"Of all national assets, archives are the most precious:
they are the gift of one generation to another,
and the extent of our care of them marks the
extent of our civilization." Arthur Doughty.

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 650, 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.

26 November 2016


ON 126821

345 g.t., 328 n.t.
150.0' x 35.0' x 11..0'
Built 1891 by the well-known H. Bendixsen at Fairhaven, CA.
Purchased by the Pacific Coast Codfish Co in 1913;

she sailed out of Seattle to the Bering Sea with
Capt. Shields' 
schooner JOHN A. for many years.
Here she is saying her goodbyes to Poulsbo life; early 1950s.
The WILSON was purchased by E. Mahood in 1954 and
beached near Powell River, BC, for a breakwater.

Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.© 
"The proud old three-masted schooner CHARLES R. WILSON, a record of countless voyages over the seven seas etched in her still-stout hull and tight seams, was being cleaned up for the auction block.
      The WILSON had seen most of the world's ports. But, in this area she was best known for the 28 voyages she made to the Bering Sea in search of codfish. In a trade in which sail long since had become a rarity, the WILSON held her own in northern waters until the season of 1945. From then she had been idle.
      During the war, her owner, Capt. J.E. Shields of Poulsbo, successfully resisted efforts by the government to convert the old windjammer into a barge and continued to send the WILSON to the Bering under command of Capt. Knute "Iron Man" Pearson of Poulsbo, a veteran of the fishing banks. 
      The 26-man crew of the WILSON saw the Japanese planes that bombed Dutch Harbor 5 July 1942. The enemy planes flew directly over the vessel, virtually a 'sitting duck,'  but did not molest her.
      The WILSON was built in Fairhaven, CA, in 1891, and she still is sound and stout.
      She recently had been beached at Poulsbo to have her hull scraped by use of a technique familiar to sailing men.
      At high tide, the vessel was run as close to the beach as possible. the receding tide left the vessel high and dry, and heeled over on one side. One side was cleaned and repainted. The the process was repeated, with the ship brought in at a different angle to expose the other side.
      The WILSON's hull is still in prime shape, men who worked on her, reported. No one knew just how many coats of copper paint had been slapped onto her hull. By now, however, the hull virtually was impregnated with it. The vessel is for sale, and among the early nibblers is a California motion-picture company."
Above text published by the Seattle Times, date unknown.

Schooner friends
and JOHN A.
Seattle winter moorage, dated Nov. 1941.
In memory of fisherman John Markie,
who did not make it come home this year.
Original photo by James A. Turner,
from the Turner Collection, archives of the S.P.H.S.©

1941: After procuring the consent of innumerable governmental agencies, Capt. Shields was permitted to enter the schooner CHARLES R. WILSON, in the Bering Sea cod fishery, this being the only vessel operating in the trade. Her catch was 177,477 codfish.

1941:    "A blue-nose from Nova Scotia, John Markie, came to Seattle in 1914 and signed on the CHARLES R. WILSON. He fished and sailed for Capt. J.E. Shields for 27 years. Markie fished from Iceland to the Bering Sea for 60 years. Always, a sailing vessel. He was found dead in his bunk aboard the WILSON in the Bering. He had fished the previous day. "We had buried John Markie on Little Walrus Island, where the eternal rollers of the Bering Sea break on the rocky coast. There was no minister to say a requiem but we had a phonograph which played a complete funeral service record. A cross was erected over the lonely grave and we went back to the schooner. When he signed on the WILSON this year with Capt. Knute Pearson who had a broken leg and went to sea on crutches, John said, with a smile on his face: 'Seventy-seven and still spry.' With the death of John Markie, the oldest deep-sea fisherman on the Pacific passes on." From a letter written by Capt. J.E. Shields, posted at Naknek, AK. Published 5 July 1941, Seattle Times, page 7.
Capt. Knute Pearson sailed her home in August with 144,317 fish. 
Cod-fishing ended for the sailing ships and the CHARLES R. WILSON tied up in Poulsbo with her buddy the C. A. THAYER.

Names of some of the people who have commanded the schooner CHARLES R. WILSON:
Capt. John Grotle
Capt. Knute "Dempsey" Pearson
Capt. J.J. Kelly 
Capt. John Hanson

23 November 2016


Crew member Barbara Leighton
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©

Before the Schooner WANDERBIRD sailed into the hearts of hardworking Capt. Harold Somers and his wife Anna Lise, in California, for one of the most amazing restoration programs in the U.S., the good ship was sailing other oceans.
      Tompkins sailed for adventure and found it on the stormy 5,000-mile voyage from Spain to Florida in the little 76-ft schooner WANDERBIRD. 

     "Lief Erickson in modern dress made port [Miami Beach] the other day. His craft was the schooner WANDERBIRD, his crew totalled six men and two gals and his log told of a 5,000-mile cruise across the stormy Atlantic from Vigo, Spain to these tropical moorings.
      Half a century ago the WANDERBIRD, then the WANDERVOGEL, bucked the gales of the North Sea. She's just as sturdy and staunch today. 'No bigger than the Viking ships, but a sweeter sailing vessel and much more seaworthy,' said Capt. Warwick M. Tompkins.
      Tompkins and his crew, that included his wife, Gwen, and Miss Barbara Leighton of New Haven, CN, had no auxiliary motor on which to call in heavy weather, or calms. The WANDERBIRD is one of the few remaining deep-sea schooners that depends only on sail. 
      The women of the schooner's crew stood watch and watch with the men at the wheel, helping set canvas and going aloft when it was necessary to shorten sail for a heavy blow. The other members of the crew were Alfred W. Pain of Cambridge, Mass,  first officer; Alfred Lorens of Hamburg, Germany, second officer; two sailors and a cook.
      The WANDERVOGEL was one of a fleet of pilot boats built for the German government fifty years ago for service in the North Sea. She is framed and planked of solid oak throughout and copper-sheathed. Despite her staunch build, the schooner made 1,000 miles in six days from Vigo to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands.
'We logged ten knots under shortened canvas,' said Cap'n Tompkins. 'We had gales in the Bay of Biscay, the wind reaching a velocity of eighty-three miles an hour. But from there on it was better. We left Cowes, England, 20 September for Vigo and made port here in 48 days.'
      Tompkins whose home is in Berkeley, CA, attended the U of CA. His deep sea experiences date from war days when he held the battleship ARIZONA on her course as a quartermaster. He purchased the WANDERBIRD in Hamburg last July and with a crew of English and Dutch school boys made a 6-week cruise of the British Isles last summer. 
       His latest venture on the WANDERBIRD is not his first conquest of the Atlantic in a small sailing vessel. He was navigator of the 17-ton PRIMROSE IV* on a crossing of the North Atlantic by way of Iceland an exploit that won him the Blue Water medal in 1927."
* The Log entry of PRIMROSE IV can be seen here.
Above text from the Journal Gazette, Mattoon, IL. 1930.
aboard as navigator on PRIMROSE IV.
Well known sailor and one-time owner of
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©

17 November 2016


with flags flying and gold aboard, 
steaming for Seattle, WA. 17 July 1897.
Litho card from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"As the steamer PORTLAND neared Cape Flattery on 17 July 1897, Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporters had assembled at the offices of the Puget Sound Tug Boat Co in Port Townsend. Rumor had it that the steamship was carrying gold-laden miners from the Klondike region in the Canadian Yukon. The enterprising reporters wished to charter a tug to intercept the PORTLAND before it reached Seattle. Assigned the tug SEA LION, they headed out the strait to Cape Flattery, where they met the steamer and got their story, one of the major scoops of the century. On board the PORTLAND were 68 miners with $964,000 worth of gold dust and nuggets, estimated at one and a half tons of gold. 'A TON OF GOLD' the Seattle P-I bannered in understatement, but a nation and a world were nevertheless electrified by the news and the Klondike promise.
      The Port Townsend Leader chose, however, to ignore the event, noting only that 'the tug SEA LION went to the Cape yesterday;' they featured a story two days later, headlined 'MOUNTAIN OF GOLD,'  about the purported gold find of three Port Townsend men at the headwaters of the Big Quilcene River in the Olympics. 'We have a Klondyke (an early spelling) of our own right here at our door,' Dr. J.C. House proclaimed. Acknowledging the stampede that was gathering throughout Puget Sound for passage to the Yukon, House repeated, 'For mine, I will take my Klondyke in the Olympics and won't have to travel 2,500 miles to get there either.' As it turned out, chances were better in the Klondike. House estimated that his find was valued at 'thousands, if not millions,' but nothing came of it. But the economy of Puget Sound, moribund since the depression of 1893, surged into prosperity with the rush to gold.
      Pt. Townsend men were among the first to schedule trips north. Among them was William J. Jones, who founded the Leader but sold it to become a U.S. commissioner stationed at the Alaska-Yukon border. His concern for gold was secondary. Representing the US. government in the affairs of its citizens taking gold out of Canada, Jones also turned his newspaper background into a side enterprise  when he contracted as special correspondent with 21 newspapers, including Frank Leslie's Weekly, the New York World, and the New York Herald, but not the Leader. He received fifteen dollars from Frank Leslie for a one-thousand word article, and eight dollars to ten dollars per column from other periodicals. His early reports, reprinted by the Leader from other papers, told of the trials of the ill-prepared miners during that first year of scramble after gold.
      Port Townsend merchants did their best to make certain that no one was under supplied. 'Last on, first off' was the marketing slogan local outfitters used to attract the hordes of stampeders. Nearly all Klondikers en route to Skagway stopped in Port Townsend, their last U.S. stop before Alaska and the rugged Chilkoot Pass. Local merchants advertised in Klondike promotional publications, noting that the gold-seekers'  supplies would be stowed on top of those manifested in Seattle and would therefore be unloaded first, giving Pt. Townsend passengers an edge in the mad dash to Dawson before the snows closed access to the Yukon for the winter. The Pt. Townsend Board of Trade claimed that outfits could be bought in Pt. Townsend for 5 to 20 percent less than any other city on Puget Sound, and they even found miners to testify to that fact. Whatever the truth behind the hype, most gold seekers chose Seattle, and the booming business in the Queen City settled any lingering arguments about which town would be the primary metropolis of the Northwest. All Port Townsend got for its effort was an enduring though unsubstantiated legend concerning JACK LONDON.
Above words Simpson, Peter. City of Dreams. Bay Press, Pt. Townsend. 1986.

There is Seattle waiting to welcome the gold ship,
Photo caught O. by Frasch.
From the archives of the S.P.H.S. © 
"The PORTLAND came very near being two days late winning a place in history for herself. The EXCELSIOR had picked up the first of the Klondike miners at Nome and arrived at San Francisco on 15 July carrying almost as rich a treasure as the PORTLAND. It was a publicity man named Erastus Brainerrd who made the steamer PORTLAND famous, gave the great gold rush to Seattle and made Alaska a 'suburb' of that enterprising Pacific Northwest city." Newell & Williamson. Pacific Coastal Liners. Superior Publishing. 1959


12 November 2016


Two of these photos include
San Juan County mariners.

The LOTTIE (bottom photo) was built on Cypress Is.
Click photo to enlarge.
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"The waterfronts of the little cities––what delightful places they are! How friendly and informal and jolly are the men who work down there. Why is it that you never expect to get a story from a dressed-up man but are sure of getting one from that same man when he is wearing overalls? Especially if the overalls are torn and very dirty. More especially if he wears an old sweater that has quite evidently seen many winters of use. And most especially if there is a smell of the sea about the man.
      Go down to the waterfront and listen to the stories of the fishermen and boatmen down there if you want to know something of the romance of Puget Sound.
      The smells of the docks––smell of tarred logs, of seaweed, of humans, of oil, gas, old sacks, food, fish. They are the smells of adventure. When I went down to the docks the first time after getting back to Puget Sound I stopped a block or so from the waterfront to savor the smells.
      It was early afternoon. The dock was nearly deserted. I heard the put-put of a gas launch below getting ready to pull out. Her master was untying ropes. He did not see me watching him, homesick to be a-going with him, wherever he was going. Fishing, maybe. Maybe he owns an island was going home. He'll be loaded with supplies––staple groceries and grain for his chickens and turkeys. When he gets home he will do some fall plowing, or perhaps he'll just putter around with the chores and listen to the radio in the evenings, read his paper and go to bed. The islanders live many lives of hardship, if that makes sense. 
75-ft passenger boat with a 75-HP Buffalo engine.
Built in 1912 by A.J. Goulette at Everett, running in charge
of Capt. J. H. Prather, at that time.
A Capt. Prather descendent suspects there are family members
in this photo c. 1912.
A few years later Capt. Kasch of Anacortes was the owner/operator.

Photographer unknown. Click to enlarge.
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

      The ALVERENE lay against the piling of the dock. It gave me a curious shock to see her, as if she were a friend I had been homesick for. Filled me with nostalgia to be aboard, bound for island harbors.
      But when I discovered the CALCITE from Roche Harbor and fat old Pete Larsen, her captain, talking down on a float I felt as if I had got home in truth, for Roche Harbor lies nearest to Sentinel, our homestead island, and a boat from that lovely bay is a boat from home. Pete remembered me and I sent messages to old neighbors. 
       Over against a dock opposite, a score of tugboats and fishing boats swung at anchor. The TULIP QUEEN, the NEW YORK––surely that little fellow doesn't hail from New York. She can't have made it from there. Maybe her owner is a New Yorker as homesick for the tumult and mad rush of his home harbor as I have been for the little harbors of Puget Sound. 
      The San Juan Second! There she sits. Waiting for a new engine, they tell me. How proud she will be to go 'clickety-click' like a little one! the owners of the SAN JUAN II were among the first people in this land to welcome us ten years ago when we were here to homestead Sentinel. 
  US Mail boat for San Juan County.
Early 1920s photo with crew, George Stillman, 
(standing on the rail.)
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
They used to run the boat themselves and many are the pleasant hours I've spent in her pilothouse talking to old Captain Maxwell. They used to stop off at Sentinel Island to load or unload passengers for us. And once or twice we've hailed them from mid-channel to give them a fine cod we had caught that morning.
      The boat BALKO. Why that name? Won't she go? The big tugs DIVIDEND and PROSPER. Were they named in high hopes before the dividends and prosperity or have they been named in appreciation of their performances? The fine tug IROQUOIS. She burns more than a hundred barrels of oil a day and more when she works very hard.
      'There's Ed down there,' I heard somebody say. 'Has he stopped fishing for the year or has he got his nets off for repair?'
      'No matter whether he ever fishes again,' another replies. 'He has enough to do him. Fifty or a hundred thousand invested right here in Bellingham, if he has a cent. Made it all fishing, too. Fish running fine this year, they say. Hey, Ed! You stopped fishing?' But Ed is busy with his ropes and doesn't hear. They are wrangling her in between two other fishing boats where she rides lightly, her mast swinging from side to side just the least bit. 
      Tugs going out and tugs coming in. 
Unidentified tug in San Juan County.
Photo by Fred Darvill, Orcas Island.
Do you know this character?
Photo from the archivies of S.P.H.S.©
Heavy squat powerful bulldoggy looking fellows and long slender, swifter ones each out after his own peculiar type of load. I watch them walking the waters of the harbor off down towards the island and I decide that 'When I'm a man' I'll be a boat captain!' See you tomorrow. June."

07 November 2016


River steamboat HARVEST QUEEN
846 t. 200-ft., built at Celilo in 1878.
She and 8 or 9 other vessels were transferred to
the lower river in 1881, where this story begins.
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.

"The serenity of this scene as the HARVEST QUEEN moves out of her slip heading for the Columbia River is in sharp contrast to an earlier run of the HARVEST QUEEN––one that took her over Celilo Falls.
In 1881, hard times on the Middle River above the rocky barrier at Celilo Rapids had prompted the passage. It was a risky one. To breach the falls meant a 20-ft drop over a basalt ledge. Then followed the hazards of rock strewn Tenmile Rapids. This churning gutted into a mile long cauldron that compressed the Columbia between sheer rock walls less than 300-ft apart.

      Running the Celilo Rapids was first accomplished in 1866 when Capt. Thomas Stump threaded the OKANOGAN through the hazardous chasm, followed by other sternwheelers of similar size: the NEZ PERCE CHIEF, the classic ONEONTA, the HASSALO (II), and now one of the river's finer steamers, the HARVEST QUEEN. At the helm was Capt. James W. Troup, 29, who six years earlier had entered the HARVEST QUEEN's pilot house as her skipper. Peter De Huff, a veteran riverboat engineer, manned the engine room throttle as she moved from her Celilo slip. A slight rise in the low River had prompted the young captain to make his move. For a few minutes it seemed as though it might be his last for, as the HARVEST QUEEN swept into the narrow chute, she was unable to clear the ledge.
The rocks tore into the stem of the 200-ft steamer, ripping off her rudders and disabling the engine supports. Legend has it that Capt. Troup picked up his speaking tube and shouted:

'Back her, Pete! Back her if you love me!'
'I can't. Everything's busted,' came the doleful reply.

      Captain Troup, with the skill of command that was to make him an outstanding riverboatman on the Columbia and the Fraser, left his useless wheel. Anchors and kedges were dropped to pull the drifting HARVEST QUEEN out of the whirlpools and away from the threatening rocks into the eddy. The worst was over. Defying the chill waters, the steamer's crew completed repairs. Within two days, the HARVEST QUEEN was ready and defiant, sweeping at railroad speed through the remaining rapids to be greeted by cheering crowds at the Dalles."

Above words by author Jim Faber, The Steamers Wake. Entetai Press, Seattle. 1985.
6-ft long ship model by Spencer W.Young, 1953.
Young took 13 months to make the craft of birch, oak, pine, and
mahogany. Boilers and twin engines drive walking beams,
11" long, that turn the paddlewheel. The lounge is furnished
with a grand piano, armchairs, tables, all to scale.
LIghts come on in cabins and smoke pours from the stack.
Unknown photographer.
Original photo from the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©

1928: Capt. Troup had a truly great maritime career that closed with his retirement at age 73 years of age––having passed the age limit set by BC Coast Steamship Service by 8 years.

05 November 2016


Fiction creeping into the Non-fiction: 
Readers were "had." 
Actress, author, Joan Lowell (1902-1967)
and father Capt. Nicholas Wagner

with Capt. Jack Apple on board their 48-ft
Schooner BLACK HAWK.
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©

Words by legal historian Molly Manning.
From: The
Legal Historian.com 14 May 2012.
The theatrics are from New York and California; for a connection to home, the schooner was built by Moran Shipyards, Seattle, WA.

Launching 1900 

at Moran Brothers Shipyard, Seattle, WA.
Photographer unknown,
Washington Rural Heritage site.
      "In 1929, Simon and Schuster, along with a myriad of readers and reviewers, developed a keen interest in Joan Lowell, whose recently published a book––Cradle of the Deep––told of her harrowing adventures on the high seas as she traveled with her father in his glorious four-masted ship. Her book's foul-mouthed accounts of being the only female on a ship full of hardened sailors, of learning life's lessons (including how to swim, which occurred after she was literally thrown into the ocean to see whether she would sink or stay afloat), and fighting for survival was shocking, engaging, and page-turning.
      When the New York Times reviewed the book, it sang its praises. The book was deemed a "jolly yarn," told with "dash and ardor" and a "vocabulary as replete with expletives as one will encounter at sea or in a highly modern Broadway show." Although the Times noted that the book seemed plagued with dramatics as Lowell described "each and every calamity at sea--shipwreck, scurvy, fire and so on," the reviewer was quick to add that he did not "question the veracity of the sea-going author."
      Oh, but he should have. Nautical experts who read the book found "innumerable flaws" in Lowell's account, including facts that any amateur sailor would not have mistaken. Some were so enraged that it was said that they 'called upon Heaven, Homer, and Herman Melville to witness that she didn't know her ship's lee scuppers from a marlinspike."'The truth was soon revealed that Lowell grew up exclusively on dry land in California, not on a ship.

Simon and Schuster 1929
Schooner MINNIE A. CAINE, 1929.
A pictorial refutation of one of the two statements
made in Joan Lowell's Cradle of the Deep.
The schooner is moored 
to her dock in Oakland, CA,
 that proved the ship did not burn and sink,
  as related in the book.
Original World Wide photo dated 8 April 1929.
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      Lowell's publisher and her readers had been "had." Not knowing before publication that it was entirely make-believe, Simon & Schuster was forced to offer a refund to its fooled readers (as the first printing was 75,000 copies, the refund was a costly punishment). Further, since the book's true nature was not discovered until after the Book-of-the-Month Club recommended it to its members, the hoax's repercussions leaked into the courtroom as this book club was publicly ridiculed and criticized by powerful figures in the book world, which resulted in litigation.
Joan Lowell
Aboard BLACK HAWK, 1 April 1933,
attempting a circumnavigation with her father
Capt. Nicholas Wagner. They got as far as Guatemala.
      Lowell seems to have escaped her mischief unscathed, as she continued to write and even starred in a movie of her own making. In 1934, her film, Adventure Girl, was shown in theaters; the movie supposedly re-enacted her adventures with her father and his crew while on board a schooner headed for the West Indies and Central America. Lowell was said to have created the film to lend credibility to Cradle of the Deep––but there was no redeeming the latter after it was exposed for the hoax it was. Lowell never abandoned her tales of navigating the seas; it almost seems that she spent most of her life trying to revitalize her first fictitious book about such adventures. She even married a sea captain in 1936 and sailed with him to Brazil, where they built a home in the jungle. Her attempts to escape from her hoax were unavailing--even twenty years after its publication, the book- world still reeled from her shenanigans--Cradle of the Deep was declared "one of the most violent literary controversies of modern times" in 1952.
      Should Lowell's hoax be considered harmful or hilarious? Should it be taken seriously or with a sense of humor?"

Below, Anne Colby writing for the L.A. Times, 2008:

In an interview at the time, Lowell maintained that a writer's primary obligation was to provide readers with color and excitement: "Any damn fool can be accurate––and dull."
She never admitted deceit, and though the scandal followed her, it didn't put a halt to her literary adventures.
Lowell moved to the jungles of Brazil where she died in 1967.

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