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


About Us

My Photo
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.

05 October 2015

❖ POINT WILSON, The Greeter Light ❖

Point Wilson Lighthouse,
Port Townsend, Washington.
Fom the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"There was much fanfare when Point Wilson Lighthouse was established at the west side entrance to Admiralty Inlet and Puget Sound in 1879. Its strategic location was near the bustling seaport town of Port Townsend, which was in those years targeted for the major shipping center for that corner of the world. Sailing vessels and steamers ran in and out of the port with regularity, and next to San Francisco, no port had a more boisterous and sinful waterfront that did old Port Townsend. Houses of ill repute were numerous and the shanghaiing of sailors and drifters was a day to day occupation for both runners and grog shop owners.
      Every navigator entering or departing Puget Sound had to take Pt. Wilson into his reckoning if he didn't want to strike an obstruction lurking under the salty brine. When the weather was clear one could properly give the point a wide berth, but the culprit was fog, and when it settled over the local waters, sailor beware. Unfortunately, for three decades after settlement of the area, mariners rounded Pt. Wilson without the assistance of either a guiding light or fog signal, rather incredulous when one considers the importance of the major turning point from the Strait of Juan de Fuca into Admiralty Inlet.
      Pressure of the most determined variety finally got action from the Lighthouse Board to press Congress for funds, and on 15 December 1879, the beacon became a reality. It was a light of the fourth order, and to alert ships in foggy periods, a 12-inch steam whistle was installed.
      David M. Littlefield, a veteran of the Civil War and a highly respected citizen of the community was the unanimous choice of the lighthouse inspector to serve as the guardian of the light.
Point Wilson Lighthouse,
Port Townsend, Washington.
Photo by P.M. Richardson pre-1911.

Original from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      Captain George Vancouver, the renowned British navigator probably rested easier in his grave knowing that the spike of land which he named Point Wilson [for his 'esteemed friend' Captain George Wilson, of the British Navy] was finally marked by a navigation aid. He rounded the tip of the sandy promontory in a heavy fog and was unable to judge the extent of the body of water into which he had entered. With some of his men charting the shore and others sounding in the boats, he continued sailing along the beach until another projection, now known as Point Hudson, was sighted. There as if by magic, the sun broke through revealing perhaps the most beautiful scenery ever seen by the eyes of the sea-weary Britishers. Admiralty Inlet and Puget Sound were gazed upon in rapture. To the northeast, a mountain towered above the foothills, reflecting the glow of the noonday sun. The Utopian site was the same mountain sighted earlier from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to which Vancouver applied the name Baker. Against the western horizon were the snow-capped peaks of the Olympics with their dynamic, sawtooth character, and above the skyline to the south, the greatest surprise of all––king over all it surveyed, the lofty 14,000-ft majestic, snow-covered mountain to which the explorer bestowed the name Rainier, after Rear Admiral Rainier of the British Navy. Unfortunately, little regard was given to the ageless name applied by the native Indians––Tahoma. Beneath that marvelous ring of mountain ranges spread a series of deep, intricate waterways, the fabulous inland sea which was named for another British man of the sea––Peter Puget. Puget Sound was to become a place set apart. 
Point Wilson Lighthouse and Fort Worden,
Port Townsend, Washington.

Photo by P. M. Richardson from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
      Point Wilson, once the haunt of Indians who brought their canoes to rest on its shores, and fished its bountiful waters for centuries, was now the site of a lighthouse. It was a 46-ft frame tower rising from the keeper's dwelling, with a fog signal unit attached. To differentiate the sentinel from the one on Admiralty Head, the fixed white light in the lantern was varied by a red flash every 20 seconds.
      A share of vessels have met with mishap near Point Wilson, but the lighthouse has been a welcome sight to mariners ever since its inception. Though Port Townsend was destined to lose out to other Puget Sound ports as the hub of shipping, specifically after the rail links remained on the eastern shores of the Sound, it nevertheless played a key role in maritime history. The lighthouse became the greeter light for the entire Puget Sound area and continues that important role today." 
Text from: Lighthouses of the Pacific, Gibbs, Jim. 1986. Schiffer Publishing Co.

30 September 2015


"Waiting for the Alverene"
Carrie Hammond and Charlie Hammond,
Crane Islanders in Old Bob,
Pole Pass, San Juan Archipelago, 1923.

The Alverene
Built in Everett, WA, by A. J. Goulette for
Captain J.H. Prather in 1912.

Here operated by the well-known Capt. Kasch,
detail from 8" x 10" undated photo.
Original from the archives of the S.P.H.S©

The pioneer navigator, William H. Kasch, "Capt. Bill" (as he was affectionately called), the owner of Kasch Navigation Co, bought his first boat in 1901, to haul freight and mail to Friday Harbor, between towing jobs. He found business was so good, he formed the Inter-Island Navigation Co in 1913. After the war Kasch returned to his inter-island business to sell the slow, old Georgia and purchased the Alverene, that quickly became a very popular boat among his many island and Bellingham patrons.
      Following the death of "Captain Bill" in 1927, his wife, Adelaide, continued to operate the fine steamer for several years.
Age 40 years ... Going out ablaze.
The Alverene seen here at the Fremont Boat Co
was chosen for the annual ship burning ritual to take
place on Elliott Bay, part of the Seafair celebration.
 Seattle, WA, July 1952.
Yukon Club members, the Crenshaws, and the Jeffersons,
are helping with the preparations. Tug Skookum was
scheduled to tow the Alverene to the firemen, while the
 city fireboat, Duwamish, would be standing by.

Photographer unknown. Original from the files of  S.P.H.S.©

24 September 2015

❖ TUGBOAT STUBBY born on Orcas Island in 1950 ❖

"Mississippi" Toler
With STUBBY working in the San Juan Islands,
Date between 1950 & 1982.
Courtesy of Deer Harbor's Cliff Thompson,

supporter of saving the maritime history of SJC.
Stubby was built by boatbuilder, Chet North, in Deer Harbor, Orcas Island, for Bill "Mississippi" Toler. She was put in the lumber trade in the San Juan Islands as a boom boat in 1950. Stubby had 1 1/8" fir planking covered with 3/4" Ironbark. 
      In 1982 Stubby was purchased by the Fremont Tugboat Company of Seattle. According to Wooden Boat magazine she was renamed Spanner and added to the company's growing fleet. 
      Spanner was recaulked, refastened and repowered with a 60-HP Gray Lugger, that turned a 22 x 21" propeller through a 3:1 reduction gear. A new house was installed. Designer for the rebuilding was Lewis B. Nasmyth, mechanical work was done by Bill Francis, and the shipwright was Steve Humphries. 
      The tug was in dry storage in Anacortes, prior to her recent purchase and a survey revealed that no planking or frames had to be removed because of dry rot, although the rest of the vessel had deteriorated beyond repair. The 24-ft work boat joined five other tugs in the fleet of Fremont Tugboat Company.
Source of text data: Wooden Boat magazine, Jan/Feb 1983.

16 September 2015

❖ The Good Ship TACOMA ❖

Built Seattle 1913.
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
We can't call her a "regular" to San Juan County, but the Tacoma was seen in our waters when she brought 1,000 excursionists* to see the sights of San Juan Island in the summer of 1933. Here is a little of her days of old, as she goes down in the logbook of SJC maritime history.
Highwater Mark of Steamboating
text by Roland Carey
The steamer Tacoma was the fastest vessel of her class ever to turn a wheel in the waters of Puget Sound. Designed especially to speed passenger service between Seattle and Tacoma, the steel, express steamer logged more than 1,200,000 miles over that route in 18 years, making four round trips a day, as regular as clock work.      
      The long, low racy-appearing vessel was built at the old Seattle Construction and Dry Dock Co (SCDDC) in 1913, the fifth in a series of steel steamers built at that yard for the Inland Navigation Co (INC). A subsidiary of the Puget Sound Navigation Co (PSNC), the INC, headed by Joshua Green, controlled the largest fleet of steamers on Puget Sound. The Tacoma was intended to be the largest, finest, and fastest vessel in the fleet. Her designers succeeded to such an extent superlatives described the Tacoma from the days she was launched, until she made her last trip on the route in 1930.
      The speed of the vessel was guaranteed by a provision in the builder's contract. The contract provided for a test run, and the steamer was to cruise at 20 knots before she could be accepted by INC. It is something of a tribute to C.H. Hinericks, chief draftsman of the SCDDC, that the job could be taken in those days, under such conditions.
      On 3 May 1913, the day of the launching, a group of 500  people arrived on the Indianapolis from the city for which the Tacoma was named. 
      The vessel was so nearly complete that she already had steam up, as the launching party took their places. A steady pounding could be heard beneath the craft, as workmen cleared away the last blocks. At 3:30 PM, the "all clear" signal was given. The pounding stopped, and only two turns of the jackscrew set the steamer in motion. At that moment, young sponsor, Florence Lister swung the red, white, and blue beribboned bottle of champagne. "I christen the Tacoma," she said as the bottle shattered upon the steel bow.
      A clear, deep blast of the Tacoma's own whistle signaled the start of her trip down the ways. The whistles of tugs and steamers in the bay then joined in a long salute. Aerial bombs were shot (please click read more)

14 September 2015

❖ Schooner C.S. HOLMES towing in with Furs, Ivory and Fossils, Eighty Years Ago ❖

Schooner C. S. HOLMES,
Captain John Backland,
Towing into port of Seattle from the Arctic.
Photograph dated, September 1935.

Photographer unknown. Original from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
"Laden with a cargo of furs, ivory and whalebone, as well as museum pieces, including bird eggs, and fossil remains, the veteran trading schooner, C. S. HOLMES arrives home.The vessel was the sole source of supplies and contact with the outside world for natives and trappers along the bleak Alaskan coast." 
Text from the Seattle Times, 9/1935