At this point we are committed to building a launch in which to display our steam plant. We want to display Herreshoff last-generation steam system in an appropriate launch.
John Palmieri, the Museum’s Curator Emeritus and incredible source of knowledge and support, provided us with some background (His complete report is attached):
“In the 1880-90s NGH carved two steam launch half-models that were the basis for 39 steam launches delivered from 1885 to 1910. No other models had so many steam vessels built.
Model 423- 1884. Built launches from 27- 48 ft. length beginning with #117 in 1884.
Model 424- 1897. Built launches from 26-35 ft. length beginning with #197 in 1897 and including the 28-foot #199.
Model 423 has little sheer, rather high freeboard, full skeg and hour-glass transom. 424 has a pronounced sheer, cutaway skeg, vertical flat cruiser transom.”
To best match our late-development HMCo steam plant to the most modern launch design we chose Model 424
Our exhibit criteria:
By now we also knew that we had an opportunity to tell multiple important stories in one exhibit/ one boat:
1. Demonstrate the elements of Herreshoff steam system; to include showing the immense size and weight of the system and perhaps even to occasionally demonstrate operation of the engine through compressed air and even blowing of whistle for additional visitor appeal. (Occasional running of steam engine with compressed air and some lubricant would actually better preserve the engine and would not harm it.)
2. Show the complexity of operating and maintaining a steam plant and resulting regulatory requirement for operation by qualified engineer.
3. Visually show why the disruptive technology of the automobile internal combustion engine would rapidly and completely replace steam launch propulsion in very short period of time in pleasure, naval and racing launches.
4. Document and show the process of lofting and building a launch according to “Herreshoff’s Rules for light-weight wooden boat building” as found in “Skene’s Elements of Naval Architecture.” Thus we could go from the Museum’s powerful display of NGH’s shop and half-hull collection to lofting and mold creation to actual boat construction which has not been shown in the Museum.
5. Show extreme light-weight wooden boat construction and the importance of davit steam launches to the development of light-weight sailing craft; and by extension the importance of the steam era to the emerging sail era at Herreshoff Manufacturing Co.
Our boat could never sail because of the incomplete boiler carcass and frailty of the boiler tubes and of course qualified steam engineers are scarce and expensive. But most of all to accomplish all our exhibit criteria we would build an incomplete launch leaving planking off to open up viewing of important aspects of the power plant and internal boat construction.