Moderate speed power launches have always caught my eye, particularly those designed near the beginning of the twentieth century when internal combustion engines were first adopted for marine use. Naval architects of the day stretched classic sailboat lines into slender greyhounds that could get the most speed from heavy low powered engines.

Weston Farmer's book From My Old Boat Shop (Boathouse Press, Portland, OR, 1979) describes one of the most beautiful: COYOTE, designed about 1907 by Edson B. Schock, an accomplished yacht and motorboat designer. The Rudder reported her speed to be 12.5 mph with a 10 hp, 2-cylinder engine.

Farmer frequently wrote for National Fisherman. His February 1974 piece included COYOTE'S lines . This prompted the designer's son, Edson I. Schock, Jr., a noted naval architect in his own right, to write Farmer describing WHITE SWAN, a copy he built in 1946 for use as a coaching launch on the Charles River.

Schock, Jr felt that the boat would have been improved by adding a foot to the beam to increase roll stability. This led Farmer to modify the table of offsets by increasing the half-breadths by 25%. This new lines plan appears in his story as COYOTE II which has all the classic power launch characteristics: slender beam to length ratio and modest freeboard with pronounced flare forward and tumblehome aft. It is a shallow displacement hull with buttocks gently sweeping upward from amidships to a transom that just touches the load waterline.

Fast forward to 2006. We have a 24' V8 I/O powered runabout capable of 50 mph but find our principal use of the boat is putting along the shoreline at 5 mph enjoying the view, conversation and often a picnic supper with friends. We were needlessly dragging a thousand pounds of expensive cast iron and burning a lot of gasoline. Engine noise is intrusive, even idling, and there is the whiff of exhaust with a following breeze. Often we found ourselves turning the engine off and just drifting with the current.

The notion of one of those classic launches but with electric power came to mind. It would have all the speed we needed, but no noise, no exhaust and no gas. The batteries wouldn't weigh much more than a hundred-year-old gas engine so the designer's original weight and balance specs could be preserved. No engine box would compete with the passengers for space and no ugly outboard would be hanging on the transom. The interior could be designed to suit relaxed cruising and nautical dining.

COYOTE II became my new Harmony 25 electric launch. The first boat was named SPARKY.

A few weeks after WoodenBoat magazine published a story about SPARKY in March 2008 I received this email from the designer's grandson:


First an introduction: I am Charles Schock grandson of Edson B. and son of Edson I. Schock.

It was a pleasant surprise to come across your story about Sparky in WoodenBoat. You made a good choice selecting the Coyote design from Weston Farmer's book.

Using the electric drive catches the proper character of these old launches that were intended for pleasant family outings. I am reminded of a story from a book about the Herreshoffs. When they first used gasoline engines in their launches the ladies didn't like them because they were so much noisier than the steam launches.

This design has quite a history. My father adapted it for a coaching launch by widening and flattening the stern a bit so she could be driven at 18mph to keep up with the eight oar shells. This boat is the White Swan and, as far as I know, is still used on the Charles River in Cambridge, Mass or in Duxbury. She was restored to original condition including the Gray SeaScout engine. Several fiberglass hulls were made using White Swan as a mold - one of these was at the Harvard boathouse for several years. There was also a high speed version (named something Babe as I recall) which went around 30mph.

Most powerboaters of today have no idea how little power it takes to drive a properly designed hull up to "hull speed". A typical 40 footer of the early 1900s went about 9 knots with 18hp. You make a good point of this in your article with the speed/endurance curves. A light, narrow hull, such as Coyote, is not as restrained by hull speed - examples: rowing shells, catamarans and destroyers.

We owned White Swan for a couple of years and I enjoyed her. A characteristic that you have no doubt noticed is her tendency to slip sideways when turning. It took a bit of getting used to. That, combined with the reluctance to go into reverse, must have given you some anxious moments. A small keel, such as on a surfboard, might help. [Note: The Harmony 25 has a skeg that protects the prop and keeps the boat from sliding sideways and the reverse issue was cured with new software from the controller manufacturer. - DW]

But I ramble on - I hope you receive a lot of interest in the boats - happy launching!