My Blog: Latest Boating News & Columns

The Dispro Centennial Aug 8
13th August 2015
In the sleepy village of Port Sandfield, Muskoka, more than 100 years ago, machinist, Edwin Rogers and boat builder, W. J. Johnston Jr., came together to invent a “mechanism of propulsion” for rowboats in a small second floor machine shop. Officially patented in 1915 the “Device” as the mechanism would be commonly known, would transform more than 3000 rowboat-like boats into Dispros.

The “Device” is a t-shaped housing that fits in the hull, permitting the propeller to be raised above the hull or lowered to motorize the rowboat. The drive shaft articulates on a universal joint. The “Device” allows a Dis-Pro to be beached easily and to travel in very shallow waters. While the date of the first patent is 1915, there were precursor experimental designs and further advancements as the D.P. Co. and others improved the design. At an evening lecture given by Paul Dodington and Paul Gockel at the Muskoka Lakes Museum, we learned this is why imprinted on the “Device”d is “other patents pending”.

It is no secret, the D.O.A. has been looking forward to this event for a long time. Mary Storey, current president, with John at her side and Ian Dickson, chairman of the Centennial Committee with Barb at his side, took the lead in organizing events for August 8, 2015. The D. O. A. is grateful for the support from the Toronto Chapter of the ACBS. By taking up the cause along side the D.O.A. , with announcements, articles and other forms of support, the day was truly a special one.

The main event was the unveiling of a heritage plaque produced by Ontario Heritage Trust. Sean Fraser, Director of Heritage Programs and Operations, Wayne Kelly, Manager of Public education and Community Development, for Ontario Heritage Trust and James Bartleman, former Lieutenant Governor for province of Ontario, who has been a long supporter of wooden boat culture in Muskoka and Mayor Don Furniss, officiated with the unveiling.

Dispro owners love a party and the Centennial would prove to be one of the biggest. Dressed in period costume, boat owners and their guests participated in record numbers. In the end, nearly 80 boats spanning in age from 1916 to the mid 1950’s lined the docks and the small boat lock entrance. Members and guests had been preparing for this day for some time. Getting boats ready, arranging holiday and travel plans. Coming from the far south and the far west, the warmth and friendship proved the spirit of the Dispro!

The special nature of the festivities and the chance to see so many Dispros in one place attracted easily several thousand people to this historic occasion. It was quite humbling and awe-inspiring to see such public enthusiasm for the Dispro, a quirky and generally impractical little boat.

President Mary Storey, explains “the Dispro Owners Association was extremely pleased to gather the most Dispros ever assembled, have the boats and their production in Port Carling recognized by the Province of Ontario and have a public celebration in honour of the 100th birthday of Disappearing Propeller Boats.”
The Dispros Are Coming!
20th May 2015
With the Centennial of the Device just around the corner, the Disappearing Propeller Boat is scheduled to make an historic presence in Muskoka this summer. Please check out a special album of historic and more recent photos of Dispros in action!
Tolka wins Best of the Best in Texas
14th May 2015
The 1928 Bell Laboratories boat, Tolka, won Best of the Best in Texas last weekend for the Big Boat under 40' category! An amazing achievement for this boat which was recovered as a grey boat and fully restored. Owned by Penny and Lee Anderson of Nisswa Minnesota, she is such a special and historic boat. Check out my album on Tolka for more beautiful images. I produced a limited edition custom 12 x 18" hardcover book about Tolka for Mr. Anderson.
Rambler Cruises Anew!
24th July 2014
Rambler Renewed and Glowing

By Tim Du Vernet

Rambler, long a well-recognized feature at the Muskoka Lakes Association Boat Show, has returned to the lakes refreshed and renewed and ready for a new life with Bobby Genovese at the helm. We hope she will once again come to the boat show this year for August 9, in Port Carling.

Rambler is one of those boats on Lake Rosseau that connects generations of summer residents. Parents remember it and their children will hopefully continue to remember it.

At 70 feet, she isn’t the most nimble or simple boat to care for and house. Through the years that Tim Chisholm owned her and since Genovese has as well, she has been kept in a boat house up on Lake Joseph and lifted each season using a complicated system of hoists. Soon she will have a new home on Lake Rosseau.

Paul Brackley, of Gravenhurst’s Brackley Boats, was given the task of restoring her. This was a huge challenge, given her size and state. It took nearly three years , working in very demanding conditions to repair and restore her 38 tons of mahogany on steel frames and oak decking.

Rambler’s effective, but somewhat smelly, 170 hp diesel engine can push her along at speeds up to 15mph. Although not as proportionately narrow as the Wanda III, she is still very narrow at only 10’. She was built by Polson Iron Works in 1903.

Unquestionably one of the most stately boats in Muskoka, Rambler’s colourful flags, now sporting her owner’s insignia, white hull and the rich tones of her oak decks and cabin combine to be a spectacular sight on the lakes during a warm summer’s day.

It must have taken a great deal of nerve and or skill for Tim Chisholm and his staff to drive her. Her tall form easily catches the wind and she originally only had a single screw and rudder to direct her.

In the process of her restoration, rational heads succeeded over originality and she now has bow and stern thrusters to help manage difficult docking situations. With a remote control at the ready, a simple push of a button can direct an effective push left or right at the stern or bow. I am sure the thrusters will save Rambler from possible damaging bumps with docks or worse.

Rambler will be a welcome site, coming through the Indian River into Port Carling. It will be easy to see her when she comes.

Best Day of Boating
13th July 2014
What could be better? Morning filming Marmilwood for the MLA boat show display and later some blasting runs in Boomerang! The morning weather co-operated for the filming of Marmilwood. Water was pretty calm and it was great fun to have Gary Clark along. Paul's friend Craig, did a great job driving the chase boat. It wasn't easy at times. Paul really likes driving Boomerang at speed. She rides very flat and sounds incredible. The fit and finish are parallel to non! Check out the YouTube video on both in a few days.
ACBS Antique and Classic Boat and Car Show!
08th July 2014
I can't remember a better day for the annual ACBS show. What made it even more special was how I was transported to and from the event. A small parade of three vintage cars made their way from Port Carling to Gravenhurst on the day of the show. A 1924 Buick owned by Eric Luk's, a 1912 REO owned by Paul Gockel and a 1914 Model T owned by Paul Dodington took about 2 hours to make the journey. What fun it was! While few visitors would have known about it, this year's show could also be called "the show before the 100th Anniversary of the Disappearing Propeller Boat!