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The Masthead
First To Fly
Continued from page 1
boatbuil ders , and designers (here and i n Europe ) tryi ng to make boats go fas ter. They didn’t always
know what they were doi ng . They often d idn’t know what anyone e lse was doi ng (espec ia lly on the
other s i de of the At l ant i c—wh i chever
s ide that was ). And they were al l
fighting a handicap . . . power. You
see , the i nternal combust i on engine
d idn’t really become light and com-
pact enough for high -speed veh icle
power unt il just af ter the turn of the
century .
The Right Reverend Ramus
Th is was the di ffi culty faced by the
rec tor of Playdon, Rye . The right Rev -
erend C. Ramus, was the honorabl e
(presumably ) , and clever (most cer-
ta inly ) inventor who fi rs t spec ifi cal ly
proposed that a hu l l mov i ng fas t
enough and st ri ki ng the water at a s l i ght ang l e might l i f t up and skim along at a very high speed.
Ramus ’s proposal was that a paddl e-whee l shi p of 2,500 tons , 360 feet l ong , and dri ven by a 1,500
-hp engi ne , coul d do 30 mph c ruis i ng, and a neat 50 to 60 mph on “ext raordi nary occasi ons !?” Her
hull bot tom would be square and fl at, with two built -i n i nc li ned pl anes .
Wi ll iam Froude , who was—and sti ll i s—one of the toweri ng figures i n mari ne speed- and - poweri ng
research , was asked by Ramus to i nvest igate. Froude , however, quickly rea li zed that any engi ne
produc i ng that much power wou ld be too heavy (then anyway ) , and that such a l arge vesse l woul d
need far , far ,
more power than Ramus call ed for i n any case . St il l , Froude went on to say :
“I mus t admit that it had seemed to me certa in that at
assignab le speed the
skimmi ng ac ti on would become so perfec t as to obl iterate , or vi rtuall y ob li terate , water
It was 1872, and al ready the seed had been sown. Sk imming (planing) would work if only you had
the power p l ant to do the j ob , and cou ld f i nd the r ight s ize and t ype of boat to emp l oy it on .
Early Speed
St il l, even back then, boat s were b i ng pushed surpri si ngl y fast . Here i n the U.S. , Capta i n Nat Her re -
shoff—the estimable “Wizard of Br i stol ”—was bu il di ng fas t l aunches and spar torpedo boat s pro -
pe lled by soph ist icated double -act i on, mul ti pl e-expansi on, compound , reci procat ing s team engi nes .
(Al l these “doub les ,” “compounds, ” and “mu lt ip les” were clever dodges to wr ing every l as t smidgen
of oomph f rom the
s team. ) By 1876,
Capta i n Nat had
a l ready deri ved a
hull with the basi c
shape that would
get planing boats
of f the ground : a
sharp bow, com-
b i ned with a broad
f l at surface i n the
underbody aft.
(This form is now
known as the
b l e -wedge
shape ,
and it’s one of the
s tandard conf i gura -
t i ons of p lani ng
Sept. 2014 Page 4
Reverend Ramus’s Patent
1,2,3 5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,...24
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