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

About Us

My photo
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.

24 December 2015


Calm winter anchorage,
Lake Union, Seattle, WA.
Inside Front, Schooner C. A. THAYER,
Outside Right, Schooner CHARLES R. WILSON.
As per inscription on verso.

Photographer unknown.
Undated original photo from the C. Weber Collection,
Archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"Prior to 1946, after the schooners were unloaded and cleaned up, they were towed to Lake Union in Seattle for the winter. The departure of the schooners left the face of the Poulsbo wharf open for the freight boat to Seattle to land to deliver supplies or ship out the finished packaged cod. At the end of WW II, the steamer service to Poulsbo was discontinued and a good auto freight service was in operation. 
      The moorage in Seattle was closer to Father's office, allowing him to daily supervise the winter activities. Before the Lake Washington Ship Canal and government locks were completed in 1917, the vessels remained at Poulsbo, moored between the end of the wharf and a pile dolphin. This was most difficult for the crew working on the vessels, as in stormy weather the bay was too rough for a small skiff to transport the men. 
      During the 1930s, there were four schooners in the combined codfish fleet of the Pacific Coast Codfish Co and Captain J.E. Shields. They moored side by side, bow by stern, usually along with several other vessels that operated in the fishing industry. After a towboat brought a schooner and moored it alongside another vessel, the towboat would back under the bow, attach a line to one of the anchors, tow this out several hundred feet, then drop it. Next the tug returned for the other anchor. After both anchors were out, the tug departed and the vessel's captain and another man hove the anchor chain tight, taking care not to pull too hard as the anchor would drag through the mud of the lake bottom. Thus the vessels were secure.
      During the layup season, security on the codfish schooners was a continuous problem. People were curious and would come out in a rowboat and go through the entire vessel. Stealing was a problem, nothing of value could be left on board. Father allowed one of the fishermen to live on each schooner in exchange for being the watchman. This worked well. The man had a place to live that he could heat, and the vessel's owner had some security."
Above text, Salt of the Sea, The Pacific Coast Cod Fishery and the Last Days of Sail. Shields, Captain Ed. Pacific Heritage Press. 2001.

19 December 2015


with thanks to HILMA III.
Her eighth annual Christmas Cruise,
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
The impersonator up on the top is Jack Meyer, aboard Chet Gibson's HILMA III, seen in this photo, when they were sponsored by the Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 21. 
      The trek was long so the nights were divided up to serve the Government Locks, Lake Union, Portage Bay, Madison Park, Leschi area, Mercer Island, and Kirkland. 
      The Civic Christmas Ship, the VALKYRIE, owned by Norman Berg which brought along an 18-piece orchestra and 20-voice chorus came too, taking different routes switching between Alki, Magnolia, Elliott Bay, Golden Gardens, Blue Ridge, Shorewood, Mount Baker and Seward Parks and Rainier Beach. Santa brought good cheer to many on the long coastline of the 2nd largest lake in Washington State but not forgetting to escape for a trip or two to the saltchuck.
Pulls away from her Lake Union pier on 17 Dec. 1952.

Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
The 40-ft Santa Ship on an overland voyage, 
was hauled along East Green Lake Way en route
from Lake Union to Green Lake for a Christmas cruise.
This time she was accompanied by Transit System workers
to clear trolley wires. Dated 22 Dec. 1955.
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©

14 December 2015


Lopez Island,
with wreck location at Davis Bay.
Click to enlarge.
By Quantity Photo Co.
Archives of S.P.H.S.
Thursday, 5 November 1903
"The Seattle papers published such garbled reports of the capture of fourteen Chinese on Lopez Island last week and the arrest of the two white men who smuggled them over from Victoria, that the Islander gives rather more space to the circumstances than would otherwise have been deemed necessary. Following are the facts:
      About midnight Tuesday the two smugglers, Harry Thomas, alias Summers, and Fred Anderson, left Victoria in a sloop about 28' long, with 14 Chinese laborers, destined for Seattle. They made good time across Haro Strait and were skirting the shore of Lopez Island in search of a safe and secluded anchorage for the day when a high wind sprung up quite suddenly, rendering the navigation of the heavily loaded sloop difficult and dangerous. The jib was soon carried away and the little craft was run into Davis Bay, near Richardson, and anchored. But it was very rough, even there, the wind being in the southwest, and the anchor line having parted, the sloop was driven upon the rocks and was soon a total wreck. Thomas jumped into the water and carried a line ashore; O.J. and E.J. Bruns, tenants of the Davis farm, having come to their assistance, the terrified Mongolians were landed and soon 'took to the woods.' The two smugglers, after offering Bruns brothers $100 to look after the Chinamen until they could go to Seattle and get another boat, walked to Lopez, about six miles, to take the steamer BUCKEYE for Anacortes. Bruns brothers, promptly notified Henry Towell, Justice of the Peace of the precinct, and Mr. Towell hurried to Lopez and engaged Weeks brothers to take him in their launch to Friday Harbor where he notified Deputy Customs Collector Culver. 
On smuggler duty for Sheriff McCrary.
San Juan County, WA.
The steamer BUCKEYE was then coming into the harbor, and Mr. Culver, accompanied by Towell and Sheriff McCrary, at once started after the smugglers who were expected to board the BUCKEYE at Port Stanley. They got aboard at Lopez, however, and were quickly arrested by Mr. Culver, handcuffed together and left in charge of Mr. Towell at Butler's store while the officers were taken by Ben Lichtenberg in search of the Chinese, whom the Bruns brothers had succeeded in 'rounding up' shortly before dark, on the Port Stanley road, taking them back to the Davis place, where the officers found them. From there they were taken in a wagon to Lopez, where they were lodged over Butler's store and guarded all night by the officers, the smugglers on one side of them and the Chinese on the other, the two white men having begged that they not be left in the same room with the Chinese from whom they seemed to fear violence. The nearest Chinese detention station being at Pt. Townsend, all were taken there on the steamer LYDIA THOMPSON Thursday, Bruns brothers also going, in the expectation that the preliminary hearings of the men would be held before the U.S. Court Commissioner there. Mr. Culver's responsibility in the matter ceased with the turning over of the party to Col. Fisher, inspector in charge of the Immigration Service.
      For the reason that Thomas (Summers) and Anderson had been arrested a few months ago in Seattle for the same offense, by Customs Officers Delaney and Brisker, and had been 'bound over' by Commissioner Keifer, Col. Fisher decided to take them there, after having had a very aggravating experience with Commissioner Kuhn in Port Townsend
The defense (?) of the prisoners is that they were en route with the Chinese from Victoria to Salt Spring Island, B.C. to cut wood, and were driven into the US by 'stress of weather.' Bruns brothers and Mr. Towell merit much commendation for their expeditious work and the good judgment they exercised. But for their prompt action Thomas and Anderson would have escaped."
21 January 1904: 
"Harry Thomas, alias Summers, and Fred Anderson, the two smugglers of Chinese arrested at Lopez on 28 October 1903, were convicted in the US Court in Seattle last week and each sentenced to imprisonment of one year in the federal penitentiary on McNeil's Island and also to pay a fine of $1,000."
Both articles from the pages of the San Juan Islander newspaper, Friday Harbor, WA. 
From the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society.

09 December 2015


The 15,000 ton liner PRESIDENT MADISON
windswept into s
Smith Cove, Seattle, WA. 

October 1934.
Original out-of-focus photo by Marine Photo Shop.
from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
The arrow indicates the keel, partly submerged,
of the sternwheeler HARVESTER,
that plied between Seattle and Mount Vernon.
The crew leaped to safety aboard nearby barges.
The NORTH HAVEN (L), and the tug ROOSEVELT
also were damaged as they pounded against the
side of the MADISON during the fierce
70-mile an hour gale, taking a toll of 17 lives,
in the Puget Sound area.
One of the worst gales in many years swept the Puget Sound area on 21 October 1934; southwest winds up to 70 miles-an-hour causing damage in the millions of dollars to ships, buildings, and standing timber. The American Mail Line's liner PRESIDENT MADISON figured in another spectacular mishap at Seattle when she was torn from her moorings at the outer end of Pier 41 (now Pier 91) and went drifting across the harbor, crashing into the sternwheel steamer HARVESTER of the Skagit River Navigation & Trading Co and sinking her in deep water. She also collided with the steamship NORTH HAVEN of the Northland Transportation Co inflicting considerable damage to that vessel. 
After being righted, 12 November 1934.
Heavy cables were run under the vessel and carried
across the deck to the outer rail where they were made fast.

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

      The HARVESTER was built in 1912, at Stanwood, WA, for Capt. H.H. McDonald for 30 passengers as well as greater freight capacity than previous vessels in this service.
      She was 638 t. / 152' x 36.2' x 6.8', a larger steamer than the GLEANER, built by McDonald in 1907. She was of shallower draft and was able to navigate the shallow Skagit and Stillaguamish Rivers more successfully than her elder running mate.
Above text: H.W. McCurdy's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. Gordon Newell, editor. Superior (1965.)  
Ship model of the sternwheeler HARVESTER
with Mrs. Anna G. Grimison.
Her son, "first mate" Harry E. Grimison, is the suspected builder.
Location of this fine model???
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      President of the Skagit River Navigation Co, Mrs. Anna G. Grimison was at the helm of the line for almost forty years. The line was started by her father, Capt. H. H. McDonald. Her last two freight boats were the sternwheelers SKAGIT CHIEF and SKAGIT BELLE. Mrs. Grimison, who made it clear she did not want to be compared to 'Tug Boat Annie,'  retired in 1962 and passed away in Seattle in 1964.

01 December 2015


Japanese glass fish floats

"People like to throw things off boats. Islanders know this, because the fickle currents that course through the San Juans are always depositing objects of great fascination upon their shores, and they can make good use of them.
      Not necessarily useful, but interesting nevertheless, are the little notes sealed in bottles and cast from the deck of a ferry or the family pleasure craft by hopeful children. Or perhaps even by an adult harboring the romantic notion that someone in a far-off place will find it.
      The words, "flotsam" and "jetsam" often occur in tandem but have different meanings. Strictly defined,  "flotsam" is floating wreckage and "jetsam" is material thrown off a boat to lighten it, presumably in an effort to prevent that boat from becoming flotsam. In the context of beachcombing, however, both words are used rather more loosely.
      A lot of flotsam arrived on our Shaw shore, mostly detritus from small boats, such as transoms and framing pieces. Once in a while, something really exciting would turn up. We found a chair that apparently slid or perhaps was thrown, off the deck of the PRINCESS MARGUERITE, the beloved Seattle-to-Victoria excursion ship that used to come within waving distance of the San Juans during summer passages. Apparently it had traveled from the Strait of Juan de Fuca up through Middle Channel between Lopez and San Juan, executed a smart maneuver to port, passed Turn Island into San Juan Channel, and finally came to rest on Andy's Island, a short row from our dock. Neatly folded and balanced on a large rock in plain sight as if anticipating rescue, it was in remarkable repair considering its extended journey.
     That chair became quite a conversation piece in our living room. We would point out the initials CPR stamped into the back, and guests would cluck as if we might have filched it. We hadn't, of course. 
      One year, we found the real treasure of oriental treasures, a glass fishing float, in our own little cove. Most often discovered on ocean shores, these pretty aqua-tinted glass balls rarely made it into the San Juans, and today probably not at all since the practical Japanese went to using plastic floats.
      My favorite beachcombing story, though, was related by Tibb Dodd, a remarkable lady who lived on Yellow Island on the San Juan Channel end of Wasp Passage, with her also remarkable husband, Lew. They had bought the little island in 1945 and built an enchanting driftwood house, situated on a natural rock outcropping that served as the fireplace hearth. Among their few amenities was running water piped down to the house from a catchment basin. Otherwise, they existed primarily on the gifts that nature bestowed, and they seemed many.
      It being his habit to beach comb regularly, Lew walked into the house one morning with a carton of eggs and said: "Well, here's our breakfast." Tibb calmly accepted the eggs and remarked that it would be nice if some bacon were to wash in, as well. It did. Knowing something of the charmed life they lived on Yellow Island, I was inclined to believe the story, which she told me with a perfectly straight face.
      The Dodds are long gone, but fortunately, their beautiful island now belongs to the Nature Conservancy, a worthy organization that welcomes visitors ashore with the same selective concern that the Dodds did.
      It's a point of honor to a beachcomber that no useful find is to be left for the tide to snatch back into the sea. If you can't use it, offer it to a friend. 
McTAVISH launching 
Neck Point, Shaw Island May 1974.
Margaret and Malcolm Cameron 
 with JoAnn Ridley's flotsam.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      Our neighbor, the architect-artist Malcolm Cameron, built a handsome little boat in his garage, named it McTAVISH, and trimmed the gunwale with a hunk of two-inch manila rope that washed up on our beach one winter day. We guess it was a tow line from a working tug. McTAVISH was the only boat I've ever met that could not successfully be referred to as "she", and we were honored that the piece of storm-tossed flotsam was considered worthy of his well-shaped sheer.
      Let the tourists collect driftwood. Islanders will do that, too, for fuel or decor, but they look farther, and when necessary will shamelessly hide a good piece of flotsam or jetsam until it can be carried home. If you can't hide it, you put it beyond the tide line in an attitude that signals to the next beachcomber that it already has been found and claimed.
      I observed that our more well-to-do islanders seemed to be the most acquisitive and secretive of beachcombers, but at least the rest of us had an equal chance. There are some things money can't buy, and flotsam and jetsam are two of them.
One chapter from A San Juan Islands Journal by JoAnn Ridley.

Book search here.

23 November 2015


Dories transfer food from liner GENERAL LEE
to fishing schooner SOPHIE CHRISTENSON in distance.
L-R: Chief Steward E.A. Gruby; Capt. C.S. Hansen; (?)
Sophie had radioed the crew was starving from depleted
supplies from adverse weather.
Photo back-stamp dated 29 October 1934.
ON 117099
675 gross tons; 180.6' x 38.9' x 13.4'
Built 1901 by Hall Brothers at Pt. Blakely, WA.
For owners: Sudden and Christenson of San Francisco.
Here she is heading home to Poulsbo owner after 57 days
at sea with a record catch of cod, one year later than the 

top photo with GENERAL LEE.
1935 original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"A near-tragedy of the Pacific was averted with the arrival of the States Liner GENERAL LEE, commanded by Capt. C E Christensen, out of Seattle. The SOPHIE CHRISTENSON was a cod-fisher and had been out of Seattle six months with the largest load of codfish in her holds than was ever carried by any American fisher. Due to rough weather and adverse winds, the CHRISTENSON was entirely out of food supplies. In the path of the GENERAL LEE's route to the Orient, they laid after asking for assistance by wireless and waited for them to reach her. Upon arriving there, Capt. Hansen with the assistance of Chief Steward E. A. Gruby loaded into dories sent by the CHRISTENSON more than 1,200 lbs of food supplies. That amount of food, they figured would keep life in the bodies of a crew of 48 men aboard, until they would reach their homeport, Seattle, to which they were bound and hoped to make in less than a month's time." Unknown newspaper publisher, dated 29 October 1934.

1933: J.E. Shields was master on his 1st trip north to the Bering Sea. That was the largest cargo of salt cod ever landed either before or since. 
1934: Three schooners, SOPHIE CHRISTENSON, WAWONA and the AZALEA, with auxiliary schooner DOROTHEA, came home from the Bering with a total catch of 1,633,425 fish. 
      Lost: Einer Kirby, swept overboard from the SOPHIE outward bound 600 miles west of Cape Flattery. H.W. McCurdy's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. Gordon Newell, editor. Superior. p.429.   

18 November 2015


L-R: Author, editor GORDON NEWELL (1913-1991)
Captain Shaver
aboard Steamer PORTLAND,
 27 November 1966.

Delivering 70 years of maritime history pages
 from the Oregon printers to the Washington publisher.

Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
If you have found yourself involved with any maritime history research of boats or their operators, you've probably found yourself buried in or pointed in the direction of a copy of the H.W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. These texts are a little scarce but are found at most important libraries and places of research, an invaluable aid for those studying Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia waterfront life. 
      Here is a news clipping that revealed the release of the monumental effort:
     " A truck loaded with 800 books, weighing a 6,200 pounds, left the Lincoln $ Allen Co Bindery, 1600 SE Division Street, Friday afternoon for Seattle, to deliver the first batch of the H. W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest.
      Covering 70 years of maritime history in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, each copy of the book contains 776 pages and weighs 7.75 pounds. It is bound with a heavy imitation leather cover, with a stamped design on the front and back, similar to that of the Lewis and Dryden Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, which was published in 1895. The new book picks up history where the Lewis & Dryden book left off.
      The McCurdy book was compiled and written by Gordon Newell, Seattle and Olympia author, after H. W. McCurdy, Seattle shipbuilder and historian, made a grant of $25,000 as a starting fund. Superior Publishing Co, Seattle, was given the publishing contract.
      Printing, however, was done in Portland by the Graphic Arts Center, which ran more than 1.5 million pages through its presses. The book contains approximately one million words and 1,000 illustrations.
      The composition was done in Portland by Litho Compositors of Oregon, and negatives and halftones were made in Seattle by Artcraft Engraving Co. The paper, weighing 17,000 pounds, came from an Everett, WA, mill; the binding material was from New York. Ten days were required for binding the 2,000 copies.
      The first load was delivered to Superior Publishing Co which will distribute the copies to founder-subscribers who reserved copies at $50 and $75 each. In three days time, it will be the official publication date, after which the price will be boosted to $100 a copy, according  to the publishing firm."  Unidentified newspaper clip from 27 November 1966.

Gordon Newell wrote many books including:
So Fair A Dwelling Place
S.O.S. North Pacific
Ships of the Inland Waters
Pacific Lumber Ships
Ocean Liners of the 20th Century
Pacific Steamboats
Pacific Tugboats
Pacific Coastal Liners
Totem Tales of Old Seattle
Westward to Alki

14 November 2015


Mural by the famous Anacortes artist/historian Bill Mitchell.
Photograph by Mary Matzek, 2006.
The YANKEE DOODLE was a small boat with a very narrow beam that ran between Bellingham, Whatcom County, and Anacortes, Skagit County, stopping at many places among the Islands of San Juan group, carrying mail and passengers. Captain and owner of the good ship YANKEE DOODLE was Bill Kasch from Fidalgo Island. Captain Kasch was a firm believer in the slogan "the mail must go through," so the YANKEE DOODLE never stopped for stormy weather.
      I recall one day while returning to Orcas Island from Bellingham aboard the vessel; we encountered some very stormy weather off the point of Lummi Island. Waves were washing over the boat, and the cabin had water up to the seats. I was the only passenger aboard and was sitting with my feet propped up on the opposite seat, scared to death. The next big wave flooded the engine and it stopped. I could hear Captain Kasch in the engine room pounding on some iron, gasoline was floating around on top of the water, and Capt Kasch was singing. I nervously glanced around to see if there were any life preservers. "Why did I decide to return home this morning?" I wonder to myself. It hadn't seemed to be very windy at the dock. But then I remembered hearing Capt Kasch calling out just before we left the dock, 'all aboard for the San Juan Archipelago, if you don't care where the Hell you go!'
      Breaking over the bow came another big wave. Everything that was loose was banging and floating around. The little old pot-bellied stove that furnished the heat was smoking. Another clanking came from the engine room and suddenly the engine started. The door of the engine room swung open and Capt Kasch, covered with grease and oil, poked his head through the door singing––"Nearer My God to Thee."
       At that time I was too frightened to think that it was a joke. But after all, the mail must go through!
Above text from: They Named it Deer Harbor, Covering the Period of 1852 to 1912.  McLachlan, Edith. Deer Harbor, WA. (1972.)

Search for the McLachlan book here.

11 November 2015


Henry J. Kaiser, Sr, and his wife, Bess.
They inspect a Liberty Ship model in the early 1940s. 
Henry J. and his son, Edgar, local industrialists built
Libertys for the US government in three yards in Portland, OR. 
Some 30,000 workers helped launch as many 
as four per week.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

West Coast Shipbuilder
Henry J. Kaiser
Used a model in a demonstration of how his
yards launched a 10,500-ton Liberty ship
in 4 days, 15 hours, and 25 minutes.

Original photo dated 13 November 1942 from
the archives of Saltwater People Historical Society©
Liberty Ships was the name given to the EC2 type ship designed for Emergency Construction by US Maritime Commission in WW II. They were nicknamed 'Ugly Ducklings' by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
      The first of 2,711 Liberty Ships was the SIR PATRICK HENRY, launched on 27 Sept 1941. Altogether 2,710 were completed as one burned at the dock.
      The 250,000 parts were pre-fabricated throughout the country and welded together in c. 70 days. A Liberty cost $2,000,000. A group that raised $2 million in War Bonds could suggest a name for a Liberty Ship.
The President visiting the Kaiser yard;
Kaiser-Vancouver built ten EC2s at their Portland Yard.
Roosevelt attended the launch on his President's
Tour of the Nations Defense Installations and War Plants.
original undated photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"Camera in the Kaiser Shipyard"
Launching of the first of three Liberty ships within 24 hours.
Night shot taken at the shipyard with flash and yard lights.
7 April 1944.

Photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
Richmond Shipyard Launching of the last Liberty Ship,

Liberty hull #2700
Henry J. Kaiser, head of the shipyard.
Lita B. Warner, daughter of Sam Warner of motion picture fame.
The vessel was named after the sponsor's grandfather.
Bess Kaiser is at the right.
Dated 1 July 1944.

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

Viewing models from his shipyards.

Back stamped 25 September 1946
Acme Telephoto.
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©

Henry J. Kaiser, West Coast industrialist, looked over his exhibit of ship models as he prepared to testify 23 September before the House Merchant Marine Committee which was probing wartime shipbuilding profits. In defense of his wartime operations, Kaiser contended that he saved the nation nearly $500,000,000 on war contracts and more than two years of precious time in the construction of Liberty ships. 

To read more about the dimensions, crew, builders, names of the Liberty Ships without listening to me, please see US Maritime Commission.

      Edgar F. Kaiser, native born Washingtonian, who took over the helm of the industrial empire from his founding father, Henry J. Kaiser was the general manager of the three Kaiser shipyards in Portland. He also played major roles in the building of Hoover, Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams. 
       Edgar received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969 for his efforts to increase the availability of low and moderate income housing.  
      The Kaiser Family Foundation purchased the Four Winds Camp in Deer Harbor, Orcas Island, to keep it alive and well after the retirement of Director Ruth Brown, who founded the youth camp in 1927.   

06 November 2015


Meet Capt "Matt" Peasley, resourceful and two-fisted skipper of the "Blue Star" fleet––in real life he was Capt. Ralph E. Peasley, of Aberdeen, WA.
Captain R.E. Peasley, 14 Feb. 1929.
Known throughout the world as the hero of Peter B. Kyne's 
sea stories, was in his 37th year of high seas sailing.
Click photo to enlarge.

From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      Peter B. Kyne pictured Peasley exactly as he was––stalwart, keen of eye, vigorous, friendly and a masterful sailing man. When you read Kyne's 'Cappy Ricks', stories of romantic Pacific Coast shipping, you get a perfect view of Capt Peasley, as he was in 1930.
      The tall mariner quit the sea––temporarily, at least––but if the sailing ships were abroad again the chances are he would be right back at his old command. Not even Mrs. Peasley could keep him ashore. In fact, Mrs. Peasley probably would go along!
      It has been quite awhile since Capt Peasley and Peter B. Kyne first met, but the passing years have served only to enhance Kyne's 'Cappy Ricks' characters and build around Capt Peasley an admiring aura of fame and popularity that made him a chosen man wherever he went.
      In his home region of Grays Harbor, he was a favorite without reservation. Shortly after he retired from the sea he ran for port commissioner and was elected by an enormous majority. Then he served the state as district inspector for the liquor control board––and that was a job that required as much application and hard work as running a ship. Only recently the Aberdeen Pioneers Association elected him president.
      Among Kyne's many duties at that time was to peruse reports sent in by the fleet masters. He was immediately attracted by Capt Peasley's. They were of such concise and original nature that in them Kyne found inspiration and subject matter for what ten years later flowed from his pen as the story of Matt Peasley, Cappy Ricks and the latter's beautiful daughter.
      "Aw, they call me Matt wherever I go, all right." said Peasley, "but Kyne's stories are mostly all fiction. No skipper could be as good as that fellow Matt. No shipowner could have so much fun as Cappy Ricks, but that isn't saying we don't like to read about them. I know Mrs. Peasley and I do."
      As depicted in Kyne's novel, Peasley's marriage to the shipping magnate's daughter was a romantic event, and as it applies to the real Capt Peasley's marriage it is not wholly imaginary. Mrs. Peasley's father was Capt James Dalton, prominent in Grays Harbor lumbering and shipping circles, and she grew up among sawmills and ships.
      They were married in 1903, shortly after a great fire leveled the business district of Aberdeen. Capt Peasley had brought the schooner WAWONA into Willapa Harbor for a cargo of lumber, and while she was burdening there the skipper went by train to claim his bride. Their wedding trip consisted of a brief train journey to Seattle––two days or so––and then they headed for home. At Gate City they separated, Capt Peasley taking another train to Raymond, whence he sailed the following day. At that time he was sailing the WAWONA in the coastwise trade, but at that, it was six weeks before he saw his bride again.
      It was some years later that Mrs. Peasley tired of sitting at home waiting, and decided she would go to sea, too. So with him she went, and for nearly two decades the Peasleys sailed together––to Honolulu, to Callao, to Newcastle and a host of other ports of the Pacific.
      "Yes, said Mrs. Peasley, "I was a poor sailor at first. But I got so I could 'take it' with the rest of them. I can remember one time when we were standing out to sea at Cape Flattery. It was so rough that every sailor aboard was more or less sick, but not I. That was after I had gotten my sea legs."
      Capt Peasley sailed many windjammers in his 40 years on the Pacific. Among them were the four-master MARY E. FOSTER, the schooner FRED J. WOOD, the schooner LOUIS, first five-master on the Pacific Coast and named after Louis Simpson, San Francisco ship and mill owner; the WAWONA, MELANCTON and VIGILANT, and many others.
Heading out with a load of lumber.
Undated photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
      Of them all, both Capt and Mrs. Peasley liked the big, fast-stepping schooner VIGILANT the best. They took this finely appointed five-master on her maiden voyage in 1920 and sailed her for nine years, mostly in the Honolulu lumber trade. She operated between Bellingham, WA, and Honolulu. When the E. K. Wood Lumber Co of Bellingham and Hoquiam sold her some six years ago, the firm offered Capt Peasley a steam command, but he could not take it. He retired rather than go in for steam.
      In his four decades as a sailing man on the Pacific, nearly 35 years of which were as master, Capt Peasley never had a wreck. He came close once on a reef off the coast of Australia, and another time in a boisterous blow inside the Straits of Juan de Fuca, but both times good seamanship cheated the sea of its prey.
      Born in Maine, Capt Peasley comes of a long line of seafaring men. Like his ancestors, he went to sea at a tender age and at 22, he was entrusted with his first command. Most of his seafaring life he spent on the Pacific, and to South Africa he went only in Kyne's imagination, there to further the 'Blue Star' line's interests by subduing that redoubtable person called "All-Hands-and-Feet."
      The roughest sea Capt Peasley ever experienced was in late January 1922, when he was a few hundred miles off the coast of Washington with the schooner VIGILANT. A hurricane blew up, the same storm that felled billions of feet of Western WA timber.
      The log of that voyage told a vivid story of a tumultuous sea after the barometer skidded to 29.01 and a gale of 100-mile intensity raged for four hours. Mrs. Peasley was along, and she says it was a harrowing experience, although the stout VIGILANT survived without great damage.
      Recently the sturdy VIGILANT was reported long overdue in a bad storm. En route to Honolulu from Seattle, she was out 53 days before word was heard of her on the Pacific Coast. Capt Peasley's faith in the staunch craft was vindicated, when she limped into port, pretty well battered, but still sailing. A couple of seamen were hurt in the raging seas that  smashed over the VIGILANT.
      On Grays Harbor there are legendary tales of windjammer skippers who sailed their ships right up to the docks at Hoquiam and Aberdeen. That was a matter of some 12 miles of what was then a tortuous channel. It is not all legend. Twenty years ago Capt Peasley sailed the schooner FRED J. WOOD over the bar and almost up to Hoquiam.
      "I could have warped her up to the dock at Blagen's mill, I think," said Peasley, "but a dredge was squatted right in the middle of the channel at Grays Harbor City and we had to let the tugboat hook on. That tug had tried to keep up with us all the way from Westport, and believe me, we gave them a race!"
      Capt Peasley was a vigorous man, young looking and with ever a twinkle in his keen eyes. He stood about six feet three inches and had the straight figure of youth. His famous mustache and shock of black hair were but slightly touched with gray. Before he started on his new job with the state liquor control board he was a faithful attendant at meetings of the Aberdeen lodge of Elks, where a special seat was always his.
      Before the war he and Kyne met occasionally, but for many years the famous writer and noted mariner never crossed trails. If and when they do, there should result an interesting reunion and a fine picture for the newspapers."
Above text from the Eugene Register Guard. 29 March 1930.

CAPPY RICKS book search

1930, November: 
Auxiliary schooner SANWAN, 1930.
107.6' x 26' x 15'

Designed and built by Robert Moran.
Launched at his estate on Orcas Island, WA., 1917.
Date stamped original from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
Capt "Matt" Peasley kept sailing. In this year he was reported off on a three-month cruise of the South Seas in the good ship SANWAN, under his command. The SANWAN put into San Francisco harbor for a couple of days, from there she headed to Los Angeles, where twelve western youths were signed to join the ship. They were scheduled for a great adventure––I am not locating data on the oceania chapter. Did they visit the South Seas? In the middle of the following summer Peasley was at the helm of another ship.

1931, July 14:
Capt "Matt" Peasley 
Aboard LINDA (ex-ROAMER)
Seattle, WA., dated 14 July 1931.
Click to enlarge.
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
Jack London's old ship of romance, the ROAMER, and Capt. R. "Matt" Peasley, immortal hero of Peter B. Kyne's sea stories, was the rare combination that, according to some national news, would lead ten Seattle youths along the paths of adventure in Alaska, the summer of 1931. The trim auxiliary sloop, renamed LINDA, was casting off en route to Alaska on a scientific expedition that included stops near Glacier Bay and Mount Fairweather. The latter named places are haunts of the Killer whale, that they wanted to hunt with cameras, instead of harpoon guns. They had also made plans for trips inland to study the flora and fauna of AK. The photo was taken just before departure.

02 November 2015


Smith Island Lighthouse
Photo by Bernie McNeil
Published by Smith-Western, Tacoma, WA.
Card from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"Automation has robbed Washington's island lighthouses of the aura of adventure that was once associated with living at these isolated stations. The Smith Island light has been extremely familiar to boaters and seamen passing through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It is the third oldest lighthouse site in the entire Puget Sound area. Only Tatoosh and Dungeness preceded it.
      Because Smith Is is composed of sand and clay instead of hard rock, its story is different from the others; today's light is not the original one erected in 1858. An aid to navigation was essential at this location, where Rosario Strait meets Juan de Fuca, but the currents had a tendency to erode the bluff on which the tower must stand. Looking into the future, the builders carefully constructed it 200 ft from the edge and believed that the structure would be safe. 
      The old tower was built of white-washed brick and the lower portion was wide enough to accommodate the keeper's living quarters. At first, a lone man was assigned to the post and he brought his family along. Thus Mr. and Mrs. John Vail and their grandchild were the initial inhabitants of the island.
      In that day wandering Indians from [Haida Gwaii] were a menace to remote outposts near the water and it was considered advisable to provide a fort in which the lightkeeper might take refuge. Accordingly, a blockhouse and a barn were built close by the tower. If the lighthouse had been provided with metal doors and window shutters instead of wooden ones this protection would have have been needed. 
      The tower went up through the center of the house and the top of the revolving lantern was painted red. The light was first shown on 18 October 1858.
      For six months the Vails, who had been joined by Mr. Applegate, an assistant keeper, enjoyed a placid existence. The housewife amused herself gathering marine curiosities and observing the bird colonies. So many sea pigeons nested on the island that whites and Indians came there to hunt the birds with hooked sticks, dragging them out of the holes in which they burrowed.
      Then one day in May 1859, five large canoe-loads of Haida Indians pulled ashore,

27 October 2015


Completed 1936, Roche Harbor, WA. 
Photograph dated May 1948.
Original from the archives of the S.P.H. S.©
"In 1936, following the building of twenty simple frame cottages for married workers and their families, at the age of eighty-one, John McMillin turned his attention to construction of the family mausoleum––a tholos, or circular temple-like monument of local limestone and cement on a elevated site northeast of the workers' cottages and cemetery. Before the second growth timber reached its maturity, the site commanded a panorama of Afterglow Beach and Haro Strait beyond. The entrance to the mausoleum precinct is marked by a masonry gateway with filigree arch bearing the title "Afterglow Vista." The restraint which McMillin had exercised in constructing his own residence in the heart of the company town some sixteen years or more earlier was now abandoned. The project was a means for the company founder to honor his deceased older son and to express his personal views about life and death.
The dinner table within the mausoleum,
in the seats of which are urns containing 
the ashes of the departed.
Photo dated 30 May 1948.
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

      In designing the structure, McMillin (a Mason of the 32nd Degree) drew upon the symbolism of Freemasonry as well as his own concept of family unity. Flights of three, five and seven steps ascending the tholos mound are understood to be allusions to the three stages of life, the five orders of architecture, and the seven liberal arts. The colonnade is formed by seven fluted Tuscan columns thirty feet in height, the seventh of which is broken to signify the broken column of human life and, specifically, the severed life ties of the builder. 
The mausoleum in which is written
the story of freemasonary.

Click image to enlarge.
Original photo dated 30 May 1948, from the archives
of the Saltwater People Historical Society (c)
A concrete architrave with trefoil arches was intended to support a bronze dome surmounted by a Maltese cross. The latter would have represented McMillin's life-long devotion to Sigma Chi fraternity (he was the first grand consul.) However, the $20,000 custom order for the dome was canceled at the last minute as an extravagance which could be ill-afforded. In the center of the stone-paved floor were crypts where ashes were to be inurned. These took the form of six chairs arranged around a roundtable in limitation of the family dining style. The device was to symbolize reunion after death. Appropriate inscriptions were added to each of the stone chair backs. Reportedly, the ultimate refinement of this elaborate monument was an orientation in such a way that each June the setting sun shone through the broken column on the west onto the crypts of the family head and his wife on the opposite side.
      The project was completed, without the dome, in the spring of 1936 at a cost of $30,000. John S. McMillin died the following November, and his remains were placed in the mausoleum to join those of his son Fred (1880-1922.) Other family crypts were filled as time went on. The monument is still maintained as a memorial and feature of the resort."
The Roche Harbor Resort was added to the National Record of Historic Places 29 August 1977. File # 77001356. The 25-page application including the above text, in the public domain, was prepared by Elisabeth Walton Potter.
      Contrary to the assumption of a few visitors to the tomb, no chairs have been left out.
      A book, Roche Harbor, A Saga in the San Juans was written and published by Lynette Evans and George Burley in 1972. They tell of the eerily beautiful mausoleum and the company town ruled by lime magnate John S. McMillin. 

21 October 2015


21 September 1933.

Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
DORJUN, hopping on board the WEST MAHWAH 
with Amos Burg, dated Sept. 1933.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
In quest of photographs of disappearing Indian tribes of the Cape Horn Islands, Amos Burg (1889-1986), Portland, OR, explorer, author, lecturer, purchased this 1905 US Life Service boat and had it shipped to his home state of Oregon. Lashed to the deck of the WEST MAHWAH, they sailed from San Francisco, CA. in September 1933. Burg was keen to study the Cape Horn Islands for what became well known reports for the National Geographic Society. The assignment lasted almost four months. 
      DORJUN has her own website if you'd like to read about her later life owned by the Bruce Garman family in the San Juan Islands, as well as her restoration in Port Townsend, WA., click here.
26-ft DORJUN, 
Stormbound in Tierra del Fuego, with Amos Burg.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
L-R: Amos Burg
and seaman Fred "Spokane" Hill

 photo by Pacific-Atlantic Photos, Inc.
from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
Fred "Spokane" Hill, an experienced seaman, met the novice Amos Burg aboard the S.S. WAIKIKI in 1913. They became fast friends who voyaged the inside passage, working salmon canneries to pay expenses. Next, they became the first to paddle the Columbia River, from the head quarters in Columbia Lake, BC, to the Pacific, 20 Oct 1924 to 7 Jan 1925; this before the c.14 dams were constructed. 
      From this point Burg became a sought after speaker in Portland and soon after, on the national circuit, before he headed off to explore South America, from the port town of Magellanes, Chile (present day Punta Arenas.) Amos was solo until, through the aid of the captain of the southbound steamship, introduced to a young crew member, Roy Pepper (1914-2005.) Pepper described himself as "1st Mate, Steward, Chief Cook, Sailor, Bosun, 2nd Engineer, most everything else. Amos was impressed that Pepper could bake biscuits without an oven and cut his hair with a jack knife; the voyage on the WEST MAHWAH was  Pepper's first time at sea." 
      Please feel free to comment if you would like to add to the story of DORJUN in the San Juan Archipelago. National Geographic has South America covered.
      Read about the exploits and career of Amos Burg, see The Last Voyageur: Amos Burg and the Rivers of the West by Vince Welsh, Portland, OR. (2011)
      Book search here.

Archived Log Entries