"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.

11 December 2012

❖ The Christmas Ship to the Islands ♥ ♥

Let's celebrate the hardworking volunteers who start long before December to collect  food,  toys, and candy, to stuff all available lockers. The ship's crew disembarking are dressed in beautiful, handmade costumes to bring Santa, carols, and good cheer, to the young-of-heart in the San Juan Islands and the Gulf Island group. 
      The good folks started out with a fish tender but most of the crew now enjoy a warm cabin on a chartered passenger vessel often chased by chilling wind and lumpy seas. These volunteers with hearts of gold have set aside personal time in the busy holiday season since 1947. 
      Hundreds of islanders have warm memories of hearing the gentle music coming down the channel towards their chosen island dock. The Bellingham Jaycees, the Sea Scouts, the Bellingham Central Lions, the Junior Chamber of Commerce, just a few of Santa's support crew. A salty Merry Christmas to these generous people and our readers all.
Bellingham Lions Club promotion 18 Dec. 1947.
L-R: Rank Bostrom, John O'Rourke of the Bellingham Hotel,
Don Satterlee, Art Howard.
This is the earliest known photo to document the beginning
of the program to transport Santa Claus to the children
of the San Juan Islands, and later to the Gulf Island group.

Photo (#1. 004579) by Jack Carver
Purchased from the Whatcom Museum of History and Art©
For educational purposes only, for a copy contact WMHA, thank you.


Bellingham 1948. 
L-R: Fire Chief Roland Skidmore,
 Francis Sybrant, grocer Art Howard.
Donations collected by the Jaycees for provisions on the 2nd annual
Christmas Ship voyage to the San Juan Islands.

Photo (#1995.1.004882) by Jack Carver.
Photo scan purchased from the Whatcom Museum of History and Art©
For educational purpose only, for reproduction see WMHA, thank you. 

















EMPRESS, 1950,
Capt. Frank Williams. 

78' cannery tender with Chief Engineeer loaned by P. A. F. 

The 35' tree was honored as Bellingham's floating Christmas Tree.

Lights & speaker system by the Jaycees; power plant supplied by
Bellingham Manufacturing Co.

There were 400 Friday Harborites waiting in the fog; 
candy supplies had to be restocked there 
before pushing off for the next port.
Photo (#1995.1.6432) by Jack Carver, Bellingham, WA.
Purchased from Whatcom Museum of History and Art©
For educational purposes only, for reproduction please contact WMHA, thank you.
EAGLE, 1951.
Backing out into the waterway from Citizen's dock berth, 

Bellingham, WA, the Sea Scout Christmas Ship 
on her way to the first stop at Pt. Roberts, 
last stop, Shaw Island.
On board that year were Santa, the Jaycees, the Sea Scouts, 

and the long-serving Capt. Don Wight, Sr.
There was an enthusiastic response at each port.
Photo by Jack Carver.
Purchased from the Whatcom Museum of History and Art.
For educational purposes only, for permission to copy please contact WMHA.©

With soldering iron, a needle, and hairspray as insulation,
the Jaycees clowns, Don Ryan & Riggs Nelson,
in the cabin of Christmas ship, yacht WYRILL.
They attempt to rewire the sound system before 

arriving at Ganges in 1968.
Photo (#1.036027) by Jack Carver.
Purchased from the Whatcom Museum of History and Art.©
For educational use only. For reproduction please contact WMHA.
KARLUK, 1960, at Orcas landing.
The KARLUK sailed Santa from Bellingham, WA
to the islands from 1959 to 1962.

Photo courtesy of Orcas Islander Norm Exton.
"The Christmas Ship--It was a wonderful sight, and sound too, as the decorated Christmas Ship came into sight as it passed Shaw Island. The music was gently flowing over the waters, so soft and gentle. Think it was early evening, perhaps just after dinner time when it arrived at our Orcas dock. People gathered on the dock mostly from nearby and Eastsound--don't remember if the ship went into Deer Harbor, too? I think it went into Victoria in those days and Waldron, too.
      Great excitement; after the ship was tied up, jolly, happy, Santa climbed onto the dock and the children clustered around him. He gave out candy and heard the children tell what they wanted for Christmas. The parents and friends too enjoyed this time together. Then, it was time for him to go, and with a whistle for 'all aboard' Santa waved goodbye, and the Christmas carols and the ship headed for the next stop. The music and beautiful lighted ship gently faded away as parents and 'lil' ones headed for their cars and home. Oh, what a beautiful sight to see the ship.
      It was a wonderful experience for our children to enjoy, and parents too. In those days there were few stores or gift shops on the island, and few bright lights.
      As years went by, the time of arrival of the Christmas ship varied, it came earlier and traveled further, and made more stops. What a wonderful thing for the Bellingham people to do, they brought such happiness.
      For some years, as the experience developed, through the guidance of Bus and Esther Sheehan at the store and Clyde and Dorothy Brown and the 'Stitch and Gossip Club', cookies and cocoa were served. A 'party' on the dock!!
      Those years were magical, and this reminiscing has brought our early day Christmas back to me."
Mary Schoen, 2009, Deer Harbor, San Juan Archipelago.
Mary and her husband Robert Schoen sailed CHANTEY to the San Juan Islands on their honeymoon in 1946, one year ahead of the Christmas Ship from Bellingham. 

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