Seafaring United

An Old Boat Shed Reveals a Working Treasure in the Form of a 10 HP United

| November/December 2003

The 10 HP United

The 10 HP United and winch setup as found in the boat shed. The engine was probably built about 1917

Two years ago, I discovered a 10 HP United make-and-break housed in an old boat shed on Great Cranberry Island (just south of Bar Harbor) off the coast of Maine. The engine powered a humungous wire drum winch that hauled a 40-foot sailboat from the water into the winter storage shed. The boat shed housed the boat, cradle, engine and winch, not to mention a complete maintenance facility. Over 20 years ago the United was rendered obsolete by the installation of a smaller electric winch.

I tried, through a caretaker, to buy the United, but it turned out the caretaker also had designs on the engine, so my offer to purchase never got off the ground. The next year the engine's owner sold the whole property - including the shed and its contents - to a Cranberry Island summer resident, Creighton Murch, who wants to store and maintain his boats in the shed.

Hearing of this, I prevailed on Creighton, through a mutual friend, Dick Avery, to allow us to have a crank-up and see if we could get the United running. If we could get it running, I hoped Creighton might catch the 'old iron bug' and use the United for its intended purpose as installed so many years ago. More than that, I was hoping he might be inspired to keep the whole installation intact.


In late July of this year, my wife, Dottie, and I sailed to Cranberry and entered 'The Pool' on the high tide. Two Cranberry friends of ours turned 70 that day, so the evening was devoted to celebrations. The next day, 20 or so people showed up to witness the crank-up of an engine I had only seen through a window - an engine that hadn't been run for 20 years. Now I'm nervous!

The 10 HP United was in remarkably good shape, needing relatively little work to get running again. Close inspection shows a chain running from the right side of the engine forward to the clutch assembly.

The first thing we did was tend to the fuel system, which was, not surprisingly, pretty dirty. We first tried to flush the fuel tank of varnish -no luck, it was crammed full of sediment. Compressed air, courtesy of David Stainton's Cranberry Island Boat Yard, only stirred up more sediment in the tank, plugging the lines. We removed the tank entirely, shook it with bolts and a chain inside to knock out the sediment, and then flushed it repeatedly. We blew the sediment from the line, and then attacked the solid brass mixer. The mixer on this engine doesn't have a butterfly, but it does have a fuel restrictor, which will slow the engine to a degree.