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… “.