Coon and McConnell Islands, San Juan County, WA.
Original Photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
Jack had a little daysailer, not very big, but it was a keelboat. The boat had a tent that they slipped over the boom, and as such, it was their cruiser, but mostly their cruising was rather short range.
Well, one of their best stories was about the time a boat that was built at Grandy's went by Coon Island. The Tusler's beach was on the east side of the island, and Jack was there getting their boat provisioned for a cruise when he saw this nice 48-footer; it later belonged to Mrs. Eddie Hubbard, the widow of that great aviator who flew the first airmail contract between Seattle and Victoria. The boat went by well off the island, but awfully close to the reef on the east side of Coon, and is covered at high tide. Jack stood there on the beach fully expecting the boat to strike the reef, but they missed it by inches or a few feet, and so he continued stowing the equipment and food aboard his sailboat, using his two-man life raft for a dinghy.
Pretty soon Jack's wife was ready, so they got on the boat and started sailing north. They wanted to go to Sucia Island, and of course, this was long before Sucia became a State Park. But they ran out of wind as soon as they got up a little past Jones Island, so they decided to go into the bight on the north side of Jones and drop the hook for the night.
Jack was still standing on the foredeck after dropping the hook and double-checking that he had it in the ground properly when he noticed the 48-footer anchored nearby. A man called over to him from the aft cockpit, "Hi neighbor, wouldn't you like to come over and have a drink?"
Jack said, "That sounds very nice," and Mrs. Tussler approved of accepting the invitation, but she did start her Primus stove and set the pressure cooker on it so supper would be ready in about an hour.
They rowed over to the power cruiser and had a very pleasant hour. When it was time to row back to their boat, the man said, "Oh, just a minute, please. Tomorrow we want to go to Bellingham, to do some shopping. Do we go this way or that way?" pointing each way around Orcas Island.
And Jack said, "Well, as a matter of fact, you can go either way. We're awfully close to the halfway mark right here, but I wouldn't know for sure without measuring it. Let me show you on a chart."
So the man reached up to the chart table and got out a Shell Oil Co highway map of WA State. Jack said to him, "Gee, this is awfully small to measure accurately. Don't you have hydrographic charts?"
The guy shook his head; apparently, he had never heard of hydrographic charts. Jack was looking around, and he saw the chart drawers down under the counter to the left of the wheel and he pulled a drawer open and said, "This is what we need. These are hydrographic charts.
"Oh, the guy said. "I can't do anything with those things. All those little numbers, they just confuse me."
Well, the next morning the couple went on their way, and Jack never heard from them again, nor read of any boating disaster in the newspaper, so he assumed they got to Bellingham all right. That was probably in the early 1950s, and the boat is still around, to the best of my knowledge.
|L-R: Orcas Island mariners |
Jack Tusler and R. B. Brown
Image courtesy of photographer Barbara Brown, Orcas Island, WA.
A rare image of these two well known Orcas Islanders.
If anyone has another, would you share for maritime history archives?
Another story about Jack Tusler--that guy was really a character-- he liked to create tableaux for passing boats, on the reef mentioned earlier. One time he got Dr. George Horton's 16-year-old daughter dressed up like a mermaid, sitting on the reef when it was a little out of the water. She had a mirror with her, and when the ferry from Anacortes came through Wasp Passage she flashed it and gave the passengers quite a show. Another time, he set up on the reef, a real old-fashioned barber chair that he had salvaged off the beach; he and a friend stood out there just like a barber giving a customer a shave. He always wanted to get a horse out there with a guy in a red coat sitting astride it, but he could never convince anyone to go along with putting their horse on that reef.
Jack Tusler was a yachtsman himself but in a small way. The yachting people who knew him liked him, and I never heard a disparaging remark of any kind about Jack Tusler or his wife. And after she lost Jack, Mrs. Tusler married Jack's only brother.
Above text by:
Blanchard, Norman C. with Stephen Wilen. Knee Deep in Shavings, Memories of Early Yachting & Boatbuilding on the West Coast. 0-920663-63-X
Seattle, WA., Horsdal & Schubart; 1999.
The Museum of History and Industry, The Sophie Frye Bass Library, is the repository for photographs, boat plans, and brochures of the Blanchard Boat Co. (1900-1963).