H.M. Armed Tender Chatham Entering Cattle Pass – May 18, 1792

by Steve Mayo in Discovery & Chatham


H.M. Armed Tender Chatham Entering Cattle Pass

– May 18, 1792 


            The brig Chatham’s commander, Lieutenant William Broughton, sails her through the pass between San Juan Island and Lopez Island to begin the first written survey of the San Juan Islands. The cutter, under Chatham’s master, James Johnstone, is leading the way as they buck the outgoing tide.


            Early that morning, with cloudy weather, they had sailed from Discovery Bay on the south side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca in company with H.M.S. Discovery.   Captain Vancouver took Discovery east to explore Admiralty Inlet while Broughton was directed to examine the Islands to the north.


            The light southeasterly breeze was fair to carry Chatham, with all plain sail set, north across the strait leaving, Smith Island to starboard. In the afternoon, the sky began to clear as the breeze strengthened and shifted to a southwesterly. With a fine wind, they steered for the middle opening to the islands. At 5:30 PM, near the pass, Chatham hove to and hoisted out her cutter. Johnstone was rowed ahead in the small boat to take soundings and lead the way into the narrow pass. Lieutenant Broughton followed with the brig under easy sail (topgallants furled), past Goose Island and into Griffin Bay.


            From Lieutenant Broughton’s log: “1/2 past 5 hove to & sent the Cutter to sound the entrance of an opening which was discovered. At 6 entr’d the harbor, sounded 19 fms.”


            From Broughton’s journal: “Some Rocky Islands lay off the entrance and the appearance of  Broken Water or else a very strong tide setting to windw’rd. The Cutter went ahead to sound – and we followed her through a passage of a mile in width, carrying in – 19, 13 & 12 fath’ms close to the larboard Rocky Island as we entered.”


             From Mr. Johnstone’s journal: “The wind now veered to about SW and blew fresh which enabled us to fetch the middle opening. The water across the entrance having a suspicious appearance of shoals, I went ahead in the Cutter, whilst the vessel followed under easy sail.”

– Steve Mayo, 1986



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