To be specific, it’s a 36 foot V bottom Robinson Seagull, not to be confused with the Swiss Family Robinson Seagull. Which is an entirely different story.In this story the boat is still around, and Friday is the day before Saturday. OK, maybe an obscure reference. Those of you that get it are laughing.. or not, the others of you are lost and wondering what I had for breakfast this morning. Soooooo, hold on, need to take some Ritalin…. OK… Where was I? Oh yea, Flying Cloud! This Seagull is not only cool as all get out, but for sale. We cruise the web like you guys do for cool stuff to dream about. Head in the cloud stuff. Yes a bad pun, sorry. Anyway..again, this boat is on one of our sponsors page, the good folks up at St Lawrence Restoration. And we called up the good folks there and asked for more info. Can you say AL Capone! The more history we got the cooler this boat became, and its a very cool boat regardless of its history. So, we thought we would share that history with you. Now if one of you buys this thing, I call shotgun! Here is the history St Lawrence sent.
The 1920’s was an era of economic prosperity for many Americans. Prosperity was accompanied by pro-business attitudes and unparalleled consumerism. Society was changing rapidly as Americans were finding expression through new clothing styles, hairstyles and symbols of economic gain. Boating was becoming more of a leisurely activity rather than just a way to transport goods and materials.
In 1926 Glen Robinson, owner of Roberson Marine located in Michigan, proceeded to build a motorboat that would combine the elegance of a yacht with the sleekness and speed of a runabout. Naval architect John Hacker was chosen to design the hull, resulting in the invention of the “Robinson Seagull.”
The 36ft Seagull is a V-bottom boat with a broad underbottom design that cushions the boat against any abrupt water shocks. The hull is scientifically designed with the center of balance so accurately placed that all pounding has been skillfully eliminated.
The sleek lines of the hull and the black leather-covered hardtop cabin roof give the look of a limousine. The spacious cabin boasts of Pullman berths, galley, ice box, clothes lockers, separate toilet room with fold –down lavatory. The boat was built to carry up to twenty passengers in comfort and style.
The first Seagull was produced for major auto manufacturer Ransom E. Olds in 1928. The boat was named “Flying Cloud” and was used by the Olds family for two years before it was sold to the infamous “Scarface” himself, Al Capone in 1930. Capone used the boat for recreation in Florida, where he once owned a mansion near Miami. Widely known for his criminal empire, Capone was convicted of income tax evasion and was sentenced to prison. The “Flying Cloud” was later sold to help satisfy his outstanding debts.
The boat was then bought by Clarence Welch of Michigan. The Welch family took the boat from Michigan to Florida every year for the winter and then back to spend the summers in Michigan. Welch’s daughter recalls the boat attracting a lot of attention at the yacht club since most cruisers at that time were painted white. The “Flying Cloud” was a long, dark, low and sleek and very beautiful.
After many years of enjoying and maintaining the boat, Mr. Welch sold the boat to Emmett Roche in 1949. Roche, who was the inventor of the Emrola Radio, used the boat for many fishing excursions on Lake Michigan. For several years, he took the boat back and forth from Michigan to New Port Richey, Florida. However, the condition of the boat had begun to deteriorate since Roche did not want to invest money into maintaining its beauty.
After Roche’s death in the 1970’s the “Flying Cloud” changed hands several times. Each owner had major plans of restoring the boat to its original splendor but as the years went by the task became too enormous.
In February of 2001, the “Flying Cloud” made its way to Washington Island on the St. Lawrence River in Clayton, NY. The boats new owners, Louis and Lee Smith, summer residents of Clayton and winter residents of Hawaii, co-owned the boat with their son Martin Smith added the “Flying Cloud” to their inventory of wooden boats.
The boat has been completely restored to its original beauty and calls the St. Lawrence River its home now. The “Flying Cloud” continues to be a big hit at local Vintage Boat Shows. Unfortunately, after Martin’s unexpected death recently the boat is now up for sale yet again and can be viewed at St. Lawrence Restoration in Clayton, NY.
Commuters represent a fascinating time in history and are quite rare as a class of boats, this boat has an outstanding history both influential and famous. Only a handful of boats have the limousine look and style like that of the “Flying Cloud” and the boat has plenty of documentation, in text and on film. To this day no other examples remain, making the “Flying Cloud” a true piece of history on the water.