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Feed Me!

Day two at Custom Propeller Systems: A great day to watch our props from day one get their first finishing. We learned all sorts of things most important the proper name of the company. The shop has been Ellis Propeller forever. John Rose has owned it for quite some time so many refer to it as Ellis. The name changed and it took me a day of seeing company uniforms labeled “Custom Propeller Systems” to catch on.

The second day has its afternoon pour for larger props so the set up was a bit different. The furnace is brought up to temperature and then more bronze is added. Bronze pours intense light yellow and smokes – quite dramatic.

It’s hard to sum up our impressions of this shop. The sand molds are quite exact and yet the props come out very rough, even crude looking. Then they are shaped with massive equipment for precision boring & shaping and ultimately finished manually by skilled machinists. All in all quite fascinating.

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Ellis Propeller

Industrial America is alive and, in the case of Ellis Propeller in Jacksonville, surviving. New orders are way off but fortunately for the shop people do manage to damage propellers so service work pays the bills. What we find amazing is the size of propellers and amount of damage that is repairable.

The owner of Ellis has given us the run of his shop. So many targets of opportunity form the foundry casting of new props that we went up to shoot to his crew working on various propellers to fascinating composition offered by poor light and some really heavy duty equipment & tools. So much, so much that we delayed our departure again to go back up to Ellis for a second day of shooting.

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Tavares Float Planes

It’s great to be out early in the morning with camera in hand. Although there was no early activity in the race boat pits last Saturday, moored float planes offer a nice target of opportunity. The folks in Tavares advertise themselves as America’s Seaplane City. Seems to me to be ambitious marketing bordering on wishful thinking. All one has to do is to go around the corner to Winter Haven off Highway 92 West where Jack ¬†Brown’s Seaplane base certainly hosts far more activity than Tavares can expect to see. But who cares when the Tavares planes are lined up so nicely with the one tree in the neighborhood and with the morning sun.

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Classic Boat Races

Our boat builder, good buddy, mentor, and often co-conspirator – Ken Fickett – told us about some folks who get together to race old hydroplanes and Jersey Skiffs down on Lake Dora. He would take his skiff down there as a chase boat and we could photograph the races that aren’t actually races. So off we went to see what was going on. The folks from the Classic Race Boat Association sponsored a gathering of members who want to go fast and burn off fuel with demonstration heats. CRBA sets a course like a race, sets up a heat schedule like a real races, boats go around like a race but don’t race. Insurance wouldn’t allow it and probably neither would owners’ budgets. Fast but not flat out racing speed running blew three to four engines Saturday. Some of the outboard boats have modern engines which makes them truly dangerous.

Boat owners came from near – all over Florida – and far – Detroit, Lake George and Vermont – to hang out and to run a couple heats on Saturday and a couple more on Sunday. Why? In part, because speed restrictions often don’t allow them to really crank up the rpm’s at home. And because it’s just fun. Fun to restore them, fun to run them and to see what others are doing with similar boats.

We had unrestricted access to the boats in the pit area, on docks and on the water thanks to my being able to establish credentials as tenuous as they might be. Spectator boats had to stay well outside the course. We were “Photo Boat” so all we had to do was tell the race committee where we were going when so we could be inside the course close to running boats if we wanted. I worked the water; Dee worked the docks and pits.

Why? For the same reasons people own old race boats. It’s great fun to be around beautiful boats, some with distinguished racing heritage.

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Lake Dora Canal

It’s Saturday morning on Lake Eustis. The local boat ramp is busy with jet skis, runabouts and some fishermen. The serious bass boats are mostly already out on the lakes. We are to take our skiff through the Lake Dora Canal to, of course, Lake Dora.¬† There we will enjoy the hospitality of the Classic Race Boat Association for a day of sorta racing. So standby for sorta racing next and for the rest of the story – the skiff, our hosts and unrestricted access to the day’s activities.

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