The Famous Floating Dentist Office
The following is a short history of the floating Dentists Office, named “Doc’s In” that served the permanent residents of South Bass Island from 1973 to 1987. One of only three 45-ft Double Cabin Fly Bridge boats built at the Matthews Factory in Port Clinton, “Doc’s In” was constructed for Horace Wetzell Sr., then Commodore of the Cleveland Yacht Club, who owned her from 1967 until 1972.
She was originally named “Rozanne” after Horace’s wife Roslyn and his daughter Anne. Dr. Harry Berger, a young dentist from Fremont, Ohio, always had dreamed of having a floating dentist’s office, and he approached The Matthews Company to commission a suitable boat. President “Salty” Reynolds told him such a boat had just come on the used market due to the untimely death of Mr. Wetzell Sr.
The Dentist Retrofit & The Doctor Is In!
Matthews assisted Harry in bringing the boat back to the factory for a refit where a dental chair, Xray machine, and drills were added. The galley was to be used for the preparation of trays, and the main bathroom doubled as the darkroom where X-ray film was developed. Harry began his Island dental service one Wednesday afternoon in 1973. There was only one small problem, no patients. Marsha Parker, however, was experiencing a terrible toothache, so she was more than willing to seek out the boat moored at the Crew’s Nest Dock.
Word quickly spread that Dr. Berger was a capable guy, and soon his Wednesday hours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. were fully booked with 8 to 10 patients. He rarely missed being at the dock despite bad weather, and he may have to have steadied his hand on the patient’s chin if it was rough or a passing boat came too close! The regular Wednesday hours were interrupted on Memorial Day in 1976 when Dr. Berger was using the boat for a social outing and had 13 guests onboard.
He was forced out of the Gem Beach Channel and struck a piling, putting a large hole in “Doc’s In,” no one was hurt; however, the boat was fully submerged. (This is a lesson to all boaters as without the proper “excising” procedure boat name changes often result in a disaster).
Not deterred by the mishap, Dr. Berger restored “Doc’s In” regardless of cost, and she was upgraded in many respects. He also rented a mobile office which was placed at South Bass Island for the two years it took to restore her. As soon as she was ready, she returned once again to serve the permanent residents. In 1988, after almost 15 years at the Crew’s Nest Dock, Dr. Berger made the decision to sell “Doc’s In” to John McCarthy. John was a perfectionist and spent a great deal of time restoring the boat concentrating on the structure and the exterior.
The Dentist Ships Upgrade!
He continuously improved the boat and stored her at Lakeside Marine. The owners of Lakeside were so impressed with John’s work and dedication that they offered him the position of General Manager. Unfortunately, this left him little time to tend to his boat. Simon Addicott, the current owner, stored his 36-ft. Chris Craft “Constellation” next to “Doc’s In” in the barn at Lakeside.
The 45-ft. Matthews, with all its history, seemed like a logical step up to Simon, after all, she had a shower and a generator, ideal for extended stays on the mooring balls at Put-in-Bay. John was, however, not anxious to sell and after much pressure from Simon, which included an unsolicited “letter of intent to purchase,” John finally gave in and sold.
Linda, Simon’s fiancée, was initially not very impressed, with nine planks missing and no transom, she reasoned that the smaller Chris Craft was the better boat! So it was in October of 2001 that “Doc’s In” had her fourth owner. That winter, the planks, and transom were replaced along with the arduous task of routing out all the seams and re-caulking the entire hull. She launched again in March of 2002 after being out of the water for almost five years.
There were many helpers, Von Ellis of Lakeside loaned his covered slip at Bar Harbor so the boat could fully swell-up while Simon worked tirelessly on modernizing the interior. Steve Patterson and Bud Stephenson helped with sanding and painting, and Bud’s wife Iris fed Simon dinner many evenings, as Bud and Iris had let him put a trailer in their yard, which he had borrowed from his sister Virginia. “Doc’s In” was hauled out again, and the final coats of paint were applied to the hull.
It was not until late in the season that “Doc’s In” made her voyage past the Marblehead Lighthouse to her dock at Battery Park Marina in Sandusky. Early the next season, there was an exceptional reunion held aboard “Doc’s In.” Horace Wetzell Jr., son of the original owner, Dr. Harry Berger and wife Janet, John McCarthy, new owner Simon Addicott, and Linda all had dinner and a cruise together. It was amazing how much Horace remembered about his family’s boat and how Dr. Berger revealed as he steered her across the bay.
Matthews had closed its doors in December 1974, and when the Matthews Boat Owners Association held its Rendezvous at the Crew’s Nest many years later they invited the “retired” factory staff to a luncheon and tour of the boats. It was incredible to meet many of the people who had played a part and remembered building “Doc’s In”. Many were pictured in the scrapbook that Linda had assembled which includes a complete history, from the entire build process to Dr. Berger’s dental practice, the sinking, and restorations by John and Simon and were an important part of Put-in-Bay History.
Today, “Doc’s In” may be one of the most user-friendly wooden boats on the Great Lakes with modern interior, there is a section of the Historic Society Museum at Put-in-Bay dedicated to “Doc’s In”, displaying the original dental chair and drill from the some-say infamous dentist office…after all, nobody likes going to the dentist!
Simon, the current owner, is quite emphatic about the boat “it’s something to do with wood being better than fiberglass, varnish being better than rubbing compound and old being better than new…anyway god would have made fiberglass trees if he intended there to be fiberglass boats, wouldn’t he?”