The good ship CHANTEY, sailing the San Juans,
with Bob and Mary Schoen, who arrived in 1946.
Courtesy of Mary Schoen©
For Pacific Motor Boat, January 1947
This decision was made despite such gibes as: "Talk about a busman's holiday"; "Don't you ever get enough of sea life?" and "Imagine, starting out alone in a sailboat in February"––which were thrust at me by some of my more conventional and terra firma-minded acquaintances.
To them, CHANTEY was just another sailing boat. But to me, she was my third and latest girlfriend whose impatient tugging at her mooring buoy bespoke louder than words her eager desire to be set free and to be allowed to spread her skirts before the wind. And I was anxious to see how she would perform under real driving conditions.
CHANTEY was designed and built by Heinie Dole of Astoria in 1936. He kept her for his own use, and consequently when I bought her during the war, she was in perfect shape. (Dole's new 45-ft cutter, KATIE FORD, was featured in the August issue of PMB.)
CHANTEY's dimensions are 30-ft LOA; 28-ft L at waterline; 9-ft B; 5.5-ft D. She was a very modern cutter rig and her spar is 49-ft from truck to the waterline.
Rather novel is her jib arrangement in that the luff is sewn to a 5/8-inch galvanized wire, which is fastened at either end to ball-bearing fittings. There is a small drum at the tack to accommodate a piece of light line that extends back to the cockpit. A pull of this line furls the sail up on the wire, like a window shade.
Her oak-ribbed, Port Orford cedar-planked, and the teak-decked hull has quite a bit of freeboard and a rather straight sheer, thus giving her a decided English cutter appearance. She has a molded keel carrying a 6300-pound cast iron shoe. Though very short ended with an inboard rudder, she is surprisingly fast.
Her cabin trunk is built of teak and she is finished inside with clear varnished teak and cedar. The interior arrangement is compact and complete, including both oil and electric lights, ship-to-shore radio, direction finder, combined wood and oil range, and accommodations for three. She is equipped with a 1-cylinder, 10-HP Diesel auxiliary which I usually refer to as "Swede" and also a 200-watt light plant. To sum it up, CHANTEY provides an ideal home for a bachelor.
We, CHANTEY and I, shoved off from the Seattle Yacht Club in Lake Union on a bright Monday afternoon. A brisk northeasterly was hurrying scattered clumps of fluffy white clouds across the blue sky. Strange as it may seem, the month of February not infrequently affords beautiful sailing weather in the Puget Sound country.
As we chugged along, the University and Fremont bridge spans rose as if in reverence to CHANTEY's stately spar and the tenders looked down with envious eyes. The Ballard bridge proved obstinate, however, because we had arrived during the rush hour. So we tied alongside a cedar mill and I discussed the state of the world with a nimble-footed boom man.
At 6:20 the bridge began opening again and we proceeded on down the canal past Fisherman's Dock where row upon row of sturdy purse seiners, halibut schooners, and trollers solemnly nodded their heads at us.
I decided to moor overnight at the Ballard Harbor Patrol dock in Salmon Bay, which is on the freshwater side of the government locks and is in the heart of Seattle's Scandinavian section. To supplement my provisions, I secured a bit of pastry from my favorite Swedish bakery and also some excellent smoked salmon from a local fish market.
The next morning brought a change in the weather with a grey dawn and fitful southeasterly. We eased into the moss-covered maw of the locks at 7:30 am and the ponderous front lips clanged shut behind us. Down we sank into the monster's stomach until we reached the lower level. And then as the outer gates opened, the pungent and stimulating smell of salt water bit deeply into my nostrils and we were expelled with a headlong rush into Puget Sound.
"Swede" powered us under the black and forbidding railroad bridge and along the buoy-line, narrow channel out into the open water. Then, his stretch of duty done, he expired with a contented sigh and I hoisted the sail.
The breeze had picked up a bit and CHANTEY ran before it like a bird released from a cage. The wind on my cheeks was as refreshing as an after-shave lotion. The grim and troubled world seemed remote. Now, there was only the slap and gurgle of the water on the planking, the occasional creaking of the rigging. I was alone and content.
My destination wasn't particularly important––it would be wherever my fancy dictated. But after eight years of Puget Sound cruising, I fell naturally into the old routine, like a moth attracted to a flame, and headed towards the San Juans––that magnificent archipelago whose cluster of 172 habitable islands, lying between the inner end of the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the Gulf of Georgia, sparkle like a mass of irregularly shaped gems.
At 11:30 am we were abreast Point No Point and bucking the tide. By 1:30 pm not much progress had been made but the wind was shifting into the west. Around 2:00 it started to blow and we were soon standing up the Sound on a broad reach. CHANTEY just screamed along with her lee rail awash.
Entering Hadlock Channel against the tide, "Swede" was called upon for 30-minutes of chugging. We were back under sail at 3:30 and spent the remainder of the day beating our way up to the Port Townsend Yacht Harbor against a stiff northeasterly.
That night we tied alongside the tug TRIUMPH, and I accepted with alacrity an invitation to go aboard for a steak dinner. Naturally, my appetite was razor sharp from the salt air and I finally had to force myself to stop eating for fear of totally depleting the TRIUMPH's larder.
Port Townsend is the "Town" mentioned in Betty MacDonald's current best seller, The Egg and I. It is built on a peninsula bordered on the north by the Straits of Juan de Fuca and on the south by Puget Sound and has one of the largest harbors in the world. With its beautiful location and picturesque old buildings, Port Townsend is full of ghosts of the past. Many years ago the city was scheduled by its founders to be the metropolis of the Pacific Northwest, but fate decreed otherwise.
On the following morning, we sailed out of Port Townsend. There was a heavy overcast with light rain. But northeast storm warnings were flying from the customs house and before long the wind was coming directly down out of Cattle Pass, which is the southerly entrance into the San Juan Islands and was my immediate destination.
We rounded Wilson Point at 10:00 am. Putting about on a starboard tack, I crowded CHANTEY as close as I could without luffing. Later saw us abeam of Protection Is about four miles off. The wind had been increasing and was now blowing about 35-mph.
Shortly after noon, we came about on a port tack off New Dungeness and headed out across the Straits for Iceberg Pt, which was as close as we could lie into the wind. That was marvelous sailing with the starboard rail under green water all of the way.
Mid-afternoon we were slipping along in the lee of the south end of Lopez Is. We eased into McArdle, Hughes, and Alec Bays, in that order. Here, everything was calm. The quiet waters reflected the sky like a giant mirror with a little cat's paw dusting across the surface ow and then as a stray breeze would sneak in under the bluffs surrounding each bay.
But it was fast growing late and the sun was resting on the horizon so we sailed back to the west. Rounding Iceberg Pt, we made a brief stop at Richardson for milk, and then there was just enough breeze to ghost us into Barlow Bay.
Entering the bay, we struck a submerged piling which caused CHANTEY to heel far over to starboard briefly until she slipped off. I tied up to a deserted fish boat lying at anchor and made a hasty check of the damage incurred. There was a cracked plank but the springy cedar had closed together tightly so that no leak was apparent. Greatly relieved, I went on deck for a few minutes and watched the darkness close in.
During the evening I relaxed in the comforting warmth of CHANTEY's snug cabin. Undoubtedly, such moments as these are among the happiest in a man's life. My Shipmate stove, with a savory vegetable stew simmering on top, was crackling contentedly. The oil lamps radiated cheer to the accompaniment of radio music. The utter tranquility of the night enveloped us in a protecting blanket.
I awoke Thursday morning to fine weather clear, cold, and absolutely still. There was not even a whisper of wind. After an ample breakfast, I awakened "Swede" and we powered up Middle Channel between Lopez and San Juan against a five-knot ebb tide. We had to play the eddies to get through and it was two hours before we were free.
Our next stop was the pretty little town of Friday Harbor, which is the San Juan County seat and the largest settlement in the islands. It has a population of about 650 and is located at the head of a small bay on the east side of San Juan Island.
We secured at the City Dock. Some Coast Guard friends of mine were stationed there and I managed to wangle a couple of meals aboard their boat. A good bull session rounded out the day.
On the following morning, there was a rain-laden southeaster blowing lightly. I meandered around the town for a few hours until the wind shifted to the north and the skies began to clear just before nonn. We shoved off, sailed out of the bay, and directed our course towards Spieden Island. CHANTEY can really work herself beating to windward with the least possible strain and fuss.
We passed Green Point and sailed along the north shore of Spieden Island between Cactus Island and Gull Reef. I could sense an atmosphere of winter loneliness about this area which, to all outward appearances, has never been touched by civilization.
The wind was failing as we approached John's Pass and "Swede" shouldered the burden without a protest. En route through this highly scenic, L-shaped channel, we suddenly came abeam of an attractive little house on the point of John's Island the inhabitants came out and waved to us in friendly greeting.
Emerging from the pass, CHANTEY poked her nose out into spacious Georgia Gulf and obligingly the breeze picked up enough to sail us into Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island. We anchored off the community dock and I rowed ashore in the skiff.
Comprising only a post office and a few farms, Prevost is an idyllic little hamlet with a breathtakingly beautiful setting. I walked up a road for several miles in the fading light of the late afternoon until I reached an excellent vantage spot on the crest of a hill. Stretched out before me to to the west, like little children bedded down for the night in a vast, blue-blank coverlet, were dozens of the small Canadian islands with the "forbidden plateau" of their protective mother, Vancouver Island.
The next morning, the little harbor gleamed like a jewel in the winter sun and a light northeasterly was ruffling the sparkling surface of the bay. Before we left, a thoughtful farmer and his gracious wife insisted on giving me a huge box of fruit and vegetables which they had brought down to the dock. It was a most welcome addition to our larder.
As we hoisted sail and stoo out of the harbor, I could still see my benefactors standing on the dock, their arms raised in a gesture of bon voyage.
After clearing Charles Point, we headed west to Turn Point Light. The wind had fallen to a mere breath and I ghosted south down Haro Strait. We were running with the main and jib out to port and the staysail to starboard. CHANTEY sailed herself nicely in this manner for several hours and I had a good opportunity to study the beauty of San Juan Island's west shoreline.
About 2:00 pm the island was astern and we headed out across the Straits of Juan de Fuca. The wind soon died away entirely and "Swede" powered us the balance of the distance to Pt. Townsend. We secured there at dusk.
Sunday morning dawned grey and cloudy with a light southeasterly. We powered out through Hadlock Channel and started sailing when free of the current. Off Point No Point the breeze developed into half a gale and I was obliged to reef the main.
With the reef in, CHANTEY took it much easier and we continued to beat our way south until we reached the locks at 5:00 pm.
The night was black at 8:45 when we pulled into our berth at the SYC. But CHANTEY seemed content now that a perfect February cruise had been entered in her log.
I, too, was satisfied. My leave from duty had been ideally spent and I had come to know CHANTEY much better after having sailed her single-handed for seven delightful days.
Robert Schoen (1919-2003)
19 November 1945, Robert Schoen [Shane] got home from his commission in the USCG. He stopped by to see his mother, then went to check on his girl CHANTEY.
He married his Juanita Beach sweetheart, Mary in July 1946, one year before the publication of this article. For their honeymoon––what do you guess–– they enjoyed a sailing trip on CHANTEY, to the San Juan Islands. They dropped the hook in West Sound, and happily, they forgot to leave.
Thank you to Mary Schoen for the help in building a historical file of her talented sailor guy, a supportive and active community member.
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