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

About Us

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San Juan Archipelago, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 750, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

30 March 2014


John Yoskadum Bull
A few paces from the spot where Chief Seattle rests in the old native graveyard of Suquamish, Kitsap County, there is buried a huge Indian who was called John Bull. Reputed to have been the strongest, toughest, native man who ever drove a canoe across Puget Sound, his name was a familiar one in pioneer households on Bainbridge Island. His life, an insolent swagger through early-day scenes, was terminated by a blast of gunfire at Port Madison in the 1880s. It is of some historical significance that, in his case, white authorities apparently allowed to prevail the ancient tribal code which decreed that any member who got too big for his breech clout was killed by fellow tribesmen. John Bull's Indian name was Yoskadum; he was a full-blood Suquamish, born c.1825 in a village on Agate Pass. Suquamish lore is full of stories about his athletic prowess, his feats of underwater swimming, his skill at wrestling, his tremendous prowess, his strength at weight lifting. Matched on one occasion in a wrestling bout with a giant Snohomish brave called "Moosmoos," meaning "the ox," in Chinook jargon. Yoskadum threw Moosmoos so violently that the big Snohomish lay as though dead. As a bull is stronger than an ox, Yoskadum emerged from that match with a new name, John Bull.
      Murder for fancied wrong was common enough among Puget Sound Indians in [pre-European] days, and Suquamish lore relates that the first man John Bull killed was an evil shaman who had done many persons to death by sorcery. When settlers came to the Sound, it was not long before they began to suspect that this big Indian would kill if it suited his fancy. Some Indians say this tendency has been exaggerated, others say not.
      But after his death, John Bull's size and weight grew to fantastic proportions. An aged informant still living who knew John Bull well says he stood just a shade under six feet, and on occasion when he took off his coat and stepped on to a Port Madison scale, he tipped the bar at an even 199 pounds.
      In the 1850s, when George A. Meigs got his sawmill going in Port Madison Bay, John Bull and other Suquamish Indians built houses on the west side of the bay, where they lived with their families and worked for wages in the sawmill. Meigs was always a friend to the Indians; among his favorites was big, impetuous John Bull, mighty man of muscle. John Bull carried alone, one end of 12 x 12 timbers, while two workers carried the other. When there was flour to be moved into warehouse, John Bull insisted that four 100-pound sacks be laid across his broad back, though others were content to tow one.

25 March 2014

❖ SAILING SHIPS ❖ Whatever Our Age

age 84, Seattle, WA., Sept. 1966
Norsk-American ship's carpenter.
Click to enlarge.
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.
Sailing ship models of Ole Robeck, a ship's carpenter who worked on the Seattle waterfront for more than 60 years, was part of a Norwegian exhibit at the Nordic Festival in the autumn of 1966. The exhibit was on display in the Flag Plaza Pavilion.
      Robeck's models included the MAUD, of Oslo, that polar explorer Roald Amundsen sailed, and the RESTAURATIONEN, the first Norwegian immigrant ship that Robeck calls "the second MAYFLOWER."
      "The RESTAURATIONEN brought Norwegians to this country in the early 1800s, taking 100 days to make the trip with 53 persons aboard," Robeck said.
      Robeck, a ship's carpenter, was "born and bred in a shipyard" on an island off the Norwegian coast.
      "All there was were ships and water; I learned my trade there," he said.
      He came to Seattle in 1902, and went into semi-retirement in 1958.
      Along with his trade, Robeck's love of sailing ships and making models goes back to his boyhood.
      "I guess I was born with the love of ships. It's been my life and I can't get away from it," he said.
      At the time of this interview he was living in an apartment with his ships models, paintings and prints, as his companions. He also had a cabin on Bainbridge Island.
      "I am never very far from the sea," he said. 
Above text by Marjorie Jones for The Seattle Times; 27 September 1966
There is a post on this Log about MAUD passing through Seattle, that can be viewed here
Do you know if Mr. Robeck's models are in a public historical collection?

19 March 2014

❖ ❖ ❖ ANCHOR ❖ ❖ ❖

The first anchor in our collection; 
not the one lost from HMS CHATHAM,
under command of Capt. Vancouver's 
1792 exploration through this area;
but we are happy.
This donated anchor found under ashes
of a 19th C. pioneer waterfront home, 
lost to fire; once part of the Hans Lee/
Al Wilding farm along the shore of Blind Bay, 
San Juan County, WA.
From ancora, the only nautical word adopted into the Teutonic languages directly from the Latin. The anchor appears in many figurative phrases in both coastal and land speech. To come to, or ride at, anchor is to settle down; to drag anchor means to slip, lose ground; to drop, or cast, anchor signifies to locate oneself permanently. The modern seaman does not drop or cast his anchor––one lets it go.)
      To ride to a single anchor means to have it easy; to swallow the anchor is to give up seafaring and settle ashore. An anchor to windward (sometimes sheet-anchor or kedge-anchor) is the same as a nest egg, something to fall back upon.
      In coastal dialect, to go ashore with both anchors on the bows describes a inexcusable lack of competence."Bring your backside to an anchor" is a hearty, though vulgar invitation to take a seat. 
      In addition to its obvious meanings, this word also means, in coastal speech, to place a weight upon something likely to blow away, or to fasten something firmly at the base. "Be sure you anchor that picnic cloth good and solid."
From: Sea Language Comes Ashore by Joanna Carver Colcord. Cornell Maritime Press, N. Y. 1945.
More information on Capt. Vancouver's exploration and lost anchor click here

17 March 2014

The Crew Was Too Green

Postmark date of  1908
An amusing tale of a master's troubles with green sailors is told by the Port Townsend Call concerning the Chilean ship OTHELLO, 1414 tons, Captain Welsh. The OTHELLO loaded a cargo of lumber at Port Blakeley for the west coast and started for sea Sunday. She returned to Townsend Monday and the Call says:
      "Captain Welsh has a job-lot of dry-land sailors which he would like to dispose of at a bargain for decorative purposes. Several of the men were secured from up-Sound before the OTHELLO reached Townsend and, fortunately for Capt. Welsh, he was not outside the Cape when he discovered that landscape gardeners and sowing machine agents predominated. Not caring to attempt the voyage with a crew of passengers the OTHELLO put back. It was when the OTHELLO was off Pt. Angeles in tow that the captain made his first important discovery.
      "Get the wheel," he commanded a forecastle occupant. The man started aft with alacrity. In about ten minutes he returned and informed Capt. Welsh that he could not find it.
      "Find what?" demanded the surprised captain. 
      "Your wheel," blandly replied the mariner, adding "you must have left it on the dock at Blakeley, for I saw a fellow riding one there."
      In despair Captain Welsh turned to another, "Go aft and take the wheel," he said and the man went on a run. A few minutes later the mate was called. "I can't keep this up long," said the sailor "it turns too hard, and besides I can't see the use of using the propeller when that steamboat ahead is towing us fast enough." He afterwards said he supposed that was the way the propeller was run, for he hadn't seen any steam appliances such as engines aboard to turn it.
      Feeling it would be unkind to take such a crowd out where the water was too deep to walk ashore whenever they decided to quit, Captain Welsh came back, and will get a crew of sailors at this port before proceeding on his voyage again.
Tacoma Daily Ledger, 24 October 1901


11 March 2014


Captain John E. Shields
Dated 12 September 1948
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©

Claiming the greatest voyage ever made by a American codfishing vessel, the four-masted schooner SOPHIE CHRISTENSON, was towed into Puget Sound, 5 Sept 1933, after five months in the Bering Sea. Captain-owner J. E. Shields and crew claimed for the SOPHIE; (1) the largest total catch made by one ship on one voyage––453,356 fish, 700 tons; (2) largest catch ever made by one man on one voyage––Ray Press––25,487 fish; (3) largest catch made by one man in one day's fishing––Dannie McEachran, Newfoundland second mate––1,051 fish; (4) largest catch made by one ship in one day––16,851 fish.
Records or not, the SOPHIE had just concluded her finest trip with some $30,000 pay to divide among her crew of forty-one. She brought back one black mark––empty dory No. 13. It had been found after a five-day southeasterly gale and twenty-eight year old Sven Markstrom was missing.
Capt. Shields and 2nd Mate McEachran told of days in the Bering Sea when a gray cloud-rack scudded over the mastheads as she labored through a smother that swept her decks from the jib boom to taffrail. In this sea, the dories, swung over the side one by one, were whirled away and out of sight in the great, gray waves churned along the schooner's sides.
Out in the dories each fisherman was alone between turbulent sea and sky, his outboard motor keeping him underway as the little craft soared and plunged, fishing all the time until the load crowded the gunwales. Then back toward the schooner and after making fast his falls, each man would dive like a porpoise for the decks as the sea swung him level with the pitching rail.
The men told of that record day––24 July––when the dories came out of the fog laden with enough fish to swamp the stay-aboard crew that had to split and salt the catch and everyone had visions of gold at the end of the rainbow.
The captain and men spoke low when they talked of that other day when Sven Markstrom was lost to leeward in the gale. They could not see the man alone in the dory as the ship lay miles away but they knew the trampling thunder of an Arctic sea towering out of sight. Somehow they knew this man would  never come back yet waited in silence under a beacon flare on the heaving deck. Five days later when the gale had blown itself out they found the empty dory. The men accepted this stoically as a part of codfishing in the Bering Sea.
The SOPHIE CHRISTENSON always made good newspaper copy. Writing in The Seattle Star, 28 April 1937, H. E. Jamison told of the preparations for another five-months stay in the north.

      Towering above the dock sheds the four masts of the SOPHIE CHRISTENSON have been beckoning waterfront wanderers to Pier Four. Monday, 22 dories were snuggled up to the port side of the windjammer, like so many chicks on a frosty morning.
They were waiting patiently to be hoisted aboard and nested 'tween decks for their long trek to Bristol Bay. Once beyond 'Smoking Moses' (Mount Shishaldin) in the Aleutians, these frail craft will be manned by lusty codfishermen.
Capt. John Shields, large and rosy-cheeked, looking more like a small town business man than a deep sea fisherman, was busy looking after last minute details and checking supplies aboard. He did manage to take time out to tell me he had 400 tons of salt aboard and that in the five months they'd be gone he hoped to bring back at least 600 tons of codfish.
The fishermen work on a share basis, while the others are on a monthly salary. Aside from the officers, the 'others' are mostly the dress gang––those who stay aboard, dress and clean the fish before they are passed to the salters in the holds.
The railings of the SOPHIE are scarred deep by lines from those aboard who fish when time lags heavy on their hands.

The fisherman I was talking to had been battling the waters of Bristol Bay for 23 years. He told me that in the old days the dories were fitted with leg-o'-mutton sails. When it blew up a storm the fishermen, who could not get back to the mother ship, fashioned a sea anchor from a sail, and hove to. Occasionally men were lost.
Now the 16-ft dories are equipped with 12-HP motors. These light motors are installed in a well that is entirely decked over. The bows are fitted with canvas shields to break the spray that comes aboard.
The men fish from dawn to dark. They are not supposed to go much farther than five or six miles from their vessel and keep a weather eye peeled for the signal that warns them the barometer is taking a nose dive. When the jib of the mother ship is hoisted they are supposed to make for it and batten down.

The cod is a bottom fish or, as my informant told me, a 'gurry sucker'. The mother ship anchors on the banks and the dories, when they are dropped over the side, drift with the tide, dragging an anchor around one of the flukes of which has been fastened a half hitch. This hitch on a taut line, robs the anchor of its effectiveness. The anchor bumps along the bottom, somewhat checking the speed of the dory. The fisherman has a line in each hand, one over each side of his craft, and as soon as he strikes good fishing he pays out all his anchor line. The slack causes the half hitch to come adrift and the anchor holds.
As soon as he has a load he hauls up the anchor on a handy gurdy, cranks up his engine and heads back to the ship. After the fish are loaded aboard the schooner he goes aboard for a 'mug up.' The table is never unset and the fishermen eat all they can whenever they can. "They fed swell on the schooners," said my fisherman.

If he should catch any fish he drifts back toward the mother ship when the tide turns and keeps at it until he has a load.
The fishermen average over and above expenses, about $500, or about $100 per month.
Incidentally, the fishermen never touch the fish with their hands. As soon as they are hauled alongside they slit the throats to bleed them. Then by skillfully manipulating their gaffs, they extricate the hook. They pitchfork them aboard the mother ship with along handled single-prong fork, called a pew.
All fishermen think theirs is the toughest of all fishing, but there is no doubt that dawn-to-dusk codfishing ranks close to halibut fishing for arduous work."
Words only from: Fish and Ships. Ralph Andrews and A. K. Larssen.

These 9 donated photos
aboard the Schooner SOPHIE CHRISTENSON 

are unidentified for date and names  
of fishermen. Can you help us with
names of any crew?

05 March 2014

❖ The Sweet SIGHTSEER ❖

Click to enlarge.
Pre 1954. Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.
“I spent a wonderful day in, I believe, 1961, cruising from Leschi Park to Pier 56, and return. I had written the Gray Line asking for a job. They offered me a ride instead. I spent time in the pilot house, engine room, and passenger cabin. She was maintained like a yacht. 
      When we lived above Lake Washington in the 1950s and early 1960s, I could hear her mellow whistle blow when she docked at Leschi Park at 5 pm, everyday."
      The above quote was shared this day by mariner Jack Russell, Seattle. He owns Sternwheel Charters, LLC and can be reached at 206-850-7648.

ON 221333
99 G.t / 53 N.t. Passenger vessel.
110.1' Reg. L x 22.9' b x 22.9' x 6.5 d

1921 Built by John Martinolich at Dockton for Tacoma-Quartermaster Harbor route of the Vashon Nav. Co.

1926 SIGHTSEER received the engine from UTOPIA.

1931 Now too large for the dwindling passenger traffic on her route; replaced by the small freight, passenger
vessel CONCORDIA, blt Tacoma.

1946 Mrs. John L. Anderson sold SIGHTSEER (ex-VASHONA) to Grayline Tours of Seattle for
continuation of Lake Washington Ship Canal-Puget Sound run instituted by the late Captain John L. Anderson.

1963 SIGHTSEER, out of service.
Above stats from The H. W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. Edited by Gordon Newell. Superior Pub. 1966.

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