"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.

29 June 2014

❖ SUCIA ISLAND ❖ San Juan County

Sucia Island, San Juan Archipelago, WA.
Vintage photographs from the collection of
the Saltwater People Historical Society©

"Thanks to the members of the various yacht clubs making up the Interclub Boating Association of WA., Sucia Island is preserved as a marine park.
      Sucia, the island paradise that Puget Sound boating people bought without the aid of governmental funds, was publicly turned over to the WA., State Department of Parks on Sunday, 29 May 1960, in ceremonies at one of this island's major harbors –– Fossil Bay.
      The donor of Sucia Island is the Puget Sound Interclub Assoc, a service group of 42 WA., State boating organizations.
      It has been a refreshing acquisition of a recreational playground. In an age when public bodies at all levels are besieged with requests for funds to buy lands, build roads, improve parks, and other worthy-enough projects, this group of NW boating people is probably the only group in the country today [1960] that decisively walked out, signed sizable notes to insure a major purchase, raised the funds from its own, then turned the island over to the state to maintain as a boating playground forever. It has been a monumental five-year effort.

A Clyde Banks view
from the early 1940s.

From the archives of the
Saltwater People Historical Society©

Sucia Island is one of the most beautiful of the 174 islands in the San Juan Archipelago. Comprising 362 acres of land, it is directly north of Orcas Island. It is not as large in land-area as the other major islands, but is an ideal marine park with extensive water boundaries, four harbors, many beaches and other tiny islands and indentations."
Written for the SYC Binnacle, June 1960

25 June 2014

❖ History and Romance of the San Juan Islands ❖ 1930

Shaw Island Ferry Landing, 1936.
  Photo courtesy of "Bert" Birtwistle, Victoria, BC.
Bottom photo, Shaw Islanders c. 1920.
On the opposite side of the island, the Fowler, Crawford,  

 Bruns, Lee, Mathisen, Shaw, Start, Stitt, families,
enjoying a Point Pleasant picnic before they helped
establish the Shaw Island Park 
in 1927, 

located not far west, along the beach.

"Come, let us make a visit to Shaw Island, the fourth in size of the San Juan group. It is easy to do, since they built the new ferry slip and the ferries are making regular calls every day.
      One of the interesting things about these islands is their individuality. Getting acquainted with another one is like making a voyage of discovery into a new country. You never have any idea what you are going to find; or if you do have an idea, it is sure to be rearranged.
      However, the neighboring islands know considerable about each other. Perhaps I should say, the people on the neighboring islands know. Invariably, when I have said that I am going to some other place, the hearers will say, "Well, you'll find it thus and so." And I have learned by this, that lands, as well as people, have personality.
      Occasionally we find that there is a difference of opinion, too, which proves that lands have a dual personality. 
      For instance, when I decided to make the acquaintance of Lopez Island, friends said: "Lopez Island people are like one big family. They call each other by their first names, or nicknames, and they are very good to each other." This was the consensus of opinion. Dissentlng vote was like it, only different. It said, "Lopez people are clannish, you will find it hard to get in with them. They are too religious, too."
      Now it can be seen that both sayings amount to the same thing, but one was the opinion of a grouch, so Lopez has a clear cut personality.
      Orcas has variations as can be expected in one so rugged and rambling.
      But we are talking about Shaw now. People said; "you will find that Shaw Island people always pull together, and what they pull for, they get."
      I proceeded to find out what they were pulling for. One of these things is a brand new ferry slip, that, of course, is the first thing to be seen as we leave the ferry. There was some surprise when we learned that Shaw was getting a ferry. From outside the island looks almost uninhabited. Who travels and what can they have for shipping? Well, during the past year and without ferry service, they have shipped hundreds of cases of eggs. They ship cream and apples, as well as logs and piling. Besides, their people import a lot of things.
      I want to tell about some more of the things the people "pulled" for. Probably the most important in years past was their telephone. No telephone company could afford to build a line for the business they would get, so the residents went into their own pockets, as always. They also found the poles and put them up, and for ten years one of their neighbors has kept the central office in her dining room without charge. She jumps up from her meals and out of her bed to make the connections. This is really community spirit, and her neighbors show their appreciation by not disturbing her late at night except for emergency calls. This is one of the things they do to help each other.
San Juan County Pioneer Picnic, June 1929.
At the Shaw Island County Park, Indian Cove, WA.
Courtesy of Ellen Bruns Madan.

      But here is one they have done for others. Ever since the military reserves of the state were created, several hundred acres of Shaw Island belonged to the government. Forty years ago [1890], the residents began agitating for a park. In 1925, when the federal government had the land on the auction block, they went into their pockets again, this time to buy land for the county. Sixty acres of ideal park site on Indian Cove were purchased and deeded to the county. Their hands went into their pockets twice before the required amount was forthcoming, and, not satisfied with this, the residents went together several times and cleared a picnic ground; they put up tables, benches, a rustic grandstand, and a kitchen with a stove. The men got out their trusty saws and axes, and the women followed later with a big feed––thereby making a holiday out of it.
      This is the spirit that permeates all these islands and makes them so ideal for visits and vacations."
Above words by Sophie Walsh
History and Romance of the San Juan Islands, 1930.
Publisher unknown.

23 June 2014


First, we carve wooden needles.
These finely crafted ones were used in San Juan County, WA.

Winter Work, November 1953.

The Seattle Times.

Poulsbo fishermen wearing rain gear, repaired salmon nets, a typical winter job. From left, Mike Paulsen, who went to Poulsbo from Norway in 1909, Clarence Rasmussen, and Norman Rustad. Poulsbo was increasing its moorage space at this time to boost its fishing business––the town's biggest industry. Forty boats called Poulsbo home port in 1953 and more were seeking moorage space.

Fishermen at Salmon Bay, March 1963
The Seattle Times

A sharp knife and a fishing net had a familiar feel to Louis Zuvich, as he repaired a net at the Fishermen's Terminal at Salmon Bay.
      In the 40 years during which he fished commercially, Zuvich had an uncounted number of nets to repair.
      Such work is only one of many skills the Puget Sound-based commercial fisherman must develop.
      In his trade, he must be a skilled seaman, an expert navigator, an able businessman. He must know the currents, tides, and depths, where and when to find the fish.
      He must be a mechanic, engineer, and carpenter, and must have a feeling for treating the sick and injured. In breakdowns of men and equipment at sea, only a narrow gap keeps an inconvenience from becoming an emergency.
      Zuvich, who learned his fishing from his father at Gig Harbor, and his 60-ft CONFIDENCE, long have been part of the commercial fishing scene at Salmon Bay.
      With a three-man crew, the CONFIDENCE engaged in bottom fishing during the winter––"just making wages," in Zuvich's words.
      The profitable season came during the summer when Zuvich and a crew of seven or eight purse seined for salmon in Alaskan waters, operating out of Ketchikan.

Rehanging Net, June 1993
The Seattle Times.
Gary Sparrow, Fishermen's Terminal, Seattle, WA.
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S©

Onshoree, the patterns made by hanging fishing nets is not lost on fishermen such as Gary Sparrow, for whom the design is reminiscent of the peaking ocean waves that accompany fishermen during their work at sea. Sparrow and fellow crew of the purse seiner, the VERMONT, are spending four to five weeks at Fishermen's Terminal rehanging their nets, a chore more time consuming than the regular task of mending. "Some guys do it every year," says skipper Bill Blanchard, "but those same guys tinker with their boats all winter. I'm the kind who believes you can do this about once every ten years." The crew is hoping to complete this job, which involves disassembling and reassembling all the net pieces, in time to enjoy a few weeks off before the season begins.

16 June 2014


These three great photos of the anchor during a spell
without her blanket of water in the new crate.
 Port Townsend, WA.

Photographs shared by Captain Flanagan©.
The maritime history talk in the Pacific Northwest newspapers and society newsletters has revealed  what has been "underground" for several years and underwater for many decades. 
      The artifact found by Doug Monk off Whidbey Island in 2008 has now been brought to the surface and made known to the public––it will be an interesting study to follow. There are fascinating comments submitted to the published newspaper columns, some from learned historians; those publishers and dates sited in the image below.
      Historian Steve Grimm of Seattle is giving a presentation on the research data that convinces the team they have found Captain George Vancouver's anchor, written up in the expedition log books as lost at Strawberry Bay, near Cypress Island, Skagit County, WA  in 1792. 
      Grimm's talk is scheduled for this coming Friday 20 June 2014 at the Northwest Maritime Center, Port Townsend.  Below is a clip from the site of the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend, WA. 

Aside from the possibility of the anchor being left behind from Capt. Vancouver's 1792 exploration there are no other known artifacts in Washington State surviving from that visit.  

From the archives of the Saltwater People we can share this 1952 b/w  photo of a very colorful mural depicting Capt. George Vancouver's visit to Kealakeakua Bay off the island of Hawaii in 1792. The English explorer is being welcomed by King Kameahameha I; this artwork hung in the transport THOMAS JEFFERSON, a former commercial passenger liner, occasionally visiting Seattle.

See a 2007 article from The Vancouver Sun newspaper found on the Bellingham Maritime Museum site here.

St. Peter's Churchyard, Petersham, Surrey, Eng.
Original, undated photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.
Click to enlarge.
     A quote from a book in the Saltwater People collection, Vancouver's Discovery of Puget SoundProfessor Edmond Meany; Binford's and Mort, 1957:
      "Professor George Davidson, now of the Univ of CA, was for more than forty years engaged with the US Coast and Geodetic Survey on the Pacific Coast. A few years ago, in a letter to the present writer, he said, 'I have gone over every foot of the work done by Vancouver on this coast and I wish to say that he was a great big man.'
      This is a monument greater than the naming of an island, more enduring than an engraved slab of marble. The whole world will always honor Vancouver for his brilliant achievements in the science of geography."

14 June 2014


Flag factory, 1913.
The Byron Collection, Museum of the City of New York©
Postcard from the archives of the S. P. H. S.
"American Camp where troops were stationed 
on San Juan Island, during the border dispute with Britain.
This sketch by an unknown artist was reproduced from a copy 
in the B. C. Archives, Victoria, B. C." 
Photo with inscription from the archives of the S. P. H. S.

10 June 2014

❖ REQUIEM for the KING AND WINGE ❖ 1914-1994.

Captain J. Edward Shields wrote about the famous fishing vessel KING AND WINGE for the March 1994 issue of The Sea Chest published by the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, Seattle, WA. Following the printing, he heard word about the loss of this famous fishing vessel in the Bering Sea. Here is his update from the June issue.
      "I received word that this fine vessel was lost 23 February 1994, a short distance southwest of St. Paul Island. I spoke with the owner, Richard Maher of Homer, AK. He stated that at the time of the sinking, the weather was moderately rough, the seas were only 15 to 17 ft high, and the wind was squalling at times to nearly 60-MPH.
      This vessel, designed and constructed in 1914, had a four-man crew. Maher was not on board at the time. They were fishing for king crab and tanner crab in 59 fathoms of water. She had the galley and fo'c's'le in the bow under the main deck. She had a large saltwater tank in the forward hold for keeping the crabs alive. The weight of this saltwater tank made her ride fairly low in the water.
      Somehow, when she shipped a large sea, the door to the fo'c's'le/galley was smashed, with the sea flooding this forward compartment. Debris was floating everywhere, consisting of clothing, blankets, all the contents of the refrigerator (which was knocked over), food, and whatever else was loose.
      The vessel did not have watertight bulkheads or separate bilge suctions to the engine room pumps. The bulkhead was, however, nearly tight, and the limber holes did not allow the water to flow aft. Consequently, the bow sank low, and the installed pumps were not effective. Portable pumps were secured from nearby vessels, including the USCG. However, with all the debris sloshing around, the pump strainers were constantly plugged and would not remove the water.
      Seas crashed over the low deck, causing additional flooding and slowly the vessel sank, bow first.
      The KING AND WINGE had been employed in longline fishing prior to the opening of the king crab season, and the operations were successful, catching halibut whenever the season was open. At other times they were catching black cod and other bottom fish. she had a nearly new Caterpillar series 3408 V-8 Diesel engine of 365 HP, that gave her a cruising speed of about ten knots with a relatively low hourly consumption of fuel. Thus, her operating costs were low compared to the other vessels in the fleet with larger engines.
      At the time of the loss, there was no insurance on the vessel. Richard Maher stated that insurance companies were not willing to ensure any vessel of her age. In the week she was lost, two other larger vessels sank in the same area. Two others sank earlier in 1994 after the opening of the crab season on 15 January. It was very fortunate the four-man crew of the KING AND WINGE all had time to slip into survival suits, to step off into the life raft, and then to be rescued by another vessel."
Text by Captain J. Edward Shields for the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, membership journal, The Sea Chest, June 1994.


07 June 2014


QUADRA on Rum Row
from the photo archives of S.P.H.S©
"Prohibition reigned for nearly 14 years after the Volstead Act was passed. Washington State suffered thirst four years longer because of a prohibition law of its own; effective 1 January 1916. The nation became wet again in December 1933.
      During the dry spell the Coast Guard [U.S.] employed a fleet of 22 vessels on Puget Sound alone to cope with rumrunners in nearby waters. The MALAHAT conducted business on a grand scale. She sailed long distances and prepared to lie offshore and serve the smaller craft delivering contraband liquor to dealers on the mainland. 
      Some idea of the mother ship's routine in rum running can be gained from the account of a ship's officer on one of the MALAHAT's companion vessels, the former lighthouse tender QUADRA. Built in 1891, she was a clipper type, 265 net ton craft with a 120-HP engine. George Winterburn, second engineer, writing in B. C. Magazine in 1957, stated that the supercargo, not the captain, was 'supreme boss" of the expedition. Preparations were made to remain four of five months on rum row. If the ship's stores ran short, launches would bring out from shore whatever was required.
      'We loaded up in Vancouver with 22,000 cases of choice liquors, wines, rums, and even a large quantity of beer which was all consigned to Ensenada in Mexico. Papers were arranged to show that we had been there, discharged our cargo and left again with a clear bill of health. This we had before we even left Vancouver. It was a clear, calm, moonlit night when we were proceeding down the Strait of Juan de Fuca toward the open sea when the engine-room telegraph rang down 'STOP.' This was a fine night for doing business and we did plenty of it. Several launches came off to us and upon presenting their credentials, consisting of one half of a one dollar bill that had to be matched with the other half that the supercargo kept, the order that was written on his half-bill was filled and away the man went to shore with his launch full of liquor.
      Before daylight we again got under way and did not stop until we were abreast of Astoria, where we conducted more business. It was here that we really sent a lot of liquor ashore, that no doubt found its way to the Portland market. It began to look as if our intended four months' voyage was going to be considerably shortened and we had been at sea barely a week. 
      We left Astoria for San Francisco where we took up our position just outside of the Farallon Islands, 50 miles offshore from the Golden Gate. It was here that a bad storm hit us, causing us to heave to for a whole week. It was too stormy for any boats to come off, so we could not do any business, nor could we run for shelter from the storm on account of the contraband. All we could do was 'sacking', which mean removing the liquor from the cases and sewing it up in sacks of 12, which were not only easier to handle, but were not quite so obvious to the curious. Finally the storm blew itself out and the weather got warm and balmy. Business was brisk and in no time we were left with only half the cargo.
      Two other ships in this vicinity were operating for the same company as they had both been in these waters a long time, it was decided that we would take the remainder of their cargoes, which gave us more than we started out with. Both of these ships were wooden schooners; one a three-master COAL HARBOR, the other a five-master called the MALAHAT. The latter, like ourselves, was also ex-government owned. 
      While working alongside the MALAHAT, due to a miscalculation in seamanship, we rammed her instead, but as she was built of stout British Columbia fir, it was quite resilient and suffered no damage except a few scratches. Our own ship suffered badly, but remained afloat, as the damage was above the waterline. Our bowsprit was snapped off like a matchstick and our graceful clipper bow stove in, leaving a gaping hole into which we stuffed mattresses to keep the seas out. But each time we dipped into a wave a few tons of water would get past the mattresses and slosh along the 'tween decks, flooding all the cabins.

03 June 2014


Photographer Joe Williamson
Original, cropped 1951 photo from archives of
the Saltwater People Historical Scty©
Ivar's Acres of Clams, site of first meeting of the 
Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society.
Tour boat SIGHTSEER on left.
Cropped photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
Joe Williamson, photographer, historian, and captain of small boats was the sparkplug that pushed the five co-founders into a dinner meeting he arranged at his friend Ivar Haglund's Acres of Clams that resulted in the founding of the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society on 1 April 1948. Joe became the first president of the Society and served in that capacity for three terms.
      Joe was born in Seattle. From his earliest days he was drawn to the Seattle waterfront––even to the point of missing his high school graduation ceremonies at Ballard High School in order to take passage on the SS NORTHWESTERN in the spring of 1928. He traveled to Sitka, AK, where he joined the Coast & Geodetic Survey vessel EXPLORER. 
      After his return at the end of the season, he joined the old Merchant's Exchange, where he worked until cutbacks caused by the 1930s depression resulted in his being out of work around 1932. A friend of his, Al Price, who had a photography business, told him to buy a motorcycle––then he would hire Joe to make deliveries and film pick-ups. Al also allowed Joe to work in his darkroom.
      In 1932 Joe married Evelyn Soames. In 1935 he was offered a job in Juneau, AK, with Ordway in their darkroom. He accepted and sailed from Seattle on the SS ALASKA, going steerage. Within a short time, he made arrangements for Evelyn to join him in Juneau. While in the north, Joe's interest in the waterfront ships and shipping led him to explore many Alaskan maritime sites, including the wreck of the Canadian Pacific Navigation's ISLANDER, salvaged in 1934 but still on the beach at Douglas Is. Joe and Evelyn sailed home to Seattle on the ZAPORA early in August, visiting many of the "outports" of south eastern Alaska, en route.
      About 1937, Joe opened his own photoshop on the Seattle waterfront. In addition to selling prints from is own collection, he also developed and printed films for customers. His Marine Salon, located on the upper level of the viaduct connecting Colman Dock with Grand Trunk Dock, soon became a haven for "boat nuts." Joe took the pledge to "photograph anything that would float." In order to assist Joe in fulfilling his pledge, a group of us planned several one-day excursions to Vancouver, BC, the Olympic Peninsula, and Portland, OR, to cover marine scenes (including the shipwrecks of the British freighter TEMPLE BAR and the Russian VAZLAV VOROVSKY, below.)
With a load of steel, wrecked on the Columbia R. Bar, 1941.
Photograph archived the Marine Salon Photo Shop, Seattle, WA.,
operated by Joe Williamson.

Original from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
      Joe moved his shop to the Marion Street Viaduct in 1940. When WW II started and it wasn't easy to take pictures on the waterfront, he began to work with John A. Barthrop who had been called into the Army's Port of Embarkation, and so Joe was able to continue his photography work.
Joe and his PHOTOSHIP.

       He acquired a 32-ft Fellowship fast boat that he renamed PHOTOSHIP, and which he used before and during the war. In 1945, he purchased a 48-ft Stephens and obtained a charter to Southeastern AK. During the next seven or eight years, he spent most summers with various charters of his new ship, which he named PHOTOQUEEN. 

PHOTOQUEEN, with Joe Williamson,
1 July 1947 at Orcas Island, WA.
This copy was purchased from the Williamson Collection archived with
the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society©, Seattle, WA.
Please check with them if you'd like a copy of this photograph.
      During WW II and after, Joe branched out into commercial photography for legal firms. He moved his shop to the upper level of the Colman Dock before his final move to the street level.
      Joe lost his wife Evelyn in 1960. He closed his shop in 1962, about the same time as he and the former Alice Murphy were married. They moved to Bainbridge Island where Joe had a darkroom built in a new waterfront home at Eagle Harbor. There he continued with photography until he retired in 1980.
      His vast collection of photographs was purchased by the PSMHS and is now housed at the Museum of History and Industry reference library, Seattle WA."
Text by Austen Hemion, a long-time friend of Williamson and one of the five co-founders of PSMHS. 
This piece was published in The Sea Chest, June 1994, a quarterly journal for the members of PSMHS.


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