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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.

20 March 2012

❖ Guardians of the Sea ❖ THERMOPLYAE CLUB ❖ Victoria, B. C.

"As guardians of memories of the sea, the Thermoplyae Club [formerly of Victoria, B.C.] has undertaken a variety of projects. Of these, most valuable was its part in the preservation and restoration of the famous TILIKUM, the craft (basically an Indian canoe), in which in 1901 Captain J. C. Voss set out from Victoria; three years and 40,000 miles later he reached England after a voyage that took him across three great oceans [with a near] circumnavigation of the world.
Home port, Maritime Museum of B.C., Victoria.
      That this boat should, after all the admiration heaped on her at Earls Court, by the mid-1920s have become a derelict hulk, rotting in the mud on the banks of the Thames, seems unbelievable. Equally surprising is it to learn that although in 1930 the efforts of the Victoria and Island Publicity Bureau and the generosity of the Furness Withy Line saw the canoe returned to its home port, the repair the hull was given was but rudimentary, and it was left roofless, exposed both to the weather and to the depredations of vandals.
      So she lay for some years--but then there came one evening to the Thermopylae Club meeting some naval yachtsmen who had just sailed across the Pacific. These told the club members in no uncertain terms their opinion of a group that called itself ship-lovers yet neglected such a priceless, irreplaceable craft as the TILIKUM.
      The club sprang into action. Led by the dynamic Captain McDonald, they soon collected the money needed to finance restoration and Captain Victor Jacobsen started on the work that saw her returned to more or less, the condition in which she appears in the Maritime Museum today.
      Later the Thermopylae Club, on the suggestion of old sealing captain Max Lohbrunner, and through the work of shipmate Bob Dallaway (with the permission of the BC government) installed in her three hollow masts. These, though shorter than the original, do give some idea of her rig and also provide ventilation for the interior.
      The club has also painted her hull and encouraged her removal to the protected position in Thunderbird Park that she occupied for many years. Today they rejoice that now she, like themselves, enjoy the hospitality of the Maritime Museum in Bastion Square, Victoria.
      Another spot that finds TILIKUM and THERMOPYLAE close neighbours is on the Causeway wall above Victoria's Inner Harbour. Here 28 bronze plaques make up the Centennial Parade of Ships which commemorates vessels that had some historical connection with Victoria, TILIKUM and THERMOPYLAE of course among them. The first was donated by the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, the second, presented by its namesake, is easily found since it is the only tablet bearing an illustration of the craft it memorializes--a non-conformity not achieved without effort and obduracy on the part of the veteran mariners!
      Another reminder that Victoria was once the home port of this famous ship was the ten-foot water-line model of her entered in the history section of the Victoria Day Centennial street parade of 1958.
      Built on the premises of the 100-year ship chandling firm owned by Shipmate Emerson Smith, and not far from the rings on the cliff at which the original clipper once tied up, the model is one of fine detail. That these are accurate was assured by the daily visits of Captain Harry Bilton to the premises on Wharf Street. It was by then 65-years since he had trodden her decks but he had not forgotten, although it is to be doubted that on so small a replica her figurehead of King Leonidas would be provided with the demountable sword whose removal, for safety's sake, the old captain remembered as one of his last duties before the start of each voyage.
      Later this model was given to the Rainbow Sea Cadets in whose headquarters in Victoria West she holds an honoured place.
      Yet a few miles farther west, above a little cove in Esquimalt Harbour, a concrete pillar marks the spot where, as the bronze tablet on it records:

      'When Vancouver Island was an infant colony nearly a century ago it was here that the gallant sailing ships from the old world stopped to replenish their supplies of water.'
Conceived by Shipmate John Keziere and carried out through the co-operation of provincial government departments, the generosity of city building supply firms and the sweat of sundry Thermopylae Club members, the cairn recalls the days when, from ships anchored off in Limekiln Cove, sailors poled to shore the floats loaded with barrels in which they would take on from the fresh-flowing stream water for the long journey back to Europe.
      Today the sailing ships and most of the men who sailed them are gone, but through this book some of their experiences, it is hoped some little contribution may be made to the preservation and dissemination of the memories of those sturdy times".
Ursula Jupp, Home Port: Victoria. Published by author, Victoria, B.C. 1967.

Book search here––

Not quoted here but an interesting book on the "absorbing and instructive true-life story" of Captain J. C. Voss (1854-1922) and his 40,000 mile voyage from Victoria to England has been published.

Captain John C. Voss
The Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss, 
Century Publishing, 1989.

A introduction to the Voss book by F.E. Grubb, the Registrar & Librarian of the Maritime Museum of B.C., lists historian/writer Ursula Jupp as the greatest authority on Captain Voss.
 Book search here––

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