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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.

24 February 2013

❖ Big Deals and Big Wheels ❖

  This locker is reserved for the the masters, primarily from the Northwest,  who've slogged it out on the water, through all the politics and all the weather, they kept the boats moving. They might not all be "4-Stripers" but these dedicated mariners made time for a photograph on duty at their favorite place... the helm. 
An 'as found'  work in progress. (13)

Captain Frank Gilbert
Captain Frank Gilbert, 1950.
Possibly on board the LESCHI.
Original photo from the S. P. H. S.©

      "Skipper Frank Gilbert retired from the pilothouse after 55-years of steamboating, mostly on Lake Washington. 
      Gilbert's home is full of pictures and other mementos of his life on the water. He recalls such vessels as the lake steamer DAWN, which he helped to build in the Lake Wash. Shipyards at Houghton, when he was a young man.
      Later Gilbert ran the 250-passenger capacity DAWN.
      'Back in 1919 I was going to help a fellow out on the DAWN for a few days, Gilbert said. 'I stayed 22-years.'
      The DAWN called at landings all along the west side of Mercer Island. Her home port was Leschi. Gilbert can call off the island landings like an old street-car conductor on a familiar line:
      'There was Thompson's; then East Seattle, then it was Proctor's, Tennent's, Zimmerman's, Ogden's, Island Park, Franklin, County, Mermont, Lotts', Miller's and Michael's. The fare was 25-cents for a round trip. The passengers were wonderful. I knew them all as friends.'
      The DAWN had a crew of one. Gilbert was pilot, conductor and roustabout. During the 22-year period he worked the 5:30 pm to 1:30 am shift. Swen Hanson had the morning and afternoon trips.
      When the Lake Washington Floating Bridge was built the DAWN rode off into the sunsset. Today she lies on the bottom off Richmond Beach, where she was sunk deliberately about the time the Second World War began.
      Skipper Gilbert went to work on the LESCHI about 1940 and stayed on until she made her final landing at Kirkland, 30 January 1950.
      'She was a great boat. Still is. She's on the Mukilteo-Columbia Beach run.'
Would Gilbert rather pilot a Lake Washington run, or just fish and loaf, as his doctor advises?
      'I'd love to get back on the boats again, I've had good luck fishing, but it's nothing like steamboating."
Above text from the Seattle Times, 15 September 1957.

Captain Ward H. Henshaw

On Board the ILLAHEE, 1956.
Captain Ward H. Henshaw, 1956

Around Colman Ferry Terminal they talk about Capt. Ward H. Henshaw as a ferryboat master who gets the job done without any fuss or bother.
      "You hardly know he's aboard the boat, but you're always certain he'll do a good job", a dock superintendent said.
      This quiet efficiency undoubtedly is a product of some 38-years as a skipper on Puget Sound. But it also is a natural manifestation of a man of Captain Henshaw's character––in other words, he's just that kind.
      Now skipper of the WSF ILLAHEE, running between Seattle and Winslow, Bainbridge Is, Henshaw first became familiar with the waterfront as a boy playing hooky.
      This early interest took him into a sailing career which has put him in charge of many of the ferries sailing the Sound.
     Now 72, Henshaw says he thinks he'll retire to his Winslow home next year. But that's one the boys around Colman Dock say he's been telling for years.
      "He'll go on one of his fishing trips and come back raring to go," they say.
Seattle Times, 1 January 1956.

Captain Irving Johnson
On board YANKEE with wife Electa
The famous Captain Irving Johnson
and Electa Johnson, 1958, at Gloucester, MA.

Home from final world trip on YANKEE.
They sailed 1/2 million miles together after they met
on the Schooner WANDER BIRD.
Original photo from the archives of S. P. H. S.©
"Captain Irving Johnson, who chose the sea over a farm life in South Hadley, MA, has just completed his seventh--and last--sailing trip around the world.
      Johnson sailed his 95' brigantine YANKEE into port yesterday after an 18-month, 48,000-mile trip with 21 passengers. They had paid $5,000 each. The trip was highlighted by a romance of two crew members, and the  discovery of an anchor which may be from the famous ship BOUNTY near Pitcairn Island on what Johnson termed veritable Shangri-La.
      The 53-year-old skipper said the Shangri-La was in the Marquesas Islands. He described it as 'the cutest valley you ever saw protected by sheer solid rock which made the harbor dangerous and discouraging to enter.'
      Johnson said an anchor purportedly from the BOUNTY was returned to Pitcairn Island. It will be kept with other relics from the famous English vessel.
      Johnson has sold the YANKEE to Reed Whitney of Wilmette, ILL, a former Navy commander. Whitney will continue the global voyages."
Above text; Associated Press, 5 May 1958
Irving Johnson was equally famous for his thrilling film footage Around Cape Horn, which he captured when he helped crew through a first-class hurricane on the four-masted barque PEKING in 1929-1930. She was part of the nitrate trade from Germany 'round Cape Horn to Chile. 
Johnson authored or co-authored eight books including the classic, The PEKING Battles Cape Horn,  Milton Bradley, 1932, and also published by the National Maritime Historical Society, 1977. 

The Mystic Seaport Museum sells dvds of the Around Cape Horn film here.
The PEKING, at the South Street Seaport Museum, can be viewed here.

Captain Bush P. Leighton
On board NISQUALLY, 1941.
Captain Bush P. Leighton
Bush P. Leighton, a native son of Washington was born in Anacortes, Fidalgo Island in 1892. He spent his early boyhood on the barge HENRY BUCK which was commanded by his father, Capt. Geo. Leighton. He worked on the deck of the tug GENERAL J. M. WILSON, did quartermaster time on ALAMEDA, and then joined the tugs GOLIAH AND TATOOSH. He became 2nd mate of the IROQUOIS, mate of the RELIANCE and the TILLAMOOK, the H. B. KENNEDY, and the CHIPPEWA.
      One day, according to the columnist "the Beach Comber", Bush was walking along the front when at one of the smaller docks we came on a whale of a big fellow who had been crooking his elbow and was in an ugly mood. He was making things uncomfortable for a crowd of men and women waiting for a launch. He snapped something at us as we came along. Bush took in the situation at a glance. 
      "Get out of here", and behave yourself". 
      "I'll fix you, growled the giant advancing. Bush took a few steps backward until he was standing with his back to a wall.
      "I'm going to knock your block off," announced the giant, and closing his eyes he swung a terrific haymaker. Bush moved his head a few inches and the whale's huge fist crashed into the wall. The giant collapsed, weeping from pain. He thought he had swatted Bush on the jaw.
      "Gol darn it!" he sobbed, "you ain't fair. You got a horsehoe in your mouth."

Captain Ole J. Lilleoren
Captain Ole J. Lilleoren
Pilothouse of M. R. CHESSMAN
Retiring 30 July 1966.

Original photo by Leonard Bacon, from the S.P.H.S.©
Retiring from the ferries he has piloted for 16 years, Capt. Ole J. Lilleoren stands by his wheel in pilot house of M.R. CHESSMAN, on his own last afternoon trip. Capt. Harold Riley continued through the evening to make the final trip.
Text from the Oregonian. July 1966.

Captain Harry H. McDonald
Captain Harry H. McDonald, 1945.
on board the SKAGIT BELLE,  
unknown photographer.
The inlaid SKAGIT BELLE photo 
by J.A. Turner.
Both originals from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

When officials of the War Shipping Admin. assembled last week in their offices in the Commerce Building in WA, DC, to consider offers for the SKAGIT BELLE and other vessels, they found only one bid for the famous sternwheel Army transport. It came from the Skagit River Navigation Co., former owner of the SKAGIT BELLE, which plans to return the vessel to the Seattle-Mt. Vernon route.
      The SKAGIT BELLE was taken over by the Army Transportation Corps in September 1942. During the war she carried c. 200,000 tons of cargo between various piers of the Seattle Port of Embarkation, the Seattle Army Service Forces Depot, and other Elliott Bay and Puget Sound piers.
      'We hope that our bid will be accepted as we need the vessel badly', said Mrs. Anna G. Grimson, president of the Skagit River Nav. Co. and believed to be the only woman steamship-company president in the US.
      Mrs. Grimson said her brother, Capt. Harry H. McDonald, veteran steamboat man of the Pacific Northwest, who commanded the SKAGIT BELLE during her war service, will be the vessel's master again when she returns to the Seattle-Mount Vernon route.
      Built in Everett, the SKAGIT BELLE was launched 25 September 1941 and towed to the plant of the Lake Union Dry Dock Co where her huge paddle wheel was installed."
Above text from the Seattle Times, 24 March 1945.
Captain George S. Murch
Aboard sternwheeler W. T. PRESTON (ex-SWINOMISH)

      Capt. George Murch, who has handled the Army Engineers' snagboat 26 years, is retiring. He has been with the Engineers 42-years.
     The snagboat was the SWINOMISH when Murch joined her as chief engineer in 1925. She was renamed the PRESTON, in honor of a long-time district engineer, in 1936.
      A new skipper takes command of the W. T. PRESTON, the only sternwheel vessel still in active service on Puget Sound. Capt. Norman Hamburg, who signed on the sternwheeler as a cabin boy and waiter in 1927, is the new skipper.
Captain Ralph "Matt" Peasley
(born c. 1865-d. Dec. 1948 Aberdeen, WA.)
Aboard the SANWAN in 1930.

Captain Ralph "Matt" Peasley on the stool next to the wheel,
in front of ship owner, Frank Moran of the Moran School.

The boys are to make a cruise to the South Seas
on the Moran yacht under Captain Matt. 

Original photo dated 28 September 1930
from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

Built by Robert Moran at Rosario, Orcas Island, WA. 1917.
Peasley is remembered as a master of sailing ships out of Puget Sound and Grays Harbor for c. 40 years, in command of the late VIGILANT and the WAWONA, the latter once owned by the "Save Our Ships" group who were attempting to save her from the wreckers. 
He was also remembered as a larger-than-life size figure in the Cappy Ricks novels by Peter B. Kyne. 

Captain Adrian F. Raynaud
Aboard Schooner C. A. THAYER,
Seattle, WA. 
Captain Adrian F. Raynaud, 
September 1957
Adrian and Mrs. Fred G. Scott at the wheel 
of the C. A. THAYER, Seattle,
just before the THAYER sailed for San Francisco.
 Raynaud was master on this, the THAYER's last voyage. 
Scott went to sea on the THAYER as the bride of the 
late Captain Scott in 1912. 
The sailing schooner will be placed in a San Francisco museum.
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©

"Cap Raynaud loved the seas and all its trades--he was marine surveyor, and a restorer of classic ships.
Adrian Raynaud's story is virtually the story of modern seafaring. 
      It stretches from his youth as an apprentice sailmaker in San Francisco and his first voyage around Cape Horn in 1909, to his work as a pioneer of small-craft marine-surveying in Seattle after WW II.
      Within it are scores of smaller tales. He loved telling them as he took the voice and gestures of characters and demonstrated the heft of a line or height of a mast. He had an eye and ear for detail. 
      A highlight of his career was overseeing restoration and captaining the crew that in 1957 sailed the cod-fishing steam schooner C. A. THAYER to San Francisco.
      Born to a non-seafaring family in San Francisco, he hung out on the wharves and left school before graduating to make sails. In 1909 he signed on as a cabin boy on the barkentine LAHAINA, bearing lumber from N. CA. to South Africa.
      Cap Raynaud worked in seafaring trades up and down the West Coast and learned seamanship and navigation on oceanic cruises.

Captain Adrian Raynaud, marine surveyor,
inspecting gillnetter BLUE SEA, Carkeek Park, 1965.
Original photo from the archives of S. P. H. S.©

      With the decline in mail ships after the war, Cap Raynaud became one of Seattle's early marine surveyors, founding Seattle Marine Surveyors in 1947 and focusing on yachts and fishing boats.
      As much as he loved surveying, he didn't want to spend his entire life at it. He retired on his 90th birthday. Or rather his wife of 60 years, Dorothy, who  had been typing survey reports for 40 years, retired him. She pulled the plug on the electric typewriter in their office and said, 'Happy Birthday, Adrian. You have retired!"
Above text by Carole Beers
Seattle Times, 7 December 1997

Captain Kelly Sprague
Master of tug HERCULES in 1947.
Unknown photographer.
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.
Capt. Sprague started as a deckhand with Puget Sound Tug & Barge Co in 1936. In the year of this photo a most dramatic sinking in mid-Pacific occurred on the early morning of 17 May 1947. Tugs MONARCH and HERCULES escaped disaster by a narrow margin. The two ocean tugs, in charge of Captains George O. Anderson and Kelly Sprague respectively,were engaged in towing the war-damaged battleship OKLAHOMA from Pearl Harbor for scrapping at Oakland, CA. The battleship developed a heavy list when 535 miles out and the tugs put back for Honolulu. Fortunately the two tug masters had the foresight to have the towing cable ends unshackled. An hour after the change of course, the OKLAHOMA suddenly keeled over and sank, dragging the two tugs backward at the end of 1,400-ft of towline at such a velocity that their engines were stopped and they were estimated to be making sternway at the rate of 15 to 30 knots. The towlines reached their 'bitter ends' before the bulk of the sinking battleship dragged the two tugs under with her, thus preventing what might well have been another mysterious sea tragedy. No one was aboard the OKLAHOMA at the time of her sinking.
Sprague went on to become a member of the Puget Sound Pilots.

Captain W. P. Thornton
Captain W. P. Thornton
Photographer unknown.

Capt. W. P. Thornton of Bremerton brought his automobile to Seattle Friday and it wasn't any trouble. He just drove onto the ferry KALAKALA, rode across the Sound, and drove off again.
      But on the trip, Captain Thornton talked about another voyage on which he brought an automobile across Puget Sound.
      That trip was different.
Date, location, photographer unknown.
From the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©

      It was back in 1906, one warm summer day. There weren't many automobiles in the Puget Sound country in those days and Captain Thornton, master of the LYDIA THOMPSON, wasn't thinking of them when a young man hailed him at Union city, on Hood Canal, and asked him if he'd haul a "machine" to Seattle.
      Sure, said the captain thinking of course that 'machine' meant logging equipment, which was a usual item of freight. So the young man rode over to Hoodsport and pointed proudly to the "machine" which was on the dock. It was an auto.
      "I had seen automobiles, but not very many. 
      I never did find out how he got that thing to Hoodsport, because there weren't any roads but wagon roads––and rough ones––in that country then.
      I can't take that kind of "machine", I told the man. 
      "And I can't drive it to Seattle, either", he answered.
      "So I told him that if he'd sign a release for any liability, I'd haul his car to Seattle for him.
      Getting the car on the ship was quite a maneuver. But we had two heavy planks, 16-ft long, 3-inches thick, and 12-inches wide, so we used them to put her aboard.
      We put these planks across the rail. I had the mate and four seamen helping me. We pushed the car up the planks 'til it was over the rail. Then we tipped the planks on the other side, and eased the car down on the deck between the booby hatch and the mast. When we got to Seattle, we reversed the process."
      And that, so far as Captain Thornton knows, is the first time that an automobile was ferried across Puget Sound.
      Captain Thornton charged the motorist $6. for carrying the car, but the young man was so happy to get to Seattle that he gave $10 extra.
Text from the Seattle Times, 25 April 1942.

Captain Theodore A. Thorson
At the wheel of the TILLICUM, 1965
Captain Theodore A. Thorson
At the wheel of the TILLIKUM, 1965
Photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©

"Three long blasts of the TILLIKUM's whistle were scheduled to rend the normally quiet Winslow air on Bainbridge Island this afternoon, ending 43 years of ferryboating for the skipper, Capt. Theodore A. Thorson.
      Fellow workers with the WSF arranged things so Thorson could walk off the gangplank carrying a ship's clock and barometer, their parting gifts. He also had the well wishes of the hundreds of associates in the only business he has ever known.
      Capt. Gust Westerlund who has worked with Thorson for ten years, volunteered to take the wheel on Thorson's last two runs so he could attend a farewell party in the TILLIKUM's cabin.
      "A topnotch skipper and a wonderful shipmate," Westerlund said. "The least I could do is let him go to his own party."
      A man of few words, Thorson conceded he would miss his pilothouse.
      "It's almost a way of life when you've been on the water as long as I have. It's a job, but I happen to like it.
      Every day is a little different. A good wind can get you on your toes and you've got to be on the lookout every minute.
      Then at night you come in to Seattle, and although I'm no artist--it's quite a sight."
      Although not yet 62, Thorson is retiring early to take some trips with his wife, Julia, in a recently acquired camper, do a little fishing, and play some golf.
      Thorson will not forsake the ferries entirely, or 'swallow an anchor' as the seamen say. He plans to fill in during vacations "just to keep my feet wet."
      Born on Bainbridge Island, Thorson is the son a Norwegian-born teamster and fisherman. He hadn't planned on jockeying ferries as a career; it "just happened."
      "I was on my way to town looking for work and there was a job on the old SUQUAMISH, a small passenger boat, as a deckhand. That was in 1922 and I've never got away from it."
      Thorson received his mate's license in 1929 and his master's license for inland waters in 1933. His first captains job was as skipper of the QUILLAYUTE in 1941.
      He was made skipper of the EVERGREEN STATE when she was new and was skipper also of the ILLAHEE and the KLAHANIE. He has been skipper of the TILLIKUM since she was built in 1952.
Although Thorson is looking forward to relaxing and 'resting his sea legs', he does not plan to go far from this state.
      "I'm not like the retired sailor who put an oar on his shoulder and walked until he didn't know what he was carrying and then settled down. I wouldn't live any place else. Where else can you find real mountains and real rivers and fish in the fresh, clean, air?"
Above text by Marjorie Jones
For The Seattle Times, 30 Sept. 1955    
Captain Louis Van Bogaert
Senior Master, Captain Louis Van Bogaert, 1957
Photo possibly by Joe Williamson, 

the year of the captain's retirement.
Inlaid photo of the ferry KALAKALA.
Photos from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©

"Capt. Louis Van Bogaert who completed more than a half century of continuous service with the Puget Sound Navigation, [and Black Ball Line, and Washington State Ferries], has never sailed the seven seas or even one sea, but he knows Puget Sound like you know your own bathtub.
      The silver streamliner KALAKALA slides so easily into its Colman dock berth under Capt. Van Bogaert's guidance that most passengers don't know they've docked until they hear the gangplank slam against the dock.
      'I started on the sound in 1903 and I ought to have learned how to bring 'em in easy by now.'
      The silver-haired skipper still gets a thrill out of 'bringin' em in easy.' Every trip is different, because there's always a variation in tides and weather. The bigger boats are easier to handle, but I miss the personal contact we had on the little steamers. I used to know every regular customer on my run. They'd yell 'Hi ap' when they came up the gangplank.'
      Puget sound skippers don't get together much, according to Van Bogaert. There's little social life between them because of their constantly shifting schedules.
      But they have even less to do with high sea sailors. 'We in steamboats are a class of our own. Many of the men now on the sound come from the San Juans like myself. They get to know and like the sound in their boyhood.'
      Although Van Bogaert will wax nostalgic about old times and old ways--'you get attached to a boat like you do to a house'--he's not so much of an old salt that he scorns changes in the art of seafaring."
Above text by Dwight Schear,
Seattle Times (?), 22 November 1946.
Capt. Van Bogaert was an honorary life member of the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society.
      There is another entry on Louis and his friendship with ship model-maker Ralph Hitchcock that can be viewed here.


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