Writer needs to identify this 1939 wooden boat

Discussion in 'All Things Boats & Boating' started by jcheckow, Jun 17, 2014.

  1. jcheckow
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    jcheckow New Member

    Hi, I'm a writer working on a non-fiction book that takes place in Maui in the late 1930's. In 1939, the boat in the picture (15'-16' described in the newspapers as a "motor launch" wrecked in Kahului Bay, Maui, with 12+ aboard. 3 died. I have all the newspaper accounts, and I have this picture, but I am trying to find out which make and model this is. It would help so much in the writing of the chapter, because I'll be able to better describe its attributes, horsepower, etc. I'm not a boat person, although I grew up on the water in MA, so I would appreciate so much any help you could offer, and fast. I'll be happy to put an acknowledgement in the book for the correct answers!!!
    Here's the link. Let me know if you can't get to it. With thanks,
    Julie Checkoway
    julie@checkoway.com


    https://www.dropbox.com/s/g8u7eid7jp5yy2u/2014-06-16 14.24.31.jpg
     
  2. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Welcome to the forum.

    The picture is quite poor and little is recognizable: crew, hardware, rigging materials, rig type, pretty much everything.

    The idea of make and model would be different in the late '30's. Most fishing craft of this size where slapped together, often right on the beach, with materials on hand, by a local builder or the fishermen themselves. So, this might be a 1939 JimBob 16 or a JoeLarry 17, but who knows.

    It appears to be a skiff of some type, clearly intended to "work". The midship box might be a hold or tank, but also could be an engine box or even just a centerline seat. The rig looks to be a sloops by the location of the mast, but it's difficult to tell if it even has a pointy bow or is a scow like design from this image. If powered, she wouldn't need much, with 10 HP being way more then she'd need. In 1939, 10 HP was pretty darn heavy so 5 HP is much more likely and in keeping with the scale of the boat.
     
  3. jcheckow
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    jcheckow New Member

    Thanks for the reply. I'm going to post some more data about the picture and see if that helps. This is a great start. I'll also list my specific questions. I really appreciate your looking at this! :)
     
  4. jcheckow
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    jcheckow New Member

    More details re: 1939-ish wooden boat.

    Okay, here are more details:
    So here are the data points from my research (from newspaper articles) and then a set of questions:


    Data points:
    KEY FACTS

    Boat Name: "The Mae West"
    Owner: Riki Ebisu and a Mr. Santinelli of Kahului, Maui
    Vintage: sometime before June, 1939 (which is date of accident) because bottom had barnacles on bottom which "scratched the survivors" as they climbed on it.
    Descriptions in the newspapers of the time:

    "motor launch"
    "skiff"
    "craft"
    "boat"
    "tiny" (see scale vis a vis person in picture)
    "small"
    "overloaded"

    Length: 15'-16' (newspaper accounts vary)
    Capacity: 6 people total (3 seated on one "bench") then 3 seated on another, possibly "behind the first one")
    Load: There were up to 13 people on the boat when it was in Kahului harbor, and 12, including the captain, when it entered the rough water beyond the breakwaters into Kahului Bay.

    Significance: involved in wreck in which an Olympic swimming coach (the subject of my book) lost a brother, who could not swim. (3 in all died.)
    Date of incident: Monday, June 12, 1939


    Questions:
    Is it possible to tell the make and model of this boat?

    Was the railing around the side typical or do you think it was added?

    What purpose would it have served?

    It is possible to guess at or tell the power of the motor and how it would have performed in the seas described?

    Where was the motor and from where would the boat have been navigated (bow, stern?)

    How difficult would visibility be (!) for pilot with 13 people on board that thing?

    Is it possible to describe why the boat would have capsized in terms of balance point etc. (this may be too obscure)

    Can we get someone to specifically or generally describe this boat, if we can't identify make and model? I would be especially grateful to a description when someone knowledgeable eyeballs it. I would love to know if the bottom of the boat is perfectly flat (probably not) and how it would be described, since some of the survivors climbed onto it. How much of an angle would they be climbing on it? How difficult would it have been to try to turn back over (as they try to do in the articles?)

    Could we get an estimate or exact figure on how much this boat would have cost in the late 1930's?

    How much "training" did it take for someone to be able to navigate this boat in a calm harbor? In the rough seas described in the bay?

    Would it even have been possible for the pilot to avoid capsizing and how?




    Thanks!!!







     
  5. redreuben
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    redreuben redreuben

    I'm just hypothesising here but that railing looks purpose built for containing passengers, no yachtsman or fisherman would put a rail like that on their boat.
     
  6. Petros
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    Petros Senior Member

    it may not have capsized due to the design, but to overloading it. the sides of the hull are not very tall, this would seem to me that there was likely not much freeboard above the surface of the water with that many people on board. Not so much a problem in a calm harbor, but once waves start splashing into the boat outside the harbor, it could take on enough water to make it unbalanced and than capsize, or just take on enough water to swap it. once it is full of water it will not be stable, add some panicking passengers and it would almost certainly put everyone in the water.
     
  7. Mr Efficiency
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    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    The answer is in the text, a boat with a capacity of 6 (seems about right for the size of it) loaded with 13 people encounters rough waters. There is no way that would be legal in today's world. What you might get away with in flat water is dangerous elsewhere. I can imagine people standing up in the boat bracing against those high rails would only advance the point where it went over.
     
  8. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    I can see it now, "look, a school of dolphins . . ." everyone shifts to starboard and splash.
     
  9. Mr Efficiency
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    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    I should say, the answer to what kind of boat it is, is "a seriously overloaded one". Would not matter what make it was, 13 adults is way over capacity for a 16 foot boat.
     
  10. jcheckow
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    jcheckow New Member

    Okay, so tomorrow I'm wondering if it makes sense for me to put up a paragraph or so and have you guys pick at it and tell me where the language of the writing is "off" in terms of how to describe a boat. And an opportunity to put your thoughts in about data I might be missing. For example, sentences like:

    "The boat was a 15-16’ foot [2]____, wooden motor launch about X feet wide at the (middle), pointed at the bow and squared off in the back." (stern?)

    "It was completely open, with only a waist high railing around most of the _____. "


    "It had a____(outboard?) engine, which had to be steered from" ?

    "It sported two small backless (?) benches capable of seating 3 people each"

    And a few other lines/words that ring terribly to me of a person doesn't know boats..
    Any thoughts?
    Is that the best method for me to get feedback on whether the description of the boat and the writing feel authentic? I would love any advice....
    p.s. did anybody look at the links I set up? They had links to various newspaper articles.
    Mahalo,
     
  11. Petros
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    Petros Senior Member

    should read more like: "the boat was motor lauch, 16 ft length overall, with a max beam width of 6 [?] ft, with a conventional prow at the bow and a square transom at the stern". [you might approximate the beam or width by scaling the length to width from the picture, adjust for the foreshortened angle of the picture].

    "it was a open boat with a hand rail about 36 inches high around the perimeter attached at the gunwales" [again try and scale off the picture to get railing height]

    "it appeared to have a centrally located engine in a "dog house" on the keel line that drove propeller shaft with the prop aft, it had tiller steering at the stern with a large slab rudder attached to the transom"

    "The boat was designed to accommodate six adult passengers, three each on two small benches on either side of the boat parallel to the gunwales"

    others may want to add to this.
     
  12. jcheckow
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    jcheckow New Member

    That's really helpful. I still may post something for you all to critique, but it is incredibly kind of you to do this!
     
  13. Petros
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    Petros Senior Member

    no problem, it was kind of fun. I do a lot of technical writing as an engineer (in fact I have to write up a detailed inspection report now rather than messing around on the boatdesign.net), so I have a fair amount of experience (almost 30 years!) making technical data coherent to the non-engineer.

    Now that I read it again I see there were a few minor typos, feel free to edit it so if flows better. Post what you come up with, we will see if it we can make you sound like an expert.
     
  14. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    I'd be inclined to go the other way with this and offer a little less detail in the specifics and more color in the description.

    The conveniently located midship engine box, provided superb comfort for a relaxing crew, as they whale watched. For example. Does this "piece" really need the details of a straight shaft and other assorted minutia or would a lubber's perspective be a better way to go? We nut jobs here need to absorb these things, but most lubbers generally find the pointy end is on the front and this is a good thing.
     

  15. jcheckow
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    jcheckow New Member

    I am soooo sorry for the delay. I have been finishing writing a whole chapter, and I didn't want to send anything until I had written all the sentences (badly) with boat/maritime stuff in it. Please feel free to correct anything you like. I am working in the dark here, and I'm so grateful for your help. If you would kindly also send your name, I would be happy to acknowledge those whose response contributes to the rewriting. Remember, the audience of this is a general audience. I am merely trying to get things right so that a real boat person would't call me on the technicalities, even if the general audience wouldn't notice. Thank you so much!!!!





    The little launch didn’t look like a fancy store-bough thing but a homemade piece of work slapped-together on the beach out of parts Ebisu might have scavenged.

    From bow to stern The Mae West was all of 15-16 feet long, and its beam was 6 feet wide. It was open-style, with a couple of backless benches on port and starboard and a waist high iron rail that Ebisu had welded nearly all around the gunwales.

    The boat was designed to accommodate only 6 passengers, including the pilot (my question here is: if this is true, then where would everyone have been (pilot steering and five people on board or seated somewhere?)

    unhooked his hawser line from the post (I intentionally don't give the post a technical name )on the pier, revved his engine and headed off into the waters of Kahului Harbor.


    Ebisu circled the harbor once, and perhaps finding it too crowded, pointed his prow at the narrow needle’s eye between the two breakwaters.

    He gunned his engine.

    As the launch neared the wash and run-up from the breakwaters, it began to sway side to side.


    Ebisu somehow made it through the mouth of the break without wrecking, but as he entered the bay, the fetch proved far choppier than it had appeared from the harbor-side.

    White caps angled up everywhere and in all directions, and the boat swung from side to side, as if one were not standing still on deck but traversing a rope ladder across a chasm.

    Ebisu gunned the boat further forward, to an area beyond the white caps where the surface looked far smoother. 10 yards forward. 25. Each yard was impossibly slow. 50, then 100 yards, but Ebisu was still not out of the swells.

    A single flat-faced wave slapped the starboard side of the boat . Blossom Young tried to grab the rail and steady herself but she was headed to the port side.


    Ebisu tried to turn the boat around.

    He made one puzzle-piece turn, then another, but couldn’t get the boat to face in the harbor’s direction. He was about to try a third time, acrid puffs of smoke pouring out of the motor, when another wave hit, and the boat, unequal to it, tipped, tipping with it every passenger aboard to the starboard side again so that when another wave was just about to hit, the rising swell and the collective weight tipped the little wooden launch entirely, sending everyone aboard off out into the heaving sea.

    -----
    After the boat capsizes:



    The Mae West was completely upside down, its hull thrashing about like a horse off its reins. If it came Blossom’s way, she would be knocked out—or worse. Some of the others were holding on to the iron railing—trying to stay afloat by gripping whatever part of it was at the surface of the water, or just below it. As much as they were being tossed about, that seemed the safest place to be.


    Someone suggested they try to right the craft, and all agreed, but after one attempt it was clear the sea was just too rough, the boat far too heavy.

    Rikio Ebisu’s sorry upturned boat began to drift further out to sea.

    Blossom Young encouraged the others to climb up onto the hull, to get themselves at least out of the water where hypothermia would soon set in. But as they climbed, splinters and barnacles tore their skin, and the hull became awash in blood. There weren’t sharks yet. Nearby, the girl on ice chest was on the verge of losing consciousness. Atop the ragged hull, some of the women and girls had already passed out.
     
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