Motor Boating on Puget Sound [1907]

The summertime call of the sea, with its cool, blue vistas of distant sparkling waters, its promise of relief from the heat, of cruises, adventures, enchanted isles, and many things which the heart of man yearns for, is hard to resist when it is ever in your ears and spread out in beckoning, enticing panorama before your eyes, as it is in the Puget Sound country. Thrice happy and fortunate is he who, hearing this call, can answer it; who cranks his engine at the uttermost shore and speeds his swift motor-boat out and away into the embrace of the inviting waters, leaving city, pavement, skyscrapers, heat and care far in his wake.

All of the large towns on Puget Sound have grown very rapidly, are virtually new communities, and their people have been so engaged in building cities and fortunes that they have until recently used but little time for pleasure. They are just beginning to avail themselves of the fact that right at their doors is the finest playground in the world; one that would make older communities envious, and will ultimately prove a wonderful Summer attraction to the people of these less fortunate places. Consequently, it has only been in the last few years that motor boating on Puget Sound has gained many followers as a Summer pastime. Of late the pursuit of pleasure has supplemented to a large extent the pursuit of the almighty dollar--the successful progress of the latter effort making the former possible--and water sports are beginning to receive a large degree of long merited attention. The fleet of pleasure launches has become a pretentious one, and many handsome new boats are being added each year. The fleet of speed boats, while not large, is nevertheless one worthy of consideration, as it contains crafts that challenge the world for speed, and travel through the water like an express train. And competitive speed is becoming such a factor that the fleet of fast boats promises in a short time to become one of considerable proportions.

On Lake Washington, however--which is virtually Puget Sound, as it will soon be connected with the larger body by a ship canal and is already connected by partly navigable rivers--is a regular motor-boat club. Lake Washington is only twenty minutes' ride from the main business streets of Seattle and is entirely as convenient and accessible for the owners of motor-boats as Puget Sound. The Motor Boat Club of Lake Washington has over one hundred members, all enthusiastic devotees of the sport of motor-boating. This club has regular speed regattas twice a year, on January 1 and July 4, and these have become very popular and have attracted wide attention all over the country, owing to the fine type of speed boats that have been developed and to the speed records which have been made. The purpose of this organization is to encourage the building of motor-boats, the development of speed and later on, when the canal is open, to form cruising regattas on Puget Sound. The Mid-Winter regattas are features which are decided novelties, and an article concerning the 1907 regatta, appearing in one of the large Eastern motor-boat publications, was the cause of discussion all through the United States, the officers of the club receiving many inquiries as to whether it was a fact or merely a fairy tale that regattas were held in the middle of the Winter on a fresh-water lake, especially at a point as far north as Seattle. It seemed to be a cause for wonder that there should be enough open water on a fresh-water lake at that season of the year to allow of such a thing, and the further surprise of the authors of these inquiries can be imagined when they were informed that there isn't enough ice on lake Washington the whole year round to cool a cocktail. Many of the members of this club live across the lake from the city and travel back and forth from business in their boats at all seasons.

The fastest speed motor-boat on the lake and in the entire Puget Sound country at the present time if the Comet, owned by the Washington Motor-Boat Company. This boat was built by Leighton, the builder of the celebrated Chip and Chip II, the boats which won the world's championship at the Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence River in 1905 and 1906. The Comet is a twenty-four-mile boat, and is a fine type of the fast pleasure and speed boat. She is the winner of the Jacob Furth five-hundred-dollar perpetual challenge cup, and has yet to meet her better on the Pacific Coast. She is open to challenges from any speed boat in the United States. The Comet is thirty-three feet long with a beam of five feet six inches.

The Areis, owned by the same company as the Comet, is at present secondary in speed to the later boat, but is being equipped with a new six-cylinder five-and-a-half by six engine that is believed will make her the fastest boat on Puget Sound and on the Pacific Coast. Her owners expect to develop a speed of twenty-eight miles an hour. At present her speed is twenty-three. She is one of the fastest types of boats built, her entire hull weighing only three hundred and one pounds on the scales, and yet being as staunch and firm as the ordinary boat with three-fourths-inch planking. She is planked with three-eighths-inch cedar. The Areis is the winner of the L. L. Moore Grand Challenge Cup, 1906, for boats faster than fifteen miles an hour, and also winner of the First Prize Cup of the Motor-Boat Club of Seattle for the ten-mile race.

One of the finest types of speed boats on the lake is the Meteor, owned by Clarence H. Jones, of Seattle. This boat develops a speed of eighteen miles an hour and is voted by most boat-owners on lake Washington to be as handsome and swift a fast pleasure-boat to be found in those waters. The Meteor is forty feet long with five-foot beam, and is equipped with a four-cylinder engine of the make-and-break ignition system. She has two cockpits, with the engine room forward, separated by a bridged deck. The passenger cockpit aft is capable of carrying twenty-five people. The Meteor is the winner of the sixteen-mile race at the 1906 Labor Day regatta.

Another boat which has been famous on Lake Washington for some time is the Mercury, which has recently been sold to Roderick Macleay, of Portland, Oregon, and is now on the Willamette. This boat is only twenty-two feet long and is equipped with a ten-horsepower engine that sends her through the water with the speed of an express train. This boat was also built by Leighton and was the craft that beat the Chip after her sensational winning of the world's championship at the Thousand Islands in 1905. The Mercury was the fastest boat in the world at that time. She made a sensation when she was first brought to Lake Washington because of her small size and her great speed, and many people, not knowing her past record, predicted that she would prove impractical as a speed boat, but they revised their opinions after seeing her take one or two turns around the lake.

Probably the most famous boat on the lake and one which held all newcomers at bay for several years, and is even now the fastest strictly pleasure boat in Puget Sound, is V. H. Faben's Dolphin. This boat is forty-five feet long and has an eight and a half-foot beam. She is equipped with a two-cylinder seven-by-nine engine, which is capable of developing unusual speed in the boat.

As the Puget Sound country becomes more settled, as her citizens become more wealthy and more numerous, and have more leisure, the pastime of motor-boating on that great and beautiful body of water promises to become much more extensive and more famous and ten years from now we should hear quite as much about the great regattas, the speed records smashed and the world's championship races won on Puget Sound as we do at the present time of the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence and other famous rendezvous for the swift motor-boats of the world.

(Excerpts transcribed from Pacific Monthly, July 1907, pp. 113-221.)

[Five years later Pacific Monthly would become Sunset Magazine - GWC]

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