Lake Washington Passenger Steamer: Elfin

I made a dive on the Elfin today along with friends. 

The Elfin was built in Pontiac in 1891 as a replacement boat for captain Frank Curtis who had lost the Squak on Christmas Day, 1890.  Curtis commissioned E.F. Lee to build the steamer. 

4th of July, 1891 the Elfin began making round trips from Northrup’s Landing (present day Yarrow Bay) to Kirkland and Houghton, then across the lake to Madison Street.  The Elfin made 6 of these trips per day and a one way fare was just 10 cents. 

In 1896 the Elfin was rebuilt; the pilot house being moved to the upper deck to yield greater passenger capacity and the 54.5 ft craft was also outfitted with a new steeple-compound engine.

In 1900 the Elfin was destroyed by fire.  The engine was the only item salvaged and it was later incorporated into another small passenger steamer named Peerless, built by Captain Curtis and his sons who by this time had gone into the ship business for themselves.   The Elfin’s engine then ran in the Peerless for a few years on the Black River for the Everett-Cooperville run on Puget Sound.

Today the Elfin rests on a gentle slope off Houghton in about 140ft of water – the top of the wreck up near 125ft.  It is an empty burned hull that is sitting upright and there is a 2.5 foot rim of decking still around the outside edge up near the bow and back at the stern.  Some of the white paint that made up the top half of the hull, and some of the dark paint used on the bottom portion of the hull, is still visible between the timber joints.  Those timbers that were below the fireline are generally in good shape; and there are a couple short pieces of wood framing jutting upwards near the location of the pilot house.

We circled the wreck from the outside two full times, then dropped inside the hull and swam the length of the steamer down and back.

A second group of divers was planning to dive the wreck after us, and they were planning to shoot video.  If they post the video I will grab some stills for the page here, otherwise you can reference for underwater images taken from 2002.  




Potential New Wreck & The Coal Cars

A few months ago when I was out conducting side scan sonar work with Innerspace Exploration, we hit an area North of 520 that had a number of wrecks within close range of one another.  

This area is generally known to the small group of local exploration divers, with the main wreck of the bunch being the YMS-359 – a US Navy Minesweeper that sits in 200ft of water and is about 135ft long.  So I didn’t think too much of the information until last week when I sat down with the data and tried to match wreck names to target locations.  As I matched coordinates to wrecks like Elfin, Urania, the previously mentioned YMS-359, Falcon, and Scout – I came up with one more set of coordinates than I had wreck names to match.

I bounced the general coordinates of this wreck off my friend Walter, who also has an extensive list of targets in the lake, and he couldn’t find a name to match either. So once again, I think we have a new target to explore…

The week of August 15th we’re going to make an exploration dive on the Coal Cars.  I have wanted to hit these submerged targets for awhile, so we’re going to make a dive on them first.  They are right up next to the 520 bridge, which can be really rough water depending on the wind conditions. 

Post dive we’ll head to the new coordinates to confirm them one more time; and see if we can locate the wreck with a basic fish finder. If we confirm the position of the wreck, we’ll make a dive on it a short time later.