Aluminum Boat Restoration – The Decision

Aluminum Boat Restoration – The Decision

I’ve lived and worked on the Great Lakes all my adult life. I’ve never done an aluminum boat restoration, or any other type of boat restoration.  But I’ve admired all types 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.

Though I’m a US Coast Guard Licensed Great Lakes Pilot of Motor Vessels of Any Gross Tons, or more simply said;  “A ship’s pilot”…  I’ve never even been at the wheel of a small pleasure boat. But I’ve always admired the lines of motor boats, or motor yachts as they are sometimes called.

I’ve wondered, as we’ve maneuvered our large commercial ships through harbors in ports on the Great Lakes; how much work and dedication it would take to restore a fine old yacht.

Although in my boat restoration day dreams, I’ve always thought it would be incredible to restore an old wooden craft built in about the 1950’s, I’ve never made the decision to do it.

The old Cris Craft type wooden yachts I had seen throughout the Great Lakes had such nostalgic lines, and seemed like such sturdy and well designed boats after being restored by a dedicated and talented craftsman.

These old wooden boats are certainly beautiful when restored, and the thought of owning and restoring one myself seemed like a very noble thing to do…

But here is how I decided to do an aluminum boat restoration instead.

Like I said before, I’ve worked on ships all my adult life and I have a very intimate understanding of water craft. But, I have a very limited knowledge of wood working, and wood finishing, etc.

However, I do have quite a bit of  knowledge concerning steel, and the other metal alloys that go into ships.

It was just a stroke of luck or coincidence, that made me see I could have an old yacht, fully restored and like new, without knowing much about wood working at all.

Like I said; we were unloading grain at the General Mills dock in Buffalo, NY;

I spotted a boat that looked quite a bit like one of those old Chris Craft “type” wooden boats, docked at a marina across from the General Mills dock.

Even though I admired that boat for several hours while on watch that afternoon, it never occurred to me that it was built of something other than wood.

I decided right then and there, while looking at the fine lines of that 32 foot cruiser, (that I thought was built of wood), that I was going to do a boat restoration myself.

So later, after we’d finished unloading, and were out on Lake Erie headed for Detroit, I got to talking to my Wheelsman about the boat I saw at the marina in Buffalo, and about my idea of doing a boat restoration. He had seen the boat too.

My wheelsman had grown up on Harsens Island in Michigan, and had worked at a marina while he was in high school. He pointed out to me that the boat we had both seen was actually built of aluminum.

I was truly amazed. To begin with; I didn’t realize that large cabin cruisers had been built that early using aluminum. And I certainly would have never though an aluminum boat could have such fine lines.

So I started researching aluminum yachts, and specifically Marinette aluminum yachts, which my wheelsman said was the manufacturer of the yacht that we had both been admiring.

Well, one thing led to another and I began to realize that an aluminum boat restoration would be the only thing that would make sense for me.

  • Aluminum boats are strong and Marinette boats are, according to their owners; “built like a tank”…
  • Marinette Aluminum boats are easy to come by, and are a greater value in comparison to even a fiberglass boat of similar size.
  • Aluminum retains it’s strength far longer than does wood or fiberglass, and aluminum doesn’t corrode or rot.
  • The hull of an aluminum boat, irregardless of age, will almost always be in fairly good shape, with little need of repair of the hull itself.
  • Aluminum power boats and cabin cruisers usually will realize better fuel economy than a wooden or fiberglass boat of the same size.

And the list of good reasons to consider an aluminum boat restoration more practical goes on and on.

So that was the day I decided to undertake an aluminum boat restoration. My decision was made within 24 hours.

At the time of writing this article it has been less than a week since I made up my mind to be the owner of a restorable old yacht built of aluminum.

But the more research I do, the more my mind’s made up…  I’m going to take an old and once beautiful aluminum boat, and make it new again.

And I’m certain I’ll be rewarded with a boat that will provide fun and excitement for myself and family for many years to come. All for a price far less than it would be for a comparable new boat.

Plus the boat restoration itself will hopefully provide many hours of pleasure and bonding for my wife, and son and I.