"Of all national assets, archives are the most precious:
they are the gift of one generation to another,
and the extent of our care of them marks the
extent of our civilization." Arthur Doughty.

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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.

2000 ❖ CAPTAIN EARL E. FOWLER (1903-2000) ❖

Many people on the waterfront still fondly remember Captain Earl, here's a little about his long, happy life serving ferry riders in Puget Sound.

      Captain Earl was the little brother of the three sons and three daughters born to Gene and Sadie Fowler on Shaw Island. Earl was the last to work his way up to a career on Puget Sound with the three brothers all earning masters certification. After graduating from Shaw Island grade school, he followed his brothers down to the steamboat landing looking for work.
      His first job wasn’t quite on the water, it was on pilings over the water. He was 13 years old when he worked at the Shaw Island Cannery on the coast of Harney Channel where the auto ferries would later begin service to Shaw Island in 1930. Earl entered the workforce earning .20 cents per hour                
      In an oral history interview Earl stated he was 16 when he found his first employment on a boat, that of decking on the locally built tug EDNA.* That position was followed by work on purse seine boats going north to fish, with his childhood chum George Stillman. 
Earl Fowler
Heading north to Alaska on F.V. SOUTHLAND 1921.
She was a 60-ft vessel built by Frank Tregoning
for Pacific American Fisheries in 1917.

Source: MCC from the National Archives.
Low res scan from an original photo
from Saltwater People historical archives©
Earl Fowler (R)
crew on REDWOOD
Alaska.
Scan courtesy of son Doug Fowler
undated & unknown photographer.

      It wasn’t until 1932 when he agreed to help fill in for a week for a friend working as a ferry deckhand. That led to a full-time ferry position starting at $51.25/ month. In just eight years he worked his way up to a skipper’s hat. He served as captain on almost every Puget Sound run until 1947 when he came home to the San Juan Islands
Captain Fowler never had any serious accidents, and never a collision. He said, “Of course things happen. The worst was c. 1962 when we lost power going into Friday Harbor. That’s certainly a helpless feeling but there wasn’t a thing I could do. They got it started again just as we hit the deck.”
Earl was part of the legendary trio of skippers who safely guided the CHIPPEWA, VASHON, KLICKITAT, and EVERGREEN STATE, through the narrow passages of the 172 San Juan Islands before the use of radar. His two colleagues were Sigvald Sande and Cecil Wyrich. With only a compass, a clock, and a whistle, they listened for the echo through the dense fog––their safety record was perfect. They were revered by the citizens of the Islands who counted on the masters for a link to the outside world.
That was a lot of driving Earl!
This scan courtesy of his son Douglas Fowler.

While living in Anacortes, on Fidalgo Island, Earl accumulated almost 35 years with the ferries, retiring in 1965. He worked relief for a few years and then enjoyed the remaining years with his wife, Alice, whom he loved for over 72 years.

L-R: Capt. Larry Crawford,
(son of Mabel Fowler & Cleo Crawford)
Capt. Earl E. Fowler,
Capt. Frank R. Fowler,
Capt. Robert Vose.
The first three skippers on the left grew up on Shaw Is.
where they all celebrate Capt. Frank's 80th birthday
at his farm on Blind Bay, San Juan County.
All four of these long-serving men signed the perimeter
edge of the colored artwork
of the good ship M.V. VASHON by the artist C.C. Gill
but that was on another party day on Orcas Island.

      *Do you know of a photo of this long-serving tug EDNA? Shaw Island would like to add one to the archives for the file of D.E. Hoffman built vessels.


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