The companies included in this book include the following:
Beacon Boat Company (1953-1960)
Campbell Boat Company (1937-1956)
Chris-Craft Corporation/Chris-Craft Industries/Murray Chris-Craft (1939-1989)
Gill-Boat Company (1934-1942)
Grand Craft Boats/Grand Craft Corporation Grand-Craft Acquisitions, LLC (1981-present)
Holland Launch and Engine Company (1907-1916)
Jesiek Brothers (1910-1973)
Mac Bay Boat Company (1948-1956)
Michigan Fiberglass Company/Plastics, Inc. (1960-1963)
Poll Manufacturing (1952-1960)
Power Play Boat Company/PowerQuest, Inc. (1983-2005)
PQ Marine Holdings, 2007-2011)
Roamer Boat Company (1946-1955)
Roamer Yachts Division of Chris-Craft Corporation/Chris-Craft Industries (1955-1979)
S2 Yachts, Inc. (S2 Sailboats, Tiara Slickcraft, SlickCraft, Tiara Yachts, Pursuit) (1974-present)
Skipper-Craft Boats (1952-1960)
Slick Craft Boat Company (1955-1969)
SlickCraft Division of AMF Corporation (1969-1980)
Victory Shipbuilding Company (1942-1945)
Westease/New Holland Marine (1985-present)
Wolverine Motor Works (1901-1907)
Companies not included in the book with histories below include:
Bow Winds Boats, Inc. (1987-1989)
Cam-Per Craft Boat Building Corporation (1942-1945)
George Edward Clark (1895-1897)
Dutch Craft Boat Works (1931)
Ensign Boat Company (1946-1948)
Glen Eddy Company (1960-1966)
Holland Boat Manufacturing Company (1930)
Inland Boat Service (Ken Craft boats) (ca. 1950s-1960s)
Mac Bay Boat Company (Muskegon, 1955-1962)
Moes Enterprise (1983-1990)
Ottawa Pleasure Boat & Yawl Building Company (1893)
Powerboats, Inc. (1960-1961)
Bow Wind Boats, Inc.
Bow Winds Boats, Inc. was founded in 1986 by the Bouwens family in Zeeland, Michigan. The design of the BowWinds brand of boats started in the nearby Drenthe area in 1984 with Jack Boerman, a well-known fiberglass craftsman. Boerman leased space from Glenn Bouwens in a 40,000 square foot building located at 581 Roosevelt Avenue in Zeeland. Initially, Boerman constructed boats branded under the Century Boat Company name. After that contract ended, Boerman built a few 26-foot powerboats, branded as Bandit and powered by two small block 350 h.p. Chevrolet V8 motors, until financial debt to the Bouwens family resulted in them taking over all assets of the company in 1986. Glenn Bouwens served as president and Boerman was kept on as mold maker and production manager for the company. The two models they initially produced for the 1987 model year were former Bandit brand models, now called the Ultra I, measuring 23 feet, and the twin engine powered Ultra II, measuring 26 feet.
In 1987, the company hired Ted Essenburg and appointed him general manager of about 12 employees, including Charles Francis, a former Century Boat Company employee, who served as sales manager. Under his direction, the company developed a larger line of boats to attract a wider customer base for the 1988 model year. The new models, also designed by Boerman, included the twin engine powered 32-foot Ultra III, a 22-foot ski boat model called the Cutlass, and more traditional model called the Heritage, which measured 18 feet and was modeled after the Century branded Resorter model, including the straight shaft drive or inboard/outboard engine outdrive option. All of the models were powered either by single or twin inboard/outboard engines and outdrives. The interiors were manufactured by local upholstery company Holland Awning to reduce costs. The base price for the smallest to the larges ranged from $20,000 to $60,000.
Eventually, the company moved out of Zeeland to a smaller factory space in Holland Township at 13327 Quincy Street, and stopped production in 1989. Jim Bouwens recalled the decision by the family to sell the company in a 2002 interview:
Eventually we just kind of tired of the business. We looked at it and said, ‘Gee, this isn’t us. We don’t, the Bouwens family really doesn’t know the boat business that well. We’re not comfortable with just having people do this for us. This isn’t our thing, we need to get back to real estate development, construction, and the practice of law, and get out of the boat business.’ So eventually, I think it was in 1989, we sold all of the equipment and assets to Starcraft.”
Estimates place the total number of boats produced between 1987-1988 at about 90.
George Edward Clark
George Edward Clark first appeared in the local newspapers in 1893, working as the manager for the Ottawa Pleasure Boat and Yawl Building Company, located in the J. Flieman store, a former carriage maker, blacksmith, and fur trader, on North River Avenue. building pleasure boats, steam launches, sailing yachts, and hunting skiffs. Clark had worked with the Truscott Boat Company of St. Joseph, Michigan before coming to Holland to start the new company along with G.W. Smith. No mention of this company is ever seen again, but Clark reappeared as a boat builder in 1895.
The location of George Edward Clark’s first boat building plant is unknown, but he is best known for the plant that was located in a 24×55 foot building on Haven’s Island, owned by Frank Haven, starting in March 1896, which is now occupied by the Holland Board of Public Works DeYoung Power Plant. During his brief time as a documented boat builder, he built and sold wooden launches, yachts, and pleasure boats of all kinds ranging in length from 17.5 to 38 feet. Some of his boats were built for and powered by Grand Rapids-made Sintz gasoline engines and Wolverine Motor Works engines. In 1897, the only advertising found for Clark, which included a small boat, was found in the Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory. That same year he left to work for the fledgling Wolverine Motor Works in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a company started by members of the Sintz family.
Dutch Craft Boat Works
The Dutch Craft Boat Works was founded in 1931 by late 19th century Dutch immigrant William “Steamboat Bill” Woldring (also seen as Woldering) and most likely failed that same year. From local newspaper accounts, the company made and sold many of its 75-pound rowboats, known as Rinky-Dinks, through a local hardware store to local fisherman in both Ottawa and Allegan counties. The Holland Police Department even purchased one for lake rescues. Woldring’s experience in local furniture and wooden shoe factories and a local lumberyard might have given him the training to carry on as a boat builder, even if it was only for a short period. In 1937 he was appointed Sergeant-at-Arms for the Michigan State Senate and served there, and at local factories as a watchman, before he passed away in Holland in 1950.
Ensign Boats, Inc. was incorporated with $10,000 in stock in early June 1946 by George M. Barnard of Benton Harbor, Michigan. Barnard also served as the treasurer, while David Goldbaum served as secretary. Merald K. Disbrow, a former chief of the finishing (varnish and paint) department at the local Chris-Craft Corporation plant , was president and designer for the company. Disbrow established his factory in a former automotive repair garage in the nearby village of Graafschap. The business address for the company was listed in the nearby Virginia Park area of Holland, which was also Disbrow’s home address. At the 4,000 square foot leased factory, which the company would later purchase, Disbrow supervised a small group of craftsmen, including his wife Lucille in the upholstery area. Other craftsmen, like Fred Gorman and even Merald Disbrow, helped to produce 8-foot prams and 14- and 16-foot runabouts made of planked fir wood hulls and painted white, stained and varnished mahogany decks and transoms. The boats were powered by 20, 25 and 45 h.p. Sea Mite, Gray Marine, Kermath, or Arnault engines, depending on what horse power and brand the customer ordered. The only marketing tools available billed the 1,100 pound 14’ Utility as “the ideal boat for family and sportsmen…Small, but exceptionally roomy-seats six with ease-it’s perfect for fishing and comfortably cruising your favorite lake.” Even though the company was small, producing about five boats at a time in the factory and shipping one per week, they reported that they had a national dealer network that included dealerships in Adrian, Michigan, and Chicago, Illinois. All of the boats were ordered before work started and left immediately with dealers picking up the completed boats. At least one cabin cruiser was made and sold by the company, according to former employee Lloyd Van Raalte, but never verified.
The company disbanded in 1948 and Disbrow returned to work as a commercial painter. He left the Holland area in 1950s.
Glenn Eddy Company
George Glen Eddy worked as a naval architect in Holland under the Glenn Eddy Company name at 234 Central Avenue. There, he worked during the fall of 1964 and winter of 1965 with local naval architect like Herb Pollock, on projects for the United States Navy for use in the Vietnam conflict, including a landing craft and a 30-foot patrol boat. Before his death from emphysema in Lansing, Michigan, in February 1966, Eddy presented his latest military designs to government officials for their consideration.
Holland Boat Manufacturing Company
“Will Manufacture Boats in Holland”
Another manufacturing concern has been added to Holland’s field of industries with the advent of the Holland Boat Manufacturing company located at 279 East Eighth street.
The concern is headed by R. C. Parks, who is a designer and manufacturer of boats and automobile bodies and trailers. A fully equiped [sic] shop for the manufacturer of boats, and aquaplanes and water boards is already in operation and several boats have been made and delivered.
Trailers of all sorts will be made at the concern with exception of the largest trailers, which will be handled through an agency agreement.
Holland Sentinel, 7/29/1930.
Inland Boat Service
One of the smallest boat builders in Holland was Inland Boat Service. This company was founded by Kenneth M. Cook at 440 West 22nd Street in the late 1950s to sell Kencraft brand molded plywood and fiberglass boats as well as repair boats and sell Johnson outboard motors and Tee-Nee brand trailers. Prior to opening up his own boat building and dealership business, Cook had worked as a painter, was a foreman at Northern Wood Products, makers of storm windows and doors; owned Kenswood Company, building sashes, windows, storm doors, trim and porch enclosures; as a laborer at All Season Window; and as a carpenter at Easter Marine Service, located on Lake Macatawa. Cook, born in 1912, worked out of his garage along with fellow employees Donald R. Cook and Harvey E. Lugers. He worked as a carpenter for the company. Kenneth Cook purchased molded plywood hulls and added decks, interiors, hardware, and applied stain and paint to the customer’s liking. He also added decks, interiors, and hardware to fiberglass hulls manufactured by Poll Manufacturing, as did the Slick Craft Boat Company. It appears that Cook had stopped building boats by 1964, when local naval architect Herb Pollock rented the factory space from him while working with boat building innovator George Glenn Eddy. While boat building was part of Cook’s business, he spent much of his time repairing boats sent to him by the owners of Jesiek Brothers Shipyard and individuals. Eventually, Cook went to work for Jeseik’s in the 1970s. He remained there until his retirement from Jesiek’s successor, Eldean Shipyard, in 1977. He passed away from cancer in 1984.
Mac Bay Boat Company (Muskegon, Michigan) (1955-1962)
Mac Bay Boat Company relocated to a new factory at 5605 Airline Road in Muskegon Heights in May 1956. According George Dobben’s son Clifford, his father thought the boat model was comparable to Chris-Craft or Century boats, but at half the cost.
At the new factory, long time employees A. B. Melton, Gene O’Neil, and Andy Riemersma continued selling and making boats for Mac Bay with new employees Doug McKay, Thomas Fanus, and Otis Averal, growing to fifteen employees total during the good years. William De Boer decided not to continue because of the expense of the long drive to work from his Holland home, and found work with Leon Slikkers, an up-and-coming boat maker who had just started his own boat venture, Slick Craft Boat Company. In the new Muskegon Heights factory, workers put many more boats into production at one time using construction bays, finish bays, and final assembly areas. In addition to attractive advertisements in boating magazines like Outboard, Lakeland Boating, Yachting, and others, Dobben believed the changes in colors and styles they made to a quality boat were the reason the company finally flourished with consumers. “We went to the shows and we stuck out, and that’s what we wanted-to make and improve sales.” They continued to “stick out” by offering seats, hulls, and decks in red, white, blue, and green. By watching the competition at the national boat shows, Mac Bay officials knew what trends were developing and what models needed to be changed. They epitomized the 1950s boating market and worked to meet its needs. According to Dobben, “Color combinations were the turning point for us when we saw our sales volume double after that. We would even match boat colors to the outboard motors the dealers were also selling.”
Eventually, Mac Bay was selling around 200 boats per year until fiberglass boats became popular. In an attempt to trim costs and still sell a quality boat, Mac Bay outsourced its upholstery and canvas work to Holland-based companies. Auto Top of Holland did the upholstery work and Holland Awning constructed the canvas covers for many years, picking up and dropping off work regularly. They also cut costs by creating a dealership network that covered the United States, serviced by salesmen traveling with trailers containing the latest models of Mac Bay. Salespersons offered incentives to buy large amounts at discounted rates. This way, the factory could continue to run throughout the year and employ a consistent and trained workforce, the key to quality boat making. Nationally known dealers first learned of the company at national boats shows and would eventually set up dealerships in Brighton, Michigan; Corbin, Kentucky; and Amarillo, Texas, to name a few.
Eventually, the company started hearing from their distributors that wood boats were simply too much work for consumers to maintain, and that they should get into the fiberglass boat business. Unfortunately, the Dobben family though,t like many other longtime wood boat makers, that fiberglass was just a fad and soon they were playing catch up with the likes of Leon Slikkers and his Slick Craft Boat Company. At one point, they dropped to 25 percent of the volume they had enjoyed the year before. According to industry sources, the company entered the fiberglass boat market in 1959 by offering one of its five models, the Imperial, in both molded plywood and fiberglass. By the 1960 model year, only two models were offered by the company, the Imperial and the Thunderbolt. Recorded discussions held at the last official board of directors meeting, then made up of George Dobben, William Trapp, Andy Riemersma, Clifford Dobben, Eugene O’Neill, Fred Eller, George and Peter Ballas, and Dr. Maples, in February 1962, illustrated the frustration by the board to find a solution to keeping the company afloat, but no firm plans were documented. Officials closed down the company in 1964.
Moes Enterprises, Inc.
Moes Enterprises, Inc. was a partnership between Jim and Dale Moes, founded in 1983. The brothers manufactured hand lay-up fiberglass canoes and kayaks under the Moes Craft brand name. They attempted to introduce a 10-foot paddle boat, based on the original Love Craft Boat company molds that were purchased from Gary Holt in the 1980s, but never introduced that model to the public due to engineering difficulties. The company ended production of all pleasure craft models in 1990.
Ottawa Pleasure Boat and Yawl Building Company
See George Edward Clark
Prior to coming to Holland, George Glen Eddy, born in 1898, spent a lifetime founding and running boat building companies. Other companies included Century Boat Company, Eddy Shipbuilding, Eddy Marine Corporation, Huron-Charlevoix, Huron-Eddy, and Marine Research, Inc.
News of a new boat company in Holland, called Powerboats, Inc., located at Lakewood Blvd. and 112th Street, appeared in the April 1960 issues of Lakeland Boating. There, a small photograph and accompanying caption detailed Eddy’s latest invention, the Edge-O-Conic hull form built from sheet plywood and fiberglass with foam for flotation sandwiched between the outer and inner hulls. This newest addition to the boat market measured 22-feet, included two sleeping bunks, galley space, fully enclosed head, storage space, and could be powered by a single outboard motor of at least 40 h.p. up to twin 80 h.p. outboard motors driving the boat to speeds of 42 m.p.h., according to Eddy. More details of this new company and the Eddy-designed boat came in May issue of Lakeland Boating. There, Samuel S. Shaw, president of the company, described the “complete new concept in pleasure boats” designed by the Bay City-based Eddy. The patented hull design, developed over 30 years of boat design experience, was described as employing multiple planing surfaces that looked like shingles, or lapstrake design, that reduced the friction on the hull of the boat as the boat speeds up, allowing the hull to “plane through the water on a friction-free highway of air bubbles.” That same issue included a full page advertisement for the new boat and encouraged dealer inquiries. It was also the last mention of this company in the boating press with any new news. Eddy filed paperwork for a patent for this hull design in May 1961 and in November 1963 it was approved as number 3,111,923.