"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 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.

31 October 2016


The tomb of Captain Bligh (1754-1817)
St. Mary-at-Lambeth, London, England.
Photo dated verso 12 August 1967.

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

In an ancient churchyard, the descendants of Captain William Bligh and Mr. Fletcher Christian, who started the famous mutiny on the BOUNTY, in 1789, met and made up. 
      Before Bligh's restored tomb at St. Mary-at-Lambeth, London, they shook hands and agreed that old Bligh wasn't such a bad chap after all. Just difficult to get on with. 
      The occasion was a service to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Bligh's death [1817] and the repair of his tomb, damaged by wartime bombing and vandals. Representing Captain Bligh was Mrs. Clifford Tetley (nee Bligh,) of Wendover, Bucks. She is Bligh's niece, immeasurably removed, and her family have cared for the famous man's grave for 30 years. 
       Appearing for Mr. Christian was his great-great-great-great grandson, Mr. Glyn Christian, a 25-year old actor-writer from New Zealand, now living in London. 
      The Rev. Oliver Fiennes, rector at the church, said a short prayer for those in peril at sea. 
      And Mr. Christopher Lloyd, a naval historian, complained that Bligh had become 'one of the most maligned figures in British history.' 
      Although he was a brilliant navigator and sailor, all this seemed to have been forgotten and his name was synonymous with brutality and tyranny. Afterward Mrs. Tetley and Mr. Glyn Christian agreed that this was a great pity and that something ought to be done about it. They also said it was silly to keep on with the quarrel over the mutiny that had split their families for generations.
For more 'bio' on Captain Bligh CLICK HERE

26 October 2016


48' x 28' with 1,275-ft of sail.
Built by Adolph Rohlfs and Merrill at their 
new plant on the East Waterway.
Photo dated,  8 June 1909
Seattle, WA.

Photographer unknown.
Photo from the Carl Weber Collection, S.P.H.S.© archives.
Ted Geary, 1885-1960 (center) designer, helmsman
with Dean and Lloyd Johnson

ready for launching, Seattle, WA.

Photographer unknown.
From the Carl Weber Collection, S.P.H.S.©
Dated 29 June 1909
Seattle, WA. 
Photographer unknown .
Carl Weber Collection, S.P.H.S. ©
"I never heard from my father––or anyone else––when or how he and Ted Geary and the Griffiths boys all got together as young sailors, but it must have been shortly after Dad built the WINONA. Ted Geary, whose full name was Leslie Edward Geary, was born in Kansas in 1885. When he was still a boy the Geary family moved to Portland, and soon on to Seattle, where Ted grew up on the waterfront. Two of his childhood friends were Dean and Lloyd Johnson, who later became my dad's partners. In fact, Ted and the Johnson boys circumnavigated Seattle in a sailing canoe sometime before the turn of the century, and at that time, the feat required portaging between Salmon Bay, Lake Union, and Lake Washington.
      Ted went to high school at the old Broadway High on Capitol Hill, and I think he was probably designing boats even before he graduated in 1904. After he finished high school he enrolled at the U of WA, and in 1907, joined the Seattle Yacht Club when it was still known as the Elliott Bay Yacht Club.
      The first yacht design that really brought Ted any acclaim was for the SPIRIT, launched in 1907. SPIRIT II was launched two years later. Ted designed her while still at the university, and she was built mostly by the Johnson brothers in a former firehouse on the top of Queen Anne Hill. A fire station bay in those days was about the right size to build a fairly good-sized boat. The SPIRIT was a 42-ft sloop, built to challenge the Canadians for the Dunsmuir Cup, and, skippered by Geary, she beat the Vancouverites entry, the ALEXANDRA, and won the cup from the Canadians in 1907.
      The next year, the SPIRIT lost to the ALEXANDRA, so the SYC commissioned the SPIRIT II in 1909. Well, this second design was to the then-new Universal Rule, developed by Nathanael Herreshoff. And what Geary did was design the SPIRIT II with a keel that went from nothing and then was not totally straight down, but steeper than most. Practically all the English keel designs, like the Canadians' ALEXANDRA, were the long, sweeping profile. So the SPIRIT II beat the Canadians the next season.
      In fact, I heard that they got so badly beaten that the measurer demanded that the SPIRIT II be hauled out so he could measure it, and he called this slight variation in design a notch in the keel. The first measurement was made in the notch. Of course, it wasn't a notch at all, it was just kind of a corner. There've been thousands, tens of thousands, of boats built like this since. But this episode caused a rift between the Canadians and the Americans that was not patched up until 1912 when Sir Thomas Lipton visited Seattle and brought about a truce.
      Around 1907, Geary left Seattle to study naval architecture at MIT. He returned to Seattle in 1910 with a degree in naval architecture and soon had many commissions for yachts as well as work boats.
      Ted Geary could make a sailboat sail faster than anybody else. He was probably the savviest helmsman on the west coast. He could sense changes in wind, things like that, with incredible accuracy. So for a good ten or eleven years, the SIR TOM was never beaten.
L.O.A. 38'+ L.W.L. 23'-0" x 7'-10" x 5'-6"
Displace 8,500 lbs; Lead Keel 4,500 lbs.
Sail area 400 sq. ft.
Rating 19.99
Built by the Johnson brothers and Blanchards.
Seattle, WA.

Throughout most of her racing days, she was skippered
by her designer, Ted Geary.
back-stamp date of  July 1937.

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

 WW I interrupted competition in sailing, so when the war was over people were anxious to get sailing and racing going again. I recall it must have been in the early spring of 1919 when one Sunday a bunch of the fellows came over to get my dad and go down and have a look at the SIR TOM, which was sitting on the ground leaning against a fence at some commercial shipyard down on the waterfront. I was included in this expedition, and I don't remember why, because I was still pretty young. So we went down to this shipyard, and the TOMMY was sitting there with the entire first 18 or 24 inches of her bow missing. During the winter of 1916 and '17, there had been a record-breaking northwest wind and freezing conditions, and quite a few of the fleet at the SUC had broken loose. Some of them would up unharmed on sandbanks, but more of them were badly damaged, and the SIR TOM had pounded her snout off on her mooring float.
      This was a big shipyard, but at the time it was more or less down to a maintenance crew. They had steam locomotives in those yards and it was no problem for the yard to fire up one of the steam locomotive cranes on a weekday and set the TOMMY back in the water. Quent Williams or somebody with a power boat picked her up and brought her up to the Blanchard Boat Co. They built a new nose on her, and that first year, 1919, she still sailed with her gaff rig. 
      The Vancouverites had a brand new boat called the LADY VAN, and she was a hard- chine design. She was designed by someone up in Canada, and Geary was successful in shipping both boats down to California, so right away he could see the handwriting on the wall; he had to put a new rig on the TOMMY. At that time, the early 1920s, the original syndicate that owned the SIR TOM was pretty much intact, and old Capt. James Griffiths would say, "C-mon now, you're going to put up another $150 so Norm can build a new mast for the SIR TOM."
      In 1922, the Pacific Coast Championship Regatta was held in Newport Harbor, CA. My dad had built a cradle for the SIR TOM and she was towed afloat down to the Pacific Coast Steamship dock for the trip to CA. I think they put her on the EMMA ALEXANDER. We were there and the boat did not have lifting eyes at that time, so they used automobile slings and spreaders and lifted her into her cradle.
      The races were off Newport Beach, which was nothing much but a beach. Newport Harbor had been made by dredging out a natural salt-water marsh. The big red interurban cars ran on standard railroad track out to the end of the peninsula, where they made a circle and stopped. About 50 or 100 yards from the end of the peninsula was the Newport Harbor Yacht Club. It was about the size of a triple garage, big enough for a bar and not much else.
      The SIR TOM won all three races and was still the west coast R Class champion. Geary's career blossomed. In addition to commissions to design working boats, he had considerable success with bigger motor yachts after the SAMONA was built, and to name a few, the ELECTRA, the CANIM, the PRINCIPIA, the BLUE PETER, but those boats were all built at the Lake Union Dry Dock. He also turned out some fine sailboats like the schooner KATEDNA, which we know as the RED JACKET. And in 1927, he designed a new class of small sailboat for the juniors. These Flatties, as they were called, were built at the Blanchard Boat Co.
      Ted continued to work in Seattle as a naval architect until after he married for the second time in 1927. His success continued in S. California. He designed the big, steel-hull yacht in 1930 for John Barrymore, that we know as the THEA FOSS.
      The last time I had a good contact with Ted was when he came up here to design the new rig for a MALABAR VII, a John Alden-designed schooner. I had redesigned a 22-ft Phil Rhodes sloop into a 25-footer, so Ted came over and laid out the sail plan for me, and we had a nice visit. Ted passed on in 1960; he was undoubtedly the finest helmsman I ever sailed with and had the pleasure of knowing."
Words by the well-known boatbuilder/mariner Norman C. Blanchard. Knee-Deep in Shavings. Victoria, B.C. Horsdal & Schubart. 1999.



22 October 2016


"Plate of Brasse"
This brass plate, engraved with what purported to be
Francis Drake's 1579 claim to Nova Albion,
became California's greatest historic treasure
when it was found and authenticated in the 1930s.
It turned into the state's greatest hoax when it was
retested forty years later.
(Courtesy Bancroft Library)

"By the grace of God and in the name of her majesty
Queen Elizabeth of England and her successors forever
take possession of this Kingdome whose King and people freely
reign their rights and title in the whole land unto herr majesties
keepeing now named by me and to bee knowne unto all men
as Nova Albion. Francis Drake."
Photo dated 7 April 1937 from the archives of the S.P.H.S.

    At a press conference today (Tuesday, 18 Feb. 2003) at the University of California, Berkeley, the researchers revealed what may be the final chapter in the story of a brass marker dubbed "Drake's Plate." The plate was discovered in 1936 and purportedly recorded the California coastal landing in 1579 of English explorer Francis Drake and his ship, THE GOLDEN HIND.
          It passed muster at the time of its discovery and was proudly acquired by the campus's Bancroft Library. However, scientific testing 40 years later determined it to be a fake.
          Among the newest findings was that the hoax:
    Was created by a group of respected Bay Area men active in history and the art world;
    Was an elaborate joke that got terribly out of hand;
    Was successful despite indirect warnings that the plate was a fake.
          Researchers Edward Von der Porten, a nautical historian, archaeologist and retired maritime museum director; Raymond Aker, a maritime researcher who died earlier this year; Robert W. Allen, a historical researcher and educator; and James M. Spitze, an amateur historian, have published these findings and more in the latest issue of California History, a California Historical Society publication.
          Their conclusions may surprise many Golden State history buffs who accepted the long-circulating story that the playful E Clampus Vitus historical fraternity, also known as the Clampers, was responsible for the prank. The group has bristled at the accusation.
          While acknowledging they lack a "smoking gun," lead author Von der Porten and his fellow researchers cite a wide range of sources that they say point the finger at a band of well-established and respected gentlemen of the day - only one of whom was known to have been a Clamper.
The cast included:
  • G. Ezra Dane, a prominent member of the Clampers and of the California Historical Society. He instigated the hoax. 
  • George Haviland Barron, curator of California history at the de Young Museum in San Francisco until 1933 and a leading member of the California Historical Society. He designed the fake plate. 
  • George C. Clark, an inventor, art critic, appraiser and friend of Barron's, who engraved the plate. 
  • Lorenz Noll, an art dealer and restorer, and Western artifact dealer Albert Dressler. They are believed to have helped with the fluorescent lettering "ECV" applied to the back of the plate. 
  • Herbert E. Bolton, who was director of The Bancroft Library from 1920-1940 and Sather Professor of American History. He also was, like Dane, a member of the California Historical Society and the Clampers. Fascinated by stories about Drake posting a brass plate to mark his entry into California, Bolton was known for telling his students to be on the lookout for it when in Marin County. The plate's appearance fulfilled Bolton's dream, and he was thrilled to acquire it for The Bancroft. 
      Sport brought these men together, although Bolton was unaware of the game. "Spoofing its own members was an accepted part of Clamper fun, and the distinguished Professor Bolton was a tempting target," the researchers said.
      But the organization's leaders did not sanction the joke, so Dane sought assistance from Barron, Clark, Noll and Dressler, the writers said.
      Barron designed the plate, borrowing most of the text from "The World Encompassed by Sir Francis Drake," a detailed account of Drake's voyage that was first published in 1628, with reprints available in the early 1930s.
      Barron's friend and neighbor, Clark, reportedly designed the layout for the plate and chiseled the lettering.
      The plate was fashioned from common brass, with text carved with a chisel and the letters' raised edges hammered down. Then, the plate was heated over a wood fire to create a dark patina. It was hammered once more, darkened more with dirt, ash and possibly more chemicals, and possibly subjected to fire once again and buried for a time.
      Then one of the conspirators - the authors believe it was probably Dane in cahoots with Noll and Dressler - labeled the plate a Clamper prank by painting "ECV" on the back with fluorescent paint.
All the handiwork paid off, even more than they had planned, the researchers write: "...the realization that Bolton was almost unquestioningly supporting the plate's authenticity must soon have changed jubilation to shock, and quickly, deep concern. Their inside joke, intended to be resolved with a good laugh over a dinner table or at a Clamper meeting, had escaped from their control."
      It was of major significance that Bolton was not the only one conned. Among others also taken in was Alan Chickering, a lawyer and president of the California Historical Society and other society officers and members who donated $3,500 to buy the plate for the library. The historical society's directors, who authorized publications about the plate, also were fooled.
     The tricksters and most of the hoaxed all belonged to the same small world of California history enthusiasts, the researchers said, making a public confession very difficult. Though the tricksters tried to warn Bolton indirectly, he disregarded the warnings.
      About a decade after the plate was found, Lorenz Noll told Albert Shumate, a San Francisco doctor, California historian and longtime leader of the California Historical Society and the Clampers, what really happened. He said that Barron, Dressler, himself and others were involved in what Shumate characterized as an elaborate joke that got terribly out of hand.
      After Dane, Barron and Clark died in the early 1940s, and Bolton in 1953, Noll began opening up with his story to a somewhat wider circle, the researchers say. When Noll confided to the editor of The Pony Express, the editor convinced him to dictate a statement, which was typed and signed by him in May 1954. He identified Clark and Barron as the plate's creators, and Noll just listened.
      Officials at The Bancroft Library called the new California History article very persuasive.
      This research "may well be the final chapter in this great mystery," said Stephen Becker, director of the California Historical Society. He commended the researchers "for their excellent scholarship, for setting the story straight, and helping us all enjoy this wonderful tale of historical fact and fiction."

The phony plate become a centerpiece of the 1939-1940 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island, and photographs of it appeared in textbooks and popular magazines. The discovery location on San Francisco Bay also set off 50 years of fierce debate about where along California's coast Drake really landed.
      For all the confusion and misinformation surrounding the plate, the California History article authors said the hoax has had positive impacts that include increased public awareness of the state's explorer-era history and a wide range of related research.
      The fake plate will remain on display at The Bancroft Library, but the real thing, researchers say, may still lie deep beneath the water, rocks and sand of Drake's Bay.
Above text by Kathleen Maclay/ UC Berkeley News 18 Feb. 2003.
Berkeley Lab's Nuclear physicists Frank Asaro and Helen Michel demonstrated that the Plate of Brass, a much-celebrated artifact said to have been left on the California coast by Sir Francis Drake in 1579, was not authentic. Neutron activation analysis showed that zinc content was too high and the impurity levels too low for sixteenth century English manufacturing techniques. The brass in the plate, which was found under a rock in 1936, was most likely manufactured no earlier than the first half of the nineteenth century.
Berkeley Lab Science Beat 2 Dec. 1999

15 October 2016

❖ LOBO DEL MAR from LOPEZ ISLAND ❖ by Louise Dustrude

L-R: Tom Chamberlin, his son Conrad 
and "Floyd,"
Late 1970s on Lopez Island, WA.
Courtesy of Jan Chamberlin.
"The 38-ft work boat, LOBO DEL MAR, has a sweet English Ford engine with a Sabb marine conversion that will push her along at hull speed, 8-knots, on less than two gallons of Diesel an hour with the help of a variable pitch propeller.
      The designer-builder-owner Tom Chamberlin, who would have been 100 years old today, 15 October 2016, loved sailing, so he designed the boat to run under either power or sail.
      Called a 'schooner' because of the location of the cabin astern, the boat is actually designed with a modified ketch rig with a 40-ft foremast and a 24-ft mizzenmast. 
      Tom said the sails offer 'another way to get home if something goes wrong,' but another reason is that 'sailing is fun.'
at work in the islands in the early 1980s.
by C. Christensen
      At 38-ft overall with a 4-ft draft, the boat is small enough for it to lie alongside the reefnet boats from which he purchases salmon (he buys from gillnetters as well.) The hold capacity is probably about 12 tons, he figures. In his first two seasons, 1980 and 1981, he sometimes single-handed and sometimes had the help of his son-in-law, Malcolm Lea, a summer resident of Shaw. He was buying for Island Fresh Seafoods of Lopez.
      Tom designed the boat and then made a model he 'whittled away at' until he was satisfied, and then drew the final plans. He built the boat in a shed on his Lopez property overlooking Fisherman Bay, with the help of sons Conrad and Hank, of Douglas fir on oak frames. It took 13 months; the launch took place a couple of days before the first eruption of Mt. St. Helens.
Friday Harbor marina
Courtesy of John Dustrude©, Friday Harbor, WA.

      Tom estimates that LOBO DEL MAR is 'about the 35th boat he's built, so he had some experience to draw on. He started when he was in the fifth or sixth grade with a little rowboat that ''leaked like hell,' and along the way he built a 57' ketch, CIRCE, taken after the L. Francis Herreshoff design, TIOGA I.
      He built CIRCE in 1961 and 1962 in Spain, and then sailed her in the Med with his wife, Sally, and their seven children. They had taken the children, then aged 5 to 16, to Europe because of their dismay at the lack of intellectual disciplines being taught in US public schools. In fact, it was when their daughter was being taught the use of lipstick and rouge in her fifth grade class that they decided to go. They wanted to expose the children to other cultures 'to give them some options,' and after about three years in the Med they went on to spend the next 13 chartering in the West Indies.
      The nearly three dozen boats Tom built over the years included four he built in the early 40s with George Calkins, designer of the 'Bartender,' using all hand tools; one was a 60-ft fishing boat and the others were 34-footers.
      Here in San Juan County Tom served on both the Energy Committee and the Tidal Generation Committee and found plenty of time to socialize with friends. But he's also at work on another boat, a 12' flat-bottomed skiff with a little sprit-sail, designed by his son Carl in Port Townsend.
      'I'm one of those guys who's happiest on the water,' but a close second had to be building a boat to take him out on the water."
Above words by Louise Dustrude. San Juan Islands Almanac Vol. 9.
Long House Printcrafters and Publishers. Friday Harbor, WA. 1982.
      We hear LOBO DEL MAR was shipped to the east coast. Thanks Louise, for capturing this boat and her family when she was living in the San Juan Islands.

10 October 2016



She served the Seattle-Bellingham route, 
Hood Canal and the Columbia River.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"The term 'Mosquito Fleet' may, to readers not familiar with the Puget Sound Country, suggest only very small craft. It was however, a phrase universally employed by the people and publications of that section to differentiate the Sound steamers from ocean and coastwise fleet. Some of the inland ships were as large as the deep-sea vessels, but their trade placed them in the 'Mosquito Fleet.' The term enjoys the authenticity of tradition and long usage. Author, historian Gordon Newell, 1951.

A Flagship for a New State
1889, 12 July: 
"The steamship STATE OF WASHINGTON, built by John J. Holland, boilers hissing, steam whistle blowing, champagne bursting upon her shiny, new bow, slid down her Tacoma dry dock into the deep, clear waters of Puget Sound. She was not launched in the usual fashion. Her engines were fired to full power as she sat upon her dry dock and her paddle wheel churned the air as she hit the water full steam ahead.
      The STATE's maiden voyage was a fast one. She covered the 25-mile course to Seattle in one hour and 35 minutes, pier to pier. The latest addition to Washington State's 'Mosquito Fleet' approached speeds of 18-knots in the straightaway. She was active serving on the Bellingham Bay route commanded by Capt. George W. Barlow and Capt. Henry Bailey and also by Captains John 'Red Jack' Ellsmore, Theophilus Green (1848-1910), Harry K. Struve, G.H. Parker, Harry Carter, A. N. McAlpine and a number of other well-known Sound steamboatmen. David Pardun was engineer until his death, and Nicholas C. Perring was Chief Engineer among the last in charge of her engines. Passengers relaxed and admired her first class accommodations. Pacific Navigation Co executives noticed how smooth and steady she rode. The 'STATE' was long (175'), and shallow drafted (7') with a spacious hull (449 net tons.)
      Across the territory, Washingtonians had been anxiously awaiting statehood. In the year of 1889, as the nation celebrated the centennial of George Washington's 1789 presidential inauguration, the citizens chose to name both their ship and their state in his honor.

The most vile, thicke and stinking fogges is how Sir Francis Drake, the pirate, described the treacherous mists of the Pacific Northwest. The steamers of the Mosquito Fleet, renowned for their punctuality, cannot let zero visibility slow them down. Navigating with only fog bell, bow watch, and a sixth sense, the S.S. STATE OF WASHINGTON commanded by Capt. G.H. Parker, had barely left Colman dock when she made an 'unscheduled' stop against the hull of a slow-moving tug, the S.S. MYSTIC, Capt. H. H. Morrison and William McKenzie, engineer. Just a few years after her maiden voyage, Neptune claimed the MYSTIC. 
      The MYSTIC, 48-ft with 90 HP compound engine built at Eagle Harbor in 1891, was sunk and in raising her, Capt. Chris Christensen, a well-known diver, lost his life while the same work was in progress a few days later, with Christensen's schooner, the RUSSELL, anchored over the wreck, she was run down by the steamer NORTH PACIFIC and smashed to pieces. Capt. Harry Crosby, then a boy of 14, was aboard the schooner with Capt. Christensen's son and both had a narrow escape.

1905-1912: The STATE was on the Hood Canal Route.
1912: She paddled down to the Columbia River when purchased by E.H. Dodge Lumber o to operate as a towboat.

1915: Operated by Dalles-Columbia LIne in the Portland-The Dalles service, the STATE was sold to the Regulator Line. The diminishing water traffic on this route made the STATE surplus to the needs of this line.

1916: The sternwheeler was sold to the Shaver Transportation Co and used for ship and oil barge towing.
1919, 23 June: Fate.
The S.S. STATE OF WASHINGTON, while engaged in moving Standard Oil Barge No. 93 from Astoria to Portland, was completely destroyed by a boiler explosion while just above Tongue Point. Six members of the crew were badly injured and the fireman scalded to death. Capt. Harry "Casey" Chase and the survivors were removed from the wreckage by other river craft. Pilot Perley Crawford was blown from the pilothouse 80-ft in the air over the mast of the barge and removed, suffering only from shock from the water on the opposite side of the tow. The boiler was later located 1,000-ft from where the wreckage came to rest. Nothing was left to salvage of the venerable old ship with the proud name. A favorite with passengers and crew for 31 years, the steamship STATE OF WASHINGTON was fondly remembered.
The Washington Fleet. Henshaw, Ron and Kristine.1989.
H.W. McCurdy's Marine History of the PNW. Editor Newell, Gordon. Superior. 1965

06 October 2016

❖ CRUISIN' TIME IN THE 1940s and '50s ❖

"Cruisin' Time"

"Cruisin' Time" in the San Juans divides itself into short cruises, harbor hopping, anchor sitting, town visiting, and fishing. The occasional use of exact time for thousands of yachtsmen is only for tidal, current, and weather requirements––bolstered by that innate sense of skippers who can judge by eyeball calculations the moment the sun is over the yard arms in harbors from Friday Harbor to the Sucias.
     My own discovery of this kind of "time" in the San Juans dates to chance. In the Depression my close friend and I, up from Oregon, chose a stay in Bellingham. A large group of students organized a sail aboard a classic large, wooden-hulled sailboat for a stay at Olga's hotel, and we went along after scrounging hard for the fee. That was fifty years ago, but I still vividly recall standing on deck at the mainmast, wondering, "where is this?" 
as we made that gorgeous run through Obstruction Pass and into Buck Bay to the Olga dock used by those little passenger steamers that knit the islands' travel and commerce.
     The following day, a typical May overcast, zero wind and flat water kind of day, we wandered a rock roadway along East Sound and stumbled onto the great Moran estate at Rosario. We saw no one, and wandered at will in subdued awe. Before us undulating in the most gentle of tiny swells was the 107-ft SANWAN. She was anchored fore and aft to hold her at right angles to the beach, so close to the shoreline we could have waded to her bow. 
Seen here in San Francisco.
Built on Orcas Island by shipbuilder Robert Moran.
Date c. twenty years before this Bob Walters article.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
The SANWAN had seen better days. Some streaks of rust had run down her fading white sides. The depression times had laid up the yacht that Robert Moran had both designed and built and we were sad. This was the most famous of local yachts, along with John McMillin's CALCITE, but SANWAN, was like a clipper ship and twice the length.
     Fourteen years later, my wife Erma and I took a weekend cruise with a Bellingham writer who saved his gasoline coupons––the rationing was still on in 1945. We spent the Fourth of July in Fossil Bay at Sucia Island. DISCOVERY was the only boat of any kind in the harbor all that day and night, and we were the only crew wandering the shorelines.
      Our host showed us the tumbled structures of the "caves" that had been constructed in the small boulders on the spit. The rum runners used these hiding places: they would dash the three nautical miles with loaded speedboats from the International Line, pull to the beach in the cove opposite Fossil, stow the Scotch and Canadian Whiskey in the timber-shored caches, and dash back. The local connections would then slip into Fossil in the dark and start the cargoes to the down sound thirsty.
     My third encounter with "Cruising Time" was the next fall––1946. Joe Williamson, Seattle's renowned ship and tugboat photographer-historian acquired a classic Stephens Bros. power yacht. He suggested a cruise to sample the fine middle October weather in the San Juans. After leaving Friday Harbor, we took on San Juan Channel in a developing storm.
     We rounded Limestone Point, passed Pearl Island and cruised right to the head of the harbor, hard-by the shipping warehouse at Roche Harbor. 
Roche Harbor, WA.

Tied to the main float, and almost touching the McMillin home, we spent a warm, snug evening against the passing storm. Not one person came to question us; not one yacht or commercial craft in sight. 
Hotel de Haro,
Roche Harbor, San Juan Island. 

Original dated photo July 1950 from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
We explored the Hotel de Haro, literally encased in vines and unused, and I learned the background of Roche Harbor and its patriarch.
     Good fortune comes in threes. Now I had visited Rosario when we were the only ones in sight, anchored in the Sucias with the freedom of hermits, and ported at Roche with the place to ourselves.
     From items I jot on my cuffs are memories of the wonderful 1950s such as when we docked at the floats at Norton's Deer Harbor and at eventide walked the road up to the historical Norton farmhouse and orchard and partook of the marvelous chicken dinners served family style to visitors.
Boat docks at Deer Harbor, WA.
Photo by Boyd Ellis from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      There are others––Waldron Island, Jones Island, Mitchell Bay––all combining to produce a string of family cruising highlights and memories of "Cruisin' Time" in the San Juans.
Above words by Bob E. Walters. San Juan Islands Almanac. Vol. 9. Editorial staff, Therese Morrow and Nancy Prindle. Long House Printcrafters and Publishers. 1982.

      Those who spent hours cruising the San Juans in the 1950s may have memories similar to those of Bob Walters, former editor of Pacific Motor Boat and SEA magazine. Walters was also publishing editor for San Juan cruising books, writer and photographer for San Juan and British Columbia magazine stories, a charter founder of the Northwest Marine Assoc and president of Puget Sound Interclub Assoc that fostered donors for Sucia Island State Marine Park.

03 October 2016


 The term 'Mosquito Fleet' may, to readers not familiar with the Puget Sound Country, suggest only very small craft. It was, however, a phrase universally employed by the people and publications of that section to differentiate the Sound steamers from ocean and coastwise fleet. Some of the inland ships were as large as the deep-sea vessels, but their trade placed them in the 'Mosquito Fleet.' The term enjoys the authenticity of tradition and long usage."  Author, historian Gordon Newell, 1951.
Mosquito  S.S. MAGNOLIA
ON 203378
Launched 1907
This photo dated 1909.

Magnolia was dropped from registry in 1936.
Cropped detail of an original photograph by Lewis P. Muirhead, 
a commercial photographer from Seattle, who it is 

thought, worked from 1908 to 1920.
He won the third grand prize for his work entered in the 
Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909.
If you know the person on the texas please share with us.

Photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

"The Diesel engine that gave new life to so many of the old steamboats, spelled retirement and eventual destruction for some. A new heavy duty Diesel costs a great many thousands of dollars, so owners who could afford them, still had to think twice about their investment. It's hardly worthwhile to put that much money in a boat unless the hull was pretty certain to last as long as the engine. If there was any doubt about it the old steamer usually ended up in the boneyard. 
      A number of people, particularly steamboat fans, will tell you that the great advantages of Diesel power over steam in the realm of economy of operation was largely artificial; that they resulted from arbitrary government regulations rather than any real mechanical advantages on the part of the internal combustion rigs. There is considerable logic to back up their arguments. 
      The old steam engine may have been running smoothly after half a century of hard work and showing no signs of wear. The new Diesel may thump, emit evil smells, and require frequent maintenance, but the fact remains that the conversion had saved money in future operating costs that probably meant the difference between profit and loss.
      Probably hardest hit by the transition were the old passenger steamers. When highway and railway competition began to make their old routes unprofitable their owners looked around for new jobs to keep them busy. Many of the bigger steamboats compromised with the automobiles by becoming ferry boats. Even splendid sternwheel packets made the change, thereby extending their lives for a while. Smaller steamboats, not capable of hauling enough automobiles to make profitable ferries, turned to towing.
      Most of them were getting on in years when they became tugboats. Worth rebuilding once, most of them fell by the wayside when their owners were faced with the heavy expense of another conversion––to Diesel power. Another point against them was their hull construction. Most of them were built on long, slim lines with knife-like bows and low freeboard. This was fine in the day of the passenger steamboat that was a competitive age, for it gave them the speed needed to outrace rivals and garner the cream of the passenger and freight business.
      Unfortunately this design, ideal for racing passenger steamboats, was the opposite of ideal for saltwater towboats. They need a broad, deep, high-bowed hull under them to give them the stability and seaworthiness they need. They need heavy timbers to withstand the bruises and shocks that are occupational hazards in their business. The little passenger steamers were built light and limber to give them the high speed that, as tugboats, was no longer needed.
      The slim little MAGNOLIA was an example of the lightly graceful passenger boats that tried their hand at tugboating. She was 101' L with a beam of just over 18', while her gross tonnage was measured at just 57 tons. The trend has been steadily in the opposite direction. Puget Sound Tug's TYEE, built in 1927 as the CROWLEY NO. 28 is only 80' L but her beam is 20' and she registers 75 gross tons.
      As a passenger steamer piloted by Captain Fred Sutter, the first little MAGNOLIA gained a reputation as a racer which was outstanding in an era and an area where steamboat racing was a favorite pastime. Her greatest fame was gained in her battle with Captain Chance Wyman's VASHON on the Tacoma-Quartermaster Harbor route. Competition became so spirited that passengers on the rival steamboats began to fear for their lives, finally banding together to force a cessation of hostilities. After that, the MAGNOLIA operated as a direct boat between Seattle and Olympia. She remained in this trade until the early 1920s; was the last scheduled passenger steamer to serve Olympia which had been a steamboat port since 1853.
      She lost none of her slim good looks when she became a towboat for the Olson Tugboat Co of Tacoma. The Olson colors––white touched up with scarlet trim––set her off to good advantage. Under Paddy Craig, she worked hard at log and barge towing for some 15 years, but she just wasn't built for the work. It was like hitching a dainty racehorse to a brewery wagon, and it wore her out. When the towing fleet went Diesel the MAGNOLIA was dismantled, a new little Diesel tug carrying on her name in the Olson fleet."
Above text by Newell, Gordon". Pacific Tugboats. Superior Publishing, Seattle.
Maritime historian, J. Robin Paterson, told this writer the melodious whistle of the MAGNOLIA went to the RONDA.
Note: The Saltwater People post about the Mosquito VIRGINIA V has been updated from a great little publication, The Washington Fleet by Ron and Kristine Henshaw. Click on a link here

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