"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 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.

29 June 2019

❖ Little Mosquito to the Summer House

One member of the hard-working Mosquito Fleet,
the photograph is dated 11 April 1913,
Click image to enlarge.
From the archives of the
Saltwater People Log©
"With the first indications of the near approach of the unrivaled summer of the great Northwest, the advance guard of campers, suburbanites, and lovers of the bracing out-of-doors yesterday started transportation of furniture, tents, and supplies to many of the scenic island resorts in the vicinity of Seattle. The steamboat SENTINEL, operated by the Merchants' Transportation Co, left Seattle for Vashon Island points with her holds crammed and decks packed high with campers outfits. Officials of the line said that during the coming summer of 1913, Vashon Island and points on the mainland served by the SENTINEL will be thronged with campers and those making their summer homes out of Seattle. The SENTINEL maintained a service from Seattle to the west side of Vashon Island and ran to Lisabeula, Quartermaster Harbor, Cove, and Colvas."
News clip possibly from the Seattle-Times, 1913.

Upper Puget Sound
 early communities, containing
Click image to enlarge.
Oceans of thanks to cartographer
Ronald R. Burke, Seattle, WA.

1898: built for the Hunt brothers.
1903: sold to Hansen Transport Co., rebuilt and widened to increase passenger capacity from 100 to 250.
1921: sold to Ed Lorentz.
1928: scrapped and the engine installed in the steamer ARCADIA.

Some of the known officers and crew working aboard;
Capt. Francis Sherman (1899), Capt. A. R. Hunt, Capt. John Dorotich (1910, 1911, 1912.)
Ethan E. "Eth" Emmons, Engineer    

26 June 2019


"Straits of Rosario, Cypress Island, and
Strawberry Harbor on the right.
Mt. Constitution & Hautboy Island, the latter 
being an old name for Strawberry Island.
Hautboy is a species of strawberry,
Fragaria moschata."
Painting by James Madison Alden (1834-1922),
National archives Record 5396161
Archived at College Park, MD.

Click image to enlarge.
"Semiahmoo Bay, from bluff with Camp
Semiahmoo, Drayton Harbor, and distant view
of Mt. Baker between 1857-1862."
Painting by James Madison Alden
National Archives Record 305488
archived at College Park, MD.
Click image to enlarge.

"View from hill on San Juan Island looking south
with Ontario Roads ACTIVE & SATELLITE at
anchor near Lopez Island with Mt. Baker
in distance between 1857-1862."
Painting by James Madison Alden (1834-1922)
From the National Archives, College Park, MD.
Record: 5396161
Click image to enlarge

James Alden Jr. (1810-1877)
courtesy of Wikipedia.

The first marine surveying in the San Juan Islands was done by Lieutenant James Alden (1810-1877) of the US Coast Survey in 1852. He led the Hydrographic Party of the US on the coast from 1848-1860 in the ACTIVE. He said the only discovery of importance made that season was a shoal near the entrance of Rosario Strait between Sucia Island and the mainland since called Alden Bank.   
      Surveys continued for approximately a decade. In 1857 the surveyors contended with heavy smoke from forest fires which prevented them from seeing the shore. The following summer they complained of drenching rains. Another handicap was the remarkable range of refraction which distorted the appearance of the shores on exceptionally clear days.
      Work like this, far from settlements, was tough going. Between seasons winter storms washed out a base mark at the southern end of Lummi Island and Native Americans destroyed other stations. George Davidson, who supervised the surveying, concluded in the oldest Pacific Coast Pilot (1859):
      'The experience of three seasons in this locality has not increased our relish for navigating these channels in sailing vessels. With plenty of wind, no navigation could be better, but in a calm, vessels will frequently be jammed close to rocks with only a few fathoms inside of their positions, but 40 to 50 outside, and a swirling current that renders towing the boats utterly impossible.'
      Elsewhere he said, "The number of islands and intricate channels lying between the two straits we shall not attempt to describe. A proper appreciation of them can only be obtained from the chart."
      Modern marine surveying made possible much more complete mapping than in the days of sail, but this too had handicaps.
      Owners of large fishing craft expected the survey launch to get out of the way even though it was engaged in running a grid of straight lines and often the little boat was threatened with swamping or a collision. Crossing kelp beds sometimes involved chewing the long tubular stems with the propeller, stalling, reversing, and chewing the way forward again. Sometimes the work was complicated by a fathometer echo from floating kelp, added to the echo from the bottom. Grass growing two to seven feet high on the bottom of Mosquito Pass and Roche Harbor gave off a puzzling double echo. Incidentally, the deepest hole in the islands was found between Jones and Flattop, where 133 fathoms were recorded.
     The temperature of the seawater in the islands is remarkably constant from the surface to bottom. This may be because it is so thoroughly roiled it gets little chance to warm near the surface. The water stays cold all year, not changing more than ten degrees. Fahrenheit in the hot summer months. Water temperature will swing from 45 degrees in the winter to 55 in the summer. 
     Part of the assignment of surveyors was to measure the tidal currents. It meant launches had to anchor in one spot for 100 hours at a stretch to record the rate of flow every half hour. In Spieden Channel, between San Juan and Spieden Islands, where the tide runs five knots and up to six knots under certain conditions, hydrography had its thrilling aspects.
     Other fast currents are in Cattle Pass between the southern ends of San Juan and Lopez Islands, and around Cactus Island. 
     In fog, the owner of a small boat would be out of luck without knowledge of such current. In Cattle Pass, for example, with the current running top speed and the wind against it, a man attempting the passage in an open boat ought to have his life insurance paid up.
     A survey officer told me, "While the San Juans have no whirlpools in constant directions, they can produce places which must have looked pretty bad to old sailboat men."
      Juan Pantoja would have agreed with him.
     You'll hear different versions of the same story everywhere you go in the San Juans –– about the man who cruised among the islands without a marine chart. He pulled into Fossil Bay at Sucia, tied his line to a buoy and exclaimed that this didn't look like East Sound to him. When asked if he had checked his chart, he said he had none; he was using a Washington road map.
      "Where are you bound from here?" he was asked.
      "For Sidney on Vancouver Island," was the reply.
      "I don't think that road map is going to do you much good out in Haro Strait," the moorage man told him."
Lucile S. McDonald. Making History, the People Who Shaped the San Juan Islands. Friday Harbor Press, Friday Harbor, WA. 1990.

James Madison Alden trained as a US Navy cartographer, but he is best known for his landscape paintings beginning on the West Coast of the US and near the new US-Canada border while he was serving on the Coast Survey ship the USCS ACTIVE in 1854 under command of his uncle James Alden Jr. (1810-1877)

There is a historical plaque on Cypress Island, San Juan Archipelago, WA., to commemorate this artwork by James Madison Alden.


21 June 2019

❖ LAUNCHINGS ❖ Old and New ❖

March 1978
300 pounds of a hand-carved canoe heading
for a voyage with
Clallam High School students and parent-packers
Original photo by Noelle Brown from the archives of the
Saltwater People Historical Society©
Students from Clallam High School outdoor education program and parents carried the 32-ft hand-carved canoe toward the water for her maiden voyage. The teacher was Bill Riedel, assisted by woodcarver Mark Bowlby.
      The project began in March 1974 and in 1978 they realized their dream to paddle across the international border to Vancouver Island, B.C. 

And new for summer of 2019:

inspired by an Aage Nielsen design
standing by for launch day.
Port Townsend, WA.
June 2019.

Launching on this first day of summer,
twenty June 2019.
Owner/builder: Bertram Levy,
a long-time skipper of the 24-ft Lyle Hess ABLE,
that together have enjoyed circumnavigations
of Vancouver Island, B.C.
Location: Port Townsend, WA.
Photo courtesy of Jason Hines.

Away she goes with  her new Schattauer Sails
Port Townsend, WA.

20 June 2019

❖ The ARTHUR FOSS ❖ with Dick Stokke 1984

111.6' x 23.9' x 11.61'
225 G.t. 127 N.t.
Built in 1889
Designer: David Stephenson
by Willamette Iron and Steel Works,
for Oregon Railway and Navigation Co.
Photographer and date unknown.

The Storied Past and Second Life of the Grandaddy of Puget Sound Tugboats
by Dick Stokke
for Puget Sound Enetai August 23-September 6 1984 p. 14

"The classic tug ARTHUR FOSS has once again set out to sea –– this time [1984] on a tough 2,000-mile odyssey to Alaska. At her age, any other craft would be beached and displayed as a flowerpot or rotting forgotten in the mud somewhere, but, after a few false near-starts, this tug sailed from Seattle on August 19, manned by a determined crew of volunteers from Northwest Seaport, the museum that has owned her since 1970. The ARTHUR FOSS will carry official greetings and gifts from Washington's Governor Spellman to Alaska's Governor Sheffield on the occasion of Alaska's first quarter century of statehood.
      This voyage will require 52 separate navigational charts, $3,000 in special insurance, several thousand gallons of fuel, thousands of dollars worth of purchased, begged, or donated labor and equipment, and the love, devotion, and prayers of hundreds of friends left behind and along the way. The rugged old sea-scrapper deserves all this attention –– and more. In the tradition of the legendary Foss Launch and Tugboat Co and its Tugboat Annie, the ARTHUR FOSS has spanned the ages of sail, steam, and diesel, two world wars, and unaccounted good times and bad. Her succeeding crews have passed along the flame of pride and devotion and it burns just as brightly today –– probably even brighter.

Location: Historic Ships Wharf
Lake Union Park, King County, WA.
Photo by Joe Mabel
12 Sept. 2007.
With permission.

      Northwest Seaport also owns and tries to care for the 1904 lightship RELIEF, the lumber schooner WAWONA, and the old steam ferry SAN MATEO. But for the countless volunteers who have restored her and kept her chugging, the ARTHUR FOSS is the apple of maritime preservation –– and a brighter spot in the group's often frustrated efforts at it.

      The tug was built in 1889 as the WALLOWA by the Oregon Railway and Navigation Co with a steam engine made in San Francisco. She was listed by Lloyd's Register in 1904 as having twin cylinders, 122-horsepower, 24" bore, a 36" stroke, and a top boiler pressure of 125 pounds. For a decade she towed sailings over the treacherous Columbia bar. The [Yukon] gold rush saw her towing the steamer YOSEMITE from Puget Sound to the Klondike. She was driven ashore in a winter storm towing a barge south from Skagway, survived to carry mail between Juneau, Haines, and Skagway in 1900, and in 1903 began towing logs in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca from such points as Port Crescent and Port Angeles. In April 1918 she towed the crack stern wheeler BAILEY GATZERT into Puget Sound, where BAILEY entered the Seattle-Bremerton run as the first auto carrier in the area.
       The WALLOWA lost her deckhouse and machinery and machinery in a fire in 1927 and was rebuilt by Todd Shipyards. In January 1929 she joined the huge Foss Launch and Tug fleet and was later renamed the ARTHUR FOSS after the oldest of three sons of Thea and Andrew Foss, the company's founders.

      In 1933 the ARTHUR 'went Hollywood' for MGM. After a cosmetic job to make her uglier, she became the NARCISSUS in the movie Tugboat Annie with a script based on the Norman Reilly Raine series in the Saturday Evening Post. During filming the ARTHUR/NARCISSUS was accidentally rammed into a passing ferry, the footage of the crash was written into the movie while the tug spent two days in the repair yard at MGM's expense.
      After the ARTHUR's movie career, Foss replaced her 1904-vintage steam engine with a new 700-HP, six-cylinder, direct-reversing (no gearbox) diesel made by Seattle's Washington Iron Works. Over 250 of these stalwart motors are still in use, and Washington Iron still gets requests for parts and manuals. This same engine will carry the ARTHUR FOSS to Juneau and back this summer; chief engineer Allan Rees says, 'She still has a musical tone, cruises at 200 RPM, and at hull speed revolves slower than an auto engine at idle.'
      The ARTHUR FOSS survived another fire in 1937 while storm-bound in Pt. Townsend’s Discovery Bay with a tow of logs. The blaze was so stubborn she was finally pumped full of water, then towed to Lake Union Drydock for a $20,000 repair job. She next headed for the South Pacific on military contract duty in 1940. She was towing two barges 12 hours out of Wake Island for Oahu when the Japanese clobbered Pearl Harbor. Capt. Oscar Rolstad ignored military orders to cut loose his barges and run for safety, saying his speed without them would still be only about nine knots. Crewmen hung over the side to daub out the green and white Foss colors with a dingy gray, and the ARTHUR made it safely back to Hawaii. Rolstad was first chastised, then commended for his gumption.

      The Navy kept the ARTHUR until 1947 when she returned to towing logs out of Port Angeles until she was replaced in 1966 by a new Foss 'super tug.' Retirement finally came in 1966 and donation to Northwest Seaport in June 1970. Not until 1979 was the crew of volunteers formed to restore the old tug to operating condition, a herculean job finished in May 1981. ARTHUR raced that year in Olympia's Harbor Days annual tugboat race, unlimited ocean-going division, and did an astounding 11.6 knots over two miles from a dead stop. No one breathed a discouraging word when Crowley Maritime's working tug RETRIEVER, manned by a paid crew and 50 years younger, pulled ahead and won. The crowd went wild when the ARTHUR's old whistle gave by far the louder blast as she crossed the finish line.
      Among the countless repairs and refittings the ARTHUR needed was one especially nerve-wracking one: repitching her 1942 vintage propeller for high, more fuel-efficient gearing. Coolidge Propellor Co pulled off the repitching without destroying the aged, worn metal. Her stem bearing was replaced, her huge 10-inch shaft remachined, her rudder rebuilt, and her plank's butt ends recaulked.
      'She's tight and seaworthy,' avows one volunteer, Tom Parker of the Center for Wooden Boats. 'We're not doing this with our fingers crossed.' He admits to one remaining hurdle: 'We have money for fuel for the way up. Getting back is another problem. But things seem to solve themselves as they go.'
      Parker will not be aboard for the trip or Barney Bruce, the ARTHUR's usual skipper, he's relinquished the wheel to retired Foss master Guy Johnson. But Bruce will be close by, at the helm of the Sea Scouts' 42-yr old former Army T-boat, the PROPELLER. She will follow the ARTHUR up the coast with two dozen Portland and Olympia schoolkids aboard.
      Bruce notes an irony there. The PROPELLER could actually cruise day and night and make better time because she's classed as a working boat, while the FOSS is regarded by the insurance people as a yacht––if you can imagine that. She won't be covered unless she cruises by day only. I guess they're putting us on their books as a bunch of amateurs.'

      The yacht ROYAL PRINCESS, the cruise ship SUNDANCER, and all the other newer craft that have made sad headlines up in the same waters should have had such a crew of 'amateurs.' But then, none of them was the ARTHUR FOSS."
      The ARTHUR FOSS is suspected to be the oldest, operating wooden tug in the US.
Click here to see 
The ARTHUR at home in Seattle / YouTube

Some of her past crew:
Captains George A. Pease, R.E. Howes (first in service), E. Caine, Frank Harrington, Bowers, W.B. Sporman, Martin Guchee, Vince Miller, Lynn Davis, Arnold Tweter.
Engineers: A.F. Goodrich, John S. Kidd, John Melville.

14 June 2019

🇺🇸 FLAG DAY 🇺🇸

The Shaw Island Historical Museum©
celebrating history inside and out,
the curators fly the Betsy Ross flag
in the woods of little Shaw Island, WA.

when this photo was taken in 1995. 
While the Fourth of July and Memorial Day may receive almost all the glory, one particular holiday remains consistently overlooked yet universally beloved: Flag Day.
      Celebrated annually on June 14th, and officially established as a national day of recognition by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, the day commemorates the official adoption of the American flag on 14 June 1777, by a resolution passed by the Second Continental Congress. (The US Army celebrates the Army's birthday on this day as well.)
      Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Scouts, 4-H groups, and numerous other patriotic communities around the country make use of the day to educate interested individuals on the history of the flag and traditions surrounding it.
Flag Day Kicks Off
      On the third Saturday of June in 1894, the first Flag Day celebration hosted by public schools was held in Lincoln, Humboldt, Douglas, Garfield, and Washington Parks with over 300,000 children in attendance. The next several decades would see 36 governors, hundreds of mayors of both big cities and small towns, and no less than five presidents send delegates and official statements to these events sanctioning the celebration and commemoration of an official Flag Day.
      National Flag Day is, of course, celebrated and recognized all over the country, in schools, on television, and on the radio. There are musical salutes and air flyovers from the Armed Forces and other branches of the military. 
      During the week of Flag Day, the sitting president will make an official statement asking Americans to fly their flags publicly; all government buildings must do so as well. Many organizations such as the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia, all host their own events and parades as well. 
Source: American Flags.com
The Betsy Ross House,
home of legendary Betsy Ross has been the
site of Philadelphia's observance of Flag Day.

1909 or 1910: Perhaps the oldest continuing Flag Day parade is in Fairfield, Washington. Beginning in 1909 or '10, little Fairfield has had a parade every year since with the possible exception of 1918.
      And because this is a maritime history site let us splash some saltwater on the page:

The state ship of Washington
flying a flag bigger than she and firing her
3-pound cannon in May 1992,
in Gray's Harbor, WA.
Original photo by Steve Ringman from the
archives of the Saltwater People Log©

13 June 2019


All aboard the TANANA.
Photo dated 20 May 1966
Gillnet boats were thick on the deck of the TANANA
as the Alaska Steamship Co freighter 
prepared to sail for Bristol Bay.
Click image to enlarge.
Original photo from the archives of
the Saltwater People Historical Society©
The ship carried 33 of the salmon-fishing boats, the first troup of 118 that left Seattle on three Alaska Line ships within a week. Most of the boats were built by the Commercial Marine Construction Co., and the Wies Boat Shop & Marina, Seattle; the Morse Boat Works, Everett, and Ron Rawson, Redmond, WA.

08 June 2019


Waiting out the tide before
sailing away,
but enjoying a nice view of Buck Bay,
Eastsound, San Juan Archipelago, WA.
Courtesy of L.A. Douglas, Blakely Island.

This day of 8 June 2019.
Click image to enlarge.

Archived Log Entries