"Night Rider" - 1910 Leyare 28-Foot Number Boat

By: Rick Casali

Volume 18, Issue 3, March 2023

What is Number 18?? It is hull number 18 of the 20 boats built from 1910 to 1911 in Ogdensburg, NY. Night Rider was the 18th of the so-called Number Boats built by Leyare Boat Works for racing on the St. Lawrence River. She was originally built for Lee M. Rumsey, of Alexandria Bay, NY. Night Rider is one of only seven Number Boats that are known to survive today.

Night Rider is now owned by the McNally family of Wellesley Island. Teddy McNally proudly displays the 28-foot launch at classic boat shows in Alexandria Bay and Clayton, NY. Night Rider was gifted to Teddy’s mother years ago by Helen Cox of Manhattan Island. The name Night Rider was already on the Number Boat’s transom, so the McNallys made the decision to retain the name. That seems like a great idea, since the name is very appropriate for this long, classic, wooden launch.

Night Rider off the Clayton waterfront with Claumet Island in the background. [Photo courtesy R. Casali]

Today, her power comes from a Chrysler Ace engine that puts out 165 horsepower. This is a lot more power than the original engines carried by the Number Boat designs. Back in 1910/11, the Number Boat designs all had Jencick engines that put out only 30 horsepower.

The intent of the so-called “one design” concept was that the vessels would have identical dimensions, weight, and horsepower, in order to level the playing field in race competitions. Designer Charles B. Mower, of New York City, was tapped by the commodores and members of four yacht clubs in the Thousand Islands region to design a vessel to race where the helmsman’s prowess would decide the victor, not the size of the engine.

Night-Rider's bow. [Photo courtesy R Casali]

Night Rider has survived for over 100 years, thanks to the generosity of River residents and to the craftsmanship of local boat builders, such as Thom Inglehart of Wellesley Island. Thom worked for the McNally family for a number of years and is responsible for rebuilding the bottom of Night Rider. Her traditional wood bottom survives to this day. Teddy McNally reports that the wood bottom doesn’t require much in the way of “soaking up” each spring, before relaunching. Thom Inglehart has restored many wood boats in the Thousand Islands, and he also custom builds St. Lawrence Skiffs each winter, on a commission basis.

At the 2022 boat shows in Alexandria Bay, and at the Antique Boat Museum (ABM) in Clayton, Teddy McNally and his family had Night Rider on display. Her long, lean, lines and tufted blue upholstery make her a standout at boat shows. There are three rows of seating, with the middle bench seat facing aft. The windshield is framed in brass and is very flat with no curvature.  It resembles the windshields in automobiles of the era. The large, varnished, wood steering wheel has the brass throttle and choke controls on the hub. The McNally burgee, with a world globe, is mounted to the bow and a U.S. yacht ensign flaps smartly on the stern. Night Rider’s decks are varnished teak and holly and sparkle in the summer sun.

The Annual Antique Boat Show's Parade with Teddy McNally at the helm of his 1910 Number Boat, Night Rider.

The ABM show featured a parade of the boats registered for their 58th annual event. Teddy McNally singlehanded Night Rider out onto the parade route. Number 18 cut through the River chop with ease and grace. It was evident that this skinny, long, design did not require much horsepower to get her up to speed. While Night Rider today has five times the horsepower of the original power plant, the design appears to effortlessly slip through the waters of the St. Lawrence River. Teddy reports that in a beam sea, or in large boat wakes, the soft or round chine is prone to roll, but he said that you get accustomed to this habit.

Starboard beam of Night Rider at the Antique Boat Boat Show. [Photo courtesy R. Casali]

In the offseason, Night Rider is stored in the McNally boathouse on Wellesley Island. She shares the boathouse with a few other family vessels. You can also see two other Number Boats, at the Antique Boat Museum (ABM), and at the Boldt Yacht House. That, originally ordered by George Boldt and later owned by Bob Cox, is in the Doebler Building at the ABM. This, also ordered by George Boldt, lives in the Boldt Yacht House. They are all easy to see during the season. I am working to locate the other four Number Boats because these one-design vessels are an important part of our nautical history and yacht development in the United States, Canada, and around the globe.

By Rick Casali

Rick Casali is a resident of Wellesley Island.  During his youth, his parents had a cottage from 1947 to 1970 named The Orchards on Grindstone Island.  Rick now splits his time between Stuart, Florida and the River.  He worked for Columbia Gas System for 29 years, and ran their Washington, DC office. Then in 2000, he started brokering boats and yachts, and continues as a broker with North Point Yacht Sales.  Rick and his wife Anne cruise the River in a Seaway 24 Seafarer named "Miss Annie" and they live on Tennis Island.

Be sure to see more of Rick Casali's tributes and reviews. They are not only interesting but provide an important historical review of River life.

Posted in: Volume 18, Issue 3, March 2023, Sports

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