The Development of the High-Speed Launch or Automobile Boat 
Our illustrations show two new motor-boat hulls designed recently by Mr. S. Sutphen, and built by the Electric Launch Company, of Bayonne, N.J., one for the American branch of the Paris firm of Panhard & Levassor, and the other for Hollander * Tangeman, the American representatives of the Italian F.I.A.T. motors and automobiles: while the line cut gives a longitudinal section, plan view, and transverse sections of a speed launch designed, built, and run successfully last summer by Mr. C. D. Mower, the official measurer of the New York Yacht Club and the editor of :The Rudder."
When, last summer, French automobile enthusiasts organized an automobile boat race from Paris to the sea, and carried out the same successfully on the quiet waters of the Seine, Americans recognized, from the pictures and published reports of the participants, that the French automobile boat was but a lighter and speedier type of the standard American launch, such as has been in use here for more than a decade past. In fact, some of the automobile boats were simply American launches, such as the Lozier and the Eagle, which participated in the cruiser classes. The English Napier 40-foot automobile boat, fitted with a 75-horse-power motor, won from a French boat, fitted with a German Mercedes motor, in a race held at Trouville after the termination of the former races. The Napier boat had previously covered 8 1/2 mile in 24 minutes 44 seconds, in the race for the Harmsworth trophy in Queenstown harbor, as illustrated in our issue of August 8, 1903: and it beat the Mercedes 10 1-5 seconds in a mile race, its time being 3:30 3-5, which is equivalent to a speed of 17 1/3 miles an hour. It also won from this boat in a 3-mile race.
The success of the motor boat abroad led importers of foreign automobiles and motors to build such speed craft in this country, and the hulls illustrated herewith are two of the latest to be built in America.
The F.I.A.T. hull, which is shown lifted by three men, weighs but 550 pounds, and its weight complete, with motor and accessories fitted, is 1,300 pounds. The hull is 35 feet long by 4 1/2 feet beam; and it is built of two layers of narrow, thin planking, the outer layer, of mahogany, running horizontally, and the inner one, of cedar, diagonally. The two layers have a sheet of specially prepared, very thin canvass between them, and they are riveted together by 20,000 small copper rivets. A 24-horse-power F.I.A.T. motor of of 130 millimeters (5.118 inches) bore and stroke and capable of a maximum speed of 1,100 R.P.M. drives the propeller shaft through a regular automobile cone clutch. The propeller i s three-bladed one, of 36 pitch.
A general idea of the lines of the peculiarly shaped hulls of these two boats is to be had from the cross sections of Mr. Mower's boat, the Express, which are shown in the annexed diagram, while the general arrangement of all boats of this kind is also to be noted in the longitudinal section and plan views. As the five cross-sections of the hull of the Express clearly show, the bow is of a very sharp "V" section so as to cleave the water easily, while the sharp V section is modified and made rounding toward the middle of the boat, and changes gradually to an extremely flat U section at the stern, so that the after body, with its decreasing draft, slides on the surface of the water. The hull of the F.I.A.T. boat, besides being flat, tapers upward at the stern sufficiently to clear the water line for the last four feet of its length when the boat is at rest. When the boat is in motion, however, its stern rests on the water, and its total water line is then 34 feet. The hull draws but 8 inches of water, the point of greatest draft being at the bow. This boat is to race the Vingt-et-Un---the Smith & Mabley 31-foot racing launch equipped with a four-cylinder 3 13/16 x 5 1/2 American-built Mercedes motor, and a 16-inch three-blade propeller of about 28 pitch---for a valuable cup trophy. The Vingt- et-Un, it is claimed, made a mile on the Hudson River, on November 5 last, and with the wind and tide, in 2 minutes 26 seconds. She is rated at 18-horse-power, but her builders declare she will develop 22. Her weight complete at the time of the trial was 850 pounds. The lines of this boat are more like those of the regular launch than those of the automobile boats here shown.
The Panhard boat consists of a complete French auto boat equipment in an American hull. The hull is built upon a light oak frame, which is double planked with elm and mahogany, the latter being on the outside. The 15-horse-power, 91 x 136 millimeter (3.582 x 5.118 inch), four-cylinder motor is placed just ahead of the center of the boat, with the operator's seat in front of it. A regular automobile inclined steering wheel is provided. On each side of the operator is a long vertical lever extending upward from the floor of the boat, by which the propeller shaft, with its two globular universal joints, may be disconnected, while the other reverses the propeller blades for reversing. Attached to the boat on each side of the steering wheel is a small handle that moves over a notched segment. One of these handles controls the spark and the other the throttle. The motor is fitted with the Krebs automatic carbureter (described in our issue of February 14, 1903), and it is in every respect like the regular automobile motor.. A horizontal exhaust chamber is fitted just below the smoke stack, and the exhaust gasses pass out of the latter. This is the arrangement used in France, instead of conveying the exhaust through a pipe passing through the hull into the water. The rear cock-pit has luxuriously upholstered individual seats capable of accommodating six persons. The boat is expected to make 17 1/2 miles an hour at 750 R.P.M. of the motor. As the latter can be speeded up to 1,200 R.P.M., the boat should be good for spurts of 20 miles an hour or over. This speed, which seems to be the average aimed at, was exceeded a year and a half ago by a 55-foot, 120-horse-power launch designed by Mr. H. T. Leighton, of Syracuse, N.Y., and run on Oneida Lake at a speed of 23 miles an hour over a mile course that had been measured on the ice and staked off when the lake was frozen. Mr. Leighton had built several fast launches previously, and had had the benefit of a good deal of experience with this type of boat. The particular launch in question was 55 feet over all and on the water line, 7 3/4 feet beam on deck, and 6 1/2 feet beam on the water line. She was of the regular launch type, with a torpedo-boat stern, and her engine was an eight-cylinder one of the two-cycle type. This boat, therefore, is the fastest small craft that has yet been built, and her engine is probably the first eight-cylinder gasoline engine to be constructed in the world. Thus it appears that America still holds the palm in the matter of fast launches.
Another launch of this type that has made very fast speed in and around New York harbor, is the Standard, a 58-foot boat having a regular torpedo-boat hull fitted with an 8 x 10 six-cylinder, slow- speed, Standard marine motor. Despite the fact that the double-planked hull of 3/16-inch mahogany warped badly between the timbers, thus making the bottom of the hull corrugated instead of perfectly smooth, this boat made the fast time of 21 miles an hour. The hull is being rebuilt, and the builders hope to exceed this speed considerably in the near future.
Among the motor boats exhibited at the recent Sportsmen's Show in Madison Square Garden was the Dolphin II, which was designed by Mr. Graef after experiments last summer with a smaller, 25-foot model. The later boat, driven by a single-cylinder, two-cycle motor, running at 830 R.P.M., made over 13 miles an hour without producing any side or stern waves. The hull is built upon the wedge principle, tapering from a sharp V section at the bow to a straight, horizontal line at the stern, the bottom not rounding in the least. The Dolphin II, has an over-all length of 31 feet 8 inches; a length on the water line of 30 feet; a beam on deck of 4 feet 2 inches; and a beam on the water line of 3 feet 10 inches. The weight of the four-cylinder, 25-horse-power Standard motor and reversing gear in this boat is 510 pounds. The total displacement, with crew aboard, is 1,770 pounds. Judging from the speed attained with the under-powered Dolphin I, the new Dolphin should be very fast. In the limited space of the tank at the Sportsmen's Show, she has already shown a speed of over 16 miles an hour.
Other firms that are building automobile boats, and that exhibited high-speed, four-cylinder, automobile-type motors for the same at the Sportsmen's Show, are the Lozier Motor Company and the American Darraq Company. The former company now has under construction a 25, a 36, and a 37-foot boat of this type, fitted with its 4 1/2 x 5 1/2, 24-horse-power motor; and the latter is fitted up a 32-foot hull designed and built by Herreshoff, with a 3 1/4 x 4-inch, 20-horse-power engine.
The above description of some of the automobile boats, or high-speed launches, that have been built in this country, shows how the desire for rapid pleasure boats by men of wealth, stimulated by the use of modern and speedy automobiles, has caused the designing of a new type of craft, which has been made possible by the development of the high-speed, light-weight automobile motor. In fair weather, this new type of boat may yet be used for business as well as for sporting and pleasure purposes, and it will doubtless open a new era of speed on the water, such that the largest and speediest boats afloat may have to look well to their laurels.
(Transcribed from Scientific American, March 12, 1904 - - pp. 213-214. )
History Home Page
This page was last revised Thursday, April 01, 2010.
Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. Email us at email@example.com
© Leslie Field, 1999