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Originally published Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 8:01 PM

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Capt. Lynn Campbell, who launched harbor tours in Seattle, dies at 101

Capt. Lynn Campbell, whose Seattle Harbor Tours — renamed Argosy Cruises after he sold it and retired — helped to develop Seattle's tourist trade, has died at 101.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Capt. Lynn Campbell, whose Seattle Harbor Tours helped develop the city's tourist trade and who for more than 40 years was a central figure on its waterfront, has died at 101.

In 1949, he formed the Spring Street Water Taxi company, which ferried crews and supplies out to ships anchored in Puget Sound. Three years later, he started offering harbor tours to visitors and his cruise boats became part of the city's fabric.

Capt. Campbell gave impromptu commentaries to his tour passengers about the region, which his daughter Charlotte Araki said he considered "the most beautiful place in the world."

The company, renamed Argosy Cruises after Capt. Campbell sold it upon retirement in 1990, remains a Seattle fixture, running tours from Pier 55.

In Capt. Campbell's heyday, he ran the company with his wife, Alyce, and treated his half-dozen skippers, assorted deck hands, waiters and bartenders as a tight family.

Paul Dudley — who first met Capt. Campbell when he was 15 and the captain was 64 — was a deck hand and then a captain with Seattle Harbor Tours, and continued a close friendship with his boss right up until his death. Dudley recalled Capt. Campbell in his prime as a gregarious man with a bone-crushing handshake, always ready to pat you on the back and full of the joy of life.

"Employees immediately became part of his family," said Dudley. "His seal of approval made you feel like a million dollars."

In the later years of his working life, Capt. Campbell took particular pleasure in captaining the boats that took kids out to Camp Sealth on Vashon Island for summer camp, just "to be around the kids," said Dudley.

Araki said her father had been healthy until near the end and passed away peacefully Wednesday (Jan. 2) "of old age" at his Lynwood home on Bainbridge Island.

Capt. Campbell's long life twisted through a series of adventures.

He grew up on a farm in the hills of North Carolina, then struck out on his own without finishing high school and headed west with a traveling carnival. He went all over the U.S., setting off the carnival fireworks.

Fetching up in Seattle during the Depression, he worked on a freighter between Seattle and Alaska, which is how he first developed his seamanship.

After he married, for a time he delivered packages for the Frederick & Nelson department store, riding a motorcycle and sidecar.

Because a childhood car accident had left him with a hip injury, he was turned down for military service when World War II broke out and spent those years producing steel for the war effort at Isaacson Steel on the Duwamish Waterway.

After the war, he started a tugboat business, hauling logs across Puget Sound. That led to the Spring Street Water Taxi company and then to the harbor tours.

Araki, who says she was a "wharf rat" then, recalls the Seattle waterfront in the early 1950s as a world of cargo ships and fish-packing companies, not a promenade for tourists.

"This was a working waterfront," said Araki. "Train cars backed into the docks. The bows of great ships loomed over your head."

But tourism grew along with Capt. Campbell's business. Eventually, he operated four cruise boats: Goodtime I, II and III and then Spirit of Seattle, as well as a couple of smaller launches.

They were in use year-round, not just for tourists but for local parties, celebrations and weddings. Capt. Campbell developed staple tours to Blake Island and to Kiana Lodge for Indian salmon bakes.

The company flourished and in the 1980s it outfitted its skippers with full-out captain's uniforms, replete with epaulets and gold stripes. Capt. Campbell, who Araki said "enjoyed a good joke better than anything," used to crack up when he walked the waterfront in his whites during Seafair and young Navy sailors would rush to salute him.

After his retirement, he traveled with Alyce, played in a poker club, sailed his yacht, took fishing trips and enjoyed his grandkids.

A few months after he turned 100, Dudley visited him. "I'm 100 years old ... dammit!" he told Dudley. "What I've seen in just these last 50 years has been just incredible."

Capt. Campbell was preceded in death by his first wife, Louise; his second wife, Alyce; and his daughter Lynn.

In addition to his daughter Charlotte, of Colorado, he is survived by daughters Wendy Siegrist, of Duvall, and Kristen Boyes, of Bow, Skagit County, as well as nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Capt. Campbell will be buried this week in the family plot in North Carolina. A Seattle memorial service will be held in March.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com

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