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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.

11 May 2015

❖ OCEANID ❖ A Novel Craft

(ON 285719)
heading southwest in Upright Channel,
San Juan Archipelago

With telephoto lens; undated photo from S.P.H.S.©
Unusual watercraft are nothing out of the ordinary on the waters of Puget Sound, but whenever Robert H. Ellis, Jr, Portland, OR, landscape architect, went for a cruise from his Shaw Island summer home, boat lovers cast envious eyes his way.
      Ellis' craft was the OCEANID, an English steam yacht built just before the end of WWII for harbor mine-patrol duty.
      Ellis, who is of English descent, and who went to school in England, loved steam engines all his life. This led to his decision to own an English steam yacht. Brokers scoured England, Wales, and Scotland, on his behalf, until he learned that the Royal Navy's Launch 370 was in good condition and was for sale. Ellis bought it.
      After being rebuilt, the launch was shipped to Seattle on the deck of the SIMBA, a Danish freighter, arriving in Spring 1961.
      The OCEANID was towed to Lake Union, where it was inspected by the Coast Guard––as thorough an inspection as for any ocean liner, with the same rules applying as for any full-size steam vessel. The yacht went to Shaw Island under steam on 30 June, and since then has seen service on sight-seeing cruises Ellis runs for friends and his island neighbors.
      Ellis had no experience with boats of this size, so he faced one problem: who would run the OCEANID? He particularly needed someone with steam experience to handle the engineering end.
Squaw Bay home dock, Shaw Island, WA.
      About the time the OCEANID was ready to be shipped to this country, he learned that a Shaw Island neighbor, Clare Tift, was a retired steam engineer with 13 years of experience in steamships on ocean-going runs.
      Tift held an unlimited license for 30 years. He was chief engineer for the Tacoma Oriental Line for some years and also served on ships of the American Mail Line. He worked for the government from 1933 to 1958, when he retired.
      Since then Tift has lived on Shaw Island; he volunteered to act as engineer for Ellis.
      Getting into the spirit of neighborly cooperation on what has almost turned into a community project, two other Shaw Islanders, Dan Mather, and Earl Hoffman, offered their services as pilots. Both have spent much of their lives in San Juan waters and know its rocks and bays.
      Another summertime neighbor, E. C. Bold of Seattle, father of a teenage son, Skippy, who "signed on" as assistant engineer. Bold said Skippy has been "on boats since before he learned to walk" and his particular interest is engine-room operation.
      Ellis built a special floating concrete dock for the OCEANID. His landing was opposite Canoe Island just outside Squaw Bay.
      The OCEANID was built at Ipswich, England, by C.H. Fox & Son, Ltd, in 1946. It originally was 52.5-ft long. A maximum of wood, mostly teak, and a minimum of steel, was used in building the yacht to minimize its magnetic attraction for mines in its wartime service.
Fine article by the late
Bill Durham, editor
Steamboats & Modern Steam Launches
Mr. Durham was the engineer
for two years in the early 1960s.

After Ellis bought it at Gosport, the wheelhouse was changed, an awning was placed aft of the stack, and much of the teak was replaced. The stern was modified, resulting in an extra 7 1/2-ft of length.
      The OCEANID had a Scotch marine boiler (Scotch used here, as a trade name, not a nationality) and an 85-HP fore-and-aft compound steam engine using a 120-pound-pressure steam atomizer. It used diesel fuel.
      The yacht had a speed of 8 to 10 knots, a 13-ft beam, 6-ft draught and displaced 30 tons. She had her own 3-kilowatt light plant, and 400-gallon-capacity fuel tanks to give her a cruising range of about 250 miles. 
Above text by historian/author David Richardson, San Juan County, WA., The Seattle Times 1961

Bob Ellis was a member of the Puget Sound Live Steamers in their early years and welcomed steaming friends to his place at Squaw Bay.
9 July 1961:
"About 11:30 AM we headed to the Bob Ellis dock, where we boarded the OCEANID. Clare Tift was in charge. The Earl Hoffmans, the Dan Mathers, the Ted Coppers, the Sullivans, the Durhams, Tommy Thompson, Romanos Windsor and one other, young Skip Bold was helping in the engine room. We circumnavigated the island, blowing the whistle whenever passing a house. Out about 2 1/2 hours." Erret Graham.
Fate: OCEANID is out of service.

Steamboats and Modern Steam Launches 
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