WRITER | RACHEL WHITE
PHOTO| TIARA SPORT
With more than 11,000 inland lakes, and over 3,200 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, you are never more than six miles away from a lake no matter where you go in Michigan. The state ranks consistently in the top three in the nation in boater registrations. With those kinds of numbers, it’s no wonder that Michigan has a thriving boat building industry, manufacturing every type of boat imaginable. From powerboats to pontoons to canoes and even a boat building school, boat builders abound in Michigan’s. Let’s take a look at some of the companies keeping our state afloat.
Tiara Yachts was founded in 1974 in Holland, and there they have remained for almost 50 years. They primarily make cruising boats from 31 to 53 feet long. They craft all parts on-site, from fiberglass to cabinetry, and consider themselves not just people putting together boats, but craftsmen. The hallmarks of Tiara are design and innovation, making boats with sophisticated silhouettes and luxury below deck. They strive to build boats that people “fall in love with,” says Bob Slikkers, VP of Operations. Many wives may agree that they’ve lost their husbands to a Tiara.
Four Winns Boats in Cadillac was indeed started by four Winns – three Winn brothers and their father started the company in 1975. Now owned by a French firm, The Beneteau Group, they employ about 500 people. Four Winns manufactures a variety of quality watercraft, from runabouts and bowriders to cruiser yachts and sport boats with a wide range of motors from sterndrive to outboard. The innovative design – including the Stable-Vee® running surface – truly sets Four Winns apart from the rest.
If you spent your summer vacation paddling around on an aluminum paddle boat or enjoying a beverage or two on an aluminum pontoon, chances are it was made by Paddle King, one of America’s leading makers of aluminum boats, based in Carson City. From its humble beginnings in a garage in Butternut, the company has grown into a quality aluminum constructor of everything from fishing boats to pleasure crafts.
Avalon Pontoons has been making luxury, high-performance pontoons in Alma for 40 years. They make it all inhouse, including framing, canvas, and furniture, and offer everything from family to fishing pontoons.
Grand-Craft boats, also based in Holland, craft mahogany runabouts reminiscent of the ‘20s and ‘30s. Their boats take from 7 to 18 months each to make, cost from $120,000 to $1.5 million, and are handmade at the Anchorage Boat Yard and former Chris-Craft boat factory.
Does all this talk of boat manufacturing make you want to dip your toe in the waters of watercraft building? Great Lakes Boat Building School in Cedarville in the Upper Peninsula offers year-long programs for both wooden boat manufacture and restoration and marine service technology. Maybe you could be the next Leon Slikkers or Charlie Winn.
These amazing companies, and others not noted here, make supporting Michigan business easy.