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


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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.

19 March 2017


"I am going to take you back 60 years when I was a boy in Friday Harbor. My brother-in-law, Ashton Thomas, was the sheriff of San Juan County. He was also proprietor of the Bay View Hotel, now the San Juan Hotel, and I was helping there. Sheriff Thomas and his two brothers had a little track of land on Waldron Island where they were [having a boat built.] At that time San Juan County and the entire USA were in the grip of a great depression. There was no employment for anybody. The wages for young men at that time were about $20 a month, and a girl could get $2 a week, if she could find a job. However, SJC was rich with fertile lands and large herds of stock, but there was no call to raise much of anything for there was no sale. The people of that day, couldn't buy a new suit of clothes or a new dress every time there was a dance. However, they made the best of it.
ON 161054
Built on Waldron Island by A.J. Hinckley
for the Thomas Brothers of Waldron Island, WA.
38' x 12' x 3.6' wood sloop
11 May 1894.

Source: Master Carpenter Certificate from the National Archives, Seattle, WA. 

Around the first part of April 1894, one beautiful afternoon a new boat came sailing around Carter Point with brand new sails and fresh paint. This was the little vessel the Thomas boys had built. It wasn't long until she sailed up close to the dock, then it was necessary to get their oars to assist them in getting to the dock. There were no gas or steam engines in those days for smaller boats.

      She landed at Sweeney's Dock and it wasn't long before Thomas was aboard and talking to his two brothers regarding their trip down. For the next two days Sheriff Thomas was very busy taking his friends aboard the new sloop named after my sister, Katy Thomas. After taking some of his friends for a number of short sailing trips into San Juan Channel on a Sunday afternoon, Thomas and his two brothers and three other men left Friday Harbor for a trip to Pt. Townsend to get her measured for register. They went on down through San Juan Channel and through San Juan Pass and then off into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and across, arriving in Pt. Townsend about 5:30 AM Monday.
S.S. LYDIA THOMPSON (on right)
Location: Port of Friday Harbor, San Juan Archipelago.
ON 141266
92' x 28'
b. 1893 by Enos Raymond, Pt. Angeles 
for Thompson Steamboat Co. 
She ran Seattle/Bellingham via the Islands 3 times/week. 
Capt. W. B. Thompson (author of this letter) was master when 
she went on rocks near Orcas Is., 1898.
 No lives lost; the crew camped ashore before the LYDIA 
was floated free and towed to Seattle for repairs.
She went back in service for many years of 
uneventful sailing on local runs.
Original undated photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      About that time, the steamer LYDIA THOMPSON, was just arriving from a trip through the Islands at six o'clock. The LYDIA landed a little ahead of the new KATY THOMAS, and as Thomas' boat was coming alongside, three men came running over and were not long in getting into a conversation with the Sheriff. Those three men were looking for a fishing place to start a cannery or something of that sort. In mentioning that to Thomas they couldn't have found a better known man, and after only a few words, Thomas decided to leave his boat and return with those men who were from Astoria, Or. These men were Johnny Devlin, Fred Keen, and Phillip Cook. During the trip from Pt. T. to Argyle in SJC, it gave Thomas plenty of time to line up the different places for fishing and the conditions, pertaining to that business.
      At Argyle they were fortunate enough to find Alfred Douglas with a new buggy and a team of horses who volunteered to drive the four men to Friday Harbor, about one and a quarter miles. A hurried meeting of the merchants and business men of Friday Harbor was called while Thomas stated the conditions that the men were looking for. Called to order–– everybody came to terms almost immediately.
      The men at the meeting were: banker J.A. Gould; Joe Sweeney, merchant: Churchill & Nofsgar, of the San Juan Trading Co; L.B. Carter, merchant; C.L. (Kergy) Carter, former county commissioner; S.E. Hackett, county attorney; C.L. Tucker, county treasurer; Wm Shultz, superintendent of Roche Harbor Lime Co; Mr. E.H. Nash, county clerk; Mr. Louis Hix* and his step-son, Del Hoffman from Shaw Island; the latter two being very important men because they owned the only pile-driver in SJC at that time, and they knew where piling could be obtained.
      The meeting was such a success that those three men from Astoria decided right then and there they would build a cannery in the Harbor, provided Devlin could get the Chinamen to do that kind of work. It was late in the year, for this is what they had to do; they had to build a cannery, get the material to make the cans, install machinery, and have this work done before the 25th of July because that is the time the fish commence to run. The little steamer, SUCCESS, was chartered to take Mr. Devlin and Mr. Keen to Anacortes where Devlin would go to Astoria and Keen would stop at Seattle to arrange conditions there, while Phillip Cook was left in Friday Harbor to open an office to handle the business of a new cannery. 
       Four days later the little steamer MICHIGAN came steaming into Friday Harbor with Captain Howard Buline as master, and Mr. Keen on board as well. Mr. Devlin had succeeded in hiring the Chinese; he stayed in Portland to take care of the business. Two weeks later the steam schooner SIGNAL came steaming into Friday Harbor with lumber, tin plate and all kinds of cannery machinery that was required for the cannery and word went out to all parts of the county for men who didn't have a job, and it was high speed to get the China house built so the Chinese could land and start work.
      It was a bolt of thunder into a silent little community and before twenty days had passed, there wasn't a man, woman or child who wanted to work that didn't have a job.
      The San Juan Trading Co had volunteered to let the newly formed company use their dock at no cost in order to get everything going. Mr. Gould also gave a 30-year lease for enough property on which to build the cannery and China house. From that time on, men would arrive from the OR canning industry and Jimmy Burke, well-known son of homesteader, Alfred Burke of Shaw Island, had charge of placing the machinery in the completed cannery. The Friday Harbor cannery was built and when the fish started to run on 1 August of that year, they were all ready for work. At the close of the season they had canned 18,000 cases of salmon. In those days all they canned were sockeyes. The humpbacks, silvers, and others were thrown back into the sea. 
      This was the start of the bust of the depression, and after the fish business got going, there were two more canneries started in Anacortes, two more in Blaine, and one in Bellingham." [Later there were canneries on other nearby islands.]
Above words by Captain William P. Thornton, June 1958.
Fish and Ships. Andrews, Ralph W. and A.K. Larssen.

Do you know of a photo of the pile-driver belonging to L.D. Hix? We'd be interested for adding to San Juan County maritime archives. 

*What was formerly called HIcks Bay on the south shore of Shaw Island underwent an official spelling correction with the Washington State Board of Geographic Names in 2016. Government charts will adopt the correct spelling of "Hix" for Louis D. Hix and his wife Cynthia Bish Hoffman HIx. 

18 March 2017


Day 39 from One Hundred Days in the San Juans by author, June Burn.
Written on contract for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1946.

"Lopez Sound. Our callers this morning were the Balsleys from Decatur Island, newcomers from Seattle. They had invited us to their beach then had to go off on the ferry today, we were afraid we'd pass them by––as we meant to do. We're sort of getting ahead of ourselves in material and some of the islands will have to wait till next summer to be set down in "story and song."
      But not the Balsleys of Decatur, anyway. Here they are to tell their own story––now that they have the very prettiest place in the islands! You just ought to see it. And if you have the map I told you to get, you will see that they have what looks like a perfect harbor for the summertime. It is that one on the west side facing north inside the peninsula that makes a high protecting bluff around it. We can see their white beach from here.
      The Balsleys have a little resort just in bud. They call it San Elmo for the patron saint of sailors. Their bay is 12 feet deep with a fine bottom for anchorage. They have their own garden and chickens and a cow. 'And I'm just about the best cook you ever saw,' little Mrs. Balsleys says, tempting us down for dinner on a night when they'll be there.
      Decatur Island is an old friend of mine. 
For early days of the Decatur Island Howells, Stewarts
and friends, Mary's award winning history book is in
book stores now. Catch one while you can.
I used to go there to visit the Howells, now of Bellingham, Mrs. Stewart, a Howell, still lives there. William Viereck of Orcas and Bill Reed, the shipbuilder, used to live on Decatur. Davidsons, Wohls, Hansons, live there now. 'They're all fine neighbors,' the new Balsleys say. 'They treat us like old-timers, too now.'
      Decatur is the island that lies below Blakely, hemming in the waters between them and Lopez, to make Lopez Sound. It is nearly as large as Waldron with about 3,000 acres, covering three and a half square miles. It was named by the Wilkes expedition for Stephen Decatur.
      The beaches on the island are practically endless. Long curving, bright beaches that lie at the foot of bluffs, run along the low farmland and swing round the heads of all the bays. Decatur is a lovely island! But it has only one child of school age living there now. The Balsleys and the Stewarts will each take in welfare children to board next winter so as to have a school for that child.
      It is another bright, hot day as we leave Spencer Spit. Just as we set sail for the south, the north wind that has blown all week comes to a sudden stop, swings around to the southwest in fact. We take to the oars. It's hot. We take off our shoes. It's hotter. We get into shorts. It's burning us up. We get back into shoes and all our clothes. The sky is as clear as the water is smooth as the air is still as the islands are silent. The dome of Baker shows across a dip in the fat back of Cypress.
      Slowly Blakely goes astern. Decatur comes abreast and slowly retreats. Little Trump's rocky bumps come nearer and all the time Lopez walks along toward the north on the other side of us.
      It is noon. We'll go ashore on Trump Island and have lunch on that little six foot beach between two rocky bluffs. We have turnip, beet and kohlrabi tops with cheese omelet, potatoes and lettuce. Nuts, crackers, jam, coffee. Nor bird appetites, ours!
      As we leave this miniature bay we see a big crab on the bottom and another. Farrar ties a rag and a lead to a string, lets them down gently in front of the crabs. They reach out their two big front claws, grasp the rag, hang on and are gently lifted over our gunwale into the boat for our supper. Farrar says they must like to chew the rag. Then we catch a rock cod to make up the quantity and row off for Center Island where Mr. Schaldach lives in a big log house overlooking the East and Mt. Baker.
Fararr says if he could live like this all the time, he wouldn't mind dying. You only mind dying when you feel you haven't lived, he says.
      There is a fine madrona grove on Center Island, the stems shining in the going-down sunshine. The trees rise clean out of the ground, no underwood on this side of the island––we go around to the Schaldach's.
     And they are not at home.
      Heigh-ho, off we go, row, row, row, row! On around the wide bay of Decatur. We'll go to International Boy's Camp tonight, then. We'd better not pass it up or we'll be kidnapped again.
      We pass slender little Ram Island that used to belong to Dr. Binyon, and the other little one beside it. He called them Ram and Rum. The sun is fairly bursting its sides shining as we cross Lopez Pass for the headland where the boys' camp is located.
      "If it was like this all the time, you couldn't drag me away from this country," Farrar says, thinking about the times we have wasted somewhere else.
      We round the point into the badly misnamed Mud Bay and come upon white teepees. We're at International Boys' Camp before we know it. A fleet of rowboats and little sailing boats, a flock of little girls and boys in swimming. Why this is a girls' camp, too, and we later learn they are mainly brothers and sisters.
      The camp has lately moved from San Juan Island. Stacks of lumber, timbers, an old buggy, ladders and nameless other things still lie on the spit at the head of the beach. And the big lodge itself is still unfinished. But it is very handsome and unusual. Farrar takes a picture of it before we've said hello to anybody.
      Yonder comes Mr. Henderson. See you tomorrow. June."


08 March 2017


72' x 18.9' x 9; , 200 HP.
built at Newhall, Orcas Island, WA.,
by J. A. Scribner.
The top photo is dated 1904.
The photo with inscription is a view of the steamer
in Pole Pass, San Juan Archipelago.
Click to enlarge.
The first ISLANDER built in the San Juan Islands, was a passenger and freight steamer  built by J.A. Scribner for Capt. Newhall, at Newhall, Orcas Island, WA. She replaced the BUCKEYE of 1890 on the Bellingham-San Juans route remaining in Puget Sound service until 1917.

1909: "On Puget Sound, the San Juan Navigation Co was formed by John S. McMillan of Roche Harbor lime interests and other parties, placing the steamer VASHONIAN on the Seattle-Roche Harbor route, meeting the Burton at Roche Harbor for Bellingham. This well financed competition put veteran steamboat man, Andrew Newhall out of business and his ISLANDER was tied up at Decatur Island upon the expiration of his mail contract the following year."

1910: "In February, the post-office department rejected all bids tendered for carrying the mail on the Bellingham-Anacortes route, now carried by the steamer ISLANDER, and called for new bids, according to a letter received by Andrew Newhall this week from the Deputy Postmaster of Bellingham. Mr. Newhall did not put in any bid in response to the department's recent call, having no desire to continue the service for such a small sum as he has received during the past four years and not doubting that still lower bids would be tendered by owners of gasoline power boats that could not furnish freight service. Under his contract his steamer had been obliged to call daily at some points that had been unprofitable and where scant appreciation had been shown of the service rendered." 
The San Juan Islander. February 1910.

1911: The well-known Capt. Basford and son Erwin chartered the ISLANDER for a short time but she again proved unsuccessful and was subsequently sold to Mexican interests.

1917: "The little steamer ISLANDER, that formerly plied a route among the San Juan Islands, and which was recently sold to San Francisco interests, is about to be placed in the Mexican trade, according to advices arriving from S.F. recently.
      The little steamer is now at S. F., and her new owners, Helm & Co., which conduct a coastwise service from S.F. to Mexican ports, announce the intention of placing the ISLANDER on that route to alternate with another small craft that has been operating for some time." The Friday Harbor Journal. Aug. 1917.

Named for the ISLANDER of 1904.
(As listed above.)
Dockside, Squalicum Harbor, Bellingham, WA.
Built on San Juan Island, 1922.

Original photo from the archives of S. P. H. S.©
      The hull of the trim looking vessel was designed and built by Albert Jensen of Friday Harbor, WA., for the San Juan Transportation Company. The keel was laid at his shipyard 17 May 1920; with her maiden voyage taking place two years later. She was named for the pioneer craft of that name, built by Andrew Newhall, of Newhall, Orcas Island, WA.
        According to islander Captain Clayton Shaw (1908-2001,) "C.H. Clift, Jr. of Shaw Island and Bellingham built the motors for the small freight and passenger boat. He guaranteed them to run for a year. The first one never ran very well; the second one did a lot better. They had trouble with the first motor from the start and it broke Clift Machine Works. George Stillman of the islands was Chief Engineer with well-known Captain Charley Basford as the skipper. My uncle Charles Stillman bought a lot of shares in the company. He had a fit as they had a left-handed girl christen the boat and then the boat stuck on the ways and they had to get a tug to pull her off."
        In 1927 the ISLANDER was extensively refitted at King's Shipbuilding in Seattle to have her twin Diesel engines replaced with 300-HP steam single screw to run her former route. 
Built in Friday Harbor, San Juan Archipelago, WA.
With a crew of twelve and c. twenty passengers aboard, the steamer MOHAWK, that left Seattle Tuesday night, was blown on the rocks near Deception Pass yesterday morning when she broke a tail shaft, setting her helplessly adrift.
      A wireless appeal for help, broadcast by her skipper, Capt. George Ryan, brought the tug DIVIDEND to the rescue. The tug found the steamer had drifted into calm water after being buffeted against the rocks for half an hour. 
      None of those on board was injured, although the steamer was slightly damaged. She arrived in Bellingham, under tow c. seven hours behind schedule.
      The MOHAWK was owned by the Puget Sound Freight Lines and ran out of Seattle, plying among the San Juan Islands and mainland points. Among the passengers were J. Lee Bruns and Edith Gaines of Shaw Island, bound for Bellingham to be married. Although the nuptials were delayed, the ceremony was performed last night (29 March 1933.)
      After discharging passengers and freight the MOHAWK was taken under tow for Seattle. Newspaper ?. From J.L. Bruns, Bellingham, WA., to web admin. 
      The MOHAWK was manned by Capt. Ryan and his crew the last year of her service to the islands. Many islanders have their initials on her rails, and have wondered what ever had become of this boat that was not so much appreciated until she was gone.
      The MOHAWK was taken to Portland in May, by Capt. Dale Kenney, who, with Seattle interests, purchased her for operation on the upper Columbia R. In this service the boat carried freight for awhile.

The MOHAWK (ex-ISLANDER) was purchased by the Inland Navigation Co for operation off the coast in towing barges for the Standard Oil Co. She has been idle at the Raicy moorage at the foot of S.E. Yamhill St for some time, caused by the ferry strike of 1935. 
      The MOHAWK was recently taken to the Floating Marine Ways in Portland, where rebuilding for deep sea service was begun. It is understood the super-structure will be stripped down and the present steam engine replace with a 1000-HP Diesel engine. 
San Juan Islander news clip. 28 Aug. 1941.

Sometime during this time period, the MOHAWK ran as tug PAULA on the Columbia River. Maybe Keith Sternberg will come up with a photo of PAULA illustrating her work on the big river.

03 March 2017

❖ LIGHTHOUSE LADS ❖ 1946 with June Burn

San Juan Archipelago, WA.
Photo by Corbett, undated.
Original from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
Click image to enlarge.
Day Thirteen of 100 Days in the San Juans 
June Burn. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer July 1946.

Patos Island.
Hazy sun at 9 o'clock on a calm Tuesday morning. I'm sitting alone in the San Juanderer while Farrar goes ashore on Patos to take a picture of the lighthouse and the boys we met there last night.
      On Patos, we found the sweetest graveled beach and sheltered cove and sleeping plateau we've ever had in all our camping years. The beach fell away sharply so that the boat hadn't such an easy chance to go aground as it had on Skipjack last Friday night. Above the beach on a jutting point that overlooked Orcas and Sucia and Waldron we spread the tarp and sleeping bags in deep, soft grass. It rained during the night, pat-pat-pat, right close above our heads on the canvas––a sweet sound when you know that everything is well covered against it.
      As soon as we had anchored, we found the trail up from the beach, around the point to the lighthouse. The San Juanderer looked like a big glaucous-winged gull sitting on the rich green water of Active Cove. The ubiquitous russet-back thrush kept whistling his evening song from the fir and madrona woods behind the shore.
      Scrub salal forms most of the undergrowth of the forest here, with clumps of ocean spray every now and then to light the forest.
      How open and grassy Alden Point where the lighthouse stands! There are two dwellings, several smaller structures, water tanks, the lighthouse at the very end of the point overlooking Boundary Pass, Canadian waters and islands, and facing Saturna Light.
      Instead of the two families we expected to find, four young boys are stationed here. the CO is a 26-year-old Indian boy, William E. Moody, from Tulsa, OK; the youngest, Paul W. Haltkamp, 20, from Stockport, IA; Joseph J. Mattero, from San Francisco. Haltkamp says he has been longest––too long––at this lonely base. He has been here three months.
      The CG cutter comes once a week from Seattle bringing supplies. They are allowed 99 cents per man per day for food but from the look of this list that they sent in last week, I'd say they are out of pocket themselves now and then. Here it is: 2 lbs of cocoa, 25 lbs of sugar, 5 lbs brown sugar, 2 jars berry jam, 7 loaves white bread, 4 lbs butter, 5 gallons fresh milk, 6 dozen eggs, 5 lbs cheese, 10 lbs ice cream mix, 4 lbs hotcake flour, half a case each of peaches, pineapple, peas, canned milk, 10 lbs apples, 5 lbs oranges, 3 lbs grapefruit, 3 heads lettuce, 3 lbs carrots, 5 lbs tomatoes, 5 lbs onions, one cured ham, 5 lbs bacon, 6 lbs round steak, 5 lbs beef roast, 5 lbs hamburger. 
      Each boy cooks for himself, eats when he chooses, for they keep a 24-hour shift at the light, each boy serving six hours on and 12 off. 
      Down at the lighthouse there is a very large––oh, 6-ft high, 8-ft wide, say––double panel of dials, clocks, levers, lights and other mysterious gadgets. But the main business seems to be transacted over the radio telephone. We heard them tune in to that and the results were as funny and unintelligible as the tobacco auctioneer's jargon.
      At the end of the complicated rigmarole we learn that our old friend; Commander Zeusler, now Rear Admiral Zeusler, coast guard commander, 13th Naval District, is on terminal leave and Capt. A.M. Martinson is taking his place for peacetime duty in these waters.
      We thought how strange to get the news of Admiral Zeusler's retirement like this! (Professor Thompson, did you know it? You went to Alaska on what was then Commander Zeusler's ship and here he is an admiral and on terminal leave, that must mean retirement.) Well, well, visit far-away lighthouses and keep up with your neighbors.
See you tomorrow. June.
A post on the author Helene Glidden and the book of her childhood on Patos Island can be seen here.  

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