I have to admit that prior to hearing from fellow Woody Boater Liz Schaff a few weeks ago (via the ever growing Woody Boater Facebook page), I had never heard of Presque Isle Harbor, Michigan OR that they have an annual wooden boat show there – known as The Presque Isle Harbor Wooden Boat Show – which is now in it’s 22nd year! So I thought to myself “If I wasn’t aware of the boat show (being a so-called classic boat reporter) then maybe there are other people who may not be aware of this little piece of paradise on Lake Huron. – Texx”
Then, once I figured out where Presque Isle Harbor was in Michigan (thanks Google), it immediately made me think about E.J. (Gene) Mertaugh, who established E.J. Mertaugh Boat Works in Hessel, Michigan (Les Cheneaux Islands) in 1925.
On February 18, 1926 E.J. Mertaugh signed an agreement with the Chris Smith and Sons Boat Company of Algonac, Michigan (which later became the historic Chris-Craft Corporation) and Mertaugh became the very first dealer franchise outside of Algonac, MI – the agreement stated that Mr. Mertaugh held the “exclusive rights” to the territory north of Bay City, Michigan including Canada.
Gene Mertaugh quickly began selling boats, and in the early days, due to poor roads north, he struggled to get the new wooden boats from the plant in Algonac to his customers in Hessel in a timely manner. However Gene solved that problem by periodically travelling to Algonac – and armed with not much more than a compass and drum of fuel (remember we are talking about the late 1920’s here, before marinas) Gene would run the big Chris-Craft triples 250 miles north up Lake Huron to Hessel, sometimes having to stop half way to overnight due to poor weather or less than perfect conditions on Lake Huron – A daunting task even today, never mind 85 years ago! The stories about Gene Mertaugh delivering those early boats are legendary, and I feel privileged to have learned about them from the late Tommy Mertaugh – Gene’s Grandson.
The history of Chris-Craft runs deep throughout Michigan and on Lake Huron, and the connection I made when learning about the Presque Isle area made me think how many times Mr. Mertaugh must have passed by, or even stopped at Presque Isle along the way, as he courageously made his way back up to Hessel, skirting the Lake Huron coastline with the sound of a 250HP Chris-Craft A-120 V-8 to keep him company.
Now back to today’s story – I asked Liz to send us some information about the Presque Isle Harbor Wooden Boat Show, and it looks like a great, well organized event…
The 2014 Presque Isle Harbor Wooden Boat Show
Story by Liz Schaff / Photos by Dee Michalski
Hi Texx – Here is some info/history of our show, which is now in it’s 22nd year. And by the way… for those who have no idea… like any one below the 45th parallel, Presque Isle is pronounced: “Presq- Eeel.”
The Presque Isle Harbor Wooden Boat Show was brought about by 3 founding fathers (John Vogelheim, Dave Kowalski Sr. & Bob Swearingen) in 1993, with the 1st show on June 19, 1993 and thus established the “3rd Saturday in June” as the annual day of the show. I have included some photos from last year’s event courtesy of Dee Michalski.
However, now the show starts the day before with a picnic at Grand Lake followed by a “Wooden Boat Tour” of the lake by that years participants, followed that evening by a social dinner for registered boaters, family, friends, and committee members, hosted by Robin Spencer at the Presque Isle Lodge.
The picnic, dinner, morning coffee & doughnuts, and lunch the day of the show is ALL included in the entry fee of $30.00. Artists, Crafters & Vendors pay a $35 entry fee. (however they don’t get the perks that the boaters do).
The Mission of the Show is “To provide citizens of the area an opportunity to view and appreciate the beauty & craftsmanship involved in the wooden boat industry. To combine the pride of ownership on the part of the exhibitors, with the dedication of the volunteer workers and the scenic beauty of the functional Presque Isle Harbor. To generate support for the local community entities & activities.”
Opening Ceremonies start at 10:00 am with all day voting by the public & captains for various categories. The “People’s Choice” Award Winner then becomes the “Featured Boat” the following year, which garners them a place in the yearly brochure with a story of their boat.
Along with the beautiful wooden boats, the show has opened in recent years to “Classic Plastic” as well. You’ll also find a model boat tent where the public can enter & vote on wooden model boats for ribbons, along with 50/50 drawings, an Arts & Craft Show, and the nearby “Old” & “New” Presque Isle Harbor Lighthouses are open to climb. Food & beverages are available all day long by the Portage Restaurant.
Attached is picture of the “Feature Boat” from 2013, “My Teddy” a 20′ Century Resorter, lovingly restored by Pam & Ted Heintz, which was sadly destroyed in a fire over the winter. Broke all of our hearts.
This years, as well as last years Show Chairman is Bob Van Dusen of Alpena. If you have any further questions, you can contact him at tel: 989-255-5115.
For more information on this year’s event, including registartion, accomodations, Bob or I would be happy to answer help. I, along with my fellow committee members THANK-YOU and Woody Boater for the opportunity to promote our show.
Presque Isle Harbor Wooden Boat Show
Web site: www.presqueisleharborwoodenboatshow.com
Thanks Liz & Dee – It looks like a wonderful spot for a classic boat show, all the best for 2014. We look forward to seeing some photos from the event.