Tag Archives: novel

Blog v003 – Disneyland’s Keelboat Secrets – Hidden Mickey Book Fan Club

The Hidden Mickey Book Fan Club BLOG! – v003


Disneyland’s Keelboat Secrets

By David W. Smith

Hello Hidden Mickey Book Fans!

Like our Hidden Mickey novels, we hope to inspire some adventure in our readers; consider it a ‘quest’ to decipher some ‘inside’ information about Disneyland and things related to Disney.

The Disneyland Keel Boats, prominently featured in our book, Hidden Mickey, were a ride that never started out as a ride. Originally, when the Mark Twain (and later, the Sailing Ship Columbia) was operating on the Rivers of America, Disneyland needed to have some vehicle that could pull the big ships if they malfunctioned on the river and needed to be towed back to the dock. Because there is no way to evacuate either ship if stranded in the river, they needed a boat nimble enough and with enough engine torque, to bring the ship back to the dock where the passengers could disembark safely. The Tom Sawyer Island rafts were too wide to fit between the Mark Twain and the land to get people off the ship. And they were too low for the Columbia’s high deck too.

The answer? Build a boat that would be both themed to the land as well as served as a safety tug in the event the big ships lost power.  

The theme of the Keel Boats was that they were used by Mike Fink (In Tom Sawyer), to race up and down the Ohio and Missouri rivers. Unlike the big ships that cruised around Tom Sawyer’s Island, the Keel Boats, (like the canoes and the Island Rafts), were not on a track. Also, the Keel Boats did not have a deep draft, thus they could go into the shallow sides of the river without hitting bottom.

There was a ‘spiel’ that went with the Keel Boats but most of the operators would ad lib the spiel as much, if not more than the famous spieling Jungle Cruise operators. At dusk, the Keel Boats used a bright spot light to point out things along the river banks. These ‘midnight cruises’ as we Keel Boat drivers would call them, were a challenge since it was very dark, (except for where we shown the spot light!), and you had to know the river pretty well as the darkness fell. In addition, there were things you had to do while steering the boat: Spiel with the microphone, throttle up and down the speed of the boat, and hold the spot light with one hand AND steer! That is four things for those of you keeping count!

What we had to do was use our foot to move the throttle up and down, and then we would use our rear’s, (yes, I said rear!), to steer the boat. Luckily, the Keel Boat had that long rudder, (called uh, you guessed it, a ‘Keel’) so we could just lean back our hips to push the rudder left or right.

Photo credits: davelandweb.com

During the Summer, we sometimes ran the Keel Boats right up until the fireworks, making our last run at 9:15pm and park the boat in front of the Friendly Indian Village until the fireworks went off. It was a great place to watch them in near complete darkness. (This was before they started using lower level fireworks like they do today. Before, all the fireworks were high overhead and the trees would not block the view.

Today, only one Keel Boat exists at the park, the Gullywumper. (Bertha Mae was sold on eBay a number of years ago.)

Photo credits: Nancy Rodrigue

Here is a photo of how it looked in 2005, it’s sad to see the Gullywumper in this bad condition, it’s draft so low in the water, and virtually wasting away.  Recently however, Disney decided to have the boat freshly refurbished.  It will soon be parked near the settler’s cabin where it once again can be used for towing the big ships into port, should that be necessary.

Well… that’s it for this issue…

Future Book Signings

Enjoy, and have a Great Hidden Mickey Day!

Be sure to check The Hidden Mickey BLOG for the latest Hidden Mickey news and Book Signing Dates


If you don’t see HIDDEN MICKEY in your local bookstore, please ask the Store Manager to order it, or contact us with the Bookstore name & address, Managers name, (plus their Phone and/or eMail if possible). We will contact them and maybe even set up a Book Signing there.