100 Years of Dispro

This famous early Canadian power boat is generally known as the “Dippy “ or “Dispro” and was the brainchild of the late William J ‘Billy’ Johnston of Port Carling, Ontario, Canada.  Mr. Johnston started working for his pioneer Muskoka boatbuilding uncle, William Johnston Sr. around 1900 and together they built many fine boats in the Muskoka area.

In 1914, foreseeing the need of a small power boat to replace a row boat, he invented and patented a ‘device’ for the protection of a boat propeller and then designed the Disappearing Propeller Boat itself.

The ‘device’ consisted of a cast iron housing (later aluminum) mounted in the hull to accommodate a universal joint, propeller shaft, combination strut-skeg and the propeller. The motor was mounted forward and was coupled to a flexible propeller shaft which entered the housing through a stuffing box.  In the largely uncharted and unexplored waterways of that day, this device was truly a safe way to get there with little or no damage if the propeller shaft skeg struck bottom or logs, etc.

In 1915, patents were issued for this device and in 1916, a factory was established in Port Carling, Ontario to build these boats. From then until 1956, approximately 3000 of these boats were built at various locations and approximately 350 exist today.