Sail through history of the Mosquito Fleet
June 12, 2008 · Updated 9:28 AM
Bob Ulsh remembers fondly the days of the Mosquito Fleet although in their heyday, the vessels were referred to as just the boats.
My father worked on one called the Arcadia, and I never heard my dad use that term he just said the boats, Ulsh recalled, explaining also that the term Mosquito Fleet did not originate in the Puget Sound, but was a description first used in Europe, which had its own fleet of boats that delivered people, goods and mail to different points along its coastline. However, we did have the worlds largest Mosquito Fleet.
These tidbits and many more are what Ulsh will be sharing Sunday as he narrates the third annual Mosquito Fleet Historical Cruise, sponsored by the Puget Sound Genealogical Society.
This year, the cruise will take the southern route of Kitsap County whistle stops, which explores Gorst, the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Rich Passage, Fort Ward and South Colby.
Some of the old docks are not even visible anymore, theyre so rotted away, but I remember where they were, Ulsh said, recalling that the fleet when he rode it regularly as a child in the late 1930s and early 40s was not just an efficient way to travel and deliver items when both roads and vehicles were not necessarily reliable, but a thriving community in and of itself.
It was a nice way to travel and a nice way to meet people, he said, explaining that he frequently rode with his mother on his fathers route that traveled from their small community of Lakebay, to the big city Tacoma. To us, that was town wed go to the dentist, and then my mother would take us to the movies as a reward after our appointment.
On those regular trips, Ulsh said he and his family would get to know dozens of people they otherwise would never meet, such as those who either lived far away or were from different walks of life.
There were lots of characters that rode those boats ranchers, loggers, sophisticated types and unsophisticated types, he recalled, adding that the boats were separated into mens and womens areas, and, not surprisingly, the more interesting place to be was the mens cabin.
They told ribald stories, smoked and played cards, while the ladies sat back in their compartment with the children and crocheted, he said, admitting that he and the other children were often trying to sneak into the mens cabin. But we never lasted more than a minute before they caught us.
Started in 1853, the Mosquito Fleet began to fade once road improvements like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge were built, and Ulsh laments that knowledge of the once-robust service that people depended on for transportation and delivery of everything from chicken feed to cows is fading fast.
Its a history thats kind of been lost; its too bad, but sometimes we tend to not appreciate history until were almost history ourselves, he said, adding that he was pleased to find that the groups so far on the cruises have been very receptive to his stories and knowledge about the area.
Sundays cruise begins at 11 a.m., with boarding at 10:30 a.m. Seats are still available, and for more information or to make reservations, call 876-4320.