"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.

14 December 2017


The REDWOOD first heads to Alaska on the Inside Passage.

"In the middle of August 1919, I shipped as AB on the SS REDWOOD in Seattle and joined her at the Bell Street terminal, where she had finished discharging salmon from Alaska. She was built and owned by Pacific American Fisheries (P.A.F.) in Bellingham. From the terminal, we proceeded to Point Wells for bunkers. 'Fill her up!' was the master's order. The captain was Harry Fletcher, known to his friends and associates as 'Curly.' The 'fill her up' order meant to also fill up the extra fuel storage by which she supplied the various PAF canneries in Alaska. From Point Wells, we went to Bellingham to load stores and provisions including several truckloads of meat. The next day, off for Alaska via the inside passage. After a flying stop in Ketchikan to clear ship we proceeded out Clarence Strait, south of Baranof Island, across the Gulf of AK and through Unimak Pass to the P.A.F. cannery at Port Moeller on the Bering Sea.
PAF workers near Killisnoo, AK.

      The cannery was closed and only two winter watchmen were there. All the extra provisions and most of the meat was for them. We also filled the fuel tanks and then loaded the remainder of the season's canned salmon, several barrels of salt salmon, salt codfish, and black cod. Also, some broken down cannery machinery to be repaired in P.A.F.'s shop in Bellingham. After two days at Port Moeller, we left for the whaling station at Akutan. Although the whaling season was over, we could smell the station long before we saw it. But in a life with many other inconveniences, nobody noticed that dead whale odor nor mentioned it after one day. Several families lived there in Akutan including some Indians. Whatever extra meat we had left was discharged and we also filled the watchmen's fuel supply. Then we started to load whale oil and whale meal and some broken machinery to be repaired in Tacoma. After three days we sailed south. This time we entered S.E. Alaska via Cape Spencer and stopped in Excursion Inlet on Icy Strait to fill the fuel tanks at their cannery and also to pick up some canned salmon and 'iron chinks' to be repaired. We stopped at High Point, another P.A.F. cannery near Wrangell to again pick up odds & ends and fill their bunkers. Then home to Bellingham to put all the P.A.F. machinery ashore. The salmon was discharged at Bell St. in Seattle. Then to Tacoma to deliver the machinery from Akutan to the American Whaling Co's own dock. We returned to the Bell St. terminal in Seattle to discharge the whale oil, sperm oil, and whale meal. Everybody aboard, mates, sailors, engineers, firemen, stewards, and flunkies had started making plans for the winter. Under ordinary circumstances, we would take the ship to Bellingham to be tied up over the winter until the AK canneries had to be aroused again in the spring.

REDWOOD's travel routes
follow the path of thousands before her.
 We were all standing by, engines were warmed, ready to sail, when our jovial skipper came aboard in a state of ecstasy, 'Boys, we are going to South America.' To tell the truth, nobody believed such a fantastic exclamation. After taking the ship from the dock and heading north for West Point he turned the ship over to the second mate telling him we were stopping at Point Wells for bunkers: 'Call me about 1/2 mile off the dock and ask the chief to come to my room.' After bunkering at Point Wells, we sailed for Bellingham to go on the ways and have the bottom cleaned and painted and take on stores. And then, only then, the captain told us we were going to Aberdeen, WA to load bunkers for Callao, Peru and there to load Chilean ore for the Tacoma smelter.
      Down the Sound, around Cape Flattery and to the Grays Harbor bar we went.

      In Aberdeen, we loaded a full cargo of lumber including a deck load. The Standard Oil dock in San Pedro, CA was our next stop for bunkers and stores. Among the stores were several live turkeys, our congenial cook, and steward doing all the buying. There may be some old timers who knew him, he was known as "Porkchop Levy." And as everyone from the captain down will testify, he was an excellent cook and steward. Bunkers and larder full we sailed for Callao.
      We arrived 20 December 1919, and on the 25th sat down to a true American turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Yes, it was a banquet. Preceded by a cocktail of your choosing and a bottle of red or white wine for everyone. Not only that but at the steward's urging, everybody had one or two invited guests. We also had three decorated Christmas trees from the forests of our State of Washington. We had picked them up in Aberdeen and by stowing them under the forecastle boards and keeping them wetted down, they were in excellent condition. We had one for the officer's mess, one for the crew's mess and one of the flying bridge. That afternoon we also had a children's party aboard. The steward outdid himself that day. He got the kids aboard to sing Christmas carols even though he didn't understand Spanish.
      On 5 January, we left for Antofagasta, Chile. Here we loaded ore, but of a different kind. On the 15th we sailed back to the US. First stop, San Pedro for bunkers and also to clear ship. Then through the Golden Gate to discharge the ore loaded in Mejillones at Selby's smelter up the Sacramento River. Then out the Golden Gate again for Cape Flattery, up the Straits of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound to the Tacoma smelter where we discharged the copper ore loaded at Chile. After discharge, including all sweepings, the REDWOOD went home to Bellingham to get ready for the business for which she was built, namely servicing the P.A.F. canneries in AK. Everyone aboard agreed that this time spent on SS REDWOOD from the Bering Sea to South America and back to Puget Sound had been one of the most memorable times in their life. Amen!"
Jens Ettrup, Memories of the Redwood published by The Sea Chest, the membership journal of Puget Sound Maritime, Seattle,WA. September 1971.

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