By Matthew Durkee

From the Pages of the Del Norte Triplicate, July 1937:

Editor’s note: Last week this column reported on the dubious plans of Perry O. Stoughton, 27 at the time, who was confident he could build a log raft and sail it to San Diego. Billed by the amused editors of the Triplicate as “Modern Crusoe” in headlines, he planned his departure for July 4. Brief newsreel footage of him sailing out of the harbor can be seen in a video titled “California — Crossing Of The Pacific By The Spirit Of Crescent City Aka California Log Raft (1937)” on YouTube. A final installment on Stoughton’s misadventures will appear in the next Pages of History.

Mile and a half

July 9: Well here I am again. It is with a great deal of discomfort that I take my pen in hand and give an account to date of myself.

I ended my (previous) article by telling how “the boys” thought I was a “star-spangled” jack-ass, and I regret that I am ALMOST forced to say that they were nearly right.

I was scheduled to leave at precisely 9:56 a.m. July Fourth. The morning of the Fourth found me with a lot of things left undone. The point I wish to make is that the departure came off as planned, even though I was not completely ready for the trip. The “take-off” was accomplished with fanfare, excitement and ballyhoo that would have satisfied Barnum.

Mr Lyle, the owner of the trawler “Fairway,” very graciously towed me out to the whistling buoy and there left me on my own. I sailed on out about a mile farther and when I decided to come about to my course to Eureka the raft did not cooperate. Subsequent investigation proved that the rudder-post had been bent due to the fact that I had not lashed the helm when I went forward to attend to something that needed attention. Due to my speed under the tow and the motion of the seas and the fact that the rudder was mounted nearly on a balance, the rudder-post was bent severely when the rudder flipped around abeam.

One of the most interesting things that came to my attention was the fact that the raft held to its course on a dead-line for nearly a mile and a half. It was not until I wanted to change the course that I discovered the bent post. Outside of the fact that she is a bit slow, the “Spirit of Crescent City” handles and sails better than a lot of wollapers called good sailboats that I have been on. Of course, it is rather damp at times, having only a few inches of free-board.

I am positive that by the time this is in print I will be beyond Eureka on the way to Fort Bragg.

Seasick and surprise

July 16: Last week I ended up by saying that I was sure to be in Fort Bragg by now, and believe me when I say that I have surely been paying for the over-optimistic crack. I could go on and on about the weather, but everyone already knows about that, so I’ll skip it.

I went to fishing yesterday with Bill Liavo, owner of the Fairway. Inasmuch as the Fairway is a “single-hander,” there was nothing for me to do except watch Bill do his stuff. This old saw about the devil finding things for idle hands to do apparently did not apply to me, so, in his baffled rage, he fit to inflict me (of all people) with a first-class mess of “aqua-saline nausea.” This is the following day and things are still revolving. Each time the typewriter comes around I take a swat at it.

I do wish that I was in a position to take up a little of this money that is saying I won’t get out of the harbor, or past Trinidad or Klamath and so on. The thing that I like best is to surprise the wise gents, who, like the ruler of the Queens Navee, have never been to sea.

Reach Matthew Durkee at mdurkee@triplicate.com.

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