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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.

01 March 2017

❖ MOSQUITO FLEET RACING FOR TRADE ❖

S.S. VERONA
207675
112.9' x 22.8' x 7.3' 

Undated photo from the J.A. Turner Collection
S.P.H.S.©

"While Puget Sound history recalls dozens of spectacular steamer races, none could have been more heated that the rivalry between the HYAK and the VERONA about 80 years ago––near the end of the "mosquito fleet" era.
      The sleek HYAK, built at Portland in 1909, was the flagship in the Kitsap County Transportation Co.'s fleet of passenger and freight vessels, that served Bainbridge Island and docks of call beyond––including Poulsbo, settled by immigrant Norwegians in the early 1880s.
      The VERONA, built at Dockton on Maury Island in 1910, was acquired by a Poulsbo cooperative when travelers became dissatisfied with the Kitsap company's schedules and fares. Thus the stage was set for intense competition, and races between the rivals.
      In those days, numerous docks jutted out from shore in all Puget Sound waterways––flag stops, where passengers and freight embarked or disembarked.
      On the Seattle-Poulsbo route, stops were made at such points as Scandia, Keyport, Brownsville, Venice, Enetai, Gibson, Westwood, Crystal Springs, Pleasant Beach, South Beach, Fort Ward, Seabold, Agate Point and Port Madison.
      Especially on Saturdays, trade was brisk––with farmers along the route taking their produce to Seattle for sale in places like the Public Market. And frequently the farmers found time to see a show and do some shopping.
     
S.S. HYAK
206294
Built 1909 at the Supple Yard, Portland, Or.
134-ft, 195 t.
Triple expansion engine (12,18,32 x 18) with steam
at 225 lbs working pressure and developing 750 HP.
In McCurdy's Marine History, it is said she attained a speed of
c. 20 mph, at times, on her voyage up the coast.
S.S. HYAK
206294

Both HYAK original photos by J.A. Turner
Archives of the S.P.H.S.©


Accordingly, the first steamer out of the Poulsbo overnight stop skimmed off the cream of the trade––except that the VERONA, the "farmers' boat," had a popularity advantage over the big company's HYAK.
      Generally, the VERONA and HYAK left Poulsbo on the same early morning schedule and then raced to see which would get to Scandia first, and so on, from dock to dock.
      Capt. Alf Hostmark skippered the HYAK and Capt. Torger Birkeland was master of the VERONA, at that time. They were friends, yet determined rivals. On at least one occasion the two vessels collided while hustling toward a dock.
      To get maximum speed, safety valves on the steam apparatus were tied or braced down, and once the VERONA's stack got so hot she caught fire. (No serious causalities.)
      On weekends, the two vessels also carried commuters to their summer homes at such places as Crystal Springs and Westwood––and to a dance hall resort at Venice.
      The competition ended in 1923, when the KCTC bought out the VERONA's owners and the latter vessel donned the 'white collar' around her smokestack.
      Soon, though, shovel-nosed automobile ferryboats took over the trade. The building of roads and he automobile doomed the 'mosquito fleet––ending an exciting and picturesque era in Puget Sound transportation."
Above words by Ross Cunningham. Published by The Seattle Times. 25 May 1976.
Below from Steamer's Wake. Faber, Jim. 
"One of the Mosquito Fleet's key roles was that of serving as a farm-to-market highway for settlers. To farm women particularly it was a welcome role, one that introduced a measure of warmth and companionship into an often dreary rural setting. The steamers serving farms on Bainbridge, Vashon and Whidbey Islands and other stops, furnished bright swatches of color on market day in Seattle. Here produce houses, and by 1906 the Pike Street Farmer's Market, provided a bazaar within walking distance of Colman Dock and Pier 3 where most steamers docked. Writes Murray Morgan, co-author of The Pike Place Market:
      When the boat whistled its approach, the farmers or their wives would gather on the dock, bringing chickens dressed and wrapped in cheese cloth; butter molded into rose patterns, wrapped in butterpaper, and packed in wooden boxes; eggs nestled in straw baskets; root vegetables in burlap sacks; milk in galvanized cans; crates of fruit; bundles of rhubarb."

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