Background photo of the beach at Whale Cove was made by Bryce Buchanan in 2004. (Via WikiMedia Commons, cc/by/SA)
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But there was no time for celebration; they were still at least 10 miles inside the 12-mile danger zone. Leaving the empty lifeboat tossing upon the waves, the Pescawah turned west and, under full canvas hauled close to the southwest wind and probably with the gas engine running wide open as well, started for the open sea as fast as she could go.
It wasn’t fast enough. The 1,181-ton, 16-knot Coast Guard cutter Algonquin, which had also plotted the winds and currents to search for survivors, got to the scene a short time later and saw a sinister-looking black schooner, canvas virtually bursting as she raced westward … and it was all over for the Pescawah.
Pamphlet, of course, told the Algonquin’s officers that he was taking the liquor to Mexico; but he didn’t have the all-important paperwork to back that claim up, so he was promptly arrested, along with the other crew members.
When they arrived at Astoria, they were greeted by a cheering crowd, including the rest of the Caoba’s crew. After all, it was only with a bit of luck that the Pescawah had found the tiny lifeboat bobbing in the sea; if Pamphlet and his men had stayed in safe waters, the Coast Guard cutter might not have spotted them in time, and half of them might very well be dead.
The popular show of support might have been gratifying, but it did not help the Canadians’ cause. The cheering infuriated the district immigration officer, who responded by jailing the Pescawah’s crew and throwing everything he had at the men — including a charge of entering port without inspection and failure to carry the proper entry visa.
In response, calls for clemency came from all over the U.S. and Canada. The Canadians had put themselves in jeopardy to save these sailors after two freighters turned their backs on them in an unlovely scramble for booty; it didn’t seem right to most folks that the only people on the water that day who did the right thing should pay for their heroism with prison sentences.
It wasn’t enough. Off to prison they went — with no regrets.
"If I was off the coast with a cargo of liquor, and the whole Yankee fleet was in your waters, and I saw that I could save the life of one poor fisherman, I'd sail in and do it again," Pamphlet said. "That's the training of the sea, my boy."
As for the Caoba — the lumber schooner for whose crew members the Pescawah's crew risked and gave all — all the salvage attempts failed. The strong southwest wind blew her up onto the coast of Washington, and she fetched up near Ocean Park. Today, you can still find the ship's rusty boiler if you know where along the shore to look for it.
Pamphlet died at age 59 in 1932, a few years after his release from prison; though a solid healthy specimen at the time of his capture, he caught tuberculosis in the hoosegow, and it killed him. He really had, it turned out, given his life to save those sailors.
The Pescawah came to a bad end as well. After about a decade of weathering at a dock in Portland, she was sold to an Oregon City man named Victor Riley. Riley planned to use the Pescawah to sail to the Arctic and hunt whales — an activity that, in the mid-1930s, was not frowned upon as it is today.
Riley recruited a crew of college students to help him in this adventure. Finding the Pescawah's sturdy 100-horsepower Union marine power plant to be non-operational (probably seized), he disconnected it and replaced it with a four-cylinder automobile engine scavenged from an old Maxwell. The Maxwell engine was stationed up on the ship’s deck, driving the prop shaft with a long belt.
It was a remarkably janky and unseaworthy DIY setup. Also, the most common Maxwell engine in the late 1910s and early 1920s was a 3-liter, 25-horsepower flathead unit; most likely, the Pescawah’s new engine was one of these. It was made to push a 1,500-pound car around at speeds of 30 to 40 miles per hour; but it was simply not up to the job of muscling 100 tons of schooner around — even when it was running.
Which, before too long, it was not. On the Pescawah’s way across the bar, at the moment it was most needed, the old flivver motor quit and the storied old sailing ship was washed into the North Jetty. Captain Riley was killed in the crash, crushed against the rocks while trying to launch the lifeboat; the other crew members managed to swim to shore.