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!
YouTube Videos Added
17th July 2013
I've added a few short clips of the boats racing and great engine sounds. Here's a link to my YouTube channel!
Greatest Race Boat Show
17th July 2013
The sound of engines roared during the 33rd Annual ACBS boat show. The demo course provided lots of excitement and it was fun to see the race boats lifted in and out by crane. MCIII made a few speed laps and hopefully we will see MCIV doing that soon as well.

Photos from the show and the Muskoka Boat and Heritage Centre exhibits will be compiled into a special booklet and pdf celebrating the Racing Glory of Muskoka. Email me if you would like to reserve a copy. $10 for the pdf (which will include the Harmsworth Trophy events as well).
YouTube Channel Added!
16th May 2013
Now you can see and hear the boats in motion at See a few videos of the MCIV test run.
MCIV Roars!
13th May 2013
What looks brutish and unbelievably powerful in slings or on a shop floor, came to like in Muskoka Bay. Miss Canada IV gave us a taste of what she could do. Sounding like a wartime Spitfire, she cruised leisurely around Lake Muskoka at 50 - 70 mph for her poster shoot runs. Peter Grieve and Norm Woods had their hands full trying to design the best strategy to get water running through the system properly. In the water, MCIV looks very sleek. She will obviously need to be photographed at speeds over 100mph to really see that rooster tail. Another day in a helicopter, another boat to photograph! What fun.
PDF Booklet of the 100 Mile Cruise
22nd August 2012
I have had several viewers ask me about putting the images together in a booklet. At this point a printed version isn't viable, but a PDF version could be. If this interests you, drop me a note with your favourite picture. All told, I took about 1100 photos, so the booklet could include about 250 or so. It would likely cost about $20.

It sure was exciting.
Greatest Day in Muskoka History (This Year!)
19th August 2012
The 100 Mile Cruise, held Saturday August 18, 2012, was undoubtedly the greatest moment of this summer and certainly will be a lasting memory for generations to come. Over 150 wooden boats joined the Seqwun and Wenonah II on their cruise to Natural Park, Little Lake Joe. This was a procession the lakes have never seen before and it began in Muskoka Bay, Gravenhurst. I have uploaded a portfolio of over 200 photos documenting the day. Check to see if your boat was captured by my lens!

Awards at Clayton
06th August 2012
Several Canadian exhibitors took top honours at the Clayton Boat Show this past weekend. Ken MacStephen, Jim Grand and Peter Breen were among the Canadian winners.
Special Display and Sale at Muskoka Classics
06th August 2012
During the Muskoka Lakes Association Boat show this Sunday, I will have a special display and sale of my boating images using the lower level of Muskoka Classics store (former Hannah's Store). Some of my newest pieces will be available.
Vintage Sailboats Needed!!
17th July 2012
Anyone out there with a vintage sailboat? Ackroyd or other?

Here is my column for this week! Send me your thoughts. Do you know any younger people who are passionate about wooden boats?

Youth and Wooden Boating

By Tim Du Vernet

It doesn’t take more than a quick glance at those participating in boat shows and many of the antique boating events to realize this hobby seems to be the domain of middle age and older men.

There are precious few “young” people in their twenties who have independently developed this passion. There are those fortunate enough to have parents with the passion for wooden boating and willing to share it with their children.

In some cases, several generations pile into the boat for the boat show or cruises to town. But the younger generation doesn’t have the time, resources or apparently the same interest to strike out independently. Those that do, usually enter the hobby with a Dispro, a canoe or a 1950’s or newer utility.

The late Patrick Wren was a collector of smaller boats and he enjoyed his SeaBird utility. Paul Gockel had his first Dispro as a teenager and it was likely that Paul Dodington was possibly conceived in a Dispro. I enjoyed my Dispro while at University and my canoes nearly daily.

From popular accounts, it would appear that most of those with means in this age group are more interested in speed and ease of use. The idea of manually lubing a 90 year old engine just isn’t in the cards. The preference seems to be an epoxy boat or a “Tupperware” performance boat.

The Toronto Chapter of the ACBS has recognized this troubling trend over the years and tried to boost the interest in wooden boats through the youth program and an apprenticeship sponsorship.

At this year’s boat show, the dory boat building program was very popular. It was wonderful to see parents as challenged as their children with the construction of the small boats.

The Muskoka Sea Flea group is all about family fun and their simple craft are very accessible to all walks of life.

So who will take on a 36 foot launch as they pass out of the aging hands of the pioneering collectors of today? That is the big question and only time will tell.
TOLKA wins Captain's Choice at the ACBS Show
11th July 2012
While this year was not a judged show year for the ACBS-Toronto event in Gravenhurst, TOLKA won the Captain's Choice award. She was a hit with the waterskier and chauffeur.
For more photos click here!
Tolka Wins People's Choice!
06th May 2012
Just announced, Tolka wins People's Choice at the Lakewood Yacht Club's Keels and Wheels.

TOLKA Book Launch
05th May 2012
Finally the opportunity for the world to see my book about Tolka. This first edition went over very well at the Seabrook Texas Keels and Wheels show.
Tolka Wins Best of Show!
05th May 2012
At about 3:30 p.m., it was announced that Tolka won the Best of Show for large boats at the Seabrook Keels and Wheels show.
Seabrook Texas Keels and Wheels!
04th May 2012
Tolka has arrived at the Lakewood Yacht Club's Keels and Wheels show. I wonder how many awards she will win! The big news is the launching of the Tolka book. After several months of putting her photos together, the book is ready to show the world. Check back for an update!