U.S. Crash Boats Emblem
U.S. Crash Boats

The Five Basic Groups of Rescue Boats

 
Overview of the Boats
 
Our nation developed broadly five types of "Crash Boats" based on range and speed.  The largest crash boats were called the "104s" meaning they were one-hundred and four-feet long.  The 104s had the greatest range but were, relative to enemy small boats, slow.
 
The next crash boat was known as the "ASR-85s" standing for Air Sea Rescue and the length of the boat, which was eighty-five feet.  The ASR 85s enjoyed both range and speed and therefore considered by many to be the most effective crash coat design. It's range allowed it to rescue flyers downed several hundred miles off shore.
 
For near coastal and an intermediate offshore range there was the “AVR-63”.  The Auxiliary Vessel, Rescue was sixty-three feet long and possessed great speed with intermediate range. This boat was originally designed on speculation by Miami Shipbuilding Co. for the Navy, for their resale to the Union of South Africa.
 
The last two vessel types were limited to near shore and inland waterways.  They were recreational boat designs drafted for war time use. The 42 ft. boat was twin screw, designed and built by Owens Yachts as Design 221 and the last type consisted of other assorted vessels thirty-five feet and under.
 
Occasionally you will see mention of 83ft boats but these were primarily used by the Coast Guard, and only occasionally assigned to the USAAF. The 83 footer story began in 1940 when the first of 230 cutters was built for the USCG. The wooden cutters were used for convoy duty in the Gulf of Mexico and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) patrol off the east coast of the U.S.  Sixty cutters participated in the Normandy invasion as RESFLO 1 where they rescued 1,437 men and one woman (a nurse).  They were also known as the Matchbox Fleet.  Fifty-four cutters were sent to the South Pacific for various duties and as rescue craft for the invasion of Japan. There were also 72 ft. boats orderred in 1940 with 600hp engines, but again, most of the 195 were assigned to the USCG.
 
At the time that the five basic types were determined, it was anticipated that they were to be used at air bases on all three coasts of the continental US, the Great Lakes, several other inland lakes, especially near air crew training bases, and at overseas bases in Alaska, Hawaii, and locations in the Caribbean. The Southwest Pacific area was not considered. The boats were not adequately designed for the severe cold that their crews encountered in Alaska, and later in Korea. It was expected that crews would be primarily quartered and messed ashore at the base where they were stationed; so on board facilities were designed for cruises of less than a week. This made life especially difficult on the 85s in Korea where they were at sea almost continuously.
 
Design & Construction
 
Both the 63  ft.and 85 ft. boats used the same construction methods as the designer, Dair Long basically scaled up a 63 footer to 85 ft. The Navy had the hull number (C-***) carved into several frame members such as the keelson and stem, in addition to painting it on each vessel.  For some reason (probably inexperience) the Army didn’t carve the number into the hull. They only painted the hull number on their boats, making tracking them years later much more difficult. In addition, all US Army and Navy small craft had an ID plaque or plate about 4”X6” located in or near the pilot house which gave the vessel type or model, hull number, year launched, design  number, manufacturer, and for which branch of service the boat was built. The Army also added a Bakelite (an early plastic) plate in the engine room. Plate designs varied from one manufacturer to another and even within a manufacturer.
 
The stem, keel and chines were made of Honduras mahogany double-rabbeted to receive the inner and outer planking individually. The stem, knee, forefoot and two keel sections were scarfed and bolted. The chines were made up in three pieces and scarfs were located between the keel scarfs. The structural watertight bulkheads were hollow, being built up of two layers of 1/4-inch fir plywood separated by 1-3/8-inch spruce stiffeners. The bulkheads were attached to the keel and chines with metal angle clips. The transom stiffeners and boundary framing were made of Honduras mahogany.
 
After the keel, bulkheads, molds between the bulkheads and transom were set up, spruce stringers, spaced one foot apart, were fastened into notches provided in the bottom and sides of the bulkheads and clamped to the temporary molds. These stringers were effectively the “ribbands” of a normal building form except that they became a permanent part of the boat. Steam-bent white oak transverse frames, 1-1/8-inch X 1-3/8-inch were placed inside and outside of the stringers. Intercostal tiller blocks of spruce were fitted and screwed in place through the oak frames making each frame an “I-section.” The intersections of frames and stringers were then through bolted. A shelf and clamp of spruce were then fitted and fastened at the sheer. Knees and gussets of 3/8-inch fir plywood were fitted and screw fastened to both sides of the frames at the sheer and chine. Before the boat was planked, the engine beds, which were prefabricated built-up box girders with oak runners, plywood sides and internal vertical and diagonal spruce bracing, were slipped into place through the transom framing and bolted though each frame. Together with the keel and chines, the engine beds formed the main strength members of the bottom of the boat.
 
The boat was double planked and had eight-ounce cotton duck laid in marine/aviation glue between the two layers of planking. The inner planking, which was cedar, 1/2-inch thick on the bottom and 7/16-inch on the sides, ran at 45 degrees diagonally. The shipwrights screwed the inner planking to the keel, chines, and sheer clamp, then fastened it to the frames by means of copper nails. The outer planking of Honduras mahogany, was ¾-inch thick on the bottom and 9/16-inch thick on the sides, and ran longitudinally. The outer planking fastened through the inner planking into the frames with bronze wood screws. The inner planking fastened to the outer planking with wood screws between the frames from the inside. They nailed the 3/4-inch fir plywood decking with Monel anchor-fast nails to the 1-3/8-inch spruce deck beams, and screw fastened it to the shelf and clamp. The seams and butts were bolted on seam straps and butt blocks. The plywood was then covered with 12-once canvas, laid in white lead paste-paint. The deckhouse structure was made of 3/4-inch fir plywood with mahogany trim.
 
 
 
85' & 63' Crash Boat Specifications
 
 
 
       
         
Description 85 Ft. Model 379 63 ft.  Model 168 63 ft.  Model 314 63 ft.  Model 416
Production Run 140 16 352 79***
Length Overall 85' 0" 63' 63' 63'
Length At Waterline 78' 10" 58' 10" 58' 10" 58' 10"
Max (Over Guards)Beam 20' 3" 15' 6" 15' 4" 15' 4"
Beam At Waterline 18' 8" 13' 10" 13' 10" 13' 10"
Depth Amidships 11' 2" 8' 9" 8' 9" 8' 9"
Draft (Propeller tips) 4' 8" 3' 10" 4' 0" 4' 0"
Displacement, Light 70,500 lbs 37,000 lbs 38,000 lbs 38,000 lbs
Displacment, Full Load 103,712 lbs.  50,500 lbs 51500 lbs 51500 lbs
Fuel Capacity 3840 gal. / 4 tanks 2000 gal / 3 tanks 1580 gal / 2 tanks 1580 gal / 2 tanks
Octane Rating 87-100* 87-91* 87-91* 87-91*
Lube Oil 70gal. / 2 tanks 50 gal / 2 tanks 50 gal / 2 tanks 50 gal / 2 tanks
Fresh Water 500 gal. 150 gal 150 gal 150 gal
Complement (Officers / Petty Officers / Crew 2,2,9 2, 2, 4 2, 2, 4 2, 2, 4
Max Speed @ Full Load 34.75k / 40 mph 48k / 55 mph 31.5k / 36.2 mph 31.5k / 36.2 mph
Max Cont. Speed @ Full Load 24.3k / 28mph 40k/46mph 25k/29mph 25k/29mph
Fuel Consumption, Max Cont. Speed 140 gal/hr 140 gph (My guess) 70 gph 70 gph
Range Statute Miles (85ft Main/Cruise) 644 /6035 550 (my guess) 475/530 475/530
Engines 2 Packard 2 Packard 2 Hall-Scott 2 Hall-Scott
Engine Model, all are V-12  4M-2500 4M-2500 Defender Defender
C.I.D. Each 2500 2500 1996 1996
Total BHP 2500-3600 2500-3000 1300-1400** 1300-1400**
Propeller Diameter (3 blades) 32**** 23 23.75 23.75
Propeller Pitch (2" Monel prop shaft) 34**** 23.25 23.75 23.75
         
Armament (all types of boat) 2 × twin .50 cal. M2 Browning machine guns  
* Ratings range 87-130        
** Some sources rate the supercharged Hall-Scott "Defender" engines @ 950hp each, 1900 total hp.  
*** An additional 60 of the Model 314 boats were transferred to the AAF    
**** the June, 1944 issue of Pacific Motor Boat describes the shafts as 2.5" diameter, spinning 31 X32  two bladed props custom designed by Dair Long, but that did not become the standard propeller.
         
 
 
This is a Herreshoff Manufacturing Co. photo, taken 25 July 1944 at their Walker's Cove facility in Bristol, RI. It appears that the second boat may be having it's engines installed, with one on the crane and one on the truck at the exreme right. About two boats a week came out of their big shed from the fall of 1944 into 1945. Here several are shown as they progress to launch. It appears that considerable work remained to be done after launching. The 450 foot long shed known as the Yacht-Drome had been turned into a boat factory for the war effort. But it all ended in early 1945. As the last of the goverment contracts ended, these boats spelled the end of serious boatbuilding by Herreshoff.  One hundred vessels, of which the 63' rescue boats were the smallest, had been built in a about three years.
 
John Trumpy & Sons, a.k.a. Mathis Yachts,  of Gloucester,  New Jersey was another east coast crash boat builder, although  much of their production was 110' sub chasers, and most, if not all, of the thirty rescue boats built for the US Navy in 1943 and 1944 were sent to Russia designated as PTC37 through PTC66. These boats were all 77' boats and may heve been based on a PT boat design and certainly not the 63' MSC designs. After the war, the company relocated to Annapolis, Maryland.
 
Stephens Brothers in Stockton, California was another major yacht builder who produced boats for the war effort, supplying both the Army and the Navy. They were in business from 1902 through 1987 and during that period produced approximately 1,200 boats. They built many 104' rescue boats for the Army, in addition to 72' tugs, and 63' rescue boats for both the Army and the Navy. While I have not found "C" numbers for the Navy boats, The Stephens hull numbers are listed with the boats in the database under Boats, Builders, & Dates. Since the practice was to carve the "C" number into the keelson and other parts of the boats' framework, the oversight seems odd.
 
Fellows and Stewart Inc. of San Pedro, California was established in 1917 and was sold in 1967 to Harbor Boatbuilding. During WW II they were a major west coast builder of sub chasers and crash boats, both for the U.S. Army and Navy.