I Am Dizzy For Tether Boats.


Babes and Teather Race Boats.

As many of you know I have a thing for pre war boat models. There is a simplicity to the build, and not to over detailed. I suppose some of that has to do with the parts all had to be hand made. The new ones done well, are also insane cool. Extreme hand done detail is the key. But these prewar ones are racers, not just models. They have a purpose.. AHHHHHH, Well, I am not alone in my lust for these cool boats, Fellow Woody Boater Kent Lund is obsessed with these and collects them.

First model boat to hit 100 MPH 1961 Builder Ed Kalfus of “The New York Model Knights”

What a photo

Before there was RC, there was Teather. As in a string, and you would stand in the center of the water with a Tether pole and let that sucker rip. Hence the “Dizzy ” joke in the headline. Good lord, what was that like.” Your little zinger roaring around at 50mph to 100mph and you possibly were also drinking a tad with the fellas, cause there were clubs, and well. How much fun would that have been, and what was the slang for a guy to twirl one to many times and hurl? A Swirl Hurl? Was the Tether Pole there to hold onto when you were about to fall? Either way, I am so ready to try it out. Gotta say there should be a Tether Race at every boat show. Dam these things are cool.

Gar Wood filming a race. mmmm, think there might have been some testing going on here?

Tether Boat Clubs were located in the cities: Detroit, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore ,and Toronto, where tool makers and machinists lived and worked. To be a member in the 1930’s the racer had to make his boat, motor and propeller. All boats I sent have homebuilt motors and propellers.

Rupert Terry after a run Belle Isle Michigan

“Grand Pappy” Built by Victor Verhague 1938. Panoramic image taken at July 4th regatta 1940 held at Belle Isle park Detroit Michigan. The racers in their waders standing in the pond.

“ B66″ built by Ray Sevey Philadelphia 1946. Ray is second from left.

Rupert Terry Detroit 1946 Note Conical Valve head and band aid can gas tank.

“Irene” Built by Howard Scott 1946 Chicago. Below Howard at the pole running Irene. 1946

At the Teather.

Pole Boats ran a circular course on a 52’ 6″ cable from center pole to boat. One at a time by Racing class. Four laps was an 8th mile.
They would then calculate miles per hour. In the 1930’s speeds were 30 to 50 MPH by 1961 100 MPH was achieved.

A younger Howard Scott 1936 Chicago

“Comet” Built by Gesa Bacsanyi 1938 of Detroit.

“Betty” 1937 Bob Adams of the Detroit Model Power Boat Club. Gas tank is a Dodge Carburetor float.

Bob launching his boat at Water Works Park at Belle Isle Michigan.

“Skip” Build by Bob Graham 1938 of Point President Beach New Jersey.

Builder Kent Lund – Yes Kent is keeping it real and alive!

Areo Midget. Manufactured in Chicago 1929 1933 coat $12.95 Don’t tell Kent this, but we are not allowed to say the M word anymore. We shall call this, The Areo Little Boat. Okay, lets just move on to the current Decade.

These wound up.. Like a steamboat. Great kid boat for sure.

Some of Kents Collection. GAAAAA!

I am not sure if these raced? Kent can elaborate. But its bad ass cool, and I will bet you, worth more than the real size cruiser these days. AHHHHHHHH, that green hull color is PERFECT!!!!!!!

Here’s the deal, there are a ton more images, and I could milk this for days. Like IceCream milking. Then Yogurt, and then whatever the cheesy mold produces. But Kent has a special Facebook page on the subject. And well, amazing. You can see it HERE on the Tether Boat Facebook page. 

And here is a Youtube video of whats it like with newer boats. DEAR GOD! Wear gloves for sure. Hell, does it even touch the water?

And this one made out of steam power. WTF? And be careful, this one will make you dizzy and, well to be honest I dont feel so good right now

26 replies
  1. Kelly Wittenauer
    Kelly Wittenauer says:

    Very cool, indeed! I was aware of these boats & their landbound sisters, tether-car racers. My brothers & some of the other neighborhood boys built line-control airplanes. They flew them in the empty, treeless, nearly flat lot, that my parents owned next door to our house. Thankfully, the fuel tanks were small enough that gas ran out, before guys got so dizzy that they fell down! And the only drinking was the dads having a beer, while watching their kids fly the planes. But the planes were all built from kits & powered by Cox engines, bought at local hobby shops. Never really thought before about the pioneers of the hobby, having to build even the motors from scratch! Wow – much respect to them! And the cars & planes didn’t require donning hip-waders & standing in the water.

    • kent lund
      kent lund says:

      Yes Kelly
      The guys were talented. Glad you got a kick
      I have been lookihg for the boats for a long time.

  2. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    I don’t remember this happening when I was a kid, but it looks like it was going on at Belle Isle and Water Works Park by the river on the East side of Detroit I guess it was “Where it all Began” for tether boat racing. Great story. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P)
    Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P) says:

    What a good story. Who didn’t play with toy boats when they were a kid. Mine were never that fast. Just wind up or battery powered. I wish I still had them or at leasta picture of one. Thanks for sharing Kent. I will have to check out your facebook page. Another hour every day that I will get nothing done! It will be fun though.

    • Russ in Bolton
      Russ in Bolton says:

      My wife gave me a bathtub toy for Xmas. I’m from LI and, in my youth, saw Guy Lombardo many times. While out in my 14′ Sea King on one occasion circa 1960 we teens found ourselves unable to open our beverages. Guy generously handed a “church key” down to me from his cabin cruiser.

    • kent lund
      kent lund says:

      My FB page is not set up very well — please take a look.
      glad you liked the story.
      I have a place in the Soo on the river.

  4. John F Rothert
    John F Rothert says:

    I was only slightly aware of this hobby. What a cool deal and one of the best post on here.


    John n Va.

  5. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Forty years ago we use to have a pond that rc boaters ran on and of course noise and insurance became an issue. Karen’s even back then.

  6. Jim G
    Jim G says:

    You have to wonder how many of those came out of Industrial Arts class of the era. Were they taught you to make everything.

    I built a Kentucky black powder rifle and flintlock pistol from scratch in the Industrial Arts class I had in high school.

    • Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P)
      Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P) says:

      Jim, how cool were Industrial Arts classes were in High School! Everything from Wood shop. Metal shop, electricity to Auto Mechanics. Places to learn REAL things from teachers who knew how to teach those subjects and were craftsmen, always willing to help. That’s where I spent most of my time in High School😃

  7. Philip Andrew
    Philip Andrew says:

    Holy crap! I’ve never seen or heard of these boats before. Heard of and seen the tethered model planes but from memory you’d stand in the middle holding a hand grip with up and down controls. How insane are these boats! The speed is phenomenal. Imagine one of those things letting go. I’d be like a missile. Crazy stuff.

  8. Old Salt
    Old Salt says:

    I have a tether car and airplane that have been collecting dust for about forty years now. If they were within reach of snap a picture of them. They always seemed pretty dangerous to me.

  9. tom
    tom says:

    The hydros look like they would easily end up flipping.Had to be a delicate balance of power and weight distribution.

    • kent lund
      kent lund says:

      I have a film shot at Jerrys Hobby Town in NJ.
      1957 late for tether racing in the US. total blow over but landed upright and kept going. often the motor would suck water and blow up.

  10. John Sanderosn
    John Sanderosn says:

    Water Works park was a public park, with pools and ponds. Great for tether boats. Closed for security, during WWII and never opened up again. Immediate post-war, they had an open area by the Detroit Boat Club on the Detroit side of Belle Isle. Later they used a large pond/bay on the east end of the island, where they ran in the ’50s and later.
    In the golden age, engines were built from scratch, with plans or casting kits. There were no “manufactured” production engines. Also, the displacement was quite a bit larger than the plane or car engines at the time.
    In 1929, a large rectangular, model yacht sailboat pond, was constructed on the Canadian side of Belle Isle, for Detroit Schools competitions. It was too deep for tether boats.

  11. John Sanderson
    John Sanderson says:

    In the above picture, Detroit and the bridge is on the left, Windsor Ontario Canada is on the right. This has been a beloved public park for 140 years!
    Below, this is Water Works Park before a big remodel when the water tower minarets were replaced in the early ’30s by modern WPA projects, pumps and buildings.

  12. Rick C up in Idaho
    Rick C up in Idaho says:

    Wow, great story and thanks for shedding some light on an esoteric segment of model boating. The most impressive part was that they had to build the motor, and propeller themselves. That machining of parts is a lost art. Between CAD-CAM design and 3D Printing today, I am afraid that it will be a lost art.

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