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

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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 700, 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 February 2015

❖ Ernie Gann's STRUMPET built in Friday Harbor ❖ (Updated)

Ernest K. and Dodie Gann
at home on San Juan Island,
San Juan Archipelago, WA.
November 1968
Archives of the Saltwater People Log© 


For Ernest K. Gann, the author of The High and the Mighty, an accomplished pilot and the author of eighteen books [plus] and innumerable articles. Gann was also a confirmed sailor.
      Although his flying life led him to call a variety of places home, he settled on San Juan Island off the Washington coast. It was there that this encounter took place, on a bright blue afternoon aboard his boat. Gann carefully scheduled every morning for writing, so the only time available was during a brief session of slapping varnish on the stained brightwork of his cruiser, punctuated by shouts of greeting to friends.
     Gann's boat at the time, the STRUMPET, a traditional 35-ft cruiser designed by Jay Benford of Seattle. "I saw some of Jay's designs and liked his attitude." Benford has been called a romantic because of the tradition of his designs, but he combined this with practicality about boats and life.
STRUMPET was designed specifically for Gann and his wife Dodie, a former Olympic skier and once Gann's secretary. "Yeah, the boat was very specially designed. After having some really big boats, STRUMPET was laid out to drink six, eat four, and sleep two. And no more. We got tired of running a guest ranch for people. On long voyages, when you're paying the bill, it's really something else. Most people who can afford to go and help out, can't get away. Those who can get away can't afford it. So STRUMPET was for two.
ON 539162
Photo courtesy of Jan and Dave
      "I told Jay what I wanted and he went away and drew some ideas and came back and we talked some more and he went away––hell, I forget how many times –– five or six. This went on for about a year.
      STRUMPET was built in the Jensen Shipyard in Friday Harbor, a one-man operation with a handful of employees. "This boat is one of the last survivors of some pride –– not too much –– but some pride of workmanship. It's an almost forgotten emotion, apparently."
      His passing reference to bigger boats and floating guest ranches is a mild understatement when some of his previous boats are listed. Read more below .....

19 February 2015

❖ JENSEN SHIPYARD ❖ Friday Harbor

VENTURE (ON 204609)
&0.5' x 15.3' x 5.4' cannery tender with 175 HP steam plant
 blt 1907 Griffin Bay, San Juan Island, WA.
She was chartered to White Crest Canning Co & Coast Fish Co.
She hauled 10 tons of spuds for P.A. Jensen and
transported the family to Seattle to visit the
Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition in 1909; she was a busy gal.

In 1925 VENTURE was bought by Wagner Towing and repowered.
 She was purchased by Foss Launch & Tug in 1937 and renamed 
Great notes in Skalley's Foss, 90 Years of Towboating.
Fate: Intentionally sunk 1 April 1949.
Photo courtesy of Nourdine Jensen.
      If it hadn't been that a horde of voracious grasshoppers ate Ben Jensen, father of Albert Jensen and grandfather of Nourdine Jensen, out of his Iowa homestead in the late 1880s, there might never have been an 'Albert Jensen & Son Shipyard' on San Juan Island.
      A former seaman and carpenter, Ben Jensen migrated from Norway to this country in the middle 1880s.
      "My grandfather came to SJC In 1883," said Nordine, owner of Jensen Shipyard, located at the east end of Friday Harbor Bay. "My Dad was about nine yrs old when grandfather came to this island. He had two sisters, Amelia Martin and Nellie Paxson. There were also three brothers, Pat, Joe, and Frank.
      Sometime around 1906 or 1907, Albert and his brothers went into the sawmill business in Friday Harbor. The mill was located in the vicinity of the Union Oil dock; early photographs show sailing vessels lying at anchor in the Bay waiting their turn to take on lumber. In 1919 the Jensens sold the mill and a short time later it burned to the ground.
      During the time the Jensen brothers operated the mill they also built two tugboats, the VENTURE, an 80-ft cannery tender they used to haul commercial freight. Both vessels were built on the beach at Griffin Bay.
      "In those days, if you didn't have a boat of some kind you were island-bound because there were no ferries," Nourdine explained.
      The NELLIE JENSEN served the Jensens for some eight years before she burned beyond repair.
      "I suspect my Dad also built the MARINER about the same time. She was an 80-ft cannery tender that operated around AK."
      Nourdine recalls his father telling about using the MARINER in AK for a season after which the vessel was sold to a Seattle cannery.
      "Dad was on his way to deliver the MARINER to a buyer when the engine quit. It was a stormy day off Iceberg Pt [Lopez Island] and the vessel went aground. At the time Dad had his ticket for Australia with him, he was scheduled to go as the rep of Union Engine Co. However, he hadn't yet paid for the engine in the MARINER, but he lost no time getting a pile driver to the sunken boat where he managed to salvage the engine.


NEREID (ON 209491)

Fondly remembered in San Juan County.
Built by and for Albert Jensen as Master Carpenter; 
72.7' x 16.75' x 6.4' ; 29 tons burden.
Launched Friday Harbor 1911.
Sold that year to Friday Harbor Cannery.
Source: Master Carpenter document filed at NARA, Seattle.
Photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      That same winter Albert built the NEREID and installed the MARINER's engine.
      "These were the days of fish traps and non-powered fishing boats. These boats operated on the west side of San Juan and off Whidbey Is. They were towed out by a tugboat. Today they are called seine skiffs.
      When fishing was over the tug would round up the fish boats and tow them in. This was their only means of getting from one location to another. The tugs, or fish tenders, were first powered by steam and later by Diesel."
      Nourdine points out that during the fish trap days (WA outlawed commercial fish traps in 1934, except for the treaty-rights for Indians) a great amount of equipment was required to install and remove the traps, logs, and to store various tools required for the job.
      Before starting his Friday Harbor Shipyard, Albert Jensen worked as a steam engineer on various boats around the Sound. These vessels were affectionately referred to as the 'Mosquito Fleet'. After Jensen gave up steamboating, he taught school for a short time in Shaw Island's one-room schoolhouse. 

      Statistically, Nourdine questions the general assumption by laymen that more fish are being caught today than in earlier years.
      "That's pretty hard for me to swallow, particularly when you consider that there were some fifty or sixty canneries operating in the Puget Sound area. In the San Juans there were two canneries on San Juan Island, one at Deer Harbor and West Sound on Orcas. Anacortes had four or five and Bellingham had a half dozen. There were also a number of fish canneries in Port Townsend, Everett, Seattle" [and Shaw Island.]
      In 1910, Albert Jensen established his shipyard at the east end of Friday Harbor off San Juan Channel. Many changes have taken place since the yard opened all those years ago.
      "One of the most noticeable changes in our business has been the gradual change over the past five years from custom boat building to that of maintenance and repairs.
      Custom boat building, that has been our stock in trade since Dad first opened this yard, has been steadily declining each year, while assembly line type of boats are on the increase.
      Financing is another problem today. Banks are more willing to finance a boat that is already built and carries a price tag on it, rather than financing a boat still in the building stages."
      As to whether Nourdine prefers custom boat building to that of maintenance and repairs, he has this to say:
      "Personally, I much prefer to work with handcrafted boats, but as far as making a living goes, we really made no money to speak of on our handcrafted boats. There is actually more money to be made in the maintenance and repair business today."
      Although the Albert Jensen Shipyard still employs the same number of men [at the time of this writing] between 5 and 7, depending upon the season, the requirements for this new type of work differ from those of custom boat building.
      "You've got to roll with the punches, so we've been gradually changing our method of operation to meet this new demand. We've had to. If we depended solely on custom boat building today we'd be out of business. It's that simple."
      In thinking back over some of the boats his firm has turned out, a number of outstanding vessels come to mind.
ON 221640 
91.6' x 21.1' x 7.2' ; 173 G.t. 140 N.t.
Blt by Albert Jensen, Friday Harbor, September 1921.
Source of data: Federal MCC document from NARA, Seattle.
       "Perhaps our best known was the 91-ft ISLANDER launched in 1921 and later named the MOHAWK. Prior to WW II, the MOHAWK was sold to Puget Sound Freight Lines. She was later conscripted by the US gov and used to tow supplies to Kiska Island in AK."
      Other memorable vessels built by the yard include the LIBBY, a 54-ft cruiser owned by a Portland man, that moored her in Anacortes. There was also the PUFFIN, a cruiser built for Dr. Clark, and the RUSSWIN built in 1947 or '48 for Doc Russell of Orcas, and then later owned by Gordy Fox. Then there was the HI-SEAS, a 50-ft charter cruiser that was a former USCG vessel and completely rebuilt by the Jensen yard and owned by J.H. Woods of Olga. The most recent handcrafted boat turned out by the Jensen yard was the STRUMPET, a 35-ft troller designed by local architect, Jay Benford, and owned by the author, Ernie GannThe list goes on.
BÅTEN of Friday Harbor, WA.
Launching, 5 April 1978
A smidgeon under 20'.
Designed by Jay Benford, then of Friday Harbor, 
for Marilyn Anderson and Rachel Adams of Crane Is.
 by Jensen Shipyard, Friday Harbor.
Photo possibly by Al Hamilton, on the scene this day. 
Shared by Nourdine Jensen to web admin.

      There was a moment's lull as Nourdine Jensen stared reflectively from the window of his small shop office. The rain beat a staccato rhythm against the tin roof. A slow grin spread across his face.
           "From where I stand the boat business looks good for a least another 65 years."
Extracted from: Voices from the Islands, True Stories about those Who Live in One of America's Most Beautiful Areas, Washington State's San Juan Islands. Keith, Gordon; Thomas Binford Publisher. 1982.
Keith was a resident of Orcas Island, WA who had many short stories and photographs published by the Islands' Sounder.

14 February 2015


Lydia Edes and Raymond W. Jewell, 
Aboard Brigantine YANKEE out of Gloucester.
Announcing wedding plans ashore 11 Dec. 1955
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.

      On the YANKEE's sixth 18-month, round-the-world trip, Lydia Edes, of Plymouth, signed on as one of 21 crew members where she met Raymond W. Jewell, of Kirkland, WA, the cruise photographer. They were married in Plymouth, MA, in 1955.
Brigantine YANKEE, dated 1955.
The Johnsons left the newly weds behind the next year,

to sail their 7th and final circumnavigation.
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©

      Lydia was co-author with Johnson, of Yankee's People and Places, the story of the trip. Jewell (1928-2014) who changed his field of study to photography before he sailed with the YANKEE, under request of Johnson, transferring from pre-vet studies at WSU to earning a degree in Cinematography in southern CA. Jewell worked in Hollywood editing the 23,000 miles of film of the trip.
      According to The Seattle Times obituary for Mr. Jewell, they raised their family in Los Angeles, but kept strong ties to the Pacific Northwest.
      There is a short post about the Johnsons on this Log.

Book search here

Yankee's People and Places

07 February 2015


Submitted by William B. Evans, 
the 8-year old seen in these photos.
Click to enlarge.

Letter (2003) from William B. Evans to webmaster.
Bill is related to the late Chief Engineer David Stitt, of Shaw Island, WA.
Bill was eight years old when he took this trip. His second trip the next year, was also on the well-known veteran, MARTHA FOSS, Capt. Stark, towing a log boom. Thanks for your contribution, Bill.

04 February 2015

❖ New Seattle Museum and New Ship Model 1976 ❖

Model Maker George Burke
with BEAR
for the new Coast Guard Museum/NW.
Courtesy of Kitsap Magazine 1976.
Bainbridge Island resident George Burke put the finishing touches on a scale model of the famous icebreaker BEAR. The model has become one of the chief attractions of the Coast Guard Museum, which opened in the summer of 1976. Burke took four years to build the supermodel, crafted entirely by hand with plans from the Smithsonian Institution.
      The special display was unveiled at a dedication ceremony of the new museum, located at Pier 36, Seattle in August 1976. Included in the ceremony, attended by c. 100 dignitaries from the maritime community around Puget Sound, was a special award presented to Burke by the Port of Seattle Commission in recognition of his donation.
      Burke learned a lot about the historic ship while constructing her replica. It took many hours of research for pictures, details and historical data before the actual building could begin.
      According to the Kitsap article by Judy Hall, the BEAR called Seattle her home for 41 years.
      Burke said at the time, his model has been valued at over $6,000.
      Historian, US Coast Guard Museum NW volunteer Capt. Gene Davis, Ret'd of Seattle has kindly photographed the model for inclusion here.

Model of the famous BEAR
Coast Guard Museum NW, Seattle WA.
Thank you, builder, George Burke and Capt. Davis.
There is a 'Skipper' Calkins piece on the life-size vessel BEAR, which can be viewed on our site here.

San Juan County connection: Capt. Francis Tuttle who retired to his farm on Orcas Island, a friend of Robert Moran, was in command of the BEAR on the famous mission to rescue eight whaling vessels caught in the ice near Pt. Barrow.
(The late Jane Barfoot Hodde, of Olga, was the person to educate this writer about the Orcas link to that maritime event.)
      The BEAR had just arrived home to Seattle from a six-month cruise in the north but outfitted immediately with supplies and all volunteer officers and crew. Ten months later they came home with the crews of the wrecked whalers.
That report of the 27 Nov. 1897-13 Sept. 1898 expedition has been published by the US Gov't Printing Office, entitled: The Cruise of the US Revenue Cutter BEAR and the Overland Expedition viewed here.
      This year of 2015 celebrates the 100th anniversary of the "Act to Create the United States Coast Guard."
To read more about that and view the work of the Coast Guard Museum at Pier 36, Seattle, here is their site.

For more than forty-two years the Bear patrolled the waters of the Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean. In addition to routine work, the Bear became celebrated for many dramatic rescues of whalers trapped in Arctic ice. When gold was discovered in Alaska her role became one of law enforcement. The story of the Bear is that of a historic era of seamanship and is also a unique insight into the explorations of then unknown regions of our world.
Book search here––The Great Ice Ship BEAR

01 February 2015


Owned and sailed by well-known master sailmaker/rigger
Rupert Broom, at helm.

Shared by history helper, Miles McCoy, Orcas Is.
Both photos collected by Joe Williamson, mid 1940s.

She was designed and built by Bill Garden, for Rupert Broom, shortly after WW II. She was lightly framed and planked and proved unsound. Rupert took her to Frank Prothero who beefed her up a bit.
      Rupert commuted to Port Madison with AFRICA until AFRICAN STAR was completed at Maritime Shipyard by Ole Running, the old time Swedish master shipwright.
      About 1947, AFRICAN STAR was designed by Billy Atkin, slightly altered by Rupert and Ole Running. She was definitely heavy built, but very durable.
      Rupert commuted daily, winter and summer, hunting the tide rips and gales wherever he could find them in Admiralty Inlet and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. He found wonderful pleasure in weathering everything Point Wilson could throw at him.
      John Adams bought AFRICA from Rupert; he sailed, cruised and commuted some in her for many years.
      The barrel chested guy at the tiller, with his shirt off in both photos, is Rupert.

Text and photos submitted by life long sailor, Miles McCoy, former skipper of the beautiful SHARON L., West Sound, Orcas Island, WA. Thanks Miles.
      If you have any memories of AFRICA, comments are welcome, submitted below.
      A post on the well-known Rupert Broom can be viewed here. Broom's AFRICAN STAR visiting friends in San Juan County can be viewed here.

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