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Transport: Irish Mail

2 minute read

When not yarn-spinning, salty William McFee writes a weekly column in the New York Sun on shipping, does considerable puttering around his Westport, Conn, home. Last week publishers Doubleday, Doran & Co., launching Author McFee’s Derelicts, called attention to one of his neatest puttering jobs, a 30-in. scale model of a lifeboat propelled not by oars, but by a propeller turned by hand levers like those on an Irish Mail scooter.

Finding interviewers more disposed to talk of lifeboats than of books, he spun the yarn behind his whittled model. Invented 20 years ago by his Aunt Maggie’s boy, Ivan Fleming, a British naval officer, the Fleming hand-propelled aluminum alloy lifeboat is now in use on 75 merchant ships, including the Nieuw Amsterdam, the Conte di Savoia, the Monarch of Bermuda, Queen of Bermuda, the Stockholm, but not on any U. S. liner.

Reason: Although some hand-propelling method was ordered installed on all 60-passenger U. S. lifeboats except motor boats after the yeoman rescue work performed by the Monarch of Bermuda at the Morro Castle disaster in 1934, the Fleming boats until recently had not been approved because they have aluminum alloy non-sinkable bulkheads instead of steel. This year they were approved for installation on three liners being built for the Government-owned Panama Line.

Having hesitated for a decade to boost the Fleming boat in his ship news column or in his books because it would have meant “recommending a proprietary article,” William McFee last week found himself forced by interviewers to deliver what amounted to a sales talk for his cousin’s invention. Reminding his listeners that few ship passengers are experienced or horny-handed enough to handle 14-foot oars, he summed up the lever-run boat’s chief advantage thus: “It can make four knots—a better speed than a trained crew of oarsmen can make—with a bevy of manicure girls at the levers.”

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