Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pilot No. 1

Poking around in the attic of old mariners I have discovered a puzzle, Captain George Flavel. He is reported to be the first person to be issued a Columbia River Bar Pilots license, branch license No. 1. He received this license in the year 1851, according to lots of sources, including the CRBP website. Back in the days of yore the mouth of the Columbia was known around the globe as a good place to lose a ship with all hands and cargo, so getting them across safely was the first order of business for the entire region.

What makes the Flavel story odd is that the folks in Astoria had decided to have a Board of Pilot Commissioners in 1846, and in January of 1847 the territorial legislature passed a section of rules and regulations for this commission to follow (Spectator, Oregon City, Jan 7, 1847). So that means they had to wait for someone to show up who was brave and skilled enough to be pilot number one. 

Capt George Flavel

Captain Flavel made a huge pile of money over the years and built a monstrosity of a Victorian mansion in Astoria (now a museum). But as of today there isn't even a Wikipedia article about him and he only gets a few words in Lewis & Dryden's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. If I had an intern working for me, like Cosmo Kramer had working for him, I could fix that omission to the wiki.