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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.

10 October 2016

❖ MOSQUITO FLEET MONDAY ❖ S.S. STATE OF WASHINGTON ❖ 1889-1919

S.S. STATE OF WASHINGTON 
1889-1919

She served the Seattle-Bellingham route, 
Hood Canal and the Columbia River.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"The term 'Mosquito Fleet' may, to readers not familiar with the Puget Sound Country, suggest only very small craft. It was however, a phrase universally employed by the people and publications of that section to differentiate the Sound steamers from ocean and coastwise fleet. Some of the inland ships were as large as the deep-sea vessels, but their trade placed them in the 'Mosquito Fleet.' The term enjoys the authenticity of tradition and long usage. Author, historian Gordon Newell, 1951.


A Flagship for a New State
1889, 12 July: 
"The steamship STATE OF WASHINGTON, built by John J. Holland, boilers hissing, steam whistle blowing, champagne bursting upon her shiny, new bow, slid down her Tacoma dry dock into the deep, clear waters of Puget Sound. She was not launched in the usual fashion. Her engines were fired to full power as she sat upon her dry dock and her paddle wheel churned the air as she hit the water full steam ahead.
      The STATE's maiden voyage was a fast one. She covered the 25-mile course to Seattle in one hour and 35 minutes, pier to pier. The latest addition to Washington State's 'Mosquito Fleet' approached speeds of 18-knots in the straightaway. She was active serving on the Bellingham Bay route commanded by Capt. George W. Barlow and Capt. Henry Bailey and also by Captains John 'Red Jack' Ellsmore, Theophilus Green (1848-1910), Harry K. Struve, G.H. Parker, Harry Carter, A. N. McAlpine and a number of other well-known Sound steamboatmen. David Pardun was engineer until his death, and Nicholas C. Perring was Chief Engineer among the last in charge of her engines. Passengers relaxed and admired her first class accommodations. Pacific Navigation Co executives noticed how smooth and steady she rode. The 'STATE' was long (175'), and shallow drafted (7') with a spacious hull (449 net tons.)
      Across the territory, Washingtonians had been anxiously awaiting statehood. In the year of 1889, as the nation celebrated the centennial of George Washington's 1789 presidential inauguration, the citizens chose to name both their ship and their state in his honor.

1893:
The most vile, thicke and stinking fogges is how Sir Francis Drake, the pirate, described the treacherous mists of the Pacific Northwest. The steamers of the Mosquito Fleet, renowned for their punctuality, cannot let zero visibility slow them down. Navigating with only fog bell, bow watch, and a sixth sense, the S.S. STATE OF WASHINGTON commanded by Capt. G.H. Parker, had barely left Colman dock when she made an 'unscheduled' stop against the hull of a slow-moving tug, the S.S. MYSTIC, Capt. H. H. Morrison and William McKenzie, engineer. Just a few years after her maiden voyage, Neptune claimed the MYSTIC. 
      The MYSTIC, 48-ft with 90 HP compound engine built at Eagle Harbor in 1891, was sunk and in raising her, Capt. Chris Christensen, a well-known diver, lost his life while the same work was in progress a few days later, with Christensen's schooner, the RUSSELL, anchored over the wreck, she was run down by the steamer NORTH PACIFIC and smashed to pieces. Capt. Harry Crosby, then a boy of 14, was aboard the schooner with Capt. Christensen's son and both had a narrow escape.

1905-1912: The STATE was on the Hood Canal Route.
1912: She paddled down to the Columbia River when purchased by E.H. Dodge Lumber o to operate as a towboat.

1915: Operated by Dalles-Columbia LIne in the Portland-The Dalles service, the STATE was sold to the Regulator Line. The diminishing water traffic on this route made the STATE surplus to the needs of this line.

1916: The sternwheeler was sold to the Shaver Transportation Co and used for ship and oil barge towing.
         
1919, 23 June: Fate.
The S.S. STATE OF WASHINGTON, while engaged in moving Standard Oil Barge No. 93 from Astoria to Portland, was completely destroyed by a boiler explosion while just above Tongue Point. Six members of the crew were badly injured and the fireman scalded to death. Capt. Harry "Casey" Chase and the survivors were removed from the wreckage by other river craft. Pilot Perley Crawford was blown from the pilothouse 80-ft in the air over the mast of the barge and removed, suffering only from shock from the water on the opposite side of the tow. The boiler was later located 1,000-ft from where the wreckage came to rest. Nothing was left to salvage of the venerable old ship with the proud name. A favorite with passengers and crew for 31 years, the steamship STATE OF WASHINGTON was fondly remembered.
Reference:
The Washington Fleet. Henshaw, Ron and Kristine.1989.
H.W. McCurdy's Marine History of the PNW. Editor Newell, Gordon. Superior. 1965

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