"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 June 2017


sailing here under her movie name RIVER QUEEN
Click image to enlarge.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

1901: Built as the M.F. HENDERSON by Shaver Transportation Co, Portland, OR. She was used as a freight boat as well as a towboat.
1911: In an overhaul she lost her initials "M.F." and became HENDERSON.
      The M.F. HENDERSON, towing a Standard Oil Co barge from Astoria toward Portland, was run down by the well-known steam tug DANIEL KERN towing rock barges to the jetty. The M.F. HENDERSON capsized and sank in shallow water, lying on her side. No lives were lost. She was afterward righted by five sternwheelers pulling on her at once, and was then taken to the Portland Shipbuilding Co where she was dismantled and her engines and other equipment, except the boiler, installed in the new HENDERSON the following year. McCurdy's Marine History of the PNW.
1912: This year the HENDERSON was built by the Portland Shipbuilding Co for Shaver Trans. Co receiving most of the machinery and fittings from the wreck, but receiving a new locomotive boiler built by James Monk, having twice the capacity of the old boiler. 1952: An old-time Columbia River sternwheeler she played an important part as the River Queen, in the historical movie the Bend of the River, based on a novel Bend of the Snake by Bill Gulick. The movie starred Jimmy Stewart and Rock Hudson, released 13 February. When first released, the film received poor reviews but since then gained more critical acclaim and is recognized as a great western.


In 1952, to promote the release of the new movie, the Henderson participated in the last sternwheeler race on the Columbia River, commanded by Capt. Sidney J. "Happy" Harris.  The filming was done in Mt. Hood, Sandy River and Timberline, OR. Although favored to beat the new steel-hulled sternwheeler, the Portland, commanded by Capt. Bob Williamson, the Henderson fell behind early in the race when she lost steam. The engine crew quickly shunted live steam into her low pressure cylinder until the paddlewheel approached 30 rpm. Actor Jimmy Stewart and other cast members of the film Bend in the River were on board to cheer the vessel on––the Henderson came from behind to beat the Portland in the 3.6-mile race.
      Trivia on imdb.com––some of the river scenes were filmed on the Sacramento River in CA.
Sternwheeler PORTLAND
Her last day of duty helping to move the 930-ft
for the Port of Portland.
PORTLAND was the last remaining vessel of its kind
in commercial service in the world.

Click image to enlarge.
Original photo dated 27 October 1981
from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
1956: In December, with a grain ship in tow, the Henderson encountered heavy swells near the mouth of the Columbia River. Declared a "constructive total loss," she rested on shore until she was burned for scrap in 1964.
In 1981: After almost 30 years of service in and around the Portland harbor, the stately Portland yielded the harbor to Diesel-powered youngsters. The Port of Portland faced economic realities, and decided to retire the labor-intensive steam tugboat in 1981. 
      She sat some years at Terminal One, quietly rusting. Her wheelhouse and Texas were removed and rested on the dock. Her wooden super structure rotted away down to the steel housing of her machinery space. The powerful sternwheel dried and cracked where exposed; the underwater surface grew long tendrils of marine plants.
      In 1991, the sad remains of the Portland were deeded to the Oregon Maritime Museum. With funds from Meyer Memorial Trust, Murdock Trust, and the Port of Portland, a group of dedicated volunteers began restoration of the last steam powered sternwheel tug. The work is never ending; the results are well worth the effort. Today the Portland gleams inside and out. 
1997: She was entered into the National Register of Historic Places.

22 June 2017


CHIMACUM joins her Olympic class mates
TOKITAE and SAMISH now in active service.
Under construction is SUQUAMISH
 at Vigor's Harbor Island Shipyard,

 The shipyard history can be traced back to
the Moran Bros Shipyard, operating in 1906.

Live music, refreshments, tours.
She goes into service 23 June 2017
6:20 a.m. from Bremerton to Seattle.
Safe sailing to the M.V. Chimacum.

15 June 2017


Broadside view of SS RAINBOW
Steaming the islands with her owner.
All photos courtesy of J. M. Campbell, Orcas Island.
Power plant for steamer Rainbow.
See owner's description below.
Steamer Rainbow
Orcas Island, WA.  
Steamer Rainbow with guest Maura O'Neill,
and Lois & John aboard
Opening day of yachting season,
Orcas Island, WA.

Originally built in 1953, at the Oxford Boatyard, Oxford, Maryland, Rainbow was a 26' US Navy Mark II Motor Whaleboat. In 1973, she was sold at Mare Island & converted to steam with a Semple 5 and Semple VFT boiler. In 1995, the VFT boiler was replaced with a horizontal Scotch boiler to great advantage.
      Over the years Rainbow cruised San Francisco, Sacramento River Delta, Columbia River, Puget Sound and north out of Port Hardy into Seymour and Smith inlets. 
      In about 2005, the old hull burned and was entirely rebuilt, all new from the keel up, by Peter Christensen of Shaw Island. Materials were Yellow Cedar on Black Locust frames with bronze fastenings. Rainbow was an entirely new boat except for the original bronze breasthooks and propeller shaft/rudder skeg. During this time, the power plant was replaced with a Burleigh 3+5x4 compound engine. She presently steams 5 miles at 6 knots on each 12" diameter bundle of firewood.
      The owner is no longer seaworthy and Rainbow needs a new owner to take her cruising again. The Mark II motor whaleboat was the Navy's all round utility boat, both the 'liberty' boat and launched in all weather to pick up a man overboard or downed pilots.
      The dual axle trailer is nearly new and comes with spare dinghy propellers, curtains, anchors, firewood, and watertanks, etc, all included for $20,000. 
Location: Orcas Island.
Submitted by John M. Campbell

12 June 2017

❖ THE ART OF WINDING DOWN ❖ by John Dustrude

Friday Harbor, WA. on the
day of the San Juan Rendezvous.

The scene of the annual giant salmon barbecues for 
many summers beginning in 1948, hosted by the Chamber 
of Commerce. Supportive local canneries and fishermen
donated the fish. In 1953, an estimated 3,000

people were served 2,500 pounds of free salmon, salad,
rolls, and hot coffee. An unusually large number 
of yachts were present, including Bob Schoen and his 
loaded ferry Nordland, a big hit upon arrival from Orcas.
The Tacoma Outboard Association came up 18 strong
in small boats with Anacortes Outboard group
organizing scheduled races. Jack Fairweather led a
very successful dance with live music by the
"Harmony Boys" to wind down a perfect day.

Photo by Bob and Ira Spring of Seattle, WA.
from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"Yes, well, there you are, eight full days of vacation ahead of you. Should you spend it in the Cascades or on the beaches in the San Juans?
      Figure it takes the other guy about two days to wind down from the pressures of the fast lane. So give yourself two hours on the ferry, from Anacortes to Friday Harbor [1984.] You'll be there in plenty of time to grab some groceries and find your little sailboat.
      Stoke your boilers at any of the local eateries, and head out. Early afternoon ought to find you bucking the flood from Turn Island––so go with it instead and drift to Jones Island. Either of these marine parks is all you need for a couple of days' cruising (close by), good hiking and scenery, rocky bluffs and gravelly beaches, birds galore, and good fishing around the kelp and rock piles. Deer, too––some calico––native and exotic crosses from those that used to be on Safari (Spieden) Island only a two-hour swim away.
Sucia Island Group, 1940s.
Photograph by Clyde Banks Studio
Click to enlarge.

Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      Well, that about does it as far as where to spend the first couple of nights. Now, if your sailboat had a motor you could stretch your range as tight as a drumhead; see more but enjoy less, having to be more organized with your time. Forget it. Stay on one island for a couple of days and get to know the place, and save the rest for another trip.      
      While you're lying in the moss you're wondering where those other boats out there are going. Well, unlike you, they're late, making up for lost time, maybe headed for Sucia for the night and then over to Sidney or Bedwell Harbour, and then to Nanaimo or Telegraph Harbour. Tighter than a drumhead. Hurry, hurry.
      Meantime, you begin wondering what kind of moss you're lying in. Kind of spongy and aromatic; close up it looks like a tiny jungle. The more you gaze into it the more you see––about a dozen different kinds in this one little spot. And mushrooms, lichens, and algae, the place is alive with stuff you never noticed before. There must be books about this that you can read to find out more. You resolve then and there to learn more about this natural world around you.
      The sun goes behind the clouds. A breeze makes the firs sigh, and it gets cooler. It makes you hungry, so go check the boat, gather some firewood, and cook up some soup.
      The boat's okay, high enough up on the beach to be there when you want it tomorrow. The high tide will just wet the transom, judging from the last high tide's line of drift. Not that you're in a hurry to leave. You might just figure on staying put for a few days. Besides, there's more to see and do right here underfoot than you really ever imagined. Amazing, what you miss when you're not in tune with where you are.
      You begin to wonder if with a little help from books and experience you could learn to live out here in the open. Off the land, so to speak. Maybe try it for a few weeks in the summer, just for openers.
Cruising in the San Juan Islands, WA.
Click image to enlarge.
Undated original from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      Maybe get a boat of your own. How big? Someone once said, "well, you either want one big enough to ride out our storms or small enough to beach it." Hmm, possibilities. Low cost, low maintenance, low stress. Protected water, quiet coves, mossy outcrops, grassy flats, kelp beds and bottom fish, fair currents, clear water, clean air, and freedom.
       If the wind dies how far could you go with the tide? Now you're getting into it. Maybe to Turn Island, six miles away; six hours with a knot of current, even sooner with a little tail wind.
      How about that? Turn Island in time for sunset!" 
 Dustrude, John, happy mariner of the San Juan Island Archipelago, with home port of Friday Harbor.
 The Art of Winding Down. San Juan Islands Almanac. Vol. 11, 1984.

05 June 2017

❖ Mosquito Fleet Monday ❖ CHESTER

Sternwheeler CHESTER, left.
ON 127201
Built in 1897 by Joseph Supple, Portland, OR.
Click image to enlarge.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

The 101-ft CHESTER was built for the Cowlitz River operations of Captains Orin, Ed, and Joseph Kellogg. Working upstream from Kelso she was able to navigate in a channel a foot deep. At many stops along the river, customers simply drove their wagons alongside the steamer to transfer freight and passengers. 
      The design of the CHESTER was subsequently widely copied in building light draft steamers for gold rush river service in the north. 
      According to Jim Faber in Steamer's Wake, the steamer was noted for her flexible hull, supported by hog chains and planked with cedar. Her planking constantly being replaced  due to the fact she literally sand-papered her bottom as she slid over the Cowlitz River sandbars. 
      Owners liked to boast she "floated like a shingle on a pond."

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