|Port Townsend, WA.|
"In that nebulous period referred to by tow boat men as 'Now when I was in the ––,' there was a small tow boat leaving Pt. Townsend for Pt. Angeles with an oil barge. She had laid in, waiting for the ebb and the westerly to go down and, as it happens, favorable tides occur at midnight, just as the mate goes on watch.
In short order she was underway, the towline was out and things were made shipshape.
The skipper took her clear of Point Wilson, dusting the compass at intervals to clear the dust and fog from its surface. After 4 hours in Pt. Townsend things get a little hazy sometimes. The skipper turned to the mate with a smile. 'Do you know your way? When were you here last?'
The mate said, 'Oh I s'pose so but it's been about 5 years ago.'
'Well then I'll give you all the dope. Do you see that flashing light off the Port? That must be a new light on Middle Pt. buoy. Things look sort of fuzzy out so I don't think we can see Dungeness Light. The course is West 1/2 North or West by North or something,––I ain't sure. Oh Hell, that beer makes me sleepy. See you in the morning.'
The mate settled down to work. He decided the flashing light was Dungeness after all so with a new course laid out he spent the next 6 hours steering, oiling valves, fixing the bilge pump, drinking coffee and thinking what a stinker the Old Man was. He could have brought back at least one beer.
The watch passed smoothly and just off Ediz Hook, he took in most of the tow line so they would have time to pump enough air to juggle with in the harbor. A few minutes later as the mate was going down to get the Old Man out of the sack, dark thoughts crossed his mind. In fact they grew darker with each step.
He shook the skipper awake and said, 'Hey Cap, this place don't look quite right.'
The Old Man muttered, 'S'matter?'
'Well, when you come into the harbor, is there a stone breakwater on the starboard side?' The Old Man, still in a big fog, just grunted so the mate added, 'It looks like a Blackball dock on the port side, and the C.P.R. dock on the starboard. Up ahead there's a big bulkhead with a big gray building that looks like a hotel and besides there's streetcars running in front of it. Do they have streetcars in Pt. Angeles? I haven't been here for 15 years but it don't look quite right somehow.'
The skipper, becoming more awake as he listened to the mate's story, began to get a wild look in his eyes and growled, 'what did you say? Tell me that again.'
The mate willingly complied but before he could finish the Old Man staggered to his feet and yelled 'C.P.R! Hotel! Breakwater! Streetcars! Oh my God! We're in Victoria and we didn't clear customs. What course did I give you?' With a leap he made for the wheel house.
When the mate got topside the skipper was leaning on the wheel staring from side to side and rubbing his eyes. Then it dawned on him that he was safe in Pt. Angeles and not Victoria. He rested his head on the control stand, heaved a great sigh and moaned, 'Don't ever do that to me again––I couldn't stand it.
And now, children, this nasty old skipper became a nice skipper and was always good to his mates ever after. Except that he had a deckhand named Boliver, but that's another story."
Source of text: Victoria Episode by Capt. H.M. Pixley. Piling Busters, Stories of Towboating by Towboat Men. Mitchell Publication, Inc. Seattle. 1951.
In a later post for the lighter side of the marine world, we will share the background of the Piling Busters Association as written by historian Gordon Newell.