H.S. 2014.
Click to enlarge.
"The STAR OF INDIA is the world's second oldest active sailing ship. She began her life on the stocks at Ramsey Shipyard in the Isle of Man in 1863, built by Gibson, McDonald and Arnold. Iron ships were experiments of sorts then, with most vessels still being built of wood. Within five months of laying her keel, the ship was launched into her element, 14 November. She bore the name EUTERPE, after the Greek muse of music and poetry.
      EUTERPE was a full-rigged ship and would remain so until 1901, when the Alaska Packers Association rigged her down to a barque, her present rig. She began her sailing life with two near-disastrous voyages to India. On her first trip she suffered a collision and a mutiny. On her second trip, a cyclone caught EUTERPE in the Bay of Bengal, and with her topmasts cut away, she barely made port. Shortly afterward, her first captain, William John Storry, died on board and was buried at sea.
      After such a hard luck beginning, EUTERPE settled down and made four more voyages to India as a cargo ship. In 1871 she was purchased by the Shaw Savill line of London and embarked on a quarter century of hauling emigrants to New Zealand, sometimes also touching Australia, California and Chile. She made 21 circumnavigations in this service, some of them lasting up to a year. A baby was born on one of those trips en route to New Zealand and was given the middle name Euterpe. It was rugged voyaging, with the little iron ship battling through terrific gales, 'laboring and rolling in a most distressing manner,' according to her log.
      The life aboard was especially hard on the emigrants cooped up in her 'tween deck, fed a diet of hardtack and salt junk, subject to mal-de-mer and a host of other ills. It is astonishing that their death rate was so low. They were a tough lot, however, drawn from the working classes of England, Ireland and Scotland, and most went on to prosper in New Zealand."
Above text from the San Diego Maritime Museum.


Tonnage: 1,318  g. tons, 1,247 tons net.
 205' LWL, 278' sparred L x 35' x 22' (fully loaded)
Sail plan: full-rigged ship 1863-1901
                Barque (1901- )
Registered in the US: 1900.
Name change: 1906.
Last sail from San Francisco to Bristol Bay, AK: 1923.
1926: STAR OF INDIA was sold to the Zoological Society of San Diego, CA, to be the centerpiece of a planned museum and aquarium. It was not until 1957 that restoration began. Alan Villiers, a windjammer captain and well-known author came from Europe to San Diego on a lecture tour.
Captain Alan Villiers (1903-1982)
Seen here commanding the MAYFLOWER II,
a replica, sailing from London to the USA in 1957.

He made at least three trips to Seattle and was 
awarded Honorary Membership in the 
Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society.
More on this blue water sailor another day.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
 Seeing STAR OF INDIA decaying in the harbor, he publicized the situation and inspired a group of citizens to form the 'Star of India Auxiliary' in 1959, to support the restoration. Progress was still slow, but in 1976, STAR finally put to sea again. She houses exhibits for the Maritime Museum of San Diego, is kept fully seaworthy, and sails at least once a year. With the many other ships now in the Museum, she hosts frequent docent-led school tours for over 6,000 children a year, as well as a Living History Program in which students 'step back in time' and are immersed in history and teamwork activities during overnight visits.
      The 1863 STAR OF INDIA is the fourth oldest ship afloat in the US, after the 1797 USS CONSTITUTION, the 1841 CHARLES W. MORGAN, and the 1854 USS CONSTELLATION. 
Unlike many preserved or restored vessels, her hull, cabins and equipment are nearly 100% original.
1966: She became a California Historical Landmark and a United States National Historic Landmark.
Location: San Diego Maritime Museum, San Diego, CA., within the Port of San Diego tide lands. This location is slightly west of downtown San Diego, CA.
      STAR OF INDIA has become one of the landmark ships in San Diego's Harbor. WAY TO GO SAN DIEGO!
A Link to San Juan County:
Rigger Hans Abrahamsen (1876-1956)
Moved to Doe Bay in 1907.

      Hans Martin Abrahamsen (1876-1956) was born in Larvik, Norway. He started out as a cabin boy at age 9 when he began his sailing ventures and worked his way up to the working role of an expert rigger. The fourth vessel on which he served was the EUTERPE in 1899, from Australia for Honolulu and from there to Port Townsend. He sailed on the west coast of the US for several years. and sailed on another well-known vessel, the KAIULANI. Hans came ashore to Ballard for a short time before he married and settled at Doe Bay, Orcas Island, WA. Hans and his Swedish wife farmed, raised their four children, and lived out their lives on Orcas. 
      Sons Al and Harry both worked on the water; some of Al Abrahamsen's work was connected to hardhat diving for salvage from the much publicized wreck of the DIAMOND KNOT, postedhere.
Copy of a document from the Hans Abrahamsen family.
Note signature of the highly regarded author/ WA. historian,
 serving as the Hawaiian Consul.
Copy in the archives of the S.P.H.S.

Click to enlarge.

15 November 2014

Puget Sound Steamboat Bell & Jingle Engine Orders

L-R: Keith Sternberg and
Chief Engineer Don Gray.
Keith fired for 8 or 9 engineers on the VIRGINIA V.
Gray was engineering on the USS ENTERPRISE
during WW II.
Photo shared by author Keith Sternberg, Lopez Island, WA.

"Aboard the steamers of the 'mosquito fleet,' engine orders were signaled to the engineer with a trip gong and a jingle bell. In the pilot house, brass slide pulls with loop or hook-shaped handles were mounted on the wheel stand or the tongue and groove staving. These bell pulls varied in size and shape, but one was always larger than the other. The larger pull sounded the gong, and the smaller pull sounded the jingle bell. The gong produced one loud "CLANG" with a yank on its bell-pull. The jingle bell produced a higher-pitched 'DING-A-LING' sound. These bells and bell pulls were standard  features of tugboats, cannery tenders, and fishing vessels, no matter if they were steam powered or with a diesel or gasoline engine. Tug boats were sometimes fitted with a set of bell pulls aft on the boat deck. Even twin-screw vessels used these bells, with two sets of bells of different tones.
From the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
      Trip gongs and jingle bells were widely used on vessels on both coasts of the USA and in riverboats, with a fascinating variation of signals, according to local custom. A Puget Sound steamboat man did not dare take a job on a New York harbor tug without first learning the bells used on those boats, which were quite different from the Puget Sound bells. When I hired on the VIRGINIA V as a fireman in 1966, her master, mate, and engineer were all veteran steamboat men with experience reaching back to the early 1900s. With this in mind, the bell code that these men used on the VIRGINIA V can probably be taken as the standard bell code used on Puget Sound for many years. I don't think they considered the bell-&-jingle method to be quaint, out of date, or antiquated, they were just steamboat men running a steamboat in the way it had always been done.
      In my description here, 'one bell' means one stroke of the gong, 'two bells' means two strokes of the gong, and 'jingle' means a good rattle of the jingle bell. This was done by yanking up on the jingle-pull, holding it up for about a half-second, and dropping it.
      The gong is used to signal half-ahead, stop, and half astern. If the engine is stopped, one bell signals half ahead, or two bells signals half astern. One bell means stop, in either direction. Maneuvering bells, when making landings or getting underway, were mostly half-speed bells, and half speed was a lively turn of the engine so that she would have rudder power, about 130 RPM.
      The jingle bell is used to increase speed from half to full. If she's turning half-ahead, the jingle is sounded to increase to full astern.
      The jingle bell is also used to signal slow-ahead or slow-astern. There was no bell command for reducing from half to slow; you rang a stop bell first. Then for slow-ahead, a jingle followed by one bell. Stop to slow-astern is signaled by a jingle followed by two bells. 'Slow' called for very slow turns, and was seldom used except for working ahead against the spring line.
      Note the logic in the use of the jingle bell: a jingle BEFORE a bell means slow; a jingle AFTER a bell means full. The jingle bell serves as a sort of accent to the gong. If the jingle comes first it subtracts from the half-speed of the gong.
      The jingle bell also serves as a 'standby' bell, when running at full ahead. Also it is used to signal 'finished with engines' when stopped. A good long rattle of the bell was used for that.
      One last detail is how to reduce speed from full ahead to half ahead: one bell. This is the only instance when one bell does not command 'stop.' When turning full astern, one bell means stop. One bell always means stop EXCEPT when turning full ahead, when it calls for half ahead. Forgive my repetitious writing style, but this is an important point.
      When getting underway, the first bell to be struck is always a stop bell. This is because the engineer needs to warm up the engine, working ahead against the spring line, and the skipper knows this. Just as importantly, the chief knows that the skipper knows this. What I'm getting at here is that when the skipper rings one bell, the chief does not assume that the skipper thinks he is stopped, and therefore this one bell means to go ahead half. No sir, one bell means stop because the engine is working ahead and everyone knows that. This was always understood and I never saw any confusion about it. Cont'd with a click on "read more" below.

11 November 2014


George Parker, Owen Sound, Canada.
Normally a violin and guitar maker, turned to making
steering wheels for ships. These were made of teak or walnut,
and consisted of 50 various wood components. 

Photographer unknown. Collection of S.P.H.S.©. 
In October 1943 when this photo was taken, Canada was turning out freighters at a record breaking pace in 12 shipyards on both coasts. Most of the new ships were of the Liberty 10,000-ton class, and more than 225 sea-going vessels were launched after the war began. Construction methods were similar to those in America. Canada used these ships to carry her own lend-lease supplies to nations all over the world. 

08 November 2014

Book Review ☛ WHALERS NO MORE ❖ ❖ ❖ ❖ by W. A. HAGELUND


Whalers No More by W. A. Hagelund, published by Harbour Publishing of Madeira Park, B.C. in 1987, is a history of 20th C. whaling on the coast of Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska. Hagelund signed on the steam whaler BROWN at Victoria in 1941 at the age of 17. Hagelund has a lively writing style and describes his adventure in detail, as the BROWN hunts whales off the Queen Charlottes. Coal-fired with no electric plant and no pilot house, life on these steamers was very old fashioned by 1941 standards.
Top two photos, coastal whaling
station at Gray's Harbor, WA.

click to enlarge.
Photos from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
      In addition to Captain Bill's summer in the BROWN, the book is a history of the whale fishery in the Northwest, including interviews with men who sailed in the whale steamers. The stories of these men are written out just as they were spoken, so well done, that I felt like I could see and hear these old boys telling their stories. some of them were engineers, and I found their perspective very interesting. My only frustration is that one of these engineers tells a story and then says "but that's enough about engineering, you want to hear about whaling." But, of course, I do want to hear engineering stories.
      The ships were powered by 3-furnace scotch boilers and triple expansion engines of 350-HP. There were a number of whaling stations along the coast, and the ships wintered at Victoria. One man owned all of the stations and ships, which included several American flag ships built at Seattle. These wintered in Meydenbauer Bay, Bellevue, on Lake Washington. The owner, William Shupp, had his home there. The business collapsed after WWII. The ships were sold and scrapped, except the SS GREEN, that remained in Victoria Harbor, and is still there. But all that remains is a rusted boiler and a few bits and pieces. She sank at her dock in 1968."

WHALERS NO MORE won the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize in 1988.

Keith Sternberg is an engineer, of course, from Lopez Island, WA. 
Stay tuned for a column with more of Sternberg's written work and also a post with some of his engineering feats. 

31 October 2014

☠ ☠ DEATH SHIP 1971

Norwegian Death ship heading to drydock.
METEOR, near Vancouver, B.C.
32 crew members died in a fire on board
May 1971

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

"A tragic marine disaster in Pacific Northwest water was the sudden fire which swept the Norwegian cruise liner METEOR during the early morning hours of 22 May 1971, claiming the lives of 32 crew members.
      The METEOR, a 297-ft motor liner of 2,856 gross tons, built in 1955, had arrived only recently as the first Scandinavian vessel to enter the increasingly popular British Columbia-Alaska cruise trade, with North Land Tours of Seattle as general agents. She was returning from one of her first cruises to the north, carrying only 67 passengers and a crew of 91 when the flash fire broke out below decks forward in the crew area as she was passing Texada Island in the Strait of Georgia, only 60 miles from Vancouver. The flames spread with such incredible rapidity that the 32 victims were trapped below decks and burned or suffocated to death in a matter of minutes. There was little or no apparent exterior damage to the ship.
      The METEOR broadcast a mayday call on VHF Ch 6, but not on the international distress frequency, which is the only one required by law to be monitored by other vessels. Fortunately, the Alaska State ferry MALASPINA, which was in the immediate vicinity, was monitoring both channels and responded quickly to the call, as did Northland Navigation's motor vessel ISLAND PRINCE and the coastal tanker B.C. STANDARD, and several smaller craft. Using boats fro the METEOR and MALASPINA, all passengers and four injured crew members were taken aboard the ferry and returned to Vancouver. Most of the passengers were still in nightclothes, so sudden was the disaster and subsequent evacuation of the liner. All of them were united in their praise of the METEOR's surviving crew for their efficiency in fighting the fire and in awakening and evacuating the passengers safely.
Survivors of fire aboard the cruise ship METEOR.
22 May 1971.
Near Vancouver, BC.

Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
The Can. Coast Guard cutters RACER and READY and salvage tug SUDBURY II stood by the METEOR playing hoses on the fire until it was under control, after which the Norwegian vessel reached Vancouver under her own power, although listing about 15 degrees to starboard.
      At the subsequent investigation, Capt. Alf Morner, the METEOR's master, told a grisly story of men 'crawling like animals' through smoke-filled corridors in an attempt to save trapped crew members in the forward section. His voice cracked by sobs, Capt. Morner told an inquest jury at Vancouver he led a small party of men into the fire areas shortly after the fire broke out. He said he shook some bodies he came across and was shocked to learn they were dead because they had not been burned. A Norwegian investigating commission attributed the fire to negligence on the part of one of the crew members, probably through careless disposal of a cigarette.* Apparently the negligent seaman was one of those who died in the fire.
      Capt. John A. Boden, the Canadian pilot who was aboard the METEOR at the time of the fire, testified that the firefighting efforts of the surviving members of the crew and the work of the two Can. Coast Guard cutters saved the ship from total loss. Capt. Harold Payne, in command of the MALASPINA at the time of the rescue, was subsequently given an award of commendation by Governor William A. Egan of Alaska for him and his crew.

*John Clark, the ship's second engineer, testified that he believed the tragic episode was caused by a misplaced cigarette that may have fallen off a table and set fire to something flammable, spreading to the heavily varnished woodwork. He reasoned that if varnish is heated sufficiently it will ignite, which Clark said would account for the incredible speed with which the fire spread to the crews' quarters on the lower decks."
The above quote from the H. W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest 1966 to 1976, pg. 104-105.

METEOR, Seattle, WA., 1970
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
The Norwegian cruise ship METEOR docked at Pier 48, Seattle, WA., May 1970, one year before her tragic fire. She was owned by the Bergen Lines, the first Scandinavian ship in the trade on the West coast.

30 October 2014

Square Rigger GREAT ADMIRAL Lost

Eric A. Pousard, Winslow, Bainbridge Island, WA.
Survivor of the wreck of the full rigged ship
the GREAT ADMIRAL, lost 6 December 1906.
Low-res scan of original '49 photo from  archives of the S. P. H. S.©
"The story of the loss of the GREAT ADMIRAL, square-rigger, which linked world ports in the days of sail, was told yesterday by Eric A. Pousard, Winslow, business man, a member of the famous vessel, who clung to wreckage until rescued.
      In the office of McGinitie & McDonald, marine surveyors, Pousard saw a picture of the GREAT ADMIRAL on the wall.
      'That's my old ship,' he said as his face lighted up and his eyes sparkled. 'That picture takes me back more than 40 years to 6 December 1906, when the GREAT ADMIRAL foundered 175 miles southwest of Cape Flattery.
      'Capt. E. R. Sterling of Seattle, famous sailing ship skipper, was master and owner of the GREAT ADMIRAL. We had sailed the square-rigger to South Africa, Australia, Hawaii, Mexico, and Alaska, but she was lost while bound from Mukilteo for San Pedro with a cargo of lumber.
      It was in November 1906. We towed from Mukilteo to Pt. Townsend, cleared at the custom house and left in the evening of 30 November for sea.
      Arriving at Cape Flattery 1 December in the afternoon, we passed out in light southwest winds and fine weather. Approximately 150 miles southwest of the Cape, we sighted the British sailing ship BARCORE. After we had shown the lime-juicer our heels, the barometer dropped rapidly and we were in for a dusting. As the gale came up, Capt. Sterling ordered the canvas shortened and soon we were down to three sails.
      As the wind reached high velocity, huge seas swept over the ship as if she were a submerged rock. Water came in under the forecastle head and under the terrific pounding the GREAT ADMIRAL began to break up. The masts were lifted out of the ship and the poop deck went overboard, with Captain Sterling and the crew, 18 men all told, clinging to it.
      Then the poop deck broke in two, the two pieces drifting apart and then drifting together again. We clung to the piece we thought would last the longest.
      For two days we were adrift on the wreckage. The cook and the cabin boy became so exhausted that they were unable to cling to the wreckage and were washed away.
      Finally the BARCORE, the British ship we had passed, hove in sight and took us aboard. She was bound for Honolulu, so when we sighted the ship ANDREW WELLS, off the CA coast, we asked to be transferred to that vessel. The WELLS landed up in San Francisco 9 December 1906.
      Wreckage from the GREAT ADMIRAL drifted ashore at Queen Charlotte Island, [B.C.] two years later.'
      The GREAT ADMIRAL was built in 1869 by Robert E. Jackson at East Boston for William F. Weld & Co., who at that time had the largest sailing fleet under the American flag. Her figurehead was a life-sized image of Admiral Farragut and still is preserved on the Weld estate near Boston."
The Seattle Times, 5 June 1949

According to his obituary, Mr. Pousard, a native of Sweden, came to the US in 1906. He was a dockmaster at Hall Bros. Shipyard for many years. He passed away in 1960.