ca The Motor Boat of the Future [1906]

The Motor Boat of the Future [1906]

Driving Out The Steam Yacht

by Rene Bache

If steam yachts become a drug in the market before long nobody need be surprised, inasmuch as many of them are already being offered for sale by their millionaire owners at surprisingly small prices, and are being replaced by large motor boats of the cruising kind. Indeed, unless all signs fail, the typical pleasure craft of the not-distant future will be the so-called "gasoline cruiser," which, though as yet has not reached a length of over ninety feet, is capable of considerable expansion. Experts believe that before the first quarter of the present century has come to an end there will be vessels of this kind afloat not less than two hundred feet long, and perhaps of even greater size.

The racing auto-boat is vastly different in type from the gasoline cruiser, and the two are destined to become steadily more unlike. In its latest development the former is forty feet in length and built like a skimming dish, with a perfectly flat bottom, so as to skip over the waves, as one might say, instead of cleaving a passage through them. Its beam measurement is five feet, and its draught of hull is only eight to twelve inches, though the rudder goes deeper. Nickel-steel has been used to some extent a a material for the hull, but wood is considered preferable, having more elasticity---more "life" the builders say it possesses---and being less liable to leak. If a rivet in the metal gets "started," the damage can hardly be mended, short of sending the boat to the factory.

The front part of the boat has a turtle-back deck, which sometimes is covered with canvas, to make it watertight and to keep the wood from warping. Next comes the engine space, which is protected against water splash by a hood of wood, aluminum, or canvas. This hood keeps the water not only off the machinery, but away from the engineer, who might be called the chauffeur of the automobile racer. The latter has only two occupants---the engineer and the steersman, the former standing in a small watertight cockpit immediately behind the engine, while the latter occupies a second and similar cockpit next abaft. These cockpits are of wood covered with canvas, and are so constructed as to be self-emptying, any water that enters them immediately draining away and out of the boat.

The engine is a regular automobile engine, like that of a motor car, and the steering wheel closely resembles the contrivance employed in directing the course of a motor car on land. In a forty-foot craft of this type the motor is of about one hundred and fifty horse-power, and costs perhaps $15,000. it is very different from the engine of a gasoline cruiser, being much lighter and more delicate in its construction. The record speed of such an aquatic vehicle up to date is twenty-eight and a half knots (approximately thirty miles) an hour---made by the Challenger, belonging to W. Gould Brokaw.

When one remembers that fifteen miles an hour was about the limit of speed for a motor boat half-a-dozen years ago, the rapidity with which this type of racing craft is developing becomes manifest. Twenty years from now the largest automobile racer will be seventy-five or perhaps ninety feet long, will have engines of one thousand horse-power, and will be able to travel at a rate of something like forty-five knots---a speed as great as that of a fast railroad train. In appearance it will have a curious resemblance to the submarine boat---a tendency to the likeness of the sort has already begun to manifest itself, indeed---owing to the fact that the vessel, especially when the surface of the water happens to be somewhat ruffled, cannot help being actually submerged a good part of the time. Everything, of necessity, will have to be made as watertight as possible, and the men on board (as in the case of even now) will wear oilskin clothing.

In the construction of the motor racer of the future the utmost possible lightness will be enough that is consistent with stability and strength. Possibly it may have more than one screw, though this is difficult to manage because such a craft is too narrow to admit the placing of engines side-by-side on board of her. On the other hand, there is no obstacle to the plan of arranging the engines tandemwise, coupling them together on the same shaft, and making them drive a single propeller. This, in fact, has already been done with a pair of motors of seventy-five horse-power, so as to apply an energy of one hundred and fifty horse-power to one screw.

The racing auto-boat of to-day presents a wonderful and even beautiful spectacle when seen bow on, as it rushed through the water, throwing up on either side a cascade of spray that rises ten feet in the air, glittering in the sun. it looks like a huge butterfly, with prismatic wings of water dust. Both bow and stern are fairly out of the water, while the flat bottom skims---one might almost say, slides---over the surface. Usually the supply of gasoline, amounting to seventy gallons or so, is carried in tanks under the afterdeck, or in receptacles on either side of the man at the wheel; it is never put in the bow, because, in the case of pitching in a rough sea, the weight of it would be unfavorable to progress.

Seventy gallons will furnish power for a run of five hours at full speed. But more racing-boats have made continuous runs of twenty hours without a stop. Some of the most highly skilled mechanics in the world are engaged in puzzling out the problems involved in the construction of vessels of this kind, and substantial improvements are constantly being devised.

(Excerpts transcribed from Outing Magazine, January, 1906, pp. 446-449.)

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