Up On Plane – Finding Our Niche


By: Andy James, 2nd Year Instructor

GLBBS 2nd year instructor, Andy James with two of his students.

GLBBS 2nd year instructor, Andy James with two of his students.

I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that I am already one term into my 4th year of teaching here at the school.   Time sure flies when you are having fun.  Since I began working here, some topics keep resurfacing in meetings and casual conversations around the scuttlebutt.  One of those is finding our “signature” boat.  That seems to be a mythical boat that we would build every year.  It dovetails into our curriculum perfectly, providing all the teaching elements we need to develop in our students but isn’t so big that it takes too long to build.  At the same time, it is in high demand so we aren’t building boats on speculation and then struggling to find them a home.  Lots of designs have been tossed around but so far, it remains mythical.

While all this was going on, we seem to have happily found our niche.  It kind of snuck up on us while no one was looking.  As of today, the second-year students have built three Hacker Miss APBA runabouts, A Van Dam designed lap strake inboard runabout and a beautiful lap strake outboard runabout.  This year, we are well underway on a custom designed twin engine, triple cockpit runabout which harkens back to the glory days of the Canadian builders.  The future is shaping up to hold more of the same for second-year students as we have several years’ worth of commissions starting to firm up for mahogany runabouts.

img_2610This year, to meet the demands of both our students and the industry, we have added restoration and repair to our curriculum.  We will dig into an old, basket case, Chris Craft and learn what went wrong and why.  We will discuss options for repair or restoration and make some of those repairs.  We will learn how to deal with the challenges of dealing with old weathered wood and fasteners and how to make it look new again.

When you think about it, it seems perfectly natural that this should happen here in the Les Cheneaux Islands where we are surrounded by beautiful mahogany powerboats and there are several businesses that specialize in the restoration and upkeep of these wonderful timepieces.  I can’t take credit for this happening but I sure am glad it did.  As a kid growing up in Michigan, there is a special place in my heart for these boats and I’m proud to be training the people who will be preserving their legacy.

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What People Say

Thank you so much for doing such a beautiful job on the
Marilyn Jean. Everyone loves her!

Wayne B., Commissioned Boat Client July 14, 2017

What Will You Build Next?