"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 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.

25 January 2015

❖ Off to the Knakerman ❖

Lake Washington Shipyards, 
dated 1937.
Click to enlarge.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"Moored at the Lake Washington Shipyards at Houghton, near Kirkland, is a fleet of forgotten ships, some of which played a prominent part in the transportation of yesteryear on Puget Sound. In the group are the old ferryboat WEST SEATTLE, carrier of thousands of commuters across Elliott Bay in other days; the HYAK, which operated in Poulsbo; the MOHAWK, of the San Juan Islands route; the TACOMA, fleet mate of the famous FLYER of the Seattle-Tacoma route; the KULSHAN, remembered as the connecting link between Seattle, Bellingham, and Anacortes; the SOL DUC, once the pride of the Port Angeles route; the MORNING STAR, freighter which operated in Vancouver, BC; the CITY OF BREMERTON, the ATLANTA, the WINSLOW, the SUQUAMISH and the stern-wheeler TOURIST, all veterans of the Puget Sound routes, awaiting their fate, which may lead to the ship breaker's torch."
The Seattle Times, 1937.

      This week of posting so goes the KALAKALA (ex-PERALTA.) The most photographed ferry in the world.

13 January 2015

❖ Craftsman Karl Seastrom with a Special Wheel ❖

Master wheelmaker Karl Seastrom
with the historic ROOSEVELT wheel.
Dated May 1949
Original from the archives of the S.P.H.S©
The stout wooden wheel, once intimate with the historic ship ROOSEVELT, was built in the shop of Fred Sohl in 1905. The ship's wheel guided Capt. Bartlett to the Arctic and had been taking all weather on her open deck.
      After thousands of miles duty, she was seen at Karl Seastrom Marine Wood Specialties. In 1959, it was being prepared for public display in the new Maritime Wing under construction at the Museum of History and Industry.
     "The ROOSEVELT was a headline maker from the day her keel was laid", said Capt. Romaine Warner, one of the ROOSEVELT's skippers in the 1920s. "The ROOSEVELT was a wonderful ship. Big, heavy, lots of strength. Built wedge-shaped, 17-ft forward, 17-ft aft, so when she was frozen in, the ice would lift her instead of crush her."
      The ROOSEVELT's first service as a commercial vessel was towing lumber barges from Puget Sound to San Pedro, delivering record loads in record time. On one trip she averaged better than eight knots, towing the barge DRACULA loaded with more than 2,125,000 ft of lumber, reaching San Pedro in 141 hours.

10 January 2015

❖ E. R. STERLING ❖ Many Masts and Many Names.

Homeport, Seattle.
Lying in the West Indian Dock, London,
to sail no more.
Original photo dated 17 May 1930
from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

Six-masted Barque E.R. STERLING of Seattle, WA.
West Indian Dock, London.
With the loss of three masts and her first officer. 
The French ships carpenter examines the stump of 
the lost mizzen mast. 
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

In the above photos in our collection, the famous E. R. STERLING of Seattle is a sorry mess after a voyage of nine months from Australia, where she had been idle for a year, under command of Capt. E. R. Sterling.  She was caught in a gale off the Falkland Islands on 4 July 1929. Two months later in the latitude of the Cape Verde Islands, she experienced another storm, lost her first officer, Roderick Mackenzie, and three masts. Under jury rig, she reached St. Thomas on 15 October. The Dutch tug INDUS towed the STERLING, with her load of wheat, 4,000 miles to the Thames River, England, arriving 28 January 1930. She is photographed at the West Indian Docks, London. After discovering the prohibitive costs of repairing, Capt. Sterling sold his vessel to the Sunderland shipbreakers, where she was dismantled for scrap.
      There has been an inquiry to a history research friend in Seattle, so we shall list the little we know regarding this vessel. It is a guideline. In McCurdy's Maritime History of the PNW, the date of her scrapping is listed as 1927/28 but this above photo has a professional date stamp of 1930.

1883, 21 July. Launched as LORD WOLSELEY. She was built by Harland & Wolff at Belfast, Ireland, as a 4-masted iron ship. Delivered to Irish Shipowners Co. (T. Dixon & Sons), Belfast.
GRT 2,576; NRT 2,518; 308.2-ft x 42.9-ft x 25.1-ft

1898.  Sold to J. C. Tideman & Co., Bremen and renamed COLUMBIA. She was reduced to a barque.
Somewhere in this time period, she reverted back to her original name of LORD WOLSELEY.
ON 212613
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
1903. (This date stands to be corrected.) Sold to a Seattle group including lumberman Everett G. Griggs, steamship owner Joshua Green, C. E. Peabody, Vancouver, renamed EVERETT G. GRIGGS.  Still flying the British flag, she was re-masted, re-rigged as a 6-m barquentine, the first in the world.

Launched as 4-masted LORD WOLSELEY,
Belfast, Ireland 1883."
This typeset text on verso by a Wilbur J. Smith.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

Sold to E. R. Sterling, Blaine, WA, and renamed E. R. STERLING.

1930. Broken up in England.

H. W. McCurdy's Marine History of the PNW; Newell, Gordon, editor.
List of Merchant Vessels of the United States 1915. Bureau of Navigation.
Verso of the 1930 photo, S.P.H.S. collection.

The above-matted photo of the EVERETT G. GRIGGS, Wilbur J. Smith inscribed verso that the German Navy was using the GRIGGS as a training vessel at the outbreak of WW I. She was seized in the South Pacific as a Prize of War and sold to the St. Paul and Tacoma Lumber Co. 

07 January 2015


ON 227646
Built 1928 at Lake Union Dry Dock & Machine Works, Seattle.
for John Graham, Sr., for $58,000.
Master carpenter was L. J. Benson.
Photo: Lopez Island, San Juan Archipelago, WA. Undated.
Master Carpenter's Certificate on file. S.P.H.S.
The love that is given to ships is profoundly different from the love men feel for any other work of their hands.

"The words are those of Joseph Conrad but they express the deep feelings of Seattle yachtsman Horace W. McCurdy. The object of his special affections is the 96-ft BLUE PETER, one of the best known power yachts in Northwest waters.
      Designed by Ted Geary and built by Lake Union Drydock, BLUE PETER represents the finest craftsmanship of both.
      She was meticulously refurbished after McCurdy rescued the boat from an Army surplus boneyard in 1948 after service in WW II and since 1948, has been lavishly equipped and painstakingly maintained.
      But BLUE PETER is much more than that to McCurdy, veteran ship builder, civic leader and the senior ex-commodore of Seattle YC.
      'To me, a boat is the only thing man ever made that has a personality,' he explained. 'Automobiles don't have personalities. Neither do airplanes. But a boat does. They come damn near having a soul.'
      What of BLUE PETER'S personality? 'If you treat her rough she bucks you to beat the band. If you treat her nice, she treats you nice. People think you're crazy if you say that but that's true.'
      McCurdy's romance with BLUE PETER, started long before he owned the boat. He admired the craft when it was being built for John Graham Sr., in 1928, recalling: 'I used to take my oldest son, Jim, down there and say now  if I ever can, I'm going to own a boat just like that.'
      A few years later BLUE PETER had a new owner, a California oilman who kept her at Newport Beach. 'I used to see her down there and I loved to look at her.' McCurdy said. 'She was always just what I wanted.'
      After WW II, McCurdy got a telephone call from a brother-in-law living in the San Francisco area about a surplus boat he thought McCurdy might like. But there was no name, only a number. After putting off the relative for several months, McCurdy finally sent his son down to 'satisfy your uncle and get him off my back.'
      'Jim called back and said 'Dad, it's the BLUE PETER.' I told him 'Go get her boy, that's my boat.' Buying the boat on a closed bid sale, McCurdy dispatched a mechanic, tugboat skipper and crew to bring the boat back to Seattle. Despite storm warnings on the coast, they headed north and a couple of nights later the skipper called from Neah Bay. The next night about 2 AM, I heard a whistle coming down Lake Washington and I went out and turned on the lights on my dock, and it was foggy as hell, McCurdy recalls. 'She looked like the Queen Mary to me.'
      In the refurbishing, which went on for five years, McCurdy bought an old windjammer, the HOMEWARD BOUND, and tore her cabins out to match the aged teak with that on BLUE PETER.
      The hull, of Port Orford cedar, is the original. The deck is double teak over cedar. The only thing replaced was a small piece of bulwark around the stern. BLUE PETER's accommodations include McCurdy's stateroom off the pilothouse topside, a spacious day cabin which includes a Franklin stove, ideal for taking the chill off a cold morning without cranking up the hot water heating system, a dining salon, galley, staterooms and crew's quarters below.
      Measuring 96-ft x 19-ft x 9-ft, BLUE PETER was repowered with new twin Diesels in 1973. She cruises at 12-knots and has a fuel capacity of 3,000 gallons and carries 2,000 gallons of water.
      McCurdy's wife ('We met when I was 16 and she was 15') is an ardent angler. She can use either a Monk-designed cedar inboard 16-footer or a Boston Whaler, both of which are carried astern of the stack.
       The boat's name comes from the international code flag for the letter 'p' which is called Blue Peter and is flown by all commercial vessels 24 hours before a ship is scheduled to sail. That flag has been adapted, with the addition of an 'M' on the center, as the McCurdy house flag and it's painted on the stacks of the boat. Because of the 'M' in the houseflag, the boat often is mistaken for a Matson Lines vessel.
      As a Seafair VIP boat for nine years and the SYC Opening Day guest yacht, BLUE PETER has played host to numerous well-known people.
      The boat is teeming with McCurdy memorablia––Cape Horn bell he salvaged from a ship being wrecked in Port Townsend; a golden eagle which came from a tug; a ship's clock he bought as a youngster in Vancouver, B. C. ; a pilothouse stool that had one leg replaced; a brass plaque, 'Flag Country' cast from German shells collected at the Battle of the Bulge in WW II; a grate under the wheel which was cut from a section McCurdy stood on when he was 17, standing a throttle watch as a trans-Atlantic troop ship during WW I.
      BLUE PETER's crew apparently feels the same way about the ship as her master, Otto Heineman was the cook for 20 years before he died two years ago. Pat O'Leary, his skipper, originally was hired for a 10-day trip and has been aboard for 25 years.
      She's that kind of a ship."
Text by Bill Knight; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 1975.

❖❖❖ In 1963 Horace W. McCurdy funded a project through the Seattle Historical Society to write a definitive maritime history of the area. Some important maritime historians in this country and Canada agreed to serve on the editorial board, chaired by Keith Fisken, who was retired by that time. Captain Adrian Raynaud was a member of that board. The H. W, McCurdy Marine History of the Northwest, 1895-1965, over 700 pages in length was published in 1966. A second volume, covering 1966-1976, was published in 1977. These books, edited by author Gordon Newell, have been out of print for years;  are prized by collectors and historians who do research to help others.

04 January 2015


"A worksong used to aid labor at sea and sung for pleasure alongshore. (The name is probably derived from the Maine woodsmen's shanty or bunkhouse;  derival of chantey from the French chantez is "an educated blunder," according to Phillip Barry, authority on folksong.)"
Above text from Sea Language Comes Ashore. Joanna Carver Colcord; New York. Cornell Maritime Press, 1943.

"It is fairly certain that the seamen of the ancient world, those of the Middle Sea in particular, had chants of some kind that they would sing in order to keep in unison when rowing at the great sweeps of their biremes, triremes, pamphylians, penteconters and what not, but we have no printed record of them.
The first mention in literature of the sing-out appears in a manuscript of the time of Henry VI, in the year 1400, to be exact. 
(Source: The Early Naval Ballads of England, edited by J. O. Halliwell. The Percy Society, 1841.)

The earliest work giving actual shanty verses is the COMPLAYNT OF SCOTLAND OF 1549. Two anchor songs are given, one bowline shanty, and three hauling songs for hoisting the lower yard. The form and language of these early shanties, apart from the fact that the English is Chaucerian, are very much like what our sailors of the sail sang three hundred years later."
This text from the above book by Hugill, Stan. London; Herbert Jenkins Publisher, 1969.

02 January 2015


Stanley Pocock,
Coach of the UW Rowing Team

in this year of 1949.
Crop of a larger original photo
From the S.P.H.S.©

Stanley Pocock, son of the famous George Pocock, learned the shell building craft from his father. Here he checked the width of one of the braces in the shell at the loft workshop.
      The life long Seattle resident was inducted into the National Rowing Hall of Fame in 1979. His father, George, was inducted in 1966.
      There is a Memorial Ceremony for his rowing friends on 3 January 2015 at the Conibear Boathouse on the UW Campus from 11-3.
      Some of the accomplishments of the legendary man and a farewell can be viewed here.

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