The End of Wolff II [1910]

Wolff II Burned

Johnny Wolff’s luck changed last week, when, after being beaten at Vancouver, two attempts were made within two hours to burn the Wolff II, motorboat, champion of the Pacific Coast for two years, when its house, moored under the east end of the Morrison bridge, was burned. The fire was extinguished by the fireboat George H. Williams after a struggle to prevent it from spreading to other boat houses nearby.

The first attempt to destroy the boat occurred at 8:30 o’clock and two men were seen to run from the place when the alarm was given.

For a time the bridge was threatened and a stream from the fire boat was played on it. The burning boat house was moored directly under the east approach to the bridge. The flames shot 50 feet to the bottom of the bridge, which is of wood.

So intense was the heat that the steamer Pronto, which was moored at Nickum & Kelly’s sand dock, below the scene of the fire, was required to steam down the river to escape being burned.

The fire was first seen by Mr. Cloninger and he gave the alarm. He said:

"When I first saw the blaze, it was small one. I thought it was the light of a lantern inside the house. Seeing Mr. Wolff leave the boat house about an hour before, I thought it was queer that he should back there again, so I gave the capstan, on the bow of the boat, a turn, making lots of noise. This apparently frightened the men for I saw them run from the house up the steps. Less than a minute later a terrific explosion occurred and the whole boat house was enveloped in flames. I then ran up to the pilot house of the steamer and blew the whistle for the fire boat."

The hull of the speedy craft is almost ruined, but the engine, save that the wires are burned, is still in good condition. The craft had been swung out of water in a cradle and when the fire burned away the rear end of the cradle, the stern became submerged, preventing an examination of the damage in that quarter. The bow was damaged but little. Amidships, where the gasoline tank was situated, the hull is almost burned through.

The sides of the boat house and the roof were entirely burned away, but the boat house moored alongside was only scorched.

The Wolff II was built in Portland two years by John Wolff and Captain E. W. Spencer. She has held the motorboat championship of the Pacific for two years, having a speed of 34 miles per hour when crowded to capacity. The craft was valued at about $3,000 and was equipped with a 6-cylinder Smalley engine, developing more than 100 horsepower. She was 40 feet long and 4 feet beam.

The craft raced at Vancouver against the Seattle Spirit—Pacer, but lost on account of engine trouble. She had just returned from Vancouver about one and one-half hours before the fire took place. She brought Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Wolff, George Kinnear, vice-commodore of the Portland Motor Boat Club, and Orth Mathiot from Vancouver.

Mr. and Mrs. Wolff left immediately after their return from Vancouver for Sauvies island, six miles below the mouth of the Willamette river.

It was planned by the owners to make this racing season the last for the Wolff II, as they thought she was getting too old for first-class racing.

(Transcribed from the Western Yacht and Launchman, Oct. 15, 1910, p. 9.)

[Thenks to Greg Calkins for help in preparing this page —LF]

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