Capt. Carl H. Carlsen

Capt. Carl H. Carlsen’s (1900-1961) seagoing career began in 1916 when he enlisted in the Navy and chased German raiders during WWI aboard the battleship USS Oregon, after which he joined the Coast Guard and went to sea on board the cutter Mojave.

Following his Coast Guard service in the late 1920s, he moved to Honolulu and signed on as 3rd Mate with Inter-Island Steam Navigation Co., which ran steamship service between the main Hawaiian islands until 1947. 

Then there was a spell in Washington, his home state, during which he bought and captained a steam tugboat on Puget Sound.

In the 30s, Carlsen returned to Hawai‘i and Inter-Island as Chief Mate and advanced to Captain. His first command was SS Haleakala.

Over the years, “Big Swede” (his nickname on the waterfronts) also skippered SS Wai‘ale‘ale and SS Hualalai.

One time during the 30s, Capt. Carlsen was docking Hualalai at Nawiliwili while Hualalai’s motor lifeboat ran lines to the dock. 

When the lifeboat operator decided to run aft between the ship and the dock — as he’d been ordered not to do — and the lifeboat’s motor then conked out, Carlsen leaned over Hualalai’s port bridge wind dodger and proceeded to chew him out.  

Meanwhile, Hualalai’s 250 passengers were leaning on the rails, witnessing all that had transpired.

Carlsen’s blast continued unabated, when out of the shadow of the dock warehouse stepped Dot Eldon, wife of Jack Eldon, an engineer at McBryde Sugar Co., and good friends of both Carlsen and his wife, Ida.

Upon seeing her, Carlsen abruptly stopped. A moment of expectant silence occurred. Then Dot said, “Why Carl, I never knew you swore,” and the passengers exploded in laughter.

Capt. Carl “Big Swede” Carlsen and Ida Carlsen had two children, Pauline and Ehrling.


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