Motor Boating On San Francisco Bay [1910]

Motor boating on San Francisco Bay and its tributaries is yet in its infancy when compared with conditions existing in nearly every other section of the United States. The craze for both speed and cruising boats has swept over the entire country and has just about reached here. At present the outlook for the sport is very bright, for a large number of new power boats of all kinds, sizes and descriptions are being built. One thing has held back local enthusiasts, and that has been the cost of building boats, which is considerably higher here than in other sections of the country.

It is within reason for us to claim that if it were possible to construct boats as cheap here as in Eastern cities, there would be many times the number of boats running about the bay. Our choppy bay waters are not conducive to the low, rakish machine, and but few are found hereabout. Prentice Gray’s Konocti is the best example of a speed boat that there is on San Francisco Bay, and the way it darts among and around the ferry boats, to the wonderment of the commuters, is a caution. This speed burner has beaten every boat on the bay in the various races that have been held during the last two seasons. The Fighting Bob of the Sacramento Boat Club was its conqueror on one or two occasions, but there was always a dispute as to which was the faster. The Fighting Bob was sold last year to some Eureka enthusiast.

The San Francisco Yacht Club has done much to encourage power boating, probably more so than any other club about the bay. For the past few years it has been holding an annual regatta for motor boats which has always brought out a big list of entries with excellent competition. Lawrence T. Wagner, owner of the cruiser Roamer, and the newly elected vice-commodore of the S. F. Yacht Club, has done much for encouraging power boating. The Roamer was named by the Sausalito Club as the first defender for the San Francisco Perpetual Challenge Cup presented by Frederick A. Robins, owner of the speed cruiser Lillian, and a great enthusiast of the motor boat game. The first race for this cup was held last season, the Liberty belonging to John Hax of the Pacific Motor Boat Club, and the Palachan of the Sacramento Boat Club being the challengers, the latter boat proved victor and now holds this cup. The course of this race is from a point in front of the San Francisco Yacht Club to and around the Southampton Shoals light, thence around Alcatraz Island and back to the starting point, estimated at 14 nautical miles. The Palachan proved too fast for its opponents, and won out quite handily. The race was afterwards protested by the pacific Motor Boat Club on the grounds that the Palachan was not a legitimate cruiser, but the protest was withdrawn.

The Reynolds Flyer is another speedy boat that hails from the Capital City. Every one in Sacramento has the motor boat craze, and as a result, the river is alive with all classes of boats. Dr. I. G. Shaw has been commodore of the Sacramento Boat Club for the past two years, and is known to every one who has ever made the river trip either by yacht or power boat. His cruiser is the J. E. S. Shaw is now contemplating the building of a new cruiser. The semi-speeder Dragon Fly, of William Meyer, the Red Raven of Alber Elkus, are among other popular Sacramento boats. The Washington Boat Club is another river motor boat club at Sacramento.

The Pacific Motor Boat Club is the largest club, and in fact about the only strictly motor boat club on the bay. It is located at Belvedere, where the majority of its members reside during the summer months. Charles H. Crocker, owner of the power boats Alsoran and Duxgo, is commodore of the club; W. H. L. Corran of the cruiser Wonder, vice-commodore; George L. Bean, of the Idler, rear-commodore; E. S. Purdy, secretary-treasurer, and F. W. Kelley, owner of the B & S and the Naiad, and F. T. Bowers, of the Coarsair, are directors. The club maintains a commodious ark as a clubhouse on Corinthian Island.

There are about sixteen power boats in the Corinthian Yacht Club’s fleet, the cruiser Bonnie Doon, of William Letts Oliver being the largest. The Bonnie Doon is a sixty-footer, and is fitted out in fine style, having all the comforts that make cruising a pleasure.

Of course the Sacramento River is the ideal cruising ground for motor boats, and during the summer months the river is dotted with large numbers of boats; in fact, the fever has struck the ranchmen along the river, and there is scarcely a farmer along the river who has not some sort of power boat. One of the best of these is the 35 footer belonging to Howard Kercheval, of Grand Island.

Paradise Cove, of course, is always a popular spot for Saturday and Sunday cruises; McNear’s Landing and the Petaluma drawbridge also attract the larger boats, while during the salmon fishing season Bolinas Bay is a favorite place.

(Transcribed from Overland, May, 1910, pp. 464-466)

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