"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.

25 December 2012


For the 100th log entry the space was not reserved, but how nice it could be filled by Robert Louis Stevenson, shared by Port Townsend's Kit Africa on Christmas Day.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894).

The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seaman scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor'wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;

But 'twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops'l, and stood by to go about.

All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;

All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared;

But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:
So's we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;

The good red fires were burning bright in every 'longshore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;

For it's just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard's was the house where I was born.

O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,

My mother's silver spectacles, my father's silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china-plates that stand upon the shelves.

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,

Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.

They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
"All hands to loose topgallant sails," I heard the captain call.
"By the Lord, she'll never stand it," our first mate, Jackson, cried.
. . . "It's the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson," he replied.

She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,

And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.
As the winter's day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.

And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,

As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

This poem first appeared in the Scots Observer in 1888, soon after the publication of Treasure Island.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) died in Samoa bestowed with the native name of Tusitala.

24 December 2012


Side number one of a new archival accession, 
a Christmas card from Cap Raynaud
donated by Ship Bold/2012.
Overleaf of the above card, 
shared for 1965 Christmas greetings by
  Cap Adrian F. Raynaud (1895-1997).
Date and photographer unknown.
Cap Raynaud sailed on the EDWARD SEWELL as an
able seaman for two trips to S. America including 
around the Horn, in 1914.  

23 December 2012

✪ ✪ ✪ Whale "Satchelmouth" ✪ ✪ ✪

September 1945
 Resort brochure  
from vintage ephemera files,
Saltwater People Historical Society.


"West Beach is back to normal; President Channel is itself again; 'Old Satchelmouth' returned to his summer haunts last week. As everybody knows 'Old Satchelmouth' is the friendly whale that comes to President Channel each summer when the salmon are running. This year when the salmon were late in arriving and few when they did come, his old friends thought the whale had either become disgusted with Orcas waters or had got too intimate with a Japanese depth bomb.
      When Stacy Meyers of Tacoma reported sighting him between Cramer & Kertis' West Beach resort and Waldron Island everybody was happy. The old fellow didn't come close inshore, as he sometimes does, and he kept his distance from fishing boats, but plenty of people got a glimpse of him. Even Butch, the Cramer dog that gets as much fun out of playing around with vacationists as he does in scaring up pheasants or fighting raccoons, got a watchful eye on him, and whined his joy and relief.
      Maybe all this means that September is going to be a good month for salmon fishing in President Channel. Maybe Old Satchelmouth shows up when he knows that there are going to be a lot of silvers around. And maybe he is just slack in his habits and hasn't any regular schedule. But, anyway, this is the fifth successive year that he has shown himself off West Beach."
Friday Harbor Journal
6 September 1945

We don't have a photograph of 'Satchelmouth' but thanks to a longtime island friend we have  his memories of his salty friend. Corkey thinks "Old Satchelmouth" was a Fin Whale (Balenaeoptera physalus) which have a lifespan of 80-90 years. The relatively solitary creature, seldom found in groups, is the 2nd largest mammal on earth; see NOAA/ Finwhales here
"The old whale 'Satchelmouth' was an old buddy of mine. When I got up at five or six in the morning to run the NORDLAND down to Friday Harbor, he would show up and travel with me for awhile. He'd get pretty close at times.
      On one occasion, I had taken Dr. Cook's outboard boat from West Beach to Deer Harbor to do some work on it at Dad's shop. On the return trip in light rain at about the lime kiln, doing maybe fifteen miles an hour, there suddenly was a big black object right under by bow. It went down and I went another way but I got a close up view of 'Old Satchelmouth's' back without any scraping of Doc's boat. I think we were both surprised and undamaged."
L. W. 'Corkey' North
Deer Harbor, Orcas Island, WA.
Letter to web admin. SPHS, Dec. 2012.

11 December 2012

❖ The Christmas Ship to the Islands ♥ ♥

Let's celebrate the hardworking volunteers who start long before December to collect food,  toys, and candy, to stuff all available lockers. The ship's crew disembarking are dressed in beautiful, handmade costumes to bring Santa, carols, and good cheer, to the young-of-heart in the San Juan Islands and the Gulf Island group. 
      The good folks started out with a fish tender but most of the crew now enjoy a warm cabin on a chartered passenger vessel often chased by chilling wind and lumpy seas. These volunteers with hearts of gold have set aside personal time in the busy holiday season since 1947. 
      Hundreds of islanders have warm memories of hearing the gentle music coming down the channel towards their chosen island dock. The Bellingham Jaycees, the Sea Scouts, the Bellingham Central Lions, the Junior Chamber of Commerce, just a few of Santa's support crew. A salty Merry Christmas to these generous people and our readers all.
Bellingham Lions Club promotion 18 Dec. 1947.
L-R: Rank Bostrom, John O'Rourke of the Bellingham Hotel,
Don Satterlee, Art Howard.
This is the earliest known photo to document the beginning
of the program to transport Santa Claus to the children 
of the San Juan Islands, and later to the Gulf Island group.
Photo (#1. 004579) by Jack Carver
Purchased from the Whatcom Museum of History and Art©
For educational purposes only, for a copy contact WMHA, thank you.

With soldering iron, a needle, and hairspray as insulation,
the Jaycees clowns, Don Ryan & Riggs Nelson,
in the cabin of Christmas ship, yacht WYRILL.
They attempt to rewire the sound system before
arriving at Ganges.
Photo (#1.036027) by Jack Carver.
Purchased from the Whatcom Museum of History and Art.©
For educational use only. For reproduction please contact WMHA.

Apologies...a few photos have fallen off and I am working on calling them home very soon.

"The Christmas Ship--It was a wonderful sight, and sound too, as the decorated Christmas Ship came into sight as it passed Shaw Island. The music was gently flowing over the waters, so soft and gentle. Think it was early evening, perhaps just after dinner time when it arrived at our Orcas dock. People gathered on the dock mostly from nearby and Eastsound--don't remember if the ship went into Deer Harbor, too? I think it went into Victoria in those days and Waldron, too.

      Great excitement; after the ship was tied up, jolly, happy, Santa climbed onto the dock and the children clustered around him. He gave out candy and heard the children tell what they wanted for Christmas. The parents and friends too enjoyed this time together. Then, it was time for him to go, and with a whistle for 'all aboard' Santa waved goodbye, and the Christmas carols and the ship headed for the next stop. The music and beautiful lighted ship gently faded away as parents and 'lil' ones headed for their cars and home. Oh, what a beautiful sight to see the ship.
      It was a wonderful experience for our children to enjoy, and parents too. In those days there were few stores or gift shops on the island, and few bright lights.
      As years went by, the time of arrival of the Christmas ship varied, it came earlier and traveled further, and made more stops. What a wonderful thing for the Bellingham people to do, they brought such happiness.
      For some years, as the experience developed, through the guidance of Bus and Esther Sheehan at the store and Clyde and Dorothy Brown and the 'Stitch and Gossip Club', cookies and cocoa were served. A 'party' on the dock!!
      Those years were magical, and this reminiscing has brought our early day Christmas back to me."
Mary Schoen, 2009, Deer Harbor, San Juan Archipelago.
Mary and her husband Robert Schoen sailed CHANTEY to the San Juan Islands on their honeymoon in 1946, one year ahead of the Christmas Ship from Bellingham. 

09 December 2012

❖ Twenty-Five Years of Ferry Lunches ❖

Written by author, historian Lucile McDonald (1898-1992)

Ferry LINCOLN c. 1930
postcard from the Clinton H. Betz Ship Collection, 
Archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©

"Living on the western edge of Redmond, WA, is an 84-year-old niece of Capt. John L. Anderson, who used to be king pin of the Lake Washington ferry service. Olga Carlson Dunkel says that she opened the first lunchroom aboard his boats and remained with the business a quarter of a century. 'I always liked boats and I got along well with people'.
      Mrs. Dunkel came to Seattle from Sweden in 1913. ' I had to get a job as soon as I got to this country. I did housework for $50 a month.'
      One day in 1924, Anderson told Olga that the ferry LINCOLN was laid up at Houghton for its annual overhaul and he had installed a lunch counter on board the vessel. 'I want to know what you think of it'. His niece visited the boat as requested and told him the arrangement looked fine. 'You can have it,' Anderson announced.
      From then on she managed the lunch service. 'There would be about four of us women on a shift. We were paid $3 a day and eats when I started, but I got more after the union was organized. Besides serving food we sold newspapers, candy, gum, and chances on punchboards.
      It took 22-minutes to cross Lake Washington from Madison Park to Kirkland, but people could consume an awful lot of food in that amount of time. We sold hotcakes, waffles, eggs, a tremendous number of hamburgers and pies --40 or 50 pies on weekend.They brought in a lot of money although a serving cost only ten cents. Doughnuts were three for a dime and coffee was five cents.
      When I started I had to take home beans to bake and then carried them back to the boat. Sauerkraut and wieners were popular, so were soups, Swedish meatballs, and potato salad. Later I didn't have to take the beans home because we got an electric oven and steam tables. 
      When the LINCOLN was laid up once a year for repairs we went in the old WASHINGTON. She was an awful boat. Sometimes we were chartered for an excursion, especially kids bound for the camp at Denny Park.
Photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.

When the first Lake Washington bridge opened I was working on the LESCHI, running to Medina. She had the best lunchroom of any of my uncle's boats.
Ferry LESCHI, Seattle-Kirkland
November 1948.
Original photo from the Saltwater People Historical Society.©

      During WWII we did big business with the shipyard workers at Houghton. I worked a shift beginning at 6 a.m. but some of the girls were on the night run which meant getting home at 2 a.m.' 
      One of Mrs. Dunkel's best memories is of meeting her future husband when he was a regular passenger on the ferry. He was running a hog ranch at Redmond and she was then living in Kirkland. After her marriage in 1942, she kept her job and had to ride to work in a taxi.
      Asked if she had any adventures aboard the ferries, 'Yes, once a hold-up man came aboard in the early morning on the first ship leaving Kirkland. I saw he was watching me and I wouldn't open the lunch counter. Officers got him before he left the boat.
      Another time when I was on the LINCOLN enormous waves from a passing naval ship nearly turned us over. The ferry went clear down in the water and I was pinned in a corner and hot coffee poured over my legs. I worked several more hours with my stockings off and my legs bandaged, but I gave up about 2 p.m. and wound up in the Kirkland hospital. 
      Although many decades have passed since the last ferry quit running, Mrs. Dunkel says every once in awhile someone comes up to her and asks, 'Didn't you used to be on the boats.'"

02 December 2012

❖ Sage of the San Juans ❖ by Beatrice Cook

Ethan Allen, Waldron Island, WA, 1943.
Original  photograph from the S.P.H.S.©
"In five years, by actual count, I rowed ten thousand miles. I've shivered through a December night fighting the waves of President Channel while I clung to my over-turned rowboat and I've rowed a cow and her calf from Orcas to Waldron Island during a storm. But this is the first time I've ever been interviewed. 'Fraid I'm not halter-broke to this!'
      Ethan Allen, the grand old man of the San Juans smiled up at me. He was sitting on the porch of the log cabin which he had built himself some thirty years ago, or, rather added to the fifty-year old cabin which is still his bedroom. It faces the shimmering waters of President Channel that flows between Orcas and Waldron islands. Turtleback Mountain on Orcas is a wavy green line against the deep blue sky.
      He smoothed back his white hair and surveyed the rolling pasture with eyes which had lost little but gained much with the passing of the years.
      'I've had seventy-two birthdays--but none of 'em have took yet. I like Waldron Island real well. But I've only lived here forty-five years and I haven't really located yet. Someday, I'm going to settle down--mebbe.'
      This old patriarch with his friendly smile and his sly humor is a tradition of the San Juan Islands. He is loved as much today as he was respected back in '95 when he was Superintendent of Schools of San Juan Islands. He was one of the first homesteaders of Waldron Island and knows how history is made because he has made a lot of it himself. 
      'No, I don't get lonesome, people are always dropping in. My little cove is a perfect harbor for cruisers. Lots of folks come to see my Indian things. News seems to ravel, too, for when this Bing cherry tree is going great guns, I'm almost swamped with guests. Seems like I'm one of the sights to be seen around here!'
      He is. Yachtsmen all over the Northwest swap stories of his hospitality. He is as entertaining as he is instructive. Waldron Island can boast of no ferry service, electricity, or telephone among its ten families, and newspapers are a week old before they get there. But Ethan Allen can tell you what Hitler has just done and, moreover, what he is going to do next!
      He settled his powerful back against the log doorjamb and gazed out across the waters--and the years. 'Back in '95, I got a homestead grant here on the island, six dozen eggs, two incubators, and a wife. I had intended to raise chickens, but when the eggs hatched out, I was sort of discouraged. Running around her were eighty-two varieties of chickens, some two kinds and some three. So I took the job of school master here at Waldron for the summer. Three months was all that the law required in those days. Kept me busy, teaching school and running a farm. But I managed to slash twelve acres of timber in my spare time that summer.
      Later, when I was appointed Superintendent of Schools of San Juan County, I received one hundred and fifty dollars a year for the job. I would have been in the white collar class--if I'd had a collar! But I earned it. Every Friday, come fair wind or foul, I had to row to Friday Harbor to report at the office. That's only about ten miles as the crow flies but a rowboat ain't a crow. Of course I always took advantage of the tides but now and then, the winds took advantage of me. Once it took me three days to row home. There was three inches of snow on McConnell Island when I beached the boat for night and ate some apples that were all I had with me. I made Spring Channel by the next night--and ate apples. The next night the remaining apples and I spent in the old lime kiln on Orcas. When I finally got home, the crows tried to drag me off to the corn field!
      But that was a regular rest-cure compared to the time I was swamped off Bald Point here on Waldron. It was freezing cold December night and I was rowing like mad trying to get home as there was good reason why I didn't want my wife left alone that night. The boat was topping the huge waves like a herring gull until I hit the point. There the tides meet. But I didn't have any time to worry about it for the next thing I knew, I was gulping down saltwater. When the boat cracked up against my head, I grabbed the gunwale--and hung on. I figured the tide would carry me ashore if I could only hang on long enough. There was no swimming in that wild water and, anyway, the snow was coming down so fast that I couldn't tell where land was. It must have been about two hours later when I felt sand under my feet. After I had made shore, I was so cold that when I fell down, I didn't know if I fell on my face or on my back. My clothes froze stiff on my back as I fought the blinding snow all the four miles home. Worst of it was, I couldn't even chew tobacco, 'cause I could't get my jaws apart. I'd be a gentleman today if I hadn't thawed out.
      I chopped half an acre of timber next day before I limbered up right. I kept one eye on my wife and the other on the tide but it was eight o'clock before I could put her in the rowboat, and start out for Anacortes. That was a tough trip for both of us but a certain Washington college would be shy a professor today if I hadn't pulled on them oars mighty hard!
      Next day I had a son and the son had to have a cow so I started figuring how to get the beast over to the island. Wasn't hard landing a cow and her calf at the town of Orcas. But it was plenty tough walking them around some ten miles of beach that night, had to do it when the tide was out. 'Bout sunrise, I tied 'em up at West Beach on Orcas Island which is right across the channel from my farm on Waldron. Now all I had to do was to get those critters across three and a half miles of rough water!
      Worked all day building a raft of driftwood and by sunset I had the beast stalled up on it. Now, I had rowed that stretch of water lots of times in twenty minutes, but a cow, a calf, and a log raft, can sure slow a man down!
      But I enjoyed those years. The winters were sort of long but we never once missed have a Spring! Visiting twenty-six school districts by rowboat tends to keep a fella out of trouble. Then I had the farm to run. I cut wood to pay for the few staples we needed. I've rowed many a barrel of flour over from the mainland.
      Life's been hard. In the old days it took a class 'A' man to prove up a claim. It took a hard head and a strong back to make these islands give you a living. The first white men to really settle here were tough timber all right. They were the Hudson Bay Co. fur traders. They cleaned up every beaver on the islands but left a lot of descendants with funny French names to remember them by. 
      I asked Allen about the Indians of whom he knows so much--those Lummi, Skagits, and San Juans. Did they make good neighbors in the early days?
      'Yes, they did for those who had 'em. Orcas was sort of a meeting place for them, 'round Coal Point because the salmon were there. I've seen a mile stretch of beach packed with their canoes. They never stole a thing and if you ever gave them any firewood they wouldn't forget. Every once in awhile you'd find a salmon on your porch. Only after their debt was paid would they be your friends. That's just one of the things they could teach to white people.
      But after 1850 there weren't many Indians around here--smallpox cleaned 'em out. No wonder, for the native treatment was a trifle severe. When an Indian was suspected of having the disease, his friends placed him on blankets in a pit dug some three feet in the ground. Slender poles secured over the top caged him in--also the evil spirits causing the trouble. From then on, once a day a raw salmon on the end of a long stick was poked at him. When he couldn't reach out and take it, he was considered dead and was covered with the handy pile of dirt already beside the pit. But those Indians weren't so stupid in all things, though. Look here!'
      He showed me two arrow tips with a hair-fine line running through them.
      'See? These stone arrow tips have been mended by the Indians with heat-proof cement just as strong as anything on the market today.  When I found this tip, it was broken, but as you see, not in the place where it was mended. George Vancouver commented on this type of cement in his journal back in 1792. No one knows the secret.'
      Sitting there in the sunshine, shading my eyes against the reflected sunlight on the water I was entranced with stories of the days when $1.50 was tops for cutting and delivering a cord of wood. He told about the Robinson brothers' trading sloop which serviced these islands in the days of '63 when kerosene was $2 a gallon. There were stories about the forty-niners who settled in Victoria when they dared not return to the southern states because all personal fortunes were being confiscated by the North.
      He makes history live and breathe again. So, when cruising in the Northwest, and looking for a port of call, drop anchor for a while in that lovely cove on the Northeastern side of Waldron Island. Ethan Allen will be there to meet you with a smile."
Above text by author Beatrice Cook
Formerly of Seattle and Orcas Island, WA.
Published in Pacific Motor Boat
January 1939


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