2017-05-18 / Front Page

At Les Cheneaux, It’s All Hands on Deck

Crews Are Working Hard To Launch More Than 500 Pleasure Boats for Summer
By Erich T. Doerr


Cedarville Marine’s Steve Dresbach has 42 years of experience repairing boats and is a certified mechanic for Mercury Marine engines. He put his skills to work Thursday, May 11, on this engine for a 1998 Ranger pro finishing boat to replace its internal gears. The owner of this boat was hoping to get it fixed and back into the water by the weekend. Cedarville Marine’s Steve Dresbach has 42 years of experience repairing boats and is a certified mechanic for Mercury Marine engines. He put his skills to work Thursday, May 11, on this engine for a 1998 Ranger pro finishing boat to replace its internal gears. The owner of this boat was hoping to get it fixed and back into the water by the weekend. At times it almost seems like there are just two seasons in the Les Cheneaux Islands, winter and boating. There are hundreds of boats of all types that see regular use in the area and as soon as the winter ice melts, they start going into the water for a season that will continue all the way until the cold weather returns. Crews at local marinas such as Cedarville Marine and Hessel’s E.J. Mertaugh Boat Works are now hard at work moving boat after boat from storage back into the water, while in addition, completing regular maintenance work.

The process of launching all of the Les Cheneaux boats is well underway at both marinas, with 270 boats heading into the water by the Fourth of July in Cedarville and 250 in need of launching in Hessel. Both marinas had launched about 25 boats by the end of last week. The process of preparing a vessel to go back into the water is tailored to each customer’s request, at both marinas. Routine repairs have kept mechanics busy throughout the area.


Hundreds of boats are coming out of winter storage and being launched in the Les Cheneaux Islands right now as the boating season gets into full swing. Here Scrapper, a St. Ignace-registered sailboat belonging to local resident Mike Lilliquist, is pictured on the Mertaugh Boat Works travel lift used for placing vessels in the water and taking them out Thursday, May 11. Mertaugh Boat Works yard manager Raymond Orsborne (left) works alongside the lift after securing the 42-foot Sea Ray Excelsior in place before the trailer used to transport it down from its heated storage area was removed. Hundreds of boats are coming out of winter storage and being launched in the Les Cheneaux Islands right now as the boating season gets into full swing. Here Scrapper, a St. Ignace-registered sailboat belonging to local resident Mike Lilliquist, is pictured on the Mertaugh Boat Works travel lift used for placing vessels in the water and taking them out Thursday, May 11. Mertaugh Boat Works yard manager Raymond Orsborne (left) works alongside the lift after securing the 42-foot Sea Ray Excelsior in place before the trailer used to transport it down from its heated storage area was removed. The Mertaugh Boat Works stores hundreds of boats each winter in nine buildings, offering both heated and unheated storage. The vessels range in size from many small Boston whalers up to the 65-foot yacht 402, named after its hull number. Most of the buildings are located slightly inland alongside M-134, with a dirt road connecting them to the waterfront. Work on a tenth building downtown will begin next month. The new building will feature a vertical storage rack system that is believed to be first of its kind in the Upper Peninsula; it will be able to store boats up to 32 feet in length and weighing up to 6,000 pounds.


The boating season is beginning in the Les Cheneaux Islands area, with several boats already in the water and hundreds more to follow in the coming weeks and months. Here American flags fly above some of the first boats in the water and a group of people gathered at Cedarville Marine’s marina Thursday, May 11. The boating season is beginning in the Les Cheneaux Islands area, with several boats already in the water and hundreds more to follow in the coming weeks and months. Here American flags fly above some of the first boats in the water and a group of people gathered at Cedarville Marine’s marina Thursday, May 11. When the boats come out of the water each winter at the Hessel marina, their storage preparation process varies depending on if they will be stored in heated or unheated buildings. Mertaugh general manager Geoff Hamilton said all boats receive an oil change in the fall, have their holding tanks pumped out, and have their fuel treated so it will remain ready to use in the spring. All of the boats have their batteries disconnected, with removal following for cold storage boats. Boats being stored in cold buildings also get antifreeze run through their engines. Mr. Hamilton said a crew of 16 spends much of the winter at the marina repairing a variety of boats stored there.


Cedarville Marine manager Dave Masse stands alongside the marina’s 25-ton travel lift used for raising and lowering boats in and out of the water Thursday afternoon, May 11. Cedarville Marine has already launched more than 20 boats this season; its marina has 99 slips with about 80 to 85 likely to be rented out for the season ahead. Cedarville Marine manager Dave Masse stands alongside the marina’s 25-ton travel lift used for raising and lowering boats in and out of the water Thursday afternoon, May 11. Cedarville Marine has already launched more than 20 boats this season; its marina has 99 slips with about 80 to 85 likely to be rented out for the season ahead. Come the spring, the process of getting heated boats ready to launch involves hooking up the batteries, while unheated ones have theirs reinstalled. It takes about two hours to get boats ready to go from heated storage. Each day, the Mertaugh crew can prepare about three boats from heated storage and eight to 10 from unheated storage to launch. Some of the time needed to prepare boats from heated storage is taken up by moving other boats out of the way to clear a path for their removal from the crowded storage building.


At left: Mertaugh Boat Works yard manager Raymond Orsborne uses a forklift to carefully place this freshly varnished wooden blue Century speedboat called Ogopogo and its trailer back into heated storage at the boat works, after it had to be moved to accommodate the launching of another vessel Thursday, May 11. The Ogopogo belongs to Jay Stingel of Mackinac Island. At left: Mertaugh Boat Works yard manager Raymond Orsborne uses a forklift to carefully place this freshly varnished wooden blue Century speedboat called Ogopogo and its trailer back into heated storage at the boat works, after it had to be moved to accommodate the launching of another vessel Thursday, May 11. The Ogopogo belongs to Jay Stingel of Mackinac Island. Once the boats reach the waterfront, they are stored waterside or secured using straps into the marina’s travel lift to be lowered into the water. After the boats go into the water, each boat is lake tested with their lights, pumps, and safety equipment all inspected. The boats are prepared for their owner to pick them up or taken out for a direct delivery run. Overland delivery by roads is another option some owners select.


The 42-foot Sea Ray Excelsior makes its way out of heated storage at the Hessel’s Mertaugh Boat Works down to the water aboard one of the marina’s hydraulic trailers Thursday afternoon, May 11. Most of the boat works’ storage buildings are located slightly inland and connected to the water by this road. Mertaugh Boat Works yard manager Raymond Orsborne is driving the front-end loader pulling the boat. Mertaugh has two loaders and a number of forklifts for moving vessels to and from the water, the loaders are used for larger vessels and especially prove their worth pulling them up the hill on their way to winter storage each fall. The 42-foot Sea Ray Excelsior makes its way out of heated storage at the Hessel’s Mertaugh Boat Works down to the water aboard one of the marina’s hydraulic trailers Thursday afternoon, May 11. Most of the boat works’ storage buildings are located slightly inland and connected to the water by this road. Mertaugh Boat Works yard manager Raymond Orsborne is driving the front-end loader pulling the boat. Mertaugh has two loaders and a number of forklifts for moving vessels to and from the water, the loaders are used for larger vessels and especially prove their worth pulling them up the hill on their way to winter storage each fall. Cedarville Marine has 10 storage buildings, with options for indoor cold weather storage or having a vessel shrink wrapped for additional protection. Most of the boats stored here are less than 30 feet long, but can reach up to 40 feet. Manager Dave Masse said Pearson Ensign sailboats are a favored model in the area, with about 30 going into the water in Cedarville every year. The boats are relatively easy to launch and raced by a local yacht club.


At left: Mertaugh Boat Works woodworker Del Jacob works on repairing dry rot on the Grand Banks 42-foot Classic Spirit of St. Croix Thursday, May 11, inside the boat works’ heated storage building. The filler Mr. Jacob is applying is a temporary fix for the summer, as the Spirit is due for a more intensive overhaul next winter. At left: Mertaugh Boat Works woodworker Del Jacob works on repairing dry rot on the Grand Banks 42-foot Classic Spirit of St. Croix Thursday, May 11, inside the boat works’ heated storage building. The filler Mr. Jacob is applying is a temporary fix for the summer, as the Spirit is due for a more intensive overhaul next winter. “It’s a typical year,” Mr. Masse told The St. Ignace News. “We’ve got several customers already coming up for the Memorial Day weekend.”


At left: Mertaugh Boat Works yard manager Raymond Orsborne (right) and Tyler Pitko use a forklift to move the Stanley landing craft Skipper II back into heated storage at the boat works Thursday, May 11. The Hessel marina handles all kinds of boats, ranging from small Boston whalers up to 65-foot yachts. At left: Mertaugh Boat Works yard manager Raymond Orsborne (right) and Tyler Pitko use a forklift to move the Stanley landing craft Skipper II back into heated storage at the boat works Thursday, May 11. The Hessel marina handles all kinds of boats, ranging from small Boston whalers up to 65-foot yachts. The process of preparing a boat to go into the water in Cedarville each spring involves checking batteries and fluids and carrying out engine tune-ups and oil changes. Mr. Masse said almost every boat owner they work with also asks for their boat to be cleaned before it goes back into the water. For 20- to 25-foot boats, the launching process takes about two and a half to three hours. The work takes longer for larger vessels. Standard equipment tests before they are ready to go make sure all lights, horns, fire extinguishers, flares, and lifejackets are functioning.

Both Cedarville Marine and Mertaugh use hydraulic trailers to move boats to the water, as they can be controlled to lean on demand when needed to negotiate any obstacles. The Boat Works has four hydraulic trailers to move vessels from storage back to the water, each one designed to carry different sized boats ranging from 18 to 72 feet in length, and a fleet of different vehicles to move them depending on size including two front-end loaders, a large JCB forklift, and two smaller forklifts. The Hessel marina recently acquired a negative-lift forklift to lift boats directly in and out of the water as needed. Cedarville’s marina has several sizes of trucks, including a semi for the largest boats, and a tractor for moving its vessels. Smaller boats at both marinas often move with their own trailers brought by their owners.

Both of the marinas have their own harbors, with no serious construction planned there for this year. Mr. Masse said Cedarville Marine has pretty much reached its maximum for its dock space; it has 99 slips with 80 to 85 rented out each season. The marina recently upgraded its computer system so customers now have the option to pay online. Mertaugh finished an expansion project in 2016 that added 16 slips to its marina, bringing its total to 26.

Hessel resident Chuck Saur stores his sailboat Morning Sky at Mertaugh each year. Last week he was having his vessel’s mast removed from storage in advance of it being reinstalled. He likes that the marina allows him to customize the way his boat is prepared each spring, taking the time to launch it, while he will do the final fitting out himself.

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