"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.

24 November 2012

❖ Bio of Old Salt Roy "Buster" Pearmain ❖ by Islander Robert R. Pearmain

Deer Harbor Store, Orcas Island, WA. undated.
Photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
"My Uncle Roy, known as Buster, was one of a kind. He was very good to me. Even though he was very close with his money, as were all the Pearmains, he kept me supplied with dimes and quarters for helping him. I helped him pick cherries to make the barrel of wine he made annually to sell at the Deer Harbor dance hall. He sold admittance tickets for the Norton Inn owner, Bill Norton, who also owned the local store.
LeOtis Roy "Buster" Pearmain 27 March 1887-25 May 1950.
Courtesy of nephew Roy Pearmain©
Buster sometimes worked as an engineer on fish boats or the local mailboats that ran through the islands or Alaska cannery tenders. He seemed skilled at carpentry and boat building. During prohibition he did a small amount of whiskey smuggling from Canada. He built a rowboat, painted it lead gray and then used it to row to Sidney Island during the night, returning with sacks full of whiskey. By daylight he would appear to be fishing near Spieden Island, well inside US waters. He had a contact at the local summer resort. The owner sold the booze to the tourists. Buster, no doubt, sold some of it himself.
      Buster didn't seem like a happy man but he enjoyed hunting deer, fishing salmon, and building houses and boats. 
      Buster started fishing in Alaska at an early age. He first began to work for Libby, McNeil, and Libby Salmon Cannery at Kenai, AK. At that time he began the fishing season by going to San Francisco to load a sailing ship with all the gear necessary for catching and canning salmon and for the supplies for the crew who did the work. They then sailed the ship to AK, caught the salmon, and canned them. In the fall of the year they loaded the canned fish onto the sailing ship and sailed it back to San Francisco to unload the cargo. It was nearly a year-long job.
Robert Roy Pearmain 
10 June 1918-13 Jan 2002
Seen here in 1926 on Kanaka Bay fish trap, 
San Juan County, WA.
Author of this bio on Buster.
Courtesy of Roy Pearmain©

     In the first decade of the 20th c., Buster, my father George Pearmain, and my uncle Archie Pearmain acquired a boat named the WANDERER and used her as a tender for buying salmon. They bought fish on the western side of Vancouver Island and sold them to canneries in WA State. When that job was through Archie went to work for Libby's and was skipper of a cannery tender. Buster worked  as an engineer on the boat. One of their cousins, named Billy Marian was the deckhand. While towing a scow loaded with fish in Cook Inlet the boat came apart and sank in three minutes. The men scrambled onto the scow and had to spend the night in wet clothes before they were rescued. Archie caught pneumonia and nearly died. Later he worked as the superintendent of the Kenai cannery for many years."

20 November 2012


Location, Seattle, WA, 1917.
She was then operated by the US Shipping Board.
Original photo by Webster & Stevens, Seattle, WA.
from the archives of S.P.H.S©

Figurehead is a Knight of Malta.
Center of attraction at Smith Cove Pier 40, Seattle, 
while she was waiting to be converted to a barge.
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

"The sailing ship MONONGAHELA (1892-1943)* with her gilded figurehead kept freshly painted. Figureheads were a source of pride in sailing days. And not always were these figures of women. 
             The bowsprit of the ship ROBERT DUNCAN bore the carved figure of that Scotsman. When the ship was sold to the Hind, Rolph Co. the name was changed to the WILLIAM T. LEWIS, one of the company captains. It was then thought necessary to change the figurehead to resemble that gentleman instead of Robert Duncan. Since Lewis had worn a mustache, one was carved and nailed on the figurehead which had one hand at the breast, the other behind his back. On a later occasion, sailors were arguing about the identity of the ship and one exclaimed: "That's Robert Duncan. I'd know the Scotchman anywhere. Look--he's got one hand on his watch, the other on his wallet!"
Text from This was Seafaring
Ralph Andrews and Harry Kirwin
Superior; Seattle, 1955.

"She was a big, bald-headed bark with bridge deck and rounded poop. Purchased by Knohr and Burchard of Germany in 1912, the Germans renamed BALASORE, DALBEK, and continued to sail the big bark from Europe to the west coast. Caught in Portland, OR at the commencement of hostilities in 1914, DALBEK waited out the war until 1917, when the US entered. Seizing DALBEK, the US Shipping Board named it RED JACKET (the USSB had the romantic notion that naming these seized vessels after famous American clipper ships of an earlier era would be interesting.) RED JACKET made one voyage to China and back. Meanwhile, policy changed in Washington, and the seized ships were to be named after Indian tribes. RED JACKET became MONONGAHELA in 1918, and the ship never sailed again. MONONGAHELA anchored in Lake Union, Seattle, and there remained under the ownership of Charles Nelson of San Francisco. Sold again in 1936, the MONONGAHELA became a barge until lost in 1943."
Above text by Donald H. Dyal, Texas Tech. Univ.
"Properly applied they should represent the subject of the ship's name."
From: A Dictionary of Sea Terms by A. Ansted; Brown, Son & Ferguson, Ltd., Glasgow, 1920.

Lost c. 100 miles off Hatteras 29 Oct. 2013.
Captain Robin Wallbridge, 63, lost. 
Deckhand Claudene Christian, age 42, lost.
Survivors: 14.
Figurehead of BOUNTY
Photo dated 11 August 1989
by Luci S. Williams.
Original print from the S.P.H.S.©
The HMS Bounty Organization LLC, New York based, was the owner of the BOUNTY.
She was a recreation of the 18-C. British Naval vessel of the same name. She was constructed for the 1962 MGM film Mutiny on the Bounty, she also appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean. 
More news on the Coast Guard investigation can be found here.

11 November 2012

❖ Uncommon Visitor Stopping By ❖

Brown Pelican 
(Pelecanus occidentalis)
Photo by Mark Hoffman 

from his boat OCEAN OASIS
 coast of Cypress Is., San Juan Cty, WA.
Eleven November 2012.

From Lance Douglas, Blakely Island.
Shaw Island Pelicans
Sculpture by Margaret Cameron (1906-1994)
Photograph by C. Christensen©
The Brown Pelican common on the Washington coast and often seen in the Pacific Northwest, is not commonly seen in November in the San Juan Islands. It is now off the endangered species list. The Seattle Audubon Society has some photos and the bird call of this species here. Thanks Mark and Lance.

Map courtesy of the Seattle Audubon Society.


Lost North Beach, WA.
Capt. Alfred Sandvig
Original photo from Saltwater People Historical Society©

Steam Schooner CAOBA (ex-COASTER)
 579 t. blt by John Lindstrom, Aberdeen, WA. 
Owned by Sudden & Christenson.
Wrecked 1925, Captain Alfred Sandvig.
Photograph by Charlie Fitzpatrick.
 Photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"On the beach five miles north of Ocean Park, WA lies a rust-riddled boiler, the last remembrance of the steam schooner CAOBA (ex-COASTER), cast ashore 5 Feb. 1925, in a severe blow.
      Out bound from Willapa Bay laden with lumber the CAOBA ran into a sudden gale of such velocity that her 400-hp engine was incapable of making any headway. Laboring under her twenty years and a heavy deckload, the steamer developed a most unholy appetite for salt water. She spat all the oakum from her seams and all hands would note the course she made by merely watching the track of spent oakum astern. Three or four feet of bilge wash was nothing to worry about but when it rose to nine feet, it was time to make quick decisions.
      The water put out the boiler fires and the vessel appeared to be afloat by the deckload, which gave indications of popping the gripes under the strain.
      'All hands man the lifeboats', barked Capt. Alfred Sandvig.
      Two boats put out into the heaving sea, and for 38-hrs were tossed about like matchsticks.
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
By morning they had drifted apart; the first boat was found by the tug JOHN CUDAHY, but the other was listed as missing with ten souls. Then from out of the misty dawn appeared a ship, which turned out to be a Canadian rumrunner, named the PESCAWHA, commanded by Capt. R. Pamphley*.
      The grateful survivors were taken aboard, suffering intensely from the cold, but extracts from the Canadian ship's cargo soon warmed their spirits.
       Before the crew of the CAOBA could be landed, the PESCAWHA, unfortunately, fell in company with the USCG cutter ALGONQUIN, which promptly seized the vessel for carrying liquor inside the limits of the US boundaries.
       The government vessel ran down the PESCAWHA and towed her back to Astoria with some 1200 cases of liquor stacked in her holds. When the vessel was docked, her officers were immediately placed under arrest and a guard put around the vessel. It was believed that three-quarters of the cargo was dumped before the vessel was seized.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      The Coast Guard was bitterly assailed in the press by those who felt strongly that traditions of the sea had been observed by the crew of the rumrunner in rescuing the seamen and that they should not have been interned. As a result of the seizure, however, 23 shore operators of the bootleg enterprise were picked up and convicted.
      US Customs Inspector H. J. Strowbridge took over the PESCAWHA in Astoria. The cargo was discharged at the dockside and reloaded again for evidence in Portland. During the stevedoring operations, 27 cases of liquor were found missing.
With customs agents on board, the rum runner
is being brought into Portland harbor with a cargo
of 1,073 cases of liquor.

Original photo from the archives of
Saltwater People Historical Society.©
Click to enlarge.
Original photo from the archives of
the Saltwater People Historical Society©

      Meanwhile, the CAOBA, held afloat by her cargo of lumber, was driven ashore near Ocean Park, 5 Feb 1925. Her wooden hull lay on the beach for many years and gradually disappeared until only her rusted boiler remained to break the level contour of the acres of sand."
Above text from:
The Pacific Graveyard
James A. Gibbs, Jr.
Binfords & Mort, 1950.
*According to McCurdy's Maritime History of the PNW, Gordon Newell, Superior, 1965;
      Capt. Pamphlet spent most of the remainder of his life in McNeil Island prison. He died in 1931, c. 59-years, from TB contracted in prison.
The Vancouver Sun, in reporting his death, commented:
"It was always the opinion of a great many people, be that country (the USA) as well as in Canada, that he should never have been convicted. It was the opinion of a great many more that, having been convicted, he should have been pardoned. Technically and legally, he went to prison because he was a rumrunner taken with his ship. Actually he went to prison because he put the covenant of the sea and the honour of the good seaman before his own safety and risked his life and his freedom to rescue American sailors in peril. He was a rumrunner by ill chance or necessity. He was a true man by the virtue of his own good character. They ought to have found a better way of dealing with him than to make him a companion of felons."
      For further reading: Pass the Bottle, Rum Tales of the West Coast by Eric Newsome, Orca Book Publishers,1995. Mr. Newsome includes a whole chapter on this event with Capt. Pamphlet dodging bullets fired across his bow.

09 November 2012

✪ Perhaps Fortune Lay South? ✪

Vintage postcard from the archives of S. P. H. S.
Click to enlarge.
"While, in the late 1800s, most Victoria [B.C.] residents seeking riches went north, there were, between 1897 and 1902, four vessels which when they passed Cape Flattery turned south in their search for fortune. Their goal was the little island of Cocos, a few hundred miles west of Panama.
      There was reputed to be the concealed treasure beyond imagining.
      The first man to use the caves of Cocos as a hiding place for pirate loot was the naval captain, Edward Davis, who turned to this nefarious profession in the late 1600s.
Cocos Island, Costa Rica.
05˚31' 08" N,  087˚04' 18" W
From The Pacific Islands, Vol. 2 1943.
      More than a century later another renegade, Capt. Grahame (later alias 'Benito') of H. M. S. DEVONSHIRE added another installment.
      Last substantial deposit arrived there on the British barkentine MARY DYER. On her had been loaded by authorities of church and state in Lima the riches they sought to save when the liberator Bolivar was feared to be approaching. The sight of such wealth was too much for the British seamen and they absconded to Cocos.
      That this last loot had indeed been hidden there was proved by visits in 1844 and 1850 by the man Keating (sometimes written Keyton) who brought away gold and jewels to the value of $35,000. The other stories of concealment were probably equally true, the hiding place each time supposed to be but temporary. But pirates' led short lives and their secrets died with them.
      To add to the difficulties of those who sought to recover the treasure were the land-slides that obliterated clues and landmarks.
      First Victoria group to join the many, past and present, lured by the thought of this immense fortune, was that which left in the Spring of 1897 on the 40-t schooner AURORA. It was commanded by Capt. Fred Hackett, a brother of the Capt. Thomas Hackett who had received from a fellow 'Canadian Maritimer', Keating, the maps and papers that the latter had received directly from Thompson, the lone survivor of the barkentine MARY DYER. On the AURORA expedition was also Mrs. Brennan, former widow (third wife) of Keating.
      Later that year another surprising vessel left Victoria and some weeks later turned up at Cocos. Officially, of course, the IMPERIEUSE, flagship of the Pacific Station, and the accompanying AMPHION had gone south on a series of friendly calls on neighboring nations but the presence on board of a certain C. Harford, disguised though he was as a newsman, later made this excuse rather thin! Harford was the man who had been brought to Victoria on the AURORA's return voyage after the Victoria ship had found him there marooned when a Costa Rican gunboat had failed to return to pick him up.
      When the naval vessels got to Cocos hundreds of blue-jackets were sent ashore to 'dig for diamonds'--but unsuccessfully!
      This little foray not unnaturally led to protests from the Costa Rican government, owner of the island!
      The next year it was the later so famous Capt. J. C. Voss who sailed for Cocos, but so well did he disguise his purpose that Victoria papers of the time report the setting out of the little 8-ton XORA as under the command of Percy McCord and the 'turn of the century' exhibition of Paris as her destination. Voss, in his Venturesome Voyages, speaks of her as a 10-ton boat and identifies himself (undoubtedly correctly) as captain. With Voss and McCord were young Harry Voss and a certain Hass (Hahn?)
      A few months later they were back in Victoria, Voss ill from tropical fever, and not a penny richer.
      After this pause until the autumn of 1901 when the Pacific Exploration and Development Co. was formed in Victoria, its aim, the sale of 750 ten-dollar shares to raise the money to outfit another expedition to Cocos. Captain was to be the experienced Fred Hackett and an unusual angle of this undertaking was to be the use of some recently-invented 'metal-diviner'. These machines were said to be capable of locating gold and silver hidden underground from a distance of two hundred yards or more. 
      They were to be operated by Justin Gilbert, for many years Victoria court stenographer, and Daniel Enyeart of Washington, US. The two men, plus a Mr. Raub, went along on the BLAKELY on its 1902 expedition as passengers. Among the crew members was George Kirkendale, extracts from whose diary of the voyage follows" [in the next chapter of Home Port: Victoria.]
Above text; from this book, Home Port Victoria. Author published. 1967. 

True stories told by the men who sailed from the Port of Victoria
one hundred years ago.
In this city, a common interest in the sea brought these mariners together and resulted in the formation of the Thermopylae Club, a monthly gathering at which they yarned together for over thirty years.

Book Search here
Home Port: Victoria

Cocos Island is a National Park of Costa Rica with an annual rainfall of 275". Jacques Cousteau called it "the most beautiful island in the world".

According to these authors, Cocos Island is the home of the biggest hidden treasure in the world. They claim the main Cocos Island treasure came from Peru; if you'd like to read their book try this search.

Book search here
The Lost Treasure of Cocos Island

01 November 2012

❖ Westcoasters Honor the BOUNTY and Her Crew ❖

Blakely Islander, Lance Douglas, was visiting Boothbay Harbor Shipyard a few weeks ago and caught up with good ship BOUNTY.
She was in drydock for c. one month for routine maintenance.
A farewell to BOUNTY lost in hurricane Sandy with loss of Captain and one crew.
Boothbay Shipyard, October 2012.
Photograph by Lance Douglas, Blakely Island, WA.

Boothbay Shipyard, October 2012.
Photograph by Lance Douglas, Blakely Island, WA.

Years earlier, BOUNTY on her visit to the calm anchorage of Blind Bay, San Juan Islands, WA., June 1990.
These photographs below were captured then and shared at this sad time by mariner Louellen McCoy, Orcas Island, WA.   

Blind Bay, San Juan Islands, WA. 
with the Orcas Island Turtle in background.
Photograph by Louellen McCoy©, Orcas Island, WA. June 1990.

BOUNTY June 1990.
Blind Bay anchorage, San Juan Islands, WA.
McCoy Catboat SHARON L on the right.
Photograph by Louellen McCoy©, Orcas Island, WA.
Photograph by Louellen McCoy©, Orcas Island, WA, June 1990. 
Photograph by Louellen McCoy ©, Orcas Island, WA, June 1990.
Anchored Blind Bay, San Juan Archipelago, June 1990.
Foreground, McCoy's SHARON L from Orcas Island.
Photograph by Louellen McCoy©, Orcas Island, WA.

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