L.E. Fry-designed Suwanee Launch frame set, in 1:8 scale – 48” length – kit number MW170!

The Boat

L.E. Fry was a small builder in Clayton, New York. This 1000 Islands builder built very good boats but very few were built and even fewer remain to this day.

The 32′ Fry Launch Suwanee

Built in 1909 by Clayton, N.Y. boatbuilder L.E. Fry, the 31′ 8″ inboard launch Suwanee was commissioned by Mr. William Owen of Wellesley Island, who instructed Fry to turn out a boat “just within the 32′ APBA class.” Fry designed her himself, 31′ 8″ LOA, 4′ beam, and about 10″ draft. She has three seats, and can carry up to six people. She was lightly built of cedar planking over red elm canoe type ribs, with a mahogany deck 5/16″ thick. The contract price, without engine, was $235. In the 20’s she had installed her second engine, a 40 hp which gave the boat a top speed of a little over 20 mph. In the 70’s she had a 100 hp engine built
from Volvo parts, which driving the original propeller through a 2:1 reduction gear, gave her a top speed of about 30 mph.

The long bow section is empty, serving no purpose other than to make her go fast. Suwanee is not a planing boat, she doesn’t “go over the hump” and in fact she doesn’t change her running angle more than a degree or two throughout her speed range. She’s been referred to her as a displacement boat, yet if that’s what she is, she’s a very strange one indeed.
Displacement boat speeds are usually figured on the basis of 1.34 times the square root of the waterline length in feet; if this formula were applied to Suwanee, she’d be good for a top speed of something like nine miles per hour, but in fact she does 30. That’s about five times
the square root of the waterline length in feet! Whether or not this kind of performance could be translated into more “modern” designs for boats of different weights, dimensions, and purpose, it would seem that old Mr. Fry, at the beginning of the 20th Century, had some answers that elude today’s designers.

Suwanee’ s wheel steering has a couple of idiosyncratic touches: it is reversed, which means that to turn the boat to starboard the wheel must be turned to port. A modern touch is her telescopic steering column. The helmsman can push the wheel away from him or pull it toward him to find the most comfortable position – it works in any position.

About the only thing that can be found wrong with the boat is her original gas tank vent arrangement. As built, the vent was in the fill pipe cap, which was situated in the funnel providing air to the bilge. Thus any fumes emitted by the vent would be carried back into the bilge by the funnel. In 1909, no doubts, not as much was known about the dangers of gasoline fumes as is known today.

This was an incredible design, for any time; a boat that should not plane, but that still does 30-mph, leaves very little wake, and uses comparatively little fuel.

The Model

The finished model will be 48″ long. The kit includes two sheets of 1/8″ Baltic birch plywood and a small piece of 1/16″ Baltic birch plywood.

Planking for the hull and deck are available separately.

Our kit does not include fittings, running gear, or electronics.

Thanks for looking!

Modeller’s Workshop, Montreal, Canada

MW170 - Suwanee
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