More New Boats of 1904


New Power Boats
by C. D. Mower

A trip through the various yacht yards in the neighborhood of New York City gives undeniable evidence of the extent to which the craze for power boats has set its hold on the yachting fraternity in that locality, as every boat shop is filled with motor craft of all descriptions, while there is hardly a single boat of the kind that cheers the heart of the real sailor man.

The great majority of the boats seen in the yards are of the so-called automobile type from which great, and in some instances impossible speed is expected. If one starts out with the impression that an inspection of the new boats will give an idea of what might be considered a standard design for as modern high-speed launch his mind will be very quickly disbused of the idea as the hulls to be seen, either finished or under construction, so widely different from one another in design and construction that it is difficult to form any estimate of their merit. With all due respect to the designers, it must be said that many of the hulls are extremely ugly and ungraceful in form, and entirely lack the distinctive style that a long, narrow, and clean-lined hull of this type should have, and in design the main idea seems to have been simply to make the hull draw as little water as possible, regardless of wave lines and form generally. On the other hand, some of the hulls show a fine form, and it is apparent that the designer has drawn his lines with skill and careful thought and produced a craft without excessive wetted surface and with a fair form that can be easily driven without undue wave-making. These boats also have a good sheer, well designed ends, and a general appearance of style and smartness.

Motors of all sorts and descriptions are being installed, but the general tendency is to use very light motors of the four-cycle type with at least four cylinders. In many cases the motors are identically the same as used in automobiles, while in others a modification of the car motor, making it better adapted for marine use, is employed. In some instances we find special light-weight motors that have been turned out by manufacturers who have an established reputation for successful marine motors. In general, it may be said that the features of the up-to-date speed launch are very high power with extreme lightness of hull and motor, as necessarily the boat with the greatest power and smallest displacement must give the greatest speed, where the features of design, etc., are fairly equal.

The firm of Smith & Mabley, dealers in automobiles, may justly be given credit as being the first to build and equip a boat with a regular car motor, as the Vingt-et-Un, built last fall for this firm by Thomas Fearon of Yonkers, from a design by Mr. C. H. Crane, was the first auto-boat to attract any great degree of public notice. Through the daily press this boat gained a reputation as capable of a speed of twenty-three or twenty-four miles an hour. The figures were never vouched for and are greatly exaggerated, but nevertheless it is probable that at the time Vingt-et-Un was the fastest boat of her length in the United States.

The Standard, a much larger boat, owned by the U.S. Long Distance Automobile Company, was built several months in advance of the Smith & Mabley boat, and might lay claim to being the pioneer automobile boat. But strictly speaking, she was more on the order of an extreme high-speed power launch fitted, not with an automobile motor, but with a specially designed marine motor, intended for high-speed work in lightly-constructed hulls. Mention of the Standard necessitates a word about the Leighton boat, Adios, built a year earlier by Mr. H. J. Leighton, of Syracuse. This boat was of the more conventional style, and yet developed greater speed than the Standard, and was undoubtedly the first motor-driven boat to actually do better than twenty miles an hour.

It is really difficult to place the credit of being the first automobile launch on any one boat, as the development has been made step by step, even though it has been rapid, and it can fairly be said that the Express might be placed ahead of the Vingt-et-Un, as the two boats are of practically the same type and dimensions, the main difference being that the Vingt-et-Un is a much lighter hull than Express and has double the power on about the same weight of machinery. The publicity gained by the Vingt-et-Un led the other automobile concerns to enter the motor-boat field, and at the recent Sportsman's Show in the Madison Square Garden four automobile concerns exhibited speed launches built solely for advertising purposes, and fitted with their own car motors.

The demonstrators of these boats led to the placing of several orders for similar craft, and with the interest in motor-boat racing already existing in the sport of power-boat racing has become of general interest, and a number of races are already scheduled to take place when the yachting season opens.

The Electric Launch Company, of Bayonne, New Jersey, has turned out many fast launches, among which are the Panhard and Fiat, which were seen at the Sportsmen's Show. Both were also designed by the company. The former is owned by the American Branch of the Panhard & Levassor Automobile Company, of Paris, and is equipped with a Panhard motor of fifteen horse-power operating at one thousand revolutions. The hull is very lightly constructed, and is double planked with mahogany. In design she is similar to the French torpedo boats, her chief peculiarity being the absence of any distinct sheer line due to the oval sections which make the planking and deck continuous, the bent frames being continuous and taking the place of the usual deck beam construction. The motor is placed well forward and is covered by a hood with a small dummy stack. Her dimensions are 31 feet over all, 4 feet 6 inches breadth and 6 inches draught of hull.

The Fiat is a similar boat also designed by the company and is owned by the F.I.A.T. Automobile Co. The weight of the hull of this boat complete, but without the machinery equipment, is given at five hundred and thity-one pounds. She is driven by a F.I.A.T. motor of thirty horse-power, operating at twelve hundred revolutions. A match race has been arranged between this boat and the Vingt-et-Un, to take place in the early spring, and the result and the speed developed will prove most interesting. In addition to the Fiat, a smaller boat is being built for a prominent Brooklyn yachtsman, which will be fitted with a twenty horse-power F.I.A,T. motor. This boat is twenty-six feet over all and four feet breadth. Another interesting boat under construction at the Electric Launch Works is the launch for Commodore Harrison B. Moore, of the Atlantic Yacht Club, from a design by Mr. H. J. Gielow. This boat is 60 feet over all, 58 feet water line, 7 feet breadth, and will be fitted with a 175 horse-power, four-cycle Craig engine, of eight cylinders. The engine is being specially built and will contain many novel features. One interesting innovation is the introduction of a flexible joint in the crank shaft between the forward and after sets of cylinders in order to relieve the strain on the cylinders due to any straining or working of the hull in rough water. No attempt has been made to get a hull of extreme lightness, as it was the owner's wish and the designer's aim to produce a boat that would be serviceable for general use. In planning the construction all unnecessary weight has been carefully avoided, and the light hull is stiffened by two bridging frame keelsons, which also form the engine foundation. The appearance and general arrangement is shown by the drawing of the boat, given through the courtesy of Mr. Gielow.

There are two boats building in Wood's yard which will attract more attention, as they are the size and type which will be most popular during the coming season. These are two launches of Mr. Clinton H. Crane's design, which may be accurately termed auto-boats as they are equipped with automobile motors installed in typical motor-car fashion. One boat is for Mr. Clifford V. Brokaw, and through the courtesy of Mr. Crane we are able to show her plans. This boat is 50 feet over all, 5 feet 6 inches breadth and will be fitted with 150 horse-power Smith & Mabley engine, and is expected to develop a speed in excess of twenty-five miles an hour. The hull is beautifully built of mahogany, and is as fine a piece of light construction as is often seen, the workmanship and finish being of the highest order. In form the boats are narrow, and have fairly deep, round sections, and in no way approach the extreme type of deep section forward and wide, flat stern, as in the Dolphin type. In justice to the designer it must be said that Mr. Crane's boats give more evidence of careful design and attention to working out the details of construction and to general style and appearance than is found in the great majority of the smaller auto-boats now being turned out.

A launch very similar to the Brokaw boat, and of the same dimensions, is also being built by Wood for a man prominent in automobile circles, whose name has not been made public. While similar in design and construction to the boat already described, this launch will be equipped with twin screws driven by two ninety horse-power Mercedes engines. As the two have practically the same amount of power, some interesting trials of speed are expected.

In Jacob's yard at City Island boats of all sizes and descriptions, from the cup defender Reliance down to the smallest knockabout, are laid up and being overhauled for the coming season, but the only new work in the building shops consists of power boats and small speed launches. Of the latter type three boats are being built from designs by Mr. Jacob similar to the Miss Swift, a boat which he built for his own use last season.

The plan which we reproduce shows the launch for Mr. W. K. Vanderbilt Jr., which will be fitted with a Mors sixty horse-power motor taken out of Mr. Vanderbilt's machine which won the Eagle Hill climbing contest. The engine has four cylinders, and is built almost entirely of aluminum, and weighs complete only about five hundred pounds. The hull is 40 feet over all, 35 feet on the water line, 6 feet breadth, and draws about 5 inches. In design the boat shows a long and rather full overhanging bow and a very flat stern. The sections throughout are very flat, the object of the designer being to keep the boat on the top of the water as much as possible. The construction is simple, but neatly done, and fairly light. Another hull of the same model, but somewhat lighter, has been built for Mr. James E. Martin , Jr., and will be equipped with a thirty horse-power Smith & Mabley, like the one used in the Vingt-et-Un. The third boat of Mr. Jacob's design is for Mr. W. Gould Brokaw, and is 65 feet over all, 60 feet on the water line, 7 feet breadth, and about 7 inches draught of hull. This boat will have a special engine of two hundred horse-power, which is being built from Mr. Brokaw's own design. The hull is of cedar, double planked, with mahogany deck and trim, and will have a large cockpit aft of the machinery space and sleeping space under the forward deck for the paid hand.

* * *

From City Island, the next interesting place to visit is the yard of the Huntington Manufacturing Company at New Rochelle, and here one finds more speed launches and motor-driven craft. Dolphin II was built in this shop for the Standard Motor Construction Company, and she attracted no little attention by her speed trials in the tank at the Sportsman's Show. Several minor mishaps have caused annoying delays in giving the boat trials, so that no record of her actual speed or photographs are of her underway are yet available

Besides the boats for use in this country many will be shipped abroad, and most prominent among these are the two high-speed boats which will be sent to England to take part in the Harmsworth Cup race. These two boats were designed by Mr. C. H. Crane, of Tams, Lemoine & Crane for Messrs. Smith & Mabley, and through the courtesy of the designer we are able to reproduce the plans of one of them. Practically the only restriction placed on boats competing for this cup is that no part of the hull or screw shall exceed a length of forty feet, though the rudder may extend outside of this limit. This leaves the designer no choice but to give the boat a straight stem and stern in order to get the advantage of all the water-line length possible. The hulls of these boats are being built by Smith & Mabley in their own shops under the supervision of Mr. Crane, and an excellent piece of work is being produced. They are each 40 feet over all, but one has a beam of 5 feet, while the other is 6 inches narrower. Both will be equipped with Smith & Mabley motors, one having seventy-five and the other one hundred and fifty horse-power. As the excess of power in these boats goes far beyond all reliable data it is almost impossible to foretell the speed each will develop, and it will be most interesting to watch their trials and learn what additional speed will be actually gained by doubling the power.

The Gas Engine & Power Company at Morris Heights are turning out some fine launches of a more conservative type than the extreme racers, but it is understood that they are quietly building an out-and-out racer, which is expected to be able to show her heels to all hands. The Lozier Company are building several speed boats in their Westchester shops, which will be equipped with their new high-speed motor, and great speeds are confidently expected.

(Transcribed from The Rudder, May, 1904, pp. 281-292. )

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


Hydroplane History Home Page
This page was last revised Thursday, April 01, 2010.
Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. Email us at wildturnip@gmail.com
Leslie Field, 1999