Motor Boat Cruise

Motor Boat Cruise

It was a proposition sure to widen to eyes of any little tyke with nautical aspirations, an opportunity to navigate their very own motorboat, and skillfully navigate through treacherous boulders and hairpin turns with the skill of a seasoned sailor. And, for over three decades, Disneyland’s Motor Boat Cruise provided countless voyages for millions of delighted kids.

The Motor Boat Cruise opened in 1957, sandwiched between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, and provided countless exciting voyages to young skippers anxious to take control of their own aquatic vessel. Guests would travel through the murky green water, along a course that included a number of treacherous obstacles to be avoided, lest you risk sinking your boat.

The murkiness of the water also helped to hide a little secret – one that, if revealed would shatter the fantasies of young voyagers everywhere: the boats were on a track and (gasp!), you didn’t actually steer them. Of course, any parent that chose to reveal this information risked alienation surely as severe as if they had questioned the authenticity of Santa Claus. Luckily, many parents managed to skillfully conceal this bit of heartbreaking knowledge. Most young riders were oblivious to the guiding track until later in life, when other childhood illusions were similarly shattered and the world became a far less magical place.

An attempt was made in 1991 to spruce up the Motor Boat Cruise, which had begun to show its age, and the lagoon was transformed with little imagination into the short-lived “Gummi Glen”, home of the semi-popular Gummi Bears, based on a Disney children’s show at the time. Cruisers could now watch in awe as Bears stood on the shoreline and made “gummi juice”. (Oh, can’t you just feel the excitement?) Regrettably, a few years later, when Mickey’s ToonTown opened nearby in 1993, even the Gummi Bears couldn’t save the attraction that had delighted millions of children for over thirty years. The operating budget was reportedly transferred to the newly built land and the Motor Boat Cruise sadly closed, leaving an abandoned lagoon that has yet to be given new life.

The next time you find yourself in Fantasyland, listen carefully and you might still be able to hear the rumbling engines and the squeals of delight that once echoed through the surrounding trees and made the dream of driving a motorboat a reality to countless future sailors, eager to conquer the high seas and prove their nautical skills to any adult who happened to be watching.

If you have fond memories of taking one of these boats out for a spin, or if you vividly recall the disappointing day that you learned that you hadn’t really steered anything, we welcome all of your recollections in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this extinct Disneyland attraction of yesteryear.

One Response to “Motor Boat Cruise”

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  1. Bob Flowers says:

    The Disneyland Motorboat cruise was not just for small children. In High School (1970), I begged my way to the line of boats out of service to view the Engine and drive mechanism. As the sound of the motors had clearly announced, they were Harley Davidson V Twins! The engine governor was a flat sheet of metal between the linkert and intake manifold with a 1/2 inch dia hole to limit to idle/faster idle. The motors were mostly Flathead 45 CI G-model (servicar) spares without serial numbers, but at least one was a knucklehead! The propeller drive was by reduction pulley and veebelt to a drive shaft carried on low speed journal bearings, with the disconnect being an over-center cam veepulley which acted as a belt tensioner., The drive tensioner pulley was engaged/disengaged at the dock by the attendant using a metal tube lever which fit over a rod attached to the pivoting idler arm. That was the most intense “I SEE AND I UNDERSTAND” moment of my life. The little boats themselves were well crafted of mahogany plywood. They would have made great shore tenders for a small yacht with just a bit of adjusting! The motor mounts (and Journal Bearings) attached to OAK blocks attached to plywood rectangles screwed to the lower hull. More than idle speed might have caused rapid vibration damage and prop shaft thrust wear, but the method was adequate for the walking speed the boats travelled. Exhaust exited under the hull, bubbling up behind, negating the need for a muffler. It was the vibration of the motor thru the boat that the small children thrilled to the most, because it was obviously not faked.

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