Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Emmett Hunt Diary - Wednesday November 13, 1889

Cloudy and cool.  Arose at 2 A.M. and ran out to the works then came back and towed 14 logs from Robb's to drawbridge - nothing more.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Emmett Hunt Diary - Wednesday November 6, 1889

Fine clear day.  Arose at 7 and pulled the Collyer scow to town against the tide arriving too late to do anything but simply tie up and then wait............................up in the arms of sweet Marphins while the enchanting moonlight is gliding the surrounding scenery.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 8, 2018



Our recent weather which plans on sticking around for a few more weeks makes me, and perhaps you, long for the “picnic days”.   I hope you enjoy picnicking vicariously through this article.
The family and neighbors of Frederick Pfundt gathered for a picnic, 

“Vacation as always!” urged an editorial in Gig Harbor’s Bay Island News during the wartime summer of 1918.  Its writer protested the poor advice of those who told people not to take time off so the nation could continue throwing its entire strength into the War for Liberty.

People of the Peninsula had known from the start that vacation country is just outside their own doors.  So, while envious Tacomans discussed in print how to acquire Gig Harbor’s waterfront beauty for themselves and while the local editorial discussed the patriotic value of going away — to mountain, plain or forest — people around here did what they always had done.  They went on a picnic.
Swimming in the water tank at the Samuelson farm.

A picnic two generations ago was the cheapest thing folks could do.  It promised quick relief from daily labor and it usually turned into even more fun, camping.  Always a special event no matter how often it happened, a picnic and a camping trip often were the same thing.  The best place to go for either was a favorite beach not very far away.

Individuals who recall those days of simple freedom comment now in wonder at how, when they lacked special equipment and transportation was so awkward and slow, people slipped away to enjoy the outdoors far more often than they seem to now.  

A picnic-camping spot was reached by rowboat, horse and wagon, steam boat, Model T or a combination of those means.  Sometimes a rowboat could be rented from a dock store-owner to continue to a nearby island.  Local, water-wise teenagers in groups of boys or girls took the family rowboat out alone to camp, sometimes taking along little brothers or sisters.  No one worried for their safety.  Mom and Grandma might take the kids in a horse and buggy to seek out a quiet sandpit to get away for a night or two from the work that never seemed to get done.  

Entire families, with all the kids, lots of relatives and neighbors, would pay passage on a steam launch to get to a favorite beach for a holiday.  The captains of those launches gave free rides (of course) when the picnic was their own idea.  Visiting, talking with persons one didn’t see every day, was rewarding entertainment.  Someone was sure to bring along a musical instrument.

Some campers took tenting canvas but many preferred the shelter of overhanging boughs.  Nearly everyone avoided awkward, folding Army cots and very few used sleeping bags.  Most campers just rolled up in a blanket and sleep in the sand.  It was part of the novelty.  If there were hazards like rain, sand fleas or jumping mice, no one remembers them.

Anywhere near the water, was the best place to be when the sun was shining.  Folks didn’t wait for the Fourth of July for a picnic, going out as early and as late in the season as they could seize good weather.  Peninsula beaches, even if inhabited, were open to those who wished to enjoy them.  One could trade off with a neighbor for help with the chores, row somewhere for a day and maybe stay for three.  For food to last over, many residents often took a variety of things:  a chocolate cake, fried chicken, a crock of baked beans, coffee and a tin pail to boil it in, potatoes cooked or raw, the makings for ice cream and dill pickles.
Swimming at Warren Dock, Fox Island

Making ice cream on a beach in mid-summer without technological help to keep the ice was simple, if one planned ahead.  When the Joseph Cherry family in Rosedale got together for its annual outing, Grandpa Cherry traveled to Tacoma by steamer to buy 50 pounds of ice.  Carrying it wrapped in newspaper, he brought it back on the boat’s return run, drove 12 miles from the landing by horse and buggy to Cherry Point, where the waiting picnickers had times their gathering for his arrival.  Out of the ice that was left he could get two or three mixes of ice cream, enough for everyone if the kids didn’t take more than their share.

In a day when Gig Harbor’s young adults thought nothing of spending a summer Sunday afternoon rowing across the Narrows to buy an ice cream soda and visit the city, Point Defiance Park frequently was the scene of Sunday School and graduation picnics, as well as the customary Independence Day celebrations.

Horseshoe Lake was closer and immensely popular after its opening on July 4, 1917.  Presently owned by Kitsap County, it originally was opened under the ownership of the Ostrom family.  Its dance pavillon always was crowded even on weekend afternoons.  Its ball park and the boating, bathing, picnicking and fishing it offered, along with Mrs. Ostrom’s home-cooked meals, were attractive to families and clubs of the Peninsula.
The Opening Day at Horseshoe Lake

Handy for those who lived close to town were the Sunrise Beach and Point Richmond areas.  School class picnics frequently were held at Point Fosdick.  A beach called The Maples on Harstine Island was a favorite, as were Raft and Deadman’s (Cutts) Islands, all visited regularly by steamer-loads of excursionists and rowboats full of area residents.

Out-of-towners came to camp with friends and relatives in the Rosedale neighborhood, and one person once stayed a month digging geoducks on the outside shore of Raft Island during exceptionally low tides.

People who lived with wind and tides are accustomed to the unexpected — sometimes their outings became longer than planned.  In August 1917, a Gig Harbor family named Naters, says a dusty newspaper’s front page, “went fishing in their rowboat down the West Passage towards Seattle.”

“A noon they enjoyed a fish fry at the north end of Vashon Island and after dinner they decided to complete their journey around the island.  After rowing until dark, they found the tide and wind too much to row against and camped a few hours on the island until a change of tide.  They arrived home after midnight learning that Vashon Island is much larger than they had imaged.”

Now, are you ready to fix that picnic lunch, or dinner, spread the newspapers down and picnic in your living room?  Or maybe, just maybe, on your porch?  Bon app├ętit!

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Emmett Hunt Diary - Wednesday October 30, 1889

Fair but windy.  Lay around till noon then took a load of freight out to Wollochet Bay for Lathrop and returned to the corral and tied up.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Emmett Hunt Diary - Wednesday October 23, 1889

Nice sunny day.  No work so we paint our hurricane deck and be around and prospect.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Nick Skansi Legacy The End of an Era (Out of the Past by Lee Makovich) Fisherman’s News - July 2004

The Nick Skansi Legacy
The End of an Era
(Out of the Past by Lee Makovich)
Fisherman’s News - July 2004

I would like to take this opportunity to recall some of the adventures, both good and not so good, of a man who probably never caught a fish commercially in his entire life.  That may be true, but this same man carried literally hundreds of thousands of them aboard several of his commercial vessels over the years.  The late Nick Skansi, of Gig Harbor, Washington, was a man who elevated the idea of diversification for his vessels to a new level.  And I have two objectives in writing this story at this specific time.

To begin with, I have always admired the ingenuity and the resolve which was displayed during this man’s tenure in the industry.  Nick Skansi was a pioneer in the fish packing business on Puget Sound and a person who narrowly escaped a fiery death aboard on of his commercial vessels.  That near disastrous event is discussed later in this story.  Additionally, Nick’s grandson, life-long commercial fisherman, Gary Crosby, passed away just a few weeks ago at the young age of 51, just days before his 52nd birthday.  Gary was a great guy and it is a comfort to me to write this story about his grandfather and his family.  A brief account of Gary’s life and his involvement in the commercial fishing industry also appears in this issue of Fishermen’s Nerws (see page 11).

Nick Skansi began buying and packing salmon in the early teens when he purchased the 52’ packer Hioma from her original owner: H. O. Benedict.  Benedict had the trap tender style vessel built at the Kirk and Lake Shipyard at Seattle in 1907.  Nick operated the Him for several years and it is believed that he ran several other tenders in the early years as well.  The Hioma was eventually sold and in 1919, Nick and his brother John went into partnership on a brand new commercial vessel.  She was one of the seven purse seiners built by the Skansie Shipyard at Gig Harbor, Washington, in 1919, and she was named Companion. The trim beauty was the last of the seven classic wooden vessels built at the shipyard that year.

The new vessel’s owners, Nick and John Skansi, were cousins of the shipyard owner Mitchell Skansie.  And the difference in the spelling of those last names is not a typo; there was a slight variation in the last names of the cousins.  The Companion was 62’ in length and she was powered by a 60 H.P. Enterprise gas engine.  The Enterprise was truly a great machine for it’s time.  The Companion was not unlike any of the other purse seiner-style vessels of that era.  She was well designed and well constructed, a trim beauty with pleasing lines and a graceful appearance.  After he launching in 1919, the Companion’s livelihood represented a significant departure from that of her sister seiners in Puget Sound and elsewhere.

Although the Companion was designed and built as a purse seiner, she would never be employed to catch even a single fish.  John and Nick Skansi decided to work the Companion as a freight vessel to begin with, carrying various goods including strawberries, vegetables, live chickens and other commodities.  The Companion traveled from Olalla, Washington, and several other small communities in the lower Puget Sound, to Tacoma or Seattle.  She also carried various supplies and other merchandise to those same communities on her return trips from the ;larger cities.

It is my understanding that the Companion was also occasionally used as a salmon tender during the fall salmon season in the first year or so after her launching.  Carrying berries and vegetables aboard the Companion was primarily a simple and routine undertaking.  No, there wasn’t anything to be too concerned about in pursuing that activity. But carrying chickens aboard a boat could prove rather  interesting at times.  

The late Gerald Crosby, Nick Skansi’s son-in-law, remembered helping out aboard the Companion  when he was a very young man.  “We were hauling a bunch of chickens on the boat from Olalla to Seattle one day when we got into some choppy water,” Crosby recalled.  “Before long, we noticed that all the chickens got seasick and they began staggering around and falling down.  They were behaving like they had a few too many to drink.  It was quite a sight to behold, but as soon as we got in calmer water, they were okay again.”
Gerald Crosby

The freight hauling business was going quite well, but the Skansi’s (sic) were eager to expand their maritime activities.  In the winter of 1921, yet another non-fishing related adventure was taken on by the Companion and her owners when a second cabin was added near the stern of the vessel.  The new cabin provided an additional area of seating, both inside the cabin and on top, and on April 30, 1921, the Companion was issued a license to carry passengers.

The Companion was truly a versatile vessel now.  In addition to carrying freight and commodities to various Puget Sound communities, she was also employed to transport local passengers as well.  The Companion carried men, women and children from here to there and back again in complete safety.  John and Nick were pleased that everything was going along extremely well.  But on a cold and wintry afternoon in 1925, the fortunes of the Companion and one of her owners encountered a dramatic and disastrous turn of events.

Nick Skansi and one of his crewmen were alone aboard the Companion that day, drifting along near Olalla, Washington, in Colvos Passage.  It is believed that the men may have been waiting on the tide to pull alongside a dock to load a variety of freight aboard the vessel.  As it turned out, it was extremely fortunate that there were just the two men aboard the boat on that particular day.  It was just a few days after Christmas that year; the date was December 30, 1925.  There was an oil stove aboard the Companion which was situated in the small galley below the bow deck.  It was late in the day and it was getting colder aboard the Companion.

Nick decided he would fire up the oil stove and warm things up a bit.  But he had no idea how warm things would get in just a few minutes.  Intending to light the oil stove, Nick went into the nearby engine room and picked up a container which he believed contained kerosene or stove oil.  A little shot of oil injected directly in to the fire box area of the stove would help to get it going very quickly.  A serious problem occurred at this point as Nick mistakenly picked up the wrong container.  It was a monumental mistake.  The container he picked up was not filled with stove oil, rather it held gasoline which was sometimes used for priming the Enterprise engine.

Anyone who has ever used just a few drops of gasoline to help get a fire started while burning leaves or yard debris at home for example can imagine what an impact a can of gasoline being poured into an oil stove might have.  When Nick began to pour the liquid fuel into the stove, it was as if the earth had exploded.  There was a tremendous flash of fire everywhere and Nick was engulfed in flames.  He somehow managed to get up on deck and miraculously, although his clothing was still smoldering, they were no longer on fire.  Unfortunately, however, there was no question that Nick Skansi was seriously hurt.

Pioneer purse seine skipper Egil Peterson was nearby with the purse seiner St. John, probably fishing for “bright dog” salmon in Colvos Passage at that time of the year.  Peterson saw and heard the explosion and he immediately rushed his fishing boat to the aid of the stricken Companion.  The fire aboard the Companion was out of control by this time and there was no opportunity to try and save the burning vessel.  I was told that an anchor connected to a heavy chain attached to the bow of the Companion was tossed overboard to hold her in position off the Olalla shore.

Peterson and his men got Nick and his crewman aboard the St. John and headed the vessel for Point Defiance Park in Tacoma at full-speed.  With the lack of any means of radio communication in those  early days, Peterson felt that the dock at Point Defiance Pavillion at Tacoma was the nearest location to secure medical help for Nick.  Peterson reasoned that there would be ample opportunity to quickly secure an ambulance there to transport Nick to a Tacoma hospital.

It was evening by the time the little St. John arrived at Tacoma.  And an almost unbelievable and terribly serious problem arose when they arrived at the Point Defiance pier.  The men soon learned that getting Nick to a hospital would prove to be an extremely difficult task.  That very same evening, just a short time before the men arrived at the dock; there had been a massive trolley accident in Tacoma with scores of serious injuries and many fatalities.  Every available ambulance or taxi cab, along with practically every other vehicle in Tacoma, was being used to assist in transporting those who were injured in the trolley accident to local hospitals.  It was a state of mass confusion in Tacoma that night and consequently, there was not a single ambulance available for Nick Skansie even though he was in serious condition.

Captain Egil Peterson was a true hero in everyone’s eyes that evening.  He absolutely would not give up.  He was going to find a way to get Nick Skansi to a local hospital, one way or the other.  Peterson left the dock area and miraculously, it seems, he was able to flag down a speeding taxi cab which was traveling through the area.  Peterson was able to convince the cab driver of the dire situation concerning the injuries that Nick Skansi suffered.

With great difficulty, the men managed to get Nick into the taxi cab and rushed him to a local hospital.  Of course there was utter chaos at all of the hospitals that night because of the trolley wreck.  But Nick’s injuries were nevertheless attended to rather quickly.  Nick suffered multiple burns and even though he was seriously injured, it was determined that with the proper medical attention, he would survive and recover.

Nick’s daughter, the late Bernice Crosby, was a young teen aged girl at the time the accident occurred aboard the Companion.  “When my dad got home from the hospital,” Bernice recalled, “his face was still blackened from his exposure  to the fire.  I remember him saying that because the explosion had occurred on a blustery winter day, he had decided to wear long underwear under his putter clothing.  And that may very well have saved his life.  My dad also wore eye glasses and he felt quite certain that because of the glasses, his eyesight was not harmed in any way.”
Clarence E. Shaw's Racing Roosters - The Roosterettes L-R:  Garnet West, Amy Borgen Riser; Bernice Skansi Crosby (4th girl not identified)

Nick Skansi survived the explosion and fire with no permanent injuries; the same could not be said of the versatile Companion.  Just six years after she was launched, the beautiful little seiner that never caught a fish burned to the waterline that day near Olalla, Washington.  Her charred and twisted remains struggled against the inevitable for a moment or two, I was told, and then she silently slipped beneath the surface and went to the bottom.  The Companion was no more.

With the loss of the Companion, Nick Skansi and his brother John ended their partnership in commercial vessel ownership and Nick continued in the maritime industry on his own.  I believe that it is reasonable to assume that after the near tragedy aboard the Companion, many a lesser man may have well decided to seek another profession which did not involve commercial vessels powered by volatile gasoline engines.  But Nick Skansi was not in any way a man lacking in resolve and determination.  Undaunted by the dreadful experience that he had gone through just a short time earlier, Nick purchased the packer Genius from the Babich family in early 1926.  Yes, the Genius was powered by a gas engine, too, in this case, a 50 h.p. Frisco Standard.  

The Genius was also a Skansie Shipyard built vessel, launch a year later than the Companion in 1920.  Before long, Nick was back in the freight business again, hauling berries, chickens and miscellaneous freight all over the lower Puget Sound.  But he never ventured into the passenger-carrying trade again.  in a short time, Nick curtailed much of the freight hauling activities he was involved in and concentrated his efforts in fish packing and tendering on Puget Sound.  He became involved in buying fish for the Friday Harbor Canning Company during the summer seasons and he also purchased salmon on behalf of several fresh fish markets in Seattle during the fall.

Nick’s association with Friday Harbor Canning Company continued for the remainder of his career.  During the 1930s and for many years before, I doubt there was a fisherman anywhere on Puget Sound who didn’t know who Nick Skansi was.  And his packer Genius was one of the most familiar sights around the San Juan Islands every summer.  The Genius could be seen loading salmon aboard every evening, in Griffin Bay or off Eagle Point at the Salmon Banks.  And Nick would have that old Frisco Standard gas engine banging away below as the Genius traveled to and from the cannery in Friday Harbor.

Nick Skansi passed away in 1939 and his son-in-law, the late Gerald Crosby, took over the operation of the famous packer Genius.  Crosby continued to employ the Genius as a tender for decades until she was eventually converted to a power block purse seiner many years later.  As mentioned earlier, Nick’s Companion was just lost six years after her launching, nearly taking Nick to his grave with her.  But his good old Genius can still be seen at Roche Harbor in the San Juan Islands, still going strong, over 84 years after she slid down the ways and into the calm waters of Gig Harbor Bay.

Gary Crosby’s passing marks the end of an era in the commercial fishing industry for Nick Skansi’s family.  Nick prospered in every adventure he became involved in.  From transporting passengers and chickens to packing salmon.  Nick Skansi was a true surviver.  He proved that on December 30, 1925, when he endured a fiery explosion aboard his trusty Companion.  Nick, Gerald and Gary are all gone now, but their imprint on the fishing industry will long be remembered.  They were each a part of the Nick Skansi legacy and the end of an era.


© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Emmett Hunt Diary - Wednesday October 16, 1889

Just as fine.  Arose somewhat late and ....down to the works to find the Harry Lynn just ahead of us with our scow so pull on to town and tear down the port engine for repairs - a broken stud.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.