The Houseboat “Doris”

Doris

Invariably referred to as the “Houseboat Doris” this craft was one of the most recognizable pleasure craft in Charlottetown harbour before the Great War. She had arrived in late June 1911 after a nine-hour trip from the builder’s yard in Souris where L and N. Paquet had a  thriving business which they later moved to Baddeck Nova Scotia.  The following year the Paquets used the Doris’ hull design for a smaller twenty-two foot launch for Malcolm Irwin who planned to mount a five horsepower motor.

The forty-foot houseboat was a practical design. Within the ten-foot beam was a dining saloon, a cooking room, the engine room, a toilet and lavatory, two staterooms and a forward saloon which could be converted into a stateroom if necessary.  A two and a half-foot passageway ran the length of the boat. The engine room housed one of the latest engines from the works of Messrs Bruce Stewart and Co. – a two-cycle, 12 horsepower Imperial – which gave a speed of nine miles per hour when tested in Souris Harbour.  The design of the boat was by  E.E. Griswold of Long Island, New York who had also designed several runabouts, all called the Imperial, for Bruce Stewart.

Unlike the runabouts the Houseboat Doris had bilge keels which would allow her to be run ground without straining the keel.  A more visible feature was the railing around the upper deck which allowed the cabin roof to be used as a viewing platform.

Houseboat Doris at Bonshaw Bridge

Houseboat Doris at Bonshaw Bridge

The Houseboat Doris was built for J.P. Hood, publisher and owner of the Charlottetown Guardian from 1896 to 1912. It is likely that connection that is responsible for our knowledge of the boat and its activities.  She was very much at home on the West River and was a fixture at the annual Guardian staff picnic carrying Guardian staff to the picnic grounds at T.A. Stewart’s property at Westville.  Hood made a number of improvement over the span of ownership. The engine was increased to 15 horsepower, electric lighting was added. The interior fit-out allowed for sleeping accommodation for twelve with springs and mattresses.

Although hardly a racer the Doris participated in the 1912 Georgetown regatta with Malcolm Irwin as captain. Entered in the cruising motorboat class she was reported as making good speed for the first five miles before an obstruction in the cooling tubes and an overheated engine forced her retirement from the race. In July 1914 the Houseboat Doris was taken on a major excursion. Again under the command of Malcolm Irwin and with Engineer Freddie Bourke aboard, the Doris took a number of young ladies and Mr. and Mrs. J.P. Hood on a tour of Northumberland Strait with stops at Tidnish (only seven hours from Charlottetown via Cape Tormentine), Pugwash and Tatamagouche.  And that was only the beginning. As the Guardian reported:

Mr. and Mrs. J.P. Hood have closed their residence on Bayfield Street, and with the other members of their family will spend the remainder of the summer in their comfortable and well-appointed houseboat, Doris, in cruising on the beautiful West River. With exception of the two Misses Hood , who drove up in their carriage, the family left Charlottetown yesterday on the Doris on the initial trip of the cruise. The Misses Hood who drove will join the Doris at an appointed rendezvous, and for several weeks the family will make the houseboat their home with the prospect of a time of considerable pleasure. 

Doris 2

Hood sold the Guardian to the Burnett family in 1912 and in 1916 he was planning to leave the Island. The Houseboat Doris was offered at tender but when that process did not yield the expected results she was sold at auction. In August of that year the Doris was making regular semi-weekly trips between Bonshaw and Charlottetown. However in 1917 the Bonshaw service was advertised using the motor launch Hazel R.

In 1917 the Doris was noted as being available for excursions to Bonshaw but her later history is not known.

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4 thoughts on “The Houseboat “Doris”

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