"Of all national assets, archives are the most precious:
they are the gift of one generation to another,
and the extent of our care of them marks the
extent of our civilization." Arthur Doughty.

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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.

23 August 2014

❖ S. G. SIMPSON ❖ Sternwheeler to Tug

Vintage postcard detail
Olympic Peninsula

postcard pub. by C. P. Johnston Co., Seattle, WA.
From the archives of S. P. H. S.©
"An array of the time-worn craft plying the Shelton run in the '80s and '90s would be an interesting sight today. The tri-weekly boats from Tacoma making all the way-stops included the ancient JOSEPHINE, MESSENGER, OTTER, and NELLIE. Later the more up-to-date CLARA BROWN, and for a brief period the smart MONTE CRISTO handled this trade. None of these packets were averse, when en route, to dropping a log tow out of the numerous shallow inlets to deep water tugs. This was accepted by the  occasional passenger, as a matter of course.
      All these steamers were stern wheelers, as was the pioneer on the direct Olympia-Shelton route, the WILLIE, operated by the Wiley Navigation Co. The similarity of names between owner and boat is but a coincidence. She was built for Capt. W. H. Ellis, intended for the Nooksack River and named for his son William. For the record, the WILLIE was 65-ft x 15-ft. On this meager hull was piled two full houses, topped by a pilot house on the boat deck.
      Her most noted characteristic was the constant list to port, unless one considers her lack of speed paramount. "Port list, long passage," is a sailor's maxim. The WILLIE surely lived up to this saying were the tides adverse. The whistle was enormous. In fact, the descriptive term "wheel and whistle" was coined for her long before the GREYHOUND made that appellation famous. That whistle by the way, is still in use [1948] on one of the few surviving steam tugs.
      In 1986, the WILLIE was succeeded by the larger and speedier (still with reservations) CITY OF SHELTON. Built for and operated by the Simpson Logging Co. interests, the SHELTON gave good service for ten years. 
Photo pre 1910.
Vintage postcard from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
      Then came the S. G. SIMPSON, without doubt the finest small stern wheeler ever on the Sound. She was built by Crawford & Reid of Tacoma from designs by Capt. Ed Gustafson, longtime master of the SHELTON.
      The new boat went into service in 1907. Her engines gave her a 15-mile speed, well above the average for her class. 
      Hammersly Inlet, better known as The Big Skookum, is an attractive waterway so the designer provided the SIMPSON with a neat observation cabin forward on the passenger deck. At that period the camps had three crews. One working, one coming and one going. You guessed it, the observation cabin became the "Bull Pen" for the loggers, with their caulk shoes and like gear. Her service was light, two round trips daily and except for the tricky shoal navigation between Arcadia and Shelton, the run was a sinecure.
      In 1922 land transportation had ruined the once prosperous trade, relegating the SIMPSON to service as a freighter with Tacoma as the northern terminal.
      Puget Sound Freight Lines took over the boat and route in 1926. Her excess power and fine lines made her unsuitable for freighting so the Freight Lines sold the SIMPSON two years later to Martin Tjerne and associates of Stanwood. 
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
She was rebuilt by Harold Durham at Everett as the tugboat E. G. ENGLISH, again bearing the name of a well known pioneer logging operator. Her new service was even more limited, towing log rafts from the mouth of the Skagit River to Camano Island. 
Her length of 115-ft was a detriment in the narrow confines of Tom Moore Slough, where the logging company had their rafting grounds. Mr. Tjerne pioneered by having a dredger type spud fitted forward of the house. This innovation was a success and was later adopted by other streamers using the same waters. Progress, so called, again caught up with the ENGLISH (ex-SIMPSON.)
      In the early 1940s the business intermittent at best, could be better handled by smaller Diesel powered tugs. Ol' Scutt saw the pathetic E. G. ENGLISH recently abandoned and weatherworn on a lonely strip of beach, but still showing traces of the thoroughbred that she had been in her better days.
      Nearby were the bones of her predecessor, the even more historic LILY. Two fine old craft mouldering on to oblivion."
Pacific Motor Boat, August 1948.
For J.R.


19 August 2014


"News photo scoops these days [1952] usually suggest wire-photos flashed over sea and land and swift airplanes rushing prints of sensational events from city to city, but the first filing of explorer Roald Amundsen's history-making flight over the North Pole in 1926 came to Seattle by sailing ship.
      The newspapers had been full of stories of the top-of-the-world voyage of the dirigible NORGE from King's Bay, Spitzbergen, to Teller, AK, carrying Amundsen, Lincoln Ellsworth, and their daring crew of North Pole explorers. I was intensely interested in the passage of the ship-of-the-air over the top-of-the-world but had no idea I would have a part in the stories of the flight told in pictures.
Schooner C.S. HOLMES
framed print donated by Miles McCoy.
Saltwater People Historical Archives.

One summer afternoon in 1926 as I wended my way up the Seattle waterfront to meet the romantic old sailing schooner C. S. HOLMES, I anticipated a pleasant chat with her master, Capt. John Backland, Sr., and the story of a trading cruise to the Arctic Coast of AK. As I climbed aboard the HOLMES, I was given a warm greeting by the bearded skipper of the trim four-master. He introduced me to a stocky young Norwegian who spoke very little English.
      Capt. Backland, to my astonishment, explained that the young fellow, who joined the C. S. HOLMES at Teller, AK, had been the photographer of the NORGE during the ship-of-the-air's voyage over the North Pole and had the film of numerous shots taken during the flight. He wished to buy some cigarettes and use a telephone. Would I help him?
      I realized that the young Norwegian had in an important-looking black case, a part of his luggage, a great world-wide news picture scoop and I was not long in warming up to him. I would be very glad to assist the visitor to our shores, the first to use the top-of-the-world route, I told Capt. Backland.
      When we reached the shoreside end of the dock house at Pier 5, where the HOLMES was moored, I saw a newshawk of the rival sheet heading for the vessel.
      Determined not to allow my guest with the first pictures of the NORGE flight to fall into his hands, I quickly explained as best I could that I was sorry, but there were no phones nor cigarettes on the central waterfront and to comply with his wishes, I must take him to a dock quite a distance north.
      We had some heavy luggage to carry but succeeded in reaching Pier 14, where we found a phone and I called a taxicab. I told my friend that the cigarettes and the telephone service were better uptown.
      It was late afternoon when we reached the newsroom of my paper and I explained that my guest had the first pictures of the Amundsen flight over the North Pole. We were not long making a deal with the young Norwegian. He accepted our offer of a guarantee of one hundred dollars if the films developed satisfactorily. We took the films to our staff photographers who accomplished wonders in producing a score of sensational pictures in the Saturday editions and had another spread Sunday morning. During the final conferences, the young Norwegian kept watching me with a puzzled expression on his face. Then he said, "'did you forget about the cigarettes and where can I use a telephone?"
A gift from W. E. Evans.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      Because of that news-picture beat, I have always had a warm spot in my heart for the famous old sailing schooner C. S. HOLMES, that went to her doom on the BC coast while being towed from Zeballos to Port Alberni, BC. She was serving as a lowly barge when lost. The HOLMES was carried ashore and smashed against the rocks when the towline parted. She was pounded into four pieces by the fury of the gale.
      Of the Arctic traders that threaded their way through ice floes to little settlements near the top of the world, the HOLMES was one of the most widely known. For more than 30 years, she operated from Seattle to Point Barrow and native villages in the Far North.
      Each spring the HOLMES would tow to Cape Flattery and spread her sails to the winds of the North Pacific, laden with cargo that was traded for furs obtained by Alaskan natives in the North land's wilderness.
      Built in 1893 in Port Blakely, the vessel was named for the late C. S. HOLMES, one of the original owners of the Port Blakely Mill Co. Mr. Holmes later lived in San Francisco where he was a partner in the firm of Renton & Holmes.
      The trim four-master was constructed in the Hall Brothers' Shipyards, the predecessor of the Winslow Marine Railway & Shipbuilding Co. That was when Benjamin Harrison was president, and four years before the gold ship PORTLAND arrived from AK with her Klondyke treasure cargo.
      The HOLMES was operated by the late Capt. John Backland, Sr., and until WWII forced her into retirement, by his son, Capt. John Backland, Jr.
      The Arctic trade of the Backlands' was one of the oldest shipping enterprises in Seattle. It was established in 1906 when the late Capt. Backland, Sr., purchased a half interest in the sailing schooner VOLANTE, and then acquired the sailing schooner TRANSIT in 1908.
      Captain Backland, Sr,  took the TRANSIT into the Arctic every season from that time until she was lost in the ice off Point Barrow in 1913. Then he purchased the C. S. HOLMES. ( Here is a Saltwater People post with more on the TRANSIT and her builder here.)
      Capt. John Backland, Sr., as I remember him, was a tall, dignified, mustached master mariner, who was very religious. Born in Sweden, he became a naturalized British subject and sailed as master of English ships between London, Australia, and New Zealand.
      Capt. Backland was married in London and came to Seattle from the British port in 1906. Three years later, he became an American citizen. He was succeeded as head of the C . S. Holmes Shipping Co by his son, who made many voyages with his father and had a remarkable linguistic ability to trade with the Eskimos.
      Capt. John Backland, Jr., with his intimate knowledge of the ice-choked Arctic seas, became a Navy pilot, and served in that capacity with Barex, the Navy's annual supply expedition from Seattle to Point Barrow, farthest north settlement under the American flag.
      The elder Backland died in 1928, after being in the Arctic trade 21 years.
      The HOLMES was requisitioned by the Army and converted into a barge in the plant of the Winslow Marine Railway & Shipbuilding Co. She was shorn of her towering masts and new deck houses for officers and crew. The vessel was used by the Army in transporting cargo on Puget Sound during the war and then sold to a shipbroker. Many on the waterfront thought the HOLMES should have been spared, that other vessels were more suitable for conversion into a barge because of the old windjammer's age, but war means waste and destruction and the HOLMES became a casualty of the struggle."
Calkins, R. H. "Skipper". High Tide; Seattle, Marine Digest Publishing, 1952.

16 August 2014


Undated original photo from the Clinton Betz Collection,
from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

"It was 6 o'clock and dark when the COMANCHE drew into the dock at Sekiu last night. 

The tide was exceedingly low so that a foot-wide, inch thick board that was serving duty as a gangplank, lay across the dock and the upper deck, on the level. In the middle of that board was a knot and every time a man came across her I expected to see him go wallowing down the long narrow way to the water below. But the board held till all the crew were ashore and another stouter one was substituted from the dock for me. But I wasn't sorry, I tell you, though when I saw the not very slender, smiling Indian woman who had braved that board, I was ashamed of myself that I had looked so worried that they had dug up a big plank for me. 
      After what seemed hours of unloading freight at Sekiu we steamed off to Neah Bay. I had wanted to see that historic village by daylight, but full moon would have served nearly as well if I could have stayed awake till we got there!
click image to enlarge.

      At Neah Bay is another logging camp and there a pulp plant to use the logs just as soon as they come down from the hills. I don't like to think, somehow, of hearty spruce and fir going into pulp when all over the hills lie logs fit for nothing else. Somebody is going to make a million dollars some of these days soon by inventing a way of getting into the hills with some grinding machinery to use the by-products of logging right there on the spot. 
      From Neah Bay to Seattle, I was the only passenger aboard the COMANCHE. What a good time I had getting acquainted with the crew! Captain Van Nieuwenhuise came from Rotterdam when he was 11 and he can remember old Holland vividly. He used to play on Whidbey Island, logging there, trying to farm a little, too I think, but longing for the sea all the time.
      Mr. Boyd, purser, is a Scotsman with an Irish twinkle in his eyes. Now, I was always frightened of pursers thinking them a hard boiled lot. I learned long ago that boat captains are all bark and no bite with a very soft heart underneath a necessary crust. If all pursers were like Mr. Boyd, I shall decide that they are deceivin' critters, too. In fact there is something about the sea that hardens men outside, softens them inside.
      After dinner during the long hours between Pt. Townsend and Seattle, everybody gathered around Mr. Sam Campbell, second engineer, maker of violins, to see how fiddles are carved out of hunks of wood. This mechanical genius has evolved and manufactured his own tools for making his fiddles, one of them being a darling tiny brass plane about the size of my thumb, curved to plow off microscopic shavings from Italian maple so as to form it into the back of the violin. One of his fiddles is made from Puget Sound maple and is more beautiful than the others, our maple having a gracious waving figure much more attractive than the straight zigzag grain of the Italian wood.
      Mr. Campbell spent ten years carving out a perfect ship only to have it stolen. He turned to violins for consolation, perhaps, and is beginning to turn out instruments of true, rich, vibrant tones.
      With another two or three days aboard the freighter who knows what other surprising people with surprising gifts might have been discovered? Many of the crew I didn't even see. The stoker might have turned out to be a poet; the chef, a painter; the deckhand, a sociologist!
      From Seattle by stage was a long comfortable way, the day disappearing across the San Juan islands as we drew near home. See you tomorrow."
Text by author June Burn, former San Juan County islander. 
Puget Soundings, 1927.

13 August 2014


The Highliner of the Codfish Schooner FANNY DUTARD
Red Oscar
The clock on the wall of the newsroom of Seattle's morning newspaper was ticking away the last minutes of a warm night in July. The early-shift reporters had been given "thirty" and were checking out at the platform-raised desk of the city editor. I had a feeling of self-pity as I watched the scene from my desk near a window overlooking Fourth Ave at Union St for I had been given the assignment to meet the steamer HUMBOLDT, due from SE Alaska at midnight.
      The city editor, a small balding fellow who had developed into a bundle of nerves, seldom gave a reporter an assignment without telling him how dull and uninteresting the paper was growing. He had experienced the jitters ever since the $50,000 gold robbery in which the HUMBOLDT was involved. 'Scoopy' MacDonald a reporter on a rival sheet, had scored a beat on the story and we felt we could not have been more disgraced if we had hauled down the American flag. At any rate, it appeared that the HUMBOLDT gold robber story was going to be shoved down our throats for many months to come and meet the famous old ship was going to be a must.
     In a corner of the newsroom was a reporter pounding out a later story between puffs on a cigarette. He had been watching me and finally came over to my desk with an inquiring expression on his face.
     'Tough break, that late assignment, but that's the newspaper game. However, cheer up, I'll go along. Always wanted to give the HUMBOLDT the once over, ever since that gold robbery story.'
     In a few minutes, I was on my way to Pier 7 to meet the HUMBOLDT, accompanied by William Slavens McNutt, then a struggling reporter on the morning newspaper, who added to his modest salary by writing short fiction for moderately-priced magazines published in New York.
     Those were the days of five-cent cigars, nickel beers, and three-dollar hats, but Bill, for some reason, just couldn't make his salary cover his personal wants. Quite often, he was refused assignments until he visited a barbershop in the Antlers Hotel, across the street, after obtaining a loan from the city editor. Bill would be broke a few days and then suddenly blossom out with a comfortably sized bankroll. I learned that Bill was writing fiction late at night at police headquarters, between stories of murders, suicides, and fires. He mailed his magazine stories at the Third Ave and Union St post office during the early morning hours after he received 'thirty' at police headquarters.
     As we walked along the waterfront toward Pier 7, I said: 'Bill, I think I have a story for you as a reward for your trip. You could work it up either as fact or fiction. Across the street is the Cape Flattery Bar, the toughest saloon this side of San Francisco's Barbary Coast. After we check up on the HUMBOLDT, we'll take a look-see. Things usually get pretty hot at this time of night in all waterfront bars.'
     At Pier 7, we learned that the HUMBOLDT had been delayed by headwinds and we would have time to visit the Cape Flattery emporium of mirth and good cheer, which was beginning to rival Billy's Mug of the skid road, which also was called Billy The Mug's.
     As we entered the wooden building through a broad door, there was a wild commotion in the saloon. The barkeep, a giant of a man, wearing a handlebar mustache, pounded the massive bar with a powerful fist that made the flimsy building rattle and shake, as he attempted to restore order.
     A raw-boned fisherman standing in the middle of the sawdust-covered floor with a huge glass of beer shouted: 'Here's to the highliner of the FANNY DUTARD.'
from West Coast Windjammers In Story and Pictures
by James Gibbs. Superior Pub. Seattle, 1968.
     The rest of the toast was drowned out by the shouts of fishermen, who left their tables along the wall and moved over to the bar. When the din partly subsided, [click on "read more" below]

08 August 2014

04 August 2014

❖ Schooner LOTTIE BENNETT ❖ Packing a Utopian Dream? (Updated)

Lumber Schooner LOTTIE BENNETT,
Laying San Francisco, 1933.

Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
The Hall Brothers built 170-ft schooner LOTTIE BENNETT, launched in 1899 at Port Blakely, WA, was one of three sister ships built for the account of the yard owners. 
      She was purchased by Capt. L. Ozanne of Papeete, in 1924 for serving under the French flag as schooner NORMANDIE.
      When the above photo was taken in San Francisco in 1933, she had her birth name restored and was being prepared for a trip to Panama. 
      A Utopian group of forty people wanted to establish a cooperative colony headquartered on two islands in the Bay of Panama where they dreamed about replacing money with barter. 
Mrs. Frank Harris
Member of the California Cooperative Colony
at the wheel of the LOTTIE BENNETT

Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

Members trimming the LOTTIE's deck equipment
preparing for what was to be a sail to their new colony.
Circa forty members had to deposit 
 money for their share, before joining the ship from
from San Francisco to the Bay of Panama.
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.© 

      Those plans fell through and she ended up involved in the motion picture industry before she was used as a floating cannery for Dr. Ross Pet Foods Co., operating for a time in Mexican waters.

Tacoma historian, Gary M. White, has included two photos of the LOTTIE BENNETT in his 
Hall Brothers Shipbuilders book published by Arcadia Press.

Hall Brothers Shipbuilders, 
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