"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 700, 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.

30 July 2011


Steam tug KATY on left, 
Undated original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
"Reading your log about the KATY was special. She was in Deer Harbor about 1949, raising the old BELLINGHAM that sank alongside the cannery. The cannery crew brought the boat in alongside the dock to work on, bow to the north. The tide took a deep breath and the bow stuck in the mud, so the stern went down a bit lower to where the dried-out seams let water visit inside. The owner said that any one who removed her could have her----Damn, I wanted that boat, but the Navy wanted me and I really didn't have oars long enough to row a 120-foot boat, or smarts enough to know how to raise it.  The KATY showed up and the diver wrapped the stern in canvas, pumped out some water at low tide and up she came on the incoming tide. Simple!!  Sadly, she was burned in Elliot Bay for Sea Fair a couple years later.
      I was impressed at the time when the KATY skipper/diver told me his boat was in her eighties. So, you shook my memory tree again.

The first log entry of the KATY and her owner/skipper :here
Above comment by L. W."Corkey" North, retired mariner/local historian, Deer Harbor, Orcas Island.

16 July 2011

❖ Remembering Seattle Sailing Yacht ❖ ALOTOLA

The vessel owner, Charlie Frisbie, is aft.
Dated 1949, 

by mariner/photographer Dolph Zubick, Seattle.
Original from the archives of S.P.H.S©
 "The rest of the gang struggling the new mast onto the deck
for transport to a crane for stepping. 
This was early in my sailing days,
I was not acquainted with many of the adult waterfront gang.  
I recall some articles stating this was the tallest 
yacht mast in the PNW." Quote from Miles McCoy. 
Original photo by Dolph Zubick, Seattle, 1949, present this day.
From the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©.
1949 at Karl Seastrom's shop.
Original photo by sailor/photographer Dolph Zubick, Seattle. 
See identification in the following text.
From the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©.
ALOTOLA is receiving a new mast as seen in the following photographs by Dolph Zubick.
      "This smiling bunch are the ones that got the job done. The man on the left is Anton Peier. Anton, for many years was the head machinist for the Seattle Fire Department. He had wonderful experience and skill with metal work, casting, and machining. Most of the halyard and sheet winches and sailing hardware in the Seattle area, at the time, were made by Anton Peier.
      Second from left is Charlie Frisbie, the proud and friendly, owner at this time, of ALOTOLA, home-port Seattle.
      I believe the tall man in the felt fedora is Karl Seastrom. Karl was a woodworker of the first order--the shop was a long, narrow, old building, ideal for spar-making. Karl was noted for making helms and steering wheels for all types of craft.
      The nice man in the plaid jacket is Rudy Peier, brother to Anton. The Peier brothers were icons on the Seattle sailing scene and boat building world. Rudy Peier was the head accountant for the Fischer Flour Mill family and went on to be chief accountant/purchasing agent for Vic Franck's Boat Company. Rudy was the designer and had much to do with building the new mast in the photo as well as many other spars in the Seattle area.
     I was a crew member on ALOTOLA several times with the new rig. I do not recall any big wins during my time on board, but everyone always had jolly good times and came away with fond memories sailing with Charlie and Betsie Frisbie."
 Above text:
Miles McCoy, who has been forever sailing the breezes of West Sound, WA. He found himself in the islands to skipper WESTWARD-HO in the summer of 1950 for the beautiful Four Winds-Westward Ho Camp on Orcas. 

Below text: The Adaptable Stephens Brothers,
Wooden Boat Issue #175 page 32.
Written by Barry Ward.

"The 57-ft ALOTOLA was built side-by-side with her full sister TAMALMAR for a San Francisco businessman in 1927. She went through a succession of owners before coming into the capable hands of a Seattle yachtsman [Charlie Frisbie] who bought her in 1947, recognizing the pedigree of Stephens Bros., and designer George Wayland.
      In 1949, he converted her into the largest active racing sloop in the Northwest, giving her a new 86-ft mast and a sail area of 1,552-sq. ft. She responded by winning or placing high in many of the Puget Sound racing events of the 1950s and was named boat of the year in 1950. But distant shores were to beckon, and in 1958 she departed the Northwest on a 15,000-mile world cruise down the West Coast to Panama, through the canal to Colombia, and through the Windward Passage to Jamaica. From there, her owner sailed her to Nassau, then Bermuda, and on to Nice, France, where Frisbie was born and lived until age 16. The cruise continued to Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece. There a Greek yachtsman made an irresistible offer, thus ending ALOTOLA's American registry in 1960."

Mariner memory from 1959:
"Charlie Frisbie almost postponed our wedding. We went to opening day of boating season at the Seattle Yacht Club the May before we were planning to marry (in June 1959). Charlie approached Robin and asked if he would help sail ALOTOLA from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean Sea. Robin turned him down because he was getting married the next month. I thought my future husband was crazy. You don't get that chance often in my world, and a wedding could be postponed. But Robin didn't go."
Kae Paterson, Maritime Historian.
Gig Harbor, WA.

       Mr. Norm Blanchard devoted a chapter to his close friends and mentors, Rudy & Anton Peier, as well as a chapter highlighting his "silverware collector", life-long friend, Charlie Frisbie, in his book Knee Deep in Shavings, Horsdal & Schubart, Victoria, BC, 1999.

In 1981 ALOTOLA was captured by the Danes from the north.

12 July 2011

❖ PUGET SOUNDINGS by June Burn ❖

Vintage linen postcard by C.P. Johnston Co., Seattle, WA
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.
Inez "June" Chandler Harris Burn (1893-1969), the author of Puget Soundings, first came to Puget Sound with her husband in 1919 from Washington, DC. They homesteaded a tiny island, the 15 acre Sentinel (48-38'22"N, 123-09'03"W), in the San Juan group and lived there a year. This was the last of the San Juan Islands to be homesteaded; it is now owned by the Nature Conservancy. After the second year in Alaska, they returned to the East, but the call of the West was too much for them and they came to the Pacific coast again, this time to California, summering in Puget Sound and wishing they might make their permanent home there.
      In 1928 they decided to pull stakes and come to Puget Sound with their family for good, but first they would make a vagabond trip around the US "hugging America", June Burn called the trip. They arrived in Bellingham, the one city in the US they wanted to call "home". In Puget Soundings, June Burn will reveal some of the reasons why she thinks Puget Sound has been rightly called the charmed land.
      June became nationally known for the classic, her "unconventional autobiography" Living High, which she published in 1941 and then in 1946 for her series of articles which ran in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer "100 Days in the San Juans", mailed in from her adventures through the San Juan Archipelago in a surplus USCG lifeboat. In 1983 Longhouse Printcrafters & Publishers, Friday Harbor, WA., republished the columns in book form with the same title used for the original columns.  
      There are no titles to the essays so we will list some chosen examples by the date written. 

12 October 1929
"The waterfront of the little cities -- what delightful places they are! How friendly and informal and jolly are the men who work down there. Why is it that you never expect to get a story from a dressed-up man but are sure of getting one from that same man when he is wearing overalls? Especially if the overalls are torn and very dirty.
      Go down to the waterfront and listen to the stories of the fishermen and boatmen and workmen down there if you want to know something of the romance of Puget Sound.
      The smells of the docks -- the smell of tarred logs, of seaweed, of humans, of oil, gas, old sacks, food, fish. They are the smells of adventure. When I went down to the docks the first time after getting back to Puget Sound I stopped a block or so from the waterfront to savor the smells.
      It was early afternoon. The dock was nearly deserted. I heard the putt-putt of a gas launch below getting ready to pull out. Her master was untying ropes. He did not see me watching him, homesick to be a-going with him wherever he was going.
      The ALVERENE lay against the piling of the dock. It gave me a curious shock to see her as if she were a friend I had been homesick for. Filled me with nostalgia to be aboard, bound for island harbors.
      But when I discovered the CALCITE from Roche Harbor and fat, old Peter Larsen, her captain, talking down on a float I felt as if I had got home in truth, for Roche Harbor lies nearest to Sentinel, our homestead island, and a boat from that lovely bay is a boat from home. Peter remembered me and I sent messages to old neighbors.
      The SAN JUAN SECOND! There she sits. Waiting for a new engine, they tell me. How proud she will be to go "clickety-click" like a big boat instead of "putt-putt-putt" like a little one!
SAN JUAN II  on her mail route in the San Juan Islands
before heading to homeport of Bellingham, WA.
Relief Captain George Stillman standing on the caprail.
Two months after this column was written, the vessel was wrecked in
foul weather off the southern coast of Orcas Island. No hands lost.
Her gas engine was salvaged for her replacement, the OSAGE,
built on Decatur Island, WA., in 1930.
Photo date circa 1921 from the S.P.H.S. archives.©

The owners of the SAN JUAN II were among the first people in this land to welcome us ten years ago when we were here to homestead Sentinel. They used to run the boat themselves and many are the pleasant hours I've spent in her pilothouse talking to old Captain Maxwell. They used to stop at Sentinel to load or unload passengers for us. And once or twice we've hailed them from mid-channel to give them a fine cod we had caught that morning.
      The little tug TOREDO. Now why celebrate the pest of the Sound by calling your boat after it? A man in overalls, tells me that the TOREDO tows piling. The toredo worm destroys piling, thus giving the boat TOREDO more to do. Hence the name. He is joking, of course.
      The boat BALKO. Why that name? Won't she go? The big tugs DIVIDEND and PROSPER. Were they named in high hopes before the dividends and prosperity or have they been named in appreciation of their performances? The fine tug IROQUOIS. She burns more than a hundred barrels of oil a day and more when she works very hard.
      Tugs going out and tugs coming in. Heavy, squat, powerful, bull-doggy looking fellows and long slender, swifter ones each out after his own peculiar type of load. I watch them walking the waters of the harbor off down towards the islands and I decide that 'When I'm a man I'll be a boat captain!' See you tomorrow, June".

05 July 2011


In this maritime log we have saved historical stories of rowboats, fishboats, sailing schooners, diesel ferries, and the one and only behemoth battleship built in Seattle. Today we remember a Ballard mariner Otis L. Shively and his favorite towboat....

Early steam tugs, KATY on left & AUGUSTA.

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

"In telling about 'Shive' and KATY it seems we were writing about towboating in general as it was on the Sound fifty to sixty years ago when towboating was fun. There were a bunch of rugged individualists around in those days who made do with what they had. Most tugboat companies were family affairs. This is an abridged story of one of them"...
Compiled by Ken Ayers.
Courtesy of the PSMHS quarterly membership journal
The Sea Chest, June 1975
By the late, great, James A. Gibbs, Jr., c. 1952
Otis Shively, a stocky, graying, towboater, ran his calloused hand over his sweating brow as he squinted into the blazing inferno that engulfed his tug KATY on the mudflats near Marysville.
      'I hate to see her go', he murmured. 'Guess she's outlived her usefulness, though, and there's no use havin' her layin' around and rottin' away'.
      He turned away toward the wooded hills above the water as though trying to dismiss the fact that he had set the fire to recover her metal. 'There ain't much money in it, either' he added as an afterthought.
      The cremation of the KATY marked the end of a chapter that started shortly after the Civil War and lasted until Seattle's Centennial--the saga of the KATY. Be it known to all that she was the 'grandmother' of all tugboats on the Pacific Coast. She probably was the oldest active tug in the entire USA. She was launched at San Francisco in the spring of 1868 and joined the service of the US Coast & Geodetic Survey fleet upon completion. On her initial survey trip she charted PNW waters. Less than a thousand people lived in Seattle then and Indian canoes were still the principal mode of transportation. So far back does the KATY's government service go that the archives at WA, DC, bear no record of her.
      As a commercial steamboat, the KATY came to Puget Sound about 1885 to stay, long having had her honorable discharge from Uncle Sam. She wasn't far from Elliott Bay when the terrible Seattle fire of 1889 demolished our city. The KATY virtually grew up with the Pacific Northwest through times of inflation and depression, through the days of the fabulous gold rush and the war booms. Time after time she towed tall windjammers and square-riggers to and from Cape Flattery. In between, she was towing logs from Port Madison, Port Blakely, Utsalady, Port Gamble, and Port Townsend. She left hundreds of thousands of miles of foamy wake trailing behind, a pace she maintained for 84 years.
      When the 20s rolled in, the old steam plant was removed from the KATY and replaced by a Diesel engine by Otis Shively, who had purchased her a few years earlier. The KATY and Shively seemed to go together. She was a remarkable tug and he was a remarkable operator.
      During the prosperous '20s, Shively owned a large fleet of tugs but after the depression, he parted with much of his floating stock as did men in all professions in those hectic years. But 'Shive' kept the KATY. She was his favorite. He soon became known as the Rube Goldberg of the towboat world, for he could do things with KATY that nobody else could do. He rigged up his own pilot house controls in a most unorthodox manner even to the place where clothespins sometimes acted as levers. He took pieces of junk and made them into first-class engine parts and the strange thing about it, his contrivances always worked. He could do anything with the KATY but make her fly. Some even accused him of lying in his bunk and operating the tug with his toes.
      Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery gazed upon the KATY many times when they were in Seattle years ago to film the immortal 'Tugboat Annie'. The KATY did much stand-in work in that film.
      The passing of the oak-hulled KATY went without fanfare; her engine and machinery were removed at the Northwest Rolling Mills on the Lake Washington Ship Canal.  In fact, only a few witnessed her burning on the beach at Arvid Franzen's between Edmonds and Mukilteo. If ships could only talk, what a story she could have told when she reached the port of no return.
 "And Jim was so right. If KATY could have talked these are some of the stories she would have told us.
Shive came to Seattle in the early 1920s where towboating became his way of life and his way of towboating was sometimes something else. Cylde Holcomb says Shive also lived for a while in a float house under the south end of the University Bridge.

Shive bought KATY in 1926 or '27 from the Chesley Towing Co. She was steam, of course, and according to Jim Cary, sported a 10 x 24 x 20 fore and aft compound. The source of steam was a pipe boiler carrying 250 pounds. Not a bad power plant. KATY was launched as the USS KATY in San Francisco in 1868. She was turned over to the US Coast & Geodetic Survey as Gibbs mentioned. Her registered number was 14405, her dimensions were 76 x 18.4 x 8.5 with a gross tonnage of 93. Two of KATY's last skippers, when she was sailing for Chesley, were Bill Stark and our friend and benefactor of 50 years ago, Captain Lindley Davis.

Now, as all of you know who were familiar with Shive's style of towboating, he was not widely known for having a surplus of crew members aboard at any time. In fact, I was told he used to run KATY by himself when she was steam! That's almost like flying a 747 solo but not quite. Also, it would (to be legal) require that Shive have both a Master's license for steam vessels as well as a Chief Engineer's license. I'm not sure he had them or would have considered it a matter of importance if he didn't.

It wasn't too long before Shive decided he should modernize KATY's main propulsion by removing the steam plant and replacing it with an internal combustion engine. Somewhere he latched onto a six-cylinder, four-cycle Union gasoline engine. Now, this was quite a pile of iron for 300 HP. Someplace along the line Shive decided gasoline was too dangerous or too expensive so he called in a well known Marine Engineer named Stroud who specialized in converting gasoline engines to semi-Diesels or semi's to full diesels. Now there was a real pair because Shive himself was a very innovative mechanic of considerable talent and imagination. Would you believe it, when these two gentlemen were finished with that four-cycle gas rig, it turned out to be a two-cycle semi-diesel? This is about the equivalent of tossing a can of beans and wieners into a frying pan and coming up with a three-egg, cheese omelet. It just isn't done in the best of circles, but they did!

As has been mentioned, Otis Shively was quite a mechanic. If he had had any formal or technical education he could have gone a long way in the marine engineering field. As a matter of fact, he did pretty well as it was. Les Reynolds tells me that when Shive dropped the Union into KATY he decided to make it a one-man boat as much as possible with wheelhouse control, etc. This he proceeded to do. I don't know all the technical ramifications of what he did but Les says and is backed up by others, that Shive had a couple of automotive electric starters mounted up over the reverse gear and connected to it with suitable shafts and right-angle gearing. Then, all over the boat, wheelhouse, foredeck, after deck, etc., he had mounted switches like dimmer switches on a car. In this manner, no matter where he was on the boat, he could put her in the go-ahead, backup, or kick her out of gear.

Now we beat our brains out trying to get to run a small tug with two or three men. In those days Shive had it licked. He used to run two or three boats with one man--himself. This is one reason it has been so difficult to learn about Shive as very few people worked for him. I have been told, he used to lash the ALITAK alongside KATY and run them both himself while on a log tow and that once in a while when he needed some extra power he would make the TRIO fast on the opposite side of KATY. I don't have any pictures of such goings-on but believe me there are a lot of old-timers who will swear to it.

Church Griffiths recalled the time someone asked Shive how he got any sleep while on a log tow by himself. Shive replied, 'No problem. I have a fourth mate who stands the opposite watch'. Well, a smart man would have dropped the subject right there but instead, he came back, 'Fourth mate, how come you carry four mates'. ' Well, it's like this', said Shive. You see I have a tall four-legged stool in the wheelhouse. To one I bend on the lead line, run it out the door and over the side with the lead in about 20 or 30 feet of water. I have four old coffee cans which I place on top of the stool and turn in. When the lead hits bottom it turns the stool over, the rattle of the cans turns me out, I look around, come one or two spokes left or right as the case may be, replace the becket, stool and cans, thus turning the watch back to the fourth mate and turn in again'.

In those days there was a very astute gentleman named Captain John M. Fox who covered the waterfront as President of the Ferryboatmen's Union; Master, Mates, and Pilots; Inlandboatmen's Union, etc. It was part of his responsibility to see that proper manning (number of crew members, etc.) was maintained on the various vessels. One day he met Shive on the street. After proper salutations the conversation went something like this:

Captain Fox: "Shive, I hear you are having some manning problems".

Shive: "Well, not really, Captain. The mate's not bad, he's a little new to these parts but he's learning fast. The Chief Engineer is a little hard to get along with but he knows the engine well and keeps it banging away. The A B is a good man, should be sitting for his Mate's license one of these days. The Ordinary is trying hard and will make a good seaman with a little experience. The cook, now there's a place we could be improved! He's not so good. Other than that we don't have any manning problems".

Captain Fox, being a very intelligent man, knew when he'd been had and that Shive was and would continue to run KATY by himself. He did the only thing possible. Put his hands in his pockets, shrugged his shoulders, turned around, and walked off.

Otis died 24 June 1954 of a heart attack. His ashes were consigned to Davy Jones locker but you can bet that wherever Shive is he is sitting around figuring out some way to run the place all by himself and he just might do it.

What a wonderful Northwest maritime legend--"Shive" and KATY--the names go together like anchor 'n chain. Now many old mariners, some with Captain before their names, meet and laugh at stories of their youthful experiences and hardships aboard the KATY and wonder how everyone survived encounters that would now overheat the OSHA Bureau."

For stories on Shive and KATY not recorded here, please see WATERWORK by Captain W. Leiter Hockett; Trafford Publishing, Victoria, BC., 2005. Leiter wrote six fascinating pages about his Ballard friend.

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