Below text byRoy Pearmain,
descendent of an early Deer Harbor family.
My father, Robert Pearmain, was eight years old in 1926. Although 1926 was the year television was invented and many new technologies were being developed, the last vestiges of a dying era were still common in Puget Sound. Sailing ships were still an important part of the economy. Bobby woke up one morning to find a huge lumber ship lying aground in front of the family home at the head of Deer Harbor Bay on Orcas Island.
The tall ship had been under tow to sea when the tug boat developed mechanical difficulties. Large sailing vessels bound for distant ports were normally towed through the San Juans until they were safely past the treacherous rocks and tide rips that abound and could snare the unwary sailor. The tug left the ship anchored in the shelter of Deer Harbor and motored to Anacortes for repairs. During the night a nasty SE wind blew the ship aground at the head of the harbor where a small bluff drops off sharply into the water where it deepens quickly. The tide was out that morning and lines had been attached to the masts and made fast to an old twisted tree on shore to prevent the ship from capsizing. The tree was probably a Pencil Cedar and it may still be there.
|Detail from the NOAA Chart #C&GS 6379|
Dated 1972; out of date for navigation.
At the bottom of Deer Harbor, if it has not been salvaged, is still a section of chain and the ship's anchor. I was an avid skin diver in the late 1950s and spent a few minutes looking for it without success. My father and grandfather encouraged me to find it, but at that time I was more interested in the sea creatures in the rocks along the bluff. I was 19 years old, studying Biology, and considered myself a scientist, not a historian. In addition, I was free-diving without air tanks and the bottom was out of my comfort range.
Everyone was excited and there was considerable activity but Bob was young and not allowed to go near the ship where the men were struggling to save the vessel. The local people were hoping that the ship and its cargo of old-growth fir lumber would remain stuck on the rocks and break up in winter storms to be salvaged by the neighbors. Unfortunately, for the would-be lumber scavengers, the ship was towed from the rocks on the next high tide with the help of at least one tugboat, to resume its voyage to Australia, after undergoing repairs in Port Angeles. Sometime later it was reported that she was lost with all hands in a storm and never made it to Australia.
Bob, at age eight, did not know the name of the ship and when, in later years, he talked to other islanders, no one recalled the incident. It was not until he was in his 60s and living in Mount Vernon that he learned the details of the saga from an old tugboat skipper named Ernest Guchee who remembered the incident.
The ship was a five-masted barkentine named the FOREST PRIDE. Although she had been severely disabled by a fierce storm and was feared lost, she finally limped into port in Australia with 1,550,000-bf of lumber.
The FOREST PRIDE was built in Aberdeen, WA, in 1919, by Grays Harbor Motorship. She was 242' long and one of four ships built with the Forest name. Two of them, the FOREST DREAM and the FOREST FRIEND, were also barkentines and the fourth, the FOREST KING was a steamer. The barkentine rig is square-rigged on the foremast and fore-and-aft rigged on the main, mizzen, jigger, and spanker. By all accounts, she was a beautiful ship and a veritable cloud of canvas when all of her sails were flying, which included, “...the tiny Royal which crowns this tower with a queenly grace.”1
Earnest Guchee recalls in the book, Tugboat Captain, by Helen Leber, “One day, while I was skipper of the DOUGLAS, Lindley Davis told me to go out to Cape Flattery to watch for the FOREST PRIDE or FOREST FRIEND, I forget which one. They were coming from Australia, five-masted barkentine schooners, that had left about the same time, headed for Washington State to take on lumber. Well, I came across one of them out past Flattery and asked him if he wanted me to put my towline on him. Well, he tried to dicker with me about the price, and I told him I couldn’t change the price; I didn’t even know what it was. Then he asked me if the other FOREST ship had come in yet; I said, ‘Yes, I towed him in two weeks ago.’ ‘Put the god-damned towline on, then!’ That ended that real quick!”
With the era of cargo sailing ships fading fast, Grays Harbor Motorship had started using the barkentines as barges to be towed by their sister ship, the FOREST KING, a steam schooner. Although the barkentine rig was still available and used occasionally, the company often found it more expedient to use the hull as a barge.
In about 1933 she was purchased by the Curtis Brothers of Seattle to serve as a salvage barge. They used her in the recovery of the long sunken steamship, ISLANDER.
|Salvage operation 1934, Stephens Passage, AK.|
Published by the Seattle Times, 8 Dec. 1963.
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.
The ISLANDER had sunk in 300-feet of water in Stephens Passage, AK [near Juneau] in 1901. Many of the passengers were prospectors who reportedly had stashed gold in the purser’s office 2. A passenger named H. Hart was believed to have $40, 000 in gold in a suitcase. He lugged it to the rail and jumped for a boat but came up short and landed in the drink; the weight (c. 130 pounds) of the gold dragged him down. The average price of gold in 1901 was $18.98 per ounce, making his satchel worth $3,633,679.00 in today’s (2012) prices of $1,725.70 per ounce. It’s my guess that, at some point, he turned his treasure over to Davy Jones and came up for air. In 1901, 300-feet was far too deep to consider recovery, but by 1934, the technology existed to salvage her and search for the gold.
|Wreckage of the ISLANDER|
Salvage attempt 4 Sept. 1934
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
In addition to utilizing the vertical tide change, the GRIFFSON was equipped with 40 winches to help with the project3. Small amounts of gold were recovered but there was no mother lode. Unfortunately, the bow had broken off in the move and that may have been where the gold was located.
|Salvaged September 1934|
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
The engine room telegraph of the ISLANDER,
Rusted solid but still intact
from the 1901 wreck.
Photo date 1934.
Original from the archives of the S.P.H.S. ©
|S.S. ISLANDER on the beach|
at Green's Cove, AK.
Photo by Ordway"
For perspective, note the man on deck.
From the Clinton Betz Collection,
3 Personality Ships of British Columbia, Ruth Greene
4 Maritime Events of 1938, Gordon Newell
|A personal chronicle of one of the last commercial sailing ships |
to depart from the PNW on a prolonged voyage to the
Far East, via Cape Horn.
Time period of 1925.
Published by the Vancouver, WA. author
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