"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 650, 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.

06 August 2019


The Island County Historical Society has given us some insight to the various phases of early shipbuilding that went on in the highly regarded yards of Washington State. There were many more shipyards not illustrated here, but these photos from our files let us travel back to some of the scenes of boat building activity, large and small. Interspersed are a few of the vessels that came from the yard featured.
      "One of the first small shipbuilding yards was located on Whidbey Island where Capt. Thomas Coupe turned out several small schooners at a place that came to be known as Coupeville. 
Matthews Ship Building Co.
Hoquiam, WA.
The Matthews Shipyard,
Hoquiam, WA.
25 May 1916.
Eagle Harbor, WA.

Fish tender SUPERIOR
built 1912 at Hall Brothers Shipyard.
Designed by L.H. Coolidge; built for
Lee H. Wakefield of Apex Cannery, Anacortes, WA.
85-ft x 18-ft
Known as the largest gas-engined towboat on
Puget Sound, at the time.
      The labor-intensive job of building a sailing vessel in the 1870s went through many phases. Visualization in the form of a wooden half model was the beginning. The model is basic because it allows the builder to see if the shape of the hull will allow water to flow around it and to see how she will ride in the water.
      This model is the basis for developing precise drawings, carefully committing the gentle curves of the hull to paper. These curves are called the lines. The drawings are then enlarged, and full-sized wooden patterns for the ribs and timbers are cut. 
      Usually, in the spring before the thaw, teams of men would head for the woods to select the proper trees, offering strength and clarity, with just the right curves for each rib. It is important that this is done before the sap flows as 'sap-wet wood' will warp and twist. 
      Next, the backbone of the ship, the keel, the 'focus of strength' is laid, running a hundred feet or more. It must be as straight as an arrow and built of large strong wood logs. Everything rises from the keel, which rests on wood support-blocks.
This work underway was for a large vessel,
comparing the size of the men to the big frames.
Click image to enlarge.
Raymond, WA.
Photo dated 1913.
      Gradually each rib is fitted, individually, and the skeleton of the great ship takes shape, revealing the lines of the original model. The decking pieces, called floors are placed spanning the area between the ribs.
Big seasoned timbers being readied for fitting.
Aberdeen Shipyard, WA.
Click image to enlarge.
More big timbers being prepared.
A Seattle Shipyard.
Huge timbers lined up for 
several ships being built.
Vancouver, WA.
Click image to enlarge.

Planking going on.
Unknown shipyard.

Lindstrom Shipyard, Aberdeen, WA.
Founded by John Lindstrom & C.E. Green
in 1899. Closed in 1907. 
Click image to enlarge.
W. J. Patterson (81735)
Loading at American Mill Co, Hoquiam, WA.
645 G.t.
Built by Lindstrom Shipyard in 1901.
During the winter months, caulking is prepared from hemp fiber bound with tar, preparatory for filling the chinks in the hull. The caulking is done after the outside planking is accomplished with great care, some are heated so they can be contoured to fit. The twisted hemp, called oakum is twisted and forced into the hull and deck seams with a caulking iron and mallet. Up to seven miles of oakum was often needed to make a vessel watertight. 

The hull was then painted with red lead paint and the deck coated with hot tar. The keel was sheathed with copper to protect the wood from worms.
      By the time the vessel was ready for launching she would have an identifying name, but be far from seaworthy. She would slide into the water near the yard where she was built, often with the help of a smashed bottle of wine or rum. 
Building and launching at
The Foundation Company Shipyards,
Tacoma, WA.

Click image to enlarge.
Aberdeen, Washington.
Twin-screw steamer ABRIGADA
Just before launching on 1 Dec. 1917.
The first wooden vessel launched for the  

US Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation.
288-ft x 49-ft x 26-ft.
Photo by the Jones Studio, Aberdeen/Hoquiam, WA.
1,614 G.t.
243' x 44' x 19'
Launched in 1919,
at Grays Harbor Motorship Co.,
Aberdeen, WA.
The FOREST FRIEND was the first ocean
vessel to berth at the sound end of
Lake Washington, near Renton,
where she loaded 1,550,000 ft
of lumber at Taylor's Mill.

Was built in 1917 
by Puget Sound Bridge & Dredging Co, Seattle, WA.
The Norwegian owned ship was dressed & ready for 
her maiden voyage.
Original photo from Williamson Coll. #4661
from the archives of Saltwater People Log©
Once the ship was launched the work on the interior living quarters was completed, the masts stepped, braced and rigged, ready to receive the thousands of square feet of sails which had been hand-crafted by skilled sailmakers. Ironmongers had been busy for weeks forging the necessary hardware to handle and hoist the sails. With the installation of pumps, anchors and other necessary equipment the vessel was ready to receive supplies for the first voyage and set sail.
      The needs for thirty men for four years were then stored in the belly of the ship: 100 barrels each of salt beef and pork, 131 barrels of flour, 2000 gallons of molasses, 1,119 pounds of coffee, 24,000 cigars, 39 pecks of salt, 172 pounds of nutmeg, 36 pounds ginger, 319 pounds of tea, 864 buttons, three dozen suspenders, and the traditional supply of rum."
Island County Historial Society. Sails, Steamships, & Sea Captains. 1993. Coupeville, WA. pp 60-62. 
The sixteen photographic images are from the archives of the Saltwater People Log.


03 August 2019



Seafair has hosted Seattle's Fleet Week since 1950.
This year the Seattle Navy League, Boeing, 
and the Port of Seattle also welcome the vessels 
and personnel. Seafair offers free admission to
 military vessels and personnel to the 
Seafair Weekend Hydroplane Race and the Air Show.

Some reports say Seattle's Fleet Week was an outgrowth of the Golden Potlach celebration in 1911. This event was suspended during WWI but was revived in 1934 with "Seattle Potlach and Fleet Week."

      For more of the 2019 events please click this link:
The fleet in Seattle through the years.
Please click image to enlarge.
Have a great visit!
The sailors on the lower card were 
singing and dancing but they 
forgot to come to Seattle.

02 August 2019


Northwest Washington State
with Puget Sound.
Click image to enlarge. 
Map published by C.P. Johnson Co., Seattle.
"Residents of western Washington, ever since the early days of civilization here, have faced the crossing of Puget Sound.
      The only change is man’s struggle to cross the Sound. And man struggles with man, as well as with the Sound, for there still are those who curse and those who bless Peter Puget’s waterway.
      This is the story of that struggle.

Port Blakeley, Puget Sound, Washington Territory.
Verso dated 1882.
Ships await loading with steam rising from the sawmill
in background. Lumber shipping was one of
the first industries in the Sound.
Click image to enlarge.
Original photograph by Huff, from the archives
of the Saltwater People Log©
Port Ludlow
Photo by Torka Studio, Pt. Townsend, WA.
Port Ludlow, WA.
47°55'25" N   122°40'32" W
Listed on the map above.
      In the beginning, there was timber. They were all sawmill towns... Port Ludlow, now just a yachtsman’s pleasant harbor dozing in the memory of her great mill; Port Gamble, her historic mill; Port Madison, a maritime suburbia; Port Blakely, her modern homes not quite erasing all the remnants of what once was the world’s largest sawmill, and Seattle, a metropolis whose historians still remember Yesler’s Mill.
Port Gamble, WA.
Click image to enlarge.
Port Blakely
Milling & Shipping Lumber on Puget Sound, WA.
Edward H. Mitchell, publisher, San Francisco.

      So it was that the first organized crossings of Puget Sound were steamers, augmented by company tugs, which obligingly carried passengers, were the first. This was enough. Near the turn of the century, there were no highways; the dirt roads were no highways; the dirt roads did not wander too far from the milltown shores.
      If you wanted to travel, you did so by boat... by the mosquito fleet of passenger vessels. Darting here and there, they served more than 200 communities.
      Fares varied. There were no regulatory bodies. The fare was determined mostly by what it cost a man to operate his vessel, by the competition and by the traffic. In 1872, it cost $1, each way, between Port Blakely and Seattle on the Success, or on the Augusta, linking Port Madison and Seattle. But in 1887, in Poulsbo, you paid .50 cents to reach Seattle by steamer.

Poulsbo, Liberty Bay, Keyport, WA.
Photo by Pacific Aerial Surverys, Inc., Seattle, WA.
From the archives of the Saltwater People Log©

      That's about the way it was until the days of WW 1. By this time, the automobile revolution had forced the building of highways. Man was on the move. He wanted to see the other side of Puget Sound, not just as a foot passenger, but in a shiny, new, black Ford. Larger passenger boats were constructed, with hoisting devices for loading a few cars aboard.

Early Mosquitoes of Puget Sound.

       But this was cumbersome and costly. Thus the era of the ferry, a vessel with at least one end open to permit a person to drive a car aboard.
      In 1919, there were only three ferry runs on Puget Sound: from Seattle to its water separated peninsula, West Seattle; between Des Moines and Portage on Vashon Island, and across the Narrows, between Tacoma and Gig Harbor, technically, the very first “cross-sound ferry run.”
      But in 1920, the Puget Sound Navigation Co, the 'Black Ball Line,' converted the old steamer Bailey Gatzert, into an automobile ferry and put her on the Bremerton-Seattle route, thus creating the first real ferry run to the Olympic Peninsula.
      A similar conversion gave Bainbridge Island its first vehicle-carrying vessel three years later when the Liberty went on the Port Blakely run toting a maximum of 32 Model Ts.
Low res scan from an original from the archives
of the Saltwater People Log©

Steamer PUGET
Dated 8 July 1923
Built originally as a steamboat, here she is being pressed 
into service as a ferry for the Seattle-Port Ludlow route.
Photo from the archives of the
Saltwater People Log©

      Right there, perhaps, was where the man-to-man struggle began over what kind of crossing should be made of Puget Sound. For the car ferry apparently spelled the doom of the passenger-only vessel although whether this should be put down as a permanent 'death' remains to be seen; even now [1964], there is talk of a return to fast passenger-only vessels, perhaps of the hydrofoil design.
      But in the 1920s, the brave “mosquito fleet” began to die.
      The runs serving the western side of Bainbridge Island and their adjacent mainland ports of call were the first to go. In 1924, a tiny, six-car ferry, the Hiyu, began to shuttle between Fletcher Bay and Brownsville. A bus ran between the ferry landings at Port Blakely and Fletcher Bay for the benefit of those who didn’t come by car.
      Mixed up in the struggle of man-with-man was a business rivalry between Black Ball Line and the Kitsap County Navigation Co, also known as the white-collar line. White-collar passenger steamers still served Eagle Harbor, Yeomalt, Ferncliff, Rolling Bay, and around the end of Bainbridge Island to Port Madison. Ferries running from Ballard to Indianola and Suquamish and to Port Ludlow had replaced passenger-vessel service to those and other nearby North Kitsap ports."
Words by Walt Woodward. Kitsap County Herald, 1 April 1964. 

27 July 2019


Puget Sound Ports
leading to the world.
Click map image to enlarge.
Getting closer to home,
Click the image to enlarge.
Map cards from the archives of the
Saltwater People Historical Society©

"From the first records to the present day the fishing and its industry have always been a most important factor in the development of this county. About 1850, numbers of small fishing sloops would fish around the southerly part of San Juan Island. They would anchor in what is now charted as Griffin Bay [formerly San Juan Harbor.] They prepared their fish for salting in barrels, that they sold to the Hudson's Bay Co., at Victoria, B.C. This being such a convenient haven some of them built shacks ashore and as the number grew, small schooners would come and gather up the barreled fish. This was probably the first freighting out of the islands. The shantytown grew and a man called Captain Higgins put in a small stock of supplies. Fishermen wrote letters and left them with him for mailing to Victoria. They gave as a return address, 'Victoria, care of Capt. Higgins, San Juan town,' and thus was born the first town in the county. Many Native American maidens kept house for the fishermen. In time there were two stores with liquor in the backroom, and rooms to rent on the upper floor, and fairly regular mail service. This first town was finally abandoned and was later destroyed by fire, but during the days of the boundary dispute, it was a lively place and high-life a-plenty.
      The fishing industry had a steady development. A fish saltery was built near Friday Harbor. A few years later it was destroyed by fire. Shortly after this loss a packer from the Columbia River, named Develin, built a cannery at Friday Harbor, San Juan Island. Fish traps were introduced and many of these made big money for their owners––and on the hush-hush, they often made money for the fish-pirates, too. 
Fish trap fishing
Pacific Northwest Washington.
The top photo is a trap in Point Roberts, WA.
Click image to enlarge
      It was quite a welcome income from the outside. Many of the piles were gotten out in the county and most of the traps were manned by young men from the growing families in the county. 

DATED 1913.
Click image to enlarge.
Fish trap 
westside of San Juan Island, WA.
Click image to enlarge.
From the archives of the
Saltwater People Historical Society©
At one time there were some 40 odd traps in the county. They were finally legislated out of existence. [1934]
      The first seiners were all hand-operated, but the advent of gasoline-powered engines soon put them out of the running. 
Puget Sound seine fishermen
hand-hauling in the net.
Low res scan of original photo dated 1943.

From the archives of the 
Saltwater People Historical Society©
The first powered seiners were a big advance, but no one could foresee that someday we would have the wonderful seaworthy and comfortable boats that now comprise the seining fleet. What with seiners, trollers, gillnetters, and the reefnet gears, [and the early fish traps], it seems a marvel of nature that there are enough fish caught to keep all this vast fleet in the black.
Reefnet fisher Ed Hopkins.
Day's end on the fish boat,
one of the pair of boats
comprising his gear #5.
Squaw Bay, San Juan County, WA.

Fish in the net,
Gear #5
Squaw Bay,
Shaw Island, WA.
Ed Hopkins and
crew Jim Sesby.
Click image to enlarge.
Photos courtesy of gear owners
Ed & Kathy Hopkins.
      One of the very interesting operations is a reefnet gear. It is an operation originally used by the Native Americans, and boats and methods of fishing very much the same as it was when explorers like Captain Gray, Vancouver, and others first witnessed and described its operation. 
      At one time there were seven or more canneries operating in this county, now there are only two in this year of 1953.

Friday Harbor Waterfront

      Quicker transportation, modern transportation, and machines that are so marvelously skillful and tireless have made a great change in the canning industry. Now, too, the top market for the highest grade is here in the United States. At one time the highest prices were obtained in England. In the early 1900s, a British bark was towed into Friday Harbor cannery and loaded most of the pack for delivery in England. In those days the humpbacks were not even canned, but thrown overboard, thousands and thousands of them.
      Lime is one of the major natural assets in the county and has made a major contribution in the wealth and development of San Jan county, and probably bids fair to outrun all industries, other than agriculture. Many an early settler while clearing his land and getting his farm in shape, was glad to put in off-time at cutting and hauling cordwood for the lime kilns.

Lime manufacturing
Roche Harbor, San Juan Island
Click image to enlarge.
Original photos from the archives of
the Saltwater People Historical Society©
There have been many changes in methods of packing and transportation of lime. The bucking and falling saws have given way to the chain saw and the cordwood wagons drawn by so many handsome draft horses have been entirely displaced by trucks; but the firing of the limestone is still a matter of heat, wood, and work.

      The first lime was probably that burned by some of the English soldiers who were familiar with the industry. They built some small pot kilns and barreled the lime they made in empty beef casks and traded it to the Hudson's Bay Co. With the packaging of the lime, there came quite a development in coopering. This, too, was a gainful occupation that could be worked at during the off days from the seasonal farm work. Nearly all the early steamers were wood burners. The cutting and hauling of cordwood to the different boat landings furnished a considerable payroll. No one in those days would have believed that there would be ferry boats or any craft over 250-ft long making daily trips through the Islands. And what of the future –– who knows."
Words by Mr. Frank Mullis., from a pioneer family of San Juan Island, WA. for the Friday Harbor Journal Nov. 1956. Maps, chart, photographs from the archives of the Saltwater People Log. 

24 July 2019


4 July 1948 

Built in 1893 at Union Ironworks, San Francisco, CA.
The image is inscribed with the name of the yacht owner,
S. A. Perkins, Tacoma, WA.
From the archives of the Saltwater People Log©
'Old ships are like rare wine –– they improve with age if kept in repair.' That was the observation of Commodore S. A. Perkins, Tacoma capitalist, newspaper publisher, and philanthropist, as he strolled the decks of his sturdy steel yacht, EL PRIMERO, moored in Lake Union.
      'But you must keep them up –– make replacements and improvements from time to time,' Perkins added as he showed visitors the comfortable after deck with its attractive furniture, the cabins, galley, pilothouse and crew quarters.
      'Do you know, the EL PRIMERO is a better yacht than when she was constructed at the Union Iron Works in San Francisco. She was rebuilt three times, once by the Lake Washington Shipyards in 1926. She has four steel collision bulkheads and is double-riveted and double-plated below the waterline.
      The EL PRIMERO is so sturdy she could plow through the heaviest ice floes. She is built like a battleship, pocket-size and can take seas of any height. And she is the best seaboat I ever traveled in. No yacht afloat has more deck space. She has cruised to Honolulu and to every part of Alaska.'
      The EL PRIMERO has a cold-storage plant sufficient for the needs of a cruise from Puget Sound to Alaska and return; a machine with a capacity for 30 pounds of ice an hour, fule capacity for a cruise of 5,000 miles and three heating plants.
      While underway, the steam boiler furnishes heat. There is an independent hot-water plant for time spent in port and as an electrical heating system for the staterooms. Other equipment includes a powerboat, an unsinkable lifeboat, and a life-buoy.
      'Probably more presidents have been entertained aboard the EL PRIMERO than any yacht afloat.' Perkins continued. 'They included Taft, Roosevelt, Harding, and Hoover. And during the Times Cup races on Lake Washington some years ago, the EL PRIMERO carried more Navy admirals than any vessel in existence. She was the flagship at all the Times' Cup races.'

Flagship for the Times Cup races,
Lake Washington, Seattle.
Click image to enlarge.
Original photo from the archives
of the Saltwater People Log©

      Recently, the 137-ft yacht and her triple-expansion compound steam engine were given a complete overhaul at the plant of the Lake Union Drydock Co and after the work was completed, Perkins received a letter from Frank Oliver, the yard's superintendent. It said:
'Hoping all waters on the globe shall prove good cruising for you and yours, and all others aboard who love the sea. Bon voyage to the EL PRIMERO and my good friend, Sam Perkins.'
      Oliver said he found the EL PRIMERO in excellent condition and 'far superior to many vessels of the same age have made ready for sea. In fact, your vessel seems to improve with age.'
      The 17-knot EL PRIMERO formerly was owned by the late Charles Thorne*, Tacoma banker. 
      The EL PRIMERO can carry 125 persons on deck. She has sleeping accommodations for 30 persons and carries a crew of eight men who always address the yacht's owner as commodore. Crew members have their own eating and sleeping quarters.
      Perkins has master's licenses for ships of any tonnage, steam or diesel, on any ocean and also is a licensed pilot.
      Born in Boston, Perkins has large business interests, but the EL PRIMERO is his pride and joy. 'She is in fine condition and we will be shoving off soon on a cruise.' Perkins said. 'Perhaps to British Columbia or Alaska."
Above text from the Seattle Daily Times. 4 July 1948 p.15 
Courtesy of Ronald R. Burke, maritime historian, who submitted this clipping to the Saltwater People Log from his high school scrapbook, 24 July 2019.

Photo by Ronald R. Burke, Seattle.
*1911: H.W. McCurdy's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest lists Chester Thorne, Tacoma banker, selling the El Primero to S. A. Perkins. The legend is that Thorne lost the yacht to Perkins in a card game.
1919: Listed on the time-line on the home page of the Saltwater People Log there is a short clipping of El Primero getting up steam for a race with Aquilo. Click here
1926: El Primero was extensivley rebuilt at Houghton, WA., for S. A. Perkins.
1954: Sidney A. (Sam) Perkins, 90, died.
The ship lives on at this writing. Update coming soon.


Archived Log Entries