Long-Distance Run of Br`er Fox II
From Cincinnati to New Orleans
The 1554 Mile Run of Br`er Fox II
by M. B. Dean
On Thursday, April 22, 1909, at 10:17:05 a.m. Br`er Fox II passed under the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Bridge between Cincinnati and Newport, Ky., and thus started on her attempt to make a world's record-breaking run against time from Cincinnati to New Orleans, La., a distance of 1,554 miles as measured by the United States Light House Service. It was a daring project and aroused wide-spread public interest to such an extent that a large crowd had gathered to see her off from points of advantage on both sides of the river, and on the bridge. Many wise old river men predicted that such a frail craft, driven at such a high speed would never long survive the perils of the trip and would never reach her destination.
Br`er Fox II is 40 feet long, 4 feet 3 inches beam, planked all over with 1/4-inch white pine. She was designed and built by Wright Brothers at Newport, Ky., on racing lines, and is of ribband carvel construction. Her power equipment consists of an eight-cylinder 5x5-inch Fox motor, rated 56 to 65 horsepower, swinging a 22-inch diameter, 44-inch pitch wheel 750 to 800 r.p.m. She is owned by M. B. and A. G. Dean, of the Fox Reversible Gasoline Engine Company of Newport, Ky., which is opposite Cincinnati. This record-breaking race was planned as an endurance test of the motors, announcement having been made that an attempt would be made to cover the distance in sixty hours actual running time. The best previous record was that of the steamer Queen City, which had covered the same run in 109 hours.
As the boat shot out from under the bridge there was a cheer from the watching crowd, a roar of saluting cannon and a wild din from the boats and factories on the river front, which was answered by the three occupants of the boat., and Br`er Fox settled down to business. The three aboard were M. B. Dean, one of the owners; Harry Doss, pilot, and Mike McClain, engineer.
Cincinnati was soon left behind, and at 11:15:20 we passed Aurora, Ind., 27 miles from our starting point, and then let her out in spite of a strong head wind which threw back blinding spray from our eight belching exhausts. We had prepared for this, however, and were all equipped with slickers and with automobile goggles, and in addition we had necessary changes of clothing and three life preserves. Our heaviest load was gasolene, besides fifteen gallons of cylinder oil, and, as a result, the speed of Br`er Fox II was necessarily retarded, for she was loaded four inches below her proper lines.
Without a stop, we sped past various towns on both sides of the river, and were saluted by hundreds as we flew past. At each town our time was taken and reported to various papers, then sent to the office of the Fox company. In addition, the writer had a stop watch constantly before him, and the exact time of passing the wharf boat of each town was taken and recorded in the Pilot Manual issued by the United States Government Light House Service, showing the distances between all the towns, and lights on all the Western rivers. a complete and accurate tabulation of the various runs of Br`er Fox II has thus been prepared.
Thus we passed Rising Sun, Warsaw, Florence, Vevay, Ghent, Carrolton and Madison without incident, but at Eighteen-Mile Island, 112 miles from Cincinnati, our gasolene pump sucked dry, and fearing that we had too little reserve to carry us to Louisville, we had to break our run at Utica and hunt up sufficient fuel to finish the day. WEe had figured forty gallons to Louisville -- 132 1/2 miles -- but when under way we found that we could not pump the tanks dry and our first disappointment was the necessity of this stop before reaching Louisville.
This delay consumed 48 minutes and 16 seconds, and, while at the bank, the motorboat Harry, from Louisville, met us for a trial of speed in the remaining 6 1/2 miles. The Harry started slightly in our lead, for we had to make a turn, and were troubled also by the change of fuel interfering with our carburetors, but with six cylinders in action, we soon overhauled her, and led her into Louisville by three minutes, arriving at 4:2:08; distance, 132 1/2 miles. Elapsed time to this point, 5:45:03; lost time, 48:16, net running time, 4:56:47.
Before leaving the boat, we put eighty gallons of gasolene in our tanks, and stowed a reserve ten-gallon can of gasolene and ten gallons of cylinder oil on board to be ready for an early start. This extra weight amounted to eight hundred pounds, or more than four extra men.
The next morning -- Friday -- we were up at 6 a.m., but could not get an early breakfast, and it was 7:24:08 before we were under way. To avoid delays in the locks, we decided to shoot the falls and rapids at Louisville, for the life-saving station promised to keep an eye on us. Harry Doss was thoroughly familiar with the channel, and we felt reasonably safe, but it was an exciting adventure to run at the rate of 42 miles an hour in the swirls and eddies that have wrecked many a craft of much greater strength than Br`er Fox II. From Mike's point of view, the run was complicated by the failure of cylinder No. 8 to get down to business, and he did a clever job of balancing and changing plugs while under way with the water still boiling around us
The day was bright and clear with a strong southwest wind, so that in the bends of the river we frequently had the wind dead ahead or over our quarter and the water from our exhausts would have drenched and blinded us but for our water-proof clothing and goggles, but our faces were unprotected, and the water, sun and wind gave us all bad cases of sunburn from which we suffered for several days, so that none of us could have shaved until the day before we reached New Orleans. With our faces so tender, it seemed often that we were striking hail instead of water, for adding to our speed the velocity of the wind, we were meeting this spray at the rate of fifty or sixty miles an hour, and it felt like bird shot.
Our desire to make good time prompted us to run when we might better have tied up at the bank, especially at times when we ran into fields of drift which occasionally extended from shore to shore, and apparently left no opening for our boat. At these times, we would be compelled to slow down and this, of course, counted against us in our average, for all running time, fast or slow, is included in our record, and the only deductions are for the time that we were actually stopped by drift, fog, accidents, or had landed for meals, gasolene, or for the night. Harry became very skillful in dodging drift, and throughout the trip did wonderful work, in that he brought us through without a wreck and with but few accidents, as later described.
We ran at good speed past New Albany, West Point, Brandenburg, Amsterdam and Leavenworth, enjoying the excitement of the run and the ever-changing panorama of the hills and valleys, wonderfully beautiful in the fresh new coloring of the early Spring, which here and there a fruit tree in blossom or red bur at its best. Much of the land was under cultivation, the white farm buildings making a pretty picture in their settings of green and brown, and from everywhere people ran to the bank to watch us go by and to time us out of sight. Every resident knows the distance from his place to the next bend in the river. Between Leavenworth and Alton we lost 10 minutes and 18 seconds because a particularly strong gust blew off my cap, and we were far below it before I could get Mike to understand that I wanted to back for it, having nothing else to wear. We missed it on the first trial, and had to go for it a second time, but I couldn't notice that it was any wetter after being in the river than before. Even with the greatest of care, Harry would frequently run into some small pieces of drift, oftentimes merely a twig, but it would lodge in the bow and throw back a drenching spray, and occasionally we were compelled to stop and back away before we could lose it.
Between Carrollton and Tell City, Ind., we had a wild ride of three miles in 6 minutes and 13 seconds, for here the strong head winds blowing straight up stream against the current, and raised heavy swells, through which we plunged with the engine turning up 775 r.p.m., according to the Warner indicator, which, by the way, proved very valuable, for at times we could not tell by other means whether we were getting the best results.
As we reached Owensboro, Ky., we noticed that the water-works saluted vigorously by whistle, and later we found that it was a pre-arranged signal to announce our arrival. By the time we reached town there were nearly two thousand people crowding the landing, so we went by full speed, taking our time, 1:08:30, as we passed the wharf boat. Then we came around and landed for gasolene and lunch, and were given a rousing reception.
During the morning we had covered 150 1/2 miles, Government measure. Our elapsed time was 5:44:22; lost time, 10:48; net running time, 5:34:14. Total to Owensboro, 283 miles, in 10:31:01.
At 2:47:03 we started again, with sixty gallons of gasolene aboard and well fed ourselves, for by this time we all had seamen's appetites, and were always glad to find a full dinner pail, no matter what was in it. Without incident, we passed Newberg, Evansville, and were confident of a fine run, when suddenly Br`er Fox II threw her head way out of the water, careening wildly to starboard, while we all jumped to port and reached for our life preservers. As we lost headway -- Mike having stopped the engines -- the boat righted. Upon investigation, we found that a short willow log had been picked up and lodges fast between the stern and the rudder, forcing it down hard enough to break our tiller line. Repairs cost us 17 minutes and 15 seconds, and we were just getting under way after a trial to see that shaft and wheel were not injured, when we passed Henderson, Ky.; sorry that we could not give the waiting crowd the same demonstration that we made elsewhere. Without further delay, we pulled into Mt. Vernon for the night at 5:33:10, 70 1/2 miles from Owensboro. Elapsed time, 2:46:07; lost time, 17:15; net running time, 2:28:52. Total to Mt. Vernon, 353 1/2 miles, 12:59:52.
Again we had troubles getting an early breakfast, and by the time our gasolene tanks were filled, it was 8:12:08, when we left Mt. Vernon Saturday morning.
Uniontown, Shawneetown, Caseyville, Weston, Cave in Rock, Elizabethtown, Carrsville, Paducah, Metropolis and Mound City were all behind us when we made our next landing at Cairo, Ill., at 2:54:44. This run was broken by four stops, all on account of cylinder 8, which, because it was so far forward, did not seem to be getting a proper oil supply. All the other cylinders were in good shape, and this connecting rod of No. 8 was the only engine part that gave us any trouble during the entire trip.
Our stops were as follows:
near Old maid Crossing Light
near Little Chain No. 3
near Grand Chain No. 4
near Mound City
Distance, Mt. Vernon to Cairo, 145 1/2 miles. Elapsed time, 6:42:43; lost time, 1:39:40; net running time, 5:03:03. Total to cairo, 499 miles, in 18:02:56.
At Cairo No. 8 was given a good chance to cool off, while we put aboard seventy gallons of gasolene and ten gallons of cylinder oil, and had lunch. We started again at 4:27:10, and pushed out into the mighty Mississippi, the Father of waters. We observed at once that the towns were not so frequent, and, fearing that No. 8 might not behave until thoroughly overhauled, decided to stop at Hickman early enough to do the work. In front of Hickman we had our first experience with Mississippi boils and swirls, the terrors of boatmen, and were delighted to find that Br`er Fox II, though tossed about and rocked from side to side by the conflicting currents, was helped by her length and fast headway, and came through finely. We landed at Hickman at 5:37:55, besieged and welcomed by the usual crowd of interested boatmen. Immediately inspecting No. 8 we found it cool and apparently in good condition, and consequently let it alone.
Distance from Cairo, 39 5/8 miles; elapsed time, 1:10:45; lost time, none; net, 1:10:45. Total to Hickman, 538 1/2 miles in 19:13:41.
Determined to get an early start, we left Hickman at 6:02:15 Sunday morning, intending to breakfast at Caruthersville. We got into action quickly, all of the cylinders hitting well and settling down to business at full speed. We anticipated a fine run, for there was less drift in the river, and we did not have to run so carefully. We had just passed New Madrid, 39 3/8 miles from our start, and I had not yet put on my slickers, when suddenly the boat quivered, and immediately we were deluged by water. Mike made a quick stop as soon as he could get his breath and find the levers. Our first thought was that we had struck a sunken log, so Mike threw in his spark to try the wheel, and, as we gained headway, we were treated to another bath before we could stop. This time we examined the bow and found that we had hit a heavy oak plank, 4 1/2 feet long, 12 inches wide and 2 1/2 inches thick, end on, while it was waterlogged and floating submerged. The force of the blow had split this plank for 22 inches, and wedged it on out bow, and had bent and loosened the brass protector on our stem, and we decided to go back for repairs at 7:38:40, having lost 17 minutes and 40 seconds since the collision. Distance from Hickman, 40 miles. Elapsed time 1:36:25; lost time, 17:40; net, 1:18:45.
Disabled and with no breakfast in sight, we hailed with joy the appearance of a shanty boatman, who came to see what "that long, black snake might be." When we explained our difficulties, he assured us that he could cook us a mess. He did, and we ate it. Then we returned to Br`er Fox II and repaired our stem, and also fixed No. 8 in short order, so that we had no further trouble from that quarter throughout the trip. With all in readiness, we started again at 11:12:53, after a stop of 3 hours 34 minutes and 14 seconds.
We had run but a few minutes before we encountered the largest field of drift we had yet seen, and had to run at slow speed for so long a time that our storage battery became exhausted, for our Motsinger magneto was set requiring 500 revolutions of the engine before it would give an efficient spark. This was an unexpected trouble, and we feared a tedious delay, but fortunately the current carried the drift to one side and after a delay of 14 minutes 53 seconds the battery had come up enough to give us a start at full speed, while Harry found a channel through the drift. Without further accident, we reached Caruthersville, long over-due, but an expectant crowd was waiting for us. Time, 1:07:53; Distance, 41 3/8 miles. Elapsed time, 1:54:40; lost time, 14:53; net running time, 1:39:47.
At Caruthersville we took on gasolene and had lunch instead of breakfast, and at 2:57:10 resumed our journey. We had passed the large field of drift and found a clear run of 83 1/4 miles to Randolph, Tenn., without a stop. Arriving at 5:51:40, we tied up for the night. Distance, 83 1/4 miles. Elapsed time, 2:54:40; net time, same. Total to Randolph, 703 1/4 miles; time, 25:06:53.
It was with much regret that we gave up our cherished hope of reaching Memphis on Sunday afternoon, for we had announced that we expected to arrive at that time, and our accident of the morning had forced us to disappoint hundreds of people who spent Sunday afternoon awaiting out arrival. Randolph is a small place, but we found excellent lodgings in a private family, and were accommodated with an early breakfast, which put us under way for Memphis at 6:20:10 Monday morning, destined, however, to have a new experience.
It had rained slightly during the night, and the atmosphere was heavy. We were passing through a wide reach in the river when a heavy fog blew down and settled around us, so dense that we dare not proceed even at slow speed. We stopped at 7:08:10, and in the stillness that followed the stopping of our engines, we were surprised to hear the splashing of a paddle wheel and distinct sounds of moving machinery on an approaching steamer, which we had not seen because she was already in the fog when we ran into it. We started up enough to run to bank to get out of her way, and laid by 1 hour 4 minutes 8 seconds before we dared proceed. Without further delay, we reached Memphis at 9:05:32. Distance, 50 1/4 miles. Elapsed time, 2:46:22; lost at bank, 1:04:08; net running time, 1:42:14. Total to Memphis, 753 1/2 miles; 26:49:07, net time.
At Memphis we quickly filled our tanks and, waving farewell to the crowds on the landing, and the saluting boats in the harbor, set out for Helena, Ark., at 10:16:02.
We were running at fast speed in fine, clear water, the engine singing a song dear to speed lovers, when suddenly, at 12:45, we felt that we were on an airship, for Br`er Fox II started skyward, and we were raked fore and aft by a log that harry had not seen. By some miracle, the only damage was to our brass bow stem, which was knocked loose and bent. We wasted 18 minutes 55 seconds trying with a hammer to hit a hard enough blow under water to straighten it. it was improved considerably when we started again at 12:58:45, but threw a heavy spray that soaked everything in the boat before we reached Helena, at 1:27:30. Throughout this run of 90 1/8 miles, the engine performance was splendid. Our elapsed time was 3 hours 11 minutes 28 seconds; lost, 18 minutes 55 seconds; net running time, 2:52:33.
At Helena we were given a fine reception, and while our stem was being repaired by the ship carpenters of the Helena Ship Yards, we were treated to a fine spread in the company's mess and told of the incidents of our run to an interested crowd. In looking back, we wonder at the courtesies that have been showered upon us, for we are hard-working customers. Our faces unshaven, burned and liberally doped with cold cream which caught and retained the smoke from our exhausts, and with clothes soggy and unsightly, but, in spite of all this, the interest in our run seemed to increase and our wonderful little craft was the center of attraction wherever we stopped.
We left helena at 3:08:02, hoping to reach Rosedale, Miss., before night. Our engine was clipping off the miles in a most satisfactory way and showing no signs of heating. We had covered most of the distance when Harry spied drift ahead, signaled to Mike to slow down and turned hard a-port to escape, but it was too late. We missed what was showing above the water, but got our worst jolt the entire trip and came suddenly to a dead stop. Harry had been standing up to get a better view, and only by clutching the wheel was he saved from flying overboard. i looked back in the stern, expecting to see water pouring in, and Harry said: "It's all off, put for shore, Mike."
I do not know what saved us, but that 1/4-inch boat withstood that shock, and, finding that she wasn't sinking, Mike turned the engine over by hand, and apparently both wheel and shaft were intact, so we started up. it was only for a moment, however, for as soon as the clutch was in the boat quivered, trembled and shook like a jolting machine, and we stopped. Knowing that the trouble must be with the wheel, I stripped off my clothes and went overboard to investigate. I was delighted to find that the wheel was all there, but wrapped about with long strips of bark and tough green willow twigs. As soon as these were removed, we cautiously started again, and I finished dressing while under way. The delay had only amounted to 30 minutes 4 seconds, but it seemed a long while, for I feared we were damaged beyond repair, and Harry said: "I wouldn't have given five cents for our chances of reaching New Orleans."
By this time there were indications of a storm, and we dared not continue to Rosedale, but tied up at Laconia at 6:06:35. On inquiry, we found there was no hotel, but that we might possibly fins accommodations with Colonel Warfield. We made snug for the night, protecting everything as best we could from the approaching storm, and were made welcome by Colonel Warfield, with warm Southern hospitality, and thoroughly enjoyed his stories of times before the war, for he was born on his plantation, and had lived there for fifty-nine years.
During the night we had a driving rain which lasted well into the morning, and when finally we were able to go to Br`er Fox II we found her in bad shape. The watchman had failed to pump her out when it rained, and the water had risen until it had short-circuited or storage battery and exhausted it, so that we could not start, and lost the entire day getting supplies at Rosedale to enable us to proceed. At 5:50 all was ready and for the benefit of those who had helped us out of trouble we made a demonstrating run for a few minutes and laid by for the night.
Early the next morning -- Wednesday -- we were ready to start, having breakfasted on sandwiches and coffee kept hot in our Thermos bottle. We left Rosedale at 6:17:15 and for a few miles were bothered by drift and had to stop, losing 13 minutes 10 seconds. After clearing the drift, we developed a new trouble at 8 a.m., for the engine started to race, and we found the clutch slipping. After several futile attempts to tighten it sufficiently to hold without pins, we greatly improved matters by washing out all the oil with gasolene, and, in spite of a loss of 1:30:34 on this work, reached Greenville at 10:49:13. Distance, 87 3/8 miles. Elapsed time 4:30:58; lost time, 1:43:44; net time, 2:47:14. Total to Greenville, 1,028 7/8 miles; net running 34:57:23.
The usual crowd of interested spectators saw us make a spectacular start from Greenville, `mid swirls, eddies and cross currents, at 12:43:02, and with a good supply of gasolene to feed the motor, and ourselves well fed and stocked with fruit, we determined to put some distance to our credit before night. Without a single stop and slowing down only once to lose a piece of drift on our boat, we ran past Lake Providence at 2:55:22, having covered 69 3/8 miles in 2 hours 12 minutes 20 seconds, and continued without a break to Vicksburg, 65 1/2 miles more, arriving there at 5:10:08, thus finishing a non-stop run of 134 7/8 miles in 4 hours 27 minutes 6 seconds, slightly better than 30 miles an hour. At Vicksburg they had received word by telegram, giving out time both leaving Vicksburg and passing Lake Providence, and before we were fairly tied up we were the center of a congratulating crowd, for never had such time been approached in covering the distance between these cities. Distance, 134 7/8 miles. Elapsed time, 4:27:06; stops, none; net running time, 4:27:06. Total to Vicksburg, 1,163 3/4 miles; running time 39:24:29.
At Vicksburg it was hard to get away from those who wanted to talk of Br`er Fox II and her achieve- ments, but, notwithstanding our shortage of sleep, we were up early, had a good breakfast and started off again at 6:44:35 Thursday morning. After such a splendid performance the day before, we felt that everything now favored a quick finish..
The engine started off as if determined to please Mike, and he smiled with appreciation, and gave her oil, but it was not to last long. The gentle morning breeze, which had induced us to ride with hats off, increased in velocity, and by 8 o'clock we were fighting a stiff head wind which kept all hands busy, and allowed us no time to appreciate the beauties of the country through which we were passing. By the time we reached Hard Times, Va., where we caught the full force of the wind, heavy seas were running, and Br`er Fox II plunged into them head on, bobbing like a cork. The flying spray was interfering with our spark, and for this reason and to save Br`er Fox II from too severe a pounding, we were compelled to slow down and this we did with regret, for we feared clutch troubles would return, if we kept changing our speed. At Hardscramble, 1,214 miles from Cincinnati we sighted the J. B. Finley with a tow of 37,000 tons of coal in thirty-nine barges. As Harry had been pilot of the Finley on her previous trip, we gave Br`er Fox II all she could stand, and went by the Finley cutting a fine dash. All hands came to the rail and gave us a salute. We had left the Finley several miles behind, and were nearing St. Joseph, when the wind freshened to a gale. We did not dare take its full force, and the heavy swells running at Goldman's, where the wind has a full ten-mile reach against the current, so we went to the bank at St. Joseph, at 9:45:25. In about three hours the Finley came in sight, and at a point half a mile above us went to bank for the same reason. Before long the officers put out a yawl and came to inspect our outfit, and to bid us welcome on board the Finley, for there were prospects of high winds all day. We accepted with alacrity, sorry to lose our run into Natchez, but glad of shelter from the storm. Making fast to the last of her barges, we went aboard the Finley, and spent the day and night in company with the royal crowd of good fellows who, turned out of their own bunks that we might be more comfortable, feasted us till we could eat no more, and in every way extended courtesy which we shall long remember. Distance to St. Joseph, 58 3/4 miles. Elapsed time, 3:00:50; lost time, 49:35; net running time, 2:11:15.
At daybreak, Friday morning, it was still blowing hard, and the captain of the Finley decided to stay where he was well off, but we, in our zeal to finish our run, put off at 7:39:15, adding as a fourth man to our crew Joe Hiller, who had been sent to take us to Natchez. We had just gotten well under way when we picked up drift and slowed down to dislodge it from our bow. Starting again in the heavy swells, Mike put too much force behind the clutch in forcing it home, and broke the clutch rocker arm off short. This was not through any fault of the Michigan clutch, which throughout the trip was subject to the severest strain, and we had been warned by the builders to go easy picking up a heavy load. On account of the limit in clutch space, we used a smaller one than recommended, and succeeded in making it carry the overload. There was nothing to do but put back to the Finley for repairs. We were again welcomed, and given able assistance. We could not replace the cast iron parts, but had to make a new piece from boiler iron. The delay was tedious, but the weather conditions were adverse, and we could not have made satisfactory progress in any event, for the storm was not yet over. We had dinner on board the Finley, and got under way at 1:55:03 in a lull between storms, and made a satisfactory run to Natchez, Miss., arriving in good shape at 3:35:27.
Another storm was gathering, and, before we were loaded with gasolene, it had broken furiously with wind, rain, thunder and lightning, and it was out of the question to proceed. The morning papers showed that this storm had devastated the country far and wide, and in the South had taken more than two hundred lives. We realized then why the water had been lashed so furiously, and were thankful that our frail craft had come through safely. Every time the engine had been given a fair chance she had clipped off the distance at a most satisfactory rate, but taking advantage of every opportunity we had run only 2 hours 11 minutes and 15 seconds on Thursday and 1 hour 40 minutes and 24 seconds on Friday, so that our summary for Friday showed but little progress. Distance 45 1/8 miles. Elapsed time, 1:40:24; net running time, 1:40:24. Total to Natchez, 1,267 5/8 miles; time, 43:16:08.
In an effort to make up for lost time, we decided to reach New Orleans the next day, for we felt sure that we could cover the remaining 290 miles under favorable conditions. Accordingly, we made our earliest and best start, and left Natchez at 5:22:50 Saturday morning. The day was perfect and at that hour there was scarcely a breath of wind. Our swift flight in the fresh morning air was exhilarating, and we were happy and confident; but again we were to be disappointed. As the sun mounted the wind rose, and again it was dead ahead. We were determined to stick to it if possible, and Mike let her have all she could stand, while Harry picked our way by the smoothest course. We lost 55 minutes 8 seconds by a stop at 7:30:40, because of the clutch, which was not well repaired at first, and to avoid a recurrence of this delay, drove in the loose pins before mentioned, and decided to use the clutch with pins for the rest of our journey, and to rely on working the engine fast or slow and cutting out various cylinders as occasion might require, when making landings, etc. This proved to be a good scheme, for from this time on we had no lost time from any cause until the end of our run, except the delays at bank caused by the high winds and heavy seas.
We passed Bayou Sara, 111 miles from Natchez, at 10:07:31, and continuing ploughed through increasing swells to Baton Rouge, arriving there at 11:15:40. We ran this 35 3/8 miles in 1 hour 8 minutes and 9 seconds, which was regarded as wonderful, indeed, by the river men at Baton Rouge. it must be remembered that in a winding river wind which will make one stretch almost impassible may be off shore and harmless the next bend, and thus it was that we could run and make good time in some places, then be compelled to stop because we had come to a long, wide reach when the wind had full sweep and through which even towboats or steamers dared not proceed.
At Baton Rouge I had the honor of delivering a letter from Governor Harmon, of Ohio, to Governor Sanders, of Louisiana, which read as follows:
State of Ohio, Executive Department
Columbus, March 29, 1909.
My Dear Governor:
I have always envied the relations which tradition imputes to the governors of North and South carolina, and while Ohio and Louisiana do not adjoin, they are directly connected by our greatest inland waterway, as well as by close commercial ties, so I wish to establish close relations with you.
The sons of a classmate of mine, who live across the river at Newport, have designed and built the motorboat Br`er Fox II, for the Fox Reversible Gasoline Engine Co., whose members are Morris B. and A. G. Dean, who are going to make the journey in her from Cincinnati to New Orleans, the distance being 1,554 miles.
It is especially appropriate that the Br`er Fox II should bear a message to you from me on such a trip, because we both represent commonwealths which are greatly interested in the navigation of the Ohio and Mississippi, and such a trip as this will, I am sure, draw attention to the possibilities of navigation if the proper stage of water be maintained.
With assurances of my highest respect and esteem, I am.
Very sincerely yours,
(signed) Judson Harmon
Hon. J. Y. Sanders.
Governor of Louisiana, Baton Rouge.
This incident was a very pleasant diversion, and emphasized a feature of the run which has been much commented upon by those interested in our natural water courses. In the run from Natchez to Baton Rouge we had covered 146 1/8 miles. Elapsed time, 5:52:50; lost time, 55:08; net running time, 4:57:42. Total to Baton Rouge, 1,414 miles; net running time, 48:13:50.
There was no abatement of the wind when, after lunch, we left Baton Rouge at 1:13:32 but Harry said it would not be particularly bad for the next few miles, and, as the weather forecast showed no prospect of any changes, we decided to try for Plaquemine, or possibly Donaldsville. it was an absurd thing to do, for we put in jeopardy the finish of our trip, and by the time we reached Plaquemine we realized it would be foolhardy to continue. At our high speed Br`er Fox II had no time to ride the waves, but ploughed straight through them, and split the water, so that our black hull was covered and from shore we appeared only as a streak of white foam. We were drenched and nearly exhausted from the strain of this short run, when at 1:58:32 we stopped the engines and ran under cover at Plaquemine, but we were 21 7/8 miles nearer New Orleans. Elapsed time, 45 minutes, flat. Total to Plaquemine, 1,435 7/8 miles; net time, 48:58:50.
At Plaquemine there was intense interest in Br`er Fox II, for in this section Fox motors have been in use for several years, and there are about one hundred and twenty-five launches and work boats equipped with them.
During the afternoon we dried our clothes on the hotel veranda, for I found over an inch of water in my suit case and everything wringing wet. Event the photo films taken at points of special interest were ruined, and all hope of thus illustrating the Log of Br`er Fox II was lost forever.
At sundown the wind abated, as usual, and, by special request, we made a demonstrating run before a crowd of several hundred people on the levee, some of whom had driven twelve miles to see Br`er Fox II, but it was too late to proceed, and we spent the night at Plaquemine, with 168 1/4 miles to our credit for the day in 5 hours 42 minutes and 42 seconds, and New Orleans only 118 1/8 miles away.
Fortune did not favor us on that account, however, for with the sun the wind came up again from the same direction, and quite against his judgment Harry took the wheel for a start at 8:20:14 Sunday morning. it was practically a repetition of our run to Plaquemine, but we stood it for nearly two hours and after passing other boats laid by for calmer weather, we were forced to land at 9:10:52:, after covering 59 1/2 miles. Elapsed time, 1:58:02.
After we were ashore and had dried out a bit in the sun, the fear of disappointing the waiting crowd at New Orleans, as we had done at Memphis, spurred us to another attempt. It proved useless, for after starting at 12:33:35, we had gone only 10 1/2 miles to St. John, when we landed again at 12:55:03, much to Mike's disgust. He had the engine turned up to a 30-mile clip, and to lose so much time and speed on account of the unfavorable weather hurt his feelings severely. Elapsed time to this point, 32:28; distance, 10 1/2 miles.
At St. John we laid by until 4:01:25, and Mike meanwhile had gone on a foraging expedition. He returned with a fearful combination of sausages, cheese, oranges, crackers and hamburger steak in a tin can, but by this time anything to eat was acceptable, and, after making a fair meal, we turned over the remnants to a crowd of French boys, who had joined the Sunday throng that, from curiosity, crowded the levy to see our now famous boat.
Harry expected the wind to abate toward evening, and we waited as long as possible for it to do so. By 4 o'clock it was less violent, and we decided to try again, and to slow down if necessary in the worst places, and let her have it all when we could stand it. At first, our progress was slow, but toward evening the conditions improved, until finally at Carollton, above New Orleans, a bend in the river gave us a favorable opportunity, and, under full head, we shot past the docks and shipping with an occasional salute from tugs and ferries and passed Canal Street at 5:57:03.
Then we turned, and such a welcome as we had passing up the river! The news of our arrival, announced by our exhaust, had crowded the docks. Every boat under steam saluted as we flew by and ran up to a safe anchorage behind the coal fleet at Calhoun street.
From St. John we had covered 48 1/8 miles in 1 hour 36 minutes and 38 seconds to Canal Street, and for the day had covered 118 1/8 miles in 4:27:08, thus completing our run of 1554 miles in 53 hours 25 minutes and 58 seconds, beating all previous records for speed and distance and bettering our own estimate of 60 hours by 6 hours 34 minutes and 2 seconds.
We had maintained an average speed of 29.08 miles an hour and had established a new standard by which to judge the endurance and efficiency of marine motors
It is impossible to conceive a more severe test than this run of Br`er Fox II at high speed, hour after hour and day after day, and it proves conclusively that her motors have design and mechanical qualities of which we, as makers, may feel justly proud. It is obvious that to endure such a run the motor and all its parts and accessories must be and remain in perfect balance. it is only just to note, moreover, that this outfit was of stock design in every feature excepting in only the case, which was made of aluminum to save weight, but the cylinders, bearings, connecting rods, shaft wrist, carburetors, etc., were in all respects identical with those supplied in regular stock equipments.
It is notable also that Br`er Fox II reached her destination in perfect condition for additional runs. Aside from surface scratches, due to hard usage, the hull was as sound, rigid and dry as could be desired, a result most creditable to her builders, and her engine seemed to do better the more it was run. Throughout her stay in New Orleans Br`er Fox II made daily runs for the benefit of those desiring to see her in action, and on Saturday, May 8th, ran from New Orleans to Lake Ponchartrain through the Lake Borgne canal and on this run of 75 miles, under adverse conditions, meeting rolling seas in the lake, made a record of 2 hours and 55 minutes and the next day ran under the auspices of the Southern Yacht Club.
Br`er Fox II has now been shipped to the factory and will be sold or held for entry in various races, for many requests of her appearance at regattas are already on file. If entered in races Br`er Fox II will be equipped with a wheel designed for 1000 r.p.m. for her past performance has shown that both boat and engine are capable of even higher speed when put in racing condition.
(Transcribed from MotorBoat, May 25, 1909, pp. 1-6, 34. )
[Thanks to Greg Calkins for help in preparing this page LF]
History Home Page
This page was last revised Thursday, April 01, 2010 .
Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
© Leslie Field, 2002