"The cure for anything is salt water––sweat, tears, or the sea."
Isak Dinesen


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San Juan Islands, 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 over 300, 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.

17 April 2015


Submitted to Piling Busters Contest 1950
Published by Jack P. Shipley
Tacoma, WA
This story, typed verbatim, is written by Capt. Carl M. Hansen, Seattle, WA.

"This story may be of some interest to my many friends among the yachting and tugboat world and others of the seafaring fraternity.
Amundsen's expedition on three-master Norwegian MAUD
Leaving with Carl Hansen,

 Seattle, June 1922.
Photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
       It was in the year 1922 that I joined Capt. Roald Amundsen's North Pole Expedition as Chief Mate and Ice Pilot. The expedition left Seattle in June of that year. I remember the day very well, for on the eve of departure the members of the crew pooled all the money we could lay our hands on, and we threw a party at the old Butler Hotel in Seattle. Memories of that party lasted us a long time, for we spent 42 months in the Arctic and we saw no land for 30 months.
      After we got up north, we discovered that some rats had shipped out with us and we knew we had to get rid of them fast, for our fur clothing and other gear, was in great danger.
      The Captain offered a bounty of one cigar for every rat turned in, alive or dead, and every man set out his own trapline and tended it zealously. 'Every man for himself' was the slogan of the day, and when we smelled the aroma of cigar smoke we sought out the lucky owner of the cigar to enjoy his good fortune, second hand, of course.
      As I was working on some gear one morning in the little shop, I heard a snap in the sail room nearby, that was part of my own trapline. I rushed in to see the victim, gloating in advance over my less fortunate shipmates who still had to taste their first cigars.
      I wasn't prepared for the sight I was about to see, and my astonishment is understandable when I tell you that in the trap––deader than a marlinespike, was the largest rat I ever saw. It was so huge that I didn't believe my eyes.
L-R: N. Olonkin, engineer
Prof H. U. Sverdrup, scientist
Capt. Oscar Wisting, master of MAUD and 
Commander in absence of Amundsen
N. Syvertsen, asst. engineer and radio operator.
Original photo dated 29 May 1922
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

      My surprise didn't last long, for I was eager to smack my lips over one of the Captain's good cigars, so I bent down to pick up the trap and release the rat. I placed the animal on a dust pan and surveyed it. It certainly was a whopper. Then the truth dawned upon me. Here, up in the Arctic, I was face to face with the facts of life. I could not ignore them.
      So I opened my jack knife and performed the neatest operation ever recorded north of the Arctic Circle. When it was over, I marched into the officers quarters with my trophy. What yells of dismay and despair greeted me. The men gathered around and looked with unbelieving eyes as the Captain reached for the cigar box. He methodically counted them into my eager hands––'one, two, there, four, five, six, seven , eight, nine, ten.' Then he snapped the lid shut and steeled himself to the protest that came instantly. 'No fair!' was the mildest I heard that day, but the Captain quieted them all when he announced that 'a rat is a rat.' Solomon couldn't have ruled any better, for how could I know in advance there was a big rat on board that was 'expecting."

12 April 2015

❖ SPIKE AFRICA and the English BAG KNOT ❖

"At one time, Britannia ruled the waves--this is history. But one thing the learned men of history have not recorded, to my knowledge, is the great man who tied the English Bag Knot. I would have liked to shake his hand and head to see if some other screwy but useful knots would fall out. He must have been a real knot-nut.
I have seen strong men swear, curse, scream, yell, jump on their hats and wander off driveling to themselves in search of strong drink when they first failed to tie this offspring of Satan.
Schooner K. V. KRUSE
Blt by Kruse & Banks Shipyard, 1920, North Bend, OR.
First of her rig to carry 2 M. bf of lumber.
242.3-ft on keel, 260-ft overall x 46.2-ft x 20.0-ft.
Reg. 1,728 G. t.

Photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
      I first saw it as a teenager aboard an American five-masted schooner bound from Portland, OR to Callao, Peru. We were lifting timber to complete the 15' deck load when a scrawny, half-starved English lad applied for a berth. The Old Man hired him and he threw down his sea bag into the fo'c's'le. I noticed that there were no grommets in the bag. 'No grommets,' I said. The lad looked at me and replied, 'No need, with this knot--and besides, the admiralty needs the brass for shell casings and trim for the Admiral's gigs.' The seaman pushed two ends and a bight and all parts opened equally and he slipped it off the bag and handed it to me.
      I lost some sleep over it, but mastered it finally, and as a custom of the times, I also learned to tie it behind my back. On those sailing ships you used the Braille system at night. So you learned your knots and hitches in the dark.
Courtesy of Wooden Boat Magazine.
January 1978; No. 20
      To tie the knot, you take a length of line. Hold the two ends in your left hand and bring the bight toward you and on top of the two ends. Now hold that bight and the two ends with thumb and fingers of the left hand. Now you have two rabbit ears. With the right hand you take the two inner lines of the ears and cross them twice, reach through the opening and pick up the first bight between the two ends, pull this through and ease the left ear toward you, adjusting all parts equally. It looks somewhat like two interwoven reef knots. By pushing the four parts together, the center opens equally. You then place this over the sea bag top and pull the four parts outwardly. Now you have seized the canvas securely, and you are outward bound knowing, with pride, that you conserved brass for His Majesty's Navy and trim for the Admiral's gigs.
Courtesy of Wooden Boat Magazine,
January 1978; No. 20
      I do not know if this handsome knot is still used for the purpose, but if it isn't it should be done in gold and mounted in the throne room. Perhaps today the English seamen carry Gladstone bags and wear step-in loafers.
      We must face the sad fact that sail is gone, grommets are going, shoe laces are losing out, and about the only knots one finds today in our ships are in the revolution counter in the engine room. You can't see them, but they are whirling out astern of your ship to carry the freight and show the flag and frighten the fish. Time should be turned back a century or two, in its mad flight to extinction, to offer today's youth the thrill of carrying the world's commerce on the quiet Wind Ships."
Above text by Spike Africa (1906-1985), President of the Pacific Ocean.
Published in Wooden Boat magazine, January1978; No. 20. 
Spike did not mention the name of the lumber schooner at the beginning of this Bag Knot article, but his family confirms that he did sail on the K. V. KRUSE. Spike is on record as sailing to Callao.

08 April 2015

❖ And Lake Boats, too ❖ mid 1920s

No salt, but Heart Thumpy small craft,
Black Mountain Resort

Silver Lake, Whatcom County, WA.
This site is now a County Park with cabins & boat rentals.
 Date: mid-1920s.

Click to enlarge.
Identification courtesy of historian Jeff Jewell,
Whatcom Museum of History & Art.
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©

04 April 2015


Day 64 of 100 Days in the San Juans. June Burn, 
Author of Living High and former San Juan County islander, June Burn, on contract with the Seattle P-I in summer of 1946.
We don't need any photographs with words by June Burn.
Stuart Island: Named by Wilkes for Frederick D. Stuart, captain's clerk of the expedition.
Chart 3450
East Point to Sand Heads
Corrected through notices to mariners to July 1968.
Published by Canadian Hydrographic Services.
Max Kuner Co. dealer stamp, Seattle ,WA.

Click to enlarge.
Chart from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

     "A raw, windy Sunday morning beside a comfortable fire, breakfast just over, a seagull winging over the tidy little Stuart Island dock, swallows dipping, our smoke blowing towards this incredible bluff, picoted, scalloped, braided and neatly stitched in tight waves of paper-thin layers of rock.
     Last night as we came in under the light of an almost full moon at 10 PM this bluff looked like a smooth cement bulwark, man-made. There were bridges and viaducts along it and if we hadn't a mast, we could surely have rowed under one of the fine arches made, we see this morning, with shadows.
     It took us four hours to get across this wind-swept meeting of San Juan Channel with Haro Strait from Sandy Point to Prevost. The tide divides somewhere in this broad triangle, half going towards Canada, the other half towards Friday Harbor. We got caught in the half that goes toward Canada and I wanted just to go on with it. We had never been there at all. But Farrar is a more law abiding citizen and he wouldn't. So we rowed and we rowed and we sailed and went backwards and we rowed again. We went to Canada and back a time or two, in actual mileage––or knottage–I think, wind-driven, tide-ripped and moonlit. It was wonderful.
     This little Prevost Harbor of Stuart looked like a sailor's heaven when we finally got here, though. We had seen the sun set in a clear yellow sea of sky above South Pender Island and, at the same moment, the almost invisible face of the nearly full moon rise in clean blue over Orcas.
     We had seen Mt. Baker white at first, a rich saffron in the sunset, blue white in the moonshine, and at last nothing. Cascades, Canadian Coast Range, Olympics stood quietly while the day and sunset and moonrise and night colors washed over them.
     At 7:30 I saw the first star. I said my wish––that we'd be there in half an hour––and it began to come true at 9:30.
     We saw big ships being towed by the International Boundary line past Saturna Light on up to Vancouver. Our sails were up and we were both rowing at the same time. I thought what a funny silhouette we must have made if anybody on a ship had happened to be looking down the wide moon path, just as we crossed it.
     Island shapes look different at night. Stuart, Johns, the Cactus Islands, Spieden, even distant San Juan would suddenly look strangely near and then discouragingly far. We were watching familiar outlines, as people do, completely unnoticing of the Canadian Gulf islands just as near-by. Then I did glance over that way and said: "Why, we're in Canada!"
     "Darned if we're not,," Farrar said and lit out from there, his arms just stepping it off! Heigh ho! I guess we'll be amateurs at everything until we die. Here we've boated in these waters longer than you're old, likely, and we still blithely imagine that as long as we've got our bow pointed in a certain direction, we're going that way. We rowed on back to America.
     At last we rattled and bumped over the kelp bed in Prevost Harbor and began to draw near to the dock with the little white warehouse perched on top. Two people were standing there.
     'Ship, ahoy!' they said.
     'Land, ahoy!"'we said and told them who we were.
     'We're the Ericksons,' they said and guided us to the ladder, took our line, helped us up, gave us the city fathers' permission to sleep in the warehouse that night. That was the most comfortable floor!
     It was late, for us, as we stood there on the dock talking to young Ralph and Florence Erickson but they have always been story book people to us, like the Lofoten fishermen of Norway. We began to ask them about fishing and they began a story of the shark and halibut and tuna and salmon season that ran on into the next day.
     This is the next day, as I write. I'm sitting on a log on the Lofgren beach where we had permission to make a fire. Farrar has just gone up onto the dock to get the sleeping bags and make the boat shipshape for the day. I look at him as he moves down the dock against a background of high blue-green hills and think how he becomes this country! He's going along thinking about man and the earth, likely. He's always thinking about that. In the middle of any task he will look up and say what I always expect to be something like,' I can't get the egg off this damn plate!' and instead it will be, 'you know, man can't have any more than this. The earth, this sea, a beach, food, companionship. This is all any man can get. And when he dies, he simply gets it more completely. He becomes part of it, when he dies. What else could a man want?"

31 March 2015


To honor Women's History Month, this historian is squeaking in under the wire to present,  Dr. Agnes Harrison, an example of a remarkable woman who led the parade in the early years of Euro-American settlement in the San Juan Islands.
Dr. Agnes Harrison
University of Michigan graduate
photo dated 1881

Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
Doctor Agnes Harrison was known to hundreds of people as one of the first and finest physicians of the Pacific Northwest. She practiced medicine for more than fifty years.
      Harrison officiated at the birth of more than 2,000 babies and operated upon early settlers by candlelight. Influenced by the fact she was drenched by the spray from northeasters, while being rowed from one San Juan Island to another, Dr. Agnes Harrison is included in this maritime history collection.
      Born in Rockton, Ontario, Agnes graduated from the University of Michigan in 1882. She entered the medical school soon after it first admitted women students. In an interview Agnes is quoted: "It was very difficult to enter medical school when I attended the U of Michigan in 1879. 'Hen Medics,' as we were derisively called, were laughed at and scorned by men students. Even professors insulted our intelligence and seriousness by giving separate and politely 'abridged' lectures to us women, we had no medical classes with the men and could dissect only female cadavers. One professor, new to the school, considered himself quite daring for talking to us openly."
      After 1884, Agnes married Isaac Marion Harrison, thereafter known as "Dr. I. M."–– together they operated a joint practice in Coupeville, on Whidbey Island, where the two were the only doctors on the island in the 1880s, according to Orcas Island writer, Bea Cook. Port Townsend needed them next, followed by eleven years spent in Seattle, before moving to the San Juan Island Archipelago. 
      Dr. Harrison recalls that early practice among the Indians was often trying: 
"once I was mighty annoyed when I had a delicate operation to perform on a squaw. Naturally, I chased all the relatives and other curious tribesmen out of the house. But they had no intention of missing anything; as fast as I shooed them out of doors, they came back through the windows. Finally, I couldn't waste another minute, so I operated––with a ring of muttering Indians looking on!"
Dr. Agnes Harrison
5 May 1946
Eastsound, Orcas Island, WA. 
Madrona Inn, operated by the Harrisons
 is listed on the above map.
Click to enlarge.
      In her later years, Agnes ran the Madrona Inn in Eastsound, besides carrying on her medical practice. "It was hard, sometimes, when I had a house and 12 cabins full of guests to have a two-day obstetrical case come up." In her senior years she then helped her son at the popular Inn on the coast of Orcas Island.
      In length of years practiced, Agnes was the senior woman physician in the Puget Sound area. She passed away in Eastsound in 1949, survived by sons, Max Harrison of Seattle and Joseph B. Harrison, a professor of English at the U of W, six grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
Reference: Author Beatrice 'Bea' Cook writings 1946.