The Power Boat On Puget Sound [1907]

Though but roughly estimated it may be conservatively stated that there are six hundred motor boats on Puget Sound and Lake Washington within a radius of forty miles of Seattle; the value of this fleet closely approximates $1,000,000. This large investment, nearly $3 per capita of population, in gasoline pleasure craft is due chiefly to the fact that the fortunate residents of the Puget Sound basin live in a region which affords the finest opportunities for motor boating on the face of the earth. That is a strong statement, but the writer feels that the subsequent paragraphs will substantiate it.

Puget Sound is situated in the northwestern corner of the state of Washington. It lies in a broad basin approximately one hundred miles square, snug and secure, sheltered on the west by the Olympic and on the east by the Cascade mountains. To get an adequate conception of the size and position of the Sound one should imagine an immense capital T lying horizontally. The stem of this T is the Straits of Juan de Fuca, ninety miles long by fifteen miles wide opening on the left or west to the ocean; the lower half of the top of the T is Puget Sound proper, one hundred miles long, varying from four to ten in width and strewn with islands, bays and inlets of every description. The upper half of the top of the T is the Gulf of Georgia, a wild open stretch of water seventy miles by twelve, fringed on the west by innumerable islands.

Lake Washington, virtually a part of the Sound, is a deep body of fresh water 22 miles long and five miles wide situated immediately east of Seattle; the lake is connected to the Sound on the south by the Duwamish river which is navigable for motor craft at most seasons of the year. At the north a canal is being cut from Salmon Bay on the Sound through to Lake Washington, including on the way Lake Union, a brilliant body of fresh water situated in the heart of Seattle. There are about 200 launches on these lakes. The formal motor boat races are always held on Lake Washington.

The motor boats found in the vicinity cover every possible design from the flimsy eighth-inch mahogany racing shell to the stolid, bluff, clumsy halibut fisher. The pleasure craft may be roughly divided into three classes, speed boats, practically all of which are found on Lake Washington; medium size, standard launches, and cruisers 45 feet and over in length.

Before Taking up the details and performances of the first mentioned class I will introduce the history and organization of the Motor Boat Club of Seattle, under whose auspices and rules all the formal racing is conducted.

Seattle and Puget Sound are to be congratulated on possessing the only wide awake, progressive motor boat organization at the present time on the north Pacific coast. The club has an active membership of over 100 and is ably piloted by the following officers: W. C. Colby, president; Clarence H. Jones, commodore and C. E. Plimpton, secretary-treasurer. Speed regattas are held twice each year on July 4 and January 1. These race have become deservedly popular and have attracted some of the best high speed motor boats in the world. Among these may be mentioned the 22-foot Mercury, the launch that beat the famous Chip after her sensational winning of the world's championship at the Thousand Islands in 1905.

The Motor Boat Club of Seattle is wide awake the year `round and is not forced to hibernate before a warm fire and spin yarns in an ice bound club house for four months every winter. The midwinter regatta, held every New Year's day, is a fact, not a fancy. Some people cannot believe that motor boat races are possible on a fresh water lake in January in a latitude as far north as Seattle. Puget Sound winters are mild, however, and the temperature rarely falls below freezing. At the last New Year's meet the air was balmy, the sun shone bright and all Seattle turned out to the races.

As flagship of the Motor Boat Club fleet, the Meteor, owned by Commodore Clarence H. Jones, is the most prominent craft hailing from Seattle. She is 40 feet long, five feet beam and is equipped with a 25-horsepower Hercules motor which drives her 18 miles an hour. The boat has two cockpits with the engine room forward, separated by a bridged deck. The Meteor won the sixteen mile race at the Labor day regatta in 1906.

One of the most famous speed boats in the Puget Sound region is the 33-foot Comet owned by the Washington Motor Boat company. She was built by Leighton and is fitted with a 40-horsepower six-cylinder engine. She is capable of 24 miles an hour and has distanced everything in her class that has showed up on the Pacific coast up to this time. The Comet is open for races with any motor boat of her type in the United States.

The fastest boat west of the Cascade Mountains at present is the Areis owned by the same company. Her hull weighs only 301 pounds and is 27 feet long by four feet beam. She was built by Milton and is fitted with a six cylinder 5¾ by 5½-inch motor rated at 40 horsepower. The owners of the Areis claim that she is the fastest boat of her type in existence and assert that she is capable of a sustained speed of 28 miles an hour with spurts as high as thirty.

The list of fast and notable boats might be prolonged indefinitely, but enough have been mentioned to prove that the racing game is by no means backward on Puget Sound.

While the fast boats have their proper and fitting place in the northwestern motor boat world, the back bone of the fleet is found in that large class of substantial cruisers owned by men of moderate means whose launches are only a means to an end, and who love cruising and motor boating for its own sake. These boats belong to the second and third divisions of our classification.

Typical of the second class are the Wastena and Dolphin. The Wastena is a fast 32-foot cabin launch and is owned by H. A. Chadwick, past president of the Motor Boat Club. The Dolphin, owned by Vince Faben, is one of the best known launches on Lake Washington; she is fitted with a 22-horsepower N & S engine and has a speed of 16 miles an hour. These two launches are representative members of a fleet of some 400 similar craft which literally swarm the region.

Candidly, words cannot do justice to the region; these things must be seen and experienced to be appreciated. After one week of such cruising in the flashing, temperate summer sunshine, almost at the feet of great snow capped peaks, but with the green, salt sea underneath, you are enthralled for life. Each re-occurring June marks the same tingling in your veins, and notes the same longing for just one more bounding, adventurous cruise on the sparkling waters of Puget Sound.

(Excerpts transcribed from Power Boating, December 1907, pp. 9-14. )

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