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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.

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. 
      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.


  1. Another great piece of history....Thanks! Kathy

  2. KP,
    Nice to hear you are reading the Saltwater Log. And thanks, too, for taking time to comment. It must be time for more sweet words from June Burn who loved the boats.


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