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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.

16 December 2013

❖ HOME FOR CHRISTMAS with Log Tow ❖ 1949

Across the Strait of Juan de Fuca
Text by Captain Ray Quinn

BARBARA FOSSDiesel 1200 HP; Ocean Going
Original photo by Roger Dudley, Seattle.

From the archives of the S. P. H. S. ©

Captain Ray Quinn
Undated original photo from

the archives of the S. P. H. S. ©
I was on the BARBARA FOSS and we'd just come into Seattle from Alaska. It was about eight or nine days before Christmas. So they told me I was going over to Esquimalt to get a tow of logs and bring 'em around to Port Townsend. The engineer, Doc Templeton, he said, "to hell with that. I'm gonna have Christmas at home––I'm not gonna go." I went in and told the dispatcher that and he said, "well, Jack Gilden is on his time off, and he's down in Port Angeles. When you get through with the customs clearin', the first assistant can run the engine to Port Townsend, and you can pick up Jack there." So I said, "ok, that's fine." So when we got through with customs and started out, we got down to Pt. T, and Jack Gilden was there at the Standard Oil dock.
      We picked him up and went on to Esquimalt. It's right next door to Victoria. We went through customs, and we were gonna wait until daylight. So at daylight, we found the tow and looked it over and put some extra gear on it. It was 64 sections of bundles rafts. A bundle raft is a truck load. They bring 'em down to the water, and before they dump the logs into the water they put a band around 'em and cinch 'em up good and tight, and the bundle can take a lot of weather. You can get more footage of logs in the tow. So that's what they'd done. But there was one stick in the middle raft––the end was pulled out, but they had a jury rig with wire on it, so we put another wire on it and doubled it up so it wouldn't give us any trouble.
      That morning we started out, and when we got out to the entrance of the Esquimalt harbor, I heard two tugs off Pt. Angeles talking, the ARTHUR FOSS, Capt. Jay Thurston, and the MATHILDA FOSS, Capt. Ray Cook. But they had a tow that was goin' up on the American side. They were goin' up around Dungeness. They said there was a little swell, but they were gonna try it anyhow. I got thinking––before we left Seattle I talked to Walt Headwall, the dispatcher. I asked him, I says, "any objection to me goin' across the Strait and getting on the American side and coming up to Port Townsend?" He says, "I don't care, you can go right up for Dungeness Spit, I don't care." So I said, "ok, I'll think about it." I told Jay Thurston, I said, "I think I'll come across, head up for Dungeness." So he said, well, you'll  be home for a white Christmas one day or another."
      Anyhow the tide was ebbin' pretty good yet, so we took the tow down toward Race Rocks, and the flood tide started to come, and we headed up for Dungeness Spit. The tide was runnin' like hell; it was a big flood. Anyhow, when we went by Dungeness Spit, we's about three miles off of the end of it. We were pullin' across the current. And about that time the tide run out, so we's kind of anglin' across the current, tryin' to get in behind Dungeness Spit. 
      The MATHILDA FOSS gave me a call and he says, "say, we got a couple of hours to kill up here," he says. "We're a little ahead of ya, if ya want me to, I'll come back and give ya a little pull." I told him, "Come on, everything's welcome!" So he did, he come back and got alongside the raft and put his tow line on and pulled there for a coupla hours, and so we skidded right in behind Dungeness, between Dungeness and Discovery Bay. And then the next tide, they were gonna go inside the island. The MATHILDA had let go and gone up to his own tow. So I asked Jay Thurston, "You goin' inside the island, Protection Island?" and he said, "Yeah!" I told him "Well, if you can make it in to Port Townsend, goin' inside the island, I can come outside the island and make it in to Townsend, too." So he said, "Well, it's a good idea." So we did, we headed up outside the island, goin' pretty good with a small flood.
Map drawn for The Sea Chest by
the Honourable  Ron R. Burke, Editor
of Puget Sound Martime Historical Society.

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In the meantime, the MARTHA FOSS was in Port Townsend. He was gonna go from Pt. Townsend to New Westminster, up the Fraser River with two sawdust barges. So he was up to the custom man, he says, "The BARBARA FOSS'll be in here this afternoon with a tow of logs for the mill."
      And he says, "Aw, no. I generally get the papers on those logs eight or nine days ahead––I haven't got a thing on 'em." Bill Ericson was cap'n on the MARTHA FOSS, so he was lookin' out the window, and he says, 'I got news for you." He says, "the BARBARA FOSS is comin' around Pt. Wilson right now." So the guy grabs the telephone and called the mill, and they said. "Oh, no, we got lots of time to get the papers to ya." He says, "Ya have like hell––ya have 'em up here in an hour, 'cause that's the time they're gonna be in here." And I guess that's why it hit the fan, 'cause they called Seattle, and the guy was raisin' hell. He says he didn't want his logs out in the Strait of Juan da Fuca.
      So anyhow, Bill Ericson come down from the custom house, he gives me a call on the radio, and he says, "Hey, Ray, kill a couple of hours to get the tide right goin' up the Fraser River. If you want me to, I'll come out and give ya a pull for a little bit." So we'd gone on by Pt. T. and over towards Marrowstone Point with the tow. We's trying to fight our way in to Pt. T. Bay. There was a lot of counter currents in there. There's the big eddy behind Point Wilson, so we stayed away from that. Anyhow, we's pullin' back into the Bay, so Bill come out and give us a pull for a coupla hours, and then he left. By that time we's up where the tide didn't bother us so much.
      We got up to the log moorings, and the mill tug was out there. He had the superintendent of the mill, and the head boom man, and all kinds of people to look this raft over to see if it was injured in any way. All it was, was a little bark washed off the side where we'd hit a little swell out in the Strait, but not much. Anyhow, 26 hours from the time we left Esquimalt, we was tied up in Pt. T.
      When I called in to Seattle, Sid Campbell answered the radio. He wanted to know if we'd had any trouble or was anything broke on the raft. I told him, "No, only this one stick had an end pulled out of it, and that was before we left Esquimalt. We'd doubled up the gear on that so it was no trouble at all. All it did was wash a little bark off." So he said, "Ok, come on home." So I got back to Seattle. I left Jack Gilden off on the Standard Oil dock, his wife was comin' from Pt. Angeles to pick him up––that's where he lived. So we left him there and went on in to Ballard. 
Looking down on 3 towboats with many sections,
from Deception Pass Bridge, Summer 1941.
Capt. Quinn decided on an alternate route.
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S. ©
If we'd have went around, up through Deception Pass and up through the islands and then into Wasp Pass––if we'd had eight days of good weather, it would have taken us eight days. When we got to Seattle, I called Doc Templeton at home. When the phone rang, he answered and he says, "where the hell are you at?"
      I told him, "we're in Seattle." He said, "what'd they do, cancel the job?" I told him, "no, they didn't cancel the job. We went across the Strait and come up. You could have measured the trip and still been home for Christmas." He couldn't believe it, that we'd gone across the Strait. And a lot of other people didn't believe it either, but that's what we did. We went across there with 64 sections of logs in bundle rafts,* and I don't know whether anybody's ever tried it since or before––I don't know.
 was another old-timer that was built for the US Army in 1905.
In 1923 she became part of the Foss fleet and spent
much of her time towing logs in the Straits. 
Longtime skipper Bill Erickson loaned Ray her 450-HP 
to help the tow across Pt. Townsend Bay.
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
*"Bundles" are made up by wrapping an entire truckload of logs with flat steel straps. After dumping, they float about four feet out of the water and are assembled into a raft for towing. Bundle size will vary from eight to twelve logs depending upon their diameter.

Master Mariner tug Captain Ray Quinn was well known in the Puget Sound maritime community. He served as chief mate on several Victory ships during WWII and obtained his Master's license. In 1954 he was accepted into the Puget Sound Pilots and served for 20 years. 
Essay from the quarterly membership journal 
The Sea Chest, December 2002.
Courtesy of Puget Sound Maritime, Seattle, WA.


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