"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.

30 July 2018

❖ The 1870s with STERNWHEELERS ❖

100' sternwheel steamer ZEPHYR (R)

Built in 1871 by J.F.T. Mitchell & M.M. Robbins.
First master, Capt. Thomas A. Wright, until 1875.
Charles H. Low, the first mate.
The next master was Capt. N.L. Rogers.
Out of service in 1907. 

Photo from the archives of the Saltwater People Hist. Society©
During the Seventies on Puget Sound, the era of sternwheelers had its beginning. This was the decade in which settlers staked their claim on some of the most remote reaches of the  Sound. The islands capable of supporting population became populated. A new type of steamer was needed to enter the rivers, bays, and inlets, where deeper draft vessels of the outer Sound could not go.
      In 1871, the flat-bottomed sternwheeler ZEPHYR was built at Seattle for Captain Tom Wright and his father-in-law, Capt. James R. Robbins. The ZEPHYR was comparable to the old sternwheeler ENTERPRISE that Capt. Wright had operated successfully on the Fraser River, during the memorable days of the 1858 gold rush. Some scoffers predicted that the ZEPHYR would never pay her way on Puget Sound, but she immediately proved to be a profitable investment.
      Commanded by Capt. Wright, the ZEPHYR made two trips a week between Seattle, Mukilteo, Tulalip, and Snohomish City. Since the CHEHALIS ran to the Snohomish River on weekends, both trips of the ZEPHYR were scheduled for the other five days.
      The pioneer spirit was strong in Capt. Tom Wright, however, and he seldom was satisfied on any route after it was well established. On 22 March 1873, he and James Robbins joined James S. Lawson, R. G. O'Brien, S.W. Percival, B.B. Tuttle, C.H. Rothchild, T.S. Russell, and John Lathan, to form the Merchants' Transportation Co. The organization had a capitalization of $100,000 divided into 1,000 shares, and the steamer ZEPHYR became an asset of the company, their first steamboat. For years, thereafter, she ran between Seattle, Tacoma, Steilacoom, and Olympia, and way-stops en route, but continued to make weekly trips to Snohomish, as well.
      During the early years of settlement on Vashon Island, the people relied upon oars and sails for transportation. The ZEPHYR and the MESSENGER, on their regular trips through the East Pass, rounded Point Robinson every day, however, so some settlers on Maury Island cut a trail to the point. Capt. W. R. Ballard of the ZEPHYR, and Capt. Parker, of the MESSENGER, then agreed to pick up passengers from a rowboat. They would stop,  provided that a flag had been raised on the beach, as a signal. This system required the cooperation of several persons. The passenger had to have someone accompany him out, to row the boat back, and take the flag down. Before a passenger could get off the steamer, moreover, someone had to be there with a boat to meet him. On foggy mornings, there were a few problems involved in this arrangement.
Above notes from The Steamboat Landing on Elliott Bay and The Sound and the Mountain. Carey,  Roland.Seattle, WA. Alderbrook Publishing Co. 1970

Steamer ZEPHYR was a Sound Pioneer
A few years later in the life of this sternwheeler...
Unidentified, undated newspaper clipping from the scrapbook of the well-known 
Wm. C. Thornily,
103 G. T. P. Dock, Seattle.

"Tied up at the Tacoma Mill Co. dock, beginning in 1887, or puffing laboriously on the bay with a tow of rafts of logs or scows of lumber the sternwheel steam tug ZEPHYR may be seen every day. She is not a pretty craft to look upon. Her sides and upper works are painted a barn-red color, and here and there on her hull are scratches or gouges, the result of numerous jams into logs. Her task is a homely one, yet she does it well, and there is but little question but that she has towed more logs than any steamer on all this inland sea.

      But there are those who remember the ZEPHYR in her palmy days, when, painted a pure white, her decks filled with gaily dressed people, a silken flag waving from her foremast, a band of music waking the echoes of the dense forests that fringed either side of Puget Sound, her sharp bows cutting the blue waters and ending up a feather pillow on either side, and the wake from her wheel leaving a fluted ribbon of rainbow color, who was plying as a packet between Seattle and Olympia by way of Tacoma. That was before the days of the railroads. It was during the days when steamboating on the Sound was like steamboating on the Mississippi before the war. To be exact, it was the early seventies. In those years the steamboat was the only method of communication between the different settlements and towns.
      The ZEPHYR used to leave Seattle one day and return the next. She was called a fast boat and she must have been, but it took her just twice the time to make the trip that it takes the ordinary steamer of today. But there were plenty of excuses. At Al-Ki Point, at Des Moines, at Stone's Landing, in fact at any and every place where there was a cabin and where there was a floating landing, no matter how crude, the old boat poked her nose in and stopped. After reaching Tacoma she must stop at Steilacoom and at McNeils, at Anderson and other islands and if when dark settled down she was pulling in at the wharf in the capital city, she had done a good day's run.
      Capt. Parker, who is now master of one of the fine boats of the Sound, and a man of wide experience, was then a boy in his teens and it was on the ZEPHYR that he was first commissioned, mate. The master of the steamer was Capt. Ballard, who has since had fortune thrust upon him by being the owner of the site of the present prosperous city of Ballard. It is said that the captain did not want the land but in some settlement, the outcome of legal proceedings, it was forced upon him.
      Captain Ballard was very proud of his position as master for 9 years and the sole owner beginning in 1883;  if he knew little of seamanship, he at least allowed no one to tell him of it. His orders were a mixture of land and sea lingo––enough so to be still quoted in many steamer cabins. For instance in pulling in to the wharf at what is now Tacoma, and was then called New Tacoma, one day, he yelled to a deckhand:
       "Hey, you, haul in that hind line, tight."
      Another time when the ZEPHYR had stopped in at Steilacoom to pick up a consignment and was about to depart the captain called to the wharf master;
      "Throw that rope off the post, will you!" and the boat crew laughed.
      Once he was making a landing at Al-Ki Point and the mate was steering. The captain was standing on the lower deck near the engine room door. He thought the ZEPHYR was going to hit a rock and yelled at the engineer;
      "Run her backward, hard and fast."
      The engineer reversed his engine all right, but he committed the unpardonable sin of laughing, and there was a vacancy in his department.
      Nothing cut the captain quite so much as to have people call his boat slow, but when from 12 to 16 hours were occupied in the trip from Seattle to Olympia passengers certainly had some cause for making remarks, and according to the best records at hand, they did so at times.
      Shaffer, the brewery man, had an order from a certain customer at Tacoma, for some aged beer. When he put the keg aboard the ZEPHYR, he said to the captain;
      "Captain, Mr. Blank's order reads for aged beer, if you will you may explain to him that beer sent by the ZEPHYR is always thoroughly aged before it reaches Tacoma."
      One of the first state school superintendents elected was on his way to Olympia one day when the boat was particularly slow. Calling the captain to one side he gravely remarked: "Captain I shall, upon my arrival at Olympia, ask that a law be passed forbidding any person under the age of 21 going on the ZEPHYR."
      "Why, why?" asked the surprised captain.
      "Because, here an individual may grow from infancy to manhood in one trip, and yet with the utmost indifference you have provided no school advantages whatever."
      And, yet, after all, the ZEPHYR was not a slow boat. There was no other way of getting freight into the various settlements except by boat, and she had to stop wherever there was freight. Watch her now, as unhampered by a tow, she steams across the bay, and you will see she is making time that would be a credit to many of the passenger boats of today."

E. W. Wright in Lewis & Dryden's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, claims the ZEPHYR was the first sternwheeler in the Pacific Northwest.

      The highly regarded popular Seattle sailmaker and rigger, George Broom (1870-1935), born in Norfolk, England, came across the Atlantic from Antwerp to New York on the Red Star Liner ZEELANDIER. Across the USA he rode the Northern Pacific Railroad to Tacoma. On 24 October 1886, he arrived in Seattle in class, on the sternwheel steamer ZEPHYR and lived happily for forty-nine years. 

19 July 2018


Day 83 of One Hundred Days in the San Juans.
One hundred articles were written by June Burn on contract with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1946.
      June's articles also appeared in what is now an out of print book One Hundred Days in the San Juans. Edited by San Juan Islanders, Theresa Morrow, and Nancy Prindle; Long House Printcrafters & Publishers, Friday Harbor, WA. 1983.
      The text below is verbatim for June and Farrar's Day 83 with vintage photographs from the Saltwater People collection.
The University of WA. Oceanographic Laboratories,
as it was called in August 1931,
the date of this photograph.

Click image to enlarge.
Original photo from the archives of the
Saltwater People Historical Society©
Photographer unknown.
"As you cruise into the bay of Friday Harbor from the north, just as you go around that last point, look to the right of you. Along that north shore, you will see many low buildings with tile roofs. They are the laboratories of one of the world’s few and famous oceanographic stations.
      These laboratories have had a long and honorable history. 

The laboratories at Friday Harbor had their
beginning in this "camp" photo c. 1905.
Students and teachers lived in tents.
Classes met in a rented cottage.
A 4-acre site was later donated by Andrew Newhall.
Photo from the archives of
the Saltwater People Log©
More than a generation ago, Professor Kincaid, at the University of Washington, thought it would be useful to study marine life; somehow wangled that old, ugly, yellowed-windows house on piers against the bluff south of Friday Harbor known as the Marine Station.
Early Oceanographic Laboratories, c. 1905, when
c. 15 students with Prof Kincaid and botanist T.C. Frye
camped among the fir and madronas near
Friday Harbor, San Juan County, WA.
Photo by James A. McCormick
Original photo from the archives of
the Saltwater People Log©
      To this, in delightful hardship and fun, students first came, began to study the living animals of sea and shore. It was called the ‘bug station’ and the islanders thought the students were playing at getting an education.
Long-standing Professor Trevor Kincaid
of the University of Washington.

Collecting specimens along the shore 
near Friday Harbor, San Juan Island.
Low res scan of an undated vintage photo from the archives
of the Saltwater People Historical Society©
Photographer unknown.

Professor Trevor Kincaid
Photo dated 1948.
Here he holds the old oyster shells or culch,
strung on wires to be hung in the water where
oyster larvae become attached to them. The
shells carrying the 'seed,' are scattered in oyster
beds to plant the new crop. In 1947
56,000 cases of seed were imported from Japan
and planted in Anacortes, Seattle, and Willapa Bay.
Photograph from the archives of
the Saltwater People Historical Society©
Gradually, though, the work of those students began to tell. (Witness the development of the Kincaid oyster industry itself, big and important, but promising far more for the future.) A knowledge that intangible but terribly potent good! —was increased. The bug station grew.
      Later, the UW bought 400 acres on the north shore of the bay, set up a larger plant known as the Biological Station, of which Dr. T.C. Frye became the director. There were tents in the woods and a big dining-living room to which, in its largest year, nearly 200 students, professors, and their families came from the world around.
      At the Biological Station undergraduates as well as graduate students could study the chemistry, physics, zoology, and botany and ecology of the sea. They could also study land botany and ornithology. Many thousands did. The old laboratories were in tents.
      Then, 15 years ago, I think it was, this marine station took still another form. The Rockefeller Foundation wanted to give our University some money. Had we needed for some specific new important project?
      The young chemistry professor of the old biological station thought we certainly had that need. It was time the scientists knew more about the sea, mother of all living things. Instead of a station where only plants an animals of the sea were studied, why not set up laboratories where the sea itself might also be explored? That was Dr. Tommy Thompson who was thereupon made the director of the project.
      What would it take to do this ambitious thing?
      Tommy had the answer ready. It would take new laboratories. The rest of the plant was all that was needed. Dr. Frye had already built that big main building to house library, kitchen, showers, reading-dining-living room. He had begun to set up new and more complete labs, too.
Friday Harbor Marine Laboratories
Photo date 17 Sept 1940.
Click image to enlarge.
From the archives of the
Saltwater People Historical Society©
Photographer unknown.
      We already had the old boat, the MEDEA, to take students out over the Archipelago for new material. This whole area had already been set aside for the University’s use as far as gathering specimens.
      The main new need was for a floating laboratory — a ship in which students could actually go out to sea studying currents, temperatures, saltiness, heaviness, light, radioactivity, and many other properties of the ocean itself from California to Alaska.
      Thus it was that we got our ship The CATALYST in which, until the war, students traveled near and far, learning things about the sea that you can't call commercially useful, learning other things –– such as fish diseases and their causes, why water here or there is warmer than elsewhere and what effect it has on the fishing and what to do about it –– which are so useful that we now wonder how we ever got along without knowing them.
      Now that we had our ocean labs; the botany lab where kelp, seaweeds of all kinds are studied; the zoology lab where animals and parasites are studied; the physics lab where light penetration, heavy water, radioactivity, etc, are studied; the chemistry lab where salinity and all the complex chemistry of our mother blood is studied –– and so on through seven laboratories.
      Now we had our ship in which students went over the sea learning the most important things there are to learn, About 100 graduate students a year came from all over the world to study here. Great scientists came. Our Archipelago became world-famed.
      But everything stopped during the war. The labs were taken over by the Coast Guard. The ship was sold. That fine ship so delicately and fully outfitted for scientific exploration was sold! It seemed incredible that one of the most significant units of the University should be thus casually disposed of.
      Down on the campus, too, the parent Ocean Lab, dedicated by Milliken in 1931, was turned over to the Navy –– or maybe it was just taken by the Navy––for its work. Nobody minded at the time.
      But now that the war is over, people are saying again that the ocean work should get underway. We must get a new and better ship. The labs must start to work again.
      Dr. Thompson, on McConnell this summer instead of at the laboratories, reassures us. Of course, he says, they will get underway again. It takes a little time. 
      Come next summer, it won't be archaeologists borrowing part of the plant to live in while they dig. It will be chemists again and physicists, zoologists, pathologists, bacteriologists, botanists, ecologists with their seven laboratories, their two ships––one to stay in inland waters and the other to roam further afield––and their hundred young students delving into ocean lore, digging for the most important knowledge in the world! See you tomorrow. June."
Another Saltwater People post with founding information can be seen HERE

16 July 2018


Click to enlarge.
Accessed from
Friday the 13th was in the past by one day but Saturday night caught this mariner who missed the entrance to Blakely Island Marina.

Near the approach to the Blakely Island Marina
A hard landing.
Two photos by Blakely Islander,
Lance Douglas.
14 July 2018.
For Saltwater People Historical Society.

10 July 2018

❖ Commercial Crabbing is Definitely Open in Marine Area 7-South❖

Along Blakely shore.
Staging for a Dungeness Crab Opening at Noon,
this day of 10 July 2018.
There were 10 boats in view dumping pots from Olga to
Lopez and up into Eastsound, Orcas Island, WA.
These four photos are from the roving camera of
Lance Douglas, Blakely Island, WA.
Click to enlarge.
Rosario in the background as the vessel prepares to
launch the crab fishing season at noon today,
Eastsound, Orcas Island, WA.

Marine Area 7-South.
Standing by for the noon bell.
Photos by Lance Douglas, Blakely Island, San Juan County.
Click to enlarge.

General History
The Dungeness crab (Cancer magister) is one of the most popular items on Washington
seafood menus. Dungeness crab (Cancer magister) is found in commercial quantities from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska to central California. The long-term average annual landing from Alaska to California through 1987 was 37.5 million pounds (Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission 1987). 
      Dungeness crab got its common name from a small fishing village (Dungeness) on the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Washington where the first commercial fishing was done for this species. The Dungeness crab fishery is said to be the oldest known shellfish fishery of the North Pacific coast. A small fishery on the West Coast began in 1848 and grew through the late 1800s. It is the only commercially important crab within Washington's territorial waters.
      Management of the Dungeness crab fishery within Washington State changed substantially in 1995. That year the 9th Circuit Court, in an order known as the Rafeedie Decision, made its decision regarding Steven's Treaties signed between the State of Washington and certain Tribes in the territory back in the 1850s. The federal court required that the harvestable surplus of shellfish in Washington be allocated equally (50/50) between the Treaty Tribes and State fisheries. The harvestable surplus, in this case, refers to hard-shell male crab, which measures 6¼ inches, or more in shell width. Since 1995 the State was required to implement and abide by the provisions of the federal court order.
From the WA State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.
10 July 2018.

Click image to enlarge.
Puget Sound Fishery

Most of the Puget Sound fishery for Dungeness crabs occurs from Everett northward, with the bulk of the harvest in the Blaine/Point Roberts area. Other specific areas that produce large commercial quantities of crab include Bellingham, Samish, Padilla, Skagit, and Dungeness Bays, Port Gardner, and Port Susan. Puget Sound crabbers typically use smaller boats and lighter pots than do crabbers on the open coast.
      The state commercial fishery increased from 89 vessels participating in 1972 to more than 400 in 1979. To keep the fishery economically viable for those participating, the legislature limited the state commercial crab fishery in Puget Sound to 250 licenses in 1980 (each license is allowed to use 100 crab pots). No new licenses have been issued since 1980, and in 2002 the state commercial fishery was comprised of 181 crab fishers holding the 250 licenses.
      Preseason estimates of crab abundance had not been made due to difficulty and cost. Until 2002, most regions within Puget Sound were managed without pre-season quotas. Most regions within Puget Sound are now managed with a pre-season quota that is based on past harvest amounts. There are provisions for adjustment if early season landings indicate an adjustment is warranted.
      Annual landings for the state commercial fishery in Puget Sound from 1984 through 1993 averaged 1.8 million pounds. Annual landings for the state commercial fishery in Puget Sound from 1993 through 2001 averaged 2.3 million pounds.

Above text (only) from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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