Undated original photo from the Clinton Betz Collection,
from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"It was 6 o'clock and dark when the COMANCHE drew into the dock at Sekiu last night.
The tide was exceedingly low so that a foot-wide, inch thick board that was serving duty as a gangplank, lay across the dock and the upper deck, on the level. In the middle of that board was a knot and every time a man came across her I expected to see him go wallowing down the long narrow way to the water below. But the board held till all the crew were ashore and another stouter one was substituted from the dock for me. But I wasn't sorry, I tell you, though when I saw the not very slender, smiling Indian woman who had braved that board, I was ashamed of myself that I had looked so worried that they had dug up a big plank for me.
After what seemed hours of unloading freight at Sekiu we steamed off to Neah Bay. I had wanted to see that historic village by daylight, but full moon would have served nearly as well if I could have stayed awake till we got there!
click image to enlarge.
At Neah Bay is another logging camp and there a pulp plant to use the logs just as soon as they come down from the hills. I don't like to think, somehow, of hearty spruce and fir going into pulp when all over the hills lie logs fit for nothing else. Somebody is going to make a million dollars some of these days soon by inventing a way of getting into the hills with some grinding machinery to use the by-products of logging right there on the spot.
From Neah Bay to Seattle, I was the only passenger aboard the COMANCHE. What a good time I had getting acquainted with the crew! Captain Van Nieuwenhuise came from Rotterdam when he was 11 and he can remember old Holland vividly. He used to play on Whidbey Island, logging there, trying to farm a little, too I think, but longing for the sea all the time.
Mr. Boyd, purser, is a Scotsman with an Irish twinkle in his eyes. Now, I was always frightened of pursers thinking them a hard boiled lot. I learned long ago that boat captains are all bark and no bite with a very soft heart underneath a necessary crust. If all pursers were like Mr. Boyd, I shall decide that they are deceivin' critters, too. In fact there is something about the sea that hardens men outside, softens them inside.
After dinner during the long hours between Pt. Townsend and Seattle, everybody gathered around Mr. Sam Campbell, second engineer, maker of violins, to see how fiddles are carved out of hunks of wood. This mechanical genius has evolved and manufactured his own tools for making his fiddles, one of them being a darling tiny brass plane about the size of my thumb, curved to plow off microscopic shavings from Italian maple so as to form it into the back of the violin. One of his fiddles is made from Puget Sound maple and is more beautiful than the others, our maple having a gracious waving figure much more attractive than the straight zigzag grain of the Italian wood.
Mr. Campbell spent ten years carving out a perfect ship only to have it stolen. He turned to violins for consolation, perhaps, and is beginning to turn out instruments of true, rich, vibrant tones.
With another two or three days aboard the freighter who knows what other surprising people with surprising gifts might have been discovered? Many of the crew I didn't even see. The stoker might have turned out to be a poet; the chef, a painter; the deckhand, a sociologist!
From Seattle by stage was a long comfortable way, the day disappearing across the San Juan islands as we drew near home. See you tomorrow."
Text by author June Burn, former San Juan County islander.
Puget Soundings, 1927.