"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 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.

23 January 2017


Dressed ship for her first run to Victoria, BC.
Moored in front of the Empress Hotel.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

Once a splendid, twin stack, passenger steamship launched in Toledo, Ohio in 1900, the CHIPPEWA was designed to run as a fast commuter ship on the Great Lakes. She did so for seven years before a sale was negotiated by Joshua Green of the Puget Sound Navigation Co. with Arnold Transportation Co. Green's partner, Charles E. Peabody, negotiated to purchase two other steamers, the INDIANAPOLIS and the IROQUOIS.
      A mechanical overhaul was done on the CHIPPEWA at Hoboken prior to the departure on the afternoon of 18 February 1907, Capt. McClure, commanding and C. F. Bishop as chief engineer.
      On her trip west to Seattle, she traveled 17,500 miles on the Cape Horn passage. She spent 54 days, 17 hours of actual running time with some extremely rough weather in the Strait of Magellan.
      Trouble began soon after the New York harbor pilot was dropped. Fires started throughout the ship as sea water shorted out the electrical cables. The navigating lights went out, the boiler injector pipes began to leak, pipe joints blew out and the forward bulwarks were stove in. "Everybody is sick and everything going wrong," wrote Bishop in his engine room log. Saltwater kept getting into the boilers and it was necessary to shut one of them down completely for much of the voyage. On 24 March, just south of deadly Cape Horn at the entrance to the Straits of Magellan, the CHIPPEWA twice went aground; (click on "read more" just below ––
only unusually favorable weather saved her from doom. According to Gordon Newell writing in a State Highways publication, she was nine days working her way through the Straits. At one point she was boarded by a boatload of Terra del Fuegian natives, described in the log as "A strange looking lot––wore no clothing except a 'Bretch cloth', although a few had an old blanket or coat on." The crew of the steamer was relieved when the natives accepted gifts of old clothes, tobacco and a "lot of old tin cans for which they seemed very grateful and departed before nightfall."  No other Puget Sound ferry has played host to as exotic a group of visitors as these Terra del Fuegians in their 'Bretch cloths.'
      Three issues of The Sea Chest, published by the PSMS, contain the Log notes typed verbatim by retired Capt. Louis Van Bogaert. Here is 24 March 1907, from the Straits of Magellan:

      "Ship brought up standing on sand flats near the entrance to Straits of Magellan soon after entering the straits: Engines were running under check bell at the time she touched bottom at 6:45 AM. Weather clear. There was a strong wind blowing off the land but no sea with a very gentle swell. The tide was going out and soon left the ship about 3-ft of water resting easily on an even keel where she lay until the tide came in. At 12:35 the engines were worked astern and ahead alternately until finally, she worked her way off the bottom apparently uninjured at 2:30 PM Ship made no water and to all appearances was uninjured." Bishop, Chief.

      Finally, after 9 frustrating and sometimes frightening days, the CHIPPEWA passed out of Smyths Channel and headed north in the Pacific. Bishop logged: "I hope it will be 900 years before I enter this again."
       In Coronel, Chile, there were 20 other steamers waiting for coal resulting in a week-long delay for the CHIPPEWA. 
      The 'CHIP' was reported passing Tatoosh Island on 6 May 1907. She cleared customs in Port Townsend; when she arrived in Seattle, remodeling work was begun right away with Moran Bros Shipyard doing the final alterations. 
Dressed ship again, perhaps her inaugural excursion to 
the San Juan Archipelago. She is moored to the dock in front of 
the early Madrona Inn, East Sound, Orcas Island, WA.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

On 13 July 1907 she was set free for a shake-down Saturday excursion to the San Juan Islands with regular service, 'Seattle to Victoria,' beginning that same summer. She would arrive home each evening. Nice first duty on the west coast.
      In 1926, PSNC bowed to the inevitable and had the CHIPPEWA converted to an automobile ferry. Passenger steamers were becoming obsolete in other parts of the country, as well as on Puget Sound. 
Photo from the archives of S.P.H.S. ©

      Plans for reconstruction of the vessel were prepared by the firm of Lee and Brinton, naval architects in Seattle. She was redesigned to carry 90 autos and 2,000 passengers. In March and April of 1926, the CHIPPEWA was in the Lake Washington Shipyard, at Houghton, where the remodeling took place. 
      Still driven by her original steam engines, the vessel was put on the Seattle-Bremerton run where she did the city to city Navy Yard Route between 54 and 60 minutes. 
      During the next years the big steel steamer became familiar to patrons on most of the main routes out of Seattle, but she was one of the ferries of the Black Ball Line's Navy Yard Route that carried 35 million passengers, nearly 6 million vehicles, 1 1/3 tons of freight and covered a total of nearly 4 million miles during the war years. (Figures for all routes.)
Following her conversion to diesel.
Orcas Landing, San Juan Archipelago
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

As viewed from the historic Orcas Hotel, she sails west
on Harney Channel; Shaw Island in the background.

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

In 1932, at a cost of approximately $200,000 the vessel was rebuilt from the hull up, and equipped with a new Busch-Sulzer Diesel motor, built in Saint Louis, MI. This 2130-HP motor was on the new trunk-piston type, with 8 cylinders designed to give more speed to Diesel equipped vessels. Her top speed was claimed to be 16.5 knots.  Rubber tile replaced heavy ship linoleum on the passenger decks; the cabin interiors were trimmed with mahogany. The silhouette of the vessel was completely changed, and the familiar two stacks gave way to a single funnel. With one pilothouse forward and another aft, she was a typical ferryboat, but a neater, trimmer craft than most of them. Many ferryboats of that day resembled a box on a raft, but the lines of the CHIPPEWA ran clean fore and aft.
      Sponsoned out to a beam of 52-ft 7-inches, the CHIPPEWA now had space for 75 cars and 1,200 passengers. Something of the size of automobiles can be gained from the fact that in 1926, even before she was widened, the CHIP had space for 90 cars and 2,000 passengers. By 1960 she carried but 52 cars and 1,090 passengers.
      Built before the Panama Canal or superhighways, the CHIPPEWA managed to keep pace with the first 65 years of the 20 C. Despite the changes in the world, during those chaotic years, she remained as modern as she was in 1900. Still a vital part of Puget Sound transportation in 1962, the CHIPPEWA served patrons of the Century 21 World's Fair, just as she did those of the first Seattle Fair, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in 1909.
      On 1 June 1951, the PSNC sold the CHIPPEWA and 15 other ferryboats, as well as 20 ferry terminals, to the State of WA. With the state at the helm, the familiar red stacks that were the trademark of PSNC were redecorated in green, with a white band topped with the usual black. CHIPPEWA had the honor of being the first to get the new paint job.
When Capt. Louis Van Bogaert made his farewell crossing
in command of the CHIPPEWA everything from the Navy
ships at Bremerton, to a Navy helicopter, dipped in salute.
Harbor tugs joined the chorus; the ENETAI gave 3 long blasts
of the whistle, the ILLAHEE gave 3 blasts, too. The CHIP
answered blast for blast. Even the great diaphone fog signal
at Alki Point Lighthouse opened up as the Coast Guard
honored the great Captain Louis aboard the
faithful CHIPPEWA.

Commemorative 1957 CHIPPEWA ferry ticket honoring
the highly regarded Captain Louis Van Bogaert,
Fleet Captain, who was born in Montreal; arrived on
Orcas Island in 1900. His first job in 1903 was working on a
small tug operated in the islands.

Click to enlarge.
Ephemera from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      Another change was the landing signal. The one long and two short blasts, discontinued when WSF took over operation of the ferries, was finally reborn the afternoon of 13 September 1957 aboard the CHIPPEWA, inbound from Bremerton and about to land at Seattle. 
Fleet Captain Louis Van Bogaert retires at age 70, 
holding a photo of the old steamer CHIPPEWA,
his last command in 54 years on the Sound.
He got back into his Black Ball uniform when he
was invited to be aboard in 1968 when she was 
 berthed at her final home in Oakland. A sweet photo
 before the sad ending of a beautiful ship.

Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
Capt Louis Van Bogaert, senior master of the WSF fleet, was making his last voyage before retirement after 54 years of steam-boating. A special delegation of well wishers was aboard. When the captain added a second short blast to the customary WSF docking signal of one long, one short, it touched off a drive to restore the old PSN signal. A resolution was drawn up and adopted by the Puget Sound Maritime Society to urge WSF to reinstitute the former signal and the ferry management agreed to do so. After 22 May 1958, one long, two short whistles resounded again. (A second part of the same resolution dealt with the naming of new ferries in colorful Chinook Indian language, as opposed to such prosaic names as VACATION STATE, WASHINGTON STATE, etc. As a result, the name of TILLIKUM and KLAHOWYA were selected for two new ferries then being built. Later ferries were named in like manner.)
      As the years rolled by, each time that the CHIPPEWA came up for her annual inspection fears were felt by the management that this would be the year that extensive repairs would be required to keep her in service. The ax finally fell in the fall of 1964, when it was estimated that at least $425,000 would have to be spent to meet Coast Guard specifications, far too much to spend on a 64-yr old ship that was now outmoded for modern ferry traffic. The inability to secure parts for her Busch-Sulzer Diesel, the 9' 6" vertical clearance for trucks and the narrowness of her auto deck contributed to the decision to retire CHIPPEWA from further ferry service. The Grand Old Lady of the Navy yard Route was at last phased out. She was sold to Foss Launch & Tug Co for use as a floating warehouse, next passed through several other ownership and then was sold to Donald V. Clair, of Oakland, CA. 
     In 1964 the CHIPPEWA carried 11,557 autos in her last year of service but in June of that year, the vessel did her final Pacific coast trip, this one in five days, behind the tug ONEYANA. The officers and crew met 60-mph winds off Cape Blanco but the "damage to the ferry was relatively light," as quoted by Capt. Van Bogaert. The steel false bow was battered, her aft mast was broken, there was water aft of the engine room and the ferry was listing when she got to Oakland in June 1968. But the engine room was dry, as were the crew quarters. "She's a good ship," Van Bogaert declared.
       Donald Clair intended to convert the vessel into a marine museum and restaurant, but on 24 June 1968, while moored at Oakland, she was set afire by vandals.
The Steamboat Landing on Elliott Bay. Carey, Roland. Alderbrook Publishing Co. 1962.
Washington State Highways article. Newell, Gordon. 1964.
The Sea Chest. PSM journal. Leithead, Robert. Seattle. Sept. 1969.
The Sea Chest. PSM journals (3 issues of 1968.) CHIPPEWA  Log transcription by Capt. L. Van Bogaert.
H.W. McCurdy's Marine History of the PNW. Newell, Gordon. Editor. Superior. 1966.
Some of the CHIPPEWA's past officers and crew:
Capt. John Johnson 
Capt. McClure
Capt. William Thornton
Capt. W.H. Mangan (grew up on Guemes Island.) He began steamboating at age 16.
Mate: William May
Capt. F. G. Reeve (d. 1941)
Capt. Dodge
Capt. Mervin Lee (d. 1956 at age 39.) His last command was the CHIPPEWA.
Oiler: Frank H. Howard. His first marine experience was on the CHIPPEWA and her 2 sisters.
Chief Engineer: C. F. Bishop (Cape Horn passage)
Chief Engineer: Alvin V. Grandy
Chief Engineer: Bert Thornton

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