Sidewheelers and sternwheelers were the main source of transportation in Puget Sound in the mid 1800s. Some say the name “Mosquito Fleet” came about because from a distance, the boats behaved like a swarm of mosquitoes in the harbour moving passengers and freight.
There was a dramatic increase in activity at the onset of the Fraser River gold rush.
In 1859, the newly built wooden side-wheeler ‘Eliza Anderson’ arrived from Portland to start the first scheduled service from Olympia to Victoria. ‘Eliza Anderson’ was one of the first ships to fill the need for the passengers and provisions being sent north. It was a profitable route for over twelve years.
from the British Colonist April 30, 1859:
We this week had the pleasure of a trip to Queenborough*, Langley and back, on board the steamer Eliza Anderson. The weather being fine and a good breeze assisting our staunch-built ship, we made the passage to Queenborough in eight hours. Discharging our freight and passengers in a few minutes – for Capt. Wells keeps the “pot boiling” – we steamed up the capacious Fraser to Langley in about two hours. On Wednesday we returned in about 11 hours, including stoppages. For a trip to Fraser, commend us to the Eliza Anderson for safety and comfort.
*Queenborough was the old name for New Westminster.
There are over 40 historical Mosquito Fleet ports along Kitsap County’s 228 miles of Puget Sound shoreline.
Note: Sidewheelers had two paddlewheels, one on each side and they required a wharf to dock. Sternwheelers had a single paddlewheel at the back and were simply ‘nosed’ ashore. They also had the advantage of being easier to control in narrow waterways and the hull acted as a shield for the paddlewheel. Sternwheelers were the preferred ship in British Columbia.