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The Fine Points of Dispros

August 9, 2021 in Uncategorized


The Disappearing Propeller Boat demands a certain level of commitment unlike any other boat. The 18’ of sitka spruce, cedar or mahogany planking, looking like little more than a rowboat, is deceptive in its simplicity and humble proportions.

The earliest Dispros, especially those from the mid “teens” as in 1915, were the simplest and perhaps also have the most character. From a distance, the tiny telling details of the Dispro don’t reveal themselves, but closer up, the care and labour in their construction becomes more apparent.

With oak ribs spaced on 3” centres and the Sitka spruce planking, a wood known to be relatively light, strong and flexible, made the Dispro especially durable. The decking and gunwales really set this little boat apart. While not as imposing as a 36’ launch, with its knife edge bow stem, the Dispro’s decks and gunwales were made with laminations that included the bright oak wood and mahogany. This stylish treatment immediately set the little boats apart from anything else.

Set off with two little flag poles, the Dispro instantly stands out on the water with a burgee and a Canadian flag flying. The earliest boats were started by hand cranking the massive flywheel. A small engine cover conceals  the tiny one-cylinder engine that is controlled from a brass dash and large brass knobs, for throttle, spark advance and grease. The most distinguishing feature of a Dispro is, of course, the Disappearing Propeller!  A recent experiment removed all the gasoline bits and replaced them with electric! More on that version to come.

By Tim Du Vernet

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