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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 200, 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. The photo in this profile features a handcrafted windvane of the 1902 WA-built lumber schooner CAMANO. The metal vane was designed, fabricated, and given to the maritime community by John M. Campbell. The schooner was linked to the life of one of the early, well-known, residents, Captain Lyle E. Fowler, born in 1901 on Shaw Island. Following a long passage on the CAMANO, he spent his entire career working on the inland waters of the PNW. The CAMANO windvane is installed on the roof of the Shaw Island community building, near Blind Bay, where she is easily viewed by passersby.

19 August, 2014

Schooner C. S. HOLMES with ● ● ● News Photo Scoop

"News picture scoops these days usually suggest wire-photos flashed over sea and land and swift airplanes rushing prints of sensational events from city to city, but first filing of explorer Roald Amundsen's history-making flight over the North Pole in 1926 came to Seattle by sailing ship.
      The newspapers had been full of stories of the top-of-the-world voyage of the dirigible NORGE from King's Bay, Spitzbergen, to Teller, AK, carrying Amundsen, Lincoln Ellsworth, and their daring crew of North Pole explorers. I was intensely interested in the passage of the ship-of-the-air over the top-of-the-world, but had no idea I would have a part in the stories of the flight told in pictures.
Schooner C. S. HOLMES
Framed print donated by Miles McCoy.

Saltwater People Historical Society©

      One summer afternoon in 1926 as I wended my way up the Seattle waterfront to meet the romantic old sailing schooner C. S. HOLMES, I anticipated a pleasant chat with her master, Capt. John Backland, Sr., and the story of a trading cruise to the Arctic Coast of AK. As I climbed aboard the HOLMES, I was given a warm greeting by the bearded skipper of the trim four-master. He introduced me to a stocky young Norwegian who spoke very little English.
      Capt. Backland, to my astonishment, explained that the young fellow, who joined the C. S. HOLMES at Teller, AK, had been the photographer of the NORGE during the ship-of-the-air's voyage over the North Pole and had the film of numerous shots taken during the flight. He wished to buy some cigarettes and use a telephone. Would I help him?
      I realized that the young Norwegian had in an important-looking black case, a part of his luggage, a great world-wide news picture scoop and I was not long in warming up to him. I would be very glad to assist the visitor to our shores, the first to use the top-of-the-world route, I told Capt. Backland.
      When we reached the shoreside end of the dock house at Pier 5, where the HOLMES was moored, I saw a newshawk of the rival sheet heading for the vessel. Click read more below.

16 August, 2014

Cruising with the Crew, June Burn 1927

"It was 6 o'clock and dark when the COMANCHE drew into the dock at Sekiu last night. 

The tide was exceedingly low so that a foot-wide, inch thick board that was serving duty as a gangplank, lay across the dock and the upper deck, on the level. In the middle of that board was a knot and every time a man came across her I expected to see him go wallowing down the long narrow way to the water below. But the board held till all the crew were ashore and another stouter one was substituted from the dock for me. But I wasn't sorry, I tell you, though when I saw the not very slender, smiling Indian woman who had braved that board, I was ashamed of myself that I had looked so worried that they had dug up a big plank for me. 
      After what seemed hours of unloading freight at Sekiu we steamed off to Neah Bay. I had wanted to see that historic village by daylight, but full moon would have served nearly as well if I could have stayed awake till we got there!

      At Neah Bay is another logging camp and there a pulp plant to use the logs just as soon as they come down from the hills. I don't like to think, somehow, of hearty spruce and fir going into pulp when all over the hills lie logs fit for nothing else. Somebody is going to make a million dollars some of these days soon by inventing a way of getting into the hills with some grinding machinery to use the by-products of logging right there on the spot. 
      From Neah Bay to Seattle, I was the only passenger aboard the COMANCHE. What a good time I had getting acquainted with the crew! Captain Van Nieuwenhuise came from Rotterdam when he was 11 and he can remember old Holland vividly. He used to play on Whidbey Island, logging there, trying to farm a little, too I think, but longing for the sea all the time.
      Mr. Boyd, purser, is a Scotsman with an Irish twinkle in his eyes. Now, I was always frightened of pursers thinking them a hard boiled lot. I learned long ago that boat captains are all bark and no bite with a very soft heart underneath a necessary crust. If all pursers were like Mr. Boyd, I shall decide that they are deceivin' critters, too. In fact there is something about the sea that hardens men outside, softens them inside.
      After dinner during the long hours between Pt. Townsend and Seattle, everybody gathered around Mr. Sam Campbell, second engineer, maker of violins, to see how fiddles are carved out of hunks of wood. This mechanical genius has evolved and manufactured his own tools for making his fiddles, one of them being a darling tiny brass plane about the size of my thumb, curved to plow off microscopic shavings from Italian maple so as to form it into the back of the violin. One of his fiddles is made from Puget Sound maple and is more beautiful than the others, our maple having a gracious waving figure much more attractive than the straight zigzag grain of the Italian wood.
      Mr. Campbell spent ten years carving out a perfect ship only to have it stolen. He turned to violins for consolation, perhaps, and is beginning to turn out instruments of true, rich, vibrant tones.
      With another two or three days aboard the freighter who knows what other surprising people with surprising gifts might have been discovered? Many of the crew I didn't even see. The stoker might have turned out to be a poet; the chef, a painter; the deckhand, a sociologist!
      From Seattle by stage was a long comfortable way, the day disappearing across the San Juan islands as we drew near home. See you tomorrow."
Text by author June Burn, former San Juan County islander. 1927.

13 August, 2014


The Highliner of the Codfish Schooner FANNY DUTARD
Red Oscar
The clock on the wall of the newsroom of Seattle's morning newspaper was ticking away the last minutes of a warm night in July. The early-shift reporters had been given "thirty" and were checking out at the platform-raised desk of the city editor. I had a feeling of self-pity as I watched the scene from my desk near a window overlooking Fourth Ave at Union St for I had been given an assignment to meet the steamer HUMBOLDT, due from SE Alaska at midnight.
      The city editor, a small balding fellow who had developed into a bundle of nerves, seldom gave a reporter an assignment without telling him how dull and uninteresting the paper was growing. He had experienced the jitters ever since the $50,000 gold robbery in which the HUMBOLDT was involved. 'Scoopy' MacDonald a reporter on a rival sheet, had scored a beat on the story and we felt we could not have been more disgraced if we had hauled down the American flag. At any rate, it appeared that the HUMBOLDT gold robber story was going to be shoved down our throats for many months to come and meeting the famous old ship was going to be a must.
     In a corner of the newsroom was a reporter pounding out a later story between puffs on a cigarette. He had been watching me and finally came over to my desk with an inquiring expression on his face.
     'Tough break, that late assignment, but that's the newspaper game. However, cheer up, I'll go along. Always wanted to give the HUMBOLDT the once over, ever since that gold robbery story.'
     In a few minutes, I was on my way to Pier 7 to meet the HUMBOLDT, accompanied by William Slavens McNutt, then a struggling reporter on the morning newspaper, who added to his modest salary by writing short fiction for moderately-priced magazines published in New York.
     Those were the days of five-cent cigars, nickel beers, and three-dollar hats, but Bill, for some reason, just couldn't make his salary cover his personal wants. Quite often, he was refused assignments until he visited a barbershop in the Antlers Hotel, across the street, after obtaining a loan from the city editor. Bill would be broke a few days and then suddenly blossom out with a comfortably sized bankroll. I learned that Bill was writing fiction late at night at police headquarters, between stories of murders, suicides, and fires. He mailed his magazine stories at the Third Ave and Union St post office during the early morning hours after he received 'thirty' at police headquarters.
     As we walked along the waterfront toward Pier 7, I said: 'Bill, I think I have a story for you as a reward for your trip. You could work it up either as fact or fiction. Across the street is the Cape Flattery Bar, the toughest saloon this side of San Francisco's Barbary Coast. After we check up on the HUMBOLDT, we'll take a look-see. Things usually get pretty hot at this time of night in all waterfront bars.'
     At Pier 7, we learned that the HUMBOLDT had been delayed by headwinds and we would have time to visit the Cape Flattery emporium of mirth and good cheer, which was beginning to rival Billy's Mug of the skidroad, which also was called Billy The Mug's.
     As we entered the wooden building through a broad door, there was wild commotion in the saloon. The barkeep, a giant of a man, wearing a handlebar mustache, pounded the massive bar with a powerful fist that made the flimsy building rattle and shake, as he attempted to restore order.
     A raw-boned fisherman standing in the middle of the sawdust-covered floor with a huge glass of beer, shouted: 'Here's to the highliner of the FANNY DUTARD.'
from West Coast Windjammers In Story and Pictures
by James Gibbs. Superior Pub. Seattle, 1968.
     The rest of the toast was drowned out by the shouts of fishermen, who left their tables along the wall and moved over to the bar. When the din partly subsided, [click on "read more" below]

08 August, 2014

Fishers Passing Through

These August 2014 photographs were captured and shared by Lance Douglas of Blakely Island, San Juan County, WA.

04 August, 2014

Lumber Schooner LOTTIE BENNETT packing a Utopian dream?

Laying San Francisco, 1933.

Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
The Hall Brothers built 170-ft schooner LOTTIE BENNETT, launched in 1899 at Port Blakely, WA, was one of three sister ships built for the account of the yard owners. 
      She was purchased by Capt. L. Ozanne of Papeete, in 1924 for serving under the French flag as schooner NORMANDIE.
      When the above photo was taken in San Francisco in 1933, she had her birth name restored and was being prepared for a trip to Panama. A Utopian group of forty people wanted to establish a cooperative colony headquartered on two islands in the Bay of Panama where they dreamed about replacing money with barter. 
      Those plans fell through and she ended up involved in the motion picture industry before she was used as a floating cannery for Dr. Ross Pet Foods Co., operating for a time in Mexican waters.

      There are two close up photos of the LOTTIE in Hall Brothers Shipbuilders, by Tacoma historian Gary M. White; Arcadia Publishing Co, 2008.

31 July, 2014


"When you get the rhythm in an eight, it's pure pleasure to be in it. It's not hard work when the rhythm comes––that 'swing' as they call it. I've heard men shriek out with delight when that swing came in an eight; it's a thing they'll never forget as long as they live."
George Yeoman Pocock, master boatbuilder. 
The U of W Eight plus cox in their Pocock,

with a 'swing' that earned them the
1936 Olympic gold, Berlin.

Cropped detail of original photo from the archives
of the Saltwater People Historical Society.©

26 July, 2014

Queen of the Steam Whistles––in Chinese Bronze

Dick McKay & Jim Vallentyne (l-r), Seattle, 1962,
 with the antique bronze steam whistle from
the Russian built POLITKOFSKY.

Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
Letting off steam
Whistle from the POLITKOFSKY
L-R, Joshua Green, Jim Valentine, Ralph Hitchcock
Unknown event/date.
Courtesy of historian Ron Burke, Seattle.

      The POLITKOFSKY whistle from 1850 was acquired when the gunboat was turned over to the US by the Russian government in connection with this country's purchase of Alaska, 18 October 1867.
      This whistle was used to open the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle in 1909. 
President Taft, by telegraph, 
opening the AYP Exposition, 1909, Seattle, WA.
Photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©

      Steam whistles once were an organ concert of the industrial and economic life of the city. Men went to work, ate lunch, and left work––all to the deep-throated blast of a steam whistle at factory or mill. There was no dispute about the correct time––the whistle was absolute.
      Whether it was the sharp "toot" of donkey engine or the deep-toned blast from the Stimson Mill or Seattle Cedar Lumber Man. Co., Ballard whistles were a veritable symphony each morning, noon, and evening––the steam whistle was king.
      At that time, many housewives used the sound of the "5 o'clock quitting whistle" as a reminder to start dinner.
      But, alas, the assembly-line production of wrist watches, radio time announcements, and other modern conveniences (including the electric air whistle) spelled the doom of the colorful steam whistle ejecting a long white plume (often you could see and count the plumes long before you heard the whistles, especially if the wind was strong and the distant sound of the whistle was carried away on the wind.)
      The whistle is in the collection of the Museum of History and Industry, Seattle, WA.
Above words by John J. Reddin for The Seattle Times, March 1962
Letting Off Steam
"The speaker was the wharf agent of a large steamship company, and he was seated in his cool office looking hot and worried. The reporter to whom the remark was addressed, admitted that he sometimes felt so inclined, but rarely.
      'Next time you feel that way I want you to run a little two-line item in your marine column, saying if the captains of the various steamers would hang onto their whistle ropes thirty seconds instead of fifteen minutes when landing or departing, the waterfront business men would deem it a favor.
      'The way of it is this: There are a large number of boats in and out of harbor daily. For some reason––probably some savage blood in their veins––the captains delight in hearing the sound of their own whistles. A year or so ago it was bad enough, but now the owners are vieing with one another, as to who can get the most unearthly sounding one. They have got to using combinations to deepen the sound-rending shrieks. The BAILEY GATZERT has a triple affair that is enough to turn a man's hair gray. The GREYHOUND sports one of the same character, but more piercing than deep; the PREMIER has one with a dull rumbling roar, that shakes every beam in the wharf when it goes off. There there is the MOCKING BIRD. I feel like stealing out some quiet night and contriving a scheme to sink her.
      Every fifteen minutes in the day some of these diabolical contrivances are going off. The captains hold onto the ropes as if they were the ladder to salvation instead of to––well, anyhow, they ought to let go sooner.' The agent then subsided, but began again as the reporter was quietly leaving. The last words the latter heard were 'fiendish,' 'hair-raising'.
Above text from March 1973 Sea Chest, quarterly journal of the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society