"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 650, 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 March 2013

Made In China ❖❖ ❖❖ ❖❖ by Skip Bold

"I remember as a child in the early 50s the description 'Made in Japan' was sort of a label of inferiority, with the notable exception of Minolta cameras and other fine optical gear. There was a lot of consumer grade product from Japan that just did not last well. That all began to change with Sony transistor radios and Honda motorcycles; by the 1970s 'Made in Japan' had become a label of superiority.
      Today it's China with lots of consumer grade product that doesn't last. Toasters that might go a year, radios that wouldn't go that long, and an out-of-order product that no one will even try to fix. The USA needs to start producing again, and not just hamburgers and computer geeks.
      This isn't a story about international trade though--it's really about a boat.
Photo copy submitted by Skip Bold.
Photo by Ned Johnson.

      In 1996, or thereabouts, I bought a lovely 28' Columbia River bow picker built by Columbia River Packers Association (CRPA) in 1943, named ARV.  These charming vessels evolved as a power version of the famous Columbia River boats which were sprit rigged, sailing, double-ended gillnetters.
      The Columbia River bow picker was a study of evolution and form follows function. The conditions on the Columbia River bar dictated how people fished and thus how the boats were shaped. Hull-form wise, they were quite a bit like a Maine lobster boat. High flared bow, strait stem, strong sheerline, fairly broad, flat run aft, and with low freeboard at the shapely tumble home transom. They were round bilge displacement boats but because of their after plane and buttock shape they could be over driven and would semi plane. Mine would raise her bow and go 14 knots with no load with her 200-HP V-8 @ 3400-3600 RPM. I typically ran it at 2600 and got 7-knots.
      During the salmon season, June-Sept on a decent day the inland areas of Southern WA and Northern OR  would heat up, the air would rise, and by late afternoon the cool sea breeze would be rushing up the Columbia River. This thermally induced westerly, of course, would oppose the out going current over the Columbia River bar at the river's mouth. This created a nasty steep sea, and if you wanted to gillnet here you needed to pick your net from a high bow. The net was kept in the open hold just forward of the house, and set off the low freeboard stern.
Photo by Ned Johnson 
The forward face of the house was round so that nothing would hang up as you powered into the sea with your net running out along side the house and over the transom. There must have been hundreds of these built, the first being about 1905. It would have been a sailing double ender that someone powered, sawed off the stern, and planked on a transom--they evolved from there.
      I bought the boat from a competent guy named Ned who had used her to commute between Anacortes and his summer home on Stuart Is. His wife thought that ARV lacked in creature comforts, and as there was nowhere to sit comfortably, much less recline, she was probably right. Ned ended up with something modern and faster.
      Ned had an Uncle named Arv, a taciturn Norwegian who had worked for CRPA for many years. He over-saw the maintenance and ultimate disposal of their bow picker fleet. Ned asked Uncle Arv to keep an eye out for a good one to restore. ARV was selected and Uncle Arv did much of the work.
      When I got her she needed a new shaft, prop, sternbearing, and some work on the stern post.
      What's this got to do with the Chinese you might ask? Well, clearly I'm getting to that point.
      ARV was hauled out at Cap Sante South in February. I spent several days working on her in Anacortes and returning to Shaw each night. By Thursday I had a launch scheduled for 1600 hours, and planned to run her to Cap Sante Marina that night. The trouble was, it had started to blow NE and the temperature was falling rapidly. By the time the travel lift was lowering her into the water the salt spray was freezing on the float. The wind was still only in the 20s, but there was no sun and it was nearly dark.
Launching day, Cap Sante South, Anacortes, WA.
Photo provided by boat owner, Skip Bo


I had a young yard man on the float with me, to help with the lines. The lines were arranged on deck so they could be easily snagged with a boat hook as the boat moved aft out of the slings. The problem was the wind blew the stern just out of my helpers reach. I quickly suggested that I put my hands in the back pockets of his Cap Sante coveralls so that he could lean out more. This worked like a charm, he hooked the line, dragged it off the stern and I pulled him back almost vertical--when his back pockets--completely tore off in my hands!! Yard man completely disappeared under water!! In the interim I stuffed the pockets in my coat, grabbed the floating boat hook and stern line, and as yard man's head broke the surface I dragged him out by the shoulders.
      The day was over for yard man. I gave him $20 and told him to take the rest of the day off, but above all to get out of the wind. He beat a hasty retreat.
      I guess I had been thinking of the pockets on my Levis that you couldn't have yarded off with a steam donkey! Much later I pulled one of yard man's pockets from my coat, neatly sewn in one corner was a label--
'Made in China'."
Above text by Skip Bold, March 2013
For the Saltwater People Historical Society.
ARV is Skip's second log entry for the S. P. H. S. The first can be viewed here

24 March 2013

❖ Thomas Thompson's STEAMBOAT ❖ by brother Jack

Thompson steamboat.
Leaving cove at Neck Point to attend the
9th annual Puget Sound Live Steamers Meet,
McConnell Island, San Juan archipelago.
Photo by Joanne (Patterson) Ridley©, 1979.

Thomas Thompson at Shaw Island,
steaming to the 1965
Puget Sound Live Steamers Meet,
McConnell Island, WA.
Photo by Jo Ann (Patterson) Ridley©

The Tommy Thompson steamboat that some people called FIRE CANOE, was a well-known character in the San Juan Islands from 1949-1997; if not seen, we were often brought to attention by the sound of her beautiful whistle. 
      We are honored for these words from Thomas' brother Jack. 

"My favorite story of my sister, Harriet, running Thomas’ steamboat is as follows. Thomas told this story:

      One day Thomas had gone over to Friday Harbor to get a haircut and was sitting reading a magazine. Also, a few old-timers were sitting in the barbershop talking among themselves. They were commenting about his steamboat and didn’t know Thomas was the owner. Several days earlier Harriet had steamed into the public float near where the Coast Guard tied their vessel in Friday Harbor.  She was in her usual summer clothes –short, short, Levis and her grey and black heavy knitted Indian sweater. She had her usual deep tan. She had an eagle feather stuck in one of her pigtails.  One of the men said, “ Did you see that good looking babe running the steamboat. Man, I sure would like a date with her.” – Another of the men said, “Hey you better stay away from her. She’s related to one of the Haida chiefs. If you even THINK about her, that Haida chief will have your scalp (or other parts).” The men talked for another minute about her. Thomas just listened and related the story the following evening at dinner on McConnell Island.

      We bought the surf boat at a war surplus for $400 and were going to the U of WA. It had a Buda four-cylinder gas engine in it. For two years it was run with the gas engine, then Thomas finished his rebuilding of the engine and built the boiler. When it was installed I sold the gas engine and the boat became Thomas’.
      Incidentally, Thomas never called his steamboat the FIRE CANOE. Someone started calling it that, but Thomas and the family called it the Steamboat or the Boat.
      Actually, Thomas got me and many other persons interested in steamboats. The poor old surf boat finally succumbed about 1999 to dry rot. His son has the engine. Thomas fired the steel boiler with beach wood. Obviously, the pipe boiler rusted out so, every several years, he would build a new boiler. The steam drum was of good steel and was always way over-strength, but he always replaced the new boiler entirely. I think he went through 5 or 6 boilers.
      Incidentally, Thomas worked on the locomotives in Iran during WWII. The Army took over the railroad and hauled war supplies to the Russians. I believe the rail line was about 900-miles long and climbed over 2 or 3 passes of 7000 (?) feet. That must have been some real railroading! 
      I was on an Army operated railroad in France. After Antwerp was liberated I was in Belgium, then in Germany. Thomas and I had many letters back and forth about railroading.
      Thomas was known pretty well through the US regarding steam locomotives and readily shared his knowledge with others, all over the country."
Above text by the late live steamer Jack Thompson, brother to Thomas.
For the Saltwater People Historical Society/March 2013

20 March 2013


Steam tug MARY C with tow.
Undated photocopy courtesy of Cliff Thompson.

"MARY C was in many ways typical of the steam tugs that operated in Northwest waters in the earlier days. Her detailed history is furnished by Albert W. Giles, who made many voyages on her under Captain Hugh Gilmore who commanded her for 22 years.
      'It has been said that Henry Cayou had only the best in mind when he ordered a new tug built for the then booming salmon fisheries. In 1903 he ordered the MARY C, named after his wife, from the Reed Brothers Yard at Decatur Island. He insisted upon and got wonderful construction, the stem being a natural crook that ran fifteen feet along the keel. The first five planks above the keel were said to be full length and edge drift bolted. The rest of her construction was of like quality and only the very best of materials went into her.
      Her Heffernan-built engine was a fore-and-aft compound of 12" and 23" bore and 23" stroke, taking steam from a Fairhaven Boiler Works Scotch boiler at 165 lbs pressure.
      Shortly after her completion, Mr. Cayou turned her over to the E. K. Wood Lumber Co. of Bellingham, WA, where she went into log towing for that firm, under command of Capt. Zura B. Murry. After two years of this, and a year on charter towing to Skagway, the boat passed to the American Tug Boat Co of Everett. Her first master there was Angus Fife, followed by Frank Perkins, and by Hugh Gilmore, in 1910. For the rest of her life her work was the usual Puget Sound combination of log and barge towing with an occasional ship docking, or a sailing vessel pick-up and escort to sea. Her range was from Olympia to Comox, B. C.
      As her design made her one of the best pulling boats for her power, it also compelled her to keep clear of shallow ports and tidal race-ways, as she was of sharp design, and would lay way over if beached on a flat beach. This caused her some embarrassment one time in Big Skookum, Hammersley Inlet, as she grounded at Cape Horn, and layed so far over that she filled before rising on the next incoming tide. From then on she was never sent into the Skookum. She drafted at 12.5' and had a long, easy run, all aft ahead of her wheel, which gave her good water to the screw and resulted in her exceptional pulling abilities.
      She originally burned coal but was changed over to oil in 1916. She was a dependable, successful, boat all of her life and was in steady use until 1932, when she was tied up, primarily due to the depression. She was idle for some years and she was finally stripped and the hull abandoned on the jetty at Everett. Her excessive draft caused her owners to forego converting her to diesel power. It is said that her pilothouse still sits on the bank of the Snohomish River [1965] where some beachcomber hauled it out.'
      Capt. Hugh Gilmore served as her master steadily from 1910 until her lay-up in 1932."

Text from: The H. W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, Gordon Newell, editor, Superior, 1965.
Photo courtesy of Cliff Thompson, Deer Harbor, WA.
According to the federal Master Carpenter's Certificate on file, The MARY C (O.N. 93374) was 70.7' x 18.3' x 8.8', 92.52 G. t. and 47 N. tons burden. 
      The builder was listed as William H. F. Reed (born 1869, Blakely Island--died 1935, Anacortes).
      The first boat that William built at the Reed Shipyard was this steam tug, listed as owned by himself and Henry Cayou, each owning one-half interest. 
      Reed had earlier been employed building boats at Dawson during the Klondike gold rush where he personally knew many of the noted characters of that time and region.
      Next, he was employed by the Pacific American Fisheries in Alaska, as a foreman in their shipyards.                  
      Closer to home he was a shipbuilder for three or four years for Skinner & Eddy, Seattle.
      He was known as a most conscientious, honest shipbuilder, never putting out inferior work, or using inferior materials. A scale model he built was entered at the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, where he won a prize.
Friday Harbor Journal, Jan. 1935.
From the archives of the S. P. H. S.  

11 March 2013

❖ MUTINY on the Hall Brothers Built HESPER ❖

"Despite the frequency of brutal treatment, short rations, and starvation pay aboard the sailing ships of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a mutiny was rare indeed among the shanghaied crews of the West Coast windjammers.
Anchored Port Townsend, WA.
Photo courtesy of the UW Collections.
Ships' officers had firearms; while the weapons of the foremast hands were limited to belaying pins and sailor's knives, hard-case mates took the initiative in keeping potential trouble-makers properly intimidated. Finally, it was well understood by seamen that mutiny was punishable by hanging.
It was the direct action of the officers rather than legal proceedings that kept crews in line; old-time ship masters were hostile toward 'sea lawyers' in their crews--seamen who knew their rights--and were vocal about them. H. W. McCurdy tells of Captain A. M. Sewall of Port Townsend, who found himself confronted by such a seaman while on a Cape Horn voyage. This individual was a pioneer member of the Sailor's Union of the Pacific, and he insisted that, according to union rules, he should be paid overtime for being called on deck during his time off-watch. To prove his point, he made the error of waving his union rulebook under the captain's nose.
Captain Sewall forthwith forced the protesting seaman to eat the book's front cover. Thereafter he was required to come on the poop every day and consume a page in the captain's presence until he had eaten the entire book.
Such relatively painless and protracted punishments were not favored by most masters and mates, who preferred to settle matters quickly by means of fists or belaying pins. Such were the methods employed by Second Mate Fitzgerald of the two skysail-yard bark, HESPER, to enforce the tight ship standards of her skipper, Captain A. Sodergren.
The HESPER, built at the Hall Brothers shipyard at Port  Blakeley in 1882, was a rakish 695-t vessel designed for the 'triangle trade', carrying Puget Sound lumber to Australia, Australia coal to Honolulu, and Hawaiian sugar back to the mainland. The Halls operated her on this route in partnership with Capt. Cygnus Ryder. Unlike most of the utilitarian ships built on the Pacific coast, the HESPER was distinguished by a handsomely carved figurehead. She also proved faster than most of her sisters, her 1886 passage from Honolulu to Cape Flattery in nine and a half days, still standing in the record books.
After 7 voyages Capt. Ryder sold his interest in the bark to the Halls, who placed Capt. Sodergren in command. Although younger than most ship masters, he was noted for his ability to get the most out of both ship and crew. Both he and his first mate, Lucas, were big and tough enough to take care of themselves, but it was the ham-handed Irish second mate, Fitzgerald, who delighted in bullying and beating the foremast hands.
The HESPER, engaged in her usual trade, was loading a cargo of coal at Newcastle, NSW, in 1893, when the plot was hatched which was to end the career of Mate Fitzgerald and give the bark the sinister name of hell-ship for the rest of her days.
Among the HESPER's seamen that voyage was a muscular and violent character named St Clair. On watch, St. Clair and the rest of the crew were bullied by Fitzgerald. Off watch, St. Clair bolstered his ego by pushing his shipmates around more brutally than did the second mate. Soon they feared him as much or more than Fitzgerald.
Capt. Sodergren had recently married, and his bride was making this voyage with him, as a honeymoon trip. It was also whispered in the foc'sle that $20,000 was being carried in the captain's strongbox. St. Clair, a troublemaker by nature, and smarting under the rigid discipline aboard the HESPER, came to the conclusion that it would be pleasant and profitable to rob the captain of both girl and gold.
St. Clair found two supporters of his plan, a dark-haired, olive-skinned seaman named Sparff and a big Dane named Hansen. These three so dominated the rest of the crew that none dared warn the ship's officers of the plot.
The wily St. Clair patiently coached his not too bright lieutenants on his plans, making them repeat his orders over and over until they knew them by heart. He proposed to murder the captain and mates to begin a career of piracy with the fast-sailing HESPER.
The 3 mutineers went into action when the vessel was far out in the Pacific, during Fitzgerald's eight to midnight watch. St. Clair bore a special grudge against the big Irishman; he had been marked as first to die.
The HESPER was gliding across a moonlit sea under full sail when St. Clair went aft to where Fitzgerald stood beside the helmsman, reporting some trouble with the rigging forward. Muttering angrily, the second mate accompanied him toward the bow. The frightened helmsman knew that murder was brewing, but he remained silent.
      Hiding in the shadows below the foc'sle head were Sparff and Hansen, the former armed with a  heavy cleaver from the galley. Fitzgerald never knew what hit him. With blow after blow, Sparff battered the mate's head into bloody ruin. Then St. Clair dragged the corpse to the bulwarks and threw it into the sea.
Normally the second mate would have called the first mate, Lucas when it was time to take over the watch. A seaman was instructed to imitate Fitzgerald's voice as best he could, but Lucas wasn't fooled. Instead of going on deck, he awakened Captain Sodergren and told him of his suspicions. Their conversation awakened the captain's wife, who begged them to take no chances, for she had a premonition 'that something terrible would happen this night.'
Heeding her advice, the captain armed himself with a revolver; he and the mate crept silently out onto the deck. Working their way cautiously forward, they saw the dim shadows of the three mutineers and the blood of the murdered Fitzgerald glistening darkly in the moonlight.
As Capt. Sodergren drew his gun, the burly figure of St. Clair crouched against the foremast fife rail, ready to spring, his two companions backing him up. The sight of the captain's leveled revolver took the fight out of all three, and soon they were in irons, consigned to the scant comfort of the chain locker, and a monotonous diet of hardtack and water. The captain assembled the rest of the crew, read them the riot act, and set them to holystoning the bloodstains from the HESPER's spotless decks.
The course was changed for Papeete, where the three ringleaders of the mutiny were lodged in jail to await the first San Francisco-bound steamer. The HESPER then continued her interrupted voyage to Honolulu, discharged her coal, loaded sugar, and in due time arrived at San Francisco, where the mutineers were waiting in another jail. The ensuing trial commanded national attention, for mutiny was rare in the US Merchant Marine.
All three men were found guilty, St. Clair, as the instigator--suffered the traditional fate of pirates and mutineers--he was hung by the neck until dead. Sparff and Hansen were sentenced to long prison terms.
As for the HESPER, her fame as a smart, fast-sailing ship was overshadowed by her notoriety as the stage for mutiny and murder. Dark tales were told along the waterfronts and were embroidered in the telling until the HESPER gained the reputation of a haunted hell-ship. It was almost impossible for even the most determined crimps to ship crews aboard her, or the toughest mates to keep them from jumping ship.
In disgrace, the HESPER was transferred to British registry, but bad luck trailed her; her new owners went bankrupt. After lying flagless and neglected on Puget Sound for 3 years, she was sold for a voyage to Chile with lumber and a subsequent treasure hunt to Cocos Island. Her owners' dreams of quick wealth proved as fruitless as those of the mutineer, St. Clair.
Soon afterward the mutiny ship put into the harbor of Antofagasta in distress sank, drifted onto the beach, and was broken up.
Had it not been for the premonition of her captain's wife and the alertness of First Mate Lucas, the HESPER might well have ended her days as the last pirate ship to fly the Jolly Roger instead of an abandoned hulk on a Chilean beach."
Gordon Newell. Sea Rogue's Gallery; Superior, Seattle, 1971.

1906: San Juan Islander newspaper, Friday Harbor, WA.
"The bark HESPER arrived early Saturday morning in tow of the tug BAHADA to take a cargo of lumber [from Friday Harbor] to one of the ports near Los Angeles. It will be nearly all dimension stuff and will include a large number of railroad ties."

04 March 2013

Friday Harbor, The Shrimp Fisheries Headquarters.

Text from the San Juan Islander newspaper,
Front page, 16 Nov. 1907.

County seat and Port of Friday Harbor, WA.
Photographer unknown.
Possible date 1907-1912.

Click image to enlarge.
Cropped photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©

Shrimp boats OCTOO, ORLOU, VIOLET, off watch.
OCTOO & ORLOU were built at
the Reed's on Decatur Island
for the below mentioned Seattle Oyster Co.
Capt. Louis Van Bogaert of Orcas Island
started his long, salty, career on a shrimper VIOLA.
Photograph courtesy of J. R. Paterson©

The fact that Friday Harbor is now the headquarters of the shrimp fleet of the Harris Oyster Co, the pioneers in this unique branch of marine industry, makes the following article of special interest here:
      'A unique seafaring life on Puget Sound is that of the shrimper. In his search for crustaceans that live only in deep water, the shrimper meets many adventures. He is educated to his business, studying the habits of shrimps, increasing his knowledge of the reefs where they are found--and in spite of the vicissitudes of the industries, manages to give the market a regular supply.
      It was only by accident that shrimps were found in the Sound. For many years the inhabitants along the shores never saw one until a fisherman brought some to light in his net. This was near Olympia, and Captain Haines, of the Haines Oyster Co who is the pioneer in the business, set to work and obtained 25-lbs of the pink seafood. They were taken to Seattle, but more than half of them were thrown away, as there was no demand for them.

      That was 14-years ago, and now 1,200-lbs a day scarcely supplies the Seattle market alone, not counting the shrimps that are sent to other states. For some time after the discovery near Olympia shrimps were found in the waters of the lower Sound, until they entirely disappeared. They eluded the search of the fishermen. Month after month went by, and men were prospecting for them everywhere, with no results. No one could guess where they had betaken themselves in the depths of the Sound. Much of the failure to find them was due to the lack of knowledge concerning their habits, and the poor facilities for catching them.
      The work was carried on in a 3-ton boat, with a rope and windlass. Now a tug is employed with a steam windlass, and a crew of three, captain, engineer, and assistant. The shrimper has come to be a man of much knowledge in the matter of navigation as well as fishermen's lore.

      In obtaining the shrimps the men attach a cable to the windlass. The cable runs down to the set that is on an iron frame. The net is towed along the bottom, often being torn to pieces by contact with the rocks. When the net yields its burden of shrimps they are hoisted on board and cooked. Like other abysmal forms of marine life, when brought to the surface of the water, they immediately expire on account of the pressure. They are of a brownish yellow color when lifted out of the water. In the steaming process, they change to a salmon pink. When the industry was in its infancy, dyes were used to make the shrimp a bright pink, and therefore more attractive for the market, but the strict food laws of the states to which the shrimps are exported, put an end to this practice.
      When the shrimps were found after their long disappearance, they were discovered in large quantities on Hood Canal, near Union City.
Union, WA. 
Undated. From the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
      Since 1877, the inhabitants of this town had never seen a shrimp in their waters. Since the discovery by the shrimpers more than 100-tons have been taken out within sight of Union City. The most abundant supply of shrimps at present come from the San Juan Islands. Captain Haines and his son are the leading shrimpers of the Sound, and have two steamers, the ALTA and ZEBEITKA, the latter called after the captain's daughter. The work is carried on whether it is bright or stormy, at early morning or late at night--whenever it is convenient for the little creatures of the deep sea to be allured from their hiding places. The Seattle Fish and Oyster Co. and the Morgan Fish Co, both of Seattle, employ boats in the business.
      The discovery of a new shrimp bed is something like finding a gold mine, and yet very much unlike also, for the right of the discoverer of shrimps is not recognized. Others can jump his claim and he cannot complain. A shrimper may be the first to find shrimp in a new locality but is powerless when it comes to poachers. In this way a bed is often over-fished, more shrimp is taken out than can be used at one time, and large numbers must be thrown overboard. A law that would give the shrimper a right to his own bed would mean more protection to the shrimp."

Below text from the San Juan Islander newspaper, Friday Harbor, WA. Dec. 1907.

"Capt. Backman who lately came home for the winter is now master of the shrimp boat ZEBEITKA. He says it is quite a change from a sailing vessel of 1,000-tons to a little steamer of seven tons."

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