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and the extent of our care of them marks the
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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.

24 October 2014

❖ Keep Laughing Jack ❖

C. A. THAYER 
photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
In September 1957, the C. A. THAYER sailed from Seattle to San Francisco to assume her new role as a museum ship, at her destination. She was commanded by Seattleite Captain Adrian Raynaud with Jack Dickerhoff as First Mate. The balance of the crew consisted of ship buffs with experience varying from considerable to nil.

The author of the below essay, Gordon Jones, signed on as Ship's Carpenter and wrote of First Mate Dickerhoff from his observations on that trip.

"We're in tough shape––a dozen greenhorns booming along in the pitch black of a rainy, rainy night in a three-masted, ex-lumber schooner somewhere off the coast of northern CA. The 60-mile gale carried with it the worst rainstorm in 18 years. Our vessel was 62 years old––had spent the last few years on a beach up in Puget Sound as a 'pirate' ship, luring unsuspecting tourists aboard for a fee. No––she would never sail again.
Jack Dickerhoff,
Mate for this passage on the THAYER
      But she did sail again, and 'smiling Jack' Dickerhoff held the deck that night, booming out loud and clear, 'there'll be only one man giving orders here.' First Mate Dickerhoff represented the last remnant  of deepwater sail; his foghorn voice could be heard from the poop to the foc'sle head, typical of the breed of men who coursed the globe under sail in the last century. Without Jack we might never have cleared the coast that dark night, for the small handful f experienced wind sailors aboard were hard put to wear the shop away from the land and out of danger.
      But Dickerhoff had lived the scene before, in years past in other windjammers––MOSHULU, HENRIETTA, MELROSE, LOTTIE BENNETT, CAMANO, CENTENNIAL, LIZZIE VANCE, and ALERT. And those experiences were ingrained, were indeed, responsible for the crows feet at the eyes, the fearing respect for the sea, and its unpredictable moods and its tremendous forces. And they had tempered the man to value thoroughness and pride in one's work far above speedy but slipshod performances.
      Yes, with 'smilin' Jack' in charge of he deck that night, we came through bruised, wet, and thoroughly exhausted. But we came through, for he showed us the way.
      And then there were three other nights at sea, when the wind was fair and stars were out in a warm, clear sky. Our vessel almost sailed herself, the huge fore-and-after drawing quietly and powerfully, pushing us on toward San Francisco.
L-R: Capt. Adrian Raynaud, 2nd Mate John Grueland &
Axel Widerstrom on board 
C. A. THAYER 
Port of Seattle, WA.
September 1957
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
The young second mate had the deck––he was a DANMARK veteran––and his flashlight periodically probed the darkness on the rolling deck, checking the running gear. And then all would be darkness again.
      It was then that the watch on deck would test its lungs to the strains of the carpenter's ancient accordion. And it was then that Jack's form could be made out, coming along the deck from back aft, bearing with it (we knew) that unsmiling, gruff countenance. No telling what Mr. Dickerhoff might accuse us of disturbing.
      But undercover of darkness, smilin' Jack, gruff Jack, very-able-First-Officer Mr. John Dickerhoff garnered the affection of he watch on deck. For his comment was––"Keep it up, sounds good." And he had continued forward thru the shadows and darkness almost before we realized he was there.
      For those interested he would always take time to explain slowly and thoroughly some intricacy in rope work or rigging. And and when he had finished, he would affirm rather than ask, 'know what I mean?'
      While life remains very mysterious, regardless of man's progress, Jack perhaps knew it better, loved it better than many men. Though gruff, he remained tolerant; while accomplished, he remained humble.
       And on that dark, devilish night at sea, when the wind threatened to impale us dead on Cape Cabrillo, Jack was a pillar of strength. 'Don't get excited,' he cautioned in girding us for battle. He was unshaven, wore seaboots, oilskins, and a sou'wester, and looked equal to any situation.
 
C. A. THAYER under escort of Coast Guard,
Arriving at her new home of San Francisco, CA. 

30 Sept. 1957
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
It may have been disgust, or it may have been very dry humor, but after we had beaten the sea and were arriving safely in San Francisco we were boarded by several newspaper reporters, one of whom asked Mr. Dickerhoff––you say you are with the Moore Drydock Co? What do you do for them?'
      'Smilin' Jack,' by this time clean shaven and wearing a business suit, answered from within a disgusted frown, 'I work for 'em.'
      Yes, he was a master rigger, but he was also a good sailmaker and carpenter. And he strove for art in anything he did. I knew him only for a short time and am sure there were many facets of his character which will remain unknown to me.
      I hope they don't need broad axes in Fiddler's Green. I still have the one Jack gave me."
Above text by Gordon Jones. The Sea Chest;  Seattle; Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society. December 1972.
Harry Dring, keeper of shipsAboard C.A. THAYER, 1980.
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this wonderful account of an historic voyage. "The Schooner that Came Home" indeed! My salute to the crew, all of them true masters of their trade.

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  2. Thanks for reading the Log and taking time to leave a warm message. Best regards.

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  3. In 1961 I graduated from high school and my father a State Park Ranger at Half Moon Bay, and an associate of Harry Dring got me a job at the "Old Ships Museum". I drove up in my 52 Chevy 4 door with my sea bag and was shown to bunk in the fo'c's'le of the C A Thayer. The Thayer, the Wapama, and the Eureka were in the Oakland Estuary. A couple of working tugs and the mouldering Ferryboat San Leandro on one side and a yacht harbor on the other. The memory is still vivid of rising from my historic bunk, and making coffee alone on the hotplate in the galley, before using the sea suction in the foggy sunrise to hose off all the freshwater dew from overnight to protect her old hull from rot. I met Dickerhoff and a number of other riggers, and 'gophered' for them as they were building the new lower rigging for the Star of India which was being restored in San Diego. They strung up the cables on the main car deck of the Ferryboat Eureka and tensioned them between posts. Those guys could make a pot of coffee! The smell of Stockholm Tar and oakum, and the spin of the mallet was constant for weeks as they wormed and served all that rigging. 20 years later, after the Marines, and college and a little life, I found Harry the king of his realm in the southern wheelhouse of the Eureka in the new State Park at the foot of Hyde St. in SF. I rapped on the door. Harry, looking surprisingly fit, his pipe still firmly between his teeth, bid me enter. "Remember me?", I said. "Never knew a kid to have more tire trouble." was his immediate response, and I was mortified that all he could remember of me was my teen-aged lies to explain tardiness for work. Now, 56 year later, and in kidney failure, i try not dwell on the old "skipper" hospitalizing me by ordering me into the hold of the Wapama with a Hudson Sprayer full of pentachlorophenol until the dioxin got me. Or, the weeks I spend burning and bubbling a 1/4' of lead paint and scraping it off the bulkheads of that delightful little saloon on the same ship. Or, stripping the 1915 insulation off the steam pipes in the engine room and wrapping the dusty pipes in strips of burlap, then painted muslin to look like the original. Asbestos? You bet. Masks? You jest. I'm not too upset. I've got some great stories. P. L. Sims

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    Replies
    1. Oh please, more stories, we'll make room!! This is beautiful until we read off your health problems.
      Appreciate you reading the Log and taking time to share! Best regards, cc

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