Upper Mississippi River Motorboating [1908]

Motorboating on the Mississippi River

by W. V. Kidder

In every city, town and hamlet along the banks of the Mississippi, those of an aquatic turn of mind have taken to motorboating with such enthusiasm that motorboat clubs have been organized in every section, and there is now a movement on looking toward the organization of a Mississippi River Motorboat Association.

Only two years ago there were not more than half a dozen motorboats in and about La Crosse, Wis., whereas to-day there are more than 150, ranging in size from the trim little 16-footer to cruisers up to about 50 feet over all. There is talk of a motorboat garage and a clubhouse, and steps are likely to be taken during the Winter which will accomplish both of these objects before the 1908 season opens. Owing to the rise and fall of the river, a garage would necessarily be a floating affair. A plan which is largely approved is the building of a clubhouse of concrete construction upon the shore, which will provide stalls for boats extending along the water's edge.

In the past, one of the most baneful influences with which boat owners had to contend was the activity of river thieves. Boats were stolen, and if any article of value was let loose around the float, it mysteriously disappeared. Since the organization of the boat clubs, however, rewards have been offered for conviction of the thieves, and, as a result, it is now safe to leave one's boat almost anywhere. The La Crosse Motorboat Club has been in existence for only one year, but it has grown to be a widely known association with large membership.

Just now there is much talk of wonderfully swift boats which will be built for 1908. Little groups of enthusiasts meet here and there, and each of them tells of his plans for having the fastest boat on the Mississippi. It is no unusual thing to hear an expression like "My boat will be as fast as an express train" and similar extravagant claims. The boat designers are all busy working on speed boat plans.

Among those who expect to have prize winners next season is Frank Titus, of Fountain City, Wis., owner of the famous Bat, which attained a speed of almost 20 miles an hour with a 9-hp. motor, and which for three seasons held the record for the upper river. Mr. Titus is designing a new boat, having disposed of Bat. Bat's title was finally taken away from her by the Chief of Records, owned by A. Gardner, of Winona, Minn. Mr. Gardner's boat is 25 feet long and is equipped with a 9-hp. engine. Until the middle of the 1907 season she was recognized as the fastest of them all. Then, late in July, Skip, owned by Eugene P. Gleason, of La Crosse, was launched from the Red Wing Boat and Motor Works, at Red Wing, Minn., and she in turn eclipsed all previous records. Skip is 32 feet long, 4 feet of beam, and is equipped with a 12-hp. motor of three cylinders. Her best time is about 22½ miles an hour, although her owner believes she can do better next season, after a few changes in her equipment have been made.

Another fast boat, very similar to Skip in design, has been built by J. R. Trautner, of Red Wing. She is 35 feet long and is equipped with a 16-hp. three-cylinder motor. The new boat, however, has not yet entered in any speed competition, although it is said that she can make more than 23 miles an hour. When it is considered than none of the boats on the Mississippi have greater power rating than 16-hp., and few of them more than 10, the speeds attained are rather remarkable.

The latest boats brought out this season, neither of which has had an opportunity to "try it on" with Skip, are Black Beauty and Aythya, both of which are racing boats built in Winona. Minn., and both have 12-hp. motors. Black Beauty is the property of Charles A. Gardiner. She is 22 feet long and 4 feet 4 inches beam. Her engine has 4 cylinders, 4-inch bore, and 4½-inch stroke, and runs 900 r.p.m. She has made 18 miles an hour against the Mississippi current, and made the trip from Winona to La Crosse, a distance of 28 miles, in one hour and 9 minutes.

Aythya is owned by Peter Steffes, also of Winona. She is 30 feet long with 4 feet beam, and is equipped with a 12-hp., four-cylinder, high-speed engine. a speed of 22 miles is claimed for the Aythya, and on her trial trip she came from Winona to La Crosse and return, 56 miles, in 3 hours and one minute.

It is with boats of similar design that members of the La Crosse Motorboat Club expect to reach a pace of close to 30 miles an hour next Summer with 18-hp. or under.

Perhaps the most elaborate boat in the local club is Nokomis, owned by Robert S. Hyde. She is 50 feet long and is of the cruiser type. She carries a 50-hp. Lamb engine and has cabin accommodation for six. Nokomis is a Racine boat and is fitted with an engine of sufficient power to make a good showing against the strong river current.

(Transcribed from MotorBoat, Feb. 25, 1908, p. 29)

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