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The Way To Alaska

April 2024
1min read

We have received the following scholarly letter from H. J. Dring of San Francisco:
In “The Way to Alaska,” in the February, 1974, issue, Walter Havighurst refers to two schooners, Snohomish and Skykomish . To the casual reader, and to anyone familiar with the Puget Sound area, these are both local place-names; in fact, Snohomish is a county.

My challenge has to do with a careful search in Merchant Vessels of the U.S. (Dept. of Commerce Ship Registers) from 1893 through 1920. I also checked the Lyman List, which is a compendium of West Coast-built vessels. In neither of these authoritative sources did I find the above-named vessels. As a ship buff for forty years and a professional seaman, I am convinced that Mr. Havighurst used fictitious names for the two schooners.…

We forwarded this letter to Walter Havighurst and received the following reply, which we print with our apologies to Mr. Dring and our other readers:
…In “The Way to Alaska” I used some made-up names for want of the actual ones. For example, instead of referring to “the Captain whose name I have forgotten,” I just called him Captain Olson. The same with the stowaway; though I remember his nickname I had to invent a surname.

To Mr. Dring’s point: reaching back fifty-one years I’ll say that one of the schooners was either the Tacoma or the Spokane —both familiar names from the state of Washington. Her twin was something like Camaro or Camargo or Camiro . I’m hazy about that name, though I have a firmer hold on the tug Coutli , a name I associate with the geography of British Columbia. That suggested using the twin schooner names that have a Puget Sound association.

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