Named for and designed by Capt. Charles Hugh McLellan, an officer posted to the Toms River station for most of his U.S. Life-Saving Service career (the service predated the formation of the U.S. Coast Guard in 1915), the watercraft grew from the captain's life-long desire to develop and produce safer and more effective lifeboats in water rescue.
His 36' motor lifeboat first appears in Seaport Society files in a clipped July 25th, 1907 article by the New Jersey Courier, the weekly newspaper of Toms River:
THE LARGEST LIFEBOAT EVER KNOWN BUILDING AT BAYONNE
The largest lifeboat ever known is being put together at Bayonne under supervision and from the plans of Capt. C.H. McLellan, a retired officer of the Revenue service, who is well known at Toms River, where he spent so many years as inspector in the L.S.S. This lifeboat is to be 36 feet long and will have a forty horse power engine. It is being built for the Canadian government, and will be stationed at Vancouver Island, in the North Pacific, at the entrance to Puget Sound. The U.S. Government will build a companion boat for the Cape Flattery side of the entrance. These boats will be of the self-righting and self-bailing type, constructed by Capt. McLellan under the improved Beebe-McLellan lifeboat plans.
Capt. McLellan said the other day that when he first proposed power for lifeboats in 1899, he was laughed at everywhere by everybody connected with coast guard work. Now there are seventeen power life boats in the U.S. Life-saving Service, and 25 more are being fitted out. In a short time he said every station would probably have a power boat.
Though not mentioned in the article, construction in Bayonne took place at the ELCO boatyard.
According to Tim Dring, author with the U.S. Coast Guard, “This boat actually became the first 36-foot motor lifeboat to be completed. The McLellan 36-foot lifeboat design continued the practice of double-diagonal hull planking as well as the installation of the motor and power train in the aft end air case, with a single 3-bladed propeller of 22-inch diameter and 24-inch pitch. [This first] Canadian 36-foot lifeboat was reported to have a top speed of 9.75 statute MPH at 650RPM. Self-righting and self-bailing capabilities were achieved by the same means used in the 34-foot lifeboat; i.e., high end air cases, air cases below deck, a heavy bronze keel of 1500lbs., and ten through-bottom relieving valves. Like the 34-foot lifeboat, the 36-foot version was also equipped for rowing and sailing as auxiliary forms of propulsion in the event the motor failed. Visually, the main difference between the 34-foot motor lifeboat and the 36-foot version is the length of the aft end air case, which was longer on the 36-foot model. Over the period 1907 to 1915 (the last year of construction for the 36-foot McLellan Type E design) a total of forty-six 36-foot motor lifeboats were built for the USLSS.
“Operational experience with the McLellan 36-foot motor lifeboat showed that it was a very rugged and seaworthy design, although crew and survivors were quite exposed to the elements during a rough weather rescue. In addition, the high quality of their construction resulted in a boat having very beautiful and graceful lines, including their original USLSS-era paint scheme with varnished woodwork. The wooden, double-diagonal planked hull, however, required careful maintenance and/or repairs.
“In July of 1910, the USLSS Board of Lifesaving Appliances tested one of the new 36-foot motor lifeboats, Victory, assigned to Station Wood End, Massachusetts, on the tip of Cape Cod. The results of these tests caused the Board to state in their report that:
“The Board is of the opinion that the 36-foot self-righting and self-bailing power lifeboat…is the highest type of power lifeboat as yet developed for the uses of the LifeSaving Service, and that it surpasses any type or plan of lifeboat so far submitted to or known by the Board…The introduction and rapid development within the last decade of mechanical propulsion in nearly all classes of undocumented vessels, has resulted in a corresponding increase in the scope, work and duties of the crews of life-saving stations to such an extent that the use of mechanical propulsion as an auxiliary power in many of the boats of the service is imperatively necessary to the growth and efficiency of the Lifesaving Service, and the Board therefore earnestly recommends that the type of lifeboat as exemplified in the model and fit out of the 36-foot self-righting and self-bailing power lifeboat …together with such changes and improvements [that] time and experience may develop and render advisable, be furnished as expeditiously as conditions and the funds … will permit…”
Full specifications of this boat, designed by Capt. McLellan, include:
General: Self-righting and self-bailing; 36ft. 0in. LOA, 8ft. 7.5in. beam, 4 ft. 2.5in. depth from skin to gunwale amidships, 7ft. 4in. length of end box inside stem rabbet, 9ft. 7in. length of end box inside stern post rabbet, 6ft. 7in. depth at rabbets of stem and stern post, 0ft. 4.5in. sheer of deck between end boxes, 3ft. 4.5in. distance between centers of thwarts, 2ft. 0in. station spacing; 8 tons displacement; single 6 cylinder, 4 cycle open base Holmes Automarine gasoline engine of 35-40HP (initially only 28HP) with two fuel tanks (125gal. main/25gal. aux.; gravity feed) and single, adjustable, 3-blade, 22in. diameter/24in. pitch prop; rudder control via steering rod coupled to pinion and quadrant ; maximum speed just under 10 statute MPH at 700RPM/40HP; Patterson wireless G-U-84 battery, jump spark ignition; engine controls located on forward bulkhead of aft air case; sailing rig consisted of two hollow spruce masts 5in. diameter at tack, 3.5in. at head, foresail 18sq.ft., mainsail 16.5sq.ft., rake 1.5in. to the foot with jib plus fore-and-aft lug sails; self-righting within approximately 30sec.; five thwarts for 10 oars rowed in doublebanked configuration; equipped with canvas spray cover which extended aft of forward air casing approximately half-way down the cockpit.
Construction: Double diagonal planked (45 degrees) wooden hull of 3/8in. Honduras mahogany with No. 10 canvas in-between, copper fastened and riveted, along with brass screws; frames of white oak sided 1.5in., molded 2in. at throat, and 1in. at ends; white oak upper keel and 1500lb. gunmetal lower keel plus bronze droppable metal centerboard ½in. thick; 112 air cases of 18 ounce copper located below deck and along sides; ten 7in. diameter copper relieving tubes from deck to bottom with self-acting balanced valves; Honduran mahogany watertight main deck double-planked; 34 watertight compartments, 70 air cases.
FURTHER READING: Sand Pounders: An Interpretation of the History of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, Based on Its Annual Reports for the Years 1870 Through 1914
by Capt. Robert F. Bennett, USGC (Ret.)
Available free online here: https://books.google.com/books?id=7JR5rJvlGbcC