As a Shilshole Bay Yacht Club (SBYC) “old-timer”, I was asked to write a story on the history of the Chimacum and to correct several errors appearing in the SBYC Log. To begin, she was the Chimacum not Chimicum, there is no record of her ever being “used on the Port Orchard to Oyster Bay run”, and she was not “sold for one dollar to an entrepreneur who towed it to La Conner”. I will attempt to dispel these myths, basing my story on historical evidence with the exception of the SBYC years – that part of the story is derived from the “fuzzy” thirty-five year old memories of members.
For you “newbies” who have been members less than 34 years, the Chimacum, USCG documented vessel #227818, was wooden, 110 gross ton, 63.1 feet long with a beam of 21 feet, a draft of 5.3 feet and originally propelled by a 50 HP diesel engine. John Kimball “Kim” Munson & Sons built the Chimacum in Olympia in 1928 for use on the Tacoma to Shelton freight service. She was the fifth boat they built and was originally named Toando after the 89’ schooner on which the builder’s father, Josiah H. Munson, sailed in 1858 from Boston to Port Townsend in 187 days, never touching any port en route (“Voyage of the Toando” by Marilyn Morrison of Poulsbo is an interesting article available on the Internet). In November 1929, the Puget Sound Freight Lines (PSFL) purchased the Toando and renamed her Chimacum (see Figure 1). Yes, it is the same Puget Sound Freight Lines whose trucks you see on our roads today. Founded in 1919 by Frank Edward “Captain Ed” Lovejoy and followed by son Howard, grandson Tom and currently, great-grandson Brad – four generations of Lovejoys have owned and managed the business. It was in the 50’s when the highway system started to expand that Howard Lovejoy began emphasizing motor freight over marine.
According to the Jefferson County Historical Society, the Native American tribe called the Chemakum (aka Chimacum) were sedentary coastal hunter/gatherers, very mean and warlike, and hated by all other local tribes. The tribal members numbered 400 in 1800, 90 in 1855, and by 1900, all gone – mainly due to decimation by white man’s disease and revenge massacres by surrounding tribes. The worst massacre was in the early 1840’s by a combined force of local tribes under the leadership of Seattle’s namesake Chief Sealth. The Puget Sound Freight Lines renamed the vessel Chimacum after the unincorporated area on the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula that it served with freight service and not the Native American tribe.
Puget Sound Freight Lines used the Chimacum exclusively for carrying freight in south Puget Sound, never for passenger service. In Figure 1, note the topside structure astern of the wheelhouse which was used for crew quarters and the mess for the captain, mate, crewmen and cook who normally lived aboard. Forward of the wheelhouse is a Barlow Marine Elevator. In the days before floating docks, all freighters were faced with constant tidal conditions. Murphy’s Law dictated that the boat’s gunwale would rarely line up with the dock when needed and as a result, moving freight on and off was very difficult. To solve the problem, in 1909 Captain Harry Barlow invented the Barlow freight elevator (see Figure 2). In the early days of the mosquito fleet, most vessels carrying freight utilized this elevator for roll-on/roll-off operations. It also permitted the transportation of cars for the first time. During this period, the Chimacum was repowered with a 100HP diesel engine.
Puget Sound Freight Lines sold the Chimacum in January 1943 to Horluck Transportation Company to be used for passenger service. At that time, Horluck was owned by Willis Nearhoff and his daughter Mary A. Lieseke, each with 50% ownership. Upon his premature death due to a heart attack Mary, who was then in her twenties, and her husband Al took control of the company. The Barlow freight elevator was removed, port and starboard windows were added and the topside aft house was enclosed at the railing (see Figure 3). Interior benches were installed for passengers on both decks and a counter added for a snack bar as the Chimacum was converted for Port Orchard to Bremerton passenger service. A single-seat head with no sink behind the snack bar was for the crew’s use only. Throughout World War II, she hauled workers to the Bremerton Naval Shipyard, which at that time was operating three shifts seven days a week. During 1953, the Chimacum was repowered with a 165 HP Detroit Diesel. However, in the mid-50’s she became increasingly unprofitable, and was removed from regular service in August 1956 and her documentation was surrendered. In the late 50’s she was moored at the foot of Stone Way North on Lake Union adjacent to Vic Franck’s shipyard along with several other surplused Horluck boats. The objective was to sell the Chimacum’s hull to anybody who might want to convert her into a floating home or office. During this period, her diesel engine and other machinery were removed and the upper deck was canvassed and coated with water glass (sodium silicate) – which at that time was crude method of fiber glassing.
In 1995, Hilton Smith’s purchase of Horluck Transportation Company included the “foot ferry” boats operating between Port Orchard, Bremerton and Annapolis; these he sold in 2002 to Kitsap Transit. One of those boats, the Carlisle II built in 1917, is still making daily runs between Port Orchard and Bremerton and she is older than the Virginia V. Unfortunately, there is very little documented history of the Horluck Transportation operations.
Although today no one is around to either confirm or deny, I suspect Aubrey Wayne “Monty” Morton, one of our founders and the first SBYC Commodore, had a lot to do with obtaining the Chimacum. Monty and his partners owned and operated a very successful real-estate investment company that acquired and managed many iconic properties in downtown Seattle and also worked with then Mayor Wes Uhlman on redevelopment projects. Besides his commercial life, he dedicated his energies to civic activism and was General Chairman of the Seattle-King County Park and Recreation Coordinating Council, and Vice President for Transportation and Parking for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. He was President of the downtown Seattle Building Owners and Managers Association, a member of the mayor’s advisory committee on Seattle Center, and a Chairman of the Greater Seattle Seafair Committee. As the Chairman of the Sea Explorers Committee for the Chief Seattle Council, he developed an extensive program in sailing and seamanship for teenagers. Monty was a troop leader for Sea Scout Ship Wanderlust and founded the nonprofit organization Youth Adventure. He eventually acquired the 101-foot pilot schooner Adventuress “to give the youngsters an opportunity for a large-boat sailing experience.” He was a pillar of the community and knew a great many people with connections; therefore, it would not be unreasonable for Monty to be aware that the Chimacum was moored and available in Lake Union. He certainly could have assisted SBYC in the acquiring her in the mid-60’s as its floating clubhouse (the published year of 1965 is in question). Monty frequently attended SBYC meetings aboard the Chimacum. He passed away in 2002 at 88 years old. Upon acquisition, the Chimacum was towed though the Chittenden Locks to Shilshole Bay Marina and moored at the head of “J” dock (see Figure 4). In those days, “J” dock was the guest dock and open to the public – in fact, there was no gate.
My association with the Chimacum began when I joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary in 1971. During the 60’s and 70’s the USCG had a program that encouraged yacht clubs with meeting facilities to sponsor an Auxiliary. Soon after obtaining the Chimacum, SBYC accepted the challenge and sponsored Flotilla 34. Although it was not necessary for an USCGAux member to belong to the sponsoring yacht club, the majority of the members did. At the time, I was the exception. Past Commodores Lou Meyer (1964-1965), Roscoe Kissam (1968), Gordon Wickre (1970), Chuck Fullerton (1971), Lou Knight (1972) and Mike Hilton (1974) were members of Flotilla 34 and several served as Flotilla Commander during their tenure. I was Flotilla Commander in 1977, and later a Division and District Officer. There were many other members of SBYC who were very active in the Flotilla including Andy King and Father Harvey McIntyre, a Catholic priest who lived on his 50’ Chris Craft in the marina (go figure). The USCGAux is a volunteer uniformed branch of the Coast Guard with the primary mission of conducting boating safety education classes along with vessel safety inspections and safety patrols. Flotilla 34 did an outstanding job performing the overall mission and taught boating safety to hundreds of boaters aboard the Chimacum. Flotilla 34 arranged for several Coast Guard Officers to speak at SBYC meetings on topics ranging from the Vessel Traffic System (VTS) to the new icebreakers. One guest speaker was Captain Norman C. Venske, skipper of the newly commissioned Polar Star, who presented a wonderful program on the icebreaker and her mission. Only days after Captain Venske spoke, the Polar Star ran aground in Yukon Bay behind Blake Island on a shakedown cruise and he was quickly promoted to Rear Admiral (huh?). The association of USCGAux Flotilla 34 with SBYC was always very close, and many individuals who attended the boating safety education classes aboard the Chimacum joined SBYC. In 1975, Gordon Wickre and Roscoe Kissam finally talked me into becoming a member.
The Chimacum had very large sliding doors port and starboard that required some serious tugging to open and close. However, for safety purposes the port door was rarely opened. Since her entrance gunwale was at least one foot above the marina’s dock, someone had made custom wooden steps for ease of entry; however, you had to be very careful since there was no handrail (where was OHSA/WISHA?). Water was connected via a hose 24/7 and she had 30 amp, 120 volt electrical service. There was no telephone, cable or Internet wi-fi service aboard (boo-hoo!). Once inside, you immediately encountered a serving bar from the days she carried passengers. This is where Facilities Chairman Andy King also served as bartender. Although a few members recall our refreshments as BYOB, the consensus prevails that we actually paid for our cocktails. Andy, or somebody, must have maintained a liquor/beer/wine/mix inventory and replenished it as necessary. Behind the bar was the makeshift galley and general storage space for SBYC paraphernalia. One member stated SBYC had a complete set of dishes aboard (why?). Depending on whom you talk to, this space also contained a refrigerator, small hot-water heater, sink and a head. I certainly remember the head with no sink and the very large “black hole” in front of the toilet bowl. After 50 years of use, the deck was slowly rotting away and the stability of the toilet bowl was in question. In fact, the bolts holding the toilet bowl did eventually give way and a female member received the surprise of her life. Keep in mind that the 1977 Federal Water Pollution Act was yet to be rigidly enforced, so all effluent went directly into the marina tidal waters (what holding tank?).
Heating of the Chimacum remains the biggest mystery. Most members recall the use of electric heaters; however, this would be very limited due to the restricted power aboard. One person believes there was an oil stove with a tank mounted somewhere. Another member remembers portable kerosene heaters which would have been be extremely dangerous because of the carbon monoxide emission. During the later days, there were blue curtains on the windows because of the occasional need for darkness during programs (see Figure 4). As for furniture, we had many folding tables and four-legged chairs – at least enough to have a sit-down dinner for forty. Most members remember the catered dinners and no one remembers any potlucks (food certainly couldn’t be prepared on the Chimacum without cooking facilities). According to some members, two couples were recruited for each meeting to make necessary arrangements with a caterer (Hewitt’s was used extensively), collect the money and then clean up after the event. Dinner meeting attendance was limited to the space available. To say that having dinner on a rainy night was an experience would be a gigantic understatement. The Chimacum leaked everywhere – water came up through the hull and down through the overhead, she leaked big-time! It was not uncommon to be seated next to the bulkhead having dinner while water trickled down your back. Everyone knew the leaking could not be stopped, so why bother – it was just part of the Chimacum’s ambiance.
SBYC used the Chimacum for many purposes; the Coast Guard Auxiliary for their meetings and boating safety education classes and, although SBYC sailboat racing was in its infancy at the time, occasional pre-race meetings. Also, SBYC members who lived aboard their boats, and there were quite a few, regularly held exercise workout classes aboard. Members also recall several private parties and at least one wedding reception held aboard.
For twelve years, the Chimacum sat in her “J” dock slip slowly rotting away. A few members volunteered for weekend maintenance parties, but no one devoted as much time as Dave Bordewick – in the end, however, nothing helped. Dave was responsible for the dazzling exterior paint job and the big “SBYC”. The Chimacum leaked so badly the bilge pumps were constantly working – noticeable to anyone standing on the dock next to her. SBYC members spent hours checking on those pumps, virtually daily. Captain Winslow H. Buxton, USCG (Ret.), who was then Superintendant of the Marina, was in constant fear that the Chimacum was going to sink in her slip at any moment and the Port of Seattle would have a very big problem. Based on an estimate obtained from Manson Construction by one of our members, the cost would be at least $100,000 to raise and dispose of the Chimacum (that’s 1977 dollars!). Captain Buxton sent SBYC the message to “fix her or remove her”. SBYC did not have the funds for all the extensive and very expensive necessary repairs. After an emergency Board meeting, we posted a “FOR SALE” sign on the Chimacum. Almost immediately, a lawyer wanted her for his office on Lake Union but after learning the Corps of Engineers would not permit him to tow her through the locks without posting an outrageous bond, he backed out. However, within a couple of weeks, we were fortunate to find a buyer who said he wanted her and would tow her away. A member’s attorney drew up the formal bill-of-sale for one dollar; we consummated the sale, and the Marina Office was notified. I believed that SBYC needed a memento of the Chimacum, so I removed the steering wheel from the “wheel house”, refinished it, and placed it in our Administration Building display cabinet. I was recently informed that Past Commodore John Klasell has the wheel.
Within a couple of weeks, the new owner contacted SBYC for information regarding the bilge pumps and their functionality. Several members, including Jan and me, answered the call to check the pumps. When Jan and I went aboard, we noticed all windows had been draped and the stern area had been partitioned with hanging blankets surrounding a bed positioned mid-ship. I had to transit this area in order to get to the trap-door entrance to the bilge. It was obvious someone was living aboard, and that someone was a very friendly mid-thirtyish woman who was scantily dressed (don’t ask me the color of her hair nor do I remember her tattoos or piercings). You did not have to be a rocket scientist to realize the Chimacum was now a brothel. A Past Commodore recently reminded me that around that time there was a sudden increase of single men joining SBYC. Remember, “SBYC” was painted on the port side of the Chimacum facing the street.
Within weeks, the individual who purchased Chimacum from SBYC suddenly vanished, leaving her in her slip with unpaid moorage and electricity bills. Shortly thereafter, Captain Buxton summoned SBYC representatives to his Administration Building corner office (OMG). As the Rear Commodore of SBYC standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, I received the assignment to attend this meeting since Commodore Jerry Caston could not, and the position of Vice Commodore was vacant (the next year I jumped from Rear Commodore to Commodore). Also at the meeting was a young, bright female attorney from the Port of Seattle Legal Department. Captain Buxton expounded on the fact that apparently nothing was being done to move the Chimacum plus the moorage and electricity were unpaid. I explained to Captain Buxton that SBYC no longer owned the Chimacum, that we had a bill-of-sale and that the marina office had been duly notified. The attorney asked to see the copy of the bill-of-sale. After she carefully read the document, she turned to Captain Buxton and told him it was the Port’s problem and SBYC was absolved from any responsibility (I remember it as if it was yesterday).
A very strange and complex legal procedure then took place that no one in 2011 can explain. The Chimacum, which had been removed from documentation on June 30, 1956, was re-documented on February 16, 1978. Then, after a payment of $50 by the Port, and after a Federal Court order, the ownership of the Chimacum was transferred to the Port of Seattle. She was then sold by the U. S. Marshall at public auction on February 28, 1978 for $20 to Loren McNeil Morrissey and Elizabeth Ellen Morrissey who towed her to La Conner. It is believed that Elizabeth was on the Chimacum’s bow during the tow and Loren was in the strange little powerboat (a converted landing craft?) towing the Chimacum. Note the Chimacum’s stern line that is probably attached to the blue Shilshole Bay Marina’s utility barge following behind (see Figure 6). The Marina personnel assisted the Morrisseys in moving the Chimacum out of the marina. It is believed the Morrisseys lived in Stanwood at the time of the tow. One rumor was that she was going to be used as an art studio – another, a restaurant. It is thought she sunk under, or very near, La Conner’s Rainbow Bridge about 1980. Some old-time La Conner residents vaguely remember “hippies” living aboard. Several others remember that a derelict vessel was “clam shoveled” and hauled off by the Corps of Engineers or General Construction around that time. I have contacted both the Corps of Engineers and General Construction and they stated their records do not go back that far (say what?).
Loren Morrissey died in 2006 at the age of 75 and Elizabeth died in 2004 at the age of 68. In late June 2011, I mailed ninety letters to every Morrissey in the State of Washington found in the white pages in an attempt to contact their children, if any. To date, I have received 10 returns with “no Morrissey at this address” and 8 replied “not related” (72 never replied).
I found it very interesting that according to the 1980 Membership Roster, only two years after the departure of the Chimacum, the SBYC membership soared to 131 member families (213 individuals) with much of that growth attributed to the sailboat racing program. The 2011 Roster now lists 71 families (120 individuals).
In wrapping up this story, the SBYC Chimacum years were an adventure and definitely not glamorous. In hindsight, I don’t believe the individuals who acquired the Chimacum meant for her to become a venue for monthly dinner meetings nor did they anticipate the maintenance costs would be so enormous. Certainly, no one realized the hull was in such bad shape needing immediate repair. If it wasn’t for Captain Buxton insisting that SBYC immediately do something with the Chimacum, the club and possibly its officers could have faced a massive liability had she sunk in her slip – the end of SBYC! Thanks to Captain Buxton, the club is now in its 50th year. He is currently 97 years old and living in Bellevue.
I wish to thank the following current and past members who were part of “The Chimacum Years” and assisted me with many pertinent facts (in alphabetical order): Ed and Bobbie Baumueller, Dave Bordewick, BJ Carol, Anne Dickinson, Mike Dorsey, Bob Frost, Dale Hendrickson, Mike Hilton, Dennis Johnson, Betty Rolie, Nate Russell and Jan Waudé. I would also like to thank Captain Winslow H. Buxton, USCG (Ret.), Marilyn L. Morrison author of “Voyage of the Toando”, Karl House of Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, Robin Paterson author of “The Mosquito Fleet of South Puget Sound”, Brad and Tom Lovejoy of Puget Sound Freight Lines, Mark Freeman of Fremont Tug Company and Bud Moore a long-time resident and ex-Mayor of La Conner.