"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.

08 May 2013

WESTERN PIONEER ✪ ✪ ✪ North with North ✪ ✪ ✪

WESTERN PIONEER
Loading up at Salmon Bay, Seattle, to head North.
photo copy from L.W. North for this essay.
"In 1943, I was hanging out of the apartment window in Anacortes, WA,  listening to old KVOS radio in Bellingham describe the launching of a new fleet tug for the USN, not giving a thought that in 37-years I would serve as chief engineer in Alaska, on board for over four years. Bellingham was quite proud of the ship they had built, and rightly so.
      She stretched out to 184' and drew 18' of water. Built with wood hull and steel super structure and powered with four 720-HP Copper Bessemer diesel generators that provided the power to two propulsion motors, giving her a 12-knot speed in the beginning.
      By the time she had finished her military obligation, she had slowed a bit. As a civilian she started a career freighting from Seattle to Dutch Harbor for Western Pioneer, Inc, on a round robin routine, in spite of weather, for 13-years, until an engine room fire tied her up in Lake Union. The Coast Guard ruled her unfit.
      The Magnuson Act provided new rules so she had another chance to serve as a private freighter with a licensed skipper, first mate, and chief engineer. Her most important asset was the converted refrigerated hold for hauling crab and fish.
      When I first went aboard, the engine room was so black from smoke and soot, that a 100-w light bulb looked like a candle on a dark night. But the fire damage was minimal and cleaning was the main concern on our way north. We ran on two generators and worked on the other two, since there had been a serious lack of maintenance.
      The first newspaper we got in Ketchikan, AK informed us of Mt. St. Helens' gas problem on 18 May.
      The skipper delayed at Cape Spencer for a long while, waiting for better weather on the gulf; then we ventured out after dark. In an hour we were rolling 40 degrees to starboard and 25 degrees to port, and the wind was doing 90-mph, with snow. 
      The deck load of iron pipe and steel reinforcing rod shifted, catching the 20' shore boat in cables, cutting it from deck to keel as it hung over the cabin side. In the engine room, parts that hadn't been seen for years came bursting out of their hiding places, to skid across the deck plate, bent on doing damage. Two men acted as cowboys and jumped on flying parts with rope and wire, to secure them before the next surprise threatened. Our tool count increased--as the lost were suddenly found--rolling about the deck.
      We made Yakutat much later and anchored in perfect calm and licked our wounds. When I heard the stories from the pilot house, I was glad to be an engineer.
      In the four years that I served we had been in the Yukon delta, Adak, Bristol Bay, Dutch Harbor, a tour of SE, and a lot of those other places that make Alaska different than any other and often more exciting." 
Above text written by Orcas Island mariner/historian L. W. "Corkey" North who has supported this historical endeavor from the outset, while being very patient with the webmaster. 
Essays by Corkey are included in the labels at the very bottom of this Log. He has shared memories or helpful notes on the boats IMPERIAL, KATY, NORTH STAR, NO WAKE, VASHON, WESTERN PIONEER, WINDENTIDE, and even one large, returning, visitor whale--SATCHELMOUTH. In other words, we'd be sunk without him. Thanks Corkey, keep writing Chief. 
WESTERN PIONEER, Alaska
Scan from copy from L. W. North
WESTERN PIONEER
Back from Adak, AK
Scan from copy from L. W. North.


WESTERN PIONEER
Dutch Harbor, AK.
Scan from a photo copy from L. W. North



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