"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.

26 January 2020


According to Gordy Fox and Bob Schoen
Islands' Sounder November 1986

Cutter MIA
enjoying a winter cruise
With Bob & Mary Schoen
of West Sound, Orcas Is.
No date inscribed but they secured a
Christmas tree to the top of the mast
and away they sailed.
Photo courtesy of Steve McKenna
for the archives of Saltwater People Log©


"Two years ago [1984] Gordy Fox had to chip away the ice from his 32-ft Grand Banks to go on a cruise. Bob Schoen goes sailing all the time, all year, and prefers cruising in the San Juans in the WINTER.
      Both Fox and Schoen are part of an increasing number of boaters who during the past 10 years have begun using their vessels year-round.
      To winterize their boats, people ake a variety of actions. Some treat their boats for moisture to avoid mildew, taking care of the 'brightwork,' of varnished and metal surfaces, draining outside hose bibs so water does not freeze, and covering them with tarps until summer. 
Others simply pull their boat up to a dock and leave the winterizing to someone else.
      'Most of them just leave a note and say, 'Winterize my boat,' said Ian Wareham, of West Sound Marina. 
      Schoen changes his oil every winter, to prevent sludge and the buildup of moisture, and puts antifreeze in the engine. When you're on top of the water a lot, the biggest thing to look out for during winter is the danger posed by water inside the boat, avid boaters say.
      Schoen, a boater for 55+ years and a San Juan Islands boater for 40, said that for decades he had to drain the engine before water-cooled engines became widespread. Back then, he had cart wood––on board his boat to warm up the cabin, now he has an oil stove.
      'You can get this thing warmed up pretty cozy,' said Schoen, pointing to the stove as he walked through the lower deck. He and his wife, Mary, have taken their single-masted auxiliary cutter to Alaska. 'We usually go north in the summer, there are so many people here,' Schoen said. He estimated traffic cuts down in the winter to about 30 percent of what it is in the summer.
      Most people who cruise in the winter have some source of heat. People use oil or propane or some combination; Schoen's 40-HP diesel engine uses the same oil as his stove.
       In addition to pleasure boaters, fishermen make the San Juans a frequent destination in the winter. That's when the fishing is best, Schoen noted.
      Both he and Fox, and scores of other boaters in the San Juans, have carried forward the tradition of a New Year's Day sail, an enduring wintertime event––ice, cold, and all. 
      On New Year's Day two years ago the door on Fox's boat was sealed shut.
      'I chipped the ice away from the door, fired it up, and went for a cruise,' Fox said. The Orcas Island Yacht Club has two destinations on its New Year's Day sail––Reid Harbor on Stuart Island and Roche Harbor. That winter, Fox extended his expedition, spending a week cruising around the San Juans, visiting Cypress, Guemes, and places he couldn't in the summer because the waterways were too busy. 
      'There was a week of crystal-clear weather,' Fox recalled. The only winterization measure he's taken so far has been to drain his outside hose bibs.
      'Winterization can encompass many things, from the vessel itself to the mechanical components on board.' Moored at West Sound, he can keep heat going on board to avoid freezing by connecting to a dock outlet. 
      During winter, he said, everybody watches out for everybody else. Sometimes a boat owner is not around when mooring lines are loose.
      'In general with the boating public, there's kind of a buddy boating system,' Fox said. 'Everybody pretty much watches out for each other. If there's a problem with mooring lines, you use one of your own lines to secure the boat until the owner gets to take care of it.'
      There's always the danger of getting stranded, a plight that Fox has avoided. But once on a trip to Stuart, Schoen was stranded by a northeaster 'that blew and blew. We just had to wait it out,' he recalled.
      But 10 years ago, with the increasing interest in winter boating and the increasing efficiency of onboard heating, one tradition died.
      Schoen, who grew up in Seattle, ran around with kids who 'were boat nuts like I was.' That same spirit of fun influenced a New Year's Eve party he and his friends would have at Port Ludlow. A former Orcas Island landowner, G.M. Lynes, loaned a trophy to the Essex County Country Club Cruising Society, which sponsored the New Year's Eve celebration.
      The trophy was a three-handed cup that Lyons won at a freestyle skating contest.
      Everyone would sail to the party through waters that were hardly icy, but surely cold. It was a booby prize, of sorts, but awarded in fun to some quirky or ridiculous event that occurred. Other times, it was given in jest for a serious act that members wanted to poke fun at.
      One person was awarded the trophy for losing his mast. One winter, a former bachelor received the trophy for getting married.
      Enthusiasm for the Port Ludlow New Year's Eve sail was great. But eventually, the trophy was retired. Too many people spoiled the fun, Schoen, recalled."
Paul Gottlieb for the Islands' Sounder, November 1986.
From the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society.
Sea trials for cutter MIA
after launching, England, 1960.
With owners Frederick and Marilyn Ellis.
Detail from a Beken of Cowes© original photograph.
Tap image to enlarge.

For another Saltwater People post on Schoen and his all-season sailing, here is another in the Time-Line articles from the home page:

The Schoens and Chantey in February

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