"Of all national assets, archives are the most precious:
they are the gift of one generation to another,
and the extent of our care of them marks the
extent of our civilization." Arthur Doughty.

About Us

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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.

25 May 2017

❖ REMEMBERING THE LIFEBOAT HERO ❖

DORUS "OPA" RIJKERS,
Helder, Holland.
Extraordinary lifeboat captain.

Photo date 1927 celebrating his 80th birthday.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.© 
Theodorus "Dorus" Rijkers (1847-1928) was a famous Dutch lifeboat captain and folk hero, most famous for his sea rescues of 511 shipwrecked victims over a total of 42 rescue operations, and at least 25 before joining the lifeboat-service.
      'Opa' Dorus received his nickname Grandpa (Dutch: Opa) while still a young man; he had married a fisherman's widow who already had 6 children. The nickname began as a joke, Dorus soon started acting and looking like a grandpa, and from that time on he became primarily known by his nickname.
      Dorus gained most of his fame as a result of his service to the Noord-en-Zuid-Hollandsche Redding Maatschappij (NZHRM) one of the two main Dutch lifeboat-societies at the time. 
      However his life-saving career began in 1872 before he joined the NZHRM, while acting as captain of his own boat. While at sea, he saved all 25 crew members of the barque Australia from drowning at sea. Because of this incident, Dorus gained a reputation as a rescuer, that preceded his joining the NZHRM as a volunteer. On the basis of his reputation, he was granted the position of coxswain upon joining the NZHRM without having to prove his qualifications. His rank of coxswain entitled him to immediately command his own boat and crew.
      Although Dorus joined the NZHRM as a volunteer, he worked so many hours that it precluded him from taking on other paid work. Dorus and all of his crew members received a sum for each trial and each service.
      During his nearly 30 years service, Dorus saved hundreds of people from drowning at sea,  becoming legendary long before his retirement. In the waters where he served, he saved such a large number of people with such effectiveness that the survival statistics increased dramatically. At the end of his career, although he remained active, his role became more symbolic in nature.
      In 1888: Dorus Rijkers met King William III of the Netherlands after rescuing sailors from the German barque Renown. The King gave Dorus a gold medal of honor and smoked a pipe with him.
      1911: Dorus retired at age 64, after which he received only a very small pension. He struggled to make ends meet by eating simple food and living plainly.
      1922: During an interview with Dr. L.A. Rademaker, editor of the Hague newspaper Het Vaderland, Dorus complained about his situation. He claimed that he had been forced to sell the gold medal of honor in order to buy himself a bicycle. The Dorus Rijkers Fund for the Heroes of the Sea was created after Dorus' plight and that of other retired life-savers.
      1928: Dorus Rijkers died at the age of 81. He was given a funeral that was so grand that it resembled a state funeral in size and style. There was music, a big parade, thousands who came to pay their last respects including a large number of Marine Officers, also high ranking government officials, among them representatives of the Ministry of the Navy. The grandeur of his funeral showed the great public esteem in which Dorus was held at the time. Rijkers had become a national hero and was by far the most popular Dutchman of those years (according to a poll that surveyed many people in the Netherlands during the 1920s.
      1935: There is a huge statue erected in honor of all the Netherlands sea-rescuers. This statue is sometimes mistakenly assumed to be in honor of Dorus. In fact, a separate, smaller statue of Dorus was erected in 1939. One of the rescue boats of the KNRM still carries his name with pride. Dorus is generally acknowledged as one of the greatest rescuers of all time. 
A photo of that vessel named for the hero,can be viewed here
      
      

22 May 2017

❖ MOSQUITO FLEET MONDAY ❖ The FLYER

The Flyer
ON 120876
1891-1929

"The most faithful old boat,
not in Seattle, not in the state of Washington,
not in the US, but the most 
faithful old boat in the whole 
wide, wide world, 
was that old Flyer––day in and day out."
Joshua Green 1869-1975

"The trade magazine Railway and Marine News in 1908 termed her 'the most remarkable steamer in the world.' Scaling off the exaggeration, the slender hulled Flyer was indeed one for the record book.
      The Flyer was built in Portland of Douglas fir by Capt. U.B. Scott, a Midwest transplant with a unique savvy for extracting the maximum speed from a steamboat. His Columbia River sternwheeler Telephone was a consistent winner in races between Portland and Astoria. Later he designed the aptly named propellor, Fleetwood, again winning the broom for speed. In 1898 the steamer made a record run from Tacoma to Seattle rushing a fire engine to join the battle against the Great Fire.
      So finely drawn were the lines of the knife-nosed Flyer that when launched in 1891, sans equipment, she rolled over. The hull was then sponsoned out; in other words a second hull was wrapped around the original. This second hull was improperly sealed, allowing tons of water to enter and remain sloshing around inside the hulls. Despite the handicap, the Flyer emerged fleet and dependable; a skinny upstart outrunning just about everything moving on Puget Sound.
      Along with speed, the Flyer became as dependable as the tides. 'Citizens of Seattle,' vowed the Railway and Marine News, 'used the Flyer whistle instead of clocks.' At the time of the magazine's accolade, the 170-ft Flyer had voyaged the equivalent of 51 times around the world, largely on the Seattle-Tacoma route (running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes), carrying more than three million passengers.
      Unlike any of her sisters, the Flyer boasted a dining room. Entertainment was provided by a viewing of her flashing engine, with its symphony of thuds and hisses seasoned with the smell of steam and hot oil. The triple-expansion engine, a duplicate of one designed for J.P. Morgan's Corsair, was capable of 2,000 horsepower, but due to boiler limitations never operated at more than 1,200. Despite a cruising speed of 16 knots, the Flyer created no more wake than a Mallard." 
Steamer's Wake. Jim Faber; Seattle, Enetai Press.(1985)
The Washington (ex-Flyer)
Friday Harbor, San Juan Archipelago,
dated 1924.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

11 May 2017

❖ TUG TYEE TO CLALLAM ❖ With June Burn 1930

Bellingham Tug and Barge, including tug TYEE 
Standing by at home port of Bellingham, WA.
Scan of photo purchased from Whatcom Museum of History.
Please contact them if you'd like a copy of TYEE and friends.
Click to enlarge
.

What a mysteriously fascinating place is the waterfront at night! Lights twinkling on the wet blackness. Invisible men shouting, weird whistles going, shadowy figures moving about on the decks of boats, cigarettes blinking trains ringing bells up on the railroad tracks nearby.
      "All ready, Cap'n," a voice calls out. A signal is given. The little tug Ketchikan comes alongside, throws us a line, pulls our nose slowly around as if we were a stubborn old bull, heads us down-bay and we are off. It is 6 o'clock, Tuesday night, as we leave Citizen's dock. 
TYEE
      I am standing in the pilot house of the big tug TYEE, bound for Clallam Bay, which is away out yonder nearly to Cape Flattery, on the Olympic peninsula. Two hours ago I hadn't the least notion that I'd be riding the swells of Fuca tonight, but Mr. Donovan said I might get to Clallam Bay by way of one of Mr. Barney Jones' tugboats, and Mr. Barney Jones* said that the TYEE was leaving tonight at 6 o'clock and Mr. Bert Butts, captain of the TYEE, said I might come along and so here I am.
      We'll stop down here and pick up a tow, the captain says, "see that red light over there? It is a storm warning. We'll likely have it rough in the Straits." But I don't mind, do you? I love to feel the waves or two come prancing across the bow. Nothing is finer than a well behaved storm on a staunch small boat.
Clallam Bay 

      Three men stand aft as we draw alongside six of the hundred-feet long, three-feet-thick boomsticks which are to be returned to the camps. One holds the looped end of a big wire cable in one hand and an axe in the other. Another wields a pikestaff. A third goes trotting off down to the far end of the floating logs as if they were an island and secure. The captain stands on deck to manipulate the searchlight for the three men who wrangle those stiff, clumsy logs about as if they had intelligence. The logs, I mean! In half an hour or less we are off again, our "light tow" behind us, a dark reef awash with the surf of its own making.
      
Clallam Bay log boom yard
with unidentified tug and barge,
click to enlarge. 
Photo by Ellis from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

Save for the lights of boats and the glow of the dome of the sawdust burner, the edge of Bellingham is dark as we leave the town behind. But how bright the hills set out in twinkling rows of lights! What brave scallops those light-rimmed hills scoop out of a stormy sky! I am thinking of you there, reading by the lights, or working, or dancing, or maybe watching your sick beside a light turned low.
       Almost before I know we have got out of the bay, Cypress Island rises close on the starboard bow, if that is proper seaman's language. Anyhow, there she is and a single light far down on the tail of her growing lighter as we thump off the knots, our noiseless steam engine shoving us along at a good clip. I wanted to see an engine whose only sound was this soft thump-a-thump. I had forgotten steam was such quiet power.
      And so I go below in the tow of Robert Blake Jr., first assistant engineer of the TYEE. Here, two great crankshafts go over and over in a curiously haphazard fashion as if they come very near missing the rhythm each time, but they never do. Up and down, slick, square metal bars they go, the slick round piston rode plunging up and down into the cylinder, where the steam is compressed, waiting to give power to them. That power turns the crankshafts which turn the great leisurely shaft running out to the back of the boat to turn the great hurrying propeller.
      Deeper down at the very bottom of the boat, four or six or maybe ten inches of hoary old boards separating them from the water under the boat, lies the two boilers. Oil burns whitely under the boilers to heat the water that makes the steam that runs the boat that––well, who did build it?
      TYEE means big chief and twenty years ago she was the most powerful tug on the Pacific Coast. The TYEE was built in 1884 at Port Ludlow, WA. In the early days she piloted sailing vessels in and out of Seattle's harbor, sometimes bringing in three or four  old square rigged, dingy-winged birds at once, strung along one behind the other.
      She is 141-ft long this sturdy, low-slung drawer of burdens, with a gross tonnage of 316. The Bellingham Tug and Barge Co bought her in 1925 and Capt Butts has run her for over two years, losing nary a crib of logs in all that time in the storms he must have weathered. Every once in a while, he says, that if he only had a million dollars he would ditch the old girl, though, or at least take a two weeks' layoff. But then you never can believe what a boatman tells you when he is looking unusually serious.
Puget Soundings by author June Burn. 11 Feb. 1930.
1944: "Barney" Jones, founder and president of Bellingham Tug and Barge Co died in 1944. At the time of his death, his firm operated a fleet of 10 steam, Diesel and gasoline tugs and a number of scows and barges.
      *He left a portion of his stock in the company to 14 veteran employees.
H.W. McCurdy's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. Newell, Gordon editor. Superior Pub.

05 May 2017

❖ MAGGIE Steaming into May for Opening Day ❖

Babs Cameron at the helm of her 60th birthday present,
S.L. MAGGIE, photo dated 1964.
Photos by Wally Howland of Shaw Island, WA and San Francisco.

Click to enlarge.

Text by Skip Bold, 
Wasp Passage, Shaw Island, WA.
submitted to Saltwater People Historical Society Log
5 May 2017

"Babs and Coonie Cameron were interested in marine steam before they moved to the San Juans in 1961. She and Coonie found MAGGIE, a 16' Poulsbo salmon troller in Port Townsend in the 1940s or early 1950s. She was built by Ron Young.
      The previous owner had installed an awkward plywood box for a cabin. Coonie, with his sensitive architect's eye, toned this down with a visor and radiused window corners. He took out the loud 9-HP Wisconsin inboard and had Cliff Blackstaffe, of Victoria BC, build MAGGIE a 2-HP steeple compound engine and an oil fired horizontal water-tube boiler.
      Blackstaffe personally delivered the steam plant to Shaw Island in early 1964 and instructed Coonie on the installation and use.
Malcolm 'Coonie' and Margaret 'Babs' Cameron
aboard their restored S. L. MAGGIE,
near Shirttail Reef, San Juan Archipelago, WA.
1964.

Click to enlarge.
      Some of MAGGIE's touches crafted by Coonie were lovely teak and bronze handmade cleats and handsome teak steam valve handles to prevent burnt hands.
      Coonie was on the San Juan County Planning Commission at the time and usually took MAGGIE to Friday Harbor for meetings, a unique mode of commuting in the mid 20th century!
      They enjoyed MAGGIE for several years and eventually sold her to an Orcas Island friend.
      Their next maritime adventure was PIAVE, a 60 year old tug/fish boat found in San Pedro, rebuilt over a winter in Sausalito and brought up the coast to Shaw. That's another story." 

02 May 2017

❖ THE STARR, THE SIOUX and SKAGIT SNOOSE ❖

GEORGE E. STARR

"Paddle, paddle, GEORGE E. STARR
How we wonder where you are!
You left Seattle at half-past ten
And will get to Bellingham God knows when.
As you creep across the bight
We can see your masthead light
Out upon the bay so far...
Paddle, paddle, GEORGE E. STARR."

The gallant GEORGE E. STARR, once the speed queen of the Sound, had slowed down in old age until she had become the butt of waterfront humorists, one of whom composed the above bit of verse, that remains enshrined in steamboat history.
      The STARR, as one of Joshua Green's old LaConner T & T fleet, was a favorite of his and he did his best to view her infirmities optimistically. When the old paddler was even later than usual getting into Colman Dock he would glance hopefully out his office window, consult his gold pocket watch and then say, "My, the STARR is certainly late tonight. She must have picked up a real fine load of freight this trip."
      The first of the new Seattle-built steamers, KULSHAN, was launched on the evening of 21 July 1910. The occasion was described by the Seattle Times as taking place 'amid ideal surroundings and before a multitude of representatives of the wealth, commerce and fashion of Seattle and other ports in Puget Sound.'
S.S. SIOUX
Launching, December 1910,

Soon to be named Seattle Construction and Drydock Co.
Photo print from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      In late December, the second of the new steel steamers, SIOUX, was launched from the Moran yard amid gala christening ceremonies similar to those held for the KULSHAN. Like the KULSHAN, she was practically ready to begin steaming when she left the building shed, and a few days later she ran her trials under her newly assigned skipper, Captain John "Red Jack" Ellsmore. The 152-ft SIOUX, fitted with a 4-cylinder triple-expansion engine of 1,000 HP, displayed a slightly better turn of speed than the KULSHAN. 
      The christening of the SIOUX took place in the best and most gallant tradition of Joshua Green and the Puget Sound Navigation Co. 
      Much of the steel used in constructing the SIOUX, Seattle newspapers proudly pointed out, was rolled by the Irondale, WA., mill, this being the first steamship ever built of Washington-made metal. So it was eminently fitting that this fine craft should take over the run to the booming steel town where she had had her beginnings. 
      The SIOUX ran only briefly, on the route for which she had been built. After running to Tacoma and Hood Canal excursions, she was shifted to the Seattle-Edmonds-Everett service, in which she remained for many years. 
      Captain Ellsmore was proud of the SIOUX and kept a watchful eye on the itinerant loggers who wandered from camp to camp with their belongings rolled up in blankets slung over their shoulders. There independent and highly individualistic workers wore caulked boots, chewed 'snoose' and had a fondness for high-proof whiskey, all of which attributes were hard on the steamboats on which they migrated from job to job.
      Joshua Green had learned of this problem early in his career as a working steamboat man. The old LaConner T & T boats were a favorite means of getting from Seattle to the logging camps of the upper Skagit and he recalls that 'After big holidays you couldn't walk through the cabins for loggers sleeping off their holiday drunks with their heads on their blanket rolls. Would I have a time collecting fares!'
      Sleeping loggers were bad enough, but when they were awake and in the mood for mischief they could pretty well demolish a steamboat unless its officers and crew were alert and equally aggressive. Upon one occasion, four of five of the 'ladies of pleasure' of the river town of Mt. Vernon boarded the HENRY BAILEY to spend the Fourth of July in Seattle. The loggers who had decided to stay in town had already gotten their celebration well under way when they got word of this outrage and went down to the landing to take the women ashore. Green still shudders at the recollection: 'They were fighting drunk and we couldn't get them off the boat. One of them bit a whiskey glass in two. It was a riot! As fast as we'd get 'em ashore they'd come back again. We finally had to cross the river and tie up to the bank until the tide came in and we could get out of there.'
      Red Jack Ellsmore had few such problems on the SIOUX. He kept a big brass fire hose nozzle close at hand, and if the loggers traveling with him showed signs of becoming obstreperous, he didn't hesitate to use the nozzle to beat a spirited tattoo upon their heads. Word of his rough-and-ready method of maintaining decorum aboard the SIOUX soon spread among the loggers, and she suffered little damage at their hands. 
The Green Years. Newell, Gordon. Seattle, WA. Superior Publishing. (1969)
      

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