A Tribute to Bob Carver

By Fred Farley - ABRA Unlimited Historian

Hydroplane racing is one of the world's most photogenic sports. Over the years, many photographers have tried to do it justice. Considerable skill is required.

In the post-World War II era, one name stands out above all others as the dean of boat racing action photographers: the late Robert N. Carver of Seattle, Washington. From the early 1950s to the late 1960s, Bob was simply the best.

When one of Carver's photos would appear in a magazine or newspaper, the clarity of the image would leap out at you. There was no mistaking the master at work.

Carver was an ardent fan of the legendary Morris Rosenfeld who did those spectacularly artistic photos of racing action in the 1920s and '30s for YACHTING and MOTORBOATING magazines. A friend once commented that Bob's work was the equal of Rosenfeld's. Carver replied, "That is the finest compliment anybody ever paid me in my life."

Carver began his race photography in 1948 as a hobby to prolong the excitement he witnessed as a race spectator. It quickly became a part-time business. Bob's ability to capture spills in the split 1/1000ths seconds of occurrence, as well as his uncanny depth perception enabling him to secure the proper focus, soon had racers clamoring for prints.

Outboard racing was Carver's first love. He was in fact a lifetime member of the Seattle Outboard Association. When Unlimited hydroplane racing made its Northwest debut in 1951, Bob was right there to capture the Thunderboats on film.

Eileen Crimmin, a freelance writer and a fine photographer in her own right, joined Bob in 1960. They soon became partners in projects both related to and unrelated to boat racing.

Carver and Crimmin were a fantastic team! It's hard not to think of one without thinking of the other.

Bob took the pictures; Eileen wrote the stories. Whenever the Carver/Crimmin joint byline appeared on a magazine article, the reader could depend on two things: first-rate reporting and dazzling photography.

Bob told it like it was--even when the truth was unpopular. For four years, he predicted that the erratic-riding Unlimited hydroplane MISS SEATTLE TOO would some day go on its head. And it did--right at the start of the 1962 APBA Gold Cup on Lake Washington. And, of course, Bob was right there with his camera, clicking the shutter at exactly the right moment.

Carver always seemed to be in the right place at the right time when a crash occurred. But he did not relish taking pictures of accidents. According to Bob, "If I were a sadist, I wouldn't say a word. I would keep my mouth shut and get the drop on the other photographers. When I see a boat that isn't riding right, I tell people about it in the hope that something will be done to correct it. I want these guys to live."

Bob Carver passed away in 1981. But his legacy lives on in his contributions to the sport that he loved and in the high professional standard that was his constant goal.


The Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum
5917 South 196th Street - Kent, WA 98032
Phone: 206.764.9453 - FAX: 206.766.9620
info@thunderboats.org