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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.

13 February 2012

The Good Ship ✪ ✪ ✪ IMPERIAL ✪ ✪ ✪ by L. W. North

Rosario Resort transport.

"Rosario had a hundred guests coming up to Anacortes to be transported to their Orcas Island resort on the M.V. IMPERIAL. Fog had come in during the night and by morning visibility was down to only a few feet. The little ship had very limited navigational equipment, being primarily a sightseer  type boat in her mature years. It seemed not a good idea to leave until the fog had raised a bit, but Gill Geiser, owner of the resort, encouraged me to at least try; by his comments, there was going to be some pretty upset people in Anacortes if I didn't show up, with a veiled suggestion the same might be true on his end.
      Idling along at 3-knots, bouncing whistle blasts off the bluff a hundred yards away, and counting the time it took for the echoes to return, in total isolation from any other part of the world, the first conclusion only seemed more valid. That was not what an excursion boat was supposed to be doing.

1972 Route of the IMPERIAL, 
Capt. "Corkey" North and son Chet.
Photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      At Obstruction Pass we got a break and the north side appeared briefly a couple hundred feet away, confirming that the world did exist and we were about where we should be. The east-end light fretted out of the blanket and then hid again. Tide was ebbing fairly strong and Strawberry Island in the pocket of the south end of Cypress Island should be the next landfall. Long minutes with no echo and wondering if the guess at the current speed was even close. My fifteen-year old son stood on the bow, fog dampening his cherubic face, and dripping off his curly hair, intent on hearing the first echo. A stripe of sun hit the boat and then opened to haze around us; all too soon the thick blanket settled on us again. 
      Chet yelled and pointed ahead. He had heard an echo, eventually the south end of Strawberry Island toyed with us, so we turned south to parallel Cypress with hopes of finding the bell buoy. Suddenly we were in beautiful morning sun and Anacortes was where it should be; it seemed we raced along at our normal 9-knots again and would be in time to pick up the passengers while they still had smiles on their faces.
      Son Chet pointed behind us where maybe ten boats streamed out in our wake as the fog lifted and sun brightened the morning. Some one called on the marine radio "good job, skipper". Much later I was informed that voice had been one of the investors, following behind us in the fleet, since we had left Rosario.
     In Anacortes, passengers rushed to get aboard, some of them looking in every box and compartment, even in my own day-bag and passed theories on everything. Not all theories of a correct nature as we cruised back to the resort among wisps of fog in the warm, fall sun.
Rosario Resort, Orcas Island, WA.
Undated photograph by F. Wear.
From the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society.
      After the tie-up I went up to the resort's front desk and helped check-in part of the one hundred new guests where I heard comments on how long it took to get to Rosario.
      One can only smile and say "maybe we will do better next time you visit".

Written by L.W. North, historian/mariner and long time Orcas Island resident.
For the Saltwater People Historical Society
January 2012.


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