"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.

16 March 2023


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
Historical Society. 

         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.


Official No. 228932
Class: Ferry
34 G.T., / 30 Net tons.
L, 58.1 x 22.4 b.
Home Port: Port Townsend, WA.
Build location: Hadlock, Jefferson County, WA., 1929.
Construction: wood
Power: WA. Estep 2 cyc. 26 HPR diesel
With the author of this essay at his 
dock, next to the Orcas ferry landing.

        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

DATED 1954.
Click the image to enlarge. 

From the archives of the 
Saltwater People Historical Society.
Our first jobs were delivering fuel to loggers on islands without ferry service which involved filling steel 55-gal drums along with tractors, and logging equipment, not all at the same time. We had a loading area just west of the Orcas ferry landing, one at Obstruction Pass, and several others. We landed on various beaches all over the county. We always tried to land them on the highest part of the tide and immediately reverse and get off the beach. If we missed and couldn't get off, we could be stuck till the next tide, 6 or 8 hours later.
        Working the tides was very crucial to the job. When delivering fuel, the logger had to be there with a tractor or some men to roll the drums up above high tide or a full drum of fuel would drift away.
        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.
      In 1968, Nordland was sold to Bob Greenway of Friday Harbor. He remodeled the wheelhouse again, installed a marine toilet, and replaced the WA Estep diesel with a 671 G.M. engine. The old WA-Estep was dumped out on a sandspit near Jensen Shipyard in Friday Harbor. a diesel engine school in Bellingham came over and picked up the old engine and rebuilt it as a school project. Somebody in the last few years purchased it and took it to California for another old boat.
      Al Jone, who has homes in San Francisco and San Juan Island, purchased the Nordland in 1976.
      Finally, it was from Alaska Packers haul out at their plant on Semiahmoo in Blaine, WA that I came upon the SEMIDI.


ON 214876
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.
August 1961
From the archives of the 
Saltwater People Hist. Society.©

Photos and essay wrote by Mr. Robert Schoen,
Clam Harbor, Orcas Island, WA.

28 December 2022



Built in 1898 for Coast Fish Company of Anacortes, WA.
31 G.t.. 58' x 12.4' x 5.5'

Scanned photo courtesy of J. Canavit.
From the archives of the 
Saltwater People Historical Society.

San Juan Islander newspaper, 9 June 1911.

From the archives of the S.P.H.S.



Capt. A. Matson
Built for Preston & McKinnon
San Francisco, CA.
Lost: 18 January 1882
About 8 Miles north of Cape Hancock.


Possibly a reproduction by the esteemed 
photographer/historian Charlie Fitzpatrick 
a resident of this  North Beach area, WA.
Click image to enlarge.
Photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

"If it is possible for a shipwreck to be a happy affair, perhaps the loss of the bark HARVEST HOME would fall under this classification. The date was 18 January 1882, and the bark was beating up the coast under a pleasant breeze in a calm sea shrouded by a white sheet of fog. Her destination was Pt. Townsend, WA, and she rode low in the water with a full load of general cargo. Under the command of Capt Matson, the bark was skirting along in a northwesterly course in the early morning hours while most of the crew were asleep. Only the sea water caressing the hull of the vessel broke the silence of the nearing dawn. Then came another sound, a sound quite divorced from those of the sea. The helmsman cupped his hand to his ear and then pinched himself––had he heard a rooster crowing or was he dreaming?
      Suddenly the vessel began to pitch and roll as though it had been struck by a tidal wave. The crew was tossed from their bunks and in a matter of minutes the ship was deposited on the sands and suddenly became motionless.
      Capt Matson stormed up on deck and leaped upon the poop, but before he could get his mouth open, the helmsman informed him that the vessel was aground.
      "Aground you say, Mister, why we're six miles to sea, I set the course myself," bellowed the Old Man.
      Fog was all about the stranded ship, but there was little doubt about her being aground, and before the flood tide had decided to go back to sea again the HARVEST HOME was bogged down in the sand up around the driftwood area.
      Several hours later the bewildered skipper discovered that he had been navigating with a defective chronometer which was responsible for the stranding.
      When the fog lifted around noon, the helmsman sighted a big barn a few hundred feet from the beach, and it was then that he knew that the rooster he had heard crowing had not been a figment of his imagination. The wreck was lying eight miles north of Cape Disappointment, on the sandy beach of the peninsula.
      Later the crew walked ashore and the wreck remained stationary while the tides swished around her, more firmly entrenching her in the sands. The cargo was salvaged but the bark was left to die a slow death.
      In the months that followed, tourists paused at the wreck to have their pictures taken under the summer sun or to picnic on her rotting timbers. Some of the shipwrecked sailors found themselves peninsula belles and tied the legal knot of matrimony.
      Meanwhile, Preston & McKinnon of San Francisco, owners, collected $14,000, the amount for which the vessel was insured."

Above text from Pacific Graveyard. Gibbs, James A..Binfords & Mort. 1950 



Blt. 1944, Duluth, MN
G. t. 3,805.
323.9' x 50.1' x 26.5'

Seattle, WA. 1948

This year this vessel was moored in
Seattle, classed as a 
US Navy ship but under US Army jurisdiction.

Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

Four US Navy helicopters hover
over the disabled ship.
Leghorn, Italy,
16 Dec. 1952.

AP Wire photo via radio from London,
Archived with S.P.H.S.©


Italy, 1952.
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

On 16 December 1952 the freighter,  GROMMET REEFER, supplying food to servicemen, ran aground on a rocky reef on the coast of Leghorn, Italy, splitting in two during a violent storm. The first operation involved breeches buoy, small boats, and swimming, with the rescue of 26 crewmen. 
      Next, the Navy helicopters rescued the remaining 13 crew during a daring aerial rescue from wave-lashed decks, as viewed in these two dramatic APWire photos from the S.P.H.S. archives.




April 1921
Capt. F. P. BartlettCapt. Thomas Marsden.
Pacific Coast Steamship Co.
Near Port Townsend, WA.
Loss of life: 7 passengers and 3 crew.


One photo and one lithograph postcard 
from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
Click images to enlarge.

The Sinking of the Steamship GOVERNOR

A letter from E. W. Horsman to author R. H. Calkins of Seattle:
      "The memory of the collision is especially vivid in my mind as I had the unique experience of actually seeing the impact of the WEST HARTLAND on the starboard beam of the GOVERNOR. I was employed at that time by the Pacific Steamship Co. and was working out of the office of A. F. Haines on special assignments and happened to be on board the GOVERNOR in a deluxe stateroom directly under the bridge. I had retired but was not yet asleep and on hearing the danger signals, jumped up and went to the starboard railing. I saw the dark outline of the WEST HARTLAND about 20-ft from the GOVERNOR.
      One or two minutes after the collision, the lights on the GOVERNOR failed. This made a particularly dangerous situation on the starboard side, as the nose of the WEST HARTLAND had pierced considerably into the promenade deck of the GOVERNOR, leaving a large hole that extended into the engine room. This, I fear, may have caused some of the loss of life.

Captain F.P. Barlettt

Master of the GOVERNOR on this day. 
He was a graduate of the famed New York
nautical school ship St. Mary's and one of 

 the senior masters under H.F. Alexander.
Bartlett was exonerated of any blame;
he was not on watch at the time of the wreck.
Original photo from the archives of
 the Saltwater People Historical Society©

      Immediately after the collision, I reported to Captain Bartlett and was instructed to assist in getting the passengers out of their rooms and into lifeboats, which I did with all of my energy. After we had checked all of the staterooms and no other passengers seemed to be on board, I again reported to Captain Bartlett near the bridge and he instructed me to slide down the boat falls. He followed immediately behind me. To the best of my knowledge, we were the last persons leaving the ship.
      Our lifeboat pulled a safe distance from the sinking GOVERNOR and we watched her slowly settle by the stern. Finally, when the deckhouse was just about submerged, a bulkhead collapsed and the stern settled very fast. The bow of the ship rose high in the air and as she took her final plunge, there was much noise of escaping steam and crashing wood.
      One of the peculiar incidents the next days was the attitude of a well-known Seattle man, the president of one of the railroads. He had two valuable horses on board the GOVERNOR and they, of course, were lost. The Seattle railroad president threatened steamship company officials with everything but murder because of the loss of his horses."


Capt. John Alwyn
Original photo from the archives of
the Saltwater People Historical Society©

Above text by R. H. "Skipper" Calkins. High Tide. Marine Digest Pub., 1952.
For an excellent in-depth report by Douglas Egan with fine drawings from the pen of Ron Burke, see the Sept. 1993 issue of The Sea Chest, the quarterly membership journal of the
Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society.

And then the salvage crews––

Here's a link to read more about the divers' efforts over the years.

Maritime Venture, Inc., Aug. 1987.

Two divers in a pressurized bell 
drop into the water off Pt. Townsend, WA.
An effort to recover an estimated $9 million
 in gold coins, fine wines, and other goods
that went down with the luxury liner 

From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

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