From the New Yorker [1905]

Hard Indeed To Understand

Just why the so-called autoboat has attained such popularity, unless it be the unquenchable desire of the average American to lead in everything, is a darksome mystery of the mighty deep. While up to the present nothing has been accomplished that is of real value from the viewpoint of a naval architect, there is much to say against this extreme type of boat. The element of danger is never absent, and, although as yet we have had no accident that resulted in loss of life, there have been quite a few narrow escapes. Of the craft themselves, constructed in the lightest possible manner and equipped with an engine whose power is far beyond that required to drive a craft four times the size of a tiny boat, the hull is racked to pieces in a short time. I say this after carefully comparing the autoboats of last Summer with those making history at the present time. The statistics show that not one of the older boats has a chance to win against the newer vessels, yet the authenticated records have not been lowered to any appreciable extent. The conclusion is obvious. The older boats have deteriorated in speed, and several I have examined show the effects of vibration and racking to an extent impossible in a more wholesome type of boat. To be comfortable when one of these flyers is speeding is out of the pale of possibilities, as the flying spray dashes completely over it, and to have a superstructure or even a hood to counteract this would so far retard the speed as to relegate the craft to the class of slower but safer launches. Again the power usually employed is far from satisfactory or reliable when compared with steam.

During the experience of some twenty years I have swept across the waters with Charles R. Flint in Arrow at the rate of 40 knots an hour, I have stood beside the pilot when E. Burgess Warren's flyer Ellide speeded over the Government measured mile at 40 miles an hour, and in the dim past, I can recall fast trials on Feisen, Yankee Doodle and Vamoose. The propelling power of these boats was steam in each instance, and I cannot recall a serious accident. On the other hand, within twelve months one of the autoboats, owned by a Vanderbilt, was burned to the water's edge; another flyer, recently purchased by E. R. Thomas, became unmanageable and threw the steersman overboard, afterwards running amuck and turning around, tried to bit the unfortunate man who was struggling in the water, while still another with a broken rudder rope turned turtle and almost drowned the engineer. —New Yorker.

(Transcribed from Power Boat News, Oct. 7, 1905, p. 526. )

[Here is a typical article that rests in the comfort of established, proved technology and scoffs at the new, just as many others screamed "Get a horse," at offending chug buggy owners of the age. While the new gasoline powered boats were obviously dangerous in that many owners and drivers were low on the learning curve, the clear purpose of the autoboats was identical to the overpowered, under stressed Grand Prix racers that participated in the carnage of the European point to point races of the early century. The writer also conveniently ignores the fact that many people were killed and injured in the early days of steam power as owners and engineers of the new technology packed too much pressure in their boilers, resulting in disastrous explosions. It' s all relative.-- GWC]

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


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Leslie Field, 2000