DETROIT MARINE ENGINE
Box 571 Frankfort, Michigan 49635
My little boat was built in the 1940's by a fellow named Jim
Congdon who lived on Long Lake here in Benzie County, Michigan. He
built the boat from a half model and called it a 'rough water
tender'. The hull is made from 3/8' marine plywood cut into
planks using batten seam construction with rabbeted chines. Some of
the pertinent statistics are: length 10'2', beam
4'5', draft 15', weight 600 pounds. It has lifting eyes
fore and aft, a five gallon gas tank fitted in the bow and is
steered by a lever on the side of the cockpit. The steering lever
is connected to a cable that runs around the perimeter of the
cockpit and is fastened to a tiller under the rear seat. All
fittings and hardware are either brass, bronze or galvanized.
Capacity is rated at '4 or 5' people but because of its
small size, I find that 3 adults makes an adequate load and gives
the boat a good trim.
The engine is a single cylinder, 3 HP, 2 cycle marine engine
built by the Detroit Engine Works. There is no date, serial # or
model # on the name-plate so I do not know how old it is but it
very likely dates to the early 1900's. The engine is cooled by
a piston type water pump that operates off of an eccentric on the
output shaft. The pump draws water through a strainer on the bottom
of the hull and exhausts the warm water out the side of the boat.
The boat was in very rough shape when I acquired it a few years
ago, having been unused and stored outside for many years. It took
much sanding and caulking and a gallon of primer and a gallon of
finish coat to get the hull in shape. Having a driveshaft made
(' brass), replacing the steering cable and making a canvas
cockpit cover were other major items. The engine was in good shape
having been stored under cover. Buying a new sparkplug and a piece
of Packard 440 high tension wire and some iron pipe for the exhaust
line were the only items needed.
Learning to run the engine has been mostly a matter of 'by
guess and by gosh' along with reading some of the literature
like 'Gas Engine Troubles and Installation' by J. B.
Rathbun and 'Old Marine Engines' by Stan Grayson. I have
yet to find anyone in this area who is familiar with this type of
engine (or is willing to admit it!).
I enjoy running the boat here on beautiful Crystal Lake and am
gradually getting more confident in trouble shooting any problems
that develop. I still take along a pair of oars, though, 'just
The most frequent question I'm asked is 'How do you
steer it?' that's because the steering lever is below the
cowl and is not visible a short distance from the boat. The next
most frequent question is 'How old is the Engine?' Perhaps
someone out there in old engine land can help me answer that