One would soon be known as a dry ship, another as a wet one. This one would be called a "stiff" ship, that one "easy". One would be labeled "steady", her sister a "roller". She might be known as a "happy" ship or a "workhouse". Some ships cruise like a millionaires' yacht, while others get into all sorts of trouble.
Sailors have only one definition of a ships character. The wet, uncomfortable, cantankerous workhouse they would call an "unlucky" ship. The other kind would simply be known as "lucky".
A "lucky" ship has been the WAWONA, a three-masted fore-and-aft rigged schooner owned and operated by the Robinson Fisheries Co. of Anacortes, WA. If ever there has been a ship worthy of the appellation, the WAWONA is it. For she has been serving faithfully and well for nearly fifty years, in many parts of the world, and is still making money for her owners. From the days of Capt. Matt Peasley, one of her first masters, to the present, she has been every inch a lady, well behaved, and the pride of the men who have sailed her.
|Robinson Fisheries, Anacortes, WA.|
Original vintage postcard from
the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society.
In the offices of the Robinson Fisheries they actually speak in reverent tones of the WAWONA. Jack Trafton, the company's president, and E. N. Trafton, his son, could scarcely find words to tell of the old schooner's long service in the N. Pacific codfish trade, of the masters, mates, and men to whom she has been home and career, of the part she played in both world wars. But the company watchman, who has known the WAWONA a good part of his life, expressed it in a few words:
|"She has always been a lucky ship, and |
has always landed a good trip of fish."
Postcard reproduction purchased
from the Anacortes Museum.
The Robinson Co., purchased the schooner in 1914, and she has made a least one trip to the Bering Sea every year since, except when she was in government service. She is the largest fore-and-aft rigged sailing ship on the Pacific Coast, and she is one of the few sailing ships that have served through both world wars and is still in active service. In 1917, during WW I, she made a voyage from Vancouver, B.C., to Suva in the Fiji Islands with a full load of lumber, and served with the U.S. Army from 1941 through 1945. Between wars she has landed a tremendous tonnage of codfish for her owners.
Captain Charles Foss was her master from 1914 through 1935, which was one year when misfortune overtook the hard-working ship. While clearing Unimak Pass on her way home from the 1935 codfishing season in the Bering Sea, Capt. Foss suddenly passed away. The ship was put about, and Capt. Foss was buried by his sorrowing crew in Lost Harbor, AK. The first mate, now Capt. Tom Haugen, took command, and has been her master ever since, except when she was in Army service. On her first trip north in 1936, she carried with her a monument to mark Capt. Foss' grave, and each year on her way north the WAWONA stops at remote Lost Harbor, Akun Island, so that her crew may pay their respects to Foss and care for his resting place.
|The 1940 burial of Capt. Richard A. Trafton, |
at Lost Harbor, Akun Island, AK., next to the grave of
Capt. Charles Foss, who died on board WAWONA, 1935.
Courtesy of Bruce Trafton for S.P.H.S.
The WAWONA has always been a "lucky" ship. Her reputation is still good. And when that can be said of such a ship, it is like saying of a fair lady, "here is a useful and honorable life."
Above words by Leon M. Swank
Pacific Motor Boat
Archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society
1963: An organization known as "Save Our Ships" was organized with the intent to purchase the WAWONA, one of two remaining sailing ships in Puget Sound. The other, FALLS OF CLYDE, was purchased by a fast, fund-raising campaign in Honolulu, where the vessel was taken in 1963 to serve as a floating museum. All of the other sailing ships either have been broken up for scrap or sold to other ports for maritime museums.
1968: Not quoted in this log but a fine tribute to WAWONA is featured in West Coast Windjammers by Jim Gibbs. Superior.
1970: WAWONA was declared a National Historic Site, the first vessel to receive that designation in the country.
1981: The president of the National Maritime Historical Society, Peter Sanford, sent out an SOS to save the WAWONA, owned at that time by Northwest Seaport who moored her in Lake Union, Seattle, WA. Sanford described the WAWONA as an international maritime treasure that deserved better treatment than decrepitude.
2009: After 46 years of volunteer effort, the WAWONA was towed to a Seattle scrapping yard.
2011: Archived on this Log are some of those scraps in Schooner WAWONA's Bones, written by Roy Pearmain.
For further reading;Pacific Schooner Wawona