"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.

02 April 2021


 Notes of Early Days of Tacoma

Tacoma Harbor, Washington
Click image to enlarge.
Postmarked 1913.
Original photo from the archives of the 
Saltwater People Historical Society©

"It comes to my mind that perhaps it would be of interest to Tacoma of today to know something of the past.
      It was my good fortune to have lived in Tacoma since 1891, living for many years on a float home at 11th and Dock Street.
      At that time we found enough pasture to feed a cow, but what comes to my mind now is that the cow really was 'in clover' directly after the Spanish-American war. It is hard to realize that we did not have the trucks, jeeps, and automobiles of today, but then the transportation and movement of material were by mule, and some hundreds of mules were shipped from Tacoma to Manila for use by the American army.
      Accordingly, it was necessary to accumulate these mules and have them ready for shipment, and in so doing they were "warehoused" on the sand track between the Eureka Dock and 11th Street, which area became one huge, wonderful oat field.
      It had been my daily task to take the cow to various places where she could eat grass, but after the oat field came into being our cow was 'living in clover.'
      One sad event, however, was that this good cow and eaten too many 'green oats,' became bloated and died.
      Thus a waterfront man learned something about feeding animals!
      Again going back in memory, Pacific Avenue, of course, was the main street in town and originally was covered with wooden planks. A great improvement came along in that the planks were replaced with creosoted wooden blocks. I might say also that 11th Street hill was 'paved' with wooden planks set at an angle, and the drainage of the rain was taken care of by wooden troughs on either side of the street.
      It appears to me that we had at least double the amount of rainfall during this period than we have at the present time!
      It was my good fortune to attend Central School at South 11th and G Stree, and believe me, it was a great day when we could slide down the hill in these drain troughs to my home on the waterfront at 11th and Dock Street.
      Tacoma at that time was the real shipping center of Puget Sound, and particularly of the wheat that came from Eastern Washington that was shipped in here on the Northern Pacific Railroad.

Loading wheat ships
Tacoma, WA.
At that time sailing ships came from Europe in 'ballast' to receive their cargo.
      Tacoma was really the 'lumber capital' of the west coast, and we had lumber mills from the Smelter all along the north waterfront to the head of the bay, and even up Hylebos Creek.
      In those days we had the 10-hour workday, which really was a rugged existence, particularly with wages of only $1.00 per hour.
      When you realize that the average workman went to work at 7 o'clock in the morning and worked until 6:00 p.m., you can appreciate that one did not have much time at home––and this was a 6-day workweek. He had the automobile, but 'traveled' by streetcar at a 5 cent fare, including transfer.
      I remember when I went to high school I lived at 25th & Cheyenne, and it was 6 blocks from my home to the streetcar by just an ordinary dirt road. I remember well taking the streetcar to 26th & Proctor, which cost 10 cents, and walking the distance to visit my girlfriend.
      During this time to try to make life a little more interesting, my father bought a horse and carriage, and one memorable event was picking up my girlfriend and driving to the Puyallup Fair by this horse and carriage over a dirt road.
       I might say that I do not think anything has changed as far as the fair is concerned, but certainly, there is a change by the now good roads and automobiles!
      In the early days of Tacoma, many Japanese men came to work in the fields in the Puyallup Valley, and also in the mills. When they had become established it was only natural that they would send for a Japanese wife, and the brides arrived in Tacoma on OSK steamships at the Milwaukee Dock. There were no roads to the Milwaukee Terminal at that time, and the only transportation to these vessels was by our small launches.
      I well remember upon arrival of an OSK steamship I would take these Japanese men to the ship where they would go up on the deck and proceed to find their 'bride' in the line-up.
      The Japanese brides would be lined up on one side, fore and aft, with a picture of the man they were to marry carried around their neck. The men would walk up the line, also with a picture of the girl they would claim for their bride in their hand. When they found the right one, off they would go––the bride following close behind her husband. There usually would be between 10 and 15 Japanese brides on each of these ships.
      This system of immigration was prevalent for a number of years, but eventually, the laws of the United States did not allow this procedure, and the law was effected to eliminate this type of immigration.
      However, I must say that of the many Japanese who came to this country by this manner became admirable citizens. Their morals and respect for our government was beyond reproach.
      One of my very good friends and associates in grammar school was a Japanese, Henry Matsumoto, and we remained good friends for many years.
      Like all history, there is an 'inevitable chain of change.' The Panama Canal was built, and the many wheat ships that came to Tacoma in ballast were replaced by steamships.
      One of the great hazards in the early days of shipping was making it around Cape Horn in winter during the bad weather. However, I was very surprised during my early Naval Reserve days when we went around Cape Horn in December 1931. I had looked forward to seeing some really bad weather, but it was dead calm and did not get light until 9:30 a.m. and there was a 'thin' skin of ice on the saltwater. If I remember correctly, I had a 'rate' of Third Class Quartermaster at that time.
      The transportation from downtown Tacoma to the 'top of the hill' was by cable car. This started at 11th & Pacific, went to Kay Street, and then down 13th. The powerhouse in which the cable was activated by a huge drum was a thing of fascination to me, and I well remember watching this cable go into the cable house, then back out again––the mechanics of which was not clear to me until many years later!
      Incidentally, the cost of riding this cable car was 5 cents, and the conductor would collect the money, put it in his pocket and register same by pulling a line that activated the registration of the money by ringing a bell. Students had a special ticket which cost 2-1/2 cents.
      I remember very distinctly walking down 11th Street to Central School, and one day in 1898 I was astounded to hear all the mills blowing their whistle. I was really rather frightened and didn't know what happened, so I ran all the way home and asked my mother. She told me that the Spanish-American War was declared.
      Later the 8-hour day came and really was a 'revolution' not only to industry but also to the working man who had not much time to himself in having to work a 10-hour day. One ordinarily had to walk to a streetcar, then take the streetcar to downtown Tacoma, and then walk from there to his place of employment on the waterfront.
      Accordingly, considering the time involved in going to and from work, it really would end up being a 12-hour day.
      Wages at that time were only about 25 cents an hour, and accordingly, it was a custom to augment the income by taking advantage of having a 'home garden' where one raised their own vegetables. I remember best the potatoes, strawberries, and of course, the raising of chickens.
      We were very fortunate to have a square block of property on 25th & Cheyenne, and so had ample room and good soil to produce much of our food, especially fruit (apples, pears, and cherries.) During my younger years, we also had a cow that had to be taken somewhere along the waterfront out to pasture, before school, and home again after school. However, I never did milk a cow! That was a task my folks would take care of, or possibly one of the hired help would assist at times.
      I do remember the 'cooling' of the milk by setting it in a pan of cold water. Of course, practically no one had electricity.
      One of the great desires of the early immigrants who had come from all over Europe as well as China and Japan were that they felt the necessity of an education for their children. In my case, my father walked one Norwegian mile to school and home again, and a Norwegian mile is equivalent to 7 of our miles. So a student had 
much time to think about that which he had learned in school that day while walking home.
      Accordingly, the immigrants, who were the majority of the population in our state at that time were very adamant that their children should receive an education, and accordingly, they felt that walking was no problem because of the school that was made available to all.
      I went to the old Central School on 11th & G, and 'carried' my lunch. This usually consisted of left-over pancakes that had been prepared for our crew, spread with ample butter and jam. In reality, this was a good lunch, and I have often felt I should like to return home someday and ask for this particular lunch!"

Typed is his customary green ink and signed by Henry Foss, May 1975.
Verbatim for Saltwater People Historical Society.


15 March 2021


Bark Kaiulani
Captain H. G. Wigsten
The last American built square-rigged
merchant ship still afloat, as she sailed 
from Aberdeen, Washington
in this photo of 1941. 
Two Seattle men were members of the crew,
 brothers Paul and Tom Soules.
Kenneth Glasgow was from Aberdeen, WA.
From the archives of the 
Saltwater People Historial Society©

A ship's logbook is a daily journal on the condition and location of the vessel, weather reports, and the daily activities of the crew. In some cases, accounts of a crew's insubordination and jailing are made. Captain H. G. Wigsten kept such a journal for a trip from Aberdeen, Washington to Durban, South Africa to Hobart, Tasmania as master of the Kaiulani, a three-masted sailing vessel built in 1899. The handwritten journal in two volumes as part of the recently donated Capt. Harold D. Huycke collection. Huycke was one of the foremost maritime historians with a special interest in the last voyages of commercial sailing vessels in the late 19th and early 20 centuries.
      The logbooks date from 1941-1942, very late in the century for a commercial sailing vessel to be operating. With the onset of WW II commercial vessels of any kind were in short supply and the Hammond Lumber Co of San Francisco had a load of lumber in Aberdeen, WA., that needed to be delivered to Durban, S.A. Kaiulani was pressed into service after having been idled for several years following a career in the Hawaii sugar trade and, under the name Star of Finland, in the Alaska salmon trade.
      Sailing under the flag of Panama, this was the last American crew to sail around Cape Horn in a commercial square-rigged sailing vessel. The 20 men included two notables who later were early pioneers of San Francisco Maritime NHP, Karl Kortum, founder, chief executive and curator; and Harry Dring, conservator of ships.
      In the logbooks, Captain Wigsten describes inclement weather, repairs to the sails and vessel, and a couple of medical emergencies including the Captain's contraction of a skin infection. He also describes with candor his increasingly acrimonious relationship with the crew that resulted in the men being jailed for desertion. Here are but a few entries from the 1941 log while the ship was at Hobart:

L-R: Tom and Paul Soules
Leaving Grays Harbor they didn't shave 
until they landed at Durban, South Africa.

~August 19, Wednesday, 6:45 a.m. "I went forward to crews quarters and informed them of the situation that ship had to be moved out to anchorage in the stream, which they all refused to do...Navy people came aboard and Navy vessel alongside...Ship's crew in meantime put all their baggage on to the wharf and deserted ship."
~August 24, Monday, 12:30 "All of the deserters taken into custody by the military and locked up."
~September 22, Tuesday "The 10 Deserters released by Court on grounds that I had not reported desertion in writing to Navy Commandant instead of to the military. So therefore it was not desertion, although crew threw all their baggage onto the wharf and walked off the ship at about 7:30 a. m. in front of Navy people and everyone else on the wharf."
~Septmember 23, Wednesday "About 11 a. m. crew with their baggage brought out to vessel by Navy launch."
~October 6, Tuesday 1:30 p. m. "American flag hoisted. all agreement with USA Army representative Major Lindsey signed up." 6:40 p. m. "Anchors away-departure" from Hobart, Kaiulani was towed to Sydney and converted into a barge.

Kaiulani crew members in old stone jail,
L-R: Paul Soules, Gordon Riehl, Harry Dring,
Bill Bartz, Jack Henricksen, 
Jim Walpole and John Newbuck.
Click photo to enlarge.
The jail was one built a century before to 
hold the convicts shipped from England
to populate Australia. 
Photo from the archives of the 
Saltwater People Historical Society©
The collection contains another Kaiulani logbook kept by Capt. R. Kabel during a 1900-1902 voyage from Bath, ME to Honolulu, HI. The logbooks are available for viewing at the Maritime Library in the Harold D. Huycke collection, HDC 1600; SAFR 22224, Series 3.01; files 100, 102. An additional reference source is at the Online Archive of California. Further information for this article was found in HDC 1600 Series 3.02, Kaiulani, Allan K. Hulme records.
The above report is from the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

"A sea-going beauty of another day––a day not so long gone as some might think––is portrayed in these photographs. They show the Yankee three-masted bark Kaiulani (ex-Star of Finland) on a troubled voyage.
      The trim Bird of Heaven was resurrected from her Oakland layup by a second world war. Ships were needed to carry aid to Europe. More ships were needed to carry the normal flow of trade. So the Kaiulani left the dock she had been tied to from 1927-1941, to pick up a cargo of Douglas fir lumber destined for Durban, South Africa.
      She slipped slowly out of San Francisco Bay, in August 1941, her sails filling as her bow turned north. At Grays Harbor, Washington, she picked up her cargo and filled out her crew––eager youngsters and Embarcadero veterans.
      Thus began the year-long voyage, the last made by a Yankee square-rigger in the Pacific trade. 
      The ship sailed south into an equatorial calm that lasted a month. The sun beat down and pitch bubbled from the seams of the deck as the crew above sat mending sails.
      The Kaiulani crept farther south, and on a calm December afternoon, she rounded Cape Horn. There a crew member climbed high on the mainmast to rig an aerial for his tiny radio set. Through the static came the story of Pearl Harbor.
      The crew rigged blackout lanterns and watched for submarines. The ship sought treacherous waters to avoid German raiders. She ran through fogs and skirted icebergs.
      On January 29, 1942, 126 days out, the Kaiulani reached Durban breakwater and blundered through a minefield, disregarding frantic signals from shore, to anchor.
      There the crew exchanged lumber for explosives and sailed for Sydney, Australia, 5000 miles away.
      Midway, she hit gales. The wind lashed up waves 60 feet high. Sails blew out––40 times in all. All hands were set to helping the sailmaker.
      Then in the half-light of the aurora australis, an exciting message came through Sydney––Japanese midget submarines had attacked there and sat ready to ambush inbound ships.
      The crew elected to head for Hobart, Tasmania. They arrived on June 19, 43 days out of Durban, and promptly refused to sail further. They were jailed, then released to work for the US Army Transport Service.
      The Kaiulani, her sails furled, was towed to Sydney for conversion into a motorized cargo carrier. Her spars came down, and she served as a coal barge through the war at Finschaven, New Guinea. Two years later, a Manila firm made her a lumber storage barge."
San Francisco Chronicle. 9 March 1953. p. 11

15 February 2021

HONORING OLIN (13 April 1908-13 September 2008)

L-R: Olin J. Stephens,
brother Roderick Jr &
 father Roderick Stephens Sr.
Photo Sept. 1931
at a parade up Broadway in New York,
 to praise their victory with yacht 
on the Trans-Atlantic race to
Plymouth, Eng.

Olin J. Stephens II, America's preeminent yacht designer of the twentieth century was honored with the opening of a special exhibit at Mystic Seaport in 2008. He was a longtime friend and supporter of the Museum. It is housed in the Cruising Club of America's Olin J. Stephens II Reading Room in the Museum's G.W. Blunt White Building. It opened to the public in celebration of Stephens 100th birthday in 2008.
      Widely recognized as the most respected, admired, and accomplished yacht designer of the 20th century, Stephens once said, "I was lucky, I had a goal. As far back as I can remember, I wanted to design fast boats." And this is exactly what he did. He began his career at the age of 19 working as an apprentice for successful 6-meter yacht designer Phillip Rhodes. On 11 November 1929, the 21-year-old Stephens joined forces with well-known yacht broker Drake Sparkman and Sparkman & Stephens, Inc., was formed.

Winning Yawl DORADE
4 July 1931
Newport, RI, just before the start of
the Transatlantic Race to Plymouth, Eng.
Acme Photo original photo
from the archives of
Saltwater People Historical Society©

The naval architecture and yacht design firm's first major design — a yacht named Dorade — won the much-publicized 1931 Trans-Atlantic Race. She then went on to win the 1936 TransPac, finishing first in class and first overall. A new era of yacht design had begun.
      Stephens's name is most often associated with the prestigious America's Cup Race. In 1937, he collaborated with W. Starling Burgess to design the Super-J, Ranger, which was later selected to defend the Cup after only seven races. Sparkman & Stephens went on to design many of the most revered 12-Meters that raced for the Cup, including Columbia, Constellation, Freedom, Intrepid, and Courageous. In 1993, Stephens and his winning designs were honored when he was inducted into America's Cup Hall of Fame.
      When not designing yachts, Olin Stephens and his colleagues spent their time designing all other types of boats — from amphibious assault vehicles and patrol craft for World War II— to timeless vessels such as Mystic Seaport's own schooner yacht Brilliant. He also proceeded to give himself to the sport well beyond his professional activity. Stephens has been a member of the New York Yacht Club since 1930 and also a member of, or consultant to, the International Yacht Racing Union Keelboat Committee since 1963. He headed the committee which developed the International Offshore Rule and was active in the creation and maintenance of the 
International Measurement System.
      Stephens was honored with numerous awards throughout his career which have recognized his indelible contributions to sailing. On 15 November 2006, Mystic Seaport named him the first recipient of the Museum's prestigious America and the Sea Award — an honor that recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in the maritime world. "This award honors and celebrates America's relationship to the sea and the spirit of exploration, adventure, competition, and freedom that inspires us all. Olin embodies everything this award symbolizes," said Douglas Tesson, Museum president and director.
      Stephens designed more than 2,000 boats throughout his career, many of which still grace the water today. After eight decades of brilliant work, he left a lasting impact on the maritime community. His numerous designs, contributions, and commitment to the worlds of yacht racing and cruising 
are cherished, as was he.
Newsletter from Mystic Seaport. Sept. 2008.

Olin J. Stephens wrote his autobiography, All This and Sailing Too, in 2000.

When the Stephens family sold Dorade, she came to the west coast of the US and kept sailing, very well indeed. 

06 February 2021



Built in 1904 by J.A. Scribner
at Newhall, Orcas Island, WA.
Fate: sold to Mexico.
From the archives of the 
Saltwater People Historical Society©

Above clips from the Friday Harbor Journal
with dates from 1911.

ON 111022
Built in 1893.
Here she stops at West Sound, Orcas Island,
(postmarked 1908)
and Richardson, Lopez Island, undated,
San Juan Archipelago, WA.
Click the image to enlarge.
From the archives of the 
Saltwater People Historical Society©

"In the newly settled San Juan Islands crop movements became a life support system to steamers like the Rosalie and the Islander. Settlers had broken ground on Decatur, Blakely, Stuart, and Waldron Islands, all virtually deserted today but settled enough by 1900 to warrant post offices. Most island crops were grown on the bigger islands: Shaw, Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan, cultivated by homesteaders from Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, England, Scotland, and Canada. Others arrived fresh from the worked-out goldfields of California or the riffles of the Fraser River. Captains on vessels loading spars for Falmouth and Brest returned to come ashore and "swallow the anchor." Other island settlers were Civil War veterans [such as Oscar Fowler and Isaiah Jones, the latter the father to San Juan County sheriff Newton Jones] and Midwest farmers beaming at the misty rains.
      In 1900, Island County boasted its population had soared 40 percent during the past decade. Stripped of boosterism, that still meant a population of only 3,000. But the newcomers were prodigal producers.

        Island apples became as popular as today's harvest from Yakima and Wenatchee, soon to begin bearing fruit and deny the islanders' dreams of becoming the "Apple Basket of America." Wagons rattled their way to island docks laden with fruits, dairy products, grains, and beef and lamb.
By the turn of the century, another bounty—along with the lime mined on San Juan Island—was making its way to market on the steamers. Drawn by the closeby migratory routes of salmon, fish traps, reefnetters, and boatsmen were bringing in a rich harvest. One Friday Harbor cannery alone packed 50,000 cases in a single year.
      Vashon Island shipped berries, greenhouse tomatoes, and cucumbers. Steamers stopped to load cases of eggs that were to win national blue ribbons.

      On Whidbey Island, Langley and Coupeville docks creaked with movements of provender for Everett and Seattle, including potatoes grown by Chinese farmers and sacks of wheat harvested by Dutchmen who, until soils became depleted, harvested
record-breaking yields of wheat (117 bushels per acre in 1892.)

      The San Juan Islanders became the first on the Sound and its ancillary waters to become wedded to the steamer. Most were landlubbers, but they relaxed aboard workhorses like the Islander and the Rosalie.
      Islanders had watched some of these being built by their skipper owners on crude ways in a tideland clearing. To the islanders, the steamer was a truck, an ambulance, a school bus, a hearse, and a bearer of mail and visitors. Best of all it was a social hall where, in the warmth of a cabin, coffee could be shared and loneliness melted as the blue-black shores of the islands flowed by."

Jim Faber. Steamer's Wake. Enetai Press, Seattle. 1985.

01 February 2021


February is the month for red and here we have total beauty sneaking past Blakely Island, San Juan Archipelago, WA., as we slip into the first of February.
Thank you sailor for coming this way.

Lots of beautiful Red Canvas through the mist,
but no wind.

It was a gray day until
this sailor came through.

In calm passage past Blakely Island 
closing out 31 January 2021.

Thank you to L.A. Douglas 
for these beautiful shots of a 
bright splash for a misty, gray day in
the San Juan Archipelago, WA.

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