The Motorboats on Lake George [1909]

Of all the bodies of water in New York state whose shores are the sites of Summer homes of city folk and upon which regattas and endurance tests for speed boats are held, perhaps the least known to the general public is Lake George. Why this should be is difficult to say. The lake is situated in the Eastern part of the state, at the very threshold of the Adirondacks. It is easily accessible by train and trolley, and the large steamers that ply its length during the Summer months connect with boats on Lake Champlain.

Meagerly, indeed, can words depict the natural beauty of the "Queen of American lakes," as Lake George has been most fittingly termed. Nothing but the actual sight of the crystal waters, washing the very bases of the thickly forested mountains, can give the correct conception of the grandeur of the scenery. An irregular shore forms coves and bays of varied depths, and more than two hundred islands dot the surface throughout its length.

Nature has so combined the picturesque with the practical that Lake George is not only beautiful to look upon, but it is serviceable as well, thus putting it within man’s power to enjoy Nature’s work at its best. The lake is thirty-six miles long, and varies in width from a half-mile in the Narrows, to nearly four miles at its widest point opposite Hague. With the exception of a comparatively few partly submerged reefs, all of which should be carefully located by the lake pilot by means of the lake charts, the waters are safely navigable for the largest boats throughout its length. Is it, then, to be wondered that this body of water should be a Mecca for motorboat owners?

It is not so many years ago that the motor-propelled boat was an innovation on Lake George waters—a mere novelty that was looked upon by many as a passing fad, but through the skill and untiring perseverance of the scientist and the inventor, it would become a success and would be put to practical uses never occurred to those who gazed on the crude craft that noisily, "Chug-chugged" through Lake George but a little more than a decade ago. As time went on the bat passed from the experimental stage to a state of partial perfection, but the great cost of production kept it out of reach of all but those who could or would pat what to-day would seem exorbitant prices. The idea that the motorboat was a luxury only to be enjoyed by the wealthy rapidly disappeared, until at the present time a motorboat is as essentially a part of the cottage equipment as was the rowboat or canoe before the inception of the more modern craft.

Practically every class of motorboat is represented on Lake George—from a rowboat with a single horsepower engine to the speed craft equipped with engines ranging from twenty to nearly a hundred horsepower. A conservative estimate places the total number of motorboats on these waters at five hundred, and at the beginning of each Summer many new ones are put in the water to swell the ever-growing fleet. Among the thirty boats launched this Summer is the Whip-po’Will, owned by A. L. Judson, of New York, who is spending the Summer at Hotel Sagamore. She is primarily a pleasure craft, but, as Mr. Judson himself remarks, after combining comfort and safety, he made it a speed boat. The Whip-po’Will ought to develop more than 20 miles an hour. Her length is 45 feet and her beam is 6 feet. She is equipped with a six-cylinder 60-hp. Speedway engine.

Not an uncommon type of boat on these waters is the auxiliary. Such is the St. Paul, a boat carrying sails and equipped with a small power motor. The St. Paul is owned by the Paulist Fathers, priests from a New York convent, who spend their Summer at the quaint little Monastery, St. Martin’s-on-the-Lake.

The Ellide, the fastest boat on Lake George, with a length of 80 feet and an 8-foot beam, and at one time holder of the world’s record for a mile, attracts more than a little attention from Lake George visitors. She is owned by E. Burgess warren, of Philadelphia. Mr. Warren spends his Summers at Hotel Sagamore on Lake George, and is the host of many pleasantly memorable parties aboard the speedy pleasure steamer.

George Foster Peabody, whose magnificent Summer residence is situated on the west shore of the lake, three miles north of Lake George Village, has in his fleet of boats an electric launch, Cosmacoa. The boat is a 21-footer and although she has only a 2½-hp. Motor, she develops more than 5 miles an hour.

Another of the luxurious Lake George boats is The Swallow. She is owned by Spencer Trask, a New York banker, who has only recently completed a novel Summer residence on Three Brothers, a groups of islands a mile north of Hotel Marion. The Swallow is a cabin top boat, 50 feet in length and has 8 feet beam. She has installed a 90-hp. Speedway engine.

There is probably nothing that awakens interest and stimulates enthusiasm in speed boats more than regattas, and Lake George is especially fortunate in having at least three water carnivals annually. The Lake George Regatta Association, which holds its twenty-second annual regatta August 19th, is the largest organization of its kind on the lake. It holds its regatta at Hague, twenty-eight miles from the head of the lake. At this point the lake is three and one-half miles wide, making it possible to lay out a five-mile motorboat course, the whole of which is visible from any point of two miles of shoreline, where upon regatta day, are gathered thousands of spectators to witness the events. The program consists of speedboats and free-for-all races, rowboats, canoe paddling and sailing and four-oared barge races. The officers of the association for 1909 are: Commodore Albert Lowther, of East orange, N.J.; vice-commodore, General J. G. C. Lee, U.S.A.; rear-commodore, J. Stephens, of New York; secretary, Benjamin Day, of New York; treasurer, M. J. Wilcox, of New York. The 1909 regatta committee is composed of Colonel William D’Alton Mann, of New York; Commodore Harrison B. Moore, of Brooklyn; H. W. Watrous, of New York; H. M. Cummings, of New York, and Dr. W. L. Breyfogle, of New York.

The Glens falls Club, a city organization with Summer quarters at Lake George village, has inaugurated in its Summer program an annual regatta, which has been, in the two previous years, and exceedingly successful venture.

The program of events is similar to that of the Lake George Regatta Association. The start and finish of all the races are at the club dock, across from which the lake stretches more than a mile in width.

Through the enterprise of the Fay & Bowen Company, boat and engine builders, there is held annually at the Hotel Sagamore, a series of races for cups put up by the company. Walter P. Harris, the Fay & Bowen representative on Lake George, and T. Edmund Krumbholz, manager of Hotel Sagamore, engineer the regatta, which each year is becoming more and more popular. Fay & Bowen boats only are eligible, but in view of the fact that there are more than fifty boats of this make on Lake George, it may be seen that the interest in the outcome of the races could scarcely be lacking. Last year there were twenty entries in the two open classes, namely: boats measuring 25 feet in length and the 21-footers. In the former, Dr. C. L. Johnson, of Brooklyn, in his Ruth, won, and Mrs. G. M. Chism, of Albany, N.Y., piloting the Chiquita, won in the 21-foot class. There will be five distinct races this year; three straightaways, namely: 25-footers, 21-footers and 25-foot specials. There will be then the races for the 25- and 21-footer, excluding all previous winners.

Each year there are several smaller regattas given by the managers of various hotels. These, although they are not known as annual affairs, occur frequently throughout the season.

Racing interest this Summer centers in the motorboat races. For two years the championship pennant was carried by Winninish, a mahogany boat, 43 feet long with 6 feet beam. Her engine is rated at 60 horsepower and her speed is said to be twenty-seven miles an hour. The owner of the boat os LeGrand C. Cramer, of Troy, N.Y. Last year the coveted flag was wrested from the Winninish by the Simplex XV, in one of the most remarkable endurance tests ever held on inland waters. The Simplex XV is owned by Herman Broesel, of New York. She is 39 feet 6 inches in length and has a 4-foot 7-inch bean. A 75-hp. Engine, running at 1,110 revolutions a minute, sends the boat along at better than 27 miles an hour. On September 7, 1908, these two boats were matched for a race over a course covering nearly the length of the lake and return, a distance of 62 miles. Not an accident marred the race, and after recovering a handicap of 4 minutes and 13 seconds, allowed the Winninish, the Simplex XV reached the finish 2 minutes and 32 seconds ahead of her competitor. The average speed of the winner was 26½ miles an hour. The Winninish averaged 25¼ miles.

Commodore Harrison B. Moore recently launched a boat which is expected to carry off several of the trophies of this season’s regattas, and there is a possibility of her gaining supremacy over the Simplex XV. She is a mahogany boat, carrying the name of Falcon. Her length is 40 feet and her beam measures 5 feet 6 inches. Her engine, a Standard, is rated at 60 horsepower and the builders claim her speed will be better than 26 miles.

W. L. Breyfogle, of New York, a Westside cottager, is the owner of the Keego (slender fish). She is a 35-foot boat with a beam of 4 feet. Her engine is rated at 32 horsepower.

The Will-Go, a boat designed and owned by Captain O. M. Smith, a veteran Lake Georgian, attracts considerable attention as she cuts the waters at a speed of 21 miles an hour. Her length is 40 feet and her beam is 5 feet. She is equipped with a 32-horsepower Fairbanks engine.

At the close of each season, when the speediest motorboats on the lake unfurls its justly deserved pennant the defeated competitors of the "champion ship" set about with a determination to bring to these waters a boat that will capture the envied honor—and so the development of the motorboat continues. With increasing enthusiasm in motorboating and the annual regattas for developing the speed and endurance of the craft, it seems probable that Lake George is destined to become one of the greatest fresh water racecourses in the east.

(Transcribed from MotorBoat, Sep. 10, 1909, pp. 33-37.)

{In 1914 Lake George would be the scene for the APBA Gold Cup as Lake George’s own Ankle Deep would be the defender. Also, Albert Judson in a few years would campaign another Whip-po` Will in the Gold Cup class, as well as serve as President of the American Power Boat Association – GWC}

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