Friday, May 2, 2014

Stories: Joe Fellows' yacht.

Joe Fellows, a young boatbuilder in 1899, beside the construction of his yacht, MINERVA.

This account from Pacific Motor Boat of Fellows’ early experience building river steamers in San Francisco appeared in Pacific Motor Boat, October 1940 issue in an article entitled: “Joe Fellows – Boat Builder”. The author sought out details about Fellows’s early intrigue with boat building and the throes of ship construction at the water’s edge where nature could trump human efforts at will. Fellows was no stranger to near disaster, which may be why he kept cool and calm, and survived the experience. Here’s a selection from the biographical sketch:

“By the winter of 1889-90 Joe, now a lanky fellow of 24 and a first rate artisan, had found his way west to the Columbia River where he began work on his first major boatbuilding job, a 175-foot river steamer. At the start of construction, the hull lay 30 feet up the bank broadside to the shore but the river rose so fast that caulking was done standing in knee-deep water. The river rose 47 feet in six weeks, over a foot a day, and it was a race between Joe’s crew and the Columbia. But the river won and the current swept the barely completed caulked hull off the beach and down the stream with fifty men trying to hold her. Finally they snubbed her to the bank.

Thus began Joe Fellows’ half century of designing, construction and sailing all manner of craft in West Coast waters… “.

Read more about Joe Fellows here, and in 1904 and more from 1929.

Right of Passage - Stories, 1904

Two stories about Fellows stand out from the usual biographies written about him for the 50th anniversary of his firm in 1949. One chronicles just how much a daredevil appears to take chances, while the earlier story here tells of sailing home during a spring storm in San Pedro Bay.

Joe Fellows' yacht MINERVA with passengers and crew, circa 1910.

The earlier news clippings is over 100 years old, it’s the one from the LA Times, May 3, 1904, entitled: "Six Lost in Stormy Sea", with the subtitle, “Searchers Fail in Hunt for Fellows Party”. By 1904, the Joe Fellows Yacht and Launch Company had grown from a one-person firm employing several industrious engineers and tradesmen. Joe had taken them for their mutual enjoyment on an overnight excursion to Catalina and the crew had passed the first half of the journey without incident. Then came a spring storm and the party had to outride the storm by sailing leeward of it for 24 hours---they were inside the Bay, but unable to cross it to the Harbor and safety. It was Joe’s decision but his crew’s safety was foremost in his mind.

Here’s a selection from the news article, “Cheers of Joy for Mariners”, published May 4, 1904:

As the Minerva passed up the inner harbor the crowd that lined the wharves cheered the return of the missing mariners, who waved their caps and cheered in return.

In relating his experiences since Sunday, Captain Fellows says he left the harbor of Avalon because his anchor was dragging and he feared the destruction of the little yawl. Although the wind was blowing a hurricane from the northwest Fellows and his crew of five men did not fear that the little craft would not withstand the gale, and boldly put to sea. The Minerva stood off from Avalon for San Pedro but on account of the severity of the storm, at night they found themselves about five miles off Long Beach. Seeing that it would be impossible to make the inner harbor of San Pedro, Fellows and the crew of the Minerva decided to tack back and forth until the wind should abate.

On the second tack made off Long Beach, the jib of the yawl was blown away, so the only course left for Capt. Fellows was to run before the wind. At this time the wind was blowing great guns, and the Minerva sped before it like a fishing schooner before a South Sea hurricane. Capt. Fellows figured that in about 10 hours he could make San Diego. At length the wind abated and they found themselves about thirty-five miles southeast of Santa Catalina Island early Monday morning… This morning about 7 o’clock the Minerva was sighted by the Clemente and Challenger, which were out with searching parties. The joy felt when the Minerva flew the signal “All’s Well” would be difficult of description…

Capt. Fellows says that while he and his crew suffered inconvenience and were drenched, there was at no time any fear but what they would pull through, and were it not for the anxiety their absence would cause the friends and families of the mariners, none of them would seriously object to a repetition of the experience.

See more stories about Joe Fellows.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Right of Passage - Stories, 1929

Joe Fellows with two passengers, engages the engine of his speedboat, "Fellows 2", in the waters near Santa Catalina Island and Los Angeles.

Two stories about Joe Fellows stand out from the usual biographies written about him for the 50th anniversary of the firm, Fellows & Stewart, Inc., in 1949. One chronicles just how much a daredevil appears to take chances, while the earlier story tells of sailing home during a spring storm in San Pedro Bay.

This story tells about the daredevil in Fellows---from an account of a ride with Joe Fellows written by the editor of Pacific Motor Boat in the April 1929 issue, p. 12, 13 and 17.

“… I really didn’t know just what a red-blooded thrill was until the afternoon last January when went to sea with Joe Fellows in his forty-mile an hour runabout and bucked the big ground-swells in Santa Barbara Channel.

...It was late in the afternoon when I drove up to the Fellows & Stewart boatyard at Wilmington… Joe fellows greeted us as we alighted from the car and after showing us a number of interesting yachts and work boats under construction at the yard, told us that if we had time to take a ride with him, he would show us more of the harbor in half and hour than we could see in an automobile all day long… When we got into his boat and he opened up the throttle, we went speeding down the harbor so fast that we wondered if the channel was long enough for us to stop in before we came to the end of it.

I thought we were running at maximum speed when we came down the channel, but as we rounded the lighthouse, Joe stepped on something and then the little ship seemed to light right out from under us and the manner in which the State of California began to fade away in our rear made me feel homesick for my native land.

Presently Joe spied the AVALON off across the channel coming in from Catalina Island. The AVALON is a big boat and she makes about 16 knots and throws up a sea behind her like a torpedo destroyer. Joe circled around the boat until he was off about a quarter of a mile and then at full speed he headed directly for the big seas that were curling back astern of her…

Then as a final thriller, we ran alongside the AVALON at full speed and when we got even with her bow, cut straight across the front about eight feet ahead of her. Now it may be alright for Joe Fellows and Douglas Fairbanks to do stunts like that but I don’t have the experience and probably don’t carry as much life insurance as “Doug” and all I’ve got to say is that while it’s thrilling now to look back upon it, I must confess that we were putting more faith in the motor than the reputation of even the splendid engine could possibly warrant…

Ride Story end

Read more stories about Joe Fellows...