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The Johnston Special

May 4, 2021 in Uncategorized


The Johnston Special is often mistaken for a deluxe Dispro. With its characteristic deck and wide gunwales with laminations of cedar and mahogany giving a striking two tone appearance. The hull shape and seating configuration overall is similar as well, with the deck light leading the way and the seat backs rising above the deck.

Getting closer to the “Special” and the differences become more apparent. The Special is larger in every dimension than a Dispro and the belly of the hull seems squatter and the stern lines are quite different as well. The “Special” is a kind of hybrid between a Dispro and a utility launch.

Unlike the featured “device” of a Dispro, the special has a solid drive shaft. The defining feature of every Dispro is that universal joint in the drive shaft that permits it to hinge into a housing on the upper side of the hull. This key feature was the hallmark of the Disappearing Propeller Company. Instead, the propeller of the Special is protected by a skeg and the solid shaft runs through a keel. The Disappearing Propeller boats, in la rgest form, were 18’ long.  Monte Cristo looks a bit longer, but the hull length and design still offer a similar boating experience. The Dispro will never win any races and was never designed for speed. This Special is powered by a Buchanan “Firefly” engine that weighs about 200 lbs. 

Passengers in the Special will enjoy an intimate connection with the water in a craft that is surprisingly seaworthy, despite pitching and tossing in heavy waves. The larger engine may even help to stabilize her a bit. Monte Cristo maybe the only one of her kind to have survived.  More on her history in the next blog!

By Tim Du Vernet

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