Historical Bay boat plans get new life

Henry Wischmeyer's boat plans.

Hobbies are where unique aspects of a person’s character manifest themselves. Hobbies are pleasant escapes from the tensions of the work-a-day world and offer miniature worlds that absorb a person’s full attention. They often are a counterpoint to stresses of career and domestic issues.

Henry Wischmeyer’s hobby was designing small boats. The Osborn Center of the Bay Village Historical Society houses boat plans Henry drew before his death in 1959. These are not the quick sketches of a waterfront artist but rather drawings of small sailboats and rowing craft drafted the way a professional naval architect would draw up plans. Who was this man, why did he draw these boats and how did he learn the art of designing boats?

Henry Wischmeyer grew up in a family that owned a summer hotel on the north side of Lake Road by Glen Park Road in Bay Village. The back of the building led down to a Lake Erie beach where guests could enjoy the summer lake. Small boats could be sailed or rowed off the beach.  

The hotel had a small craft for guests to use. Quite possibly, boat maintenance fell to Henry and he became knowledgeable in boat construction and repair.  

Also quite possibly, guests might have brought a small boat with them, possibly launching it from Cahoon Creek or Rocky River and storing it pulled up on the Wischmeyer beach. These boats might have introduced new types Henry had not seen before.

Into the late 1920s, boatbuilding persisted on Rocky River. Most famous was the Rocky River Drydock Company and the yacht building and repair yard of Ted Zickes. One can imagine Henry being drawn to these locations and possibly finding work there over the winter. There he might have been exposed to the methods and drawings of naval architects.

However he acquired his drawing skill, Henry drew boats incorporating his own ideas. The Bay Village Historical Society collection shows a wide range of small sailboats and rowing craft ideal for light to moderate weather conditions.

Some drawings appear to imitate conventional, commercial designs – Lyman did produce small sailboats at one time. Others present fanciful elements one might think of as experimental craft.

A few drawings present Henry’s personal affinity for boats with a canoe bow: a gracefully curved bow extending out from the waterline and curving up and backward in the direction of the stern. Although this curved front end made for a dramatic presence, in reality, it might have been very difficult or nearly impossible to build on a small boat.  

Before a boat is built, it is advisable to build a scale model in which all the detail of the plans are followed. The process works out construction details and solves problems before they affect material and labor costs. There may be crossover between the Wischmeyer boat plans and the Wischmeyer boat model collection housed in the Rose Hill basement.

Some of the boat models are constructed with full details mimicking an actual boat. It is possible that two model boats in the collection – the catboat and the sharpie – might have been pre-construction models of plans drawn by Henry. 

There is no record of any boat built to Henry’s plans. However, the Bay Village Historical Society is involved in a current project to actually build Henry’s 1953 design for a 9-foot-7-inch boat he labeled a utility dinghy. Since the boat presents a flat transom front rather than the typical pointed bow of a dinghy, it is being referred to as a utility pram to eliminate confusion. 

Led by the Cleveland Amateur Boatbuilding and Boating Society, the boat will be used to aid in the regular clean-up of North Coast Harbor, the area behind the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame. An early summer launch is planned. Anyone interested in the project can contact Ed Neal at 440-570-7620 for more information or check out the group’s website: www.cabbs.org. 

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Volume 15, Issue 7, Posted 8:15 AM, 04.18.2023