Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Sunday, 24 September 2006

Wooden Boats

Thousand Islands, New York

We go to the Classic Wooden Boats Museum on the banks of the Saint Lawrence without great expectations. I’m immediately excited as we enter the World Cup building and see one of Gar Wood’s speedboats from the 1920s.

The ultimate Gar Woods' “Miss America X” in 1932 had a quad-pack of huge Packard marine engines developing a combined 7,600 horsepower. These big, 1,230 cubic inch, marine V-12s had huge square straight-though exhaust pipes pointed at the sky. They billowed tongues of flame and must have produced unimaginable noise when the throttles were jammed forward by the onboard Packard engineer. You can almost imagine a pair of goggled maniacs hitting 125 as fingers of death-fire shoot from the stacks.

The British engineering genius, Sir Malcolm Campbell, in the “Bluebird” and the English lady speedboat king Barbara Martin “Joe” Carstairs in her “Miss England” competed unsuccessfully for years with Wood during the 20s and 30s despite the advantage of a government subsidized lightweight Allison aircraft engine.

I also love the wooden speedboat with the supercharged 1957 Chrysler hemi. All these beautiful boats are poetry in wood. It’s a shame that fiberglass or steel have become the boat hulls of choice.

One of the exhibits is the 102 foot, 247 ton houseboat that a Mr. Boldt had built in 1902. It has ten bedrooms, five bathrooms, a party deck and a piano. Originally the hull was mahogany but it has been replaced by steel. Mr. Boldt also built a castle on an island nearby. It is six stories tall. We hope to see it tomorrow.

Here are pictures of lovely wooden boats.

One of the pictures is of a 1904 French Motogodilla outboard engine. It’s said to be the oldest gasoline outboard that still exists. It has a straight shaft drive on a pipe connected to the crankshaft. The engine is mounted on a swivel and the boat is turned by moving the engine and prop in the direction opposite to the desired travel path.. I saw this design in widespread use on the canals of Bangkok and rivers of Vietnam in 1966. An wrinkled old lady with bright orange teeth once smiled and tossed me a betel nut.

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