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

About Us

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San Juan Archipelago, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 750, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

31 March 2015


To honor Women's History Month, this historian is squeaking in under the wire to present, Dr. Agnes Harrison, an example of a remarkable woman who led the parade in the early years of Euro-American settlement in the San Juan Islands.
Dr. Agnes Harrison
University of Michigan graduate
photo dated 1881

Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      Doctor Agnes Harrison was known to hundreds of people as one of the first and finest physicians of the Pacific Northwest. She practiced medicine for more than fifty years.
Harrison officiated at the birth of more than 2,000 babies and operated upon early settlers by candlelight. Influenced by the fact she was drenched by the spray from northeasters while being rowed from one San Juan Island to another, Dr. Agnes Harrison is included in this maritime history collection.

      Born in Rockton, Ontario, Agnes graduated from the University of Michigan in 1882. She entered the medical school soon after it first admitted women students. In an interview, Agnes is quoted: "It was very difficult to enter medical school when I attended the U of Michigan in 1879. 'Hen Medics,' as we were derisively called, were laughed at and scorned by men students. Even professors insulted our intelligence and seriousness by giving separate and politely 'abridged' lectures to us women, we had no medical classes with the men and could dissect only female cadavers. One professor, new to the school, considered himself quite daring for talking to us openly."
       After 1884, Agnes married Isaac Marion Harrison, thereafter known as "Dr. I. M."–– together they operated a joint practice in Coupeville, on Whidbey Island, where the two were the only doctors on the island in the 1880s, according to Orcas Island writer, Bea Cook. Port Townsend needed them next, followed by eleven years spent in Seattle, before moving to the San Juan Island Archipelago.
      Dr. Harrison recalls that early practice among the Indians was often trying:
"once I was mighty annoyed when I had a delicate operation to perform on a squaw. Naturally, I chased all the relatives and other curious tribesmen out of the house. But they had no intention of missing anything; as fast as I shooed them out of doors, they came back through the windows. Finally, I couldn't waste another minute, so I operated––with a ring of muttering Indians looking on!"
Dr. Agnes Harrison
5 May 1946
Eastsound, Orcas Island, WA. 
Madrona Inn, operated by the Harrisons
 is listed on the above map.
Click to enlarge.
      In her later years, Agnes ran the Madrona Inn in Eastsound, besides carrying on her medical practice. "It was hard, sometimes, when I had a house and 12 cabins full of guests to have a two-day obstetrical case come up." In her senior years, she then helped her son at the popular inn on the coast of Orcas Island.
     In length of years practiced, Agnes was the senior woman physician in the Puget Sound area. She passed away in Eastsound in 1949, survived by sons, Max Harrison of Seattle and Joseph B. Harrison, a professor of English at the U of W, six grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
Source: Author Beatrice 'Bea' Cook writings 1946.

27 March 2015

❖ Steaming In the Early Morning Dew

Piling Busters Yearbook 1952
Stories of Towboating by Towboat Men


125.5' x 25.7' x 4.6'
318 tons.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S©
"At the tender age of 17-years, I had taken a job as a Quartermaster on the old SKAGIT QUEEN with Capt. McDonald, Sr. On this particular trip we were headed from Seattle and way-points to Mt. Vernon, and after leaving Utsalady [Camano Island], we headed for the Skagit River, and right into pea soup fog and Cap said, 'Boy, go down on the foredeck and keep a good lookout, and sing out if you see anything.' Being a dutiful 'boy' I took this job seriously, as I should, and after some time, all at once, a black patch appeared, and 'boy' shouted in the best seafaring style, something dead ahead 'sir' and Cap came back with, 'what is it?' By this time I could see it was a flock of ducks; and called, 'it is ducks, Sir, and back from the pilothouse came this reply, 'are they swimming or walking?'
This actually happened."
Al Smiley

20 March 2015


DAY 72 from 100 Days in the San Juans by author/historian June Burn, under contract with the Seattle P-I to write these columns in 1946. She sailed among the islands camping with her husband, Farrar, in their little San Juanderer.

      Many folks interested in regional history have written about the limestone at the hideaway of Roche Harbor, on San Juan Island, San Juan County, WA. Here are words from the revered June Burn.
Roche Harbor, San Juan Island, 1948.
Just two years after June Burn published this article.
Photographer unknown.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"Roche Harbor is known for its great hill of lime rock and the purity of the lime that is burned from it. It is known for the wonderful flower garden in front of the old Hotel de Haro, and the McMillan family, who have managed the company ever since there was a lime works here. People have heard of and many have seen the unique copper roofed tomb where the McMillan ashes are buried.
      All over this northern part of the archipelago, people have sold barge loads of wood to the lime company, or sold eggs and milk and fish and fresh meat to them, or have broken rock for them. They gave Farrar the first job he had when we came out here to homestead Sentinel. People have been born and grown up and married and had grandchildren still in the service of the Roche Harbor Lime Co. In its heyday, the elder McMillan [John Stafford] used to give great annual harvest festivals that were three days of eating and jousting as in ancient times, really. He did love to do things dramatically!
      There is a novel to be written about this village and company. Its story cannot ever be told in all its color and drama except in a book. No mere column could hope to touch it.
      As you go in to the harbor, past Pearl Island, you get a fine sweeping view of the lime rock quarry, very high on its hill to the right; big piles of white waste––the cleanest waste any manufacturer has. The lime kilns, next against a hill where the clematis grows, then an old warehouse in which the cooperage used to be.
      The store and wharf come out in a long row into the harbor, but grass grows now in the eaves and the old three-masted schooner no longer stands there waiting for its load.
Looking down on the busy limestone manufacturing port
operated by John S. McMillan
Photo by Brady from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
      To the left and above the store, are the hotel and the manager's house; below them, the garden of roses and carnations, of gladioli and an arbor of wisteria with vines as thick as Scarlett's waist; at their left the windowy pink house where Paul McMillan now lives.
Gardens at Roche Harbor,
      The schoolhouse stands on its own knoll above the road.
      Swinging around to the left, as you enter, the company houses go in rows, most of them now empty. But they may all be full again, sometime, when production gets under way again,, although most of the people who work at Roche Harbor nowadays live at Friday harbor, with a bus to bring them to work in the mornings.
      Roche Harbor is famous as the largest lime works in Washington and also for the fact that this is the purest lime to be found anywhere. It is over 98 % calcium carbonate.
      McMillan, in the scientist's guarded way, calls this a "large accumulation of limestone," but one of the company managers once told me that there's lime here for a hundred years. This land was bought from the Verriers, who moved to Orcas.
Abandoned limestone quarries and kilns,
 Roche Harbor, San Juan Island, WA.

Photo by artist Parker McAllister dated Jan. 1959.
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
      Here comes the milk truck. Mrs. Martin unloads her bottles for Roche Harbor. We buy seven quarts. Bottles and cases were shifted on the truck to make room for us and the girls and we set out for English Camp.
      It is a fresh morning, not too hot; the road is graveled. It dips now and then into green woods and yellow fields and then it lifts to overlook blue waters and islands. Finally it turns down to Garrison Bay, where...
We'll be seeing you, June."


18 March 2015

❖ TOLE MOUR Leaving for the South Pacifc, 1988 ❖

ON 938740
156-ft sparred length
LOD 123-ft. / LWL 101-ft.
Beam 31.6-ft
Draft 13.6-ft
Sail area: 8,500 sq. ft.
Designer: Ewbank, Brooke & Assoc.
Builder: Nichols Brothers, Whidbey Island, WA
TOLE MOUR means 'gift of life and health' in the Marshall Islands and that's what the ship TOLE MOUR hoped to provide the Marshallese people when the floating health facility arrived there mid-December. On 4 October the 156-ft steel ship left Lake Union, Seattle, for the first leg of her journey to the South Pacific. The $2.5 million tall ship, launched in 1987 on Whidbey Island, and its 11-member sailing crew, were a part of the nonprofit Marimed Foundation, that aimed to bring American healthcare expertise to the South Pacific. The foundation was begun in 1984 by David Higgins and his wife, Dr. Lonny Higgins. With stops planned in Portland, San Francisco and Honolulu, the ship expected to take six weeks to get to the islands.
There she goes,
headed out to the Pacific Ocean

1988 Photo from S.P.H.S.©
For an update on the tall ship TOLE MOUR and her life in higher learning in the Channel Islands of warm California, click here.

16 March 2015


Alaska Steamship Co motorship, 1955.
Seattle, WA.

Photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
The last load of tin 'for an indefinite period' from the US Tin Corporation's mine at Lost River, AK, arrived in Seattle  in 1955.
      The shipment, aboard the Alaska Steamship Co's motorship COASTAL RAMBLER, was 150 barrels of tin concentrate totaling 240,000 pounds. It was destined for a smelter in Texas City, TX.
      The Lost River mine is on the Seward Peninsula, northwest of Nome. It has been the only tin mine operating under the United States flag.
      Most of the perishable goods and material incident to the mine's operation were removed. The mine itself and the remaining goods and machinery were left in charge of a caretaker.

10 March 2015

❖ BLUE WATER BOAT: Schooner PRIMROSE IV ❖ JOHN ALDEN'S NO. 111 (updated 7-16)

ON 223224
Sail area; 1,305 sq. ft. Lines drawn in 1919

shows a lot of similarity to the early Malabars.
Displacement of 48,200 pounds.
Tracing by John Alden Crocker.
Courtesy John G. Alden, Inc.
See credit below.
"John Alden's schooner used extensively in northern waters was PRIMROSE IV, design number 111. She became, for a time, one of the designer's most talked about boats, because in 1927 she won for her young master, Frederick I. Ames, the Cruising Club of America's Blue Water Medal, described as sailing's most coveted award.
Warwick M. Tompkins, navigator
Jack Bishop, Abel Seaman
Frances La Farge, Able Seaman
Skipper Fred L. Ames, in blazer,
Tom Sherwen, Cook
Photo back dated 11 May 1928.
Photographer unknown.
Original from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
With owner, Frederick I. Ames (top)
& Warwick Tompkins, Sr. 
hands on the bowsprit.
19 May 1928
Photo by Acme, N.Y.

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

       PRIMROSE IV was built in 1923 by Rufus Condon at Friendship, ME, for Walter H. Huggins of Boston. She was the second, or "B" boat, built to the 111 design, that was created in 1920. In a sense she was a forerunner to the early Malabars. Like the Malabars, PRIMROSE IV has a gradually curving keel profile with a fair amount of drag. Her beam at the deck is generous forward and aft, while her waterlines are fairly fine forward but full aft. Like the Malabars, she is quite short ended, has a generous sheer, and in general, has the look of a fisherman. Her dimensions are 50.2-ft, by 39 feet 11 inches, by 13-ft x 7.2-ft. Her construction is sturdy, with sawn frames and 1.5-inch planking. She carries about eight tons of ballast, half inside and half outside.
      While under the command of Huggins, PRIMROSE IV sailed in the 1924 Bermuda Race and took second in her class.
       Then she was sold to Frederick Ames, who cruised in the schooner to Labrador a year later and in 1927 sailed her across to England for the Fastnet Race. She was the first American yacht to compete in this rugged event, and she did well, finishing second on corrected time. The heavy weather during that race forced many contestants, including the hard-driven British cutter JOLIE BRISE, to heave-to, but PRIMROSE IV carried on under reduced canvas. Her crew discussed heaving-to, but as yachting reporter Alfred R. Loomis put it, "their discussion outlasted the gale." Ames sailed the schooner back home by way of Iceland, Labrador, and Cape Breton Island, and it was for this 58-day passage, carefully prepared and competently carried out, that he was awarded the Blue Water Medal.
PRIMROSE IV, right of center,
at Thorshaven, 18 May 1928,
en route home to US.

Photo by Acme, N.Y.
Original from the archives of S. P. H. S.©
Looking aft on PRIMROSE IV
dated 18 May 1928
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

Ships That Pass
From the 1928 trip of PRIMROSE IV

Archives of the S.P.H.S.©

Captain Fred Ames
Dated 18 May 1928
Light Airs and a Shetland Islands Trawler;
Headed home to the US,
On board PRIMROSE IV with Captain Fred Ames (R)
Dated 18 May 1928.

From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
Transatlantic voyagers 19 May 1928.

From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"Running our westing down under square sail
Iceland to Labrador."
Dated 23 May 1928

From the archives of S.P.H.S.©
The bald-headed rig permits easy handling, although one might be concerned about lack of sail area when racing in light airs. Of course, the schooner was not designed for typical round-the-buoys racing; she was intended for rough waters and strong winds. In contrast with some of Alden's later gaff-rigged schooners, PRIMROSE IV's foresail is fairly small, which facilitates lying to in very heavy weather. During her worst mid-Atlantic gale, the schooner lay-to very successfully under reefed foresail and backed jumbo.
      The arrangements below follows the typical plan used during the days of professional crew, when it was customary to place the galley between the fo'c's'le and the saloon. The owner's cabin aft has its own toilet room, and there is another at the after end of the saloon, with a head for the crew forward. The companionways are off-center on the starboard side, so it might be desirable to heave to on the starboard tack.
      Yachting historian John Parkinson, Jr., has written that Frederick Ames was not only a fearless sailor but also a daring stunt flier whose life was cut short by an airplane accident. No doubt Ames' cruising exploits were considered daring too, but they were carried out with careful seamanship and in almost the safest boat that a yachtsman of that day could ask for."
Text and drawing from John G. Alden and his Yacht Designs, by Robert W. Carrick and Richard Henderson; Camden, ME by International Marine Publishing Co.

Book Search––
John G. Alden & His Yacht Designs

If you have any story of the race or long sail trip home, feel free to comment or send an email through this site. 
There was one more photo of crew added to this post in July 2016. 

01 March 2015

❖ OFF TO ALASKA ON THE ARK ❖ Tacoma 1940 ❖

Paul and Molly Satko family
Launch day for the ARK OF JUNEAU
Tacoma, WA., 1940.

Two elder sons were left behind in Richmond, VA.
and two children were born later in AK.
Scan of original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
Onto the national news scene came the story of Paul and Molly Satko and their crew of children, shown in this striking photo taken in Tacoma. So many on-lookers had suggested the 40' boat resembled an ark, so that became her chosen name, the ARK OF JUNEAU.     
         Paul was an unemployed machinist/welder living in Richmond, VA, who had dreams for a better life. His plans led the man and his family on a long path, trailering his unfinished, home-built boat across the country to the west coast. Boat work is never done, so they were stuck on shore for three years prior to launching.
Authorities inspecting the ARK OF JUNEAU
Owner, Paul Satko on right.
Seattle, WA. 27 April 1940
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
Paul Satko with daughter Betty,
their journey interrupted by court action.
Their ARK, in background, is being viewed
by Seattle spectators.

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

Satko was encouraged to hear of federal homestead land still available in the Eagle River valley, near Juneau, AK. His scheme got bogged down in Seattle when the US Coast Guard and the Puget Sound Pilots said the trip couldn't be done safely in the awkward vessel. Following this stranding, the underage children were taken into protective custody for a time and Paul Satko was escorted off to jail.
Away but 
stranded on a sandbar 
near foggy Vashon Island.
After five hours Satko accepted a Coast Guard tow
and they were off with more troubles ahead.

Photo by Acme dated 30 April 1940
Scan of original photo from archives of S.P.H.S.

Paul Satko
In jail for resisting arrest.
Original photo dated April 1940,
From the archives of S.P.H.S.©
The people of Seattle were not helpful; surrounded with difficult days, the Satkos cruised along the coast to Anacortes, Fidalgo Island, Skagit County.
         It was in this port that the family found friendship. The well-known civic leader, Paul Luvera, welcomed them, energized the townsfolk to help provision the boat for the long trip ahead, and with his legal skills, helped Satko acquire Customs clearance papers.
         To avoid any difficulties from waterborne officials, they left quietly under cover of darkness, casting off from the island, a quick passage through the San Juan Islands (being noted in the local Friday Harbor Journal), past any resident US Coast Guard cutters, and safely into BC waters.
         The Satkos arrived at their northern destination just in time to welcome another baby, Northsea Meridians Satko, their tenth child.
         The story goes that they did find AK land to homestead but failed to file their claim within the time limit, so they did not achieve a patent deed. They farmed for a few years, with only a little success, some of the children married and settled in AK, but late in the 1940s, records show the parents had returned to VA., without the ARK.
Paul and Molly Satko Return.
The Satkos and six of their ten children were preparing
to drive this station wagon found in Seattle,   

to seek a new home in Arkansas.
Satko said he was through with 
homesteading in Alaska.
Original photo back dated 13 June 1946.
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

      Other details of the Fidalgo Islanders support, with follow-up on the family's adventure, can be viewed here

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