Sunday, August 5, 2018

Hydro-mania; Turf Thundreboats?



As surely; Hey, Don't Call Me Shirley; Hya! Uhm, surely Y'all have heard of a Turf Thunderboat, Righto?

Author's Note
Although I didn't write the following article below, which I found on Zed Internetz' over a Decade ago. And the website's no longer valid when I tried Querying it.

Nonetheless, as a 'Wee lad Thyself, growing up in Seattle, I too experienced the Joys of towing my own "Plank" Hydroplane behind my bicycle.

As I opted for my '09 Seafair Report since I scribbled 'bout towing my wooden plank in it, although ironically, I began my yearly Seafair regalia exactly a Decade ago...



Victoria Ave. and surrounding woods (nicknamed Sleepy Hollow) are located high atop the northeast slope of West Seattle, overlooking Elliot Bay, with an absolutely breath-taking panoramic view of downtown Seattle. It was on this little dead end street that the story of The Turf Thunderboat Lawn Game began in the summer of 1965.
The real story however, began much earlier in the decade of the 50's when the sport of Unlimited Hydroplane Racing was truly Seattle's only major league sport. Seattle, at this time did not know the Sonics, the Mariner's, or the Seahawk's. What it did know was the sight and sound of the most visually spectacular motor sport ever. Unlimited Hydroplane Racing was to Seattle during this period of time, what NASCAR is to the South today. The sound of an unlimited hydroplane was something you could not escape if you lived anywhere within the greater Seattle area. (Legendary turf racer Mike McFadden claims he heard the roar of the thunderboats during the 1972 Seafair Trophy Race while on the extreme southeast corner of Vashon Island) The roar coming from a World War II Rolls Merlin aircraft engine was deafening as it powered a 30 foot, 7000 pound, fire breathing, smoke belching, "Water Dragon" at speeds near 170 mph., sending a geyser of water called a roostertail behind it, appearing to reach the bluest skies you have ever seen.(just ask Perry Como)
The street of Victoria Ave. is located almost due west of the famous north turn of the Lake Washington race course, and when the boats would thunder through that turn it would send shock waves over Beacon Hill, across Elliot Bay, to the neighborhood, making them impossible to ignore. The sound was so loud, that it would grab you for a few moments, before it would slowly fade away as the hydro would head towards the south turn and Mount Rainier. Can you imagine the powerful impact this had on the kids growing up during this unique period of Seattle history. Hydro Hysteria as it was called, was gripping the entire community, as everywhere you went in Seattle, kids were towing small wooden hydroplanes behind their bicycles. In wading pools at Seattle parks gas powered replicas of the big hydros raced, tied to tether poles, kids painted their lawn mowers like their favorite hydros, pulled, and threw their favorite model hydros across lawns wherever grass grew, etc. etc. Just about every conceivable way to simulate a race was thought of, and eventually tried!
(Source: ATPBA “Turf Thunderboat” website)

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