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.”
Summer Excitement is Here

By Tim Du Vernet

The ACBS-Toronto boat show is looming large now. With just one weekend to go! For wooden boaters, the show represents a serious start to the season with the long weekend past.

While ACBS-Toronto organizes the event hosted by the Town of Gravenhurst, the ACBS is a big organization and draws participation to this show from several of its chapters.

That means both boating participants and spectators alike will get to enjoy a broad range of classic boats from as far away as Florida, Ottawa, and beyond.

As classic boat collecting matures, more and more fiberglass boats become vintage and historically significant. This year’s show will combine all classic craft into a one day public event on Saturday with member activities happening Friday through Sunday.

Once again, the ever popular card board boat building event will be fun for youth and families as well as those who love to see just how far a card board boat can go.

A special highlight of this year’s event is the return of Miss Canada IV to Gravenhurst. Built by Greavette Boats, she will be the centre of attention at 12:00 with official ceremonies. The return of Miss Canada represents the co-ordinated efforts of many people from Ingersol to Gravenhurst. She will be part of a remarkable documentary film titled “Harold and Lorna”.

The show boat is the very historically significant KITTYHAWK. This name is tied to aviation history as well as more humble boating history on Georgian Bay.

Built in 1929 by Gidley Boats, KITTYHAWK started her career as a taxi boat. She came up for sale and Orville Wright bought her in 1931 after she a hardtop had been added.

KITTYHAWK was his Georgian Bay boat, where he spent the summer. At 32’6” and substantial freeboard , KITTYHAWK, is ready to handle the waters of Georgian Bay. Perhaps her sturdy nature is one of the features that attracted Orville Wright. The Gidley “Gull” model is described in the brochure as an all mahogany express runabout, equipped with a Kermath engine. A “general purpose craft she has a passenger capacity of eight plus incidental baggage accommodation.”

Shis is currently owned by Guy and Kathy Johnstone, who summer on Georgian Bay in an area known as Franceville East. KITTYHAWK will be brought to Lake Muskoka and launched specially for the show. It is expected that representatives of the Wright family will be present for the special showing of this remarkable boat.

Once again, there will be lots to see at this year’s boat show. Remember, the show is one day only with a modest admission fee.

The ACBS will also be selling posters featuring the KITTYHAWK in two versions, the production version and a very exclusive, limited edition version produced by Tim Du Vernet. More updates on the show next week!