Click any blue-bordered photo on this page to enlarge it.
by Rod Johnson
In my 60+ years of fiddling with boats on Great Pond, a few come to mind that might be considered odd, weird, silly, stupid — whatever. Of these odd balls, so to speak, one in particular comes to mind.
Once again, my friend Ralph Pope is not only involved, but he built the darn thing at the age of 12, after having seen some version of it in Popular Mechanics magazine. Theoretically it was a father-son winter project that took place in the basement of his parents' home back in Braintree, Mass. The boat arrived in Belgrade Lakes at the family camp known as Loon Lodge, on camp opening weekend in May of 1960. Dad Everett and Ralph had managed to keep the craft tied onto the roof of a 1959 T-bird hardtop all the way up the Maine Pike.
Let me tell you about this boat, though none of the old timer guides that were still around gave it much credence as such. The craft was essentially made from two sheets of 4' x 8' x ½" marine plywood that sandwiched a perimeter of 2" x 6" framing. Ralph had made it such that the front end turned up slightly and a piece of 2" x 12" framing stuck up in the rear and acted as an outboard motor bracket. After much ado the new craft got slid off the dock. It did actually float and would hold at least two teenage boys.
Grampa Pope's 7.5 horsepower Johnson outboard was "borrowed" from the Old Town lapstrake and placed on the motor bracket. Low and behold, the craft would actually get up and plane out, giving a fun but scary ride across the cove. As the summer went on there were additions of accessories such as a steering wheel from an old guide boat, some lines from the bow so we boys could stand up, hold on and ride the thing like an old tow-behind surf board. Screwed to the bow like a hood ornament was a small marble bust of Lord Byron, which may have been liberated from the old town library.
One day the plot thickened: when Dave Webster asked Ralph if he wanted a larger motor. Dave offered us an old 16-horsepower Johnson that was stored in the Mahaffey boathouse down on Point Road. Well, of course he (we) wanted it. Faster was better. After a couple of days of tinkering with the points and cleaning the old gas out of the carb and installing some new spark plugs, it was placed upon the tipsy craft. The stern sat very low in the water and required one boy to stand on the front when the motor was started.
By now, the craft had been seen all around the lake and became known as The Kitchen Table. It was indeed quite a sight for everyone to see and also every teenager to get a ride on. The speed was well into the 20s and required much vigilance to not hit waves directly on. If the driver misjudged an oncoming wave, the craft would dive under the waves and completely submerge leaving its occupants afloat. After a few seconds the boat would see-saw itself out of the wave's leftover wash, motor stalled. We would climb aboard again, fire up the old behemoth outboard and take off. The motor got submerged so many times it finally gave up the ghost and became part of our History — along with the old Chris Craft, Champion, Johnson and Evinrude motors that met similar fates.
Author's Notes: See the sketch above, if you'd care to make a craft just like The Kitchen Table, you'll never regret it! Stay tuned, more stories in the offing about other boats and the characters that ran them over 50 years ago.