Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, April 12, 1999

Aluminum boat builder comes to Howard Lake

By Andrea Vargo

Perfect can be done quickly, said Allyn Fitzherbert of Montrose.

"You can procrastinate, or you can just get at it," he said.

Fitzherbert is a custom boat builder who will set up shop next to the Fast Lube on Highway 12 about April 14.

His attitude of perfection is found in the quality of the materials he uses to build or repair boats.

Stainless steel screws and anchor bolts are standard items for both jobs, he said.

Rivets pop off and floors give out. Hinges and latches break all the time, especially with shabby construction, said Fitzherbert.

He uses all 53/86 marine grade aluminum with 1/4 inch minimum transoms. The hull has a lifetime guarantee.

He can custom-fit new floors and carpeting, and replace those rusty hinges with stainless steel.

Concentrating on boat repair all spring, Fitzherbert still will find the time to build a fishing boat and a pontoon boat to display in front of his building.

"I'll probably only be able to build about 14 custom boats a year," he said.

"I usually give about 30 days for an 18 to 20-foot boat. A much bigger project will take longer," he explained.

Fitzherbert plans to look for an energetic, high school junior or senior who is looking for summer work and wants to learn how to build something.

How did he get started building aluminum boats?

Because he liked to hunt and fish in Alaska, it only made sense to build his own aluminum jet boat to navigate the rivers, right? Well, not so fast!

First, a person needs to spend two years as an apprentice to a master boat builder in San Diego, as Fitzherbert did.

Then, he could travel the United States as an iron worker. Next, he might end up in Alaska, working for Union Local 724.

Now, since he likes to hunt and fish and his good friend, Sam, had an airplane, they could go quite a few places.

But an airplane can't take a person everywhere, so Fitzherbert and Sam decided to build their very own boat.

They rented a bay on the water, took pictures of boats they liked, bought materials, and built a boat.

"We never got to use it. We had the boat parked in the parking lot, and we were installing the carpeting.

"A doctor came by to watch us, and asked if the boat were for sale. He had a lawyer friend that was looking for a boat.

"He wasn't gone very long. He came back with the lawyer, who had cash. We sold it," said Fitzherbert.

Well, if they could sell one, they could sell others. The two finally got their own boat, but they were in business for themselves for the next eight years building boats for others.

They built aluminum jet boats that were built to handle the rivers in Alaska.

The tides may go from one foot to 20 feet in an hour, he said. These boats can run in three inches of water and have special hydraulic trim pads to get them through the shallows.

They are made for salmon and halibut fishing

The boats had sleeping areas, 1/4 inch aluminum plate for the bottom, and 100-gallon fuel tanks to get them from one fueling station to another along the rivers.

He said one of the most interesting boats was a 28-foot boat with two 100-gallon fuel tanks, used by gold miners to haul their equipment on the Yukon River.

It had a Kodiak engine, which is a 450-500 horsepower Chevrolet inboard engine with a supercharger. It slept six, he said.

Lake boats are different from those river boats. Fitzherbert, who earned an associate degree in engineering in 1985, has some special hull designs for the boats he will build here in Howard Lake.

A grand opening is planned for April 24, and Fitzherbert said he will be taking orders for boats as soon as the doors open this week.

"I am always open to talk to people, sit down at the computer and show them what their boat would look like," he stated.

Fitzherbert, his wife Shelly, and son Michael, are looking to relocate in the Howard Lake area soon.


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