"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.

12 July 2011

❖ PUGET SOUNDINGS by June Burn ❖

Vintage linen postcard by C.P. Johnston Co., Seattle, WA
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.
Inez "June" Chandler Harris Burn (1893-1969), the author of Puget Soundings, first came to Puget Sound with her husband in 1919 from Washington, DC. They homesteaded a tiny island, the 15 acre Sentinel (48-38'22"N, 123-09'03"W), in the San Juan group and lived there a year. This was the last of the San Juan Islands to be homesteaded; it is now owned by the Nature Conservancy. After the second year in Alaska, they returned to the East, but the call of the West was too much for them and they came to the Pacific coast again, this time to California, summering in Puget Sound and wishing they might make their permanent home there.
      In 1928 they decided to pull stakes and come to Puget Sound with their family for good, but first they would make a vagabond trip around the US "hugging America", June Burn called the trip. They arrived in Bellingham, the one city in the US they wanted to call "home". In Puget Soundings, June Burn will reveal some of the reasons why she thinks Puget Sound has been rightly called the charmed land.
      June became nationally known for the classic, her "unconventional autobiography" Living High, which she published in 1941 and then in 1946 for her series of articles which ran in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer "100 Days in the San Juans", mailed in from her adventures through the San Juan Archipelago in a surplus USCG lifeboat. In 1983 Longhouse Printcrafters & Publishers, Friday Harbor, WA., republished the columns in book form with the same title used for the original columns.  
      There are no titles to the essays so we will list some chosen examples by the date written. 

12 October 1929
"The waterfront of the little cities -- what delightful places they are! How friendly and informal and jolly are the men who work down there. Why is it that you never expect to get a story from a dressed-up man but are sure of getting one from that same man when he is wearing overalls? Especially if the overalls are torn and very dirty.
      Go down to the waterfront and listen to the stories of the fishermen and boatmen and workmen down there if you want to know something of the romance of Puget Sound.
      The smells of the docks -- the smell of tarred logs, of seaweed, of humans, of oil, gas, old sacks, food, fish. They are the smells of adventure. When I went down to the docks the first time after getting back to Puget Sound I stopped a block or so from the waterfront to savor the smells.
      It was early afternoon. The dock was nearly deserted. I heard the putt-putt of a gas launch below getting ready to pull out. Her master was untying ropes. He did not see me watching him, homesick to be a-going with him wherever he was going.
      The ALVERENE lay against the piling of the dock. It gave me a curious shock to see her as if she were a friend I had been homesick for. Filled me with nostalgia to be aboard, bound for island harbors.
      But when I discovered the CALCITE from Roche Harbor and fat, old Peter Larsen, her captain, talking down on a float I felt as if I had got home in truth, for Roche Harbor lies nearest to Sentinel, our homestead island, and a boat from that lovely bay is a boat from home. Peter remembered me and I sent messages to old neighbors.
      The SAN JUAN SECOND! There she sits. Waiting for a new engine, they tell me. How proud she will be to go "clickety-click" like a big boat instead of "putt-putt-putt" like a little one!
SAN JUAN II  on her mail route in the San Juan Islands
before heading to homeport of Bellingham, WA.
Relief Captain George Stillman standing on the caprail.
Two months after this column was written, the vessel was wrecked in
foul weather off the southern coast of Orcas Island. No hands lost.
Her gas engine was salvaged for her replacement, the OSAGE,
built on Decatur Island, WA., in 1930.
Photo date circa 1921 from the S.P.H.S. archives.©

The owners of the SAN JUAN II were among the first people in this land to welcome us ten years ago when we were here to homestead Sentinel. They used to run the boat themselves and many are the pleasant hours I've spent in her pilothouse talking to old Captain Maxwell. They used to stop at Sentinel to load or unload passengers for us. And once or twice we've hailed them from mid-channel to give them a fine cod we had caught that morning.
      The little tug TOREDO. Now why celebrate the pest of the Sound by calling your boat after it? A man in overalls, tells me that the TOREDO tows piling. The toredo worm destroys piling, thus giving the boat TOREDO more to do. Hence the name. He is joking, of course.
      The boat BALKO. Why that name? Won't she go? The big tugs DIVIDEND and PROSPER. Were they named in high hopes before the dividends and prosperity or have they been named in appreciation of their performances? The fine tug IROQUOIS. She burns more than a hundred barrels of oil a day and more when she works very hard.
      Tugs going out and tugs coming in. Heavy, squat, powerful, bull-doggy looking fellows and long slender, swifter ones each out after his own peculiar type of load. I watch them walking the waters of the harbor off down towards the islands and I decide that 'When I'm a man I'll be a boat captain!' See you tomorrow, June".

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