National Geographic : 1947 Jun
Endeavour Sails the Inside Passage BY AMOS BURG With Illustrations from Photographs by the Author I HAD not seen my ship since Pearl Harbor. For five years she had ridden to mooring lines at Seattle with no steering pressure of salt water against her staunch oak rudder. I had come back now to sail her from Olym pia, Washington, to Cape Spencer, Alaska a thousand-mile voyage among the forest covered mountainous islands that shelter the Inside Passage. My first act aboard was to throw her hatches open to the winds and the warm June sun. With her teak decks beneath me, I felt once more my Norwegian ancestors' yearning for distant shores. The ship had braved the breakers in Coast Guard rescue work on the storm-threshed Columbia River bar for 19 years before being condemned in 1929. Purchased then by Capt. O. P. Rankin, a bar pilot with whom I had sailed when I was 14, she had emerged from his loving hands a thing of beauty, with nine hardwood compartments and cabins, a spruce mast, and trim tailored sails. Captain Rankin and I together had named her Endeavour after Capt. James Cook's first ship of exploration. To me had fallen the delightful lot of sailing her over the great waters until World War II interrupted her career. Shark's Tail a Good-luck Talisman Now, in June, 1946, after three weeks of overhauling and painting, Endeavour was again a fine lady with a shark's tail on the end of her bowsprit for fair winds and good fortune. Crowning her cockpit was the Plexi glas nose of a Flying Fortress for protection from rain and spray (pages 803 and 826). The stores were moved aboard. My four companions followed-a man, two boys, and a dog. To start farthest south in the Inside Pas sage, I backed Endeavour's stern up into the Deschutes River in Olympia. Her whirling screw chewed up the tide-flat mud and kicked her northward through Budd Inlet. Less than an hour after the start, the Wash ington State Capitol in Olympia was lost to view astern. We zigzagged among islands of all shapes and sizes, the forested tops of moun tains partly submerged by the sinking of the continental shelf. Sounds, passages, inlets, and bays extended their salt waters in every direction (maps, pages 806, 807). With the protractor I laid out the compass courses. Pilots of steamers from Olympia to Cape Spencer use 258 courses. Aboard En deavour we were to steer many more as we explored obscure coves and cut close to the irregular shores for intimate observations. A Traffic Jam in the Cabin Our load of five months' supplies and equip ment made a traffic bottleneck in the main cabin. John Trout, Endeavour's chief mate and chef; the two boys, Robin and Sanford; and King, my family's Belgian shepherd, late of the Army K-9 Corps in France, had to maneuver for sitting and walking room.* King slept on the floor, his head, tail, and legs jutting out like points on a starfish. Almost impossible to avoid, he was stepped on so often that he finally howled on general principles whenever a foot landed near him. Awake, he maintained an irrepressible courier service about the decks with sticks from the wood box, while mystery and adventure comics flowed artesianlike from the boys' knapsacks to add to the litter. Coursing through Balch Passage along the southern edge of McNeil Island, we looked at the grim Federal penitentiary and wonder ingly recalled stories of spectacular escapes. The Narrows led us through a fleet of hand trollers off Defiance Point into Tacoma's Com mencement Bay. In twilight we steered for the yacht harbor by the tall, smoking stacks of a smelter refining ore for the United States and numerous foreign countries. Scudding north from Tacoma next morning and heeling under a fresh westerly, we listened to the Bikini atomic-bomb blast on the cabin radio.t Fresh winds and sunlit waters made me wonder why anyone would bother with atomic bombs on such an exhilarating morning. As we passed the mouth of Elliott Bay, a panorama of Seattle, "Gateway to Alaska," spread out before us, its 42-story Smith Tower a tall axle in a wheel of populous hills. This city, largest in the Northwest, acquired its early growth from the Klondike and Alas kan gold rushes, and many evidences of its prosperous link with our northern Territory are visible. Out of protruding piers along * See "Your Dog Joins Up," by Frederick Simpich, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, January, 1943. t See "Operation Crossroads," 10 illustrations in color, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, April, 1947.