Sailing the honeymooners,
Bob & Mary Schoen, to Orcas Island,
San Juan Archipelago, WA. 1946.
From the archives of the
Saltwater People Historical Society©
"My name is Robert F. Schoen, pronounced Shane. I lived in Seattle at 10th and Ravenna Blvd. I went to Univeristy Heights grade school, John Marshall Jr. High, and Roosevelt High School, graduating in 1936, and the U of W in 1943. (The war intervened.)
When I went to high school we were living in the Kirkland area on the east side of Lake Washington, Homes Pt. Drive. I was boat CRAZY. During high school, I met John Adams and Anchor Jensen, and we all had a love of sailing. Bill Barden was our mentor and teacher.
Jack Kutz, John Adams, and I all had 28-foot boats. Kutz had a gaff-headed cutter, John had a clinker double-ended teak lifeboat schooner, and I had a V-bottom John Hannah ketch, gaff main, Marconi missen.
We were out cruising every moment we could get away, winter and summer. We learned to sail our boats well. On the first of August 1941, I joined the Coast Guard. Kutrz went into the Navy, and Adams finished his architecture at the U of W, then entered the Navy as an officer.
My boating experience served me well. I went into the Coast Guard because I wanted to work in small boats. I was stationed in West Seattle after 7 Dec 1941. I was made Chief Boatswain Mate before being transferred to California from Seattle in 1942. From Government Island, Oakland, CA, we were sent to Borneo. Several weeks late we arrived at Hollandia for our assignment vessel, a 155-foot Uniflow steam tug, L T 218.
Bob's first ship in the South Pacific.
As he inscribed verso.
From his estate papers for the
archives of the Saltwater People
We were in the invasion of the Philippines, towing three barges of aviation gas to White Beach, near Tacloban.
I had never seen so many ships of every kind, over 10,000 boats, rather exciting. Our tug broke down when we returned to Hollandia. It looked like it would be a long wait. I opted to take a transfer and went to Samar and duty on a US Army F. boat at a P.T. base. We followed behind the P.T. boats as they strafed the Japanese-held islands. We supplied fuel and ammunition and at times carried Japanese prisoners back to the base at Samar.
We stopped at Iloilo where the army was mopping up the Japanese soldiers in the village. We were across a river, away from the fighting. From there we went to Zamboanga and waited for an escort to take us to Balikpapan, Borneo.
From Hollandia, I went to Manilla where the Philippine sailors took over the boat. In Manilla, we boarded a transport for San Francisco and home by train to Seattle. Nov. 19, 1945, I was discharged from the coast guard. It was a great experience to be in the coast guard and I am proud of it.
My sailboat, 29' Marconi cutter, W.H. Dole design was at Tony Jensen Boat Yard and I stopped to check in and told Anchor to get her ready for me to take her north for a few days and then continued to mother's house with all my gear and shared that I was going for a short cruise in Chantey. She responded with "Haven't you had enough boating?"
I got hold of a couple of buddies and we headed for Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands. It took us a few days and all of a sudden they decided one had to get back to register for college. The other had a girl he just had to see.
About this time I remembered that I had just met a lovely young gal from the Juanita Beach area. I headed back and looked again. In July of 1946, we were married. It's been 53 years and we are still here.
We sailed up to the San Juans in Chantey on our honeymoon and decided this looked like home.
One of the things I did in the interval before we got married I bought and learned to fly an airplane. When we were on the island I had the only plane on the island and I was working at various odd jobs such as sliming fish in the Deer Harbor salmon cannery and helping build a garage fore the school bus near the Orcas ferry landing.
I was frequently asked by loggers and people wanting things from Bellingham, such as medicine and auto parts. Bellingham had a large airfield built during the war, eighteen minutes by air from Orcas. This made me decide to purchase a four-place plane and enter pilot training in the
U.S. Veterans flying school on Bellingham airfield.
That was a great experience, lots of fun. In two and a half years I operated and founded the Orcas Island Air Service on Orcas. Just before I sold the service we had a major fire at the Orcas ferry dock which burned up the store section of the dock and part of the oil dock.
Things worked out that I could purchase the dock which included the Union Oil Co distributorship and agent for the Black Ball Ferry system. This kept me very busy.
In 1950, we took Chantey to Port Ludlow for a New Year's party of cruising sailboats, about twenty or so. This was the first party since WW II.
We departed Orcas the day before New Year's day and after passing Point Wilson we headed for the channel between India Island and Hadlock. HOLY COW, there was now a bridge and the old NORDLAND laying on the beach on the Hadlock side.
On returning north from the Port Ludlow New Year's party and passing the Nordland on the beach I had inspiration hit me between my eyes. This is just what I need at Orcas to supplement the oil business. I stopped at Port Townsend and looked up Blair Hetrick and Zelma, old-timers here. Blair was a hard hat diver in the area. I told him of my thoughts about the vessel, and he told me it was for sale on a sealed bid. He took me up to the county courthouse and I went into the commissioner's office and they referred me to the county attorney. I went into his office and he said, "kid, that thing is a pile of junk, forget it and save your money." I went back and told Blair about this and he said I'll get a bid form from one of my commission friends, I told him to get me two bid forms. I'll mail one in and I'll mail one to you to give to your commissioner friend and have him open it at the end of the opening. I got the bid by fifty bucks.
It took me six months to get those papers and only after I went back to the commissioners in person.
It was a learning experience handling the old girl. She would slice sideways as fast as she went forward, with her 26 HPR engine, not very powerful, and her reverse not too hot. BUT she could carry a hell of a load. And with her ramp, you could load and unload easily. It was something like learning the operation of an air-starting heavy-duty engine.
You learn to love those wonderful machines. If you keep oiling them and keep the diesel coming they run forever, the engineer that ran the Nordland said 'they never shut the engine down the full length of WW II.'
Home port for NORDLAND
Click the image to enlarge.
From the archives of the
Saltwater People Historical Society.
I have hauled, over my 12 years of operating the Nordland; cattle and sheep to a Lopez slaughterhouse, broken aircraft, 1,000 sacks of cement, mobile homes, everything.
The development of Blakely Island was started with Nordland. Four years later they built their own barge.
The Orcas Power and Light Co used Nordland in several inter-island cable laying and repair jobs. I did most of the early years running of the boat usually alone or with my wife and kids. I had help from Miles McCoy and he later ran it as stand-by.
In 1963, I sold Nordland to Wayne "Corkey" North of Deer Harbor. He moved the wheelhouse to the stern and raised it so he could look over the vehicles and cargo on board.
Finally, it was from Alaska Packers haul out at their plant on Semiahmoo in Blaine, WA that I came upon the SEMIDI.
Built Astoria, OR 1917.
36 N.t./ 45.95 Gross t.
Oil screw, 59.0' x 16.4' x 7.05'
Atlas Imperial Diesel engine
4 cyl. 135 HPR
Purchased by Robert F. Schoen
5 Oct. 1959
Sold 11 July 1965
I used this boat for log towing, worked with Orcas Power and Light Co in servicing the cable laying, helped locate and service cable recovery, hauled cased goods, and barreled products. Many times I worked the two boats together on a job.
The author Bob Schoen
off watch with his wife
Mary at the helm.
From the archives of the
Saltwater People Hist. Society.©
Photos and essay wrote by Mr. Robert Schoen,
Clam Harbor, Orcas Island, WA.