"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 750, 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.

25 June 2018


Henry Cayou
Deer Harbor, Orcas Island, San Juan Archipelago, WA.
A low res scan of an original gift from 

long time mariner, Cliff Thompson.
Thanks, Cliff.

Photographer unknown.
Click image to enlarge.
"The sun-leathered old fisherman pointed across the graveyard-calm waters of Lopez Island in the San Juans with a nut-brown hand as twisted as a piece of driftwood.
      The 84-year old French-Indian fisherman had been pulling salmon from these waters since 1878. Other veteran commercial fishermen who remember will tell you that 'Old Henry' can figure a salmon like no other man alive.
      The last of the pioneer breed of fishermen, Cayou has caught more than 5,000,000 salmon in his time. 
      'There isn't a fisherman alive who has caught as many fish as Cayou,' says Robert Schoettler, State Fisheries Director.
      'The way to catch fish is to figure out which current the salmon are working on. If you can do that, the rest is easy,' says Cayou.
      The genius of this wiry, muscular octogenarian for knowing which underwater highways the salmon travel has earned him more than $100,000,000 in his career. In 1928, his best year, he cleared more than $100,000 in a season of fishing. 
      'I don't know how much I've made altogether. Might be close to $2,000,000 if I figured it up.'
      As the salmon return to the spawning grounds with unerring instinct, so has Cayou. The name is French and means 'Well-rounded, worn pebble going downstream.' We returned to the place where he began fishing at the age of nine, at Flat Point on Lopez Island.
      He straddled a log on the beach watching his four-man reefnet crew work in the water a few yards away. Up the bay, purse seiners were strung out on the shimmering water like a string of white pearls.
      'Lord, I've seen some changes in my time. All this (he pointed across the uninhabited flatland) was an Indian fishing village. Out in that channel, the salmon used to run so thick you could walk across the water on their backs..."
      Cayou's father, Louis, he said, was a French hunter-trapper out of Kentucky. He hit this country in 1859 in the wake of the big gold rush in the Caribou, BC. By trade, Cayou Senior was a 'bull-puncher,' who dragged logs out of the forest with oxen. 
      'He was too late for the gold, so the Hudson's Bay Co boss at Victoria hired Dad and another fellow named Bradshaw to go into the San Juans and hunt deer to feed the crews.' Cayou said. 'They built a bark shack at Deer Harbor on Orcas Island. Later on, they branched out and went into the shingle business for the Hudson's Bay people.'
      At Deer Harbor, Louis Cayou met a supple Indian lass of fourteen and with the blessing of the chief of the friendly San Juan tribe, married her. Henry was the first child of this union, 4 August 1869, and was followed by six sisters and four brothers.[family records list his birth year as 1868.]
      Young Cayou virtually was born to fishing. His Uncle Pe Ell was the chief fisherman of the San Juan tribe and when Henry was nine years old, Pe Ell made him a full-time fisherman.
       In those days the San Juans were the chief fishing grounds, for the Indians of Western Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska with even the Bella Coolas coming down in their colorful 50-foot-long, 12-foot-wide red cedar canoe powered by 15 oarsmen.
      'Those were happy times, Cayou remembered. We were all friendly and when fishing was good at one tribe's spot, they invited the rest of us to fish it, too. If we knew where the fish were, we never kept it a secret like today.'
      The coming of the white man to Puget Sound produced a minor peaceful revolution among Indian fishermen. For centuries they and their ancestors had caught salmon to supply their immediate wants but now they found that the white man would pay him money for the salmon. We hauled 40,000 to 50,000 fish in one boat. Often we got two cents a fish. A price of six or seven cents was good.'
      From his mother's relatives, young Henry rapidly learned their ancient fishing secrets. Patience was the Indian fisherman's touchstone. He could sit silently for hours and never move until the fish swam into his nets.
      'The salmon is a smart critter, you make the slightest movement from the reefnets and a whole run of salmon will shift direction and get away from the nets in a flash.'
      From the first, Henry Cayou (who later served 27 years as a San Juan County Commissioner) demonstrated his qualities of leadership. When he was still in his teens, he signed a contract with Alaska Packers to supply salmon to their Point Roberts and Blaine canneries at six cents per head, an excellent price. He quickly prospered.
      Cayou was a pioneer in fish traps, a development that profoundly influenced salmon fishing before they were outlawed in WA and OR. 'In 1858, a fellow named Fredenberg came up from the Columbia and he drove the first trap in Puget Sound off Eagle Point.'
      In the industry, Cayou is recognized as the all-time master among fish trap setters.
      'As a kid, I learned from my Uncle Pe Ell how the salmon ran the currents and how they used the shoreline as a guide. I guess I had the knack for setting a trap just right in the currents so they would pay out.' 
      The old fisherman's uncanny ability for setting his traps right enabled him to make a modest fortune salvaging fishing sites that had been abandoned as 'worthless.'
      'Henry had a genius for smelling out the fish,' Duncan McMillin of Pacific American Fisheries once said.
      McMillin should know. Once he gave Henry the Mulligan trap off Point Roberts and told him he wouldn't catch a fish.' Cayou moved the trap around, fished it three years and netted $14,000 a year from it. Then he sold it to H.A. 'Bob' Welsh of the Bellingham Canning Co for $30,000. 
      "I've made an abandoned trap pay out many times.' It's just a knack I had. Some fellows can figure horses or ball players. I can figure fish.'
      Cayou always remained an independent operator, never hooking up with one of the big companies. The fish pirates who used to raid the big outfits' traps never touched me. They knew I was small and left me alone.
      Like other pioneer operators, Cayou made it and lost it. 'Henry was great with the fish but he never had much of a head for money, an old cronie remembered. 'He dropped $67,000 in a cannery enterprise at Deer Harbor when a fish run failed and he had to make good on payroll contracts. Later he lost ''another pile' at Dungeness when a storm shook loose a big boom of logs and smashed his traps.
      But Henry Cayou is not the kind of man who regrets. 'I've been pretty lucky. Plenty of times I've been knocked into the water and have been just glad enough to get out with a whole skin.'
      When Washington State abolished fish traps in 1934, Cayou moved to the Columbia, working out of St. Helens, OR. But the dams and civilization (and the traps themselves, he admits) had depleted the run and it wasn't like the old days when a man could catch 10,000 to 12,000 fish a day.
      After Oregon outlawed the traps a few years ago, Cayou returned to Lopez Island to spend the late fall of his life fishing the place of his boyhood. 'Commercial fishing isn't a business or a sport, it's a gamble. You have to outguess the fish to make it.'
Source: Joe Miller. Published by the Seattle Times November 1953.
1905: Reportedly built for Henry Cayou, a fish tender, SALMONERO (201957) also known as "Sammy." She was 54.4' x 11.3' x 4.3' with 75 HP. Built at Tacoma. She was still documented in 1935. Source; Robin Paterson, Gig Harbar, WA.

A donation from 
maritime historian J.R. Paterson
1907, 23 Nov: County Commissioner Henry Cayou was over to Friday Harbor in his fine new launch SKIDDOO built by Wm. H.F. Reed at Decatur. 32' x 8', 16 HP Frisco-Standard engine which will drive her at nearly 10 mph.
1909:  San Juan county commissioner H.T. Cayou expects to operate five traps during the coming fishing season, he has already let contracts for four of them. One will be located near Decatur, one trap off Long Island, at the south end of Lopez, and two just inside of Deception Pass. The fifth he expects to drive near Kellet Ledge. He has contracted his season's catch to the George & Barker Co., of Blaine." San Juan Islander 12 Feb. 1909.
1995: Notes from Ernie Thompson of Deer Harbor:
"As far as I know at this time, Uncle Henry had fish traps at West Beach, Orcas Island; Salmon Banks, San Juan Island, Port Townsend, Point Roberts, Lopez Island, and holdings in Alaska." 
Source: Files of the Saltwater People Log.

20 June 2018

❖ CAPT. NORMAN DRIGGS: Ballard to the San Juan Islands. ❖

Captain Norman L. Driggs.
"Norman pioneered transportation over
the route from Friday Harbor to Anacortes
& to Bellingham. His first boat was the
SPEEDER. After competing for some time with
Capt. Kasch and the ALVERENE, Capt. Driggs was
identified with the US Shipping Board and was
stricken while bringing an oil-tanker to port in
Seattle, WA."
Above words by his sister, Marguerite Driggs Murray.
This scan is courtesy of Jan Anderson.
Click image to enlarge.
"Captain Norman L. Driggs was born at Seattle 14 May 1886. He was the son of Granville B. and Fanny Lake Driggs.
      For many years his grandfather, T. W. LAKE, owned and operated a shipyard at Ballard, WA., and Norman's play days were divided between this shipyard and the shores of the San Juan Islands where he developed a lasting love for ships of the sea.
      At the tender age of sixteen, the lad shipped on the schooner NELLIE JENSEN. Later he tried working ashore in a concrete works, but, Norman said, he 'almost starved to death' and the work was not at all to his liking. So he shipped again, this time on the tug MESSENGER, doing a deck watch for a while, then standing watch in the engine room.
      At this time Norman had an opportunity to enter college so he left the sea for a few long homesick watches, graduating from Pullman about 1907.
Freight and passenger boat 66' x 12'
with a 65 HP Troyer-Fox engine.
Built in 1909 at Reed's Shipyard, Decatur Island, WA.
Capt. Robert Fullerton and engineer Griggs were
principal owners of the Co. Later she was taken over
by the well-known Capt. Kasch.

Original photo with time-table inset from the archives of
the Saltwater People Log.©
It was the happiest day of his life when he arrived back on the saltchuck again. 
      To start with he purchased a half interest in the CONCORDIA and established the first round trip schedule from the Islands––Friday Harbor, Lopez, Decatur, and Anacortes. 
      Later he built the CITY OF ANACORTES at Decatur and put her on the Roche Harbor, Waldron, Friday Harbor, Lopez and Anacortes route. Times were good and the rock quarry at Waldron Island was running full swing, shipping the rock to Grays Harbor to build the breakwater and jetty. And when things began to slow down, Norman bought the boats, equipment, and floating machine shop at Bremerton and started a ferry business between Bremerton and the Washington Veterans Home at Annapolis (Retsil.) He sold out later and went into the general towing business with the CONCORDIA and CITY OF ANACORTES, also chartered the FREDDIE, SKIDDOO, BUFFALO, VAGABOND, TAKU, and RAKU II. A year or so he started the Inter-Island Navigation Co, using the BAINBRIDGE, CITY OF ANACORTES, YANKEE-DOODLE, and GEORGIA.
      Norman carried the mail through the San Juan Islands for 8 years and encouraged the idea of the Anacortes-Sidney Ferry with Capt. Harry Crosby. He did not follow up the operation due to other interests, but Crosby did. 

From the archives of the Saltwater People Log©
It was at this time that Capt. Driggs chartered the CARLISLE II and started the Gooseberry-Orcas ferry run, and a year later sold out and built the 87-ft SPEEDER. Signed as mate on a shipping board boat during WW II; before she sailed the armistice was signed and the war was over.
      So Norman set out to work on everything afloat and didn't miss it very far at that. Among his commands of the last two decades are ROSARIO, COLUMBIA, SEA KING, TYEE, IROQUOIS, INTREPID, WALOLA, MOHAWK, MARVIN, BARNEY JR., and many others. 
Built at Jensen's Shipyard
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, WA. 
From the archives of the Saltwater People Log©

Next came the tugs MARTHA FOSS, ANDREW FOSS, PATRICIA FOSS, and ANNA FOSS –– and when you make out the KATHERINE FOSS in the offing, rest assured it will be Captain Norman L. Driggs at the wheel, with that cheery smile which has won him a million friends and almost that many boats."  
Above text from the Marine Digest, Jan. 1944.

09 June 2018


Fishing grounds of Bristol Bay, Alaska.
From a report compiled by the
Bristol Bay Regional Planning Team
For State of Alaska Fish and Game, 1988.
click image to enlarge.

"Fishing being an ancient industry, it is only natural that certain fishing grounds should have become famous. One of them is Bristol Bay, AK.
      These waters form the southeastern corner of the Bering Sea and include the area from Cape Newenham to Cape Menshikoff. Of the six salmon rivers in this territory, five are open for commercial fishing: The Nushagak, the Naknek, the Egegik, and the Ugashik rivers. The sixth river, the Togiak, is fished for 'personal use' only, by the inhabitants of that watershed.

Schooner WAWONA
Captain Charlie Foss.
"In 1914, she cleared Anacortes, WA. 31 March and
arrived at Unimak Pass on 8 April with 23 fishermen.
The largest vessel of the fleet caught 240,000 fish 
(550 tons) almost all were caught from 32-45
fathoms deep." McCurdy's Marine History/Newell
Cod schooner WILLIAM H. SMITH
full of dories sailing north from
 San Francisco, 31 March 1933
for the Alaska fishing grounds. 

      Bristol Bay’s claim to fame rests upon the very solid foundation that from the beginning of commercial fishing in America, it has been the largest producer of red—or sockeye—salmon in the world. Yearly catch has reached into the millions of salmon and the yield to the canners of millions of dollars in one year. Some wonder then that the name “Bristol Bay” has a magic sound in a fisherman’s ear and is spoken with wonder and respect when fishermen get together.
Dories sailing to the fishing grounds
Bristol Bay, Alaska.
On Bristol Bay fishing grounds showing a gillnet
being set and a fresh caught salmon breaking water.
June 1938

From the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society ©

Cod fisherman in the 1940s got their food
from scows anchored in the Bay.
Bristol Bay, Alaska.
"Fishermen going ashore Bristol Bay, AK."
As inscribed verso.

Click image to enlarge.

      The gillnet is the only legal fishing gear in Bristol Bay. It may be used as a drift net, or as a set net—also called “stake net” or “beach net.” Set nets may be used by the local people only, and one must be a resident for a certain time period to operate this in any of the rivers. From the beginning of commercial fishing in Bristol Bay and for some 60-odd years thereafter the fishing was done with open boats, using sails and oars as propulsion, the use of motorboats having been prohibited by law.
      The reasons for this prohibition were not quite clear, it seemed. Some said that it was for the sake of conservation, as powerboats would be so much more efficient than the sailboats. Others again insisted that motor boats were prohibited at the request of the canning companies, as motors cost big money, and had to be repaired and replaced when worn, whereas Squarehead, Finn, and Italian fishermen could be thrown away when worn out, and replaced at no extra cost. Whatever the reason the law was there and had to be obeyed.
      The law prohibiting powerboats was changed finally, and the fishing season of 1951 brought the first power fishing boats to the Bay. They began to take over the field completely and the old sailboat is seen no more on the rivers of Bristol Bay.

      The history of early Bristol Bay fishing is a proud and terrible record of grueling work, privations, sufferings; of heroism and skullduggery, of foresight and initiative. Bristol Bay boasts what is perhaps the most “un-navigable navigable” waters in North America, with dangerous sandbars and banks extending miles out to open sea. The tidal difference is the third largest in the world, creating dry land where, only five hours earlier, there was a navigable channel with twenty feet of water. The currents are unusually strong and erratic—storms are frequent and violent. Such are the waters fished by small, open sailboats—a testing ground that served to divide the 'men from the boys.'
      The rivers of Bristol Bay took their toll, year after year; boats were capsized, sunk, stuck on a sandbar and broken to pieces by the tide when a sudden storm came up. No statistics have been compiled but is common knowledge that hundreds of fishermen found their grave in the sands of wide river mouths.
Bark BERLIN (3223) and others
stuck in the ice of Bristol Bay
One hundred years ago.
Dated May 1918.

Click image to enlarge.
BERLIN escaped back to Oregon...

But in May 1922, BERLIN, age 46 years,
went aground at Ugagak, Capt. E. Wendt of
Portland, OR., and was a total wreck.
She was bringing salmon to Naknek Cannery.
Vessel value $25,000 and Cargo $111,000.
All crew members were saved.
Naknek River, Bristol Bay, Alaska.

In the early transportation to and from the Bristol, fishing grounds was by sailing ships, each canning company operating its own fleet of vessels. The trip from “stateside” —Astoria, Seattle, San Francisco, and other ports—often had unpleasant surprises in store for the fishermen—who, during the voyage, also served as sailors. The Gulf of Alaska is known as rather a rough piece of water, especially in the time of winter and early spring, and the sailing vessels had to take a lashing from wind and waves before reaching the Pass—Unimak Pass, the gateway from the Pacific Ocean to the Bering Sea. And then the sailor might find—drifting ice in the Bering.
      Days and weeks might go by fighting the way to the anchorage at the mouth of the river. A 40-day voyage from stateside to Bristol Bay was far from uncommon and it often happened that as many as 63 days were spent underway.
      The working requirements? Here are excerpts from ‘Articles of Agreements and Wage Scale for the season of 1907 between the various AK Salmon Packers and Fishermen’s Union.’
      ‘...They agree to give their whole time and energy to the business and interests to said Company, and to work day and night (Sundays and holidays, not excepted), according to the lawful orders of the Captain, Superintendent, or whoever may be in charge for the Company, and for the compensation provided, but shall not be required to work for outside parties.’
      ‘...While preparing for fishing or after fishing has closed, the men shall not be required to work on Sundays as a rule, and if they are required to work any time on Sundays, such time shall be given to them during the week. In case of an emergency such as safety of ship or company’s property is in danger, such work to be done at any and all times without giving time back.
Heading home and leaving the ice behind.
Vessel unidentified.
Click image to enlarge.

A cosmopolitan bunch they were, the Bristol fishermen. Italians, Finns, Norwegians, Swedes, constituted the main force, with a sprinkling of Danes, Irishmen, Scots, Germans, Hollanders—men of many races, creeds, and color of hair.
Bark BERLIN crew
homebound September 1918
Bering Sea to Portland, OR.
Click image to enlarge.

Fourteen photos from the archives of
the Saltwater People Historical Society©

Peaceful and easy going, as a rule, disagreements were slow to arise, tempers to flare. Such things did happen —there were black eyes or bloody noses now and again. By and large, peace and good fellowship were the rules of the fishing camps.
       The actual canning work was done by the ‘China gang’, under the command of the ‘China Boss.’ In due time the Iron Chink replaced the Chinese cannery worker. Later still the Filipinos were replaced by natives from the area adjacent to Bristol Bay, Aleuts, and Aleut-Eskimos.”

Above text from Fish and Ships, This was Fishing from the Columbia to Bristol Bay. Ralph Andrews and A.K.Larssen. Bonanza Books.

01 June 2018


If these sea lions don't look big enough,
click the image to enlarge.

Maybe we'll do a little fishing in the kelp beds.
Photos by L.A. Douglas.
It's breeding season and the California sea lions are beginning to appear in the northern Sound. 
      The males who grow up to 8' and c. 800 pounds and the females typically reaching 5' and 250 pounds––are quite a load for the docks in Pt. Townsend where they have been observed hauling themselves out. One was flashing a  brand 'X101' indicating it is from a colony on the Columbia River. 
      The sea lions in these beautiful photos were cavorting in Cattle Pass, San Juan Archipelago, WA and shared by boater Lance Douglas of Blakely Island. Thanks for these shots, Lance.
      For more news on these mammals, Jeannie McMacken reported today in the Peninsula Daily News.

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