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When NASA engineer Harley Gheen moved to Titusville, Fla., in 1972, he was rummaging through a desk drawer when he came across a set of plans for a boat he had designed and forgotten.

"I always liked to fish out of a canoe, but every time I went out with someone who wasn't used to canoe fishing, I ended up in the water. I wanted a canoe I didn't have to worry about dumping," said Gheen who is now the owner of the Gheen Manufacturing Co., maker of the Gheenoe, one of the most unusual boats afloat.

Gheenoes look like square stern canoes, except that these boats incorporate built-in pontoons as part of hull construction. This feature of the boat makes it more stable than any canoe on Earth. The boat is so stable that two people can stand up and walk around without worrying about tipping.

Gheen designed the boat while living in Tennessee in 1970, but he did nothing with the design.

"I put the drawings into a desk drawer and forgot about them. Then, after I moved to Titusville, I was going through a bunch of stuff from my office when I came across them again," explained Gheen.

"While I was looking them over, a guy came by my desk, looked at the drawings and told me he wanted the first one I built. I guessed then that maybe I ought to build it."

While he had originally planned to build his untipable canoe out of aluminum, engineers told him he couldn't get the bends and curves required in his design.

"Heck, I just figured I'd go ahead a build one out of fiberglass if aluminum was going to be so much trouble. I built a 1/8th model, then a mold. I laid up the first boat in 1972," said Gheen.

It has been a long and mostly prosperous road for Gheen and his two sons who operate the company's two manufacturing plants on the edge of NASA-oriented Titusville. From the handmade and admittedly rough mold he used for the first boat, Harley Gheen's company has experienced tremendous growth.

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Gheenoes now come in three varieties--two designed for both paddling and use with a small outboard, and a larger boat called The Classic which is rated for a 25 h.p. outboard and is often rigged with stick steering in the bow. Classic options include an aeriated livewell, dry storage, bilge pump, and running lights. A neat little control panel tucks up under the bow deck plate. The Classic is the best and most popular fishing boat in Gheen's line, and you can see them from North Dakota to Florida, although Gheenoes are most popular in areas where shallow water and tight quarters demand a light, easy-handling craft. The boat drafts only three inches of water in the stern, and with power trim, it is possible to run in water that depth. This makes it ideal not only for shallow fresh water lakes, but also for fishing saltwater coastal flats for bonefish, tarpon, permit and redfish.

The two Gheenoe plants produce an averge of seven boats a week, every year, and I was so impressed by these very non-canoelike and sleek little boats that I bought one, a bright blue beauty with enough curves and sexy lines to earn her female name.

My boat is rigged with a 25 h.p. electric start, short shaft Yamaha outboard, power trim and tiller steering with telescoping handle extension.  A Motor Guide electric troller with foot control decorates the bow plate, and the boat came on a galvanized trailer with 13-inch wheels. My boat, fully rigged and carrying gear weighs just over 450 lbs. and is a delight to launch, load and tow.  At this weight and powered by 25 horses, my Gheenoe goes like a"bat out of hell."  Holes shots are astounding, and the boat planes in just seconds.

The boat and trailer alone costs around $2,000.  Add $2,500 for the outboard, a few hundred more for a trolling motor and fish sonar unit, and you've got yourself a safe, durable, speedy fishing boat  with most of the percs of a much larger and more expensive fiberglass bass boat for under $5,000! That's an amazing price compared to the $15,000 to $30,000 tickets on the fancy bass rigs.

I call the Gheenoe "the older gentleman's boat" because its weight makes it so easy to handle. Even if you manage to load it cattywampus, one person can shove the boat into correct trailing position.

If you are wondering why I didn't "Buy American" when it came time to hang an outboard on the Gheenoe, it's because Outboard Marine Corp. and Mercury Marine didn't want to sell me one. The Yamaha was cheaper, and, according to most reviews, it is state-of-the-art design with many improvements that enhance reliability and durability. And, Yahama's U.S. advertising man, Mike Walker of The Walker Agency  was a pleasure to deal with after prolonged silences from OMC and Mercury.




1998 Copyright Jordan Communication