"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.

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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.

1871 ❖ THE AMAZING RACE ❖

Model of the Sidewheeler NORTH PACIFIC
with her builder, Ralph Hitchcock. 
"Over [one hundred and forty years] ago there was a sensational pioneer steamboat race in which the sidewheeler NORTH PACIFIC defeated the sidewheeler OLYMPIA for a significant wager. The wager undoubtedly was the most amazing in the history of American steamboating, the losing steamer never again to operate in the Sound routes, but her owners to receive an annual subsidy of $1,800 a month from the winner. The details of the race and the wager were published long ago in The Marine Digest, but there has been a revival of interest in the famous contest and requests have been received for a summary that will help preserve the facts.
      The NORTH PACIFIC was owned by the Starr interests, headed by L. M. Starr. The OLYMPIA was owned by the Wright interests, headed by Capt. Thomas Wright. Those two pioneering giants locked horns in a terrific battle for the Olympia-Victoria route. In the historical sketches which Wm. O. Thorniley, now of the Black Ball Line, wrote for The Marine Digest in 1924, he brought out the fact that as a result of the war for that route the fare dropped from $10 to 50 cents and finally both boats got down to the basis of 'free fare, free meals, and a chromo', for the trip from Olympia to Victoria or vice versa. This could not last; the Starrs and the Wrights decided to gamble for the business, the two vessels to race from Victoria to Port Townsend, 27 June 1871. the distance was 33 nautical miles.
      It was a bright, clear sunny day when the two steamboats, both superb vessels of their type, steamed out of Victoria, side by side, and headed across the Strait for Port Townsend. They hit a 14-knot clip or about 16 miles an hour, with smoke belching from their stacks and all aboard, wild with excitement. They kept neck and neck, until they passed Point Wilson and then the NORTH PACIFIC drew ahead and she entered Pt. Townsend half a mile ahead of the OLYMPIA.
      Both sides kept their bargain meticulously. the Wrights withdrew from the Sound, tying up both the OLYMPIA and the ELIZA ANDERSON, and the Starrs paid them the $1,800/month for the OLYMPIA's withdrawal and $500 a month for the ELIZA's withdrawal. The OLYMPIA remained tied up for 10 years and the ELIZA for 15 years. The Wrights finally sold the OLYMPIA to Canadian owners. For how many years they received the two subsidies is a matter that has not been definitely cleared up, but they received the payments for a long time."
Above text from The Marine Digest, publishing date unknown.

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