V2 N1 Spring 1974 Six-Masted Schooner 'Oregon Fir'

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VOL. 2


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Of the hundreds of wooden deep-water vessels produced by American yards during the World War I shipbuilding boom, most spent their short careers in obscurity. Some, like the Oregon Fir, stand out among the rest. Built by the Peninsula Shipbuilding Company in Portland, she was begun as a steamship- one of 12 identical hulls to be delivered to the Emergency Fleet Corporation for wartime service. Her planned name was Cossa. In 1920 she was still on the stocks, unfinished. Purchased by Grant, Smith & Co., and renamed Oregon Fir, she was completed as a six-masted schooner of 2,526 tons, 267 feet in length with a breadth of 50 feet. Her lumbercarrying capacity was 2,225,000 board feet. Immediately after completion, she was entered in the offshore lumber trade, generally carrying logs from the Columbia River to Shanghai and returning in ballast. Times were hard for sailing vessels, and freight rates were

low, but the big schooner managed to pay her way, eking out a small profit for her owners. On a voyage to the Orient late in 1926, she very nearly "went missing." During the homeward passage, a series of fierce gales besieged her, carrying away every scrap of sail and all her gaffs. Hatch tarpaulins were stretched between the masts, but these had almost no effect. After drifting out of control for more than six weeks, she was towed into Astoria, where most had given her up for lost. In 1927 the Oregon Fir was purchased by Capt. E. R. Sterling and renamed Helen B. Sterling. She made one voyage under the Sterling house flag, then was sold in 1928 to the Pacific Export Lumber Co. In 1930, on her second voyage to Australia with lumber, she could no longer pay her way. Libelled for debt in Sydney, the Helen B. Sterling , ex-Oregon Fir, ex-Cossa soon met her end in a dismantling yard.




This summer, Museum members will have a rare opportunity to participate in an escorted tour of the major marine museums and nautical history sites of Maritime Europe. The 21-day odyssey through Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Holland, and Britain is being sponsored by the Columbia River Maritime Museum in conjunction with the San Francisco Maritime Museum, the California Historical Society, and the Maritime Museum of British Columbia. Participants will fly on June 15th to Stockholm, where the tour will begin with a visit to the preserved 17th Century warship Wasa. After three days in Sweden's capital, the group will go on to Copenhagen, Odense, Schleswig, Lubek, and Amsterdam, winding up with six days in London, taking side trips to Portsmouth, where Nelson's flagship Victory is preserved, and to Greenwich to visit the famed National Maritime Museum. Return to the United States will be on July 6th. Group members will visit many of the world's greatest centers of maritime history and meet members of Europe's nautical research fraternity. There will also be ample opportunity for sightseeing and shopping in some of Europe's most fascinating cities. The tour cost is approximately $1600.00 per person from the West Coast, including round trip air fare to Europe, first class accommodations, two meals daily, all transport, sightseeing tours and excursions, guides, gratuities, etc. Descriptive materials have been mailed to all members and friends. If you have not received them, contact us.



This year, as in the past, the first weeks of March have brought the beginning of a wave of visits by school groups which will continue into June. Students from schools all over the Northwest will eagerly scramble out of their busses to be immersed for an hour or two in a world of tall ships and tugboats and sternwheelers, of intrepid explorers, valiant naval heroes, and hardworking seamen. For us at the Museum, this annual "invasion" is something to be looked forward to. For the students, a tour of the Museum is both an adventure into the past and a worthwhile learning experience. Through the artifacts on display, history loses its staleness, becomes less of an abstraction. Supplementing the classroom education of younger students is just one important function of the Museum. This and many other activities can only be continued and improved through funds provided from memberships and contributions. Your support is needed. Rolf Klep, Director



After seeing the article about Museum staff member Frank Seely's youthful experiences at sea in the last issue of Quarterdeck Review, Mr. B. G. Sivertz of Nanoose Bay, B.C., wrote Frank a lengthy note "by way of greetings from one square-rig sailor to another." The letter stands as eloquent testimony to the captivating effect of the sea on those who have made it their home, even for short periods. With the permission of Frank and Mr. Sivertz, excerpts from the letter are reproduced here. "In 1922 I made a voyage to Sydney, Australia in the five -masted barkentine Forest Friend of Seattle. I was 17, and signed on as an Ordinary Seaman at $40 per month. "The Forest Friend loaded lumber at the Hastings Mill in Vancouver, B.C. She had 200 tons of permanent ballast floored down in her hold. One and a half million board feet filled the hold and made a deckload 12 feet high. "We were 73 days from Vancouver to Sydney. Though uneventful, the voyage was the normal grand parade of change in light and wind and sea, of whales and goonies and dolphins and flying fish and sharks, of the doldrums and the marvelous trade winds-and of landfalls, though we stopped nowhere en route. To me it was a thrilling experience even though my life was a steady diet of the

misery that was standard for a youngster in a sailing ship until he learns not to make mistakes in handling ropes and sails and wheel with the consequent extra work- and sometimes danger-for all. "I spent two years in sail, in three different square-riggers, and there was always a good proportion of each crew who thought of themselves as ' sailing ship men. Some of them knew something of ships of bygone days at that time, but most knew little of the history. Nearly all, however, were interested in contemporary sailing ships-ships they had been in, ships their friends and shipmates had been in and told about, ships they had seen in various ports. There was always copversation on this subject. "The Forest Friend made few if any more voyages after the one on which I sailed. In the mid 1920's she was bought by the Island Tug and Barge Company of Victoria, B.C. She was cut down and made into a log-carrying barge. In the 1950's she was retired and her hulk was sunk to form part of a breakwater for the Crown Zellerbach wharf at Royston on the east coast of Vancouver Island, some 40 miles north of where I live. One day in 1971 I went aboard her and walker again on portions of the deck I trod 50 years ago and I felt filled with wonder."


Mrs. Harry Lofgren of Portland recently presented this fine oil painting of the OR&N steamship Columbi,a, _a popular Portland-San Francisco packet at the turn of the century. Built in 1880 at Chester, Pennsylvania, she was lost off the California coast in 1907. PETER IREDALE BINNACLE AND COMPASS

For many years the binnacle of the bark Peter Iredale, wrecked on Clatsop beach in 1906, has graced the Portland office of the Durham & Bates marine insurance firm. Now, with its superb dry compass, it is a highlight of the Peter Iredale collection. Gift of D. H. Bates.



This exquisite replica of the British four-masted bark Wanderer is one of six models presented to the Museum in December by Mr. McKee Smith. Built by Oregon City model maker Lloyd McCaffery, the miniature fleet includes the full -rigged ships Loch Etive, Mount Stewart and Benjamin F. Packard; four-masted barks Wanderer and Falls of HaUadale; and the Oregon five -masted schooner K. V. Kruse.


On Saturday, May 11, the First Annual Columbia River Maritime Museum Amateur Shipmodeler's Competition will be held at the Museum. Any model of any type of vessel may be entered, provided it is entered by the builder. Categories in which awards will be offered are: Plastic Kit Models, Wood Kit Models, Plan-built Models, Ships in Bottles, Miniature Models (scale 1:200 or smaller), and Decorative or Fanciful Models . Two sets of awards will be given in each category, one to adult entrants, and one to builders under 15 years of age . A Grand Prize will be awarded for the best model in the show. Entries will be judged by a panel of experts in the shipmodel field. An entry fee of one dollar will be charged each adult entrant. For modelers under 15 there is no fee. Museum admission is included with registration. Entry forms may be obtained from the Museum. further information, call 325-2323 or 325-2266.


The 197 4 Commemorative Tea, celebrating the anniversary of Captain Robert Gray's discovery of the Columbia River in 1792 and the founding of the Museum in 1962, will be held at the Museum on May 5th, from 2 to 5 p .m. Mrs. Robert Johnson, newly-elected President of the Auxiliary, reports that arrangements are well under way. As in years past, the Tea will provide an excellent opportunity for members and friends to view new exhibits and acquisitions in a festive and convivial atmosphere. It promises to be a delightful event.




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In the 12 months since the first Quarterdeck Review went to press, there has been a substantial increase in the Museum's membership rolls, many of the new members having "signed on" after seeing one or another issue of this publication. We trust that the trend will continue, and for that reason we will go on sending QR to a number of people who, we believe, might have an interest in becoming members. If you are not a member, we hope you will clip the coupon above and send it in with your check today. Some good reasons for doing so are listed below. The Columbia River Maritime Museum is a private, non-profit educational corporation whose purpose is to preserve and relate our great maritime heritage by collecting, caring for and exhibiting to the public relics of our nautical past; by dissemination of historical information; and by acting as a resource center for scholars and others interested in the field of maritime history. Membership dues and contributions are the major source of operating funds for the Museum. Contributions are tax deductible. Members receive the Quarterdeck Review, membership card, Museum decals, and unlimited free admission to the Museum and Lightship.

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