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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.

19 February 2015

❖ JENSEN SHIPYARD ❖ Friday Harbor

VENTURE (ON 204609)
&0.5' x 15.3' x 5.4' cannery tender with 175 HP steam plant
 blt 1907 Griffin Bay, San Juan Island, WA.
She was chartered to White Crest Canning Co & Coast Fish Co.
She hauled 10 tons of spuds for P.A. Jensen and
transported the family to Seattle to visit the
Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition in 1909; she was a busy gal.

In 1925 VENTURE was bought by Wagner Towing and repowered.
 She was purchased by Foss Launch & Tug in 1937 and renamed 
Great notes in Skalley's Foss, 90 Years of Towboating.
Fate: Intentionally sunk 1 April 1949.
Photo courtesy of Nourdine Jensen.
      If it hadn't been that a horde of voracious grasshoppers ate Ben Jensen, father of Albert Jensen and grandfather of Nourdine Jensen, out of his Iowa homestead in the late 1880s, there might never have been an 'Albert Jensen & Son Shipyard' on San Juan Island.
      A former seaman and carpenter, Ben Jensen migrated from Norway to this country in the middle 1880s.
      "My grandfather came to SJC In 1883," said Nordine, owner of Jensen Shipyard, located at the east end of Friday Harbor Bay. "My Dad was about nine yrs old when grandfather came to this island. He had two sisters, Amelia Martin and Nellie Paxson. There were also three brothers, Pat, Joe, and Frank.
      Sometime around 1906 or 1907, Albert and his brothers went into the sawmill business in Friday Harbor. The mill was located in the vicinity of the Union Oil dock; early photographs show sailing vessels lying at anchor in the Bay waiting their turn to take on lumber. In 1919 the Jensens sold the mill and a short time later it burned to the ground.
      During the time the Jensen brothers operated the mill they also built two tugboats, the VENTURE, an 80-ft cannery tender they used to haul commercial freight. Both vessels were built on the beach at Griffin Bay.
      "In those days, if you didn't have a boat of some kind you were island-bound because there were no ferries," Nourdine explained.
      The NELLIE JENSEN served the Jensens for some eight years before she burned beyond repair.
      "I suspect my Dad also built the MARINER about the same time. She was an 80-ft cannery tender that operated around AK."
      Nourdine recalls his father telling about using the MARINER in AK for a season after which the vessel was sold to a Seattle cannery.
      "Dad was on his way to deliver the MARINER to a buyer when the engine quit. It was a stormy day off Iceberg Pt [Lopez Island] and the vessel went aground. At the time Dad had his ticket for Australia with him, he was scheduled to go as the rep of Union Engine Co. However, he hadn't yet paid for the engine in the MARINER, but he lost no time getting a pile driver to the sunken boat where he managed to salvage the engine.


NEREID (ON 209491)

Fondly remembered in San Juan County.
Built by and for Albert Jensen as Master Carpenter; 
72.7' x 16.75' x 6.4' ; 29 tons burden.
Launched Friday Harbor 1911.
Sold that year to Friday Harbor Cannery.
Source: Master Carpenter document filed at NARA, Seattle.
Photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      That same winter Albert built the NEREID and installed the MARINER's engine.
      "These were the days of fish traps and non-powered fishing boats. These boats operated on the west side of San Juan and off Whidbey Is. They were towed out by a tugboat. Today they are called seine skiffs.
      When fishing was over the tug would round up the fish boats and tow them in. This was their only means of getting from one location to another. The tugs, or fish tenders, were first powered by steam and later by Diesel."
      Nourdine points out that during the fish trap days (WA outlawed commercial fish traps in 1934, except for the treaty-rights for Indians) a great amount of equipment was required to install and remove the traps, logs, and to store various tools required for the job.
      Before starting his Friday Harbor Shipyard, Albert Jensen worked as a steam engineer on various boats around the Sound. These vessels were affectionately referred to as the 'Mosquito Fleet'. After Jensen gave up steamboating, he taught school for a short time in Shaw Island's one-room schoolhouse. 

      Statistically, Nourdine questions the general assumption by laymen that more fish are being caught today than in earlier years.
      "That's pretty hard for me to swallow, particularly when you consider that there were some fifty or sixty canneries operating in the Puget Sound area. In the San Juans there were two canneries on San Juan Island, one at Deer Harbor and West Sound on Orcas. Anacortes had four or five and Bellingham had a half dozen. There were also a number of fish canneries in Port Townsend, Everett, Seattle" [and Shaw Island.]
      In 1910, Albert Jensen established his shipyard at the east end of Friday Harbor off San Juan Channel. Many changes have taken place since the yard opened all those years ago.
      "One of the most noticeable changes in our business has been the gradual change over the past five years from custom boat building to that of maintenance and repairs.
      Custom boat building, that has been our stock in trade since Dad first opened this yard, has been steadily declining each year, while assembly line type of boats are on the increase.
      Financing is another problem today. Banks are more willing to finance a boat that is already built and carries a price tag on it, rather than financing a boat still in the building stages."
      As to whether Nourdine prefers custom boat building to that of maintenance and repairs, he has this to say:
      "Personally, I much prefer to work with handcrafted boats, but as far as making a living goes, we really made no money to speak of on our handcrafted boats. There is actually more money to be made in the maintenance and repair business today."
      Although the Albert Jensen Shipyard still employs the same number of men [at the time of this writing] between 5 and 7, depending upon the season, the requirements for this new type of work differ from those of custom boat building.
      "You've got to roll with the punches, so we've been gradually changing our method of operation to meet this new demand. We've had to. If we depended solely on custom boat building today we'd be out of business. It's that simple."
      In thinking back over some of the boats his firm has turned out, a number of outstanding vessels come to mind.
ON 221640 
91.6' x 21.1' x 7.2' ; 173 G.t. 140 N.t.
Blt by Albert Jensen, Friday Harbor, September 1921.
Source of data: Federal MCC document from NARA, Seattle.
       "Perhaps our best known was the 91-ft ISLANDER launched in 1921 and later named the MOHAWK. Prior to WW II, the MOHAWK was sold to Puget Sound Freight Lines. She was later conscripted by the US gov and used to tow supplies to Kiska Island in AK."
      Other memorable vessels built by the yard include the LIBBY, a 54-ft cruiser owned by a Portland man, that moored her in Anacortes. There was also the PUFFIN, a cruiser built for Dr. Clark, and the RUSSWIN built in 1947 or '48 for Doc Russell of Orcas, and then later owned by Gordy Fox. Then there was the HI-SEAS, a 50-ft charter cruiser that was a former USCG vessel and completely rebuilt by the Jensen yard and owned by J.H. Woods of Olga. The most recent handcrafted boat turned out by the Jensen yard was the STRUMPET, a 35-ft troller designed by local architect, Jay Benford, and owned by the author, Ernie GannThe list goes on.
BÅTEN of Friday Harbor, WA.
Launching, 5 April 1978
A smidgeon under 20'.
Designed by Jay Benford, then of Friday Harbor, 
for Marilyn Anderson and Rachel Adams of Crane Is.
 by Jensen Shipyard, Friday Harbor.
Photo possibly by Al Hamilton, on the scene this day. 
Shared by Nourdine Jensen to web admin.

      There was a moment's lull as Nourdine Jensen stared reflectively from the window of his small shop office. The rain beat a staccato rhythm against the tin roof. A slow grin spread across his face.
           "From where I stand the boat business looks good for a least another 65 years."
Extracted from: Voices from the Islands, True Stories about those Who Live in One of America's Most Beautiful Areas, Washington State's San Juan Islands. Keith, Gordon; Thomas Binford Publisher. 1982.
Keith was a resident of Orcas Island, WA who had many short stories and photographs published by the Islands' Sounder.

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