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San Juan Archipelago, 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 650, 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.

09 January 2017


ON 111022
Built by Hay and Wright in Alameda, CA.
136.5' x 27' x 10'

1893-22 June 1918.
According to historian Ralph Hitchcock, she was powered by a
compound steam engine with a 15-inch diameter high pressure
cylinder and a 340-inch diameter low pressure cylinder.
The power was rated at 300 HP.

The image is stamped verso by the Steamship Historical Society of America, Inc.
Photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
There once was a very special "mosquito" who was built in California but sailed soon after to work for two years in Puget Sound before running off to immerse herself in the excitement of hauling miners to the Klondike Gold Rush. Following those years traveling the coast, she spent her best years serving people of the San Juan Islands. Here are words from Mr. Ralph Johnson, who worked in his youth, on the sweet ROSALIE. 
The San Juan Islands Route of the ROSALIE
      "As a boy I heard of a beautiful group of islands called the San Juans, a long way from Seattle, and saw them for the first time while working on the steamer SIOUX. I made up my mind that I would try to work on a steamer running to the Islands the next summer, if possible, and after two weeks on the steamer INDIANAPOLIS in June 1912, I transferred to the steamer ROSALIE.
      At 12 o'clock midnight every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday the mooring lines and gangplank were hauled in; with her whistle blowing the parting signal the ROSALIE left Colman Dock for Port Townsend, the San Juan Islands and Bellingham. 
ON 111022

Moored Richardson, Lopez Island,
San Juan County, WA.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
We arrived at Pt. Townsend at four AM, then crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Richardson, on the tip of Lopez Island [above photo]; this was our first stop in the Islands and the home of Capt. Sam Barlow, master of the ROSALIE.
      Crossing the Strait in rough weather was an experience that developed 'sea-legs' and a gyroscopic balance as the steamer became a nautical ballerina in her own right.
      On the first two trips I spent as much time as possible looking at the beautiful, ever changing scenery and was amazed at the labyrinth of channels. Much to my disappointment I was not always able to leave my work and look at all the communities and towns tucked away in coves, but eventually I did.
      The steamer did not always stop at all the places shown on the schedule, but there were centers of activity such as Friday Harbor, the seat of San Juan County, Roche Harbor, the scene of lime production, Orcas, East Sound, then on to Olga.
      I remember Deer Harbor as a quiet, sleepy place with a cluster of buildings beyond the dock, and a cannery on the opposite shore. 
Pole Pass with Orcas Island in the background. 
Low res scan of an original photo by James A. McCormick
from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
Click image to enlarge.
Pole Pass was the most restricted channel for clearance of any I can recall and it seemed that I could throw a stone to either shore from the boat deck of the ROSALIE.
      East Sound impressed me as one town where more freight was handled than at any other stop; I'll never forget a load of sheep we took on there. Roche Harbor was the second most active.
      An unusual stop was made when the steamer picked up a woman and girl about ten years old from a row boat in a channel, not long after we left Richardson. I learned that they were family of a lighthouse keeper from Smith Island.
      Roche Harbor was the focal point of interest in the Islands as far as size and activity. I learned about the basic industry when we took on a load of agricultural lime that I was told brought a premium price. We discharged it at South Bellingham.
      The responsibility of navigating a passenger steamer is never a light one, but in fog it multiplies. Add to that the channels with strong currents where a compass and course protractor are of little use. 
Captain Sam Barlow
Well known master of the ROSALIE
Photographer and date unknown.

Low res scan of an original photo
from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
Captain Barlow was born on Lopez and spent his boyhood and youth learning the maze of channels and characteristics. Being of Indian lineage he had inherited a knowledge of natural phenomena beyond that of laymen and his keen sense of hearing was as efficient as radar is today.
      The people of the islands I met were friendly, homespun and seemed to bring the essence of their island with them when they came on the steamer. They were never in a hurry and a few minutes one way or the other made little difference. The islands bred an atmosphere of tranquility.
      Time is a paradox. I began working on the steamer INDIANAPOLIS as soon as school was out and the long, three months vacation stretched into the hazy future. But a few blasts of a whistle blew ninety days into the void of no return and I almost met myself coming on board as I walked down the gangplank from the ROSALIE for the last time. My days of steam boating, as a member of a crew, were over.
      As a young boy there were three steam boats whose names held particular significance for me; the ALGOMA, an ice crushing steamer on Lake Michigan, on which my father was engineer, the MAUDE FOSTER (MUD HEN) on Lake Union, and the ROSALIE on which my father returned to Seattle from Alaska and the gold rush in 1900.
       The ROSALIE was built in Alameda, CA in 1893, operating out of and adjacent to San Francisco until 1895. I was told while working on her that she was named for a lady affectionately known as Madam of a palace of pleasure on the Barbary Coast of S.F. and served as a gambling ship for a while. The steamer came to Seattle in 1895 and served under the house flag of the Northwestern Steamship Co until 1897 when she was acquired by the Alaska Steamship Co. In May 1901, the ROSALIE became a part of the fleet of the Puget Sound Navigation Co where she remained until 1904.
      The steamer then returned to the control of the AK Steamship Co until June 1905, when she began flying the house flag of the International Steamship Co. In May, 1911, the ROSALIE became the property of the Inland Nav. Co for whom she served until Jan 1914, when PSNC took her back. She flew their house flag again until 1918.
      In the early morning of 22 June 1918, while tied up in the west waterway south of the Spokane Street Bridge, the watchman smelled smoke and found the steamer on fire. We alerted others on board but their combined efforts could not prevent the fire from spreading. A tug nearby with a tow of logs dropped the tow and came to the assistance of the firefighters. The lines holding the ROSALIE were severed and the steamer cast adrift, but not before the steamer CHIPPEWA, by which the ROSALIE was tied, was slightly damaged.
      The ROSALIE started drifting; to keep her from setting fire to commercial establishments along the waterway, the tug pushed the burning steamer into a mud bank. The fireboat SNOQUALMIE arrived on the scene, but because the tide was out there was not sufficient depth of water for her to get near the burning craft and the steamer became a total loss.
      She had written her epitaph in smoke. 
      She was not the fastest steamer on the Sound, but knew where she was going and usually got there."
 The above words were published in The Sea Chest, September 1976 published by the Puget Sound Maritime society, Seattle, WA.

A glimpse of the work days in San Juan County for the ROSALIE:
Puget Sound Navigation Co replaces the Lydia Thompson on the Seattle-Bellingham route (through the San Juan Islands) with the ROSALIE, Capt. Sam Barlow; Ira D. Nordyke, first mate. She only lands at Bugge Trading Co wharf dock when in Friday Harbor.
The San Juan Islander.

In November the steamer has taken about 5,500 boxes of apples from this county to Seattle within the past week and 1,100 cases of canned fruit. Her cargo last Saturday was the largest she has ever carried between Sound ports. 
The San Juan Islander.
The ROSALIE landed at the Friday Harbor Cannery dock to unload another of the four big retorts for the packing company. 
The San Juan Islander.
The Clam Cannery shipped 8 tons of crushed clam shells by the ROSALIE to Tacoma, to be used in large poultry yards there. 

A two-ton shingle machine came in on the ROSALIE for the Western Mills & Lumber Co. The machine is a Sumner with a capacity of 50,000 shingles per day.
The San Juan Islander. 1912: 
Captain Sam Barlow of the steamer ROSALIE was married at Bellingham on the 10 July 1912. The name of the fortunate lady we have not learned. 
The San Juan Islander.
A large amount of cement was landed at Olga last week by the steamer  ROSALIE for the big new dam at the upper lake being built by Mr. Moran. Jensen and Davis hauled he cement up to the dam site. 
The San Juan Islander.

Other known masters of the ROSALIE:
Capt. John "Dynamite Johnny" O'Brien
Capt. Louis Van Bogaert
Capt. C. W. Ames
Capt. William Williamson

Capt. John "Red Jack" Ellsmore
Mate: Ira D. Nordyke

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