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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.

1977 ❖ AN OLD SALT AND A NORWEGIAN BEAUTY ❖❖

FRITHJOF WIESE,
 Lake Union in 1973.
Orignial photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"There really is a salty character named Ole Johansen who lives on his boat at Poulsbo. And his boat really is an old Norwegian Rescue Vessel named FRITHJOF WIESE [Freeth-off Weesuh].
      And I thought when I first met Ole at the Seattle Boat Show last month that he was putting me on. Nobody named Ole that I'd ever met before really looked and sound, well––so 'Ole'.
      I first ran into Ole on paper. A photograph of him was hanging in the photo gallery at the boat show's photo gallery at the show's art exhibit. The picture, taken by Roy Montgomery, industrial and marine photographer in Seattle, was of Ole in a black turtleneck sweater and seaman's cap, poking his head out the side door of a boat. I remarked to my companion, 'Look at that salty old character. He really looks the part of an old sea captain.'
      I learned that he lived at Poulsbo aboard his boat and a few weeks later I was sitting aboard the WIESE, talking to Ole Johansen, who was wearing––a black turtleneck sweater and seaman's cap!
      A steep gangway is the entrance to the salon area, which is just large enough to hold a table and U-shaped settee, and a long settee along the other side. Shelves line the forward bulkhead beyond which is the master stateroom and head. Aft of the main cabin area is the galley and the engine compartment and work room.
      And that's it. No thrills. No sunken living room with fireplace. As a dwelling it offers mostly just enough cozy space for eating, sleeping, and pleasant conversation. It's warm, and it's been home to the Johansens ever since they sailed and motored the WIESE from Arendaal, Norway, across the Atlantic, through the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, through the Panama Canal and up the west coast of the US through the Straits of Juan de Fuca and into Puget Sound. They first sailed into Seattle, Ole's home for many years before going back to Norway in 1967 to purchase and remodel the WIESE to sail home. They have only been in Poulsbo since last August.
   Ole, a seaman, fisherman, whaler, and finally an employee of Consolidated Dairy in Seattle. Before he retired he had wanted to own one of the Norwegian rescue ships for a long time. When he saw one in Seattle one day the desire became strong enough to inquire about buying one that was ready to be retired.
      He went to his homeland in 1967 with Marge, who was an Oklahoma landlubber before she married Ole, and their 14-year old son, Kevin. Kevin missed three years of high school while they got the WIESE ready to sail back to America but made it up after their return in 1969, Ole said.
      The boat had seen 32 years of service and rescued more than 2,000 ships and 300,000 people of every nationality in that time. The ship bears the name of the man who donated it to the rescue service and paid the bills for its upkeep for the years it remained on duty.
      The WIESE was built in 1935 at Hardangerfjord, in the village of Rosendaal. Her vital stats are 55-ft, x17.5-ft x 10.6-ft. She carries 5.5 tons of cast iron in the keel and has a wood hull and house, and is a gaff rigged sailing vessel with 671 GMC Diesel engine with a cruising speed of 10.5 knots.
      Other equipment includes a Diesel furnace, an 8-HP British engine to run the generator for lights and appliances and to run the bilge and fire pumps. Propane is used for cooking, however, and the small galley includes a propane cooking range with oven. Heat is dispensed with radiators.
      Ole was born in Hvaler Islands off the coast of Norway 72 years ago.
   
Ole Johansen, 1973.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      Ole came to the US in 1923, at first to Tacoma, and has been sailing since he was young. He's worked on all kinds of fish and work boats but he never learned how to swim. He's been in some pretty tough storms at sea, but when he bought the WIESE and lowered the house to about four feet closer to the deck he tossed all the electronic gear, including radar and Loran, off the ship because he said he didn't need any of it.
      All the WIESE had in the way of navigation gear when Ole, Marge and Kevin sailed her across the ocean was a compass and ocean charts.
      They were at sea for almost a year when they arrived in Seattle in 1970. They logged 14,000 miles from Arendaal.
      Ole and Marge like to sail around the local waters and to the San Juan Islands, but no ocean voyages are in their immediate future, Ole said. He wants to take the WIESE to SE Alaska, later this year.
      Not only is Ole interested in the WIESE as his home as well as his hobby, but he's also interested in preserving other historical vessels. He is a member of the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, the Double Enders, the Puget Sound Cruising Club, and now the Poulsbo Yacht Club.
      The couple has six children and 10 grandchildren and when asked what they do on holidays, Ole said, 'we hide!'
      After talking to Ole for an hour I got the feeling that every day for Ole Johansen is a good day. Like the Viking explorer, Lief Ericson, Ole takes delight in discovering new places, and people. "
Above text by Rosie Atkinson.
Published by the Bremerton Sun, February 1977.
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.


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