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
"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
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
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.
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.