The family hailed from San Diego – four boys, Herbert, William, Jack and Edgar, and older sister Edith. The family patriarch, John, had sailed through the Isthmus of Panama to San Francisco from New Brunswick in 1849 then skippered the schooner Champion for several years along the West Coast.
The boys must have inherited this nautical bent because, at an early age, they were hiring themselves out for fishing trips using a small skiff that they sailed around the bay.
In the summer of 1899, all four boys ran a glass-bottomed boat excursion at Catalina Island. This marked the beginning of the famous glass-bottom boat rides which were to prove of such great interest and profit at Catalina.
“(P)aying customers were wanted, and the make the island a popular vacationing spot the Banning Brothers (the island’s owners) erected tents which could be rented for the season – from May to September.”
“(S)o, we hoisted sail one day, Herb and I, and went to Avalon, Catalina, where we immediately became engaged in taking fishing parties out daily, and conducting excursions to sunken gardens under the sea.”
“Business at Avalon was good. Possibly because we made a practice of taking parties of hotel employees for a moonlight rail several times a month, the guests usually found the ‘Santa Barbara’ most highly recommended and we never lacked for good crowds at two dollars a head on fishing and sailing trips.”
“In 1899 all four of us were on hand at the island. In addition to the marine garden excursions we offered the special attraction of exhibition diving … Herb would dress and go down. Picking up objects as souvenirs and catching brightly colored fish with a butterfly net for various shore aquariums.”
“Not averse to picking up a few dollars here and there, we four would often conduct parties to the sandab grounds. Sandab, a tasty fish and much in demand, were to be caught only in deep water … We caught then on lines with dozens of hooks each …” (William)
Then the Hawaiian Islands attracted their attention, and, as William put it, they “went with high hopes and the spirit of a pioneer toward strange lands and all the beauty of sky and sea in the blue Pacific.” (Herb and William were headed to Hawai‘i.)
“On January 9, 1900, we sailed out of Golden Gate toward the Great adventure …”
Then, on January 19, 1900, 29-year old Herbert and 25-year old William had their first view of Honolulu after a ten-day journey from San Francisco.
Shortly after, Jack, age 18, arrived on October 16, 1900; youngest of all, Edgar, arrived in July 1901 (but being only fifteen at the time, he attended McKinley High School before returning to California to study medicine.)
“For years we had heard tales of Hawaii; now at last we were to see it for ourselves. Every passing hour, every wave curling under our bows brought us so much nearer, and the eyes of youth, straining ahead of the ship, seemed almost to glimpse a palm-fringed shore where life was gay and living carefree.”
They started a charter boat company in Honolulu, for “Pleasure cruise or fishing, between the islands or whatever they want.” (Jack Jr) It was “an early sport fishing (service)”. (Krauss) The ‘Sea Scout’ was their charter boat. (Jack Jr) Some suggest this was the beginning of charter fishing in the Islands.
Looking at pictures “of a woman holding up fish. And a row of men holding up fish. It looks to me like those were people they took out, just like today in Kona you’ve got people standing there with their fish catch. When they corne back, they take their picture.” (Krauss)
They expanded into shark fishing … “Singularly enough, for the first time since I had become fired with the ambition to hunt sharks. I found myself giving little thought to the possibilities of shark fishing among the Islands.”
“The prospect of seeing and living in these elysian isles had unceremoniously overshadowed my original purpose in going there. I was, to put it mildly, all anticipation.” (William)
Shortly after arrival, the boys were “building a boat fitted in the bottom with a cased pane of the finest plate glass procurable, one-fourth of an inch thick. This will be so placed that it can be easily removed, as one of the most important conditions for success is that the glass be perfectly clean.”
“This kind of boat is much used on Catalina island.… With a glass bottomed boat, where the light from above is excluded be a wide awning the bottom may be inspected at from twelve to eighteen fathoms.”
The boys planned “to take passengers out to the reef surrounding the (Honolulu) harbor”. (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, October 31, 1901)
They also added other adventure. “Professor PM Stewart who occupies one of the chairs of language in Cambridge University, England, has had an experience during his visit to Honolulu that probably never came to him before. He went shark fishing”
“On Friday he caught a shark. His wife who has attracted much attention in this city on account of being a very tall striking looking blonde with very ultra English appearance, accompanied him and to catch the first shark.”
“He hooked one shark yesterday morning and drew the shark close to the boat and then started to dispatch the sea wolf with a spade. The weapon was bent and then Professor Stewart took a hatchet to strike the monster. In his excitement the professor struck the line with the hatchet cutting the line and allowing the shark to escape.”
“Later in the day a second shark was caught near the bell buoy. This time the shark was dispatched without cutting the line and was towed in shore. The shark measured about 14 feet in length and was of the man eating variety.”
The boys “have hit on a new scheme for shark fishing. They are able now to take the sharks with a hook and line instead of harpooning them as was done formerly. Some very successful expeditious have been taken out by tile young men.” (Hawaiian Star, June 2, 1906)
They also looked at other fish activities …
It was the idea of Jack … “He has been plying the waters of the bay at all hours of the day and night for many years and had grown so accustomed to seeing the buzzing blue fish leap out of the water as his launch plowed past that he knew, almost to a foot, where every school of flying fish is between the bell buoy and Diamond Head.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, August 23, 1910)
“Yesterday a new sport was born; Waikiki bay was the birthplace, and HP Wood of the Hawaii promotion committee was the accoucheur. For the first time in the history of the field and gun were flying fish flushed with a steam launch and shot on the wing.”
“It was a brand new experience in the hunting line that a party of local nimrods and visitors indulged in yesterday morning, an experience that will undoubtedly be shared in by many others before long.”
“Taking pot shots at fish on the wing is sport of the first water, affording plenty of exercise in the good sea air, giving the opportunity for quick shooting, providing for the use of all the alertness contained within a man and being not too hard upon the fish.”
Oh, the boys of this story … the brothers, Herbert, William and Jack formed a company, Young Brothers; it eventually grew over the years into an active interisland freight company. (Jack, the youngest of the Young Brothers is my grandfather.)
In 1999, Saltchuk Resources, Inc of Seattle, Washington, the parent company of Foss Maritime, acquired Young Brothers and selected assets of Hawaiian Tug & Barge. In 2013, Hawaiian Tug & Barge was rebranded and incorporated into the Foss Maritime fleet, while Young Brothers remains a wholly owned subsidiary of Foss.
Currently, Young Brothers is undergoing a fleet modernization initiative to meet neighbor island cargo needs into the next generation. By the end of 2018, Young Brothers will have made capital investments of over $180 million in new vessels and shore-side equipment. (YB)