"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.

28 September 2016



Cracking out the canvas, preparing to unfurl–– the 
Japanese sailors handled the sails departing San Francisco. 
The STAR OF ZEALANDknown in the PNW
when she was part of the salmon fishing industry,
headed for the scrap metal pile in Japan.
Original Acme photo with back-date stamp of Aug. 1935,
from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"1900: A four-masted all-steel bark, originally named the ASTRAL, was built for the Standard Oil Co by Arthur Sewall & Co. at Bath, Maine, for carrying case oil and general cargo. Her overall length: 349.6' x 45.4' x 26' with a gross tons register of 3,292. The vessel had a sloping stem, rather sharp; the jib boom appeared low, and her sides were straight with very little sheer; large chart house and wheel house aft and a rounded stern. Main deck had 8,735 sq ft of clear space with four cargo hatches.
from SHIPS, by Wilfred S. Stephenson with his text below.
1908: On 5 October, while known as the bark ASTRAL, the vessel was caught in a hurricane off the Bermudas, and was hove down to her hatches, flooding deck houses and cabin. Her lower topsails, fore, main, and mizzen topgallant masts and royal yards were carried away. All furled sails were blown from their gaskets, and she was twelve hours on her beam ends when the cargo shifted. Ten days later, on 15 October, she arrived back in New York harbor. 

1910: While on a passage from New York to San Fran, she lost her three topgallant masts off Cape Horn in a gale of wind.
           This year the vessel was purchased by Alaska Packers Assoc from the Standard Oil Co, for the salmon trade to Alaska and renamed STAR OF ZEALAND.
Leaving the fishing grounds of Alaska.

Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
1911: While on a passage from San Fran to Ladysmith, BC, for a cargo, a storm carried away fore and mizzen topgallant masts. Upon her return to San Fran, her fore and mizzen topgallant masts were replaced with stump masts and the mizzen-royal was cut down.

1934: On 7 November, the STAR OF ZEALAND was sold to the Trans-Pacific Commercial Co of Los Angeles, CA, for Japanese interests, who in August 1935, sailed her to Japan to be scrapped. [photo on top.]"
Words from; Ships, A Collection of Marine Illustrations. Stephenson, W.S.,USN. Ben Kreis Agency, Vancouver, WA. 1947. Saltwater People library.

21 September 2016


Schooner VIGILANT headed out.
She carried millions of feet of lumber from 
Bellingham, WA to Hawaii.

Click to enlarge.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

Alace A. Clift (L) and Ferle M. Rogers,
of Bellingham, WA. Date of photo 23 June 1932.
Taken at the west coast port of San Francisco, CA.

Photo by Acme Newspictures, Inc. 
 from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
Alace A. Clift (L) and Ferle M. Rogers, Bellingham, WA., decided their most exciting vacation would be to journey to Honolulu on the lumber laden, five-masted schooner VIGILANT. She was one of the few sailing vessels still in active service. The gals were refused bookings as passengers––but before the vessel cleared, the two signed on as stewardess and supercargo before sailing down the coast and across the broad Pacific.
      Capt. Ralph Peasley and Capt. Charles A. Mellberg were two of the most famous in 
command of the VIGILANT. 

19 September 2016


ON 126766
128' x 19.5' x 6'
Original photo rom the archives of the S.P.H.S©
"The sternwheeler CITY OF ABERDEEN was built in 1891 on Grays Harbor, the same year she was sent to Puget Sound to operate on the Seattle-Olympia route for S. Wiley Navigation Co.
      She was commanded by a colorful character known as 'Hell-Roarin'Jack.' This steamer was noted for impromptu races, during which, anything flammable in the cargo was apt to be used for fuel. She once consumed several cases of choice bacon in a tussle with the GREYHOUND. As a result, she was almost worn out by 1907, but was completely rebuilt, given even more powerful engines and renamed VASHON."
"Under her new name the VASHON ran between Seattle
and Bremerton in the excursion trade and on summer
runs to a resort at Useless Bay, Whidbey Island."

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

Above notes from Pacific Steamboats. Newell and Williamson. Bonanza Books.
A Saltwater People post about one of the CITY OF ABERDEEN races can be viewed here
1907: She was renamed VASHON and chartered by Schubach and Hamilton, to run out of Seattle, on the Alki Point excursion route. After extensive overhauling, she started on that route on 4 July, making hourly departures from the City Dock in Seattle. 
1911: "On 28 November a fire, presumably caused by spontaneous combustion, totally destroyed the steamer VASHON in Guemes Channel. The vessel owned by Mackie Bros who used the vessel in connection with their Whidbey Island resort. The occasional visitor to this port [Friday Harbor] was a total loss. Captain Robert Fredericks and the crew barely escaped.
      V. Widup, one of the firemen, was the only member of the crew to suffer from the flames. Widup was sleeping when the fire started. When making the rounds of his men to see if they were all safe, he was found still in his bed. He was assisted to the dock where he recovered.
      The VASHON had just arrived in Anacortes from Seattle, and was tied up to the Great Northern dock when the fire started. The VASHON was one of the oldest steamers on Puget Sound. Recently she has been on the Seattle-LaConner route, and also made trips to the San Juan islands. On this trip she was serving the Island Belt Co to load salmon canned at Lummi Island. She was 342 tons, valued at $20,000, with $5,000 insurance."
Above fire report from the San Juan Islander, 1 December 1911, submitted to the archives by Richard Schneider from Orcas Island, WA.
Capt. Harry Bromley
Capt. Robert Fredericks

12 September 2016

❖ MOSQUITO FLEET MONDAY ❖ the VIRGINIA V, Our Sole Surviving Steam Mosquito

Built by Matt Anderson at Maplewood, Kitsap Peninsula, WA.
Seen here on her first trip to Seattle, summer 1922.
From a litho postcard from the Clinton H. Betz ship collection
Archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"1922 was a year of global turmoil and transition. The 'war of all wars' was over and the Jazz Age kicked up its heels. The roaring 20s were building up steam. Winds of change swept waves of speak-easies, flappers, rumrunners, bootleggers, and gangsters across the land.
      The waters were quiet on Puget Sound for Campfire Girls' Postmistress, Ellen Bringloe, as she rowed from Camp Sealth to Maplewood wharf with a bottle of Lisabuela creek water. 
      At six AM sharp, Ellen smacked her be-ribboned bottle of 'Prohibition champagne' against the prow of the newest 'Mosquito Fleet' steamer, christening her VIRGINIA V. The first VIRGINIA was the S.S. VIRGINIA MERRILL (1908), named after the daughter of a local logging baron.
      Captain Nels G. Christensen, of the West Pass Transportation Co, first saw VIRGINIA V in his mind's eye. He described her to Mathew Anderson, master shipwright, and with a handshake, and roughly $30,000 the project was begun. In nine months, Anderson carved VIRGINIA V out of first growth Douglas fir––without the aid of a blueprint. She unfolded upon his dry dock, gaining her unique shape day by day. With her traditional nautical lines and raked funnel, VIRGINIA V is a classic wooden-hulled steamship. 
      116-ft x 24-ft  with a 7-ft draft, she can carry a couple of hundred passengers and haul 100 tons of freight at a steady and comfortable 13-knots. Her 400-HP, triple-expansion, oil-fired steam engine formerly powered the VIRGINIA IV.
      On 11 June, VIRGINIA V went to work. She joined scores of needle-nosed steamers that darted about the islands, harbors, and bays of Puget Sound providing transportation between town and country, farm and city. The steamer serviced 13 landings along both sides of Vashon Island's Colvos passage, connecting those communities with Seattle and Tacoma.
      Whenever VIRGINIA V arrived at a landing, it was a social event. Mail was picked up and delivered. Gossip was exchanged. Young ladies kept an averted eye open for any young men looking their way. Groceries were unloaded. Livestock and produce were boarded. Then the lines were cast off, the whistle would ring out and the engine would begin slowly and rhythmically building up to a crescendo of syncopated patter. The sonorous sounds of VIRGINIA's steam whistle echoing down Colvos Passage would punctuate her comings and goings.
      Business was so brisk that eventually two round trips daily were established. On Sundays, she escorted Campfire Girls back and forth between Seattle and Camp Sealth on Vashon Island. The girls adopted the vessel and affectionately called her "VIRGINIA VEE." She traveled 126 miles a day, six days a week, 445,900 miles a year. Everything flowed smoothly until the vicious and brutal storm of 1934 nearly destroyed her.
      What in the world VIRGINIA 's lee side was doing facing he Olallala wharf that Sunday in October is anyone's guess. Hurricane-force winds were racing down the Sound. 70-mile-an-hour winds whipped up 10-ft swells. The full force of the freak storm struck the vessel broadside, hurled her over, crashing her through pilings. Pinned to the dock by broken timbers, wind and wave beat the helpless vessel mercilessly. The 30 passengers and crew miraculously escaped injury by leaping to the dock and safety. 
      VIRGINIA V's stout hull withstood the onslaught, but her upperworks were stove-in. The damage estimate was $11,000 and $11,000 in 1934, at the depth of the Great Depression was a small fortune. Her owners decided to rebuild. The investment didn't pay off. Auto-passenger ferries were making serious inroads in Puget Sound maritime traffic. Trucks carried the freight, cars the passengers, and both were transported across the Sound on ferries. The Coast Guard was demanding more and more of a vessel to pass inspection and workers were demanding more and more in wages. After 16 years and eight million passengers, VIRGINIA V was retired from regular service in 1938, her fate uncertain.
      In 1940, the Japanese were island hopping across the Pacific and there was considerable fear that they would island hop across the Aleutians, down the Inside Passage, and into Puget Sound. Japanese subs were sinking unarmed merchant vessels along Washington's coast. They attacked a lighthouse on Vancouver Island and shelled the Harbor Defenses at the mouth of the Columbia River. There were rumors that a Japanese battle fleet was sighted off the California coast, and was heading toward the naval shipyard at Bremerton. The government enlisted every boat that would float into the war effort. The US Army enlisted VIRGINIA V in their harbor defense. She transport troops and supplies between Seattle and seacoast forts.
      In 1942, although Japanese subs were prowling the sea-lanes off the WA coast, Capt V.G. Christensen, son of the original owner, brought the VIRGINIA V from Puget Sound to the Columbia River. He hoped to find permanent employment for the craft as a passenger vessel between Portland and Astoria. His last-ditch effort was an era too late. A ribbon of highway stretched across the land and sleek, fast autos raced down them. The red ink flowed. The crew 'plastered the boat' (sued for wages,) and a deputy Marshall seized the vessel in lieu of unpaid bills. VIRGINIA V was to be sold to the highest bidder at a public auction. 
      VIRGINIA presented a forlorn and lonely picture as she waited to be hauled up on the auction block. Nearly every other 'Mosquito Fleet' steamer had met the scrapper's torch. Her wooden hull was worthless, but her brass fittings and steel boiler were worth their weight in gold during the wartime metal scarcity."
Above excerpt from The Washington Fleet. An O/P publication in memory of Capt. H. Ward Henshaw (1883-1958) by Ron and Kristine Henshaw for the Washington Centennial in 1989. Thank you Henshaws.

A chart presented with a ticket to the 
50th celebration of S.S. VIRGINIA V 
in 1972.
Click to enlarge.

1922-1938: The VIRGINIA V made a round trip a day through the Passage, carrying freight and passengers between Tacoma and Seattle. 
1939-1940: She ran during the summer months only. Her working days are honored by Roland Carey in Isle of the Sea Breezers. Alderbrook Publishing Co., Seattle. 1976.
The below excerpt from Workboats by Archie Satterfield and Walt Crowley. 
Sasquatch Books. 1992.
      "New owners brought her back to Puget Sound and began the West Pass run again. But after the war, business declined, and like the entire Mosquito Fleet, the VIRGINIA V was relegated to the transportation backwaters when the State of Washington decided in 1950 to invest in its own ferry fleet as an extension of the State highway system. She was used almost exclusively for excursions during the next three decades.
      During this time, she went through a succession of owners until the VIRGINIA V Foundation, formed in 1976, bought her in 1979 with state and federal grants and matching funds from supporters.
      Today the boat continues to be chartered to private parties, carrying up to 328 passengers. She is operated in much the same manner as she was during her heyday on the Sound because grandfather clauses waive many Coast Guard regulations that apply to new boats––provided the VIRGINIA V is in good working condition."

06 September 2016


Port Townsend, WA.

"In that nebulous period referred to by tow boat men as 'Now when I was in the ––,' there was a small tow boat leaving Pt. Townsend for Pt. Angeles with an oil barge. She had laid in, waiting for the ebb and the westerly to go down and, as it happens, favorable tides occur at midnight, just as the mate goes on watch.
      In short order she was underway, the towline was out and things were made shipshape.
      The skipper took her clear of Point Wilson, dusting the compass at intervals to clear the dust and fog from its surface. After 4 hours in Pt. Townsend things get a little hazy sometimes. The skipper turned to the mate with a smile. 'Do you know your way? When were you here last?'
      The mate said, 'Oh I s'pose so but it's been about 5 years ago.'
      'Well then I'll give you all the dope. Do you see that flashing light off the Port? That must be a new light on Middle Pt. buoy. Things look sort of fuzzy out so I don't think we can see Dungeness Light. The course is West 1/2 North or West by North or something,––I ain't sure. Oh Hell, that beer makes me sleepy. See you in the morning.'
      The mate settled down to work. He decided the flashing light was Dungeness after all so with a new course laid out he spent the next 6 hours steering, oiling valves, fixing the bilge pump, drinking coffee and thinking what a stinker the Old Man was. He could have brought back at least one beer.
      The watch passed smoothly and just off Ediz Hook, he took in most of the tow line so they would have time to pump enough air to juggle with in the harbor. A few minutes later as the mate was going down to get the Old Man out of the sack, dark thoughts crossed his mind. In fact they grew darker with each step.
      He shook the skipper awake and said, 'Hey Cap, this place don't look quite right.'
      The Old Man muttered, 'S'matter?'
      'Well, when you come into the harbor, is there a stone breakwater on the starboard side?' The Old Man, still in a big fog, just grunted so the mate added, 'It looks like a Blackball dock on the port side, and the C.P.R. dock on the starboard. Up ahead there's a big bulkhead with a big gray building that looks like a hotel and besides there's streetcars running in front of it. Do they have streetcars in Pt. Angeles? I haven't been here for 15 years but it don't look quite right somehow.'
      The skipper, becoming more awake as he listened to the mate's story, began to get a wild look in his eyes and growled, 'what did you say? Tell me that again.'
      The mate willingly complied but before he could finish the Old Man staggered to his feet and yelled 'C.P.R! Hotel! Breakwater! Streetcars! Oh my God! We're in Victoria and we didn't clear customs. What course did I give you?' With a leap he made for the wheel house.
      When the mate got topside the skipper was leaning on the wheel staring from side to side and rubbing his eyes. Then it dawned on him that he was safe in Pt. Angeles and not Victoria. He rested his head on the control stand, heaved a great sigh and moaned, 'Don't ever do that to me again––I couldn't stand it.
      And now, children, this nasty old skipper became a nice skipper and was always good to his mates ever after. Except that he had a deckhand named Boliver, but that's another story."
Source of text: Victoria Episode by Capt. H.M. Pixley. Piling Busters, Stories of Towboating by Towboat Men. Mitchell Publication, Inc. Seattle. 1951. 
In a later post for the lighter side of the marine world, we will share the background of the Piling Busters Association as written by historian Gordon Newell.

03 September 2016


Chain and bucket type digger dredge,
operated by the
City of Portland, OR.
The Oregonian News writes that this first dredge
was in service in 1891, 
to keep channels open in the
Willamette and Columbia Rivers.

Click to enlarge.
Original photo by Ackroyd Photography, from the archives of
the S.P.H.S.© 
"A century ago the Northern Pacific railroad reached Portland, OR, establishing it as a more important seaport than Astoria, even though it was 105 miles from the mouth of the Columbia River. The Oregon legislature created the Port of Portland and began funneling money into it to attract shipping business. In 1898, the port was given funds for the purchase of a dredge to keep the shipping channel clear to the sea. At  that time the Columbia's average depth was 12', but shifting sandbars and shoals were everywhere beneath the murky water, making navigation hazardous.
      The Port of Portland employed the PORTLAND, a wood-burning, steam-powered dredge. It was joined in 1902 by the Columbia I, almost three times as powerful. A third dredge, the WILLAMETTE  I, was launched in 1913. The TULATIN went to work in 1916,  the COLUMBIA II in 1921, and the CLACKAMUS in 1925.
       The OREGON, launched in 1965, not self propelled and requiring a considerable attendant plant, including a 65' towboat, a 55' power barge, a 35' crew boat launch, five anchor barges, over 18,000 ' of pipeline, a water barge, and a fuel  barge. This was the dredge operating when Mount St. Helens erupted and dumped a load of ash, sand, and debris of biblical proportions into the Toutle River, that feeds into the Cowlitz River––a tributary of the Columbia that enters at Kelso–Longview, WA. The flood of volcanic material raced down he mountain at 30 miles per hour and into the rivers, forming a shoal of sand debris all the way across the Columbia's navigation channel. For a space of 7 miles, the remaining channel was only about 15' deep; the day before the eruption, it had been 40' deep. Ships were stranded on either side of this dam; those in Kalama, WA and Portland could not leave, and those downstream couldn't move upriver.
      The dredge OREGON and the US Army Corps of Engineer's three hopper dredges went to work, and in five days they had cleared a channel wide and deep enough for small ships to pass. It took them six weeks to return the channel to its normal 40' depth and 600' width.
      One benefit of dredging is the new land created by the dredge spills. All along the river between Portland and Astoria are new islands, beaches, and industrial sites. These include Rivergate Industrial District, Swan Island Industrial Park, Port of Portland terminals, Portland International Airport, and similar areas near Vancouver, Kalama, Longview (all in Washington), and Astoria."
Above text from Workboats, An Illustrated Guide to Work Vessels from Bristol Bay to San Diego.
Archie Satterfield & Walt Crowley. Seattle; Sasquatch Books. 1992.

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