"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.

07 July 2020

❖ Sluckus from the Upper Islands ❖ with June Burn.


San Juan Archipelago
including Speiden Island where the author
June Burn homesteaded with Fararr Burn.

This card courtesy of publisher Smith-Western Co, Tacoma, WA.©
from the archives of the Saltwater People Log.
Apologies for taking so long to coax June Burn back to share another of her soothing stories through the northern islands she knew so well. 
      "The little group of upper San Juans around the Canadian line is a favorite resort of the Natives. They can find as much employment as they want cutting cordwood in the winter, fishing in the summer, and resting a good deal between jobs. The Native women lead lives of purest romance and maybe you think they don’t know it! My neighbor, who employs them off and on his farms, will admonish a wife of one of his workmen, urging her to stay at home more and prepare suitable food for her husband who is working hard at the wood cutting. He doesn’t make any progress to speak of! She will grunt, maybe smile sheepishly, maybe even make some sort of reply. But she won’t stay at home and cook. Not she!
      Early in the morning of a day sunny or gray–– what difference does the weather make?–– Native women can be seen out trolling up and down the channels. A woman-full dugout canoe rowed, maybe, by one little 6-year old boy and his 7-year old sister, will glide around the point, head in to the beach for no apparent reason, and deposit its entire human load. Perhaps to go berrying with little buckets and cedar bark baskets. Maybe they will gather sluckus if the tide is out (sluckus is a narrow, long, leaf-like sea plant that grows on the rocks and which may be gathered at low tide on most of the rocky beaches. I believe it is sea lettuce, though am not sure.) They may build a small fire and boil something or other in curious kettles. They may only sit around and talk or hunt agates among the various colored gravel of the beautiful beaches. I wish I did know what their comings and goings mean.
      Right now, I see Old Katherine, fat Isaac’s wife, sitting up on a yellow grass bank hunkered over her knitting tending a miniature campfire. Her colorful washing of blue work shirts and pink petticoats flaps on a line behind her. The youngest born of one of the women out fishing in a nearby channel lies in a little box near Katherine. She is “minding! it. And meanwhile of what is she thinking? Neat and tidy is Katherine and something of a leader among them, I think, though there again I am on unsure ground.
      I’ve grown so accustomed to seeing the Natives around the islands I know best that it wouldn’t be coming home if they were not here now. Stewart Island’s nearness to the Canadian border keeps them here. They sell their sluckus in Victoria, whence it is shipped to China for soup. They get 10 and 15 cents a pound for it dried and sometimes return to America with 30 or $40 worth of gaily painted washpans, calico, outing flannel, fancy china, and who knows what all else stowed away in their cedar dugouts. Relatives live on the Canadian side, also, which keeps them visiting back and forth across the line. Further down the islands one hardly ever sees a Native save as their dugouts or motor launches pass back and forth in the channels.
      Once, when the boys and I were summering on Johns Island, General and his family, with old Isaac and Katherine, decided to go up to the Sucia Islands to gather sluckus. General came up to my cabin to ask me to take care of his chickens while he was gone. I promised, but later discovered he had taken them with him, fearful, perhaps, that I might forget to look after them a mile down the island from me.
      They pulled out early one morning on a fair tide around my end of Johns Island out into the channel towards the Sucias. In General’s thirty-foot dugout five people sat on the bottom of the boat or on thin narrow slats across the edge. Besides the family, there were two boxes of chickens, one of a hen setting on her eggs and the other of the hen whose five chicks had just hatched. There were tents and bedding, cooking things, and boxes of food, a crippled lamb donated by Speiden to be killed for food, every personal belonging of both women of the family, and sacks in which to gather the sluckus. It was the fullest boat ever I saw. And to top it all, in the bottom there lay the flat rocks on which they would build their little campfire in mid-channel and cook their food in the boat while it was moving along.
      Two weeks later the family returned, General who had done the bulk of the rowing, looking thinner than ever and very hungry. They had got a hundred pounds of sluckus for which they would receive a fourth of what they would have made if they had stopped at home and cut cordwood. But that was not the point. Gathering sluckus to sell for lots of money was only an excuse. Romance was the main crop, although they did not know it. They perhaps don’t bother to say in words what it is that drives them through terrific tides after little dabs of sluckus or clams or fish and it may be that they don’t question themselves at all. But I’ll bet old Isaac could phrase it if he chose!
      Hello, high bluffs of Speiden! This long mountain ridge up thrust high and steep above the water is the first island we knew. Its people neighbored and fed and transported us in homesteading days. The very tip of the three-mile-long island was itself, homesteaded many years ago by a naturalized soldier from the English Camp, Robert Smith. To have climbed so high to find his perch proves that he loved hard things. It is his daughter who lives there now, never having known another home. She has running water and electric lights now and radio and piano and automobile and boats and wealth. But the marvelous scape of sea and island and sky and snowcapped mountains from the top of Speiden is what holds her there. See you tomorrow. June."
June Burn. Puget Soundings. The Bellingham Herald. 26 October 1929.

29 June 2020

❖ Let's go on a ferry cruise up Eastsound ❖ 29 June 2020

Lots of time on our hands,
Let's go on a cruise down Eastsound,
This day of 29 June 2020
Four photos courtesy of
L.A. Douglas, Blakely Island, WA.

Let's go a little further, there must
be a way out of here.
29 June 2020.

Hard to port, it is a nice day,
  let's go see Dolphin,
Orcas Island, WA.
29 June 2020.

Ahhh, what a nice cruise,
leaving Eastsound, Orcas Island, WA.
Thanks, Lance. 
29 June 2020.

25 June 2020


10:15 a.m. Orca whales traveling westbound 
past Broken Point, 
Shaw Island, WA. 

Through a close-up lens here is the
baby of the family.
Click image to enlarge.

and the baby splash!
A trio of photos by
L.A. Douglas, San Juan County, WA.

Orca whales swimming past
Broken Point, Shaw Island,
San Juan Archipelago, WA.
Click image to enlarge.

A trio of photos on this day 
25 June 2020

Then, later in the day these below photographs were taken c. 1:30 p.m. as the Orcas were traveling northeast from Lopez ferry landing to Peavine Pass.
Courtesy of L.A. Douglas, shooting from his deck on Blakely Island, SJC.

16 June 2020

❖ Sea Story with GRACIE S. ❖ verbatim by Lew Dodd of Yellow Island.

Letterhead from the stationery of
Lew Dodd, resident of Yellow Island,

San Juan Archipelago, WA.
Letter sent to a mainland friend in 1954.
Click image to enlarge.

Lew and his wife, Tib, longtime Orcas Islanders, purchased Yellow Island and retired there fulltime in 1947. Lew wrote long, interesting letters to friends and family while he was snugged down and happy building a life on their private island. Written in longhand by Lew to some correspondents from the mainland, here is an excerpt from one letter dated, 30 December 1954.

"...Several years ago I went all around Vancouver Island on Ed Kennell's pilot schooner GRACIE S.*  We went into places that still are raw, undeveloped, wild, and about as they were many years ago. It is a wild region that West Coast, and it is anyone's guess of what will ever be made of it. One place we went into was Refuge Cove north of Nootka Island and west a bit. On the west side of the cove was quite a large Native village, canoes and skiffs hauled up in a long row. The men had rigged clothes lines running from the shanty-like homes to the tops of the tall fir trees and these lines resembled the masts of vessels dressed with code flags as on a special occasion. Every color of the rainbow in shirts, pants, dresses, underwear, ribbons, and whatever else those Natives used. On the opposite side of the nearby land-locked cove was a fish camp run by an Englishman who had seven children, who when lined up on deck, looked like animated treble musical scales and sounded like it also.
      This Englishman told us that the old Natives had said to him that our schooner was the largest vessel which had ever come this far into the cove and the only sailing vessel of such a size, in many, many years which had been at this place.
      On our second day, there were two very, very old Native men who came alongside in their canoe which they tied to our rail and then made signs they wished to come aboard. Once on deck, they moved slowly around inspecting everything very closely and missing nothing. Their English was extremely limited but their gestures were emphatic. All they kept saying to each other was; "beeeg sheep, beeeg sheep" and "Seelah! Seelah!" and nodding to each other in agreement. They believed we were an old-time sealing schooner and wanted to know "where come--Seattle?" Ugh--Seelah"; "Come Seattle many long time ago!; "Here!"
      So, you see there are still Natives along that west coast of Vancouver Island who remember the pelagic sealing days.
      When we finally got down to Victoria, among the visitors who came aboard was a very tall, lean, sharp-faced, man with piercing gray eyes and a general bearing of one who had known at first hand the sea. I was introduced to him and he turned out to be a Captain Todd, one of the last skippers of a pelagic sealing schooner sailing out of Victoria shooting seals along the coasts of Japan before the International agreement was established outlawing this wholesale slaughter of the fur seal.
      On Orcas, when we first came there, lived a Captain Gale whose schooner, also a sealer, had been seized by the U.S. government. Just before his death, I think around 1934, the government reimbursed him for his loss. This came at a time too late to do him much good but his sister, Mrs. Madeline Curry, at about age 92 is still able to supply her few needs from what remains of the money refunded to Capt. Gale.
      So it can be seen we're not so very far removed in time from some of what happened when this Pacific Northwest was yet younger than we now know it. I shall never forget that evening spent listening intently to the first-hand accounts of the sealing days of Captain Todd of Victoria, B.C."
Lew Dodd.
With thanks to Ruthie for sharing the letter copies written by this retired man of the sea. 
* More about the pilot schooner GRACIE S can be seen on this Log HERE

Another post of the arrival of Tib and Lew Dodd to Yellow Island in 1947 can be viewed HERE.

14 June 2020


Most races are canceled for 2020 but we can pull from the historical archives and admire the old duffers huffing past to give their audience a thrill, then and now. Here is a report from 1951.

(ex- R. M. Woodward)*

Built 1904
109' x 23'
Winner of Class A.
Foss Launch & Tug Company, Seattle, WA.
Click image to enlarge.

Photo by Williamson of Seattle from the
archives of the Saltwater People Log©
"The competition was so hot in the annual Maritime Day races on Elliott Bay, Seattle, that two tugs broke down in the four-mile sprints.
      Seattle boats won three of the races. A Navy tug from Alaska took the other.
      Thousands of persons onshore, on the Coast Guard cutter WACHUSETT, and on dozens of small boats watched the tugs plunge through the water in quest of the plaques awarded the winners.
      It was breezy and sunny, and the hard-working committees of the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society and the Propeller Club, sponsors of the races couldn't have asked for better weather. [Web Anderson was the chairman of the event.]
      The Seattle tug ISKUM, owned by the Pioneer Towing Co and skippered by Don Houchen, took the honors in the first race when she beat out seven competitors in Class C, the race for busy little workboats of less than 273 horse-power. 

(ex-Nellie Pearson)

Built 1901
59.4' x 15'
Washington Tug & Barge Co,
Otto Johnson, race day skipper.
Dated 1941 by professional Ray Krantz,
original from the archives of
the Saltwater People Historical Society©
      Second place was won by the BEE, another Seattle boat, owned by the Washington Tug & Barge Co, with Otto Johnson as skipper. Third place was taken by the MAGNOLIA of Tacoma, owned by the Olson Tug Boat Co and handled by Bill Thompson. 
      After the starter came the closest race of the day, with three tugs in Class B, for harbor tugs, finishing within ten seconds.

(ex-cannery tender ALICE)

Built 1892
69' x 19'
Inscribed with "525 HP Diesel"
Click image to enlarge.
Original undated photo by Ray Krantz no. 13236.

From the archives of the
Saltwater People Historical Society.©

The Foss Launch & Tug Co which had bad luck when the HAZEL FOSS developed engine trouble in the opening race, took first place in Class B. The FOSS No. 18 was the winner, followed closely by the LaBONNE, Vancouver, B.C., and the SWIFTSURE 11, from New Westminster, B.C. 
      Another Foss tug, the WEDELL FOSS, followed this with a victory in Class A, for the powerful ocean-going craft. In second place was the MACLAUFAY from Tacoma, and third was the ISLAND SOVEREIGN, from Victoria, B.C. 
      Honors in the military class, which topped the program, went to the ATA-242, a Military Sea Transportation Service tug from Kodiak, Alaska."
Jay Wells, Seattle Times, May 20 1951.
 *Further reading: Good life history on the WEDDELL FOSS and the FOSS 18 can be seen in Michael Skalley's Foss, Ninety Years of Towboating. Burbank, CA., Superior Pub. 1986.    

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