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


About Us

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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.

31 October, 2014

☠ ☠ DEATH SHIP 1971

Norwegian Death ship heading to drydock.
METEOR, near Vancouver, B.C.
32 crew members died in a fire on board
May 1971

Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©

"A tragic marine disaster in Pacific Northwest water was the sudden fire which swept the Norwegian cruise liner METEOR during the early morning hours of 22 May 1971, claiming the lives of 32 crew members.
      The METEOR, a 297-ft motor liner of 2,856 gross tons, built in 1955, had arrived only recently as the first Scandinavian vessel to enter the increasingly popular British Columbia-Alaska cruise trade, with North Land Tours of Seattle as general agents. She was returning from one of her first cruises to the north, carrying only 67 passengers and a crew of 91 when the flash fire broke out below decks forward in the crew area as she was passing Texada Island in the Strait of Georgia, only 60 miles from Vancouver. The flames spread with such incredible rapidity that the 32 victims were trapped below decks and burned or suffocated to death in a matter of minutes. There was little or no apparent exterior damage to the ship.
      The METEOR broadcast a mayday call on VHF Ch 6, but not on the international distress frequency, which is the only one required by law to be monitored by other vessels. Fortunately, the Alaska State ferry MALASPINA, which was in the immediate vicinity, was monitoring both channels and responded quickly to the call, as did Northland Navigation's motor vessel ISLAND PRINCE and the coastal tanker B.C. STANDARD, and several smaller craft. Using boats fro the METEOR and MALASPINA, all passengers and four injured crew members were taken aboard the ferry and returned to Vancouver. Most of the passengers were still in nightclothes, so sudden was the disaster and subsequent evacuation of the liner. All of them were united in their praise of the METEOR's surviving crew for their efficiency in fighting the fire and in awakening and evacuating the passengers safely.
Survivors of fire aboard the cruise ship METEOR.
22 May 1971.
Near Vancouver, BC.

Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
The Can. Coast Guard cutters RACER and READY and salvage tug SUDBURY II stood by the METEOR playing hoses on the fire until it was under control, after which the Norwegian vessel reached Vancouver under her own power, although listing about 15 degrees to starboard.
      At the subsequent investigation, Capt. Alf Morner, the METEOR's master, told a grisly story of men 'crawling like animals' through smoke-filled corridors in an attempt to save trapped crew members in the forward section. His voice cracked by sobs, Capt. Morner told an inquest jury at Vancouver he led a small party of men into the fire areas shortly after the fire broke out. He said he shook some bodies he came across and was shocked to learn they were dead because they had not been burned. A Norwegian investigating commission attributed the fire to negligence on the part of one of the crew members, probably through careless disposal of a cigarette.* Apparently the negligent seaman was one of those who died in the fire.
      Capt. John A. Boden, the Canadian pilot who was aboard the METEOR at the time of the fire, testified that the firefighting efforts of the surviving members of the crew and the work of the two Can. Coast Guard cutters saved the ship from total loss. Capt. Harold Payne, in command of the MALASPINA at the time of the rescue, was subsequently given an award of commendation by Governor William A. Egan of Alaska for him and his crew.

*John Clark, the ship's second engineer, testified that he believed the tragic episode was caused by a misplaced cigarette that may have fallen off a table and set fire to something flammable, spreading to the heavily varnished woodwork. He reasoned that if varnish is heated sufficiently it will ignite, which Clark said would account for the incredible speed with which the fire spread to the crews' quarters on the lower decks."
The above quote from the H. W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest 1966 to 1976, pg. 104-105.

METEOR, Seattle, WA., 1970
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
The Norwegian cruise ship METEOR docked at Pier 48, Seattle, WA., May 1970, one year before her tragic fire. She was owned by the Bergen Lines, the first Scandinavian ship in the trade on the West coast.

30 October, 2014

Square Rigger GREAT ADMIRAL Lost

Eric A. Pousard, Winslow, Bainbridge Island, WA.
Survivor of the wreck of the full rigged ship
the GREAT ADMIRAL, lost 6 December 1906.

Low-res scan of original '49 photo from  archives of the S. P. H. S.©

"The story of the loss of the GREAT ADMIRAL, square-rigger, which linked world ports in the days of sail, was told yesterday by Eric A. Pousard, Winslow, business man, a member of the famous vessel, who clung to wreckage until rescued.
      In the office of McGinitie & McDonald, marine surveyors, Pousard saw a picture of the GREAT ADMIRAL on the wall.
      'That's my old ship,' he said as his face lighted up and his eyes sparkled. 'That picture takes me back more than 40 years to 6 December 1906, when the GREAT ADMIRAL foundered 175 miles southwest of Cape Flattery.
      'Capt. E. R. Sterling of Seattle, famous sailing ship skipper, was master and owner of the GREAT ADMIRAL. We had sailed the square-rigger to South Africa, Australia, Hawaii, Mexico, and Alaska, but she was lost while bound from Mukilteo for San Pedro with a cargo of lumber.
      It was in November 1906. We towed from Mukilteo to Pt. Townsend, cleared at the custom house and left in the evening of 30 November for sea.
      Arriving at Cape Flattery 1 December in the afternoon, we passed out in light southwest winds and fine weather. Approximately 150 miles southwest of the Cape, we sighted the British sailing ship BARCORE. After we had shown the lime-juicer our heels, the barometer dropped rapidly and we were in for a dusting. As the gale came up, Capt. Sterling ordered the canvas shortened and soon we were down to three sails.
      As the wind reached high velocity, huge seas swept over the ship as if she were a submerged rock. Water came in under the forecastle head and under the terrific pounding the GREAT ADMIRAL began to break up. The masts were lifted out of the ship and the poop deck went overboard, with Captain Sterling and the crew, 18 men all told, clinging to it.
      Then the poop deck broke in two, the two pieces drifting apart and then drifting together again. We clung to the piece we thought would last the longest.
      For two days we were adrift on the wreckage. The cook and the cabin boy became so exhausted that they were unable to cling to the wreckage and were washed away.
      Finally the BARCORE, the British ship we had passed, hove in sight and took us aboard. She was bound for Honolulu, so when we sighted the ship ANDREW WELLS, off the CA coast, we asked to be transferred to that vessel. The WELLS landed up in San Francisco 9 December 1906.
      Wreckage from the GREAT ADMIRAL drifted ashore at Queen Charlotte Island, [B.C.] two years later.'
      The GREAT ADMIRAL was built in 1869 by Robert E. Jackson at East Boston for William F. Weld & Co., who at that time had the largest sailing fleet under the American flag. Her figurehead was a life-sized image of Admiral Farragut and still is preserved on the Weld estate near Boston."
The Seattle Times, 5 June 1949

According to his obituary, Mr. Pousard, a native of Sweden, came to the US in 1906. He was a dockmaster at Hall Bros. Shipyard for many years. He passed away in 1960. 


24 October, 2014

Keep Laughing Jack

photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
In September 1957, the C. A. THAYER sailed from Seattle to San Francisco to assume her new role as a museum ship, at her destination. She was commanded by Seattleite Captain Adrian Raynaud with Jack Dickerhoff as First Mate. The balance of the crew consisted of ship buffs with experience varying from considerable to nil.

The author of the below essay, Gordon Jones, signed on as Ship's Carpenter and wrote of First Mate Dickerhoff from his observations on that trip.

"We're in tough shape––a dozen greenhorns booming along in the pitch black of a rainy, rainy night in a three-masted, ex-lumber schooner somewhere off the coast of northern CA. The 60-mile gale carried with it the worst rainstorm in 18 years. Our vessel was 62 years old––had spent the last few years on a beach up in Puget Sound as a 'pirate' ship, luring unsuspecting tourists aboard for a fee. No––she would never sail again.
Jack Dickerhoff,
Mate for this passage on the THAYER
      But she did sail again, and 'smiling Jack' Dickerhoff held the deck that night, booming out loud and clear, 'there'll be only one man giving orders here.' First Mate Dickerhoff represented the last remnant  of deepwater sail; his foghorn voice could be heard from the poop to the foc'sle head, typical of the breed of men who coursed the globe under sail in the last century. Without Jack we might never have cleared the coast that dark night, for the small handful f experienced wind sailors aboard were hard put to wear the shop away from the land and out of danger.
      But Dickerhoff had lived the scene before, in years past in other windjammers––MOSHULU, HENRIETTA, MELROSE, LOTTIE BENNETT, CAMANO, CENTENNIAL, LIZZIE VANCE, and ALERT. And those experiences were ingrained, were indeed, responsible for the crows feet at the eyes, the fearing respect for the sea, and its unpredictable moods and its tremendous forces. And they had tempered the man to value thoroughness and pride in one's work far above speedy but slipshod performances.
      Yes, with 'smilin' Jack' in charge of he deck that night, we came through bruised, wet, and thoroughly exhausted. But we came through, for he showed us the way.
      And then there were three other nights at sea, when the wind was fair and stars were out in a warm, clear sky. Our vessel almost sailed herself, the huge fore-and-after drawing quietly and powerfully, pushing us on toward San Francisco.

14 October, 2014

McConnell Island

McConnell Island, SJC, on left.
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
"This was the home of a family with the dubious distinction of being smugglers.
      Commander Wilkes had named the charming segment of land Brown Island in honor of 14 members of his crew with that surname. When the McConnell family took possession by squatting there in the 1880s their fame adhered to the place where they lived and it has been McConnell Island from then on.
      'You'll have to lock things up or McConnell will come,' was the saying around West Sound. McConnell had a reputation for helping himself to anything he needed, whether it was sack loads of fruit  from orchards or possessions left carelessly about.
      There were two sons and a daughter in the family. It is difficult to separate the legends and apply them to individuals, for some lived respectably.
      Kirk McLachlan remembered taking his horse to the island to help with some clearing. He entered the McConnell's boat house and saw it piled with boots and shoes. Next time he was there it was empty.
      Smuggling was done in both directions across the Canadian border, beginning about 1893. On a return trip the boats were reported to carry opium and whiskey, sugar, and wool.
      McLachlan recalled that one of the sons bought apples in the San Juans and sold them in British Columbia as produce of the Gulf Islands.
     'We had to be careful to keep our names off the boxes he bought on this account,' McLachlan said.
      More than once men of the family fell into the clutches of the law and served time. 'Old Man' McConnell apparently drowned near Oak Bay on Vancouver Island, the only trace left being his wrecked boat.
      McConnell Island in later years was acquired by Professor Thomas Thompson of the U of Washington's oceanography department."
Lucile McDonald. The Story of the San Juans.

––An earlier post by local mariner Skip Bold, writing about the next inhabitants of McConnell Island, can be viewed here.
––Jack Thompson, son of Professor Thomas Thompson, wrote about the steamboat he and his brother Tommy operated from their summer home on McConnell Island. Click here.


08 October, 2014

Flattie to SIR TOM ❖ ❖ ❖ ROY W. CORBETT

From 1905 to 1969, the Blanchard Boat Co of Seattle was renowned and respected for its well-built vessels, large and small, sail and power. Today hundreds of graceful Blanchard boats still ply the sounds and inlets of Washington, Alaska, and B.C.
      Norman C. Blanchard is the son of Norman J. Blanchard, founder of the firm; here follows one of his abridged stories he wrote for Knee Deep in Savings with Stephen Wilen; published by Horsdal & Schubert, Victoria. 1999.
R boat SIR TOM 
L-R: Andy Joy, Roy Corbett, J. Swift Baker, and
SYC Commodore Ted Geary, helmsman.
with 1930 crew after winning back the Lipton Trophy
at the P.I.Y.A. race at Cadboro Bay, Victoria, B.C.
These original photos from the archives of S.P.H.S.©

"Roy W. Corbett arrived in Seattle about 1920. I don't have any idea what brought him here. I don't think Roy even had a job when he got to Seattle, but within a short time he did find work selling Cadillacs. Just how he got hooked up with L. E. 'Ted' Geary and the SIR TOM gang is a mystery, because when he first arrived in Seattle Roy Corbett didn't know sickum about sailing or sailboats. Over time, though, he managed to become a pretty good sailor.
      My acquaintance with Roy was made when he was having his first sail with Geary on the SIR TOM. I think he thought Ted was going to buy a Cadillac from him, and I'm just as certain that Ted thought that Roy was going to have himself a yacht. They remained good friends for life. It was probably around 1921 or 1922, when this occurred, and I think that Capt. Griffiths' two sons, who had been part of SIR TOM 's crew, decided they were getting a little too old for the game. So in the summer of 1922 Roy Corbett crewed on SIR TOM, with Geary at the helm, and my dad, who was the foredeck man, Colin Radford, and one or two others.
      Now this was the time when the SIR TOM was being campaigned heavily. She always finished first, and her crew practiced very seriously right off our company dock. In time Roy became a very adept sailor and was the main sheet man on the SIR TOM under Geary, and later with Jack Graham at the helm.
Roy Corbett
Sailing a one-design Flattie, 1931,
designed by L. E. 'Ted' Geary.

Later called a Geary 18.
Photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

      Roy, to my knowledge, never sailed in any catboats, but, when Ted introduced the design for the Flattie, Roy was one of the first to put up the $150 and order one from my dad. I think that Roy mainly wanted the boat for their daughter, Mary Helen, to race. She became a pretty good sailor herself, and was the 1929 Seattle Yacht Club Flattie champion.
      Finally Roy bought a real boat from Geary, a Marconi-rigged ketch, c. 50-ft, built on speculation in CA. After C. W. Wiley died, Roy bought ALICE and renamed her MAHERO and won the SYC Opening Day Class A Race in 1932 and in 1937. Roy was commodore of the SYC in 1933, and active in the Barnacle Bill cruises that had been started by Bill Hedley. Roy kept the MAHERO until early in WW II when she was taken over by the Coast Guard."
Above text by Norman C. Blanchard
Roy Corbett's 30 square-meter, 9 August 1937.
Mary Helen placed among winners in the 1937 PIYA Regatta, Sea.

Source: Seattle Yacht Club 1892-1992. Warren, James R.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

04 October, 2014


Fifty South to Fifty South by Lieut. U.S.N.R. Warwick M. Tompkins, is a 1938 classic featuring the track of the well-known Schooner WANDER BIRD, published in 1938 by W. W. Norton and Co. A well-known vessel and a well known sailor/author; a number of the same book kept disappearing from S. P. H. S. members bookshelves. Innocently sailing off.
      So with another copy warmly welcomed home, we'll celebrate with a quote from Tompkins' glossary from his book, pg 256.

"A term properly applied to the very beautiful, very fine, fast and over-sparred ships built in the U. S. between 1850 and 1859 and some of their British prototypes of later date (like CUTTY SARK, built in 1869) that carried the rarest cargoes at the high freights demanded by high speed. Such square-rigged ships as survive today are rather floating warehouses supplying long-term storage as well as transportation, and are loosely termed clippers only by very unpoetic license."
endpaper from Clipper Ship Captain
Daniel McLaughlin and the GLORY OF THE SEAS

by Michael Jay Mjelde. 

An example of a medium clipper ship sailing Puget Sound was the GLORY OF THE SEAS, 240.2 x 44.1 x 28.3 feet and 2,102.57 gross tons, the last full-rigged ship built by Donald McKay of East Boston, registered at Boston.
click to enlarge.

      The above artwork by Ronald R. Burke, editor of The Sea Chest published by Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, along with Michael Jay Mjelde, an honorary life-member, accompanies Mjelde's most recent article on GLORY OF THE SEAS. 
      A cover painting of the clipper GLORY by Mark Myers RSMA, F/ASMA with 16 pages of her last voyage under sail is featured in the Sept. 2014 issue of the quarterly members journal. P.S.M.H.S. site has information on signing on as a member, and an index for purchasing past issues of The Sea Chest.

What Michael Mjelde doesn't know about this clipper ship is not worth knowing. 
His published books are:
Glory of the Seas, Mystic Seaport Museum/ Wesleyan University Press. 1970. Re-issue in 2000.
Clipper Ship Captain, Daniel McLaughlin and the Glory of the Seas. 1997.

      The clipper ship GLORY OF THE SEAS ended her days burned for her metal fittings on a gravel beach, just south of Seattle, 13 May 1923. 

17 September, 2014


One of the most visited posts on this Log is an abridged biography of M. Wylie 'Capi' Blanchet by author Edith Iglauer Daly, with permission from the publisher, Harbor Publishing. Link to post

Today we are updated by Allison Hart Lengyel with a review of the audio version of Blanchet's The Curve of Time, published by Post Hypnotic Press. This is Lengyel's fourth review for Saltwater People Historical Society; book reviews are easily accessed by viewing the search labels at the bottom of the Log.

I’m just a wild sea gypsy
Born of the wind spray
Restless of all that would hold me
Bidding me come and stay.

Safe in my heart I kept my dreams
And laughed the hard years through
Now before your eyes I bring them out
Softly uncover and spread them to view. 

-M. Wylie Blanchet

Wylie Blanchet turned many actual summers into a narrative of one apparent long season spent motoring about the Canadian Pacific Gulf Islands with five children, and sometimes a dog, in the family’s 25’ cedar cruiser. She and her husband had bought the boat together sometime after they came west from Toronto to British Columbia in 1921. But he went out on a solo trip one day in 1927 and disappeared; the boat was found bobbing off Knapp Island, without a captain.  It was not without a captain for long, as Blanchet surprised her eastern relations by choosing both to keep the boat and to remain in BC, home-schooling her children during the year in the little house they’d bought on Curteis Point, near Sidney on Vancouver Island, and spending June to October free and independent, exploring the inland sea’s island- and inlet-strewn waters. 

To pull off this feat of self-reliance, Blanchet had to be an able diagnostician of marine mechanical and electrical problems, ready to improvise with what was at hand or to make do, while mindful of the weather, the currents, the winds, and safe spots to anchor. A boat of that size—the Caprice’s beam was only 6’ 1/2’’—couldn’t hold enough food and water for six people for five months, so the family learned the locations of reliable freshwater waterfalls and streams and sources and seasons for forage food (huckleberries, thimble berries, trout, salmon, clams, crabs, apples). In the 1930s and 1940s, when the family’s travels took place, there were a few isolated outposts, points of civilization, where mail and replacement parts could be forwarded; fuel, matches, batteries, and coffee purchased. Blanchet also administered the family’s first aid and protected them all from black bears, cougars, and a few shady human characters met along the way. Most of the people the family encountered were friendly, harmless recluses. And although it’s hard to imagine now, for the most part there were no marinas, no game wardens, and few evident rules about catch limits or private property. 
The book Blanchet wrote in 1961 is now available in audio format, narrated by voice actor Heather Henderson, with a forward by Timothy Egan. Henderson does a good job of conveying Blanchet’s no-nonsense demeanor. As captain of her little boat and crew (a role that earned her the lifelong nickname “Capi”)—and often the only adult around for many miles—Blanchet had to be unflappable and accomplished in multiple practical skills. Yet lucky for her family—and for the audience of her story—she had a philosophical, poetic side, intensely curious about the natural world and full of insights linking this water world of dense trees and fog with the greater world of literature and ideas. 

My only criticism of the audio book—and this is a small one—is that Henderson lacks any sort of Canadian accent. Blanchet, born in 1891 in Lachine, Québec, surely would have had one. Henderson’s characterization of the children’s voices is also perhaps a bit unrealistic--the way someone who had never spent summers on a boat with small children might imagine them. [Full disclosure: this reviewer has three school-age children and a boat.] On the plus side, Henderson’s narrative is easy to understand, with careful elocution and unambiguous phrasing.

The title of the book comes from the writing of Belgian Maurice Maeterlinck, who compared time to a curve, from the apex of which one can see the past, the present, and the future. Blanchet had Maeterlinck aboard, as well as a copy of George Vancouver’s travel diary from his 18th-century voyages in the area. As the Blanchet family traveled about in apparent aimless wandering, spending long days swimming, drying their freshly washed clothes on the rocks, gathering berries and hiking, motoring down inlets and weathering storms, they were actually also following the  stops made by Vancouver and noting his observations along the way, visiting Indian villages and logging camps, noting the indigenous plants and animals, and learning the skills of navigation. 

Thanks to the motor car, Maeterlinck wrote in 1904, it has become possible for people to absorb “in one day, as many sights, as much landscape and sky, as would formerly have been granted to us in a whole lifetime” (Maeterlinck, “In an Automobile,” 1904). In similar fashion, touring the waters of the Gulf Islands in a motor boat, even a 25’ gas-powered cruiser, opened up a wide world of experience to Blanchet and her family and allowed them to become deeply acquainted with a place formerly comprehended at the pace of dugout canoes, sail power, and the occasional steamship.

“When was that we had watched them? Yesterday? A hundred years ago? Or just somewhere on that Curve of Time? Farther and farther into that Past we slipped. Down winding tortuous byways—strewn with reefs, fringed with kelp. Now and then, out of pity for our propeller, we poled our way through the cool, green shallows—slipping over the pointed groups of great starfish, all purple and red and blue; turning aside the rock cod swimming with the lazy tails; making the minnows wheel and dart in among the sea grapes. In other stretches herons disputed our right-of-way with raucous cries, and bald-headed eagles stared silently from their dead tree perches. Once a mink shrieked and dropped his fish to flee, but turned to scream and defy us. Perhaps, as Peter suggested, he was a mother one. We turned into more open water, flanked with bigger islands, higher hills. ‘Mummy! Mummy! A whale!’ shouted Jan, and almost directly ahead of us a grey whale blew and dived. ‘Two whales! Two whales!’ shrieked the whole crew, as a great black killer whale rose in hot pursuit, his spar fin shining in the sun. He smacked the water with his great flanged tail and dived after his prey—both heading directly our way. We were safe behind a reef before they rose again.” (Blanchet, The Curve of Time, p.75-76)

Thanks to the audio version of Blanchet’s classic, The Curve of Time, we can now listen in on those long-ago summers, experiencing as Maeterlinck said, the “landscape and sky” of a whole lifetime, at the speed of a motor boat and our automobile.

The Curve of Time, M. Wylie Blanchet
Unabridged, 7 hours, 24 minutes
2014 Post Hypnotic Press, Canada