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Why did I build a boat?

I have wanted a wooden boat ever since I was a child. When I was about 6 or 7, I taken for a ride by a friend of my grandparents in his old Chris Craft. At that age. I was impressed by the boat and by its being kept in a "wet" boathouse on Lake Antoine (Iron Mountain, MI). 

The other driver, during my childhood, was watching the water ski shows in Eagle River, WI and the marvelous Ski Nautiques that pulled the skiers.

Now that my children were approaching an age when water skiing, tubing, etc., were good family activities, it was finally time to get a boat. There are many good sized lakes in Southeastern Wisconsin and they are NOT frozen year round (contrary to popular belief down south). Bumming ski time with friends only whetted our appetites for water sports. In addition, I am a big guy and getting dragged through the water as a sea anchor by a small boat and motor while trying to get up on skis is a less than totally gratifying experience. 

Why the Riviera?

After researching new boats, used boats and talking to friends who have a variety of older boats , I decided to look into building a new boat rather than refitting an older one. The only suppliers of inboard  wooden runabout plans I found were Glen-L, Ken Hankinson (no longer in business) , and those from Wooden Boat Magazine.

With the Riviera, we get what I think is an optimum combination of:

Size - seats 7+ passengers - yet is still trailerable and will fit in the garage (barely, on the diagonal). Seven passenger seating (adults, more with kids) was required due to the size of my family (5) and the desire to be able to take a couple of friends out as well. When I was young, we would go skiing, but we were constantly cycling to and from shore to pick up and drop off passengers. Many of the boats would not plane well with a skier and more than 3 people in the boat. In addition, many of the outboards would cavitate badly while trying to pull me up.

The open forward cockpit is great for socializing. Additionally, you can segregate the wet kids and keep them in the rear cockpit and stay relatively dry up front, if desired. I modified the plans to have a rear facing spotter's seat which has been extremely popular and comfortable.

Power - I am using a 350 CID (5.7l) Multi Port Fuel Injected (MPI) engine. This provides about 320 HP and low maintenance.  I have a running feud with 2 cycle engines and the reformulated gasoline (due to air pollution restrictions) required in our area does not make that any easier, so this ruled out an outboard engine from the start. 

This boat and engine combination is more than sufficient to get me (as well as a couple of others at the same time) up on skis along with a boat full of passengers. With this much power, we do not have to leave people on shore in order to pull a skier (or 2 or 3).  It turns out that you never simply "open it up" while pulling skiers out of the water. Doing so, simply yanks the handle out of their hands, and it comes flying back at the boat. This is a very different experience from other boats that I and many of my passengers have used. With the lakes that we ski and board on, deep water starts are a must. So having adequate power for deep water starts is very important.

Ski performance - The Riviera provides plenty of power out of the hole, due to the inboard setup and provides relatively flat wake. We have gotten comments from experienced skiers who think it compares favorably with the wake performance of a modern competition ski boat. For wake boarding we load it up with friends and ballast and have a nice, but not huge, wake.

Great ooh and aah factor. The boat is very pretty and has, what I believe, a timeless design. It is amazing how many people stop and talk about having ridden on or admired a boat like this, "when they were young". 

While traveling around on vacation, we have had people pulling up at gas stations and rest-stops to look at the boat and ask questions. The first one usually was how long did it take to restore? Very few imagine that a wooden boat like this can be new or nearly so.

Reasonable cost. Budget for the project was $15,000 (which turned into $19,000). This is far below that of a new wooden or performance ski boat, and in line with purchasing and refitting a used boat.  The biggest single cost was the engine, which was new. 

As a measure of the reasonableness of the investment, in order to get insurance, the boat needed to be appraised. The appraisal in 2000 came out to $35-40,000, and this was before the seats were upholstered (or swim platform, pylon and sound system were added).

Why Me?

Boat building is a reasonable extension of my woodworking and engineering skills. Soon after completing my degrees, after 13 years of night school, I found I had a too much time on my hands. I needed a PROJECT. Not a small one, such as a single piece of furniture, but a big one that I could pour my energy into and use both my mental and physical skills. This led to the boat project. The long and winding educational path is not one I would generally recommend and my children often heard "Do as I say, not as I did" in that regard

Personal items:

Professionally, I am a Vice President of Solutions Management Systems at Merge Healthcare which is now part of IBM's Watson Health Division. Merge is a manufacturer of Medical Imaging and Information Systems. I am currently working on our new medical image viewing and analytics platform with a current emphasis on Oncology specific tools. This is an exciting time for me with new cognitive tools and image processing techniques just now becoming feasible. Solutions Management (or Offerings Management in the IBM vernacular)) provides the detailed analysis and planning of how our products and applications will solve our customers problems and make their lives better. The goal is to be able to provide products and more importantly solutions that our customers will find indispensable.

I am also the past president of the Wisconsin Woodworker's Guild.

Other interests and hobbies include: woodworking, metalworking, scuba diving, skiing (snow), gardening and photography. 


Masters degree Business Administration (MBA) - Marketing emphasis

Bachelors degree Electrical Engineering / Computer Science

Why is this site here?

This site was originally designed for the first time wooden boat builder. I was also a first time wooden boat builder. Boat building is an extension of my woodworking hobby which has also resulted in a house full of furniture as well as a significant portion of the furniture in the homes of my kids. As other projects and interests have raised questions of "How did you do that?" , then these topics are added as well.

My goal is to offer encouragement to other amateur boat builders and provide construction tips and techniques gathered from a variety of sources and personal experiences as well as give something back to the boatbuilding community. A project of this scope requires a great deal of spousal and family buy-in. Here you can show your family that others HAVE done a project like this and that you are NOT the ONLY "Completely Crazy Nut Case" to think of doing such a thing. Overall, the time commitment required for building a boat is similar to that of a major home remodeling project, getting an advanced degree or building several complete rooms full of furniture and is still significantly less than that required for building an airplane. 

In the process of building the boat, I spent a lot of time researching the questions of : "Should I build?", "How to build?", "How much will it cost?"and "How long will it take?" as well as, " Problems and Solutions". In addition, there are a number of things I have learned along the way that I think should be useful to others. Along the way, I met via email and phone, a number of people who are involved in similar projects and this web site is the easiest way to link us together. The sharing of tips and knowledge via e-mail was very helpful to me, as well as the encouragement and seeing that others have completed similar projects.

In the years since the boat was originally built, we have added on, refinished and worked through the general upkeep and maintenance that this entails. Some of the original ideas worked out well and some required rethinking and revision. These included: refinishing with Imron rather than varnish and eventually replacing the dark green cover and dark seat cushions. We have taught dozens of people how to wakeboard, kneeboard or ski with ages ranging from 6 to 60! Additionally, the children you see in the photos are all now grown, married, successful and now producing grandchildren. At this time (late 2016), we are about 2-3 years from introducing the next generation to watersports. Our first grandchild , Sawyer Hahn has already been out for boat rides.


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