"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.

30 July 2016


To honor Seattle's Seafair Torchlight Parade that entertained the city last night, here is some background of the annual festival. 
Seattle Seafair
Verso date July 1959.
L-R:  Kathi Ferguson and Diane Gadotti
with Bill Durfee, (who became Capt. Kidd in 1959)
Weaver Dial, (who became Capt. Kidd in 1962)
and Fred Lanouette.
Click to enlarge.

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

"How many people realize that the name "Seafair" was coined by an 11-yr old kid named Mike? The real truth is, no single individual or organization can really lay claim to starting the Seafair Festival. True, the Seafair Pirates often claim to have invented the whole thing, but that's too simple. An obvious case of "victors" writing history. 
      As far back as 1909 when the great Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition whetted Seattle's appetite for festivals and fairs in general, there had been plans and attempts at creating an annual summer festival. In 1911 there was the first Golden Potlatch. The "gold" came from the gold rush that steamed down from Alaska, straight into Elliott Bay. And the Potlatch was a Northwest Indian tradition involving a prodigious party where the host gives away pretty much everything but the shirt on his back. The Potlatches were a great success, featuring the election of the King d' Oro, (King of Gold) a fleet of Navy ships and an Indian encampment on 4th and Lenora. Believe it or not, they even had a Hydroplane that year, and two more turned up in 1912. Everything was a rousing success until 1914, when riots, looting, and politics halted the whole thing.
      Not that Seattle didn't know a good thing when they saw it, but the great depression and WW II caused every attempt to revive the Potlatch to fail.
      Seattle still needed some kind of Summer Festival, but what was it going to be?
      In 1947, then Mayor William Devin, began pushing for a new festival to celebrate Seattle's Centennial. A lot of groups answered his call In 1949, the WA Federation of Garden Clubs created the City of Flowers Festival. The festival chairman, Ralph Grossman, wasn't sure that flowers struck the right note. While clearly the festival was a good idea, he and his group wanted Seattle's event to celebrate the SEA. (click "read more" below leading  to another historical photo and more history from an unidentified, authentic Seafair Pirate.)

22 July 2016


21 July 2016
Boats are in harbor––while a thunder storm brews.
Photograph by Lance Douglas, Blakely Island, WA.
Night sky captured by Lance Douglas, Blakely Island, WA.
21 July 2016.
Thunder clouds captured by Lance Douglas,
Blakely Island, 21 July 2016.

21 July 2016

❖ The Legend of Andy's Island ❖

San Juan Archipelago, WA.
"I suppose almost everybody has a favorite version of the legend of Andy’s Island. We acquired ours when we acquired the property. Not, as with real estate, 'or record,' but by word of mouth, as in 'Legend…any story coming down from the past, especially one popularly taken as historical although not verifiable.' [Webster]
      It didn’t matter about the details. The story and the island were a part of our lives. So when Andy’s Island was nearly destroyed by fire one hot summer day, I shed angry tears. Not for the legend- that can’t die- but for the man who made it.
     As we heard it, Andy Brown was a part-Lummi Indian fisherman who found and homesteaded one of the rocky bumps clustered near us off the west shore of Shaw Island. Navigation charts will not even dignify them as islands; they show them as reefs, snugged close to an inlet and barely managing to keep their heads above water at high tide. Andy’s was the largest, yet it was small enough to pace off in approximately two minutes. Nature had been there ahead of him to do the landscaping, and as always she had done a superb job. An exquisite coverlet of deep, soft moss had been laid across the seams and wrinkles, with accents of lichen and sedum, thickets of wild roses, low growing juniper trees and, incredibly, cactus plants. The island was so appealing that its miniscule proportions hardly could have mattered to Andy Brown. It was his, and he loved it with the peculiar passion a man reserves for his own land.
     He built a little cabin of beachcombed wood and put up a proper outhouse. When he was finished there was a driftwood compound that included as well, a smokehouse and another wood and stone building, probably intended for use as extra living quarters. Andy Brown fished, poached an occasional deer on Shaw, kept any eye on the summer folk nearby, and was known to be fairly sociable.
     During the nineteen sixties or thereabout, the federal government mandated active possession of the rocks and reefs that numerically comprise the San Juan Islands, and ordered squatters to vacate their premises. They made a few exceptions, but possibly because Andy Brown hadn’t had time to “prove up” his claim, he, too, was dispossessed with little ceremony.
     He walked out of the cabin, climbed into his boat, and went away leaving everything behind as it was. When I first stepped on the little island in 1969 I found what was left- a cardboard suitcase lying open on rusted bedsprings, some tattered clothing, chipped enamel kitchen utensils, and a few furnishings, crudely but lovingly, it seemed, created for his creature comforts. Even in that vandalized shambles I could sense the presence of Andy Brown’s dream.
     It was shortly after that exploration, the first of many visits to the island, that Andy Brown himself materialized on our beach one day, in search of some local friends he’d heard were helping us install a float. Lean, tall of frame, the man had a good face, seamed and bronzed by his life on the water. He responded with courteous reserve to an interview of sorts I conducted on the spot with, I am sorry to say, the raw curiosity of a newcomer eager for local color. Remembering that now, I think about the look in his eyes whenever his gaze went past us out to the little island a quarter of a mile away.
     For a couple of years after that, we saw his fishboat chug past, navigating the reefs with deft local knowledge and then leaving. I think he had come to pat his island, but we never saw him go ashore. And then we saw him no more.
     Meanwhile, we came to know and love his island, too. It was every child’s
high adventure, every grownup’s return to innocence, a place one approached reverently, best of all by rowboat. I cherished my quiet times there alone, padding across the green carpeting and making small talk with the resident harbor seals.
     On a hot, sad, July afternoon, two young men sped toward Andy’s Island in an outboard, landed, splashed gasoline around the sagging cabin, and set it afire. We could not get there in time to save it, and the cabin burned to the ground. When the miniature holocaust was spent, the stove and other debris lay in an obscene black heap on the knoll Andy had chosen for his homesite. Much of the island was severely burned; miraculously, two of the outbuildings and the rose thicket, some of the juniper and the cactus were spared.
     At the time, I wrote in the Islands’ Sounder  It will take quite a while for nature to repair the damage, for it was a fragile little island…. I don’t know what has happened to Andy Brown, but I’m glad he didn’t suffer the ultimate sorrow of watching what happened to his island.'
     I was wrong about the island’s fragility. But I did learn, later, that Andy Brown had died in an Everett hospital about a year before the fire.
     A woman who lived on Lummi Island and knew Andy Brown did me a great kindness. She had read my piece, constructed from one brief encounter and local legend, and wrote to tell me…'he was exactly as you described him…' She said that Andy Brown had been a special kind of man. The letter helped to heal the sense of outrage I had felt at the senseless act of arson, and I was compelled to row out to the island to see what, if anything, had been accomplished by an intervening winter. I beached the boat in the little gravel cove and with my heart in my mouth I climbed the knoll where the cabin had stood for so long.
     Something marvelous had happened. The only reminder of the fire was a gradually greening patch of black and the chunks of metal. The other part of the island inside the perimeter of lichen-covered rocks was knee-deep in grass; moss was coming back on the scorched places. A dozen purple finches popped out of the little stone house by the wild roses to scold at me for intruding during their nesting season. And splashed across the whole island were sweeps of blue camas lilies in rampant indigo bloom.
      It was a flamboyant, joyous memorial; the ghosts had been laid to rest. I rowed away with a singing heart, but I’ve not been back since."
Text from Oh Shaw! And other Islands. Jo Ann Morse Ridley. Long House Printcrafters and Publishers. Friday Harbor, WA. 1978.


12 July 2016


Words by author/historian/former San Juan County homesteader, June Burn.
From Puget Soundings May 1930.
Not a sound except the lirrup-lirrup of the lazy swells against the piling. Not a movement save the smooth flow of a gull overhead. I am sitting alone on the rail of the dock at Upright Head waiting for the return ferry to Anacortes. There is silence. A sound of silence as if some board creaked as the quiet one stepped in her stockinged feet across the water.
      Until, suddenly, the always-thrilling noise of a gasboat putt-putting into sight around the point, breaks the quiet into smithereens. It goes chugging steadily across the pearl-gray water out of sight southward and the hush of twilight returns to the most beautiful land int he world.
      Out there, between here and Orcas, the level rays of the sun strike the glossy breast of a duck as he lifts himself in the water to stretch and flap. A thin fog hangs over Mt. Constitution, the sunset tinting its streamers. The straight glare picks out the white houses of Olga across the channel. The Monticello slips suddenly and silently down the path of the sunset, white against the dark bluffs of Orcas, her blue steam blowing behind her.
      Now two cars have come down the steep hill onto the dock and I am no longer alone. It is a half-hour until ferry time. The man talk in a low mumble across the dock from me. There is still quiet and the waters are forever and forever lovelier. Not a ripple nor a swell on the glassy surface. I could skate on this mother-of-pearl––or dance.
The sundown on 4th July 2016 weekend 
looking west from the home of photographer
L. A. Douglas, Blakely Island, WA.
A pairing of "now and then" with the prose of June Burn.

Click to enlarge.
Courtesy of L.A. Douglas

High slack tide at sunset––I've said over and over that it is the most precious time in this most wonderful land. Every cloud in the east catches the sunset, reflects it again in a long quivering path across the water nearly to the foot of the dock. The paths shorten as the sun sinks, and on the west, reflections of the great firs of Upright Head make lengthening black paths that advance as the cloud paths recede. The black ones never quite overtake the white ones, though. By and by the waters darken and a little sundown breeze crinkles the bay, breaking up the pattern.
      The men no longer talk. Very faintly I hear the chuttering sound of the ferry coming through Upright Channel. In another bit she will round the head, swing her blunt nose towards the slip, work her clumsy self expertly into the lane of piling, lower her plank, take the cans of cream and me aboard. Here she is all shining with sundown, her throaty whistle announcing that she is here. City of Angeles––lovely name for a ship, isn't it?
City of Angeles
Shaw Island ferry dock, San Juan Archipelago, WA.

Click to enlarge.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      It is just the luck of an undeserving gadabout that I should have come to Anacortes last night in the sunset and that I should be going on this morning to Bellingham in the sunrise. There is no stage out of Anacortes after 6 o'clock. But if every trip of the 5 o'clock Solduc is made down Padilla and Bellingham Bays in such splendor, you will not mind the overnight wait for it.
The calm of the setting sun.
Near Bellingham Bay, WA.
Original from the archives of S.P.H.S.©

      Here she comes now, a bit late, her forefoot treading the bright water like some sleek filly in a daisy field. Prettily she warps around to her place against the dock and without a second's delay a dozen men swarm out of her to begin trundling freight into the warehouse. Iron pipes, zinc tanks, tubs, boxes of produce, sacks of feed, auto tires, cartons of things, kegs, cases, crates, rolls of things, carcasses of dressed animals. In and out of the dark belly of the ship the men hurry.
      A man has come aboard to see one of the crew. The little Japanese steward is worried about him. He runs down the gangplank to punch the ticket of a passenger and runs up again to keep an eye on the man without a ticket. He thinks the man might have escaped him and he peers into the corners of the warehouse looking like a little bantam all fussed up over nothing.
      One belated passenger, looking sleepy and peevish and very English, comes out of his stateroom and goes ashore to board the City of Angeles for her first run to the islands.
P. A. F. dock, Bellingham, WA.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

 At 5 o'clock we are ready. In the unhurried measured stride of a big boat we steam down the lake–smooth-Sound towards Bellingham. We overtake and pass a little black purse seine boat. I know how its little engine is going noisily while ours clicks off easy knots quietly. A man in an early rowboat––I can not hear his oarlocks click, but I'd like to. It is a good water sound.
      The smokes of Bellingham, and a great blue-and-black freighter coming out of the mist, gargantuan in this eerie cloudiness that had come over the sun. Four ships tie motionless at the P.A.F. docks, the masts tangling in the mist. I wonder if anybody in the world has ever got used to the sudden sweet beauty of a city studding the hills at the rim of a great harbor? Smokestacks and derricks, factories, a jungle of ships' masts, movement of small craft in and out of the harbor. Church spires, stacks of lumber, seagulls––the gangplank goes out. I am first ashore. Hello again, my beautiful Bellingham! How good you smell! How I love you!

05 July 2016


L-R: Mariners Jo Ann Morse Ridley (1925-2010) 
and Zan Whitaker (1918-2005,)
on board the M.V. Vashon, summer 1978.

They were two of a committee of SJC ferry riders 
to organize
 a party, the BASH ON THE VASHON.

The celebration was held on board, on the last run of the day, 
with all cars left ashore so over 650 passengers 
could eat sandwiches made by dear Loa and helpers
AND dance to the brass band of 

One More Time band, led by Paul Dossett.
That is true; Jo Ann took the photographs and wrote 
a column for the Friday Harbor Journal. The One 
More Time band still has Tom Starr but plays on 
without the Honorable Mr. Dossett or the faithful Vashon.
This photo courtesy of the Journal of the San Juans

Beginning in 1941, the largest and fastest ferry that ever operated on the San Juan Island run to that time, the M.V. Vashon, then eleven years old, was on the scheduled run to carry 68 cars and  passengers from Anacortes through the islands with a chance to go all the way to Sidney, B.C. 
      The Vashon stayed on this route until she sailed off to help out at the Mukilteo-Columbia Beach, Lofall-Southworth and other runs for a few years but no where was she more appreciated than in the San Juans where farmers working in the fields could set their watch by the gentle ka-puckety, ka-puckety, ka-puckety  coming through the islands, heard from down the channel before she was seen at the dock. 
      The Vashon was chosen for a close-up, color cover shot for Sunset magazine in 1965, as she wove her way through sailing vessels at the start of the Shaw Island Classic Sail beginning in Friday Harbor. Artists painted and sketched her and then for some down home good cheer in 1978, islanders threw a welcome-back party for her when she returned to the islands to serve as the "inter-island" boat. 
      Were you on board for the BASH? Someone writing a history book is looking for a few more images before the looming deadline. 

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