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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.

18 February 2013

❖ LOTUS, On Camera One Hundred Years Ago ❖

Yacht LOTUS (ON 206231) 
Built 1909, Seattle. Photo dated 1913.
 Photographer unknown.
From the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
"Like a painted ship on a painted ocean, the beautiful cruising houseboat LOTUS, specially designed and built to afford her owner and his guests all the comforts of a home combined with the pleasures of life on the rolling deep, is moored a few cable lengths from the Seattle Yacht Club quarters at West Seattle. She came from Bremerton yesterday.
      Built in 1909 for Maurice McMicken, a prominent Seattle lawyer, by Lee & Brinton, naval architects, Seattle, the LOTUS is fitted with every convenience of a mansion on shore and in addition can make a speed of ten mph at sea. The vessel cannot sink. At least she never has sunk; Mr. McMicken and her builders say she is never going to. They say that even if the bottom and ground floor of the LOTUS fell out she would still float like a Spanish cork because between longitudinal and fore and aft bulkheads she has galvanized  tanks capable of buoying up a vessel twice her size. 
      Mr. McMiken, who lives with his family aboard the LOTUS all summer, prizes the tank and bulkhead feature as it gives him a most comfortable sense of security while he is whiling away the vacation days with his family, who are as fond of the water as he is.
      Everything to minimize jolts and jars on calling days and in cruising weather has been installed aboard the LOTUS. For the comfort of those on board Mr. McMiken has so arranged that by pressing a button he can create a Sabbath calm from stem to stern. This is due to the fact that the electric light can be supplied independent of the vessel's engines. When these stop. enough electricity has accumulated in the storage batteries to light the LOTUS for hours. The LOTUS always stops when meals are served.
      Meals to suit the most exacting epicure and equal to the best to be had in local hotels can be served on the LOTUS for the sea-going home of the McKikens is fitted to carry more than a ton of ice, water to supply fourteen persons for three weeks, fuel enough for a 2,300-mile cruise, and provisions to last a year.
      The houseboat has two bathrooms with fresh and salt running water, and there is a fine large fireplace in the main cabin.
      In order to reach land conveniently when the LOTUS is moored out, the vessel is provided with a 20-ft, 2-HP tender. She also has two lifeboats.
      The McMiken family usually have the LOTUS anchored off their land home at Enetai, near Bremerton, and she is always ready for a Saturday or Sunday cruise around the Sound."
Seattle Times, 5 May 1913.

Then getting closer to home country and decades later, the LOTUS gets noticed by Jo Bailey then cruising and writing in the San Juan Islands, summer 1984.
      "Earlier this summer the LOTUS passed through the islands, an elegant reminder of days gone by. 
      The classic vessel, built in 1909 as the summer home of Maurice McMiken, is now owned by, and being refurbished by, Curt Gruye of Seattle.
      LOTUS glided into Friday Harbor on her way north to AK for the summer--the first time she has made the trip since 1946. Since that time she has served as a "boatel"  during Seattle's 1982 World Fair, capsized in 1977 and filled, and has been remodeled and worked on with an eye to having her named to the National Register as an historical site.
      Curt bought the cruising houseboat in 1961 from Howard Hays for a paltry $5,750 as she was in 'real bad shape.' He began the long restoration process, and to help pay the shipyard costs, he opened her as a unique bed and breakfast during the Fair.

Gordon Newell
Ship's uniform for duty at the Seattle World's Fair 1962.
LOTUS was attending also, but Newell didn't become 
her owner until 1977.
Photographer unknown. Original from S. P. H. S.©

     In 1977 he sold the yacht to maritime historian, writer, and marina operator, Gordon Newell in Olympia, almost immediately regretting his action. Three days later a freak storm and unusually low tides capsized her at the dock and she filled with water. He bought LOTUS back from Newell in 1981 at the same price he'd sold her for, and began extensive restoration. 'I should never have sold her--she's just my boat.'
      Since LOTUS is so high and with such shallow draft--just six feet--'she is neither a foul weather nor a blue water boat', he said.
      LOTUS sat out several days of heavy winds and bad weather in Friday Harbor earlier this summer on her way north. 'But we can go for a long time with her 1,800 gallons of water and her 2,400 gallons of diesel. 
      Curt has documented much of the ship's history. The original 80-HP, 4-cyl air-starting Globe engine was replaced in 1922 with a 125-HP Eastern Standard Diesel. A 180-HP Buda Diesel was installed in 1982.
      'Within five years we hope to have her in beautiful condition but perfection is just a goal. We put 27 new planks in her in 1962; she has two 70-ft long planks above the waterline and one 80-ft long plank below on her port side. I figure about half the original planking is still in place, including the ironbark keel'.
      Overall length of the houseboat-cruiser, designed by Lee & Brinton and built by Joseph Sloane, all of Seattle, is 93-ft, with documentation length of 85-ft. LOTUS displaces 116 tons, draft is 6-ft, beam 20-ft, and cruising speed is 8.3-knots. She is constructed of fir."
Above text by Jo Bailey
The Islands' Sounder, 29 August 1984
Card ephemera donated by
Jack Russell March 2013.

       The LOTUS is indeed on the National Register of Historic Places and has her very own website. To view how pretty she looks one century after launching and for an audio by her Port Townsend steward, please click here

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