I have lived and worked on the Great Lakes my entire adult life. I have never done an aluminum boat restoration, or any other type of boat restoration. But I’ve admired all kinds of small pleasure craft from the deck of the Great Lakes Bulk Freighters I’ve worked on since I was fresh out of high school.
Although I am a licensed US Coast Guard Any Gross Ton Powerboat Pilot in the Great Lakes, or more simply put; “Boat Pilot”… I’ve never even been at the helm of a small pleasure craft. But I have always admired the rows of motor boats, or motor yachts as they are sometimes called.
I have wondered, as we maneuver our large commercial ships through ports in ports on the Great Lakes; how much work and dedication it would take to restore a good old yacht.
Although in my boat restoration dreams, I’ve always thought it would be amazing to restore an old wooden boat built around the 1950’s, I never made the decision to do it.
The old Cris Craft-type wooden yachts he’d seen on the Great Lakes had such nostalgic lines and looked like such sturdy, well-designed ships after being restored by a dedicated and talented craftsman.
These old wooden boats are certainly beautiful when restored, and the idea of owning and restoring one seemed like a very noble thing to do…
But that’s how I decided to do an aluminum boat restoration instead.
As I said before, I have worked on boats my entire adult life and have a very intimate understanding of watercraft. But I have very limited knowledge of woodworking, wood finishing, etc.
However, I am quite knowledgeable about steel and the other metal alloys used in ships.
It was just a stroke of luck or chance, which made me see that I could have an old yacht, totally restored and like new, without knowing much about carpentry.
As I said; we were unloading grain at the General Mills dock in Buffalo, NY;
I saw a boat that looked a lot like one of those old Chris Craft “type” wooden boats, docked in a marina across from the General Mills pier.
Although I admired that ship for several hours while on watch that afternoon, it never occurred to me that it was built of anything other than wood.
I decided right then and there, while looking at the fine lines of that 32-foot cruiser (which I thought was built of wood), that I was going to do a restoration of the ship myself.
So later, after we finished unloading and were on Lake Erie heading towards Detroit, I talked to my Wheelsman about the boat I saw at the Buffalo marina and my idea to do a restoration on the boat. He too had seen the ship.
My driver had grown up on Harsens Island in Michigan and had worked at a marina while in high school. He pointed out that the boat we had both seen was actually made of aluminum.
I was really amazed. For a start; I didn’t realize the big cabin cruisers had been built so early out of aluminum. And I certainly never would have thought that an aluminum boat could have such fine lines.
So I started researching aluminum yachts, and specifically Marinette aluminum yachts, which my helmsman said was the yacht builder we had both been admiring.
Well, one thing led to another and I began to realize that restoring an aluminum boat would be the only thing that would make sense to me.
- Aluminum boats are strong and Marinette boats are, according to their owners; “built like a tank”…
- Aluminum Marinette boats are easy to come by and are a higher value compared to even a similar size fiberglass boat.
- Aluminum retains its strength much longer than wood or fiberglass, and aluminum does not corrode or rot.
- An aluminum ship’s hull, regardless of age, will almost always be in fairly good condition, with little need for repair to the hull itself.
- Aluminum powerboats and stateroom cruisers will generally get better fuel economy than a wood or fiberglass boat of the same size.
And the list of good reasons to consider the restoration of an aluminum boat more practical goes on and on.
So that was the day I decided to undertake the restoration of an aluminum boat. My decision was made within 24 hours.
At the time of writing this article it has been less than a week since I decided to own an old aluminum built restorer yacht.
But the more I research, the more I decide… I’m going to take an old and once beautiful aluminum boat, and make it new again.
And I am confident that I will be rewarded with a boat that will provide fun and excitement for me and my family for many years to come. All for a much lower price than it would be for a comparable new boat.
Also, the restoration of the boat itself will provide many hours of pleasure and togetherness for my wife, son, and myself.