Cape Porpoise residents had a front row seat to watch the official United States Battle Cruiser speed trials from Seavey’s lookout up on Crow Hill.
Each trial consisted of 2 trips over a carefully measured course that ran 41.65 knots at sea from Cape Ann, Massachusetts to Cape Porpoise, Maine. The battleships would circle for a few hours at Cape Ann to give their boilers time to build up a head of steam before screaming across the starting line at top speed.
The stakes were high for the first trial in May of 1893. Philadelphia shipbuilder Edwin S. Cramp had a contract to deliver a cruiser that could maintain an average speed of 20 knots per hour for four consecutive hours. Every quarter knot by which the requirement was exceeded was worth another $50,000 from the U.S. Government. Members of the Naval Board of Inspection looked over every bolt and rivet from stem to stern and remained on board for performance assessment. Edwin S. Cramp himself supervised the trial and Capt. R A Sargent took command of the vessel. A ship’s company of no less than 400 men were required for the trip that cost approximately $30,000.
May 22, 1893 was a beautiful calm day. Thousands of giddy spectators decked in Sunday finery turned up at Cape Ann to witness the start of the race. A reporter for the Boston Daily Globe described a carnival atmosphere that spread all the way up the coast to Cape Porpoise. The trial was a triumph. After just under four hours – with a clock stop in off Cape Porpoise to get the massive vessel turned around – the armored cruiser New York averaged 21 knots per hour earning her shipbuilder a $200,000 premium.
Several trials were conducted each year from 1893 through 1907. The Biddeford Journal posted expected times of arrival and no matter the weather, the folks in Cape porpoise were watching from Crow Hill when the battleships came into view.
The first photo is of the view from Crow Hill where people watched with anticipation for the battleships to appear. The second picture of the start of the time trials at Cape Ann was donated to the society just this week by the Platt family who built Kenridge and Sea Crest Cottages at Cape Arundel in 1890 and 1896, respectively.