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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 700, 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.

06 January 2020

❖ YELLOW ISLAND LETTERS FROM LEW ❖


Lew and Tib Dodd
The first year of camping while building on
their newly purchased Yellow Island,
San Juan Archipelago, WA. 1947.
These two photos courtesy of their family.


Lewis and Elizabeth 'Tib' Dodd
There is a short post of their arrival

posted HERE.
Yellow Island,
Deer Harbor, WA.
1954

Hello _____,

       This is the kind of weather in the San Juans we've been looking for all summer! For the past three days, it has been superb, each beautiful day filled with bright sunlight, blue skies, and sparkling dancing saltwater. Filled also with fall sounds of the seabirds and the splashing of the Bonaparte Gulls diving vertically for small fry. Two days ago there were about fifty Blackfish (Orca whales) huffing and puffing south down San Juan Channel; and did they put on a show! Sometimes breaking water five and six abreast and all leaping in unison like prancing rearing horses of a Roman charioteer. We could almost see Neptune prodding them with his trident and, of course, see Amphitrite hanging on for dear life!' but it really was a sight and a remarkable show. We never tire of such exhibitions. These Blackfish are so strong and blow so heartily! They are so vibrantly alive.
      We have been busy as usual with the commonplace daily chores which are a part of everyone's life. But ours seem not to be chores but mostly fun. This is probably because we never become bored.
       For instance, its fun gathering enough wood to cram the shed full against the rain and wind and rawness which we know isn't far away. We have so much in now it's difficult to get in ourselves!
       Lately, however, there has been an interlude when things were briefly pretty hectic. A week ago I went to feed the poultry and found five dead chickens. Then shortly after this on taking the panel off the front of the pigeon-house saw 29 dead pigeons and 16 dead squabs––mink trouble! AGAIN! To shorten the story we set about a dozen traps and four days later we had Mr. Mink. He weighed three pounds and measured 23 inches from nose to tail tip. I have to say that I haven't one iota of goodwill toward any of the mink. This makes two of them we've caught this year. 
      Tuslers have recently seen mink over near Coon Island. I hope no more come this way for a while.
Saturday we could hear "Iron Horse" Thompson running his small locomotive. There were some boys over there and the whistle got a workout all day long. But by now the whole family has returned to Seattle and the McConnell Island Railroad is probably rolled up in mothballs for the winter.
      However, never a dull moment in the San Juan Islands. Always something to interest us turning up––porpoises, etc.!!
      Lloyd, I'd like some information for I'm both dumb and ignorant as to radio. I'd like to know what AM and FM really mean. I do have an idea that FM means frequency modulation but what this is I haven't the vaguest idea!
      Tusler volunteered the information yesterday that in an advertisement in the N.Y. Times he has learned of a German radio receiver A.M and F.M. which can be battery operated and which, so he says, "has everything," (whatever this means!!) And sells for around $150.00. Tussler's Naval Captain brother says he wouldn't be without FM, as the music is so much better. Do you agree about this?
      I would like to know if the new Zenith "Super De Luxe" Trans Ocean Radio selling around $150 has FM? This I know can be battery operated. Model L600.
      Do you know of any battery-operated America-receiver which has AM and FM comparable in price to Zenith and or as good or better? Zenith has 7 bands I think. 
      Well, so much for this. I hope it won't trouble you to give me your ideas and advice. We're out here all winter, you know, and I've been thinking that it would be pretty nice to be able to listen in around the world to the many good things which are available to anyone with a really good receiver. Any up to date information you can help us with will be very much appreciated. You're in the business and I know that you know. I certainly don't.
      Must leave you. Tib needs wood and water and logically, so do I, I suppose, if we're going to have a hot meal soon. 
      Will be thinking of you, as ever, Lew and Tib.

Fall 1955

Dear______

We've been about swamped with people, (over 200 in the month of August), and we hardly dared leave the island unwatched for fearsome careless one might drop a cigarette and burn us out! so, you can see quite readily, that at this season, there are definitely drawbacks to island living! Tib says she has had about all she can take as to trying to entertain, talk to, and show the island to everyone, and still remain courteous and unruffled at some of the remarks!
      After all, it's our home! and, certainly, unless we were friends of longstanding, we would not intrude ourselves upon people we do not know or commit the unpardonable breach of well-bred courtesy by even contemplating the invasion of their homes without being invited. So––living here as sort of a 'Target' for everyone afloat during the height of the summer becomes quite an ordeal for us at times and we are glad to be quiet and undisturbed by the time fall arrives.
      Both of us send our sincere best wishes to you. As ever, Lew.

29 January 1956

Dear________,

It certainly has been a pretty gloomy time since 11 November when the weather got rambunctious and we've had more east and northeast than in many years. We had a humdinger of a southeaster, too, which put heavy spray all over the weather side and roof of the cabin. Washing out one row of asparagus bed and filled all the south beaches with piles of logs, timbers, and broken debris, a great deal of which will eventually get to the fireplace. Neptune is very good to us. As ever, your friend, Lew.

'Sunbrite Republic'
Yellow Island 
3 August 1958

Dear _______,

The Radios are certainly giving us a lot of enjoyment. They are both very clear and good and certainly a pleasure for us.'
      Of course, the 'Broadcast' is the best. The short wave is not particularly good as it may be later but we have no reservations about the little Zenith; its a grand little radio.
      Just heard yesterday from a man named Edward Kendall (not Kennell) that they're soon going to drill for oil on Oras. Kaiser is this man's boss and Kendall works for Permanente Cement. He says Kaiser Steel plant is soon to be rolling. They came to Yellow utter strangers to us. He had chartered the LILY FOSS for a tug thru the San Juans and Canada. His sister said 'this happens every year!')
      It's 5:00 P.M. now and probably you've had about enough of this!
Our best to you. Hope to see you before long. As ever, Lew. 

Yellow Island, 
Deer Harbor, WA.
2 October 1958

Dear ________,

Except for the pale dead brownness of the grass cover on Yellow Island, it is like an August day in late springtime; the sun is warm and the mauve haziness of a very calm and sere4ne day seems to make all this island country appear slumbering, and utterly quiet; there are no boats in sight, and no noises except the natural fall sounds the sea birds make at their 'conventions' in mid-channel. This is the time of year when the murres all seem to be searching for "otto otto--ahhh to,' and the plaintive whistles of the little murrelets seem to say 'please' as they paddle behind their mothers who no longer will feed them. 
      It is a difficult time for these young ones for they are now on their own and, of course, constantly and terrifically hungry; the ways of nature as in many ways rugged and it is, certainly, for many wild things 'the survival of the fittest.' Darwin was a keen observer. 
      The rubbery old whale, 'Goodyear,' is still chasing minnows around our island and if anything could appear more rediculous when he clumsily boosts himself nearly clear of the water apparently in frustration at missing a school of his favorite candlefish, we don't know what it could be except of course when he puts on a repeat performance several times a day. He generally shows up here about high slack tide. Just why this is is hard to guess except that at this time of the tide the small fry may have less trouble feeding themselves. But they're sure in for trouble about the time 'Goodyear' comes huffing and puffing along to his chow time just off our cabin.
      Our island is full of robins and flickers nowadays and they are feeding on the madrona berries and dry seeds and small apples and seeds of the grasses. We put out oatmeal for the sparrows, Juncos, Towhees, and Golden Crown and White Crowns and they all like a lot of fruit too. It is comical to see them come when they are called in the morning by rattling on an old coffee can and hammering on wood with it and yelling at the same time 'Come birds, Come birds, Come little birds.' It doesn't take them long to 'catch on' and get wise. They never miss a trick and later on our feeding board will be even more popular as natural feed gets scarcer.
      Cheerio until we see or hear from you, as ever, 'yours without a struggle,
Lew. 

Yellow Island, 
Deer Harbor, WA.
20 November 1958

Dear ___________,

Today for the first time for quite a wet long while there is little wind and the beaches on the island are not being pounded but they're certainly had a recent thorough scrubbing and going over and the drift debris is all rearranged--some 'newcomers,' and a lot of the 'old-timers' have moved a bit and show signs of being used a bit roughly--and all seem glad just to loll on the beach and rest. The whole mess looks 'done in,' 'beat up,' 'tired out,' and exhausted!'
      During all the worst of the bad weather, with so much rain, we were confined to the 'Igloo' trying to catch up with an avalanche of reading (that we know will never get to if we live two or three more lives!)--and, too, listening to Chinese or Malay over the short wave unable to tell whether they're yelling for help or just wishing everyone a pleasant evening. 
      We haven't seen the book Pacific Steamboats you mentioned in your letter but it sounds very interesting. How the old BEELINE ever got in it will never know! I have absolutely no recollection of ever having a group picture taken of that crew, but I can fill in the name of the old chief engineer, his name was Cabe and the oiler's was 'Rusty' McKenna (he was very red-headed and very freckled.!) The BEELINE then was on a regular run between Bellingham and Orcas Landing. She could carry about 20 cars without putting herself out too much. I'll never forget the last day of our season when we left the head of Van Morheims dock at Orcas to go into the ferry slip––Jim and I were on the head end, Capt. Johnny Oldow in the wheelhouse, Johnny rang down for full astern just before we were to touch the apron, and, by mistake somehow the engineer gave her full ahead and we made a shambles of the landing apron and like to windup on the porch of the Orcas Hotel. I thought the splinters would never quit flying. Next thing Jim and I saw was John Oldow and Cabe down on the main deck yelling and waving their arms at one another and––such language!!––well, we finally got underway for West Seattle where we were to lay up. Beyond Lopez heavy fog set in and we were coasting along parallel to the west shore of Whidbey. Jim was on the lookout when suddenly piling loomed up and we were just about snared in a fish trap––we backed out of the pot and spiller of that salmon trap and set on course for West Point and where did we fetchup?–––Port Townsend! Well, it finally cleared and we went on to West Seattle and slowed down to ease into and alongside the dock. One bell to stop! then two bells to go astern! and a hookup jingle bell to give her all she's got–– and bang snap and we kept right on ahead and whammed into that dock. She had broken her tail shaft! What a last day! Jim and I tied her up and got ashore and headed for home the next day and we never saw her again. 
      She was finally dismantled and broken up––and that was the end of that perky little ferry; we never knew what she might do next!
      Incidentally, on our evening trip from Bellingham to Orcas we used to turn on a radio, it invariably blanked or 'blacked' out under Eagle Bluff on Cypress Island's north end. Evidently, there is a 'blind' radio spot there for some reason--or maybe the old BEELINE just simply got tired of hearing it and preferred to listen to Capt. Johnny, Jim, and me 'part' singing 'you'll come back to the Red River Valley' (which was John Oldow's favorite.) As near as I can remember the year was 1934 ––anyhow I know that in 1939 I was in the West Indies on a schooner. *
      Looks like our 133 acres on Shaw is the very last unimproved acreage between Shaw dock and Neck Point. We are in no hurry: it will do alright before long.
      We close with our sincere regards to you both. 
      As ever, your friends, Lew (and Tib)
      P.S. It is 8:30 PM and dark as the inside of a cow outside. 

* To read a post on Saltwater People Log about Lew's passage on the schooner RANGER click HERE.


Also another article written by Robert Stafford in 1979.    "Captain of Yellow Island"
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