"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.

30 April 2015

❖ CAPTAIN CHARLES ELLSWORTH MAXWELL ❖ TRANSPORTING THE US MAIL ❖

Because of the recent kindness of the descendants of the Charles E. Maxwell family we have this bounty of early San Juan County transportation records to add to our County maritime archive. 
      "Charles E. Maxwell was born on 5 September 1884, near Caineyville, OK, when Oklahoma was still Indian Territory and a part of the western frontier. His parents moved to Magdalena, NM, where his mother died when he was three years old.
      Charles and his father, Willard Maxwell, then journeyed to Kansas to live with his father's family on the banks of the Missouri River. Here is where the foundation was laid for Charlie's future nautical career. As the family were all boat builders, the lad grew up playing in rowboats and sailboats. He learned his lessons well and like a veteran sea man, kept his boats and gear shipshape and in perfect order at all times. 
      Becoming restless Charles and his father decided to heed the words to "go west." They hove-to at New Whatcom, WA (later to become Bellingham) in April 1901, and afterwards settled at Van Zandt, where they cut shingle bolts for a livelihood.
      Wrestling shingle bolts was wholly lacking in romance, presenting nothing but a back-breaking future, so Charles took up photography and went to California for a while, but the irresistible call of Puget Sound was not to be denied. It was in reality, the call of the sea, a natural culmination of rowboat days; on his return to Bellingham, Charles and his father purchased the FOX, a 37-ft boat and established a freight and passenger run to the San Juan Islands.

Masters License, Willard Maxwell
Courtesy of the Charles Maxwell family©.
to S.P.H.S. April 2015.

Click to enlarge.
FOX
37-ft Maxwell family home, freight & passenger vessel.
Early photo courtesy of Charles Maxwell family©
To S.P.H.S.  April 2015.
       In the summer of 1907 they ran an excursion from Lopez Island to Bellingham. It was on this trip that Charles met his future wife Miss Bessie Larrabee; two years later they swallowed the anchor (as the nautical saying goes) and were married at Friday Harbor. The FOX was their home until 1913 when the SAN JUAN II was built, affording better living facilities. The FOX was disposed of and the SAN JUAN II was operated between Bellingham and Victoria, BC. 
SAN JUAN II
Operated here by San Juan Transportation Co.
Louis Borchers fine photo courtesy of
Charles Maxwell family©
To S.P.H.S. April 2015.
SAN JUAN II
ON 210893
Blt in Bellingham, WA. (1913-1929)
Operated here by San Juan Transportation Co.
Fine photo courtesy of Charles Maxwell family©

To S.P.H.S. April 2015.
      In the spring of 1914, the stork stopped by and left little Dorothy with the Maxwells. Also, Uncle Sam stopped by with the mail contracts the same year and renewed them every year since, which spoke well for the brand of service which the Maxwells gave.
      April 1919, the stork presented the Maxwells with Florence. Both little girls were raised on the boat, father stating 'they are the best little sailors on Puget Sound'.
ISLANDER
Built in Friday Harbor, SJ Island,
For San Juan Transportation Co.

Photo courtesy of Charles Maxwell family©
to S.P.H.S. April 2015.
1921: San Juan Transportation Co was incorporated and the ISLANDER was built for them at Friday Harbor. She was 88.6' OA, with twin engines, semi-Diesel, for operating between Bellingham and Seattle via the San Juan Islands. Maxwell and his little family lived aboard the ISLANDER for a while, and the story goes the rounds that during October 1922, the stork followed the ISLANDER for two weeks with little Gordon Maxwell before he found out that the family had moved ashore.
      A short-lived addition to their boats was the 127-ft ASTORIAN, purchased and outfitted at Astoria, OR and placed on the Seattle-Bellingham run. She made one trip to Bellingham and upon her return trip was rammed and sunk by an oil barge in a dense fog off Elliott Bay. It was discouraging, but Charles Maxwell had what it took, so nothing daunted, he purchased the CHICKAWANA and kept right on with his contracts.
Courtesy of Charles Maxwell family©
 to S.P.H.S. April 2015.

Click to enlarge.
CHICKAWANA
ON 210031

Running the US Mail for San Juan Transportation Co.
Courtesy of Charles Maxwell family©
to S.P.H.S. April 2015.
      They lost the SAN JUAN II in 1929 but salvaged the engine and installed it in the OSAGE, built at Decatur soon after. The OSAGE was 59-ft OA with the 150-HP Diesel engine from the SAN JUAN II to push the tide out from under her.
OSAGE
ON 230256
Built at Reed's on Decatur Island, 1930.
San Juan Transportation Co sold her in Dec. 1944 
to Thor B. Hofstad and C. M. Countryman,
both of Bellingham.
Operated here by S. J. T. Co.
Photo courtesy of Charles Maxwell family©
to S.P.H.S. April 2015. Click to enlarge.
      "When I raised chickens on Shaw Island, I shipped out 14 cases of eggs per week. That's 14 cases of eggs per week. That's 360 eggs per case. They went out on the OSAGE. I had the third largest poultry farm on the island." 
J. "Lee" Bruns to web admin March 1999.
      Captain Charles Maxwell had acquired a host of friends in his 36 years of carrying mail, freight and passengers, and held an enviable position in the hearts of the San Juan County folks. 
Above text by Stewart C. Osborn "Scutt", for Marine Digest (?) May 1944.
Oceans of thanks for this generous contribution.

   
   

27 April 2015

❖ HOLY BOWSPRIT ❖


UNDAUNTED
221305
2,266 G.t./ 2,094 N.t.
267.5' reg. L x 46.4' x 23.9'
Blt. 1921 Portland, OR.
Cabin boy "Silvers" Hatchitt age 16
sailing Portland to Australia in 1922.
Original photo from the S.P.H.S.©
"The bowsprit is one of the principal spars of a sailing ship. Originally it was a foremast, but early sailors discovered that taking the foremast forward improved the sailing of their vessels, and a tendency once started did not end until the mast was nearly horizontal and forming what we called the bowsprit. It extends the sail plan beyond the vessel itself, providing support for the jibs, the hardest-working sails (per unit of area) in a vessel."
Above text from: the classic Fifty South to Fifty South by Warwick Thompkins, Sr.  W. W. Norton & Co. 1938. 
Bowsprit
The famous 32-ft Ketch SUHAILI

March 1966
Leaving Tanzania for London, with 4 aboard.
Keystone photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
Bowsprit,
TOLE MOUR, 1989
938740

Steel hull ship built on Whidbey Island, WA.
 leaving for the South Pacific.
Original photo from the S.P.H.S.©
Bowsprit
Etoile
Tall Ships Race 1964
from Plymouth, England to Lisbon.

215-tons entered  by the Naval School at Brest, France. 
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©


25 April 2015

❖ BLUE SEA ❖ ❖


BLUE SEA
ON 215357
Located Seattle, WA. Dated 1922.

Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
Four men on board for the trip to the Arctic:
L-R: A. H. Andersen, manager of the expedition
Chris Lane, mate.
L-R: Capt. Johannes Beck,
Paul Hansen, engineer.

Published in the Seattle Daily Times.
This work boat was built on Shaw Island for the San Juan Canning Company. At the time of her launching, her home port was listed as Friday Harbor, WA.

Below data from the Master Carpenter Certificate from the National Archives/Pacific/Alaska Region in Seattle, WA., a document filed by the actual builder for documenting a vessel with the federal government:

Year of completion: 20 June 1917
Master Carpenter: Frank Eugene Fowler (signed as F. E. Fowler)
(There is a chance she may have been designed by island boatbuilder, Delbert E. Hoffman, who died prematurely in June 1915.)

Her registered dimensions from the 1924 US List of Merchant Vessels:
42.3'  x 14' x 6.2'
G.t. 28
N.t. 23

On the reverse of this 8" x 10" photograph it states that "the tiny vessel was loading for a five year trading cruise to the "Siberian Arctic."

      A plea was put out for more news of the expedition; historian Mr. M. Burwell responded with data he has found and shared. Enough to wash this brief Log entry right off the deck. Update to come in the future.
      If you know of any descendants of the four men in the photos above, all input welcome, to add details to the story of this vessel and all who sailed her. Thank you.

17 April 2015

❖ CAPTAIN PAYS A BOUNTY ❖

Submitted to Piling Busters Writing Contest 1950
Published by Jack P. Shipley
Tacoma, WA
This story, typed verbatim, is written by Capt. Carl M. Hansen, Seattle, WA.

"This story may be of some interest to my many friends among the yachting and tugboat world and others of the seafaring fraternity.
Amundsen's expedition on three-master Norwegian MAUD
Leaving with Carl M. Hansen,

 Seattle, June 1922.
Photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
       It was in the year 1922 that I joined Capt. Roald Amundsen's North Pole Expedition as Chief Mate and Ice Pilot. The expedition left Seattle in June of that year. I remember the day very well, for on the eve of departure the members of the crew pooled all the money we could lay our hands on, and we threw a party at the old Butler Hotel in Seattle. Memories of that party lasted us a long time, for we spent 42 months in the Arctic and we saw no land for 30 months.
      After we got up north, we discovered that some rats had shipped out with us and we knew we had to get rid of them fast, for our fur clothing and other gear, was in great danger.
      The Captain offered a bounty of one cigar for every rat turned in, alive or dead, and every man set out his own trapline and tended it zealously. 'Every man for himself' was the slogan of the day, and when we smelled the aroma of cigar smoke we sought out the lucky owner of the cigar to enjoy his good fortune, second hand, of course.
      As I was working on some gear one morning in the little shop, I heard a snap in the sail room nearby, that was part of my own trapline. I rushed in to see the victim, gloating in advance over my less fortunate shipmates who still had to taste their first cigars.
      I wasn't prepared for the sight I was about to see, and my astonishment is understandable when I tell you that in the trap––deader than a marlinespike, was the largest rat I ever saw. It was so huge that I didn't believe my eyes.
L-R: N. Olonkin, engineer
Prof H. U. Sverdrup, scientist
Capt. Oscar Wisting, master of MAUD and 
Commander in absence of Amundsen,
N. Syvertsen, asst. engineer and radio operator.
Original photo dated 29 May 1922
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

      My surprise didn't last long, for I was eager to smack my lips over one of the Captain's good cigars, so I bent down to pick up the trap and release the rat. I placed the animal on a dust pan and surveyed it. It certainly was a whopper. Then the truth dawned upon me. Here, up in the Arctic, I was face to face with the facts of life. I could not ignore them.
      So I opened my jack knife and performed the neatest operation ever recorded north of the Arctic Circle. When it was over, I marched into the officers quarters with my trophy. What yells of dismay and despair greeted me. The men gathered around and looked with unbelieving eyes as the Captain reached for the cigar box. He methodically counted them into my eager hands––'one, two, there, four, five, six, seven , eight, nine, ten.' Then he snapped the lid shut and steeled himself to the protest that came instantly. 'No fair!' was the mildest I heard that day, but the Captain quieted them all when he announced that 'a rat is a rat.' Solomon couldn't have ruled any better, for how could I know in advance there was a big rat on board that was 'expecting."



12 April 2015

❖ SPIKE AFRICA and the English BAG KNOT ❖

"At one time, Britannia ruled the waves--this is history. But one thing the learned men of history have not recorded, to my knowledge, is the great man who tied the English Bag Knot. I would have liked to shake his hand and head to see if some other screwy but useful knots would fall out. He must have been a real knot-nut.
I have seen strong men swear, curse, scream, yell, jump on their hats and wander off driveling to themselves in search of strong drink when they first failed to tie this offspring of Satan.
Schooner K. V. KRUSE
219520
Blt by Kruse & Banks Shipyard, 1920, North Bend, OR.
First of her rig to carry 2 M. bf of lumber.
242.3-ft on keel, 260-ft overall x 46.2-ft x 20.0-ft.
Reg. 1,728 G. t.

Lost in AK in 1941.
Photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
      I first saw it as a teenager aboard an American five-masted schooner bound from Portland, OR to Callao, Peru. We were lifting timber to complete the 15' deck load when a scrawny, half-starved English lad applied for a berth. The Old Man hired him and he threw down his sea bag into the fo'c's'le. I noticed that there were no grommets in the bag. 'No grommets,' I said. The lad looked at me and replied, 'No need, with this knot--and besides, the admiralty needs the brass for shell casings and trim for the Admiral's gigs.' The seaman pushed two ends and a bight and all parts opened equally and he slipped it off the bag and handed it to me.
      I lost some sleep over it, but mastered it finally, and as a custom of the times, I also learned to tie it behind my back. On those sailing ships you used the Braille system at night. So you learned your knots and hitches in the dark.
Courtesy of Wooden Boat Magazine.
January 1978; No. 20
      To tie the knot, you take a length of line. Hold the two ends in your left hand and bring the bight toward you and on top of the two ends. Now hold that bight and the two ends with thumb and fingers of the left hand. Now you have two rabbit ears. With the right hand you take the two inner lines of the ears and cross them twice, reach through the opening and pick up the first bight between the two ends, pull this through and ease the left ear toward you, adjusting all parts equally. It looks somewhat like two interwoven reef knots. By pushing the four parts together, the center opens equally. You then place this over the sea bag top and pull the four parts outwardly. Now you have seized the canvas securely, and you are outward bound knowing, with pride, that you conserved brass for His Majesty's Navy and trim for the Admiral's gigs.
Courtesy of Wooden Boat Magazine,
January 1978; No. 20
      I do not know if this handsome knot is still used for the purpose, but if it isn't it should be done in gold and mounted in the throne room. Perhaps today the English seamen carry Gladstone bags and wear step-in loafers.
      We must face the sad fact that sail is gone, grommets are going, shoe laces are losing out, and about the only knots one finds today in our ships are in the revolution counter in the engine room. You can't see them, but they are whirling out astern of your ship to carry the freight and show the flag and frighten the fish. Time should be turned back a century or two, in its mad flight to extinction, to offer today's youth the thrill of carrying the world's commerce on the quiet Wind Ships."
Above text by Spike Africa (1906-1985), President of the Pacific Ocean.
Published in Wooden Boat magazine, January1978; No. 20. 
Spike did not mention the name of the lumber schooner at the beginning of this Bag Knot article, but his family confirms that he did sail on the K. V. KRUSE. Spike is on record as sailing to Callao.

08 April 2015

❖ And Lake Boats, too ❖ mid 1920s

No salt, but Heart Thumpy small craft,
Black Mountain Resort

Silver Lake, Whatcom County, WA.
This site is now a County Park with cabins & boat rentals.
 Date: mid-1920s.

Click to enlarge.
Identification courtesy of historian Jeff Jewell,
Whatcom Museum of History & Art.
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©

04 April 2015

❖ SEVEN KNOTS BY MOONLIGHT ❖ by June Burn

Day 64 of 100 Days in the San Juans. June Burn, 
Author of Living High and former San Juan County islander, June Burn, on contract with the Seattle P-I in summer of 1946.
We don't need any photographs with words by June Burn.
Stuart Island: Named by Wilkes for Frederick D. Stuart, captain's clerk of the expedition.
Detail of Chart 3450
East Point to Sand Heads
Corrected through notices to mariners to July 1968.
Published by Canadian Hydrographic Services.
Max Kuner Co. dealer stamp, Seattle ,WA.

Click to enlarge.
Out of date chart from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

     "A raw, windy Sunday morning beside a comfortable fire, breakfast just over, a seagull winging over the tidy little Stuart Island dock, swallows dipping, our smoke blowing towards this incredible bluff, picoted, scalloped, braided and neatly stitched in tight waves of paper-thin layers of rock.
     Last night as we came in under the light of an almost full moon at 10 PM this bluff looked like a smooth cement bulwark, man-made. There were bridges and viaducts along it and if we hadn't a mast, we could surely have rowed under one of the fine arches made, we see this morning, with shadows.
     It took us four hours to get across this wind-swept meeting of San Juan Channel with Haro Strait from Sandy Point to Prevost. The tide divides somewhere in this broad triangle, half going towards Canada, the other half towards Friday Harbor. We got caught in the half that goes toward Canada and I wanted just to go on with it. We had never been there at all. But Farrar is a more law abiding citizen and he wouldn't. So we rowed and we rowed and we sailed and went backwards and we rowed again. We went to Canada and back a time or two, in actual mileage––or knotage–I think, wind-driven, tide-ripped and moonlit. It was wonderful.
     This little Prevost Harbor of Stuart looked like a sailor's heaven when we finally got here, though. We had seen the sun set in a clear yellow sea of sky above South Pender Island and, at the same moment, the almost invisible face of the nearly full moon rise in clean blue over Orcas.
     We had seen Mt. Baker white at first, a rich saffron in the sunset, blue white in the moonshine, and at last nothing. Cascades, Canadian Coast Range, Olympics stood quietly while the day and sunset and moonrise and night colors washed over them.
     At 7:30 I saw the first star. I said my wish––that we'd be there in half an hour––and it began to come true at 9:30.
     We saw big ships being towed by the International Boundary line past Saturna Light on up to Vancouver. Our sails were up and we were both rowing at the same time. I thought what a funny silhouette we must have made if anybody on a ship had happened to be looking down the wide moon path, just as we crossed it.
     Island shapes look different at night. Stuart, Johns, the Cactus Islands, Spieden, even distant San Juan would suddenly look strangely near and then discouragingly far. We were watching familiar outlines, as people do, completely un-noticing of the Canadian Gulf islands just as near-by. Then I did glance over that way and said: "Why, we're in Canada!"
     "Darned if we're not,," Farrar said and lit out from there, his arms just stepping it off! Heigh ho! I guess we'll be amateurs at everything until we die. Here we've boated in these waters longer than you're old, likely, and we still blithely imagine that as long as we've got our bow pointed in a certain direction, we're going that way. We rowed on back to America.
     At last we rattled and bumped over the kelp bed in Prevost Harbor and began to draw near to the dock with the little white warehouse perched on top. Two people were standing there.
     'Ship, ahoy!' they said.
     'Land, ahoy!"'we said and told them who we were.
     'We're the Ericksons,' they said and guided us to the ladder, took our line, helped us up, gave us the city fathers' permission to sleep in the warehouse that night. That was the most comfortable floor!
     It was late, for us, as we stood there on the dock talking to young Ralph and Florence Erickson but they have always been story book people to us, like the Lofoten fishermen of Norway. We began to ask them about fishing and they began a story of the shark and halibut and tuna and salmon season that ran on into the next day.
     This is the next day, as I write. I'm sitting on a log on the Lofgren beach where we had permission to make a fire. Farrar has just gone up onto the dock to get the sleeping bags and make the boat shipshape for the day. I look at him as he moves down the dock against a background of high blue-green hills and think how he becomes this country! He's going along thinking about man and the earth, likely. He's always thinking about that. In the middle of any task he will look up and say what I always expect to be something like,' I can't get the egg off this damn plate!' and instead it will be, 'you know, man can't have any more than this. The earth, this sea, a beach, food, companionship. This is all any man can get. And when he dies, he simply gets it more completely. He becomes part of it, when he dies. What else could a man want?"



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