"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.

02 October 2013

❖ CHRISTENING OF A SHIP ❖



McTAVISH launch 4 May 1974
Artists Malcolm & Margaret Cameron,

launching the boat built by "Coonie" in his workshop
at their home at Neck Pt., San Juan Islands.
"Birth of a ship is not just the laying of the keel but the christening ceremony before a vessel first becomes waterborne. Many have seen ships christened just prior to launching but few have ever bothered to ask why bottles are used as part of the ceremony.
      In days of yore, it was considered a sign of a long and successful life for a ship by the throwing of a silver cup over the side on launching day. However, it is to the British we must turn for the custom of the present christening of ships, for it was Britain's King William III who considered the silver cup a bit wasteful and who instituted the custom of smashing bottles across the bow instead.
      And it was the suave Prince Regent, who later became King George IV of England, who added one step to King William's bottle christening by choosing a lady to perform the ceremony, mostly because it amused his many girlfriends and created excitement among them. The idea caught on, though the throwing of the bottle caused a bit of a hazard with the spraying of broken glass.
      At a later christening, an English lady, high on the social register nearly decapitated a spectator with a bottle when she missed the bow of the ship she was sponsoring; ever after the custom demanded that the receptacle is tied and swung against the ship's bow.
      Due to the fact that champagne has always been a toasting wine, almost from its inception, this beverage has been used to christen ships. But there have been exceptions. For instance, many missionary ships have been launched with milk, soft drinks, and water. 
Christenings have been filled with many amusing incidents. At a West coast shipyard in recent years the christening party arrived at the platform to prepare for the ceremony only to find that the ship had accidentally launched herself a few hours earlier and was sitting in the water. The entire program had to be changed and the christening took place at a later time at dockside.
      Frequently at launchings, women will take mighty swings and miss or may hit the desired target and find that the bottle refuses to break. The containers are usually wrapped with colored ribbon or cloth of some kind to prevent the glass from flying, but this does not prevent the bubbly champagne from sometimes spraying everybody in sight.
      Writer Raymond Lamont Brown tells of a Miss May Gould of Boston, Mass. who had a bottle-missing experience. When it refused to break and when the ship went down the ways the lady bravely leaped into the water fully-clothed. Doggedly she pursued the vessel and succeeded in accomplishing the task while waterborne.
      So, if the reader is ever privileged to attend a launching of a vessel, don't underestimate the power of a woman. You're liable to hear most anything emanate from her lips should she miss with the bottle, but most are plucky enough to get the job done in one way or another.
      As has been told, launching ceremonies go back into antiquity when the heathens often slew women and tacked their heads to the ship's prow as an offering to appease the sea gods. Their blood was sprinkled over the ship's bows or on the makeshift ways.
      The world has come a long way since such intolerable practices were used, but even in our day there is always a fair amount of apprehension at each launching ceremony before a vessel slides down the ways for her baptism in water."
Above text from: 

The Unusual Side of the Sea, by Jim Gibbs, Jr.,
Book search here 









Pile Driver at Maritime Shipyards,
19 October 1957.

William Gilbert took motion pictures 

of his new pile driver being lowered into the Ship Canal.
Photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
Before William Gilbert was old enough to walk, he was accustomed to traveling around Lake Washington, strapped in his high chair aboard the VASTEN, passenger-freight boat operated by his father, Charles Gilbert, between Seattle and Mercer Island.
      On the occasion of this launching of a pile driver, it may be only a floating machine to some people but can be a work of art to the man who owns one. 
      This new pile driver, designed for the Gilbert Pile Driving C., by William Garden & Associates and built at Robert Albin's Maritime Shipyards, has a whirly crane for waterside construction work. 
      The pile driver measures 62-ft x 24-ft and can carry 2,400 gallons of fuel for the Diesel engine. The 20-ton crane has a 70-ft boom. 
      After its launching at the Maritime Shipyards, the crane was towed today to the Blanchard Boat Co. yard for outfitting.
      Ernest Zwiefelhofer, who has worked on the Seattle waterfront for years, will be foreman of the new pile driver."
Above text from The Seattle Times, 1957
Ben Bullitt, age 6, at 1966
Champagne re-christening of his
Great Grandfather's tug STIMSON,

after restoration in Ballard.
Boat was built in 1914 and was featured in
Pacific Motor Boat of that year.

Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
BRITISH OXYGEN
World's biggest Racing Catamaran, 9 March 1974.
L: Gerry Boxall with champagne
Robin Knox-Johnston, Brightlingsea, England.
70-ft loa, 32-ft b.
Designed by Rod Maculpine-Downie. 
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

Launching of gig ERICA,
Bowman Bay, WA., 1983.
Erica Pickett of Fidalgo Island, at the bow.

From the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
























Champagne for the beautiful gig and
champagne for the well-wishers, 1983.

Photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©





ELIZABETH MUIR, 1991
Built by master craftsman Babe Lamerdin 
and multiple talented helpers, 
led by the devoted John Linderman.

LOA. 47.6' / LWL 34.6' x 11.8' B x 6.5' D.
Christening sponsor, Liz (Muir) Robinson.

Photos courtesy of A/R Nyborg.©

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