The Presque Isle Harbor Wooden Boat Show – Pure Michigan Now In It’s 22nd Year

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grand lake ride

“Impulse” – Doug and Kate Bandos 1946 Gar Wood runabout – Dee Michalski photo

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”

Presque Isle

Summer at beautiful Presque Isle Harbor on Lake Huron – Image courtesy

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.


The early days of E.J. Mertaugh Boat Works in Hessel, Michigan.

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…

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Last year owner Leslie Tischer featured “Mary E” – a spectacular 1950 Chris-Craft 19′ Racing Runabout powered by a Hercules MBL straight six. – Dee Michalski photo

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.

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No Great Lakes boat show is complete without at least one Chris-Craft Sea Skiff – “Cora B” a 1956 22 footer, owned by Chris and Mark Smith – Dee Michalski photo

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.

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Remember summer? Joe and Courtney Witulski head out to experience some classic boating at last year’s event in their cool 1957 16′ Wolverine outboard. – Dee Michalski photo

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).

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Photographer Dee Michalski captured this shot of “Old Made” – A perfect name for this beautifully restored, early Chris-Craft Sea Skiff.

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.”

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Fellow Woody Boater and all-around-great-guy Russ Arrand sharing a “thrill ride” on board “Blue-By-U”, his 260 HP 1941 Chris-Craft U22. – Dee Michalski photo

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.

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Dee Michalski snapped this great shot of “Sweet Misery”, Hal and Gwen Muenchow’s 1953 Chris-Craft U-22 – The quintessential Great Lakes workhorse.

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.

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Great to see the next generation of classic boaters participating in the boat show.


“Don’t Tell Mary” a classic 1954 Chris-Craft 17′ Sport Utility is owned by Tim and Mary Chimner, with a 283 Chevrolet V-8 hiding under the engine box. (Wolf in sheeps clothing?) – Dee Michalski photo

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Richard Mchugh presented his 1939 17′ Chris-Craft “John’s Gift” at the show last year. I’m sure with a name like that, the boat has an interesting story. – Dee Michalski photo.

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.

The “Feature Boat” from 2013, “My Teddy” a 20′ Century Resorter, which was sadly destroyed in a fire over the winter.

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It’s always a treat to see Ben Huizinga and his stunning 1958 18′ Century Arabian “Fleet Wood Mac” at a boat show. This is the featured boat at the 2014 Presque Isle Boat Show in June. – Dee Michalski photo

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.

Liz Schaff
Arts/Crafts/Vendor Co-Ordinator
Presque Isle Harbor Wooden Boat Show

Web site:

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.


17 replies
    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Thanks Russ – It sure looks like a unique place for a great low key event. Are accommodations as problem?

  1. Rick
    Rick says:

    Met Richard McHugh owner of John’s Gift in Algonac where he was one of the Judges. Super nice guy, a weekend of great stories and he did a phenomonal restoration on that boat. Notice on the transom it also says Heaven? That’s where his son John is.

  2. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    Accommodations shouldn’t be an issue. We can all stay with Alex in Hessel and boat down to the show.

    Well, as long as the ice has melted out of Hessel by mid June.

    • Alex
      Alex says:

      So much ice in Hessel this year, there might be a ‘berg or two floating around mid-June. You can hop on one and paddle down.

  3. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    If the dashed line shown on the Michigan map is really the course Gene Mertaugh followed through the very center of Lake Michigan, he had even bigger kahonees than I originally thought. I have always heard great things about the Presque Isle show. It is on my list of future shows to make.

      • Mike W
        Mike W says:

        Oh, Canada = dotted line

        It is a lovely harbor. Like you stepped back in time. Nothing much there and off the beaten path. Thankfully it is one of the harbors the state has put in over the years that allow safe boating.

  4. Steve Balcer
    Steve Balcer says:

    One cool Lodge. The Lodge were most of the mingling takes place was a summer place for the Eddy family who owned Eddy boats in Bay City Years ago. This is one of the coolest places to hang out. The old pine wood lodge Kind of gives you the “on golden pond” feeling with the squeaky wood screen doors pine floors, wood furniture, log interior and pond in the back yard. It’s a real hidden treasure all geared around fun.
    Also some Hydroplane race boats have been known to take the trip. So you just don’t know what you may see at the show.

  5. Lew Kirchner
    Lew Kirchner says:

    I’ve been to this show several times, unfortunately (or not) always on two wheels. This year I’ll be able to bring our boat and if it’s anything like my previous visits, we’re going to have a great weekend. Registration form is waiting for Monday’s mail. This is going to be fun!

  6. Russ Arrand
    Russ Arrand says:

    Thank you Dee for doing a good right up on the show. Like I said I have been there for all of them. If the Tischer family shows up and brings some boats you may see a Cobra or a Western fairner double ender. Randy’s father Ray was a great collecter. He liked the small boats-some he could get from around on Grand Lake. He also liked boats that were not Grand Lake boats. Randy has a great collection. We at WWC/ACBS hope to view the collection at some time. Probably 14 boats in the Tischer collection. All of you-if you have never been to the Presque Isle Boat Show please come this year.

    Alawys the 3rd Sat in June-21st

  7. Bob Rosa
    Bob Rosa says:

    We also have a great model boat show on this fine day. So if you’re attending, bring your model boat with you. Here is a shot of inside the lodge.

  8. Dave Kowalski
    Dave Kowalski says:

    Thanks everyone for the great comments, it really is a fun show not a cut throat event. Everyone has something unique and deserves there time to shine. Love all the stories that come out on Friday night.

    Dave Kowalski JR

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