"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.

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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.

07 June 2011

❖ The Skipper Overboard ... from HOME COUNTRY ❖ by Ernie Pyle

ERNEST PYLE
Posed for this bust by Jo Davidson
when he came home from the European front in
the fall of 1944.
He was felled by a sniper's bullet on IE JIMA,
18 April 1945.
The bust was ready to cast in bronze
at Basky's Studio.

Photo credit Acme, 19 April 1945.
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
18 April 1945, Ernie Pyle met an untimely death by Japanese machine-gun fire on the island of Ie JIMA, near Okinawa. He was then, by all odds, the most popular and best-known correspondent of WWII. But many readers who treasured his war dispatches were unaware of the fact that, in a less spectacular setting, Ernie had been doing the same sort of homely, endearingly, human reporting for years. The posthumously published book, Home Country, collects the finest of these early columns, which Ernie himself believed to contain the best writing he ever did.
Courtesy of The Sea Chest, the quarterly journal of the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, March 1972.

"The prairies are all right. The mountains are all right. The forests and the deserts and the clear, clean air of the heights, they're all right. But what a bewitching thing is a city of the sea. It was good to be in Seattle––to hear the foghorns on the Sound, and the deep bellow of the departing steamers; to feel the creeping fog all around you, the fog that softens things and makes a velvet trance out of nighttime. And it was good to hear the tall and slyly outlandish tales that float up and down Puget Sound.
Original photo on file by J. Boyd Ellis.
Saltwater People Historical Society Collection.©
      Once upon a time there was a tugboat of Puget Sound dragging behind it a long tow of logs. There was no special hurry, so the tugboat was hardly moving at all. Furthermore, it was using its leisure time to run some oil tests on its new Diesel engines. The engineer had several five-gallon cans of different brands of oil. He would let the engine run until it exhausted one can, then cut in a different brand, start the engine, and plow ahead again.
      All of this left the captain bored, and with nothing at all to do. Furthermore, his feet hurt. He stood sadly on the deck, watching the shore which hardly moved at all, and now and then taking a look at the water around him. It looked so cool. Finally he took off his shoes and socks, sat down on the low rail and hung his feet over the side. Lordy, it felt good!
      The water kept on feeling good, and the old captain was enjoying it immensely, until a seal popped up and swam past. The captain thought it was a dog. He leaned far out for a better look and fell overboard. By the time he had come up and had rid himself of that portion of Puget Sound which he had imbibed, his favorite tugboat had drawn away from him. But all was not lost, for the tow of logs was still coming along. So the old man drifted back and hoisted himself up.
       A bunch of logs on the end of a towline is no place for a dignified shipmaster to be, so our captain kept running up and down, yelling to the engineer on the tugboat. But the engineer couldn't hear him for the engine noise, and wouldn't have heard him anyway, for he was asleep.
      At this interval we must leave the captain a moment and switch to the shore. Somewhere along the Sound lived one of those delightful people whose sole profession is watching the boats go by. He stood on the shore, pulled up his telescope, leveled it first on the tug, and then on the tow, and finally on the captain. Aha! thought the watcher. Poor Captain Blank has gone off his nut. So he phoned the tug company's office that the captain had gone crazy, that he was back on the tow of logs, barefoot, running up and down and screaming like a wild man.
      Now we shift back to the tugboat. One of those five-gallon cans of oil ran out. The engine stopped. The engineer woke up and went about his business of cutting in a new can and getting the engines started again. This gave the captain his chance. He jumped into the water, half swam and half pulled himself along the towline up to the tug, climbed aboard, sneaked into his cabin without anybody's seeing him, changed his clothes and was out on deck by the time they got going.
      That evening they pulled into Port Angeles. The company officials were all down at the dock. So were an ambulance and the sheriff and a couple of policemen, just in case the old man should be violent.
      The captain stepped out on deck and greeted them. The company president began to fade slightly beneath his skin. 'Why, Captain, I understood you were ... ah ... sick.'
      'Fit as a fiddle', boomed the captain. 'Never been sick a day in my life.'
      I don't know how the company president explained to the sheriff. Anyway, he never said another word to the captain about the matter."
Above was reprinted in The Sea Chest from Home Country,  
William Sloane Associates, N.Y., N.Y.
1947

Five days later this story comes across my desk...
Captain Davis, of the tug CALCITE [built on Lopez Island] had a most unpleasant experience on Wednesday. On a trip over from Waldron, Capt. Davis was alone on board, and while endeavoring to regulate the tow line of the scow he was bringing in, lost his balance and fell into the Sound. Fortunately he was able to catch the line, and drew himself onto the scow, but could not board the boat, and he was forced to remain in his uncomfortable position until the CALCITE was aground.
San Juan Islander
Front page, 7 May 1909 



  

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