Shanghaiing at Oregon ports


A scene from Astoria during the golden age of shanghiing

Portland and Astoria were infamous ports for shanghaiing sailors.

Men known as “crimps” used knockout drops, alcohol and other means to obtain crews for sailing ship captains. Once the bodies were delivered on board ship and the crimp was paid the ship set sail.

At the height of the shanghaiing days crimps charged as much as $135 per man and stories were told of dead men, and even a cigar store wooden Indian, having been taken aboard by gullible captains. As steamships became more popular, the sailing era began to fade and large crews were no longer necessary.

In time the Portland and Astoria waterfront became relatively safe places, where a man no longer needed to worry about waking up with a hangover and being a hundred miles out to sea.

Rick Steber is an award winning writer of contemporary western stories. To find out more about his books, including non-fiction biographies and novels, audio books and DVDs, visit his website:  Writing the West

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A Moment in Oregon’s History: May1880

map_mouth_columbia_river_1855_WSUMay 4, 1880 dawned with a gentle breeze fanning the flat surface of the Pacific Ocean. Conditions were ideal for commercial salmon fishing at the entrance to the Columbia River. Without warning a freak storm struck and within minutes the wind was blowing in excess of a hundred miles an hour.

Within a half-hour the entire Columbia River fishing fleet was lost, including 240 boats, and the loss of life was set at 325.

crg-salmon-fleet-1910s-400For weeks after the disaster, families and friends of the deceased walked the beaches searching for some sign of their loved ones.

And the ocean, it showed not the slightest remorse.