Volume One Number Seven
Capt Gray Sails the Columbia
Pacific Northwest Maritime 1792
First Ship Built on Pacific Coast
Nootka Sound Rendezvous
At last, on the 16th of August, 1788, the sloop reached its destined haven in Nootka Sound. Two English vessels from Macao, under Portuguese colors, were lying there. The commanders, Captains Meares and Douglas, came out in a boat and offered their assistance to the little stranger. The acquaintance proved to be friendly, although there were evidences, later on, of a disguised jealousy between them.
Three days later the English launched a small schooner, named Northwest America -- the first vessel ever built on the [Pacific Northwest] Coast. It was a gala day, fittingly celebrated by salutes and festivities in which the Americans cordially joined. The Washington was now hauled up on the ways for graving, and preparations began to be made for collecting furs.
One day, just a week after their arrival, they saw a sail in the distance, which by their glasses, they soon recognized as the long lost Columbia. Capt. Gray immediately took the long boat and went out to meet her, and shortly before sunset she anchored within 40 yards of the sloop.
It was decided to winter in Friendly Cove, Nootka Sound, and a house was built large enough for the entire crew. They shot an abundance of game, prepared charcoal for their smiths and worked their iron into chisels, which were in good demand among the natives. A large fleet of canoes came in great parade and offered their sea otter skins for one chisel each. Our men readily bought the lot - 200 in number - worth from $6000 to $8000. This was the best bargain they ever made, as they could seldom get a good skin for less than 6 or 10 chisels. An average price was one skin for a blanket, four for a pistol and six for a musket.
Capt. Kendrick concluded to put the ship's property on board the sloop Washington and take her on a cruise in her himself while Gray should take the Columbia to the Sandwich Islands [Hawaii] and get provisions for the voyage to China and there dispose of the skins.
And so the two vessels parted company. After a pleasant trip to resupply, Gray landed in China. It was an unfavorable season for trade and their thousand sea otter skins had to be sold at a sacrifice. The ship was repaired at great expense and made ready for a cargo of teas. As Gray left China, Capt Kendrick and the Washington sat in a nearby harbor awaiting repairs. Kendrick turns the sloop into a brig while Gray made his voyages to and from Boston. --Morning Oregonian
The above story is a only small part of the story in our printed edition which tells about Capt. Robert Gray's trip from Boston to the Pacific Northwest - and his sailing up the Columbia River.
Read our other maritime edition!
Read our Volume One, Number Six Portland, Oregon Maritime 1891
Bridget E. Smith, editor & publisher
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Published in Portland, Oregon