"The past actually happened but history is only what someone wrote down." A. Whitney Brown.

About Us

My photo
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.

29 May 2019


Capt. Sam Barlow
Storybook Skipper of the San Juans,
“A colorful sea captain named Sam Barlow grew up on Lopez Island. Some of the old-timers in the islands still remember him when he captained the old steamer, ROSALIE and later the Black Ball Line’s first ferry, ROSARIO. And small wonder. In stormy weather Captain Sam would wear, instead of his conventional Captain’s hat, a black felt hat with a broad rim so he could more easily pick up certain echoes from the islands. The unorthodox hat proved particularly helpful on foggy days in the pre-radar era. Suddenly his uncanny sense of hearing and an unbelievable sense of smell would come into full play. Somehow the ship he skippered, the rocks nearby, the heavily timbered shorelines he hugged-even the currents which baffled most mariners—became to Sam Barlow––close friends. Ultimately this man was to bear the moniker of THE DEAN OF MARINERS ON PUGET SOUND!
      Sam, the boy, was one of the youngest of the Barlow family’s ten children. At his home on beautiful Barlow Bay (named after his father), he learned a lot about sailing from his father. He’d often gaze out at the sparkling sea and dream of a day when he’d be commanding his own vessel through the intricate passages around Lopez and the other islands. But first young Sam endured quite a hair-raising adventure for a sea-smitten kid. It seems that it all began when a stranger offered the boy twenty dollars to transport him from Oak Bay on Vancouver Island to a certain point on Whidbey Island.
Sam felt as if he’d just been offered a gold nugget. He had access to one of his father’s boats so the man and the boy made a deal. The first trip was a success and young Sam collected his money. But a little later the same man asked Sam to take him and some mysterious ‘baggage’ on the same trip. This time everything went wrong, including a storm at sea. The sailboat started to ship water and it was about to be swamped. Sam went to work to fight for his boat and his life. But his passenger was more concerned about the ‘baggage’.
Sam told the man something like this. “It takes only twenty pounds to keep a man afloat. You take the mast, sails and anything else that will float and lash them into a long parcel, then fasten this crosswise of the boat. If all the heavy articles are thrown overboard, the boat, though full of water, will float just below the surface. And this is precisely what they did--for four hours.
The poor passenger almost drowned, so concerned was he with his baggage, but Sam fought on saying, ‘It’s a poor time to die.’ When they eventually got their feet on dry land, Sam told the man he’d had it. Even for twenty dollars he wouldn’t make such a trip again. Later someone asked Sam what he suspected was in that package his passenger valued more than his life.
‘Opium, probably,’ he said, ‘And wouldn’t I be in a fine fix with a dead man and a load of opium aboard?’
From this misadventure Sam went on to the very legitimate adventure of serving aboard such steamers as the LYDIA THOMPSON and the ROSALIE, both of which he later became captain. One of the mates who served under Captain Sam on the ROSALIE told me not too long ago, ‘Captain Sam was on the island run so long he knew all the points by name, and those that had no name, he gave a name!’
In time, steamers were out and ferries were in. Captain Sam eagerly took over the command of the 156-foot ROSARIO, the first ferry on the San Juan Islands run. She was a floating palace and Sam was mighty proud of her. 
Later Captain Sam commanded the CITY OF ANGELES on the San Juan route. In fact, most of the old-timers in the islands will connect him with this ferry. Years ago when some of Barlow’s fellow Masons were riding with him in the pilothouse of this ferry, he asked a mate to dock her at the Orcas ferry landing. Somehow, the mate miscalculated a bit and brought the vessel to an embarrassing stop at the Easterly side of the pilings. All he could do was back her up and try again. As the mate made his second approach Captain Sam said: ‘Well son, everybody gets into fixes like this occasionally. You’ll just have to get out the best way you can.’
A great deal of notoriety has been given Sam Barlow in connection with his membership in both the Seattle and Anacortes Masonic Lodges. In 1923, before he became a member of the Fidalgo Lodge, he was instrumental in arranging a visit between this Lodge and the Mt. Newton Lodge, F. & A.M. in Saanichton, B.C. Ever since this initial visit, which was instigated by Sam, the two lodges have met on a semi-annual basis. One member recently remarked: ‘God willing, may this delightful custom never cease.’
Following Sam Barlow’s death in 1938 (he was 63), and for many years, the Masons of both lodges honored the Captain by riding the ferry to Upright Head on Lopez Is. There the ferry engines ground to a stop near the ferry landing. In the stillness and scenic splendor, a group of Masons would float a floral wreath on the water in Captain Sam’s memory. 
If Sam Barlow ever sounded like a rough and tough skipper, he wasn’t. He had a sentimental side. His daughter Bernice still recalls how she’d stay at the Orcas Hotel summers in order to be near her beloved father. When his ferry approached the dock, she and other islanders would run down to the landing to greet him. Quite often they’d sing a song called “on Dear Ol’ Orcas Isle”; this was written by Ethel B. Auld in 1926. Here are the lyrics:

     "Oh dear old Orcas Isle, 
that’s where we rest awhile. 
Where skies are ever blue
 and sweethearts roam. 
Where sweet Madronas grow,
On dear old Orcas Isle, 
Our Island home.”

Former mates who sailed with Captain Sam, islanders who still remember him for his friendliness and special kindnesses, and the Masons who honored him each year, prove that unlike old soldiers, this skipper’s memory will never fade away.” 

Shirley Dever (1924-2008) was a magazine writer who retired to Orcas Island to live in the White Beach area in 1962. 
Published by the Island Booster, Orcas Island, WA. 1971.


27 May 2019

🐾 Black Bear's Arrival on Blakely Island Today 🐾

He forgot his boat but here comes
Mr. Bear coming in for a beach landing
at the south end of Blakely Island, WA.
He had a good chart but didn't find his gal
on the islands on his itinerary of
Camano, Whidbey, Fidalgo,
Guemes, Orcas, Shaw, Lopez,
San Juan, or Decatur Islands,
what will he find on Blakely?
I hope lots of food and rest.
Photo courtesy of Lance A. Douglas,
Blakely Island, San Juan Archipelago,
on this day of 27 May 2019.
Yes, the bear is in the photo,
click to enlarge.

25 May 2019


Rock formations in the
Sucia Islands group,
click image to enlarge.
Top photo is known to be by a professional photographer,
J.A. McCormick, a part-time, early resident of
Friday Harbor, WA. He traveled the area to
capture trap fishers on the water and the
village and farm life on shore.
Photos from the archives of the
Saltwater People Historical Society©

Georgia Strait 
Day Fourteen of One Hundred Days in the San Juans
June Burn, 1946.

"We’re headed for Sucia after the perfect night at Patos Island. The tide is far out, again, going further. The rocks of the gourd-shaped Patos come out to meet us to the very edge of their shelf. The long island sits there so quietly, not a soul around except a big blue heron standing on one leg. Now he flies, flapping away, long legs dangling.
      The trees on Patos are short and wind-blunted. Winter’s southeasters must tear across this island like somebody going to a fire –– now we must leave these pastel bluffs behind and strike across another opening in Georgia Strait for Sucia. Farrar steadily rowing. The light breeze is against us but the tide still ebbs toward Sucia (we hope.)
      The San Juanderer is an easy boat to row, so heavy that when it gets up momentum it tends to keep going. By that token, I thought, a battleship might be still easier, but Farrar says you couldn’t get it started in the first place. Remember that: buy the heaviest boat you can possibly start and maybe it won’t ever stop and you’ll go on around the world in it — just like that. Provided you have no tides! This one we’re in now can’t make up its mind whether it’s going back to Patos or on to Sucia or off in some other direction altogether and Farrar’s dictum about the heavy boat is meaningless here. We’ve been just off Sucia for a half hour — for an hour. I’ve been rowing meanwhile—for two hours — I’ve been rowing some more — ahh! We get around that, too...and here is Fossil Bay after four hours of rowing a little more than four miles.

      The high cliffs of Sucia rise above us on two sides, the head of the bay a low, narrow neck of land connecting with a bay on the other side — Fox Bay.
Sucia Islands are in the northern part of the archipelago. They were named by the Spaniard, Eliza, in 1792. The name means “foul” or “dirty,” referring not to the island but to the rocks and reefs which lie everywhere around. Huge boulders, round, square, all shapes and sizes, lie in tumbles on the beach, seem to have taken root and grown into reefs just offshore. Boats skirt this island with caution. But once in these bays, there is security!
The Sucias are 749 acres in area. There are eight islands. In the cluster with myriad bays between. A whole school of peninsulas. One of the islands seems to have no name other than “one of the fingers.” The names of others are Sucia, Little Sucia lying off the west shore, Herndon Island, a mere dot in Fossil Bay, North and South Finger Islands, lying parallel in Echo Bay, and Ewing Island, off the eastern end of the big horseshoe.
      The bays are comparatively shallow but deep enough for any of the pleasure cruisers that play around here. The bluffs are high, all but unclimbable with their tumble of boulders. The low portions are rich in growth. Madrona trees, like glossy Magnolias, are thick on all the islands. Wind-torn junipers give an ancient look to the place and the blown firs a worn-out look as if Sucia were old and weary. The wild and formidable mess of rocks completes the picture.
      As we come slowly into Fossil Bay we see the curious “guest book” on Herndon Island’s rock face. The names are of boats rather than of individuals which makes it more interesting.

      A boat comes purring out of the bay, looks at us, goes out again. A kingfisher alights on a high boulder, makes his sudden, powerful dive after a fish, goes off with it. Two bald eagles go screaming by, seagulls after them, barn swallows dipping and darting among the gleaming madronas. As we draw into shore, we see the clams spurting in the shale and when we go on shore, I hear the eternal clicking of the knitting needles as a million barnacles shut their traps.
      We take out a few lunch things, make a cup of coffee and sit on the rocks of the beach for lunch. It is 12:30. The silence sings in the treetops. The sun lies still and hot over the water and on our bare feet. It is a summer afternoon on a San Juan Island.
      But on the whole, you can have your beautiful Sucias! Their bold, steep bluffs, the madrona thickets, and the junipers, the endless shoreline full of boulders, the beaches, and the shallow bays. After Patos and Waldron and even Skipjack, this looks like the end of the world, wild, and dead, forgotten, unloved."

June Burn. Author, journalist, happy camper from San Juan and Whatcom counties was under contract with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to write columns of her sailing days through the San Juan archipelago in 1946.
      In the 1980s, this collection of published newspaper articles, One Hundred Days in the San Juans, was published in book format by editors on staff with the well-known owners of Longhouse Printcrafters, Friday Harbor, WA. 

06 May 2019


Washington State Ferry
Last run of a picture perfect weekend
Harney Channel from Blakely Island
Anno Five May 2019
Click image to enlarge.
Thank you to photographer Lance Douglas©

Archived Log Entries