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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.

27 May 2015

❖ S.S. BUCKEYE Woodburning through the San Juans ❖

ON 2474
Built in Seattle, 1890.
43.06 G.t./ 24.78 N.t. 
60.4' x 14.7' x 6.9'
Click to enlarge.
Inscribed verso: Capt. Charles Wallace, 1890.

Original 5" x 8" photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
This photo was taken before the BUCKEYE was restored at Newhall yard on Orcas, after the damage from the 1894 wreck (as described below.) The Cummins survival story, from an old scrapbook on loan from the late Robin Paterson did not arrive with this photo, but it seems a fine pairing.
      "The steamer BUCKEYE, on which I served many years ago, was a wood burner like all the boats on the Sound.
      On the morning of 4 September 1894, we left Friday Harbor with passengers and freight for Bellingham. Capt. Oscar Hahn was master, Capt. C.E. Bowden was mate, and I was fireman. We arrived at Anacortes where a stop for mail and passengers was made. As that was my home town, I went up on the dock and met some of my friends who gave me a handful of agates that later in the day were as good as money.
      We left Anacortes and about midway between Eliza Island and Wild Cat Cove an extra heavy sea hit us on the aft quarter. The boat went over on her port side and the cargo shifted to port, which caused her to fill with water. I was in the engine room with Mr. Snyder, the chief, and the only way to escape was to go hand over hand up the main steam pipe that came by a little open hatch on the upper deck with no covering on it. Up I went, water on my heels all the way up.
      When the chief and I got up on deck, the ship had a heavy list and the lower deck was under water. Some passengers were standing on the boat deck and the captain, mate and two of the passengers were trying to get the lifeboat free. At last it was in the water, and it was a case of jump at the right time. We got away from the wreck but water began to come into the boat –– keep reading below–––

and we had nothing to bail it out with, so one of the passengers took off a big shoe and started dipping out the water.
Chuckanut scene.
Photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
      When we got to Wild Cat Cove, south of Chuckanut, I found a trail leading to a road. I walked all the way to Fairhaven, my burned hands giving me awful pain. Got in town just before dark and found a newsboy who said he knew where Mr. Snyder lived. I asked him if he would show me the way and told him I had no money but a pocketful of agates that he could have. He said that was better than money, so we were on our way at once. Mrs. Snyder bandaged my hands and then put me to bed.
      I went down the next morning to get the steamer STATE OF WASHINGTON and told the purser I was off the BUCKEYE and had no money. He said to come right on board as there was no charge for shipwrecked men.
      That morning the tug BOYDEN went out looking for the wreck and found it just barely afloat. The BUCKEYE was towed to Newhall on Orcas Island where she was rebuilt and put back on the run which she continued for many years. After my hands got so I could use them, I went back to help rebuild the ship and stayed on her for a year after that. Later she was used as a tug on the Sound."
Above text by Melvin J. Cummins, Seattle, WA.
Clipping from an unknown publication, 1945.


The BUCKEYE, last operated by the Olympia Towing Co, was destroyed by fire at Stavis Bay, Hood Canal. (McCurdy's Marine History of the PNW.)


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