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and the extent of our care of them marks the
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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.

17 July 2015

❖ SCHOONER COMMODORE ❖ Racing Against Leakage

Photo taken on the Washington Coast when a tug was
attempting to get a line aboard during heavy weather.
AP Wire Photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"A modern day counterpart of Mutiny on the Bounty was disclosed by a seaman who returned here after a tortuous 143-day voyage in a leaky four-masted schooner with a captain who was partially 'out of his head' with a brain tumor.
      The scene of the marine drama was aboard the once proud schooner COMMODORE, famed for her cross-Pacific races. Her latest race was against leakage, malnutrition and death. The course was the length of the Pacific and breadth of the Atlantic. 
      James Gallagher of Seattle related in a Post-Intelligencer interview how the crew ate chicken feed for mush, a steady diet of salt meats and a 'can of peas or corn between 14 men every day, but that was about all.'
      In two regards, the saga of the trip from Puget Sound to Durban, South Africa, paralleled the famous story of Mutiny on the Bounty. Pitcairn Island figured in both dramas. The COMMODORE put in there and picked up a few chickens to vary the fare.
      The crew took over from the captain before reaching Cape Horn, Gallagher said, after the mate called for a vote of the crew members because of the skipper's strange actions. He said a military court later cleared the crew of mutiny charges made by the captain.
      'We kept him in his cabin for a month,' the seaman related. 'The captain was a good seaman, but he went out of his head.'
      The schooner 'began leaking a couple of weeks before we rounded Cape Horn,' Gallagher said, 'and after that we stood up to the hips in water in her hold and pumped by hand, day and night. The captain got sick at about the same time. We didn't know what was the matter then but later, when he died in Durban, the doctor said he had a brain tumor.'
      Gallagher said he left Africa in February while the crew members' suit for most of their pay was still pending. The COMMODORE had been sold at auction for $65,000."
 Text from The Spokane Daily Chronicle, 20 April 1943.


  1. My uncle, Birger Richard Berlin was the ship's carpenter
    on the voyage of the Commodore from Puget Sound to Durban during the fall of 1941 and spring of 1942. I have a carving of a fish made by and marked by Bunett Christian that he traded for when the ship stopped at Pitcarin Island to trade for fresh food. Very little has been written about the events and circumstances of that voyage of the Commodore.

    1. Berlin,
      Would love to hear more! I would be glad to add other additions to this post with a photo of the carved piece. How interesting!
      web admin.


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