Well, that’s exactly what Melvin Tibboles decided to do in Bellevue, Ohio. He began the project by sawing the keel from a white oak tree on November 30th, 1955 and after three years, the boat was successfully launched for her maiden voyage on July 16th, 1958. Today we have the fascinating story of “MEL-MAR II” from fellow Woody Boater Dan Clevenger – Melvin’s grandson. – Texx
The Life & Times of “MEL-MAR II”
by Dan Clevenger
Matt and Texx – I wanted to reach out and share a story about my childhood. My grandfather built a wooden boat by hand which began in 1955. He cut a white oak tree down for the ribs, keel & batons. It has a full mahogany cabin and deck. I have a full history on the boat, including build photos that we found on old 35mm slides. It has cruised on all the Great Lakes back in day, but spent it’s summers primarily in Port Clinton, Ohio on Lake Erie.
My Grandfather was not a boat builder, he worked on the railroad and owned a well-drilling business. He could make anything! He also was a watchsmith and repaired many watches. Grandpa made some (12) grandfather clocks during his life. The boat was built in Bellevue, OH.
We are not sure if he had hull plans or not for the hull. My Mom thinks there were plans for the hull only – but can’t remember since she was 10-12 yrs old at that time. What I know is that the boat was not a kit. I heard he only had plans for the hull, but this is not verified nor known by any aunts and uncles.
He got the Keel, Ribs and Karlings from one white oak tree back in 1955. Here are a few photos of the boat in the early stages of construction, as it evolved – one step at a time, each individual piece cut to fit by my Grandfather.
My Grandfather powered his new boat with a 1957 Oldsmobile 371 V-8 (which we still have).
Here’s a shot of the new helm. The steering mechanism (one of the coolest things made on the boat) is made from a 1940’s Chevrolet rack and pinion, and a set of wooden pulleys for adjusting the tension. It’s totally ingenious and still works today!
The stainless scuppers were made and welded by grandpa. The twin 37 gallon stainless tanks were also made by grandpa, along with the 60 gallon stainless waste tank. He made the fresh water tank and full shore power. My Grandma made all of the upholstery and canvas covers (which we still have).
The boat is 29.0 feet long x 9.0 feet wide, sleeps 6 people, c/w a head, galley and even had a real working (Freon) ice chest! Grandpa made the boat a left-hand drive (Port) to make it extra original, like a ‘car’.
After three years of construction, “MEL-MAR II” was hauled to the marina with a Chevrolet one-ton to be launched. The second trailer was made from 4-1/2” well casing. A big day for the family as you can imagine.
Fast forward to fall 2013. – I recently inherited my Grandfather’s 29 ft. boat that he built with full documented history. Last known oil change was fall of 1985, and has been in storage since. Here’s a few shots of “MEL-MAR II” when we pulled it from my Uncle’s barn in October 2013. Needless to say, the raccoons had a field day in the boat, but nothing that isn’t being fixed now!
The boat is currently being worked on to make any necessary repairs and make her seaworthy again after 27 years of storage. I am repowering the boat with a 380 HP QSB5.9 Cummins (purchased – not yet installed), rewiring, refinishing, the whole 9 yards.
I recently had a new Loadmaster new triple axle gooseneck trailer built for her.
The boat is currently is at my house in Batavia, OH for some minor restoration work and will soon be back in the water, to be used and enjoyed on Lake Erie – her home.
A great story of your family and their wooden boat Dan – thanks for sharing it with us here at Woody Boater today. It’s so cool to have found those old 35mm slides, and the fact that your grandparents had the foresight to photograph every aspect of the original “MEL-MAR II” construction and life on Lake Erie.
We look forward to seeing photos of her re-lauch when you have her done.