"The past actually happened but history is only what someone wrote down." A. Whitney Brown.

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San Juan Archipelago, 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 750, 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.

19 January 2021


Shaw Island ferry dock
San Juan Archipelago, WA.
Barlow Elevator aboard.
Click image to enlarge.
original photo from the archives of
 the Saltwater People Historical Society©

"Freight handling on Puget Sound was transformed in the early 1920s by the introduction of a freight elevator that could be installed on either a dock or a ship.
      The Barlow Marine Elevator made possible the loading or unloading of a vessel at a dock during any stage of the tide.
      Captain Harry Barlow had invented the elevator in 1910; some were in use prior to 1920, but sales really took off after Capt. Barlow joined forces with the Colby Steel & Electric Co., in 1924.
      In Nov. 1926, more than a hundred Barlow elevators were in service on ships, on docks, and in warehouses. In 1930, the familiar four posts of the Barlow Marine Elevator could be seen on nearly every freighter or freight and passenger vessel in the Mosquito Fleet.
      Harry Barlow was born at Barlow Bay on Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands, on 1 January 1876. He was the younger brother of the well known Capt. Sam Barlow, who had been born on the same spot, 3 April 1870.
      Their father was the pioneer Lopez settler, Capt. Arthur (Billy) Barlow, builder, operator, and owner of the schooners Henrietta and Port Admiral.
      Both boys were experienced seamen by the time they were in their teens.
      Harry was 12 when he shipped on the 52-foot Henrietta as cook. On that vessel, and on the Port Admiral, he advanced from cook to seaman to mate. At age 20, he shipped on the sealing schooner Florence M. Smith and spent a season with the sealing fleet. 
      In 1898, while the master of the Port Admiral, Harry was wrecked in a snowstorm in Southeastern Alaska. He then took the little steamer Mocking Bird from Puget Sound to Alaska, and ran her between Skagway and Dyea, during the gold rush.
      When he returned to Puget Sound, he was hired as mate on the T. W. Lake, of the LaConner Trading and Transportation Co., headed by Joshua Green. With that company and its successors, he then served as master on the City of Denver, Port Orchard, Samson, and Rapid Transit.
      In 1905, Capt Barlow transferred to the Merchants Transportation Co., as master of the A.W. Sterett. On 30 Nov 1906, however, he joined William A. Marmont, a pioneer marine engineer, in purchasing the freighter Transport.
      In 1909, the partners purchased the Starr Steamship Co., and thereafter operated a fleet of freighters. One of the vessels acquired was the Fidalgo, and in 1910, Capt. Barlow installed his first elevator on that vessel.

      The years of freighting and freight handling had provided the captain and former deckhand with ample opportunity to experience the joys of wrestling sacks of wheat from ship to dock at low tide. The docks always remained at the same level, while the ship deck could drop a distance of 12 feet in six hours. In another six hours, it could return to maximum height, as the cycle was completed.
      Unfortunately, ship operators couldn't wait for a favorable stage of the tide. To facilitate the movement of freight, inclined planes, called freight slips, were set into the faces of most docks. These extended from dock level to low tide, and deckhands were expected to haul freight up these incline on hand trucks.

      Few slips were on a slope of fewer than 30 degrees, and owing to the tide, the lower half was made underwater during a part of every day. Bathed twice daily in seawater, the portion of the slip was as slick as ice and twice as nasty.
      To speed the deckhand up the slip ahead of his heavily loaded hand truck, there was a memorable apparatus consisting of a hook and cable. A large pulley was secured to a ring and eyebolt at the top of the slip. The cable was then run through the pulley so that the hook could be dragged back to the freight deck of the vessel. The other end of the cable was also aboard the vessel, attached to a steam winch.
      When the hand truck was in position, astraddle the cable, the hook caught in a loop of steel hanging from the axle. The deckhand was then propelled up the slip at a speed deemed prudent by the winch operator. Since no one wanted the load to stall halfway up the slip, the speed was more than adequate to forestall any such occurrence.
      When the hand truck reached deck level, the winch was stopped, but momentum carried everything forward, as though it had been shot out of a slingshot. Meanwhile, the deckhand was trying to balance his load, while he sought to use the soles of his shoes for brakes, and at the same time, keep the projectile from running over him.
      On some docks, the distance from the top of the slip to the warehouse was not great, and it often appeared that deckhand, load, and all would go clear through and out the back wall.
      Capt. Barlow may or may not have been concerned about the discomfort of deckhands, but whatever his motive, someone was later to estimate that the Barlow elevator saved 50 percent in loading time. This attracted wide attention.
      Like most inventions, however, the Barlow elevator had to prove itself before it was adopted. For two years, the only one in existence was on the Fidalgo.
      Then, in 1912, a Barlow elevator was installed on the north side of the Colman Dock. In that same year, Capt. Barlow sold his interest in the Starr Steamship Co to his partner, William Marmont, and from that time on devoted full time to the development of the elevator.
      In 1914, the Canadian Pacific Railway Co., began installing the elevators in company terminals in Vancouver, B.C., and soon had 18 of them in operation.
      Operators of Puget Sound freight boats were making their own appraisals of the elevator. The Merchants Transportation Co., former employers of Harry, were among the first to accept his invention. In 1916, for instance, they installed one on the freighter T. W. Lake.

with Barlow Elevator
Built in 1896 for the 
LaConner Trading & Transport 
under Joshua Green and associates.
Undated original photo from the archives of
the Saltwater People Historical Society©

      Since the elevator supplied such a basic need on tidal waters, the business was bound to prosper, and in 1924, Barlow turned over exclusive manufacturing rights to the Colby Steel & Engineering Co., Seattle. The company then had an office in the Central Building, then later on Harbor Island.
      Once the elevator was installed on a steamboat, there was no longer a need to drag freight up inclines. All movement was on the level, or horizontal. On the freight dock of a vessel, hand trucks were pulled onto the elevator platform at deck level. The platform was then raised to dock level, or just high enough to lift the outer end of a freight plank, extending out from the dock. The deckhand then pulled the hand truck across the plank, to the wharf.
      Advertising in the Marine Digest in 1927, the Colby Crane and Engineering Co., invited ship owners to write in, describing their freight handling requirements. The company would then build an elevator to the requirements of the particular vessel. Thus, the elevators were tailored to fit vessels of the Mosquito Fleet, regardless of size or characteristics.
      On the freight and passenger steamer Virginia V, a steam winch in the hold provided the necessary power for the elevator. The steam was piped from the source that supplied the main engine.

With a Barlow Elevator.
She was built by the Albert Jensen Shipyard,
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, WA.
for San Juan Island Transportation Co.
in 1921.
(Corkey this old friend is for you.)
Original photo from the archives of the
Saltwater People Historical Society©

When the steamer Arcadia was launched in 1929, the engine from a Stanley Steamer automobile was installed in her to power the freight elevator. Steam, of course, was always available from the boiler, on steamboats. On diesel-powered freighters, however, power for the elevator was another problem.

Former kelp-harvester; then remodeled as
the first ferry for Capt. Crosby's Anacortes-
Sidney ferry route. Rebuilt and fitted with
Barlow Elevator and a square bow to carry
 the same beam her entire length to manage
 a cargo capacity of 300 tons. 
Original undated photo from the archives of 
the Saltwater People Historical Society©

      When a Barlow elevator was installed on the motor vessel F. H. Marvin, power was supplied by the main engine, through a system of gears and a clutch. On the Sea Tac, the elevator was driven by compressed air. This proved to be far more satisfactory than the system of gears. 

On her maiden voyage with her new
Barlow freight elevator, 1935.
Designed as a shallow-draft vessel for 
the Skagit River Navigation & Transfer Co.
Launched at Lake Union Drydock & Machines
to service the Seattle, Stanwood, Mt. Vernon,
and LaConner route. 
Lost in 1956.

      On the Sea Tac, too, the Barlow elevator brought about another innovation in freight handling. In 1927, Fred H. Marvin, head of the Merchants Transportation Co, put a Hood tractor and five trailers aboard the vessel to replace the old hand trucks pulled by deckhands. Used with the elevators, this equipment was highly successful. So, without realizing it, perhaps, the company was moving in the direction of palletized loads.

Built 1912 at Stanwood, WA.,  
for Capt. H. H. McDonald of
Skagit River Navigation & Trading Co. 
She had the Barlow Elevator and lots of 
freight capacity at 152-feet.
Original undated photo from the archives of
the Saltwater People Historical Society©

In 1928, Capt. F. E. Lovejoy, of the rival Puget Sound Freight Lines, put Elwell Parker lift trucks aboard the freighter Skookum Chief.
     These lift trucks were the forerunners of the modern forklift. A lifting platform slipped under a flat skid or loading platform. The skid and load were then lifted and wheeled aboard the vessel.
      Three men could now handle 100 tons of freight per hour; one operating the Barlow elevator, the other two driving lift trucks. In 1929, the PSFL merged with the Merchants Transportation Co., and palletized 

freight handling became standard throughout the combined fleets.
      At the time of Captain Harry Barlow's death, in 1945, Barlow elevators were in use on the Pacific, Gulf, and Atlantic coasts, as well as in Canada, South America, and on the Mississippi River. Companies that had installed them included: the Erie Railway, the Union Pacific, the Munson Steamship Lines, Moore McCormack Lines, American President Lines, Canadian National Steamship Co., Crowley Tugboat Co., and Carnation Albers Co. A truly remarkable invention!"

Text by author/historian Roland Carey.

Published by the good people at Marine Digest, Seattle, WA.

Pulled from the archives of Saltwater People Historical Society, courtesy of paper files donated by Captain Jack Russell. Thank you all.

12 January 2021

❖ TUGBOAT RACE HISTORY, Olympia, Washington ❖ (Updated)

Yacht El Primero
18 August 2013
The first honorary committee boat.
Photo courtesy of Ron R. Burke
who loved this boat so much
he crafted a fine scale model. 

From a Harbor Days Official Program, 
Olympia News
by Chuck Fowler 
with Pat Haskett
31 August 1983

Now a major Puget Sound maritime festival, the Olympia Harbor Days vintage tug boat races began in 1975 when only six small workboats gathered for a single heat race north of Olympia's harbor on Budd Inlet.

The Olympia tug race has its historic roots in the informal towing boat competitive events which began before the turn of the century on Puget Sound. On major holidays, workboat skippers would pit their vessels against those of other captains to decide who had the fastest and most powerful tugs. Today that tradition lives on as members of the Retired Tug Association and other skippers come to the Capital city to race, gather their crews and families, and join in the fun of Harbor Days and Harbor Fair.

The initial race nine years ago was started by Captain Bert Giles, who had continued to signal the beginning of the competition with a blast of the whistle from his historic mini-steamboat Crest. Finishing first in that original race was Gordon Willies's small tug Sunset which was one of the workboats once owned by Delta V. Smyth, a pioneer Olympia tugboat operator. Wayne Smyth, who followed his father as head of Delson Lumber Co, donated a trophy in his father's name. The award, which was presented to the Sunset at the initial race, remains the first place honor for the Harbor Days Inland Class event.

Word of the first race began spreading throughout the Puget Sound area, and in 1976, 16 tugboats came to Olympia to compete. Both the 1976 and 1977 races were won by the 100-ft tug Odin (ex-Prosper,) then owned by Al Wolover of Seattle. The second race included several tug skippers who have returned for the Harbor Days events ever since: Mark Freeman of Seattle, who owns the Sovereign, Standfast, and Barf; Jon Paterson of Gig Harbor, who now owns the Winamac; Dan Grinstead of Seattle, owner of the Lorna Foss, and Franz Schlottman of Olympia, who owns the host Harbor Days tug Sandman.

In 1978, Odin and the Simmons Towboat Company's Beaver shared first place honors and the Delta V. Smyth perpetual trophy. However, Wolover of the Odin claimed permanent ownership of the award and a new Smyth trophy was created for subsequent annual presentations.

In 1979 Olympia tugboat race winner was Les Cooper's Chickamauga, the first diesel-powered tug built in the US, followed by a 1980 win by Stan Longaker's Palomar.

For the past three years, the small and fast Reliance, owned and piloted by Phil Shively of Bainbridge Island, has churned away with the first place inland class honors.  Among the larger tugs, Crowley Maritime Corp 's Retreiver bested the Arthur Foss in the 1981 Unlimited Class race. The Mini Class race, for tugs under 20-ft long, was won by Willy Block's tug Trio of Olympia.

In the 1982 race, in addition to the Reliance, the winner of the Mini Class event was Eric Freeman in the tug Barf. The Unlimited Class race was cancelled because of the potential danger to spectator boats caused by the huge bow waves created by the larger tugs.

Captain Phil Martin
Photo courtesy of John Dustrude,
Friday Harbor, WA.

❖ Then in 1986, to the Labor Day races at Olympia came a contingent from the San Juan  Islands.
      Phil Martin on the Favorite won first place in the small tug boat class.
      Martin's Favorite was as well known in Friday Harbor as is Captain Martin. It is fitting that Favorite should win first place after being tied to a dock in red tape for two years prior to this race as a result of a law suit.
      Martin and Favorite were familiar faces at Memorial Day and Labor Day tug boat races. "Everbody was glad to see the Favorite back on the block." said friend and crew member, Kim Slocomb.
      According to Slocomb, Martin took back possession of Favorite just three days before the races in Olympia.
      He was noticeably enthusiastic about what he referred to as the midnight speed trials Thursday evening, and the good performance of the boat on its way to Olympia and at the races on Sunday.
      Favorite, a 36-foot tug built in 1937 for Tacoma Tug and Barge was a noticeable part of the Friday Harbor scene and often photographed for years.
      Slocomb said prior to a lawsuit over the tug, Favorite was overhauled from stem to stern to the tune of $200,000. "I was the one who built the machinery on the boat," he said.
      Slocomb, who droved down to Olympia to meet Favorite and was on board for the races and events, said the scene at the tug boat races at Percival Landing in downtown Olympia was a festival of street bands, food concessions, and racing events. One of the traditional events is to have all the tug boats run against a Foss tug the morning of the races.
      Slocomb said they all raced against Henry Foss and he thought the race seemed to be going well until he realized the Foss tug was running in reverse.
      "The Henry Foss does 13 knots sideways or backwards. It's the most phenomenal display of horse power and engineering I ever saw in my life," Slocomb said.

On the Water
Ilene Anderson

Friday Harbor Journal, 3 September 1986.

10 January 2021



Captain John Claus Voss

his mate Norman Luxton,
a newspaper journalist
at Oak Bay, Victoria, B.C.
beginning their sailing trip to 
London, England, dated 1901.

The saga of Capt. J. C. Voss still is unparalleled. Between 1901-1904, he sailed nearly around the world in a rebuilt Native American dugout canoe, making a voyage of 40,000 miles.
      He established a small-boat record in sail never approached since then. He carried no auxiliary motor and not even a dinghy!
      Yet, in his last days, when long thought dead, he took up a new occupation, ironic for one whose life had been spent at sea. It generally was believed he drowned when he mysteriously sailed away from Yokohama harbor in 1913 on his 25-ft yawl, the Sea Queen, a boat he designed.
      He was always an enigma to seafarers; a man given to many actions that were unpredictable. A striking example: his sailing from Yokohama in his pigmy boat in 1913 without a word to anyone.
      The story of how Voss spent his final years, his astonishingly different occupation at the end, his formerly unknown nationality, and the unexpected place of his death add a striking twist to this seafaring saga.
      However, let us first consider some of his voyaging before embarking upon his most famous one around the world.
      John C. Voss went to sea at 16. In 1896, as master of the sealing schooner Aurora, he made an unsuccessful trip to the Cocos Islands, seeking buried treasure. He returned to the Islands in 1897 in the ten-ton, 35-ft sloop Xora, and again was unsuccessful. He sailed to South America, a voyage of 7,000 miles.
      Voss made a study of ships' reaction to ocean waves. With this knowledge, he selected a Nootka Native dugout canoe from the west coast of Vancouver Island as best conforming with his theories to meet wave reaction, for his voyage around the world.
      This craft, already 50 years old in 1901, had been hollowed out of an enormous red-cedar log by a Native. Voss bought it early in 1901 for $75. The Native owner gave him the skull of his father as talisman, the father having built the canoe.
      As the craft stood, it was only a beginning: The lines, lightness, and cedar bouyancy were merely first essentials. 

Tilikum and crew 
passing the Gulf Islands, B.C., Canada

Voss faced several months of hard work to bring the rebuilt craft in conformance with his plans. The canoe was towed to Victoria.
      There Voss strengthened the cedar hull with inch-square oak frames and built up the sides seven inches. Inside were placed floor timbers. He added 300 pounds of lead to the keel. The canoe was decked to allow a cabin. The craft was fitted with three small masts for four sails. All running gear was so arranged that one man a the helm could set and take in all sails. Thus was an ancient dugout, never originally intended for sail, turned into a 38-foot sailing craft.
      Over the grotesque bird figurehead Voss broke a bottle of wine, christened this remodeled shell the Tilikum, a word in the Chinook dialect meaning friend. On 27 May 1901, he sailed from Victoria for Suva, in the Fiji Islands, first lap of the journey. And in this slim, light structure he went three quarters of the way around the world in three years, three months and 12 days of leisurely travel.
      Voss at the start was 40 years old. Some thought he was of Nova Scotian birth; others though he was from Newfoundland or the Netherlands. On the Tilikum he had as first companion, Norman Luxton, a newspaperman, inexperienced at sea. Luxton now lives at Banff. He had shared half the expenses of fitting out the vessel. Also, he promised Voss $2,500 if they circled the globe in a craft small enough to set a new record.
      Ten days out, a terrific gale made it imperative to put out a sea-anchor, Voss had invented several specially designed for the small sailing craft. To launch this anchor in the enormous following sea, Luxton tied a life line around his waist and crawled to the foremast, held on to it, while Voss tensely waited the arrival of a lesser wave and the right moment to yell to Luxton ot let the anchor go. When he did, the greenhand panicked, climbed half way up the mast, almost turning the Tilikum over. Voss jerked the life line to pull the inexperienced man to the deck in time to save the Tilikum from capsizing. On the next lower wave, the mate succeeded in getting the anchor over the side. The little craft rode safely to the wind.
      On arrival at Suva, Voss met his first disappointment. Luxton announced he was going to make the next lap of the voyage to Sydney, Australia, by the regular passenger steamer. Voss took on, as his second assistant, Louis Begent, able seaman, age 31. On October 21, the Tilikum began her 1,800-mile voyage to Sydney.
      Six days out, at night, they were forging ahead with a high easterly wind and great following seas. It was Voss' watch on deck when the binnacle light went out. He called to the mate to take the tiller and went to the cabin with the compass box to fit the light. This done, he handed it up to Begent. Unthinkingly, the mate let go the tiller just as an exceptionally high following wave came upon them.
      As the Tilikum swung far round to the wind the wave crashed over them, hurling Voss down into the cabin, filling it with water. When Voss scrambled back to the deck, the mate was gone, now far behind. Voss was helpless to aid him, as it was impossible to go back into that following sea. The mate lost his life because he had disobeyed the captain's strict order always to fasten his life line when he came on deck.
      The captain now found the compass also had been washed away. He was about 1,400 miles from Sydney, the cabin half full of water, all bedding and clothing soaked. He bailed out the cabin. Two days and nights he stayed a the helm without food an nearly perished from the cold in his wet clothes.
      Then he dozed. As the tiller swayed, a squall hit, sending the Tilikum on her beam, hurling the captain against the lee washboards, knocking him unconscious.
      When he recovered, he saw the foresail, part of the foremast, the forward staysail, and all the head gear overboard. Yet, by this very disaster, the craft had been held safely into the wind. He picked up the wreckage, put out the sea anchor into the calming sea, lit the riding light, let the vessel drift and went to sleep. The riding light went out. He woke in darkness horrified to see the red and green lights of a large steamer bearing straight down upon him. Pulling off his left sock, he dipped it in kerosene, lit it, waved it from the end of a frying pan. Just in time the steamer altered course.
      Steering by sun and stars and the movement of the waves, the captain arrived at Sydney to face the worst disappointment of the voyage. His partner would go no further. Thus was lost to the captain the $2,500 offer for circling the globe.
      Yet now Voss was more sure than ever he could succeed. So he bought out his partner's share. Unfortunately, this left him with only $10.
     How to get money to continue the journey? the Sydney newspapers had given him immense publicity when he arrived. A reporter suggested Voss put the Tilikum ashore in a tent in the city's park and charge admission to see this novelty ship, made out of a cedar log.
      Voss did so. Inexperienced as a showman, he waited nervously at the tent flap on the opening forenoon. In spite of the publicity, only one person arrived the first morning, an old woman of imperious manner. After paying her sixpence admission, she climbed into the cockpit and sat. The captain timidly ventured: "How do you like my little ship?"
      She answered sharply: "When is she going to start?"
      The captain, flabbergasted, asked: "Start for where?"
      Angrily the woman replied: "I paid my sixpence for a boat ride, and I want it!"
      The captain, now thoroughly flustered, expostulated: "But the boat's on exhibition as a novelty!"
      The old lady exploded: "I can see hundreds of boats out there in the harbor for nothing. Give me back my sixpence."
      Fortunately, crowds came and the paid admissions continued two months. Now realizing he could make money in this manner, Voss changed his original plan of sailing direct to England from Sydney. He went on the visit other parts of Australia, then to Tasmania, New Zealand, South Africa, South America, and some European islands.
      On January 4 1903, he set sail for Hobart, Tasmania, on the 27th to New Zealand.
      Voss, having overcome his first shyness, turned lecturer, describing the most thrilling parts of the voyage. At Palmerston, listeners were nearly all Maoris.
      On 17 August, the Tilikum left Auckland for Durban, S.A. Three terrific storms were encountered. Then, for 30 days, Voss and his mate drifted helplessly becalmed. Death from thirst appeared to be their fate until a deluge of rain came when they had been three days without water.

Tilikum and crew, 1903
Durban, South Africa

      They reached Durban on 28 December where Voss once more became a showman and lecturer. By flatcar they visited Pietermartisburg--a strange triumph, she became the only ocean-going craft to reach a height of 6,800-ft above sea level.
      On 14 April 1904, the Tilikum sailed from Cape Town for England, last lap of the history-making voyage. Voss signed on as ninth mate, Edward Harrison, 22, and in first stages of consumption, a boy never before at sea. At the end of the voyage, Harrison had completely recovered.

The exhibit sign Captain Voss
placed for his speaking engagements.
Click image to enlarge.

      The Tilikum reached Margate, England, on 2 September 1904. The entire voyage had required more than three years. Ship and crew were grandly received at Margate and later at London. Voss was made a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. The Tilikum was shown at the Naval and Marine Exhibition in London in 1905.
      Then Voss sailed away to Japan, leaving his gallant ship to rot on a tide flat on the Thames. The reason for this never has been ascertained. Those who knew the captain admitted he was a strange man.
      Soon the Tilikum was a sorry wreck. Before she was beyond repair, her condition came to the attention of two noted yachtsmen, A.W. E. and A. Byford, of the Greenwich Club. They refitted the Tilikum at their own expense, paid her passage by freight steamer to her home port of Victoria, her starting point. At Victoria, 1 July 1930, Dominion Day, the Tilikum in a special ceremony was placed in a covered shed beside the House of Parliament
      In a protected house she now stands in Thunderbird Park, Victoria (1965.) She is an example of, perhaps, the mosts remarkable small sailing ship in modern times.

Undercover exhibit in Victoria, 1947,
near the place of her departure in 1901.
[Years later she was moved inside.]
      Voss, after going to Yokohama in 1905, became a familiar figure along the waterfront. Evidently he had made money by his lecture tours. With leisure, he 
began working on plans to build an even smaller and better seagoing vessel.
      This completed in the spring of 1913, was a 25-ft yawl, named the Sea Queen. Without a word to anyone, Voss sailed out of Yokohama harbor in June. He never heard of again. Except for one man, all others believed Voss was lost at sea in his Sea Queen.
      Then, 51 years later, came the amazing and strange discovery that Voss was not lost at sea.
      Despite the belief that Voss was lost at sea in 1913, one man refused to accept this. He began a long research. He found that Voss sailed to the Bering Sea. Disposing of the Sea Queen to a man going into the far north to trade with the Eskimos. Voss became captain of a schooner trading in the North Pacific. Then, in 1918, he turned up in the small inland California town of Tracy, where his family had lived during Voss' half a lifetime at sea.
      Voss, by then 57, was no longer in good circumstances, as he purchased a touring car and set himself up to supply the town with transportation. As a jitney driver, the fare he charged was 5 cents. For four years he acted as the town's only bus driver! He died in 1922; his death certificate lists him age 64 and his birthplace as Germany. He was survived by a son and a daughter.

Written by Francis Dickie for the Seattle Sunday Times, 3 January 1965.
Photos courtesy of the British Columbia Maritime Museum

More details on Captain Voss and his 40,000 mile voyage can be seen on this Victoria, B.C.,  web site HERE.

And then, of course, the words by the skipper himself in this below listed book.

First published in Yokohama in 1913.
Second edition in London in 1926.
This book has also been published 
in Australia, New Zealand, and
South Africa.
An introduction is by 
F. E. Grubb,
Registrar & Librarian,
Maritime Museum of British Columbia. 

06 January 2021


Capt. William P. Thornton (L),
veteran Puget Sound mariner.
With him, the well-known writer Gordon Newell 
who learns the history of the Duwamish, in the 
background, first placed in service as a coal-burning 
steamer 49 years before this photo was taken in 1959.
The men were preparing for a presentation for the 
annual waterfront reunion and banquet sponsored
by the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society 
at the Hotel Edmond Meany.
Original photo from the Marine Salon collection 
dated 29 Sept. 1959 from the archives 
of the Saltwater People Historical Society©

Captain William P. Thornton was one of the first ferryboat skippers on Puget Sound. He began his maritime career at the age of 12 after moving to Friday Harbor from the midwest. He spent the rest of his professional life in marine activities and became prominent on the waterfront. He was a member of the crew of the Lydia Thompson when the vessel went aground off Orcas Island in 1898.

The crew of the S.S. Lydia Thompson
that ran aground on Barrel Rock, off Orcas Island, 
San Juan Archipelago, WA.
15 December 1898
Here they were camped with the ship's wheel,
at the old Guthrie Place 
near Grindstone Harbor, Orcas Island.
Notes with this photo claim they were hauled off
the rocks on 27 December 1898.
Standing L-R: Whitlies, sailor; Mickelberg, fireman;
Ruger, Captain; Clay, cook; Wait, messman; Hall, Fred, sailor;
Shuler, fireman;
Thornton, William P., stevedore.
Sitting, front row.
Casey, sailor; Cline, sailor; Bats, asst engineer; 
Hutchinson, mate.
Photo from the archives of the 
Saltwater People Historical Society©

      Shortly thereafter he obtained his captain's papers and commanded a Revenue Service ship on the Sound.
      Capt. Thornton also skippered ships in the Alaskan trade and "mosquito fleet" ships, small passenger vessels for Puget Sound Navigation Co. In 1906 he scored a first by agreeing to take a Stanley Steamer aboard his vessel at Hoodsport and take it to Seattle. It was the first automobile to be ferried across the Sound.
      Capt. Thornton was port captain in Seattle for the PSNC from 1914 to 1923. He then had his own tugboat business and later operated the Seabeck-Brinnon Ferry Line on Hood Canal until retiring in 1932.
      He left retirement during WW II to serve as a captain in the Army Transport Service, commanding a gunnery -- training ship out of Seattle.
      He also commanded the "Welcome Home" ship that greeted troop ships returning from the war.

Captain Thornton was a member of the Puget Sound Maritime History Society.
Text by the Seattle Times. 1959

01 January 2021

Chasing Rum on Puget Sound

Lucile McDonald (1898-1992) was an amazing journalist/historian/author on the prowl for Washington State history. Let's once more follow her trail through Puget Sound when she was beach-combing for tales of the rum-running days during the Prohibition Era.


Roy T. Lyle,
Federal prohibition chief, 1 June 1922,
with part of the shipment of "salt fish" liquor 
seized in a Seattle freight shed.
Click image to enlarge.
Original photo from the archives of the 
Saltwater People Historical Society©
If one waits long enough, almost any true experience becomes a collector's piece.
      National Prohibition ended in December 1933; it was the following March before Washington's first state liquor stores were in business.
      For nearly 14 years the entire United States had been dry. Washington had suffered thirst four years longer than that because of a Prohibition Law of its own, effective 1 January 1916.
      Sufficient time has elapsed so that minor actors in the drama of the Prohibition Era feel that now their part can be told. One of them volunteered the information that he was hired to work on a farm at Washington Harbor, Clallam County, and discovered its owner was a bootlegger, ostensibly raising turkeys and hay. The main purpose of the hayfield was to conceal a ditch in which liquor was stored.
      Another told how his father had moved from Samish to Sucia Island because farming was not as profitable as repackaging liquor goods. He removed bottles from boxes and repacked them in gunny sacks.
      "Yes, but some other repackaging was done, and not always on the level," another man commented. "You might be paying $120 a case for good liquor. You received it in a straw-stuffed gunny sack with a handle. You opened it and what did you have--three bottles of good liquor and the rest of the bottles filled with tea!"
      One of the men who gave stories to the State had been employed on a railroad. He related that a small-time bootlegger proposed that a train conductor let him store cases of whiskey between the walls of the caboose.
      Space was found for four cases each trip. They had cost $50 apiece in Canada and the bootlegger doubled his money in Bellingham.
      "He made $2,500 a month easily," said the trainman.
      "He paid me $10 a day just to stay in the car so that nobody would hijack his goods."
      The same narrator recalled deliveries made in Bellingham with buttermilk jugs, painted white, filled with moonshine retailing at $8 a gallon. Painted milk bottles also were delivered, customers paying $3 a quart "for that kind of milk."
      The trainman spoke of shingles which were loaded by the carload at a Canadian mill, where a bootlegger would have an arrangement to place some of his wares on board at the same time.
      Shingles would be piled densely in front of the car door and, when customs officers inspected the car at Blaine, the contents looked innocent. Hijackers, however, sometimes received a tip on the number of the car and stole the liquor before it reached its destination.


Coast Guard cutter Arcata
with a captured "rum runner" vessel.
Stamped with date of 25 August 1924.
From the archives of the 
Saltwater People Historical Society©

Speedboats carrying contraband cargo came directly to Seattle and landed cases on piers or at suburban beaches. Some commonly passed through the Government Locks and put their cases ashore on a county wharf at the foot of Stone Way. A man who worked at a boathouse nearby said that two or three trucks stopped there regularly at night to pick up liquor.
      Shipments for large-scale bootleggers left British Columbia ports on "mother" ships, ostensibly bound for Guatemala and Mexico. They hove to outside the 12-mile limit and discharged into "daughter" ships, which delivered the contraband cargo to the San Juan Islands, where they were met by speedboats. These in turn carried the goods to Seattle or nearby points.
      In 1925, the Coast Guard employed 22 vessels on Puget Sound and in nearby waters to lie in wait for the liquor craft. Frequently a thrilling chase occurred, when the sound of firing brought Whidbey Island residents out in the night to watch the pursuit from the bluffs.
      If a fleeing craft ignored a signal to halt, the Coast Guard fired a shot across the bows. If the fugitive vessel still did not stop, the Coast Guard unlimbered a Lewis machine gun.

Coast Guard with their Lewis gun on deck.
Motoring out of Anacortes, WA.
Photo dated 1931 from the archives of 
the Saltwater People Historical Society©

      Sometimes, if badly shot up, a pursued vessel made a crash landing on a beach and the crew disappeared in the bushes. Most bootleg vessels were faster than the patrol craft and could outrun them.
      Liquor commonly was packed 12 bottles to a gunny sack. Sometimes these were towed from the stern, ready to be cut adrift.
      One method of delivery was to place rock salt and cut cork with the bottles in the sacks. They sank when dropped overboard, but a few hours later, after the salt had dissolved, the sacks were floated by the cut cork and retrieved by a watch onshore.
      Liquor frequently was stowed under lumber, logs, and sawdust on barges in tow from Canada, or buried on sand scows. It might be shipped in barrels and kegs, in metal pipes that appeared to be part of engine-room fittings, or in a gasoline tank supposed to contain fuel.
      In the last years of the Prohibition Era, one former Coast Guardsman said, the heavy traffic was in canvas bags fastened underneath log rafts being towed.
      "A tugboat fellow," he related, "told me about a tow of cedar logs from Ladysmith with a queer gimmick. Several hollow logs were filled with cases of liquor and the ends were plugged with sacks of sand."
      The former officer's most unforgettable adventure had to do with a craft that always carried a cargo of scrap metal. The skipper made about three round trips every week into the San Juans ostensibly buying old iron. It always looked the same and the revenue men were suspicious.
      One night in 1925 off Point No Point, the craft went by in the kind of weather that would send most vessels to shelter. The revenue cutter went alongside and hailed the skipper.
      "One of the seamen--he was just a kid--noticed a short piece of rope trailing in the water," the former Coast Guardsman said. "He snagged it with a pike pole, gave a strong pull, and, as it came loose a case of whiskey came with it. The searchlights were turned on and we could see a secret compartment built under the keel. We had tapped that boat all over and it never gave forth an echo, the false bottom was so cleverly built. It had space for 24 cases.
Text above by Lucile McDonald for the Seattle Times 1961.


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