"The most faithful old boat,
not in Seattle, not in the state of Washington,
not in the US, but the most
faithful old boat in the whole
wide, wide world,
was that old Flyer––day in and day out."
Joshua Green 1869-1975
"The trade magazine Railway and Marine News in 1908 termed her 'the most remarkable steamer in the world.' Scaling off the exaggeration, the slender hulled Flyer was indeed one for the record book.
The Flyer was built in Portland of Douglas fir by Capt. U.B. Scott, a Midwest transplant with a unique savvy for extracting the maximum speed from a steamboat. His Columbia River sternwheeler Telephone was a consistent winner in races between Portland and Astoria. Later he designed the aptly named propellor, Fleetwood, again winning the broom for speed. In 1898 the steamer made a record run from Tacoma to Seattle rushing a fire engine to join the battle against the Great Fire.
So finely drawn were the lines of the knife-nosed Flyer that when launched in 1891, sans equipment, she rolled over. The hull was then sponsoned out; in other words a second hull was wrapped around the original. This second hull was improperly sealed, allowing tons of water to enter and remain sloshing around inside the hulls. Despite the handicap, the Flyer emerged fleet and dependable; a skinny upstart outrunning just about everything moving on Puget Sound.
Along with speed, the Flyer became as dependable as the tides. 'Citizens of Seattle,' vowed the Railway and Marine News, 'used the Flyer whistle instead of clocks.' At the time of the magazine's accolade, the 170-ft Flyer had voyaged the equivalent of 51 times around the world, largely on the Seattle-Tacoma route (running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes), carrying more than three million passengers.
Unlike any of her sisters, the Flyer boasted a dining room. Entertainment was provided by a viewing of her flashing engine, with its symphony of thuds and hisses seasoned with the smell of steam and hot oil. The triple-expansion engine, a duplicate of one designed for J.P. Morgan's Corsair, was capable of 2,000 horsepower, but due to boiler limitations never operated at more than 1,200. Despite a cruising speed of 16 knots, the Flyer created no more wake than a Mallard."
Steamer's Wake. Jim Faber; Seattle, Enetai Press.(1985)
|The Washington (ex-Flyer)|
Friday Harbor, San Juan Archipelago,
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©