Motor Boating On Puget Sound [1906]

On The Northwest Coast

by W. S. Phillips in the Seattle "Post Intelligencer"

The Northwestern coast from Seattle all the way to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, is peculiarly adapted by natural topography and climatic conditions to the use of the gasolene propelled boat. The waters are practically land-locked and protected from severe storms by outlying islands, and the coast line is so cut by bays and islands that it is not a hard matter to get a-lee within a few miles of any given point at any time. The scenic environments could not be bettered if the coast had been laid out especially to accommodate the launch men. it is no wonder then that the gasolene boat, that is the strictly pleasure boat, has jumped into favor on the Northwestern coast within the last two years.

Taken from a strictly pleasure standpoint, Seattle is particularly well placed on the map, having Lake Washington and its connecting waters at the door on one side of the city, and Puget Sound and the Northwestern coast line opening up from the other side. This, in connection with the numerous lakes, almost within a stone's throw, gives almost any man a chance to own a gasolene launch and in the Northwestern coast country the gasolene launch occupies about the same position in the pleasure field that the automobile does in the flat Eastern country.

It is only within the last two years that the pleasure boat has come into prominence, but in these two years it has made such wonderful strides in popular favor that today there are hundreds of pleasure boats in use on the lakes, the Sound and coastwise waters, instead of the handful of two years ago.

These vessels are nearly all built on the Sound, and Seattle yards build probably 75 per cent of them.

The motors nearly all come from the East, though there are a few firms on the Coast who have started to build marine gasolene engines. These firms are overworked all the time.

The boats are of several classes and many horsepowers, ranging from the tiny open boat of 1 or 1½ horsepower, carrying two or three people and costing $175 complete, to the palatial 40- or 60-footer, costing as high as $6,000 or $8,000.

A development of the gasolene-propelled boat which has come into notice on Puget Sound only within the last year is the speed boat , or auto-marine boat. These vessels are all of the "freak" order, inasmuch as they are not practical cruising boats in the usual sense of the word, but are simply racing machines, being built with the one idea of getting from one place to another in the shortest possible time. Each and every one of these boats is built on such model as will best produce speed, their builders figuring on floating capacity sufficient to carry the machinery and the people to operate it, and very little for safety margin above that.

The smaller of these craft along this design is represented by such boats as the Money, built by the Anchor Boat Company, of Ballard. She is 30 feet over all, 4 feet 7 inches beam, and carries a 14-horsepower engine, which turns a three-blade propeller 350 revolutions per minute. her extreme draft is 16 inches, and she represents what might be properly called a speed boat, though she is not the extreme racing type, being rather a compromise between the racer and the cruiser. The real autoboat, which is the extreme type of racing machine, is represented on the Sound by the racers Tilicum and Union.

These boats are very evenly matched in point of build, the Tilicum being 40 feet over all, 5 feet 7 inches beam, and carrying a 60-horsepower engine, both boat and engine being built by the Puget Sound Iron and Steel Works of Tacoma. The Union is 40 feet over all, 5 feet 3 inches beam, and carries a 45-horsepower engine, and is handled on the Sound by Campbell Bros., of Seattle, who represent the Union Gas Engine Company, of San Francisco, builders and owners of the boat.

Both of these little vessels are built as flat as a floor on the bottom, and sharp as a knife forward, and have only enough material in them to float their engines and make them safe to go to sea in. Both are built of very light timbers, and are planked with very thin mahogany planking. Everything, in fact, is carried out with the idea of getting the_ greatest possible speed.

These two vessels were the drawing cards in the mid-winter regatta held on Lake Washington this Winter, and ran over a 30-mile course, starting at 3:8:50 and finishing: Tilicum, 4:21:05; Union, 4:22:07, thus running thirty miles in less than an hour and a quarter, with only a minute and two seconds difference in speed over the entire 30-mile course. Such vessels represent the height of perfection of the boat builder's art, and are simply a culmination of mechanical ingenuity in the building of a racing machine. They cost anywhere from $5,000 up and are simply expensive playthings for rich men, and are fit for no other use than racing, because they are little better than high-powered egg-shells, and must be handled accordingly. There are several such boats owned on Puget Sound, but the practical speed boat is the one which combines the safety of the cruiser with some of the speed of the autoboat, such a vessel being the logical outcome when a man can afford to pay enough money to own a very speedy cruising launch.

Within the last year the Seattle Power Boat Association has been organized and held its first annual midwinter regatta. This association has made a good start, and has served greatly to stimulate interest in the motorboat and its betterment on Northwestern waters, and it has accomplished a great deal in having held a regatta on New Year's day on Lake Washington.

The very fact that this association was able to do this has already proved of great advertising benefit to the city of Seattle and to the Puget Sound country at large, and this association should be encouraged and given all possible aid by every business man, not only in Seattle, but on Puget Sound. In fact, the Chamber of Commerce of Seattle could not do a better thing in the way of advertising the local situation than to lend its aid and encouragement to this power boat association, and see to it that midwinter regattas are held every year.

With proper encouragement the association would make these Winter regattas a town feature, that would in time become as well known in the United States, through press dispatches, as the Mardi Gras of New Orleans or any similar institution. There is no other place in the United States where a midwinter regatta on fresh water would be practical, so that Seattle stands alone in this unique position. This fact should not be lost sight of, because this very situation holds an unlimited amount of splendid advertising for the city, just from the fact that such a regatta in the midwinter is possible.

Motorboating is in its infancy on the West coast, but with proper encouragement it will become not only a source of unlimited enjoyment, but also holds the great possibilities in the way of trade which the average citizen gives little heed to. There is no reason in the world why Puget Sound and the islands to the north should not become as famous as the Thousand Islands of the St, Lawrence and the Mecca of the tourists from all parts of the world. it lies within Seattle's power to make these facts known and appreciated through the medium of the gasolene launch, and if she does not do it she will lose one of her multitude of opportunities.

(Excerpts transcribed from The Motor Boat, May 10, 1906, pp. 7-10. )

{Mr. Phillips and his insufferable Northwestern drum beating seems to be ignorant of the true midwinter regatta that began in Florida and continued through the 1960's with the Orange Bowl Regatta. Of course, we did develop our own Mardi Gras which became nationally known - the Seattle Seafair - GWC}

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