Chris McMullen’s Herreshoff Steam Launch


Back in 2014 we did a great story on the 34’ replica Herreshoff steam launch that Chris McMullen is building in his spare time, back then it had been 30 years in the making and now its approx 37 years, but when I called in last week, there had been some significant progress. Have a read of the 2014 WW stories to take in the magnitude of the project – everything , including the steam engine built by hand. When Chris started the project he didn’t have the benefit of the internet or google to help but in recent years he has uncovered numerous old photos that have helped with the project.

Some Background: Herreshoff Manufacturing Co build # 263 was a steam launch called “Cassandra Junior” and Chris believes that is the steam launch shown astern of beautiful 287′ S.Y. “Cassandra” in the photo below, she was stowed on the port side launch of the yacht. The Herreshoff Manufacturing Co built approximately twenty of this type of steam launch in the 27f’ > 34′. The H.M.C build # 227 – Vapor, refer photo below, was 30′ and built for the Steam Yacht “Yacoma” but Chris understands she was never used on that ship. A model of “Yacoma” at Mystic Sea Port Museum shows a steam launch but Chris assumes the ship had a more convenient modern motor boat.  

The last b/w photo below is the tender for the steam yacht ‘Wanderer’  (photo below) called ‘Wanderer Junior’. She was Herreshoff build # 270, she is American and measures 27′ 11″. Built 1909. In the back ground of the photo is the ‘Ida Lewis Yacht Club’.

The engine on Chris’s launch has been run and currently getting a tidy up before being re-installed.
The main reason for the visit was to get an update on the restoration of Haunui, the 1948 Colin Wild launch – happening nearby – check in one Wednesday for that story. I took Jamie Hudson, skipper of Lady Crossley , an almost sister ship, built one year apart, fascinating to get Jamie’s view on the two boats.


H.M.C work shop – unidentified steam launch. 
Cassandra, with Cassandra Junior astern
Vapor with her late owner Jon Martin. Taken late 1960’s
Wanderer Junior – built 1909

IT FLOATS – On 11-11-2021, on the upper reaches of the Tamaki River, Chris McMullen ticked off a rather large item on his to-do list. He launched his N G Herreshoff design Steam Launch. Chris commented that it was just a floatation trial, and that the design floated absolutely level. In the photos below we see her with all her machinery but with no fuel or water. Chris commented that for years he has had the greatest respect for the late Nathanial  Herreshoff and devoted over thirty years (on and off) of his life to the project and is as keen as ever to get it under steam power. You can see, at the link below, the only image Chris has found of the original “Cassandra Junior” see

UPDATE 04-01-2022 – The below photos were from a shed visit in early Dec 2021, post the above water line test 🙂 click to enlarge

8 thoughts on “Chris McMullen’s Herreshoff Steam Launch

  1. Pingback: HERRESHOFF STEAM LAUNCH – Sea Trial | #1 for classic wooden boat stories, info, advice & news – updated daily

  2. Chris:

    I lost your email and phone number, or I would have contacted you more directly. I am writing to ask if your research library has information about “zero clearance” pumps, such as the Edwards, as I am now, at long last back to finishing my triple expansion engine. After 79 launches for clients–some electric, some steam, some antique gas–I am determined to make my own….if sufficient youth remains in store…. Might you share any drawings of Condensate-Air pumps in small sizes, such as for my 4-inch stroke engine? The pump’s outside diameter, top-valve end, can no exceed 2.625 inches, and cannot exceed 8-inches height. Dimensions are constrained by the existing engine assembly, and it must be able to be direct-driven by the crosshead without linkage.

    I had been supplying a conventional “foot valve” air pump with the triple casting kits, but I was always unsure of its delivery capacity. Then, as I began restoring Simpson Strickland engines, I realized that tried-true pump examples were at hand, on my own bench! But, alas, as reliable as Simpson Strickland products were, they continued with their established product, even after the Edwards pump was debuted ca 1905.

    So, I am redesigning the pumps for the triple, because I want to provide the Edwards type pump because, unlike the former foot-valve pumps, it can LIFT from the condenser.

    If you have anything that might inform my design, I will be grateful.

    The Simpson Strickland engines are “quadruples.” I have two, each with some parts missing (pumps on one, for example), but, what one lacks the other has, thus clever foundry work is bringing both back to original.

    I look forward to being back in connection to you, especially now that I see you did the near-impossible to re-create Herreshoff’s, now your masterpiece!

    Pa Spurlock


  3. Well done, Chris! Good to see her sampling her new environment. American Prof Evers Burtner said some 60 years ago that it was unlikely, because of the sheer complexity of the machinery, that another would ever be made. He reckoned without your dogged determination. You done real good.


  4. Pingback: A Pot-Pourri Of Woodys | #1 for classic wooden boat stories, info, advice & news – updated daily

  5. Awesome story and coverage. Oh, that beautiful fine entry….. good on you Chris
    Good things take time.
    Your engineering skills deserve total respect
    She is shaping up beautifully 👍

    Liked by 1 person

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