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Ojibway Melody

"Slower than the hour hand of eternity" is a favourite phrase used by Hugh MacLennan to describe the speed characteristics of the more venerable models.

Few authors have been capable of capturing the true essence of a boat's personality in words. The following passage, quoted from the book entitled, Ojibway Melody, published in 1946, written by Harry Symons of Pointe-au-Baril, is a notable exception.

Now, unless you have known and enjoyed the many unexplainable eccentricities of the earlier vintage models of D.P. it is absolutely beyond the power of any presently known manner of speech to describe their vagaries and whimsies to you... They are, in our case, definitely a one man contrivance. Let two people try to run them (the vintage models, we refer to throughout) and it all rapidly became very discouraging. If any engine ever coughed or backfired more than ours, we have yet to hear of it.

It is, we think, the long distance cougher and backfirer of all time. And we are doubtful if we have ever seen so small an engine that can throw around quite so much oil and grease and gasoline. We do not exaggerate when we state that more of these ingredients go into the bottom of the boat than into the engine itself. And from the bottom of the boat it is not time at all, as you may imagine, before they are all over our clothes, our hands, our face, and even in our hair! And when it comes to getting in the hair, we prefer to revert to outboards, or be left to swim home on our own.

The advantage of the D.P., supposedly, is that it's just a nice homey, comfortable, large-sized rowboat, with this presumable docile and quietly behaved engine in its midriff. And that it can, and will go anywhere a rowboat ordinarily can and will go ... because its propeller has a skeg, or metal guard underneath it, which, when hit by some solid body, such as a shoal, or a case of ale, will retract on a hinge-like device, which swings the propeller shaft and propeller upward and safely out of the way, into a cosy little metal box that appears in the after part of the craft, well back of the funnel.

Having made all its advantages so interesting and so clear to you, we invite you without further delay, and politely, mind, to just jump in and come for a happy, happy spin in what we laughingly refer to as our 'Harmsworth Trophy'.

It's too bad you slipped and fell as you stepped on the grease on that seat. We thought you knew about that grease. We hope you haven't fractured your pelvis. On the other hand, if it's only a matter of a rib, or a severe strain, we must say you're very lucky, because the average beginner usually gets something much worse than that, you know.

Now, would you mind sculling us out clear of the boathouse? Thanks very much, that's nice of you. In the meantime we'll get down on our knees and start dulcet overtures to the engine. Now what's wrong? 0h, you've bumped your head on the boathouse door overhead? We thought we heard a light crash. Goodness knows we should have warned you. Three people hit it last week. Can we rub it for you? There, how's that? Feeling better?

O never mind about the oar you've broken while sculling. We still have one, anyway. That's not a bad average is it? One out of two? Now sit down, and relax, and just let yourself drift off into dreams. We won't be any time at all with the engine. It's going to start any minute now. It really can't help itself but start, because we've tugged on every wire, and opened every valve, and closed all the switches, and primed it every place we can think of and ...BANG ... ! ! ... BANG ... BANG ... CRASH ... BANG .! !

You swim quite well with your clothes on, don't you, all things considered? It's not far, anyway, to the dock. We should make it, if we're lucky. But you'll have to keep swimming, you know. You can't climb up on top of us like that. That won't do any good. No good at all. We'll both of us s-s-s---s ink. Why we ... we are s-s-sinking! Per--per--perhapsas ... well...

And that's what we think, too, about our very rare museum piece. Our vintage D.P. Our Harmsworth Trophy. She's a dream in some ways. A perfect dream. And in others ... well, we can't say it aloud, without retiring around to the back of the chemical toilet, in case somebody hears us.

...compiled by Paul Dodington