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This article appeared in the 13 April 1904 number of the journal 'Schiffbau' under the title 'Rettungsboote.' The original article in German can be read online at the HathiTrust site:;view=1up;seq=24

Translated to English by Ralph Currell with the assistance of Google Translate. The 'Nautical Pocket Dictionary' at was also consulted for some technical terms.

Translators comments are in square brackets as shown here: [This is a comment.]


The number and size of boats to be carried by the seagoing vessels is nowadays defined by law in most shipping countries, based on the size of the vessel and the number of passengers. In Germany, the rules set out in the "Accident Prevention Regulations of the See-Berufsgenossenschaft [Seamen's Accident Prevention and Insurance Association]" apply; they are also included in the "Reich Law on Emigration" and are reproduced in excerpts in Johow's "Handbook for Shipbuilding" and in the "Hütte Handbook." These rules specify how the boats must be built, furnished and equipped, how their capacity and thus the number of persons accommodated in them are determined, how the boats are to be installed on board the ships and how boat drill is performed by the crew.

The capacity of a boat is calculated as 0.6 times length times width times depth, the regulations specifying how these measurements are to be taken. For boats designated by the Seafarers' Association as "lifeboats", 0.285 cbm [cubic meters] are counted for one adult person, and 0.23 cbm for all other boats. "Lifeboats" are boats of the following type. They have to be sharp in front and behind [i.e. double-bowed]. If they are made of wood, they must be fitted either with a sealed air case of at least 10 percent the boat's capacity or with equivalent buoyancy. If they are made of metal, the volume of the buoyancy must be increased in accordance with the lower buoyancy of the building material. It is permissible that at least a quarter of the buoyancy is mounted outboard. On each side a life-line must be attached from the front to the back. In addition, a proper outfit with mast, sails, oars, provisions, etc. must be housed in the boat during the voyage.

For all Atlantic or long-haul vessels with more than 10 passengers on board, the number and total capacity of the boats will be determined from a table based on the gross tonnage of the vessel or directly from the number of persons to be carried, assuming 0.285 cbm per person.

At least half of the prescribed number and boat capacity must be the above-mentioned "lifeboats"; the other boats may be of a different type, "semi-collapsible boats", i.e. boats with a low, solid base and an upper folding part of waterproof canvas.

Up to 3 boats can be placed under a davit pair. Two boats may be of ordinary design without air case or other floating device.

If the prescribed boats do not provide sufficient space for all aboard, including the crew and the passengers, then vessels below 14,000 cbm must still have half their capacity, those from 14,000-28,000 cbm up to three quarters, and larger vessels the whole of the required boat space as "auxiliary boat space" in the form of other boats, collapsible boats, life rafts, floating deck seats or equivalent facilities, as far as this is compatible with the deck space. This equipment must have at least 0.085 cbm air case volume or other equivalent floating devices for each adult person they are to carry.

Ships which correspond to the relevant requirements of the See-Berufsgenossenschaft for passenger steamers in Atlantic and long voyages with regard to number, strength and distribution of the bulkheads need only half of the prescribed "auxiliary boat space".

Similar rules are issued for smaller vessels used in other voyages.

It is clear from the above that auxiliary boat space plays a major role in large passenger steamers. "Semi-collapsible boats" are preferred for this.

Tabular data regarding the practical dimensions and weights of boats are contained in the above-mentioned references.

Fig. 1. 20' Engelhardt boat. [Large image—click to open in viewer]

Plans for Engelhart collapsible boat

Recently much interest has been generated by a semi-collapsible boat invented by the Danish captain V. Engelhardt, which has significant advantages over the designs that have been in use for a long time. The Engelhardt boat has been patented in all major countries and has been tested and approved by the Board of Trade. Tt is also produced in Germany to the inventor's specifications. The representative for Germany is Mr. Charles Ursin, Hamburg (P.A. 8) Grimm 32 II. The design of this boat is shown in Figure 1. The lower part is also designed as a floating body and prevents complete sinking of the boat under full load. It consists of a keel (a), a keelson (b), two side keelsons (c) and two double side planks (d) and (e), as well as the transverse beams forming cross beams (g) and (f). By special request, a protective keel designated (a1) can be placed under the floor. The longitudinal strength members (a), (b), (d) and (e) are firmly connected to the front and rear stem (q). The bottom and top of the lower part are initially planked by inner layers (l) and (i). The planks are laid fore and aft under the bottom and diagonally on the top. Over this a layer of canvas (m) and (n) is attached. The top layer extends down about 75 mm between the two side planks (d) and (e), while the bottom layer between (d) and (e) extends up to about 75 mm over the edge of the top. Above the canvas there is a second plank layer (h) and (k), which is again laid diagonally on top, and fore and aft on the bottom. On each side of the float, two bars (p) and (o) are attached to the side planks (d) and (e). At this the Fender (B) is lashed. The fender is made up of short tarpaulin sacks filled with kapok stuffed into a strong outer cover.

Between the keelsons and the side planks watertight Kapok filled bags (A) are also attached, while the ends of the float are filled with cork (C).

The upper part consists of a rail (r), to which a gunwale or sheerstrake (s) is connected. The connection with the lower part is effected by four folding or hinged supports (x). The upper transverse beams form two cross pieces (t), which are connected to the rail (r). Under these cross pieces two fold-away supports (u) are attached. (V) is a round, one-piece bench on which the thwarts (w) are mounted. (y) is the waterproof canvas forming the sidewall. If the boat is to be opened for use, two men raise the cross pieces (t); while the seat (v) slides down until it rests on the catches (x) attached to the folding supports and thus holds them firmly. Then the four supports (u) are pressed into the appropriate tracks.

Fig. 2. 20' Engelhardt boat, folded.
Fig. 3. 26' Engelhardt boat, folded and loaded with 4000 kg.

The main advantages of "Engelhardt's Collapsible Life Boat", which have proved themselves in tough trials in England, America, Denmark and other countries, are the following:

1. Several boats of this type occupy no more space on deck than an ordinary lifeboat, while the number of persons to be accommodated is greater, according to the rules of the Board of Trade, than for a common boat of the same dimensions.

2. The boat can be unfolded quickly both on deck and in the water.

3. The boat is completely unsinkable because the floating body is designed to stay afloat with a larger number of people than allowed by the capacity of the boat. This is apparent from the following calculation: For a 20' boat, the capacity = 20' X 7' X 2' 8" X 0.6 = 224 cubic feet. According to the Board of Trade, 224 / 8 = 28 persons are allowed, compared to 18 persons in the corresponding ordinary lifeboat. The floating body calculation results in the following:

19' 6" x 6' 6" x 11" x 0.7 =
81.3 cubic feet X 63 = 5121.9 lbs.
Fender = 44' X 7" diameter =
11.20 cubic foot X 63 = 705.6 lbs.
5827  lbs.
Approximate boat weight = 1300  lbs.
Carrying capacity = 4527  lbs.

If one estimates the average weight of a man as 150 lbs., this gives a carrying capacity of 30 persons. Numerous experiments have proven that in reality the load capacity is even greater.

26' Engelhardt boats, delivered for the American Navy, were tested in New York with over 8500 lbs., equal to 56 persons. An ordinary lifeboat 26' X 7' X 3' X 0.6 = 328 cubic feet can only accommodate 328 / 10 = 33 people.

4. Despite their collapsibility there is enough space for provisions, water etc.

5. In the event of an accident, the normal lifeboats on the windward side are generally useless, while the Engelhardt boats can easily be transported to the lee and launched without davits. If there is no time to lower the boat, it is sufficient to cut the lashings. Then these boats stay afloat thanks to their large buoyancy and offer passengers an easy opportunity to climb aboard.

6. As a result of their design, the Engelhardt boats keep their buoyancy even in a damaged state, while an ordinary lifeboat would fill and sink.

Fig. 4. 26' Engelhardt boat, unfolded.

The first model of the "Engelhardt Collapsible Life Boat" was exhibited at the World Fair in Paris in 1900 and was awarded the "Mention Honorable" award.

In Copenhagen a company was founded, The Engelhardt Collapsible Life Boat Co., and the invention was patented in all major countries.

The first boat was exhibited in Copenhagen in 1901. There, the Life-Saving-Department, the Navy, several ship insurance companies and all Danish and other nautical newspapers spoke very highly and predicted a great future for it.

In America, officers of the battleship "Illinois" were shown a model of the boats. From Gibraltar, as a result, they ordered one such boat for trial purposes, which was delivered while the "Illinois" was in dock at Chatham. [The sense of this paragraph is unclear, but it seems to me the order was placed while the "Illinois" was at Gibraltar, rather than the boat being ordered from a Gibraltar firm.]

At the same time, the British Admiralty ordered a 20-foot boat, which was delivered in May 1903 to the State Shipyard in Portemouth [sic, assume Porstmouth was meant].

After extensive testing of the experimental boat from the "Illinois" for 8 months, the American Navy ordered a 24-foot and a 26-foot boat, which were delivered to the Navy Shipyard in Boston.

The commander of the "Illinois," Captain G. N. Converse, sent the following report on the test boat to Washington. The shortcomings of construction mentioned therein have since been corrected.


1. In accordance with the instructions contained in a letter, dated August 3dth, 1903, and signed by C. F. Hjort, Mr. Engelhardt's representative in England, I have this day landed at the Navy Yard, in care of the Bureau of Construction and Repair, an "Engelhardt Collapsible Lifeboat", which was loaned to this ship while in England last summer.

2. For your information I quote the following from a report made in regard to this boat:

"The Engelhardt Collapsible Lifeboat, is, as its name implies a collapsible boat, and as such, is, in my opinion the best of the type. The one we have on board ist 20' 10" long, 7' 2" beam, and when extended ready for use, 2' 5" high; but when folded for stowage, 1' high. It weighs 810 pounds. It has been tried on several occasions, and will readily accomodate thirty-five (35) men. It has been habitually carried on top of the after turret, and eight men can prepare it for use and launch it."

"I regard the design of the boat as excellent for the purpose for which it is intended. The mechanical apparatus for distending it requires remodeling in several details, and the waterproof canvas with which the boat is covered, is too light and not sufficiently durable. If these defects are remedied, the boat would in my opinion, be a serviceable part of the outfit of large vessels."

Yours respectfully,
G. N. Converse,
Captain, U. S. N.

In America the use of the Engelhardt boats, especially for pontoon bridges, was envisaged for the land army too.

For the Danish technical troops, a 9 foot boat and a 7 foot boat have recently been delivered for the scout service, etc. These boats are able to carry 4 to 3 men, even if they are badly damaged.

Russian ex-Admiral Degohr believes that the Engelhardt boat can be of great use to both the navy and the army in landing troops, horses, guns, etc.

Likewise, the Italian Navy shows interest in these new boats.

Of the large steamship companies, the P. & O. Co., the North German Lloyd and the Hamburg-America Line have already ordered test boats, and other companies as well as the large shipyards are greatly interested because of the many advantages over other constructions.

Mr. James Gordon Bennett has ordered four 16 foot Engelhardt boats for his yacht "Lipostrata" to replace the life rafts hitherto carried.

As mentioned above, the Engelhardt boats will be built by German shipyards in Germany, where they are protected by a patent, to accommodate the German shipping companies. M.

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Last updated on 9 February 2021 
Copyright 2015-2021 by Ralph Currell.