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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.

11 November 2012


Steam Schooner CAOBA (ex-COASTER)
 579 t. blt by John Lindstrom, Aberdeen, WA. 
Owned by Sudden & Christenson.
Wrecked 1925, Captain Alfred Sandvig.
Photograph by Charlie Fitzpatrick.
 Photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"On the beach five miles north of Ocean Park, WA lies a rust-riddled boiler, the last remembrance of the steam schooner CAOBA (ex-COASTER), cast ashore 5 Feb. 1925, in a severe blow.
      Out bound from Willapa Bay laden with lumber the CAOBA ran into a sudden gale of such velocity that her 400-hp engine was incapable of making any headway. Laboring under her twenty years and a heavy deckload, the steamer developed a most unholy appetite for salt water. She spat all the oakum from her seams and all hands would note the course she made by merely watching the track of spent oakum astern. Three or four feet of bilge wash was nothing to worry about but when it rose to nine feet, it was time to make quick decisions.
      The water put out the boiler fires and the vessel appeared to be afloat by the deckload, which gave indications of popping the gripes under the strain.
      'All hands man the lifeboats', barked Capt. Alfred Sandvig.
      Two boats put out into the heaving sea, and for 38-hrs were tossed about like matchsticks.
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
By morning they had drifted apart; the first boat was found by the tug JOHN CUDAHY, but the other was listed as missing with ten souls. Then from out of the misty dawn appeared a ship, which turned out to be a Canadian rumrunner, named the PESCAWHA, commanded by Capt. R. Pamphley*.
      The grateful survivors were taken aboard, suffering intensely from the cold, but extracts from the Canadian ship's cargo soon warmed their spirits.
       Before the crew of the CAOBA could be landed, the PESCAWHA unfortunately fell in company with the USCG cutter ALGONQUIN, which promptly seized the vessel for carrying liquor inside the limits of the US boundaries.
       The government vessel ran down the PESCAWHA and towed her back to Astoria with some 1200 cases of liquor stacked in her holds. When the vessel was docked, her officers were immediately placed under arrest and a guard put around the vessel. It was believed that three-quarters of the cargo was dumped before the vessel was seized.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      The Coast Guard was bitterly assailed in the press by those who felt strongly that traditions of the sea had been observed by the crew of the rumrunner in rescuing the seamen and that they should not have been interned. As a result of the seizure, however, 23 shore operators of the bootleg enterprise were picked up and convicted.
      US Customs Inspector H. J. Strowbridge took over the PESCAWHA in Astoria. The cargo was discharged at the dockside and reloaded again for evidence in Portland. During the stevedoring operations, 27 cases of liquor were found missing.
With customs agents on board, the rum runner
is being brought into Portland harbor with a cargo
of 1,073 cases of liquor. 

Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
Click to enlarge.
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©

      Meanwhile the CAOBA, held afloat by her cargo of lumber, was driven ashore near Ocean Park, 5 Feb 1925. Her wooden hull lay on the beach for many years and gradually disappeared until only her rusted boiler remained to break the level contour of the acres of sand."
Above text from:
The Pacific Graveyard
James A. Gibbs, Jr.
Binfords & Mort, 1950.
*According to McCurdy's Maritime History of the PNW, Gordon Newell, Superior, 1965;
      Capt. Pamphlet spent most of the remainder of his life in McNeil Island prison. He died in 1931, c. 59-years, from TB contracted in prison.
The Vancouver Sun, in reporting his death, commented:
"It was always the opinion of a great many people, be that country (the USA) as well as in Canada, that he should never have been convicted. It was the opinion of a great many more that, having been convicted, he should have been pardoned. Technically and legally, he went to prison because he was a rumrunner taken with his ship. Actually he went to prison because he put the covenant of the sea and the honour of the good seaman before his own safety and risked his life and his freedom to rescue American sailors in peril. He was a rumrunner by ill chance or necessity. He was a true man by the virtue of his own good character. They ought to have found a better way of dealing with him than to make him a companion of felons."
      For further reading: Pass the Bottle, Rum Tales of the West Coast by Eric Newsome, Orca Book Publishers,1995. Mr. Newsome includes a whole chapter on this event with Capt. Pamphlet dodging bullets fired across his bow.

1 comment:

  1. Trying to find a loss report of the tug Dolly C. She was formerly owned by I believe the Pudget Sound Tug and Barge Co. I was once told she was lost in the 1950's somewhere neat Whibley ? Spelling Island. My father served on her out of Dutch Harbor in the first 2 years of WW II.


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