Static – 1927 Rochester Boatworks Runabout

Posted on November 14, 2010

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Static around 1970

This is “STATIC” a 1927, 28 foot, triple cockpit runabout made by the Rochester Boat Works in Rochester, NY. The boat survives today and is one of only three in existence. One of the other boats, CHUCKLES, possibly owned today by Marty Smith, was found in 85 feet of water in the Saint Lawrence river where she sank in 1928, she is the only deluxe Rochester Runabout in existence, and having been underwater for over fifty years, she has all new wood. CHUCKLES is the only boat with right engine, and exact hardware. While another, MR. BENNY was found in a field in Gasport, N.Y. with a tree growing up through her, by Jack Fraunheim.  MR. BENNY was a total wreck with many pieces missing, Wayne Mocksfield bought her from Fraunheim and was able to take liberties with Mr. Benny’s restoration, because at that time he thought he had the only one. STATIC, the only survivor with basically 90% original wood, was later used to help restore missing parts for MR. BENNY.
— George Irvine

Below is a 2010 picture of “MR. BENNY” taken by Kent O. Smith, Jr. at Lake George, NY.

On MR. BENNY – a sister to STATIC:
Info and photo are found at http://www.correctcraftfan.com/ forum

Mr. Benny is a 1926 28’9” Rochester standard  runabout. It is powered by a Scripps model 302 Ho. 900 cu.in. v12 twin plug engine. It is one of two known. Rochester. 28′ and 30′ were the only models built. The boat was located by Wayne Mocksfield in 1980 in the Thousand Islands, New York. It under went an extensive three year restoration and has since been a multiple award winner.  The boat was designed by A.W. “Bill” MacKerer during a brief tenure at Rochester Boat Works, Rochester New York from 1926 to 1928. He later went to Chris Craft and became their lead design engineer until he retired. Two books worth reading about Bill and the Rochester are; “A View from the Bilge” and “Building Chris Craft, Inside the Factories.” Mr. Benny summers on Mousam Lake in Acton, Maine or is resting comfortably at his home. It is a stunning piece of boating history and is regarded by most in the wood boat community as [one of the finest] if not the finest, one of less than a handful. See you on the lake.

John R. Perkins
– owner

1926 Rochester 28’, Scripps V-12, owned by John Perkins. “Mr. Benny”. Restored and previously owned by Wayne Mocksfield.

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The story of Static is kept alive by George Irvine who is captured in the color photo above driving the Ford tractor that pulled Static from the dark recesses of my grandfather’s barn around 1969-70; but that is jumping ahead a bit.

As the story goes…

Ed and Sally Archbald along with friends on trip to Trent. My grandfather, Allen Moore is pictured in the runabout just aft of STATIC.

The Static name, as told to my mother Sally Moore Leonard by Ed Archbald, came from the buzz of the Rochester Boat Show crowd of 1927 as large numbers of people surrounded the boat. Someone came up to Ed as he was standing in the crowd and asked him, “What’s all the static?”.  Ed described the 27 foot triple-cockpit as being quite impressive sitting on sawhorses draped by red velvet. Judson C. Curtis, the president of the Citizens Bank in Albion, NY was with Ed at the Rochester Boat Show and was keen on having the fastest boat on the Oak Orchard River. He aked Ed Archbald, son of Buffalo, NY “Bond Bread” magnet, to be partners in buying the boat they would name Static.

Static was bought to the Oak Orchard River. The boat only being five feet wide and twenty-eight feet long was found to be a bit hard to handle. The narrowness of the boat was compounded by a Hall-Scott engine that was very tall. The engine was the product of their Liberty V12 engine cut in half to produce the Hall-Scott LM-6 engine. When rotated up the engine cylinders required notches in the doghouse top to allow it room. The engine reached a height that was higher than the seat-backs. When the boat was turned hard to port and given enough throttle, Ed Archbald stated that “the boat will kill you – Jud Curtis was afraid of the boat.”. It is very clear by all accounts that the boat would rollover. Jud Curtis was born in 1874, so he was a lot older than Ed who was born in 1898. They bought the boat as equal partners, but Ed soon bought Curtis out in about 1928.

George Irvine relates one reason Ed was able to buy Jud out, “A factory tech came out from Buffalo to service the Hall Scott. Ed claimed that the Guy tightened a main bearing too tight breaking the crank shaft. Ed got a good deal on the boat because the engine was shot. I am sure that the hard times in the banking industry also played a part in Curtis not wanting to put any more money into the boat. There was no such thing as warranty in those days. Ed traded the Hall Scott for a Sterling Petrel. Ed, always a Buffalonian at heart, was fond of the Buffalo Sterling. The Sterling proved to be a great engine with a much lower profile which added much needed stability.” This re-powering would allow Ed to take well-known trips to Canada – forty miles across the lake – to buy alcohol during the dry years of the Prohibition .

Blurry picture of Static 1946

Ed Archbald 1946 age 48

George Irvine told me that when he purchased Static in 1970 she had a Grey Marine engine, but  he found the doghouse had large-mysterious notches on the inside that he later found out were there to accommodate the tall Hall-Scott.

George Irvine

Static's Gray Marine engine that Ed Archbald had installed in the 50's.

George Irvine recounts the history of Static as told to him by Ed Archbald:
“The Sterling engine was replace by a Gray Marine Super Six 330 about 1951 or 1952. Ed said the fly wheel on the Sterling would loosen and Ed was afraid that Jose (adopted son) who was using the boat would get hurt. The Gray was an inferior engine for Static being too light and underpowered. I still have the Gray. I reinstalled a 1926 Hall Scott in 1989. Static Still has that Hall Scott. I sold the boat to Lou Smith a friend from California. Lou also bought Chuckles. Chuckles is a Deluxe Rochester Runabout. Lou sold Static because Chuckles was a much better find. Lou Smith’s son Marty has Chuckles, and she is their boat house on Washington Island. Sterlings were made in Buffalo, which was a big plus for Ed who considered himself a Buffalonian till he died. Phil Gatz, a mechanic who had a shop was given the Sterling about 1960, and used to start it in his shop to entertain customers. When I bough the boat Allen (my grandfather who bought Static from Ed) gave me a registration to a 28 foot Chris Craft. Allen also removed the manufacturer’s plate from the mother-in-law-seat floor board. I knew the boat was not a Chris and Ed Archbald gave me the info that I needed to registered the boat. I have an Old Town Club film taken by Lynn Burrows with Static under way some time in the mid 1930s.”

George stated that my grandfather Allen Moore, rescued the boat as it was being neglected by Ed’s son. My father, Ray Leonard, recalls a visit his brother Bill and his parents made up to Oak Orchard. “Allen was soaking the boat so he could launch it and my family came along for the event. I remembers saying, “Al, we’ve got a lot of water running through the bilge”. Allen reply was that she was just evening-out. Soon we all realized she was leaking badly from the bow that hadn’t gotten any water from the soaking. We pulled static back out.”

George Irvine recounted a similar event when he first launched static. He also found that she would take on so much water that a pump was required immediately to keep her afloat.

George Irvine:
Static is on Lake Tahoe living the good life. In 1989 I contracted with Saint Lawrence Restoration to restore Static. When I sold the boat all the carpentry was complete. Lou Smith took the boat the Los Angeles and had the engine and the boat finished. I am sure he spent a hundred thousand dollars on the project. Lou had a homes in San Diego, Hawaii, and Washington Island, NY. Citizens Bank was closed by federal Regulators in 1933, it is now the Albion Visitors Center. In the early 1980s I was given a Rochester Boat Works Brochure from 1925 featuring all of their boats. I passed it along when I sold the boat. I think Craig Bryce has one of the brochures. Rochester Boat Works closed in about 1942 after the death of Volney Lacy who ran the company. A woman named Julia Webb worked in the office and had records from the company. I failed to follow through or I could have had this stuff.

Ed and Jean Archbald at my parents cottage in the summer of 1981. Ed's 83rd birthday.

George Irvine at the helm of Static about 1980.

Morin Boats web page contains the following pictures of STATIC prior to her sale in July 2011. Doug Morin helped fill in the missing timeline, “After Lou Smith we believe Static was sold to Dave Olsen from out west and then Tom Mittler and we have recently sold it from his estate to Lee Anderson.”
Lee Anderson’s article about his love for fine wooden boats and fine homes in Lake and Home magazine.

Static sold by Doug Morin of http://morinboats.com/ in June 2011

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