"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.

About Us

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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 November 2014

❖ ENGLISH CAMP ❖ ❖ 1946

Mary Crook Davis, 1946
English Camp, San Juan Island, WA.

Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
"This day's story is a guided tour with Mrs. Davis, whose Englishman-father William Crook, homesteaded this land while it was still warm from the tread of soldiers marching up and down 12 years from 1860 to 1872. Mrs. Davis was a very small girl then, but she has lived here all her life; she knows the story by heart.
      First, you come down a long private road, through woods and pasture, into the yard where the house is. You knock on the door, pay your 10 cents that Mrs. Davis reluctantly accepts, and then this strong, well-preserved pioneer woman takes you into her front room to see pictures and a few relics she keeps there. You ask about Jim Crook, the brother you have heard so much about––how he makes his own clothes from the sheep's back to his own.
Jim Crook,
San Juan Island, WA.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      "Oh, you won't see Jim today, he's out with the wheat. He's busy––yes, he did spin some wool once, and weave himself a suit of clothes. The old loom is still here and the clothes, too, if you want to see them; he's had a lot of notions. His latest is a sawmill and an electric plant run by a windmill..." Mrs. Davis says.
      Now, you go out into the grounds along a road made by the soldiers in the 60s. The trees are planted along the sides in even rows as the English always do things, native firs transplanted in two long rows.
      Ivy grows thick up the trees and all around, Mrs. Davis says. It was brought from England by Mrs. Delacombe, the second officer's wife, who was very homesick here.
      The winding switch-back trail down the hill from here soon arrives at the old blockhouse on the  beach. This building is in better repair than it was when I saw it 15 years ago. Mr. Crook has shingled and mended and whitewashed it afresh. The old frayed shingles from the days of the occupation are neatly piled in heap for souvenir hunters.
      There is a sturdy new stair-ladder up to the second story where the gun holes ring the low wall. If you peep through one of the holes you see Garrison Bay, Henry Island, Vancouver Island across Haro Strait and nearby green points hemmed in blue.
      The blockhouse sits right down on the beach. High tide laps it. Low tide leaves it at the edge of a wide mud flat––the same mud that prevented our coming here by water today and that prevents our going on to Mitchell Bay and Yacht Haven. If anyone but the Crooks owned this place, the blockhouse might itself be part of this mud by now.
      From the blockhouse, you cross the parade ground that is now an orchard. The old barracks building still stands over at the edge where orchard meets woods.
      When you are ready to go, your guide comes with you part of the way back up the hill to the public road again, explaining as you walk together between the Queen Anne's lace, how to get to the little English cemetery where 10 boys are buried. You cross the road and go over a stile and up a hill, or you go through the cows' underpass below the road. Beyond, you follow an indefinite almost-road for a quarter of a mile up the hill to a grove of trees on a knoll of its own overlooking Canada's waters around Vancouver Island.
      The 10 graves are enclosed with a green picket fence. You climb another stile over it to read the inscriptions. Some of them were apparently composed and ordered by the boys themselves, the spelling all their own.
      "In memory of JOs Ellis and THOs Kiddy, Private R.M.LI. who whare accidently Drowned JANy 4th 1863. This Tabblet is Erected by their Comrads...In the midst of life, we are in death..."
      Back at Roche Harbor, tired and dusty from six miles of walking that morning, we said goodbye to the pretty village and rowed away. The flood was running now. It would take us as far as Limestone Point on Orcas. We'd put up our oars, ride that tide, and have a cold lunch in the boat as we slid along.
See you tomorrow. June."
Day 73 of 100 Days in the San Juans, Burn, June. First published by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 1946.
The June Burn book in reference library of the Saltwater People Historical Society, SJC.

19 November 2014

❖ STAR OF INDIA ❖ (ex-EUTERPE) Museum Ship

San Diego, CA.
Photo  from the archives of  S.P.H.S.
Click to enlarge.
"The STAR OF INDIA is the world's second oldest active sailing ship. She began her life on the stocks at Ramsey Shipyard in the Isle of Man in 1863, built by Gibson, McDonald and Arnold. Iron ships were experiments of sorts then, with most vessels still being built of wood. Within five months of laying her keel, the ship was launched into her element, 14 November. She bore the name EUTERPE, after the Greek muse of music and poetry.
      EUTERPE was a full-rigged ship and would remain so until 1901, when the Alaska Packers Association rigged her down to a barque, her present rig. She began her sailing life with two near-disastrous voyages to India. On her first trip she suffered a collision and a mutiny. On her second trip, a cyclone caught EUTERPE in the Bay of Bengal, and with her topmasts cut away, she barely made port. Shortly afterward, her first captain, William John Storry, died on board and was buried at sea.
      After such a hard luck beginning, EUTERPE settled down and made four more voyages to India as a cargo ship. In 1871 she was purchased by the Shaw Savill line of London and embarked on a quarter century of hauling emigrants to New Zealand, sometimes also touching Australia, California and Chile. She made 21 circumnavigations in this service, some of them lasting up to a year. A baby was born on one of those trips en route to New Zealand and was given the middle name Euterpe. It was rugged voyaging, with the little iron ship battling through terrific gales, 'laboring and rolling in a most distressing manner,' according to her log.
      The life aboard was especially hard on the emigrants cooped up in her 'tween deck, fed a diet of hardtack and salt junk, subject to mal-de-mer and a host of other ills. It is astonishing that their death rate was so low. They were a tough lot, however, drawn from the working classes of England, Ireland and Scotland, and most went on to prosper in New Zealand."
Above text from the San Diego Maritime Museum.
Original photo from
Clara Abrahamsen, daughter of Hans Abrahamsen.
The family late of Doe Bay, Orcas Island, WA.
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

Tonnage: 1,318  g. tons, 1,247 Net tons 
 205' LWL, 278' sparred L x 35' x 22' (fully loaded)
Sail plan: full-rigged ship 1863-1901
                Barque (1901- )
Registered in the US: 1900.
Name change: 1906.
Last sail from San Francisco to Bristol Bay, AK: 1923.
1926: STAR OF INDIA was sold to the Zoological Society of San Diego, CA, to be the centerpiece of a planned museum and aquarium. It was not until 1957 that restoration began, leaving off the idea of an aquarium. Alan Villiers, a windjammer captain and well-known author came from Europe to San Diego on a lecture tour.
Captain Alan Villiers (1903-1982)
One of the most famous modern day historians,
seen here commanding the MAYFLOWER II,
a replica, sailing from London to the USA in 1957.

He made at least three trips to Seattle and was 
awarded Honorary Membership in the 
Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society.
More on this blue water sailor another day.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

      Seeing STAR OF INDIA decaying in the harbor, he publicized the situation and inspired a group of citizens to form the 'Star of India Auxiliary' in 1959, to buy the vessel for $9,000 and support a restoration. Progress was still slow, but in 1976, STAR finally put to sea again. She houses exhibits for the Maritime Museum of San Diego, is kept fully seaworthy, and sails at least once a year. With the many other ships now in the Museum, she hosts frequent docent-led school tours for over 6,000 children a year, as well as a Living History Program in which students 'step back in time' and are immersed in history and teamwork activities during overnight visits.
      The 1863 STAR OF INDIA is the fourth oldest ship afloat in the US, after the 1797 USS CONSTITUTION, the 1841 CHARLES W. MORGAN, and the 1854 USS CONSTELLATION. 
Unlike many preserved or restored vessels, her hull, cabins and equipment are nearly 100% original.

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 WAMAPA 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 WAMAPA 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 

1966: She became a California Historical Landmark and a United States National Historic Landmark.
Location: San Diego Maritime Museum, San Diego, CA., within the Port of San Diego tide lands. This location is slightly west of downtown San Diego, CA.
Captain Ken Reynard
One of the main helpers on the restoration project.
Seen here on deck of the restored 205' 
5 February 1973, 
San Diego, CA.

Original photo by Bruce Cox, from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
Click image to enlarge.


      STAR OF INDIA has become one of the landmark ships in San Diego's Harbor. 
For some behind the scenes talk and history of this great San Diego preservation team click here
A Link to San Juan County:
Rigger Hans Abrahamsen (1876-1956)
Moved to Doe Bay in 1907.

      Hans Martin Abrahamsen (1876-1956) was born in Larvik, Norway. He started out as a cabin boy at age 9 when he began his sailing ventures and worked his way up to the working role of an expert rigger. The fourth vessel on which he served was the EUTERPE in 1899, from Australia for Honolulu and from there to Port Townsend. He sailed on the west coast of the US for several years. and sailed on another well-known vessel, the KAIULANI. Hans came ashore to Ballard for a short time before he married and settled at Doe Bay, Orcas Island, WA. Hans and his Swedish wife farmed, raised their four children, and lived out their lives on Orcas. 
      Sons Al and Harry both worked on the water; some of Al Abrahamsen's work was connected to hardhat diving for salvage from the much publicized wreck of the DIAMOND KNOT, posted here.
Copy of a document from the Hans Abrahamsen family.
Note signature of the highly regarded author/ WA. historian,
 serving as the Hawaiian Consul.
Copy in the archives of the S.P.H.S.

Click to enlarge.

15 November 2014

❖ Puget Sound Steamboat Bell & Jingle Engine Orders ❖

L-R: Keith Sternberg and
Chief Engineer Don Gray.
Keith fired for 8 or 9 engineers on the VIRGINIA V.
Gray was engineering on the USS ENTERPRISE
during WW II.
Photo shared by author Keith Sternberg, Lopez Island, WA.

"Aboard the steamers of the 'mosquito fleet,' engine orders were signaled to the engineer with a trip gong and a jingle bell. In the pilot house, brass slide pulls with loop or hook-shaped handles were mounted on the wheel stand or the tongue and groove staving. These bell pulls varied in size and shape, but one was always larger than the other. The larger pull sounded the gong, and the smaller pull sounded the jingle bell. The gong produced one loud "CLANG" with a yank on its bell-pull. The jingle bell produced a higher-pitched 'DING-A-LING' sound. These bells and bell pulls were standard  features of tugboats, cannery tenders, and fishing vessels, no matter if they were steam powered or with a diesel or gasoline engine. Tug boats were sometimes fitted with a set of bell pulls aft on the boat deck. Even twin-screw vessels used these bells, with two sets of bells of different tones.
Photo by James A. Turner, Seattle.

Original from the archives of S.P.H.S.

      Trip gongs and jingle bells were widely used on vessels on both coasts of the USA and in riverboats, with a fascinating variation of signals, according to local custom. A Puget Sound steamboat man did not dare take a job on a New York harbor tug without first learning the bells used on those boats, which were quite different from the Puget Sound bells. When I hired on the VIRGINIA V as a fireman in 1966, her master, mate, and engineer were all veteran steamboat men with experience reaching back to the early 1900s. With this in mind, the bell code that these men used on the VIRGINIA V can probably be taken as the standard bell code used on Puget Sound for many years. I don't think they considered the bell-&-jingle method to be quaint, out of date, or antiquated, they were just steamboat men running a steamboat in the way it had always been done.

      In my description here, 'one bell' means one stroke of the gong, 'two bells' means two strokes of the gong, and 'jingle' means a good rattle of the jingle bell. This was done by yanking up on the jingle-pull, holding it up for about a half-second, and dropping it.
      The gong is used to signal half-ahead, stop, and half astern. If the engine is stopped, one bell signals half ahead, or two bells signals half astern. One bell means stop, in either direction. Maneuvering bells, when making landings or getting underway, were mostly half-speed bells, and half speed was a lively turn of the engine so that she would have rudder power, about 130 RPM.
      The jingle bell is used to increase speed from half to full. If she's turning half-ahead, the jingle is sounded to increase to full astern.
      The jingle bell is also used to signal slow-ahead or slow-astern. There was no bell command for reducing from half to slow; you rang a stop bell first. Then for slow-ahead, a jingle followed by one bell. Stop to slow-astern is signaled by a jingle followed by two bells. 'Slow' called for very slow turns, and was seldom used except for working ahead against the spring line.
      Note the logic in the use of the jingle bell: a jingle BEFORE a bell means slow; a jingle AFTER a bell means full. The jingle bell serves as a sort of accent to the gong. If the jingle comes first it subtracts from the half-speed of the gong.
      The jingle bell also serves as a 'standby' bell, when running at full ahead. Also it is used to signal 'finished with engines' when stopped. A good long rattle of the bell was used for that.
      One last detail is how to reduce speed from full ahead to half ahead: one bell. This is the only instance when one bell does not command 'stop.' When turning full astern, one bell means stop. One bell always means stop EXCEPT when turning full ahead, when it calls for half ahead. Forgive my repetitious writing style, but this is an important point.
      When getting underway, the first bell to be struck is always a stop bell. This is because the engineer needs to warm up the engine, working ahead against the spring line, and the skipper knows this. Just as importantly, the chief knows that the skipper knows this. What I'm getting at here is that when the skipper rings one bell, the chief does not assume that the skipper thinks he is stopped, and therefore this one bell means to go ahead half. No sir, one bell means stop because the engine is working ahead and everyone knows that. This was always understood and I never saw any confusion about it. Cont'd with a click on "read more" below.

11 November 2014


George Parker, Owen Sound, Canada.
Normally a violin and guitar maker, turned to making
steering wheels for ships. These were made of teak or walnut,
and consisted of 50 various wood components. 

Photographer unknown. Collection of S.P.H.S.©. 
In October 1943 when this photo was taken, Canada was turning out freighters at a record breaking pace in 12 shipyards on both coasts. Most of the new ships were of the Liberty 10,000-ton class, and more than 225 sea-going vessels were launched after the war began. Construction methods were similar to those in America. Canada used these ships to carry her own lend-lease supplies to nations all over the world. 

08 November 2014

Book Review ☛ WHALERS NO MORE ❖ ❖ ❖ ❖ by W. A. HAGELUND


Whalers No More by W. A. Hagelund, published by Harbour Publishing of Madeira Park, B.C. in 1987, is a history of 20th C. whaling on the coast of Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska. Hagelund signed on the steam whaler BROWN at Victoria in 1941 at the age of 17. Hagelund has a lively writing style and describes his adventure in detail, as the BROWN hunts whales off the Queen Charlottes. Coal-fired with no electric plant and no pilot house, life on these steamers was very old fashioned by 1941 standards.
Top two photos, coastal whaling
station at Gray's Harbor, WA.

click to enlarge.
Photos from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
      In addition to Captain Bill's summer in the BROWN, the book is a history of the whale fishery in the Northwest, including interviews with men who sailed in the whale steamers. The stories of these men are written out just as they were spoken, so well done, that I felt like I could see and hear these old boys telling their stories. some of them were engineers, and I found their perspective very interesting. My only frustration is that one of these engineers tells a story and then says "but that's enough about engineering, you want to hear about whaling." But, of course, I do want to hear engineering stories.
      The ships were powered by 3-furnace scotch boilers and triple expansion engines of 350-HP. There were a number of whaling stations along the coast, and the ships wintered at Victoria. One man owned all of the stations and ships, which included several American flag ships built at Seattle. These wintered in Meydenbauer Bay, Bellevue, on Lake Washington. The owner, William Shupp, had his home there. The business collapsed after WWII. The ships were sold and scrapped, except the SS GREEN, that remained in Victoria Harbor, and is still there. But all that remains is a rusted boiler and a few bits and pieces. She sank at her dock in 1968."

WHALERS NO MORE won the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize in 1988.

Keith Sternberg is an engineer, of course, from Lopez Island, WA. 
Stay tuned for a column with more of Sternberg's written work and also a post with some of his engineering feats. 

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