"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.

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.

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