Beached Periwinkle’s place in North Beach lore

  • Thu Jan 17th, 2019 10:52am
  • Life

By Tom Quigg

The 55-foot pleasure boat Periwinkle ran aground on Oyehut Beach on Jan. 15, 1953. At the time I was 10 years old, and this account is as I witnessed and heard told by my father Charlie Quigg, company employees and friends over the years.

That evening on the way home from work at their construction company, the brothers, Charlie Quigg (age 36) and Jim Quigg (age 38), were having a cocktail in their favorite local bar, The Greek’s in the Royal Café in downtown Hoquiam. They struck up a conversation with a stranger who turned out to be an insurance adjuster sent to the coast to assess the damage of a pleasure boat that had run aground just north of Oyehut. Four men were aboard, one of whom had drowned attempting to come ashore in the surf.

The brothers, in the marine construction business, were intently interested in what the man had to say. As the adjuster described the damage, Charlie asked what he would take for it, as is. They struck a deal that evening to buy the Periwinkle for $1,500, as it sat on the beach.

To avoid total destruction, it had to be salvaged before the highest of the next two tides. During the middle of the night, a 20-ton mobile crane and an A-frame truck were moved to the beach. A work crew was notified to be on the beach at daylight. Their friend, Giles Hogan was a logger who lived nearby, and agreed to deliver his dozer and truck/trailer rig to Oyehut. By today’s standards all the equipment was too small to do the job, but it was all they had. Charlie took the lead as an ingenious salvage plan was executed to salvage the Periwinkle before it could be destroyed by the winter surf.

By daybreak the boat had been pretty seriously damaged. The port side of the cabin was gone, the port side hull planks at the transom had sprung out by about 18 inches at the deck, and the keel had been broken.

They had to somehow get it on the trailer, and safely above the high-water mark before the next high tide. First the crew was able to get slings around each end of the hull. The dozer excavated a shallow trench beside the hull. Next the trailer was backed into the trench, and the boat was maneuvered onto the trailer, one end at a time. Keep in mind that the boat was 55’ long by 14’ wide, sitting on an approximately 35’ by 8’ trailer. Once all was secured, the dozer carefully pulled everything forward until the trailer and the Periwinkle were safely onto the level, hard sand.

Arrangements had been made with Ralph Minard to haul the Periwinkle overland to a spot next to the Minard home on the shore of the North Bay of Grays Harbor. So, the precarious load traveled down the beach, up the Oyehut Beach approach, straight down Damon Road, to the north shore of Grays Harbor.

Meanwhile at Minard’s, a crew had been busy constructing a cradle that would serve to support and stabilize the Periwinkle. By the end of the day, she was at Minard’s, and safely supported.

The only shipyard capable for a boat that size was the Chilman Shipyard on the Hoquiam River. The Periwinkle was too large to move down the highway into Hoquiam. The only reasonable means was to move it by water. The North Bay of Grays Harbor is very shallow with extensive tideflats, with a few channels meandering through the flats. The boat was so heavily damaged it could not be floated into town. But there was a plan.

Quigg Bros.-McDonald, Inc. owned the steam powered clamshell Dredge Chinook. It had a draft about 4 feet, and could be towed to a spot in the North Bay a little less than a half mile from Minard’s. The cradle built to support the Periwinkle had skid timbers attached to the underside so that the boat in the cradle could be slid across the tideflats by winching it to the Dredge Chinook.

Arrangements were made to splice together multiple logging yarder cables to create a single cable reaching from the Periwinkle to the Dredge Chinook. Once everything was ready and the tide was right, the pull began. The cable drums on the dredge were not large enough to hold the entire length of cable, so the boat/cradle/sled combination would be pulled part way, the cable cut and attached to the second drum, and pulled again.

After several such pulls, the Periwinkle had been slid alongside the dredge, which supported the boat/cradle/sled for the 15 to 20 mile trip to Hoquiam. The best it could do was to hold it partially submerged. The combination was carried that way across the North Bay, up the Grays Harbor ship channel, to the shipyard on the Hoquiam River.

The move off the beach was pretty intense, so the kids had to stay home, and out of the way. Charlie’s children ranged in age from 10 to 5. I was the oldest followed by Kathy, Mike, and Jane. We made a couple of trips to Minard’s, but the highlight was when we got a day out of school, to watch it come up the river to the shipyard.

An old marine ways at the shipyard, that had been unused for years, had to be made ready for the lengthy repair job.

At the shipyard, the cradle/sled served its final purpose. When the tide was at the right height, the cradle/sled/boat and all was yarded up into the shipyard to a position where the Periwinkle could be worked on at all stages of the tide.

By the end of spring, the Periwinkle was re-launched, and moved to the construction company dock, which was downstream on Riverside Avenue. The next couple of months were spent getting her outfitted.

We kids spent many days with our Mom and Dad going over everything. It was accomplished with only one child falling overboard. Jane, the youngest, was tossing a stick off the side of a barge and lost her balance. Mom was a very good swimmer, and dove in after her. Jack Sloan was working in the engine compartment and noticed Mom go over the side; he jumped out of the compartment, and did a “cannonball” over the side to “save” Mom. It caused quite a stir at the time, and many laughs in later years.

That summer the Periwinkle took several trial runs up the Hoquiam and Chehalis Rivers, out in the Harbor, and a couple out to the ocean, with friends, family and people who had assisted in the salvage. By late summer, Charlie concluded everything was ready for the trip to Puget Sound. He had joined the Olympia Yacht Club and had a new floating boat house constructed.

For each of the next 10 summers, we spent weekends, plus an annual two week family cruise, around Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands, and the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. We were the luckiest kids ever. Our Dad died in 1964. The company kept the boat until 1973, and we took a few short cruises, and weekend outings, but it wasn’t the same as the first 11 years.

After the Periwinkle was sold the new owner’s changed the name. It sunk a couple of years ago, and currently up on blocks in Port Angeles, in very poor condition. I drove up to see it last year, and couldn’t help but get tears in my eyes.

Editor’s note: Tom Quigg is a lifelong Grays Harbor resident, longtime real estate broker in Aberdeen and Ocean Shores, and current Port of Grays Harbor commissioner.