"The past actually happened but history is only what someone wrote down." A. Whitney Brown.

About Us

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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.

15 June 2011


Schooner WAWONA
Photo by Capt. H. H. Morrison
Submitted by author.

"February 26 2011, was a special morning for Roy and Annie because we were out of bed by 4:00 AM to meet Les Bolton, Executive Director of the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority, and a crew of other volunteers in Montesano, WA. By 6:00 AM we were off to rescue WAWONA's bones off Sandpoint Way in Seattle.
       The weather was not especially cooperative, with a temperature of 14.8℉, and a recent snowfall lingering in the shadows, but the roads seemed clear so we were off on our adventure. The Black Hills section of Hwy 8 was coated with compact snow and ice near McLeary, but we slowed down with a 2-axle equipment trailer behind, and carried on without a slip. 
       WAWONA's bones were the salvaged portions of the stately old lumber schooner, WAWONA, that was built in Eureka, CA, in 1897. She had served well as a lumber schooner, moving redwood and fir lumber to ports up and down the west coast until 1914, when she was converted to a cod fisher. One of her captains was Ralph E. Peasley who became famous as the model for Capt. Matt Peasley, the 'fictional' hero in Peter B. Kyne's adventure novel Cappy Ricks, or the Subjugation of Matt Peasley, published in 1916.
      In 1914 WAWONA was purchased by the Robinson Fisheries Company in Anacortes, WA, loaded with tons of salt for preserving cod, and with provisions to last 38 fishermen for six months, sailed to the Bering Sea. At the fishing grounds 24 dories would fan out in all directions, each with a fisherman and his hand lines. They fished all day long to fill each dory with cod fish before returning to the mother ship at nightfall. When the fog closed in, the fisherman and his dory were isolated and alone except for the periodic sound of the WAWONA's horn which provided the location of home.
       Those days are long past and today WAWONA would be making one last trip. After riding at anchor in Lake Union for many years, she had finally been scrapped and her knees, rigging screws, blocks, bowsprit, capstan, keel, and other bones were waiting for us in the corner of a parking lot near the NOAA facility on Sandpoint Way. The day was mostly clear but a biting wind blew in off the lake as we went about our business. With the help of a cranky old fork-lift the trailers and pickups were loaded with pallets and boxes and lashed down for their ignominious last voyage through Seattle rush hour traffic to the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport in Aberdeen, WA."
Written by Roy Pearmain
For Saltwater People Historical Society
June 2011.
Schooner WAWONA 
 winter moorage, Clam Harbor, 
West Sound, Orcas Island, 1951.
Courtesy of Mary Schoen, on shore at this location.
According to Eric Lacitis, Seattle Times staff reporter, the WAWONA, in 1970, was the first vessel to be placed on the National Historical Register of Historic Places.
      All of Seattle's other sailing ships either have been broken up for scrap or sold to other ports for maritime museums.
      In 1963 funds were raised in Honolulu to purchase the 4-masted bark FALLS OF CLYDE for a maritime attraction.
      The Schooner C. A. THAYER was rescued from her "pirate" role on the beach at Lilliwaup, Hood Canal, WA, to  undergo major reconstruction before Capt. Adrian F. Raynaud and her salty crew sailed down the coast to San Francisco Maritime. This passage is well documented in The Schooner That Came Home by Harlan Trott, Cornell Maritime Press, 1958.
      According to Joe Follansbee, the Anacortes History Museum, the Northwest Center for Wooden Boatbuilding, and the San Francisco Maritime Museum, all received pieces from the deconstructed WAWONA."
Anchor winch from the Schooner WAWONA,
c. 10,000 pounds.
 Schooner WAWONA 
keel section, February 2011
Salvaged bowsprit of the Schooner WAWONA
Southbound Seattle to Aberdeen, February 2011.
Salvaged Blocks from the WAWONA.

WAWONA's  rigging gets loaded, too.
All salvage photos courtesy of Roy Pearmain, 2011.

09 June 2011

The Extraordinary Maritime Collection of Bill Somers

Wheels, Whistles, and Wonders
Grand Opening of a New Exhibit
11 June 2011
Foss Waterway Seaport

The sounds, sights and classic beauty of Puget Sound's historic "Mosquito Fleet" and steamboat era of the 1850s — 1930s will be richly represented in the new exhibit, which showcases about a quarter of the nearly 1,500 exquisite pieces acquired last fall from the largest known private collection of artifacts related to the maritime history of Puget Sound.
      One–of–a–kind collection kept intact!
 The generous support of area business leaders Jim Milgard and George Russell enabled the Seaport to obtain the entire collection. "This comprehensive collection is a must–see for all who are interested in maritime artifacts and the rich heritage of Puget Sound's steam era," says regional maritime artifacts expert, Roger Ottenbach. "The Somers Collection is Puget Sound's most important maritime artifacts collection in existence. Bill was very deliberate in what he gathered. It is outstanding that the Seaport was able to acquire these items."
      The Grand Opening activities will feature live music reminiscent of the steamboat era, food, docents presenting "then and now" interpretations of maritime artifact usage, storytellers reenacting characters from the era and interacting with visitors, and children's hands–on activities. Attendees will see the Seaport's active wooden boat shop staffed by expert boat builders, and heritage vessels such as the unique M/V Westward, S/V Odyssey, and S/V Red Jacket at the Seaport's docks.
      Extend your fun and go next door to Foss Harbor Marina's "Salty Dock Day" in honor of National Marina Day on June 11th. Take part in boater education classes, a "Salty Dog" Contest for canine "First Mates," games, safety demonstrations, a Saturday Night outdoor movie (weather permitting), and other fun activities to help celebrate all of the recreational opportunities marinas provide on our community's waterways. Amazing artifacts — and then some!
      The history of Puget Sound's Mosquito Fleet steamboats is strongly represented in the immense collection of artifacts, including vessel name boards, life rings, models, ships' wheels, photographs, and paintings from the famed era when privately owned steamships and sternwheelers plied the waters of Puget Sound. Visitors will hear authentic steam whistles and experience the wonder and diversity of hundreds of finely preserved ships' artifacts including funnels, binnacles, anchors, fog horns, brass propellers, life rings, and ship models.
      Also included are many objects from navy vessels, merchant vessels, and ships that sailed the Yukon River during the Gold Rush, including an 8–foot diameter ship's wheel. Visitors will see a ship's bell from the USS Chauncey, one of seven Navy destroyers that ran aground on the California coast in 1923 in an event that became known as the Honda Point Disaster. There are also several artifacts from the SS Mayaguez, the merchant vessel at the center of what is considered the last battle of the Vietnam War.
Please see FossWaterwaySeaport.org for hours and directions.

07 June 2011

❖ The Skipper Overboard ... from HOME COUNTRY ❖ by Ernie Pyle

Posed for this bust by Jo Davidson
when he came home from the European front in
the fall of 1944.
He was felled by a sniper's bullet on IE JIMA,
18 April 1945.
The bust was ready to cast in bronze
at Basky's Studio.

Photo credit Acme, 19 April 1945.
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
18 April 1945, Ernie Pyle met an untimely death by Japanese machine-gun fire on the island of Ie JIMA, near Okinawa. He was then, by all odds, the most popular and best-known correspondent of WWII. But many readers who treasured his war dispatches were unaware of the fact that, in a less spectacular setting, Ernie had been doing the same sort of homely, endearingly, human reporting for years. The posthumously published book, Home Country, collects the finest of these early columns, which Ernie himself believed to contain the best writing he ever did.
Courtesy of The Sea Chest, the quarterly journal of the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, March 1972.

"The prairies are all right. The mountains are all right. The forests and the deserts and the clear, clean air of the heights, they're all right. But what a bewitching thing is a city of the sea. It was good to be in Seattle––to hear the foghorns on the Sound, and the deep bellow of the departing steamers; to feel the creeping fog all around you, the fog that softens things and makes a velvet trance out of nighttime. And it was good to hear the tall and slyly outlandish tales that float up and down Puget Sound.
Original photo on file by J. Boyd Ellis.
Saltwater People Historical Society Collection.©
      Once upon a time there was a tugboat of Puget Sound dragging behind it a long tow of logs. There was no special hurry, so the tugboat was hardly moving at all. Furthermore, it was using its leisure time to run some oil tests on its new Diesel engines. The engineer had several five-gallon cans of different brands of oil. He would let the engine run until it exhausted one can, then cut in a different brand, start the engine, and plow ahead again.
      All of this left the captain bored, and with nothing at all to do. Furthermore, his feet hurt. He stood sadly on the deck, watching the shore which hardly moved at all, and now and then taking a look at the water around him. It looked so cool. Finally he took off his shoes and socks, sat down on the low rail and hung his feet over the side. Lordy, it felt good!
      The water kept on feeling good, and the old captain was enjoying it immensely, until a seal popped up and swam past. The captain thought it was a dog. He leaned far out for a better look and fell overboard. By the time he had come up and had rid himself of that portion of Puget Sound which he had imbibed, his favorite tugboat had drawn away from him. But all was not lost, for the tow of logs was still coming along. So the old man drifted back and hoisted himself up.
       A bunch of logs on the end of a towline is no place for a dignified shipmaster to be, so our captain kept running up and down, yelling to the engineer on the tugboat. But the engineer couldn't hear him for the engine noise, and wouldn't have heard him anyway, for he was asleep.
      At this interval we must leave the captain a moment and switch to the shore. Somewhere along the Sound lived one of those delightful people whose sole profession is watching the boats go by. He stood on the shore, pulled up his telescope, leveled it first on the tug, and then on the tow, and finally on the captain. Aha! thought the watcher. Poor Captain Blank has gone off his nut. So he phoned the tug company's office that the captain had gone crazy, that he was back on the tow of logs, barefoot, running up and down and screaming like a wild man.
      Now we shift back to the tugboat. One of those five-gallon cans of oil ran out. The engine stopped. The engineer woke up and went about his business of cutting in a new can and getting the engines started again. This gave the captain his chance. He jumped into the water, half swam and half pulled himself along the towline up to the tug, climbed aboard, sneaked into his cabin without anybody's seeing him, changed his clothes and was out on deck by the time they got going.
      That evening they pulled into Port Angeles. The company officials were all down at the dock. So were an ambulance and the sheriff and a couple of policemen, just in case the old man should be violent.
      The captain stepped out on deck and greeted them. The company president began to fade slightly beneath his skin. 'Why, Captain, I understood you were ... ah ... sick.'
      'Fit as a fiddle', boomed the captain. 'Never been sick a day in my life.'
      I don't know how the company president explained to the sheriff. Anyway, he never said another word to the captain about the matter."
Above was reprinted in The Sea Chest from Home Country,  
William Sloane Associates, N.Y., N.Y.

Five days later this story comes across my desk...
Captain Davis, of the tug CALCITE [built on Lopez Island] had a most unpleasant experience on Wednesday. On a trip over from Waldron, Capt. Davis was alone on board, and while endeavoring to regulate the tow line of the scow he was bringing in, lost his balance and fell into the Sound. Fortunately he was able to catch the line, and drew himself onto the scow, but could not board the boat, and he was forced to remain in his uncomfortable position until the CALCITE was aground.
San Juan Islander
Front page, 7 May 1909 


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